Thursday, May 31, 2012

Arts & Crafts Thursday: Egg Carton Caterpillars

From Sarah C.: 

Between the gift of a new BIG copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar (which came with a small plush caterpillar that literally fits through the holes!) and a visit to the Cary Creative Center, D & I were inspired to make caterpillars.

Supplies:
  • Egg carton
  • Scissors (for adults)
  • Acrylic paint & brushes
  • Pipe cleaners (wire cutters to cut in half - adults only!)
  • Googly eyes & glue (optional)


To make your own, start by cutting the top off of the egg carton and then cut the bottom into two long pieces. This will give you 2 caterpillar "bodies" to work with.


Next use acrylic paints to add color. We chose green & red to mimic the Hungry Caterpillar.


After the paint is dry, use the scissors to punch two small holes in the head for the antennae. Cut a pipe cleaner in half using a wire cutter and carefully press out any sharp points on the ends. Assist your child as needed to form a 'U' shape with the pipe cleaner and push it up through the holes giving you nice fuzzy antennae.


Finally, add a little dot of green paint for the nose and glue on googly eyes (or paint eyes if you prefer).


D & I both made caterpillar (I enjoy these crafts too!). And, amazingly, they both survived several days including being played with!

This post originally ran on Sarah's blog, 2paws Designs, in April - here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ebenezer Church Playground & Beach

It is summer and pools are opened. But never fear if you don't have a fancy private pool to join like Woodcroft or Briar Chapel.  There are plenty of free swim spots like AD Clark pool over in Chapel Hill and Seaforth Recreation Area and Parker's Creek on Jordan Lake.  Ok, well not really free for those last two as you do have to pay State Park fees to get in to the park. It was $6 per car when we went.  Truly, though, that is cheaper than the Y at Meadowmont and you get a whole park to play in!. (By the way, if you want to see our full list of swim spots in the Triangle check out this list here and our list of spraygrounds.)  Now I am pleased to tell you about another place to get your swim on: Ebenezer Church Playground & Beach, also on Jordan Lake. 

Unlike Seaforth but more like Parker's Creek, this spot on Jordan Lake is less frequented by folks so you have more of a chance of not being crowded out (less of a chance of being crowded out? grammar police?).
The beach area was nicely maintained and groomed (moreso than Parker's Creek) but on the main area of the lake (unlike Parker's Creek which did not have any boat traffic at all).  There are life preservers around but no lifeguards on duty.  There are barriers to contain the swim area and the spot is wide with good line-of-sight for the area.


There were picnic tables, short trails for walking, a boat ramp, and fishing is allowed.  There was also a great little playground here!  Technically the playground is for the older kiddos but our tots had a lot of fun crawling around here.  The ground cover was sand (which I know some mama friends who hate that, but this is at a beach so not too surprising I suppose).  The negative to the playground area is that there wasn't any shade.

There are restrooms as well as ample parking. All State Park facilities are alcohol-free and do not bring in glass containers.

But other than that: take bug spray (it's a lake), sunscreen, and a picnic with you and have fun!

Ebenezer Church Beach and Playground
Jordan Lake
http://www.ncparks.gov/Visit/parks/jord/main.php
Map of Ebenezer Church Recreation Area here
Note that this Recreation Area closes during the off season so be sure to check the website or call ahead before going : (919) 362-0586
280 State Park Road
Ebenezer Church: To reach Ebenezer Church from US 64, at Wilsonville, turn south on Beaver Creek Road/SR1008. The park entrance is 1.6 miles on the right.
Apex

Winner: Cake Pops Giveaway

I owe you all a big apology!  I was supposed to tell you who Random.org selected as our Cake Pops winner on Sunday night.  But what with all the cookouts and pool visits I plum ran out of day.  I hope you all enjoyed your holiday weekend and didn't miss this announcement too much.

So, without further groveling, here is our winner: Our Family.
Visitor "Our Family" writes: "Chocolate, chocolate chunk...yummy" and I believe that Sweet Treats Boutique can help them out with that.

I was personally pulling for our pregnant friend, Lacey, because when you are very far along on your pregnancy one of the few things I can think of to make life easier is some cake pops.

Anyways, if Our Family could contact us at mominchapelhill@gmail.com that would be fantastic!

More posts about activities coming your way this week, right after we get back from the pool.

Friday, May 25, 2012

My SweetArts

Photo courtesy Alex Bajuniemi
Ah, summer.  If you are like me, summer looms here in our household.  School is out and we are looking for fun summer activities to keep us occupied (read as: Mom sane).  We've mentioned things like Kindermusik, Jammin' Baby, gymnastics classes, Music Together, Healthy Moms, Music with Mar, art opportunities, pools, and we've even tried to help you come up with ways to occupy your kids at home with our new Arts & Crafts Thursday series.  But there is a new "kid" on the block when it comes to classes, and they are starting up just in time for summer!  Perfect!

This news is even more exciting since these classes are wonderful and the full package.  My SweetArts is here.  We had the privilege of trying out a trial class for My SweetArts recently and I am in love with it.  So is my 3 year old.

