Feeding Mind and Body for Busy Moms

Squeeze in a healthy breakfast, a workout AND manage your mornings? It IS possible!! Working out provides mental (releasing endorphins) and physical benefits; getting the proper nutrition in the morning really helps you conquer those long, stressful days.

Breakfast is still the most important meal of the day! You should be getting 300-400 calories from your breakfast. I get a lot of my recipes from Pinterest, as well as the Hungry Girl newsletters. I make time on Sunday evenings and usually Wed/Thursday mid-mornings to prep my breakfast and lunches for the week.

Below are some of my favorite breakfast recipes that are quick and easy! Today we’ll just go over eggs and a few oatmeal recipes. Some can be prepped in advance for the week, some overnight and some the morning of — up to you!

Mini Frittatas
Mini Frittatas

Egg Cups/Mini Frittatas: Use liquid eggs, egg whites, regular eggs or a combo. Choose toppings such as canned chopped green chiles, bacon bits, shredded cheddar, peppers, onions, mushrooms, etc. Spray a non-stick muffin pan with Pam spray and preheat oven to 350. Use about ¼ cup egg mixture in each cup. Bake 8-10 minutes then add toppings over the tops of the frittatas. Bake 10-12 minutes longer until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before transferring. Wrap in plastic wrap and then store a Ziploc bag and freeze. Pull out individually to thaw the night before, so they’re ready in the morning. I eat 2-3 with mild salsa! You can also cook some turkey sausage links to go with them and keep in the fridge and re-heat up to 3-4 days.

 OATMEAL

Banana Oatmeal cups with chocolate chips – these are wonderful, even kids and husbands love them!

Almond Joy Oatmeal: (½ C old fashioned oats, 1 C unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 2 T shredded unsweetened coconut, 2 T sliced almonds, 2 tsp dark chocolate chips, pinch of salt. Prepare the oats according to your favorite method, stove top or microwave with the milk. Once cooked, stir in the coconut, almonds and salt and top with chocolate chips.

Crockpot Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
Crockpot Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Slow Cooker Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal: 2 sliced apples, 1/3 cup Splenda brown sugar blend, 1 tsp cinnamon on the bottom of the slow cooker. Pour 2 cups of oatmeal and 4 cups of water on top. Do NOT stir. Cook overnight for 8-9 hours on low. Makes 4 servings.

Baked Oatmeal Casserole – This recipe can be modified using regular old-fashioned oats and any fruit. It tasted like dessert to me and was good cold or warm.

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Oatmeal YUM.

“Biggest Loser” Oatmeal Pancakes – I really like making these after a long run and layering them with fresh berries and a light syrup. Cut the recipe in half for 1 serving.

Now – for squeezing in that morning workout when you only have a few minutes! My running group, East Orlando Moms RUN This Town, has started doing strength challenges each month and I have included three for you that are all 30-day challenges. Abs, Squats and Planks! These all start easy and gradually build up and have been manageable.

Abs challenge
Abs challenge
Squat challenge
Squat challenge
Plank challenge
Plank challenge

I hope you can incorporate a healthy breakfast and quick workout to your mornings; it will help with your waistline and your mood!

Making Friends More Than I Ever Anticipated

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If someone asked me when I was 20 years old what I would be doing at 30, I probably would have responded that I would be married to a local country boy, living on our own little piece of farmland within the 1 square mile where much of my family still lives. Instead, (insert God’s humor here) at 21 I fell in love with a southern boy with plans of a life serving in the military. Rather than staying in one place forever, living an incredibly predictable life, with the same friends since kindergarten, I have moved as often as three times within one year, living everywhere from Washington State to Germany.

For someone with my personality, all this relocation has at times been very isolating and lonely. After a couple of years as a military wife, I finally decided to venture outside of my comfort zone. In doing this I have found some of my closest friends and created bonds that will last a lifetime. These women (and often their spouses) have helped me through some very tough times and also celebrated some of life’s most important events.

If you meet or already have a friend who is a military spouse, here are a few ways you can be a blessing to them, especially during times of deployment:

Take the initiative. Invite her out to coffee, to church, or to meet a few of your friends. When arriving at a new duty station, military wives often have no contacts outside of their spouse/children, so meeting people and getting to know their new surroundings can help start their new social life.