My SweetArts classes occur in University Mall and are the brainchild and hard work of mommas Rosario and Michelle.  These two fantastic ladies have spent a lot of time and research into putting together a well-rounded session for kids of all ages.

Photo courtesy Alex Bajuniemi
There are currently three options for classes:  Sweet Peas (4-14 mos), Sweet Berries (14-24 mos), and Sweet Potatoes (2-3 yrs).  Note: The founders of My Sweet Arts are also trying to put together a class for parents/caregivers and kids ages 3-5.  If you are interested, contact them through the information below.  The class we tried was Sweet Potatoes and it was right on with the child development and attention span of this age bracket.  There was music (led by a woman with a really beautiful voice, I must add), group activity, individual performance opportunities, storytime, singing, dancing, and then wonderful hands-on exploratory and sensory stations.  This last part was kind of like Pinterest-meets-the-real-world.  There were art stations, stations to smell things, stations to color, stations to play with Jello molds, and more.

Even though we were in a Sweet Potatoes class for our toddlers we brought our little bugs with us (5 mos - 1 yr).  They were not of the proper age for the class but were welcomed and entertained.  Yet our toddlers, almost 3, were really fascinated.  Things moved along quickly and the leaders were great at encouraging kids' individual expression but also kept them reigned in and focused on the activity at hand.

The goal of My SweetArts is to encourage "exploration, curiosity and self-expression through an experiential learning environment."  Every class "incorporates music and movement along with visual arts in the context of a theme."  However you describe it, it works.

Photo courtesy Alex Bajuniemi
The free trial classes are over, but you can register for sessions now!  Classes start June 4th and I have to say the session times are pretty good - the founders have obviously considered the standard nap schedule for the ages they are trying to reach.  Right now classes are at a special promotional rate of 25% off.

Prices and schedules are:
- Sweet Peas, Fridays at 10:45 am, $100 for 8 sessions and 1 free make-up class
- Sweet Berries, Mondays at 10:45 am, $108 for 8 sessions and 1 free make-up class
- Sweet Potatoes, Mondays at 9:20 am, $116 for 8 sessions and 1 free make-up class
These promotional rates include the registration fee, supply packets and fees, and a discount price-per-class rate.  Not too shabby.  These fees won't last long so get on board while you can, you won't regret it.

Note that these prices and schedules are accurate at time of publication of this article but stay tuned to their website and Facebook page listed below for the most up-to-date information.

Classes are already half-filled so please sign up online soon if you want to do this for the summer.  See the information below if you want to sign up.

This is a new Chapel Hill offering that I am so pleased to have here (and kudos to University Mall for bringing in another new family-friendly activity)!  I am proud it is part of our town and encourage you to try it.


My SweetArts
http://www.mysweetarts.com/
Facebook Page
Register here
Classes held at University Mall, Chapel Hill

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Arts & Crafts Thursday: Salad Spinner Art

We received a lot of great gifts for our wedding... that we rarely use.  Like our salad spinner.  I had visions of myself hosting grand dinner parties, making fresh endive salads, needing to rinse those greens well.  Yet before I learned about this little art project I think our salad spinner had been out a handful of times.  Now we use it a lot: for art!

Supplies:
  • paper
  • scissors
  • paint (I used washable, non-toxic so I would have the use of my salad spinner for food again someday)
  • salad spinner
Take your piece of paper and cut it in to a circle to fit down inside the salad spinner.

Squeeze some paint, of various colors, in to the bottom of the spinner, on top of the paper.
Close the spinner up, and show your child how to push the button on top.  The spinner will whirl and the paint will fly around inside.
If your child is anything like mine they will love the experience.  For me it was mesmerizing and kind of hypnotic.  C just laughed while he did, very excited.
It makes for some pretty cool art, too, and you can do it as many times as you want with as much or as little paint as you want.
 Probably not what your Aunt Nancy was thinking when she bought it for you years ago, but a good chance to put that salad spinner to a new and creative use,.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Giveaway: 1 Dozen Cake Pops

Yes, you read that right.  We're giving away 1 dozen Cake Pops from local business (and mom) Sweet Treat Boutique.  Cake Pops are pretty awesome if you haven't had them before and while I am a big fan of them kids are even BIGGER fans of them.  So if you have some parties coming up, or just because, this is your chance to win these.


I know you want these....if you win you can pick from a variety of flavors such as pumpkin with cinnamon frosting, margarita with lime frosting, strawberry with vanilla frosting...there are so many fabulous options.  The hardest part will be picking since all dozen will have to be 1 flavor.  Pick wisely you will (like Yoda says).

To win, just leave a comment telling us your favorite cake flavor.  It's ok, we'll accept "vanilla" as an answer.  Or leave us a cake-related story.  We're flexible.  No need to be creative.  Sweet Treat Boutique will do that for you if you win.

Winner will be selected at random and announced on Sunday, May 27th so enter now!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Child Identification Project - Cary

From Sarah C.:

The Cary Police Department offers an opportunity to create a free identification sheet for your child(ren). The Child Identification Project takes place monthly outside of the Cary Police Service Center in the Food Court area at Cary Towne Center. A parent or guardian fills out an information sheet with the child's name and vital statics (age, weight, height, hair & eye color, identifying marks, etc). The information is then entered into a computer and the child's photograph & fingerprints are taken electronically. A print out of the information, as well as the original sheet, are given to the parent or guardian.

Example of Child ID sheet
Note: The Cary Police Department does not store this information. It is used only to generate the form you will be given (see example to the right). Then it is deleted and they move onto the next child.

The next upcoming event dates and times are:
Thursday, May 24th 4-6pm
Thursday, June 28th 4-6pm

Child Identification Project
Cary Police Department, Citizens Assisting Police
Cary Towne Center Events | Child Identification Project Details
Cary Towne Center
Food Court Area, adjacent to Cary Police Dept. Service Center
Walnut Street
Cary

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Monday, May 21, 2012

The Bookshop Chapel Hill

I have a new love affair.  It centers around a bookstore.  I love books, and so does C.  Hence why I can not believe it took me so long to walk in to The Bookshop on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill.  This place is amazing.  I want it to be my basement at my house.

The Bookshop is longer and bigger than you expect.  The outside storefront is misleading.  Once you walk in there are rows and rows and piles and piles of books.  It is remarkable.  Even more remarkable?  The stuff you can buy here.  There is a book nook for kids, with a large selection of kids books and also young adult novels.  You can find your standard collections here.  But you can also find gems.  For The Bookshop specializes in rare, unique, and used books.  The kids books can be gently used but that also means that you are going to save a lot of money if you buy here versus over at your big store national chain.

But I was in a specific kind of non-discount-related heaven.  For adults there are many things to drool over (such as original signed letters by Jack Kerouac).  And if you want stuff for kids, gifts that have a lot of meaning, come here.  There are original Raggedy Ann and Andy books, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drews, old grade school primers from the '20s-'50s and more.  The best part?  Completely reasonably priced and affordable.  Unless you want something that is incredibly rare, you are going to pay decent prices.  I picked up some old primers for only $7 per book.  Like I said, affordable.  Unique for sure.

Plus there are two cats who live in the bookstore.  You can sometimes see them in the front window.  In general this is a great place to visit with the kids.  The books, the selection, the price, the smell of old beautiful books, and the cats make this a fabulous place in Chapel Hill that I encourage you all to enjoy!


The Bookshop 
http://www.bookshopofchapelhill.com 
400 W Franklin Street
Chapel Hill
919-942-5178

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Buying Baby Needs: A Comparison

Buying diapers and formula for your baby is one of those things that is constant....constantly expensive.  I know some of you have been lucky enough to breastfeed for a long time.  And I know that some of you parents have elected to use cloth diapers.  Some of you do a combo of those.  And some of you need to constantly replenish the formula and/or the diapers for your children.

When I had Baby Bug I found that with 2 in the house this got to be an even crazier endeavor.  Then AmazonMom.com changed it's program (it's back, keep reading).  So I went on the prowl for the best deal.  Here is what my personal experience yielded.


A couple of things to note about this article and information. I did compare apples to apples.  At my house we use a namebrand formula and the same diapers every time.  So I was always looking at the same brands and sizes. Please know, too, that I was buying the biggest box of diapers I could every place I went and the box sizes were different.  You get per diaper cheaper the larger the bulk size so I went with the biggest bulk I could for sale at each place.

Also, things tend to change fast with pricing, deals, coupons, and discounts.  Take the research I did as guidelines but do be aware that the fat lady hasn't sung on this issue yet...and she may not.

Now I know everyone loves BJ's and even Costco for good deals on buying in bulk.  But for me, it doesn't work out well on a personal level.  You have to buy a yearly membership to join either of these discount clubs (not a terrible thing and not too expensive) but then you also have to GET there.  I live in a part of Chapel Hill where access to either one of these is a total pain and a big car trip.  So that was not a feasible option for us.  If you have prices and information to help folks out on this one, please leave a comment!

I took a look at the spots where I could get formula and diapers in a jiffy.  I went to my local grocery store. Harris Teeter is the spot closest to me and has the benefit of being a one-stop shop for me since I can get my groceries there (and even has an online service that makes life even better).  I also priced out my items at Buy Buy Baby and Babies R Us, the two places that specialize in keeping parents hooked up with all their baby's needs.

I went to Target for research and to buy my stuff because, let's be honest, who doesn't love Target?  (I don't shop at WalMart, so didn't price that out folks, sorry.  But if you are a WalMart person feel free to weigh in on the comments.)

I did not look at any drug stores since, well, the drug stores near me don't really have what I need and what they did have DEFINITELY did not fit the bill for being the cheapest. 

Ok I know you are on the edge of your seats to get the results of my less-than-scientific research.  Here is what I found...