-Put yourself in their position and think of what would be most helpful, especially if their spouse is deployed. When my husband has been out of the country, the offer of childcare by a trusted friend has been one of the best gifts ever. My neighbor’s husband would occasionally mow my lawn without even asking, and another neighbor had his son drag my garbage can out to the street when he saw me struggling to get it there with a baby on my hip.

-Many people respond with “let me know if I can do anything for you” when they hear your husband is serving overseas, but often military spouses don’t want to ask for help, are embarrassed or too proud. But when handling everything alone, without any family or friends near, while your husband is in a dangerous environment, I promise that we can all use help at times.  It’s much easier if you tell us what you plan to do. Instead of “can I help you with anything?”, say “I’m going to make dinner and bring it over Thursday. Would that work for you”? or “I know you have been wanting to get your hair cut, let me watch the baby so that you have some time to make an appointment”.

I have made some amazing friends during my time as a military spouse, many of them Army wives, but just as many have been neighbors, church friends, or coworkers. These women have been my buddies, confidants, my source of laughter, and often my backbone during difficult times. While I unfortunately have to move much more often than most, I am blessed to have friends all over the world, who I can still call on if I ever need them and who I will always cherish. If you too are a military spouse feeling a bit isolated in your unconventional lifestyle, I encourage you to break out of your comfort zone and if you aren’t a military spouse, I encourage you to befriend one — you might be surprised by the lifelong friend you make.

 

{Giveaway} Orlando Home Show

DIYers get ready! This weekend marks the return of one of the season’s most exciting events – The Orlando Home Show! This three-day (October 4-6 ) home improvement extravaganza takes place at the Orange County Convention Center and is THE premier place to find fresh inspiration, helpful tips, innovative products and fantastic deals in remodeling, home improvement, decorative concrete options, designs, and fall outdoor projects. Plus, the popular Edible Orlando Cooking Stage is back and serving up even more fun and flavor with celebrity chefs and local culinary masters!emilyellyn

We recently visited Marlow’s Tavern (with locations on International Drive and in Winter Park) to enjoy a sneak peek of some of the delectable bites Chef Chris De Sormoux will be dishing during the Show and also got the chance to meet the hilarious Retro Rad Diva (and UCF grad!) Emily Ellyn of Food Network’s Next Food Network Star and Cupcake Wars who will be on stage Saturday and Sunday.

After tasting a few items from Marlow’s seasonal Ribs & Whiskey menu, we can assure you that you will LOVE the demos and samples that are in store!marlows

And, for those of you who are fans of Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles, Josh Flagg will take the main stage on Friday and Saturday to share his real estate insights and tips.

But wait, there’s more! One lucky Orlando Moms Blog reader will win the ultimate “Moms’ Day Out” Orlando Home Show prize package including:

  • Four (4) tickets to the Orlando Home Show
  • Meet & Greet with Emily Ellyn (after her Sat., Oct. 5, 2:30 p.m. presentation)
  • Complimentary Marlow’s Tavern appetizer

Enter below now through Wed., Oct. 2. Winner will be notified by email.

Visit www.OrlandoHomeShow.com for a complete schedule and list of stage presentations and to purchase advance tickets. See you at the Show!

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Nature 101: An easy family-friendly hike at Trimble Park

by Kim Hays
former OMB contributor

If the great outdoors isn’t really your thing, but you want your children to grow up with a better relationship with Mother Nature than you have, then Trimble Park, a 40-minute-trip from downtown Orlando is the perfect spot to test their meddle. Let’s just call it “nature light.” Sure there’s dirt and bugs and, in the summer, heat, but civilization is just around the corner should your kid turn out to be just like you.

To get there, head northwest toward Mount Dora on U.S. Highway 441 (Orange Blossom Trail). You’re looking for the tiny hamlet of Tangerine, where you’ll turn left onto Earlwood Drive and follow it until it ends in the gorgeous, Spanish-moss-canopied Trimble Park.  Click for map.

The park is quiet and calm, like you're in the middle of nowhere.

Towering oaks covered in Spanish moss create a shady canopy.