Target was the clear winner.  That made me happy since I can get Starbucks there while I get my baby stuff (I did not factor the cost of those mochas into the overall cost comparison here).  Target was the cheapest per diaper for name brand and cheapest by a lot if you get the Target brand.  They also were very great per ounce when it came to formula since you can buy namebrand formula in bulk, which you can't do in too many places.  You can get an even better deal on formula here if you buy Target brand (which we considered but given how much we travel we didn't want to be in a predicament where we were in a low formula situation and had to find a Target).  Plus if you get a Target RedCard you can save 5% on every single Target purchase.  AND I love that I can get nearly everything I need at the SuperTarget which means one stop for house, grocery, clothing, gear, office supplies, and more, all for good prices.

Babies R Us came in a very close second.  That should make all you folks who live over near Southpoint pretty happy.  Again, if you elect to use the Babies R Us brand you can get an even better deal on your goods (still not as good as the Target brand deal).

Harris Teeter was, alas and perhaps not surprisingly, not the cheapest spot.  Even though I get to save in gas money when I go to the Teeter, the formula at HT was 2 cents more than the Babies R Us same size/same brand deal and diapers were .02 cents more expensive than Target prices of the same brand and 1 cent more expensive per diaper than the Target brand.  So not a huge difference but not the cheapest either (I did not factor in my mocha purchases at my local Teeter either, which has a Starbucks).

Buy Buy Baby was a huge loser in my book/blog/whatever.  Their diapers were only .03 cents more expensive per diaper than Babies R Us of the same namebrand yet a full 15 cents more expensive per diaper than Target of the same namebrand then a full 20 cents more expensive than the Target diaper brand. (I did the math, and had DH check my math, and it really is that big a difference.)  And I couldn't even compare the formula we use since all 5 times I went in they weren't carrying my brand.  They had a shelf for it and a label for it, it was just completely empty every time.

What about online sites and diaper bargains online?

Diapers.com is the most popular online website so I took a look at them, of course.  Their prices were pretty consistent with what Target charges, in some cases even cheaper!  You do have to pay shipping fees here, of course.  But then they usually run deals and promos on that.  Right now, for example, if you buy more than $49 worth of stuff you get free 2-day delivery.  In fact, Diapers.com is always running coupon deals.  You can get a coupon for being a first time customer, and search online for coupon deals since there nearly is always one available.  Diapers.com sells more than just your average diapers, too.  You can get overnight diapers, toys, clothes, and more.  There are also several company websites attached to Diapers.com, too, that you can pay the same shipping cost on.  The BIGGEST benefit of shopping online?  Not only are you getting a great price but it is showing up at your door.  You can save money by brewing your own coffee and not spending gas money.  Plus you don't have to worry about things like getting out of your bunny slippers and getting the Cheerios out of your hair or spit up off your shirt.  You know, little nuisances like that.


As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, AmazonMom.com has a program for moms with wonderful rewards and prices that came highly recommended. AmazonMom.com has all those great things that Diapers.com has.  You can order online, it sends you reminders to refill your orders without having to re-enter items each time, and it is pretty smart and personalized.  Being an AmazonMom means that you get 20% off all baby care items and you get 2-day free shipping (if it Amazon Prime eligible, which most diapers and formulas are).  Nice.  But from my experience the price, even with the 20% off, is still a little more than you would find at Diapers.com and in some cases Target.  But the convenience sure is nice!

I know you all work hard for your money and you all work hard to keep your kids healthy, happy, feed, and clean.  Do you have any other tips for us on how to keep those kiddos diapers and fed while also saving some precious coins?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Arts & Crafts Thursday: Dinosaur Fossils

From Sarah C.:

Katie's post about the Dinosaur exhibit at the NC Zoo on Tuesday led me to share a dinosaur themed project today.

Supplies:
  • plastic dinosaur toys
  • clay (we used Crayola Air-Dry because we had it in the house, but Crayola Model Magic appears to be a better option)

Supplies plus two completed "fossils"

At the time D & I tried this project, the only toy dinosaurs we had were big ones so we opted for footprints. If you happen to have smaller dinos on hand, you could try laying them on their side to get a body print instead which is what our inspiration post did. Either way, determine the size of clay you will need for your print. Roll and press into a smooth, even area. (We needed water to help moisten & soften the clay. If you use the Model Magic, you shouldn't need this extra supply.)


Next, press your dinosaur toy into the clay enough to leave a good print. Then remove and let dry (read instructions on clay packaging to determine how long your fossils will take to dry). Repeat steps for additional fossils.


After the fossils are dry, try matching up with the correct toy or bury them in some dirt and have an archaeological dig.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dinos at the NC Zoo

A post from Katie today about a special exhibit at the NC Zoo.:
 
We’ve told you all about the NC Zoo before, but in case your little one(s) love Dinosaurs as much as H does, I have to tell you about the Dinosaur exhibit that started in April and will run through October 2012.   We took advantage of the overcast and cooler weather a few Sundays ago and headed to Asheboro to check it out.

The Dinosaur exhibit is plenty big maybe around the same size, or a little bigger, than the Dinosaur Trail at the Museum of Life + Science.  You might be wondering why you should drive all the way to Asheboro instead of just hitting the Dinosaur Trail in Durham (which we love!).  One word: Animatronics.  These things move…and make noise! We’re even talking eye movement! DH and I were impressed.   H loved them until we got about halfway through, and then he was a little scared—the ones early on the trail are a little smaller.  In case your little one is scared, the dinosaurs aren’t the only things on the trail—toward the end, there are several stations where children can search for “fossils,” which H adored. 

You can also check out the 4D Dinosaur movie.  We thought H was a little too young, so we skipped that, but we saw plenty of parents and little guys headed that way. 

Now, on to logistics and cost.  The Dinosaur Exhibit is in the middle of the park so either parking area is just fine.  If you aren’t up for walking the free tram drops you off super close.  Each dinosaur activity does cost extra at $4 per person for the dinosaur exhibit and $3 per person for the movie above and beyond zoo admission, or you can buy combo passes.

Dinosaur Exhibit
April-October 2012
NC Zoological Park
http://www.nczoo.org/ | Hours | Tickets | Zoo Rules |
4401 Zoo Parkway
Asheboro, NC
1 (800) 488-0444

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Snazzy Swap

There is a great new online business, run by some local women, that I am so excited to tell you about!  I am all about recycling kids' gear and I am even more all about not spending money on kids' toys.  It just feels like kids outgrow toys so fast that it is hard for me to stomach spending lots of money on them.  Plus, C tends to get bored with toys once he figures them out so spending money on them is even more painful.  That is why when these local entrepreneurs contacted me about their new business, Snazzy Swap, I was more than excited to give it a go and see how it worked.

The premise behind Snazzy Swap is simple: you put your outgrown stuff up online for someone else to take and in return you get to pick someone else's stuff to use.  Items can range from clothes to books to toys to DVDs, all clearly labelled online. 

Let's get in to the deets.  You head to their website, www.snazzyswap.com, and pick out what you want to have sent to you.  Click it and add it to your cart.  For your very first pick you pay to have the box of your choice shipped to you without having to post anything to give to someone else - $15.95 for a small box or $19.95 for a large box.  This price includes shipping and a $5 service fee.  Then after that first purchase you have to post boxes of stuff to swap.  For every box you post to give you get to pick another box to get.  Every box you want sent to you still requires the $15.95 or $19.95 shipping fee (the "buyer" always pays for shipping costs). 

Let me add that you don't ever have to leave your house to use Snazzy Swap, a huge plus!  (Clearly, these folks know where busy parents are coming from.)  If you want to post a box to ship, they will arrange for you to print a label, stick it on your box, put it at your door, and the Post Office picks it up.  And of course, if you have a box sent to you, it comes right to your door.  Pretty awesome.

Ok, so, you are thinking: "What up, Allison, you said it was a swap service but I still have to pay money for every box I want sent to me?"  Trust me, it's worth it.  $15.95 or $19.95 really just covers cost of shipping along with a small service fee (hey, a company has got to earn a buck for maintenance and doing what they do) but the amount of merchandise in the box that we got was well above $19.95.

Which brings me to my personal experience.  I didn't post anything to give to someone else (trying to hold tight to things now that "Bug" is here....C's stuff is going to be used again).  I did, however, use an initial credit to have a box sent to me.  I browsed online for quite some time and found the system so easy to use: pictures were available to show me everything and everything was sorted by age.  Here is how the process looks:
Then, once I picked my box and checked out, it came to me SO FAST.  I mean, within a day.  It was well-packaged, complete with a cute note from the parent sending it to me about how much these toys meant to her kids, and C and I dug in.  Every toy that was pictured was present and it was all in mint condition.  For $19.95 we had, sent directly to our door, a Memory game, Mickey Mouse frisbee, a few cars, a big Melissa & Doug fire truck puzzle, a Winnie the Pooh puzzle, a small CAT truck that was battery-powered, and some very cool blocks.  Like I said: the merchandise in the box was worth more than $19.95 by far.  Not to mention that we have used that Memory game about 15 times since receiving our box.  It paid for itself already.
Like I said, the quality of the stuff in our box was really impressive and would certainly make me go back for more (and note that the women who run this business ask that swappers report any merchandise they receive that isn't up to snuff).

There are so many intricacies and really cool things about this swap service that I could get in to (they donate money from their business to kids with special needs, for example) but I encourage you to try it out yourself.

What I really really like? Sure, you can try to consign your toys.  You can take a lot of time to price them out, clean them up, get them some place that will take them that then takes a cut and then sells them to someone else.  I am not against that at all (certainly better than disposing!).  But when you have just a few things that might not be worth that work but you KNOW someone else will love, get yourself some swap credit, make it easy, never leave your house, and get some fun, new toys, books, DVDs or clothes sent to your doorstep.  It really is a fabulous idea and so proud of our Snazzy Swap local ladies for starting this venture!  I highly encourage you to check it out.

Snazzy Swap
www.snazzyswap.com

Sunday, May 13, 2012

You ARE Mom Enough: Mother's Day Edition 2012

Last Mother's Day we shared some little tidbits we had learned in our short time as moms. This Mother's Day, with all the hubbub surrounding the Time magazine cover about breastfeeding and attachment parenting, we have some more serious thoughts.