Your kids will be delighted to see an enormous playground nestled in the shade and a giant felled tree that now grows sideways that’s perfect for climbing. You can take a seat on one of the plentiful benches or picnic tables and take in the action or simply sit back and enjoy the scenery.

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Only later will your kids realize that the park is surrounded by a lake, complete with a fishing pier and boat docks. Be sure to venture close to the water for a look at what lurks there (there’s no swimming in this gator-infested lake!) as well as interesting foliage, including “cypress knees.” Look closely to find a secret swingset that overlooks the lake.

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But the best part of Trimble Park is the nature trail, a 1.3-mile loop that’s easy enough for kids and novices. Enormous oaks and cypress tower over the well-maintained wide trail that loops along the lake’s shore. Massive philodendrons give the feel of a prehistoric jungle. There’s plenty of room to walk side-by-side and keep you from getting into too-close-for-comfort contact with creepy crawlies. Sure you’ll probably see spiders and lizards, but you may also dragonflies and blue herons. (The trail was absolutely filled with fluttering butterflies during our most recent trip in mid-September.)

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Then there’s the silence. Follow the signs to “The Point” and take a seat on the bench overlooking the spot where Lake Beauclair and Lake Carlton meet, and enjoy it. The trail then turns into a boardwalk and eventually splits to go back to main park or the campground. Hot and sweaty? There’s a misting shower near the water fountain to help you cool off.

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Even if you’re not a nature fan, I have no doubt you and yours can survive his short, easy hike. And even if you opt out of the walk, the breathtaking beauty of this gem of a park (paired with the playground) makes it a perfect diversion from the city and a tame introduction to nature. Be sure to let us know if you decide to give it a go.

IF YOU GO: Everything here is free, parking is plentiful, and rarely does the 71-acre park get crowded. Be sure to read all about what you’ll see if you decide to take the hike at the Florida Hikes! website. And come prepared: Even though it’s “nature light,” it’s still a hike, folks. That means sneakers, long socks and bug spray. Avoid dusk, when the mosquitos are out in force. If you go in summer, be sure to pack water. But if you forget, the hike’s short enough that you’ll be fine filling up before and after at the park’s water fountain. After you’ve braved the brief hike, you might want to consider an overnight trip in the great outdoors. While I’ve only been to Trimble Park for day trips, my parents have overnighted in Trimble Park’s campground with my elementary-school-age twins. The Orange County park offers RV and tent camping for a song. Click here for details. (We don’t recommend tent camping here in the summer. You know, heat, bugs, etc.) The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the summer, and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the winter. Address: 5802 Trimble Park Road, Mount Dora. Phone: 352-383-1993

It Started with a Stork…Our Adoption Story

StorkI’ve always felt a certain kinship with Captain Hook. While a mean and menacing man, he and I have something in common—the tick-tock of a clock is most unpleasant. Which is why I’ve always been relieved that my biological clock never gave me so much as a tick, never mind a tock.

And while I did love Peter Pan as a child, I was much more of a Dumbo sort of girl. We nearly wore out the VCR with that one. I just loved that Baby Dumbo—so sweet, so innocent, so…delivered by a stork. Interesting.

Another favorite childhood movie, The Fox and the Hound, features an orphaned fox, Tod, becoming best friends with a hound, Copper. To build a deep and everlasting bond, one does not need to be related, or even all that similar.

While my life is not a fairytale, it’s pretty darn good. My husband and I are very much in love, we have a nice home, good jobs and peaceful days. So it can come as quite a shock when we share our very non-traditional plan to adopt—that is, to adopt without even trying to have kids biologically. Adoption has always been my plan, and my husband is 100% on board.

While Walt Disney loved stories of orphans and unlikely friends, the real world does not often go this route. They should. There are an estimated 143 million orphans worldwide. No matter how one comes to adoption, the only thing that matters to the child you adopt is that you got there.

According to http://adoption.state.gov/about_us/statistics.php, there were 400 adoptions in the state of Florida in 2012. More were girls than boys, and the majority were 1-2 years old, with 5-12 years old in second place.

According to http://www.statisticbrain.com/adoption-statistics/, 25% of adoptions in the US are international, however, 40% of all adoptions overall in our country are transracial.