I have had so many conversations about this article, which really focuses on attachment parenting as extolled by Dr. Sears, and seen so many Facebook and Twitter posts about it.  And this article makes me angry.  I'll explain why.

I am not touching breastfeeding with a ten-foot pole on this blog.  It is such a sensitive topic and conjures up a lot of feelings for moms: feelings of guilt, success, trauma, joy, bonding, pain, failure, peace.  Everyone has such deep, strong, passionate feelings about breastfeeding it seems, regardless of where they fall and what their personal journey was.

So here is why the article makes me mad: You Are Mom Enough.  Period.  And you don't need some Time magazine cover or chatter on the Internet making you question that in any way at all.  WHO recommendations weighed or not, Dr. Sears' advice and research taken in and followed or not, you ARE Mom enough for your children.

If you choose to breastfeed until the age of 5, if you choose NOT to breastfeed, if you choose to co-sleep, if you choose to work fulltime, if you choose to stay-at-home, if you choose to go on vacation without your children, if you don't want to be away from your children yet.....if you make all your own baby food, if you like food in a pouch, if you use all natural cleaners at home, if you pay for a cleaning service....whatever you choose out of the millions of choices facing moms every single day, you are mom enough for your family.

No one should ever make you question that.  Being a parent is hard work and there are so many micro-decisions that need to be made every single day.  In the end, it is all about creating a healthy, happy home with the atmosphere that YOU believe in.  If some silly article out there on newsstands is making you question your home and your parenting styles, then stop listening to it.  Be confident in what you have chosen for your family and believe in it.  That is all your children care about - your love and you being happy and confident enough to lead them through life.

And here's the other reason why this cover makes me mad: we should not be judging each other.  Let's agree to stop all the chatter about this.  You don't need to defend yourself on either side of the attachment parenting/breastfeeding issue and you don't even need to explain to anyone.  No one knows what any other mother has gone through, we all struggle to do our best.  We should recognize this and quit judging.

This blog, which has just seen its 2nd anniversary, is written with the intent of helping parents succeed.  We give you information we hope is useful so you can make informed decisions and use the resources in your backyard to be the best you can be.  In that vein, we want to tell you that you are a GREAT parent, part of a GREAT parenting team.  And like all teams, we support you and believe in you and will be there for you.  Regardless of what decisions you make for the good of you and your family.

So stop thinking and enjoy Mother's Day.  Be proud of you.  We're proud of you!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Arts & Crafts Thursdays: Mother's Day Gift Idea

I am so in love with this gift.  C and I made these as a Mother's Day gift for one fabulous grandma.  My inspiration was this link here, but I love how adaptable these are.  There are so many things you could do and it is so easy!


Supplies:
  • Embroidery hoop (I used a 6 inch)
  • Fabric remnant
  • Paper scraps
  • Pen
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue gun (parents only!)
  • One cute little hand
Take your embroidery hoop and stretch the fabric in the hoop.  Cut off excess fabric around edges.

Trace child's hand on to a piece of paper.  Using scissors have them (or an adult can do this) cut the outline of the hand.


Glue the hand cut out on to the fabric inside of the embroidery hoop.  Then get creative.  Have your child color the hand, paint the embroidery hoop, cut a little heart to glue on to the palm as I did, add a little triangle garland, write a little note on the outside.
Enjoy and I hope that all you moms out there get great, heartfelt gifts and spoiled this Mother's Day: you earned it!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lollipop Toy Shop - Wake Forest

From Katie:
 
A few weeks back, we told you all about Kidventurez in the Factory in Wake Forest. Well, Kidventurez wasn’t our only stop in the Factory! We also stopped in to check out the Lollipop Toy Shop. I will admit, I went in because the outside décor reminded me of something out of a tale, or maybe Candyland…all dressed like a cute little cottage with sugarplums and lollipops growing in the window boxes.

The store isn’t huge, but it is packed with fun stuff from Melissa and Doug toys to bottles of “fairy dust” to trinkets, toy rings and airplanes. Be forewarned, there is also a lot of candy close to the check out. I think what we (ie, H and I) liked most, was that the owner spent quite a bit of time teaching H to play with some pretty neat toys and didn’t mind us giving lots of toys a “test run” in the store. As a Mom, what I liked most was that while the store is packed with great stuff, it isn’t overwhelming at all and you can check out everything in a very reasonable amount of time.

Now, customer service. Like I wrote, the owner spent lots of time with H teaching him about how to use specific toys, and she had plenty of fun suggestions for gifts, etc. She saw to it that we had lots of fun. Before I knew it, I had spent more than I had planned and she even went out of her way to make sure everything was perfectly wrapped for the trip home.

If you find yourself in Wake Forest, the Lollipop Toy Shop is worth a stop.

Lollipop Toy Shop  
http://www.thelollipoptoyshop.com/  
The Factory  
1839 South Main St, Suite 140  
Wake Forest

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Playgroup Tot Time at Laurel Hills - Raleigh

From Sarah C.:

I met friends recently at the All Children's Playground at Laurel Hills. The morning started off great with enough shade and breeze to keep us cool. As the temperature climbed, we headed to the Community Center for indoor fun. Raleigh Parks and Recreation offers a Playgroup Tot Time for ages 5 and under two days a week in the gym.


D and his buddy were overjoyed when they caught a glimpse through the gym windows. Inside were balls galore (basketball, ball pit plastic style, and squishy ones), basketball hoops, baseball bats, hockey sticks & pucks, plus small slides, seesaws and ride-on toys. It was toddler heaven.

Current schedule May 1 - June 7, 2012: Tues & Thurs mornings 10am-12pm

This is a free program. Call ahead to register.

Laurel Hills Community Center
http://www.raleighnc.gov/arts/content/PRecRecreation/Articles/LaurelHillsMainPage.html
(see "Preschool and Youth Brochure" link at top of right hand column for current offerings)
3808 Edwards Mill Road
Raleigh
919-420-2383

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Ashworth Drugs - Cary

From Sarah C.:

Visiting Ashworth Drugs has been on my to do list for years and years. Ever since I moved to Wake County, I've found downtown Cary to be such a charming place. Ashworth Drugs is located right in the middle of downtown in a brick building on the corner of West Chatham and South Academy streets. It is a drug store as the name implies with a pharmacy and shop but also has a soda fountain.

Last month, I finally visited and twice! The first visit was just D & me. Being mid-afternoon, we ordered only ice cream. We returned a couple weeks later with my sister and the 3 of us had lunch at the counter. If you are interested in having lunch, I highly recommend arriving early like we did to beat the noon rush. There is limited indoor seating (including only 1 highchair that I saw) and some tables/chairs outside. Quite a line formed just after 12 as this is a popular spot.

Our waitress was fantastic and helped make the experience so fun. Being at the counter, we had a perfect view of her fixing the meals including our lunch. She chatted with us from time to time and made sure we had everything we needed.

The food options are simple, but tasty. And, of course being a soda fountain, you can get a fun treat such as a root beer float. I truly can't recall the last time I had one before our lunch here.

Free parking is available on the street or in the lot behind/next to the building. Just be aware of parking limitations (1-2 hours) in these areas.

If you're looking to spend a little more time in Cary while here, take a walk and explore many of the outdoor sculptures around.

Ashworth Drugs
http://www.ashworthdrugs.com | Soda Fountain Menu
105 West Chatham Street 
Cary, NC 27511
(919) 467-1877  

Soda Fountain Hours
Monday - Friday 9:00am - 5:00pm
Saturday 9:00am - 3:30pm
"To Go" Orders (919) 467-1834

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Arts & Crafts Thursday: Sidewalk Painting

From Sarah C.:

Sure, you can decorate your sidewalk using chalk. But why not paint it instead?

Supplies:
  • corn starch
  • food coloring
  • water
  • muffin pan (or cups/bowls)
  • paint brush(es)
  • cup of water to rinse brush(es) between colors (optional)

Start by putting a tablespoon of corn starch in each section of a small muffin pan. Then add a few drops of food coloring to each.


Take the pan outside along with a small container of water and paint brushes. Pour a little water in each section and stir. You want the mixture to have a little thickness to it. If it gets too watery, just add a pinch more corn starch.


Now, dip in your brushes and paint.


Afterward, either hose off or enjoy your artwork until the next rainfall washes it away.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Food Neighbor

Check out this review from Katie on a service trying to make your job as a parent easier!:

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to tell you that the folks over at Food Neighbor, contacted us at Discovering the Southern Part of Heaven and offered a free test of their service.  I, of course, was willing to try it out: a company that will bring meals right to my door!?  Yes!  Even though I got a free sample of this service, rest assured the opinions that follow are entirely my own and I have received no payment or other compensation for writing about this service.

And as a Mom, I love things that make my life simpler, especially when it comes to getting dinner on the table.  And, I’m sure like many of you, I am always looking for ways to stretch my grocery dollar, which can be tough if you want to try new recipes that require that you purchase a lot of something, just to use a little!  That’s where Food Neighbor comes in.  I didn't quite get what they are all about until I tried them. You see, they aren't a meal service where you can buy and put together prepared or frozen meals like Dinner Savvy (though I seriously love those); this is a service that does that prep work for you, and maximizes your grocery dollar, because you only get enough of each ingredient for your recipe.

You’re probably wondering how this works.  You sign up for their service and you choose your meals from their list of offerings the week before you want them. It isn't a subscription service in that you only pay for the meals you order, and you can order one or many.  Then, Food Neighbor does the shopping and the prep work for you. You get the measured out ingredients for each full meal in a handy reusable grocery bag. We're talking separated, labeled, measured ingredients and the printed recipe instructions on a card. Then, you put the meal together and cook it.

I was a little skeptical going in.  How involved would the recipes be?  How long would they take?  Sometimes I have very limited time to cook.  And, is it really only enough for two people (though you can order for 4)? I tried the lettuce wraps one night and the pork tenderloin with homemade mashed potatoes (mine usually come from a box) and squash medley the next. I was surprised at how little time each took, since the majority of the prep work was taken out. (Okay, I had to chop a little cilantro and rinse some lettuce, but really, that might have taken 5 minutes--and marinating the pork loin was a cinch). I also loved that the recipe card spells out every single detail. In terms of the amount of food, I can see that the meals for two might not feed 4 adults, but they certainly fed 2 adults and one growing toddler without issue. Oh, and by the way: we all loved it!