We began our adoption paperwork in October 2012, and are just now, in September 2013, close to getting our “referral.” In the adoption world, a referral is basically when they share with you the identity of the child that you will adopt, so long as everything goes smoothly. That’s the thing with adoption, especially international adoption—keep your expectations and your excitement levels low and you’ll be much more tolerant of all the time and paperwork it takes!  After we get our referral, we can expect to wait at least another eight months until we can travel to Africa bring our little one home.

I’m often asked “why ?” The response is pretty simple for us—after researching and learning about the staggering conditions that international orphans face, we really couldn’t consider anything else. We’ve chosen what is almost certainly the most difficult way to grow our family. We’ll weather the uncertainties, the unknowns and the fears that come with adopting a child from one of the poorest countries in the world. We’ll study how best to raise an adopted child, a child with skin color different from us, and apply what we learn every day for the rest of our lives.

Oh, and we’ll basically have the gestation period of an elephant. From start to finish, we’ll be waiting for our child for just about 2 years. You know, upon further reflection, Mrs. Jumbo had it easy when baby Dumbo was delivered by a stork.

Hey Orlando moms! Have you adopted? Is adoption something you’ve considered? Share your story with us! We’d love to hear from you.

Orlando’s Best OB/GYNs

Orlando's-best-OBGYN

Are you new to the Orlando area and looking for an OB/GYN? Perhaps you moved across town or are looking for a doctor who will better meet your needs? Look no further than the Fall 2013 issue of Babyourself magazine. With the help of The Orlando Mom’s Guide we put together a listing of the top 20 OB/GYNs in Central Florida. These doctors are reader tested and approved!

The Top 5best-obgyn
1.  Dr. Sheryl Logan – Women’s Care Florida, OB & GYN Specialists
2.  Dr. Terrence Peppy – Physician Associates of Florida
3.  Dr. William Scott – Women’s Care Florida, Delaney OB-GYN
4.  Dr. Nicholas Abrudescu – Women’s Care Florida, Partners in Women’s Healthcare
5.  Dr. Emma Fritz – Women’s Care Florida, Delaney OB-GYN

And – listed in alphabetical order – the 15 doctors who rounded out the top 20

Dr. Michael Bartfield – Prime OBGYN, P.A.
Dr. Bruce Breit – Women’s Care Florida, Winter Park OB-GYN
Dr. Teresa Carducci – Women’s Care Florida, OB & GYN Specialists
Dr. Donald Diebel – Women’s Care Florida, OB & GYN Specialists
Dr. Steven Dukes – Women’s Care Florida, Winter Park OB-GYN
Dr. Thomas Gibbs, MD – Thomas C Gibbs, MD
Dr. D Ashley Hill – Loch Haven OB/GYN
Dr. Marnique Jones – Women’s Care Florida, OB & GYN Specialists
Dr. Arnold Lazar – Women’s Care Florida, OB & GYN Specialists
Dr. April Merritt – Women’s Care Florida, Delaney OB-GYN
Dr. Matthew Mervis – Prime OBGYN, P.A.
Dr. Melissa Moore – Women’s Care Florida, Winter Park OB-GYN
Dr. Louis Stern – Louis Stern MD
Dr. Jon Sweet – Florida Women’s Center
Dr. Parmelee Thatcher – Women’s Care Florida, Delaney OB-GYN

 

 

 

 

OMG-336X280We are honored to be partnered with The Orlando Mom’s Guide, a reliable resource since 2008.  A Facebook-based tool, The Orlando Mom’s Guide is written by a local mom of four and exists to take some of the guesswork out of raising children by providing unbiased reviews of local businesses, timely information about family-friendly events, and helpful encouragement for hard-working moms like you. Find OMG online at www.facebook.com/orlandomomsguide

Writing A Birth Plan That Will Stick

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I almost didn’t write a birth plan, but after much convincing from my doula, sat down to write what goals I wanted for the birth of our daughter. I’d heard a lot about the ineffectiveness of most birth plans and how they are often dismissed by doctors in the hospital. However, if done correctly, a birth plan can be one of the best tools to having a birth experience you will remember fondly even if unexpected circumstances arise.

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Laminated birth plans also double as a great fan during labor!

When I was dreaming about my birth experience, I wanted all kinds of specific things to occur — a natural, vaginal birth, the ability to labor without physical or time constraints