I also loved that I didn't have to buy a whole bottle of fish sauce just to try the lettuce wraps, and that the food was very fresh. Using this service will take some planning, since you don’t want to let all that wonderful fresh food spoil.  And, while it doesn't take too long to prepare, you are doing more than thawing it out.  It definitely took me longer than the recipe card suggested, but really, dinner time is sort of the witching hour for H in our house. But really, I need to plan my meals better, and I love that it encourages cooking more, all while stretching my grocery dollar and making putting dinner on the table that much easier!

Food Neighbor delivers all over the Triangle area.  Menu offerings go out Wednesday and Thursday and are delivered on Mondays.  Bon apetit!

 Food Neighbor
https://www.foodneighbor.com/

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

CrossFit & CrossFit Kids

I wasn't sure, to be honest, if I wanted to include this little adventure of mine on this website.  But given how many conversations I have had with other parents and a lot of friends about CrossFit recently I decided, what the heck, you all are just as adventurous as I and this is something you probably want to know more about (kind of like the Pure Barre article I did way back when).

CrossFit is a national chain of gyms that specializes in a certain style of workout.  These aren't gyms where you are going to find treadmills, stairmasters, and nice showers and bathrooms.  These are bare bones warehouses where you go to get stronger.  I mean, a lot stronger.

CrossFit gyms are all over the Triangle (last I counted there were over 15) and each is going to have a little bit different of a vibe, set up, and offerings.  Yet on the most basic level you can either go for an open gym (where you can use the equipment and workouts listed on the wipe boards) or you can go for a class.  A class is going to range from beginner to advanced but, really, every class is meant to be personalized for you, wherever you are in your fitness journey.  The trainer leading the class will make it work for you with modifications.

Don't be afraid to use the modifications and don't be misled by this class either.  The first time my friend and I went the first 40 minutes of class were spent with the trainer walking us through form and what the various CrossFit safety points were.  We were rolling our eyes thinking "O.M.G. we're never going to WORK OUT."  Then we did 15 minutes of exercise that involved kettle bells, ring pulls, sprints with medicine balls, stepping lunges, and more.  CrossFit theory is on "functional strength" (you can read more about it on their website, see below). I was using every modification, panting, and was so sore the next day.  It was awesome.

At first I was feeling a little overwhelmed since the warehouse vibe makes it feel so serious.  But the folks who have been at the CrossFit gym near me have been a diverse gang.  Some very strong men, some buff women, and some men & women who are, like me, still in the midst of the journey to get the body they want.  I have a lot of friends who run the spectrum of fitness who are engaged in and mildly addicted to their CrossFit workouts.

CrossFit really believes in a community essence to exercise.  By cheering for each other and working with each other (sometimes using your partner as your weight) you can be more successful.  It also means that you become more accountable to going to the gym since those team members expect to see you again and you've already bonded over sweat and box jumps.

The only thing I really did not like is that CrossFit isn't cheap and there aren't a lot of options for payment.  The gyms near me you can not pay for a "drop in."  CrossFit feels this is unsafe since the success and safety in CrossFit comes from constantly working at it and being committed.  You can pay month by month but each month requires you buy a minimum amount of classes.  (I did this off of LivingSocial - can I get a woot!).  I did have an insider tell me, though, that a little advertised fact for a lot of CrossFit gyms is that they offer an open community class at some point on the weekend.  So pry at the gym near you.  Childcare will depend on the gym but many CrossFit gyms do not offer child care arrangements.  CrossFit usually requires that you take an Intro. class first before jumping in to anything else on the schedule so that they can really spend time with you making you safe and providing you good form before you go nuts.

Even cooler?  There is a CrossFit Kids program a lot of gyms are offering with various groupings all the way down to kids ages 5 up to teenage years.  Of course, what is offered nearest to you is going to vary, but the CrossFit Kids programs are versions of CrossFit workouts modified to the appropriate age.  As my friend said, her 4 year old daughter would LOVE it since it is rough and tough tumble play for fitness.

I wish I had better pictures to share with you so you could get a more accurate feel of these gyms and workouts but I was kind of shaky afterwards...

A lot of folks will try to make you feel intimidated by CrossFit workouts.  Don't be.  Sure they have crazy elite competitions where the folks look scary buff and make weird noises while moving really large and heavy objects... But there are modifications and workouts for "real" people like me, too. In a CrossFit workout you will never be alone, you will never fail, but you will always work hard.  If you like to just get into a workout, push yourself hard, not have a mirror anywhere around, and not worry about doing things to music with cha-chas and mambos, this is for you!


CrossFit & CrossFit Kids
For information on CrossFit and to find a gym near you, visit: http://www.crossfit.com/
For information on CrossFit Kids and to find a program near you, visit: http://www.crossfitkids.com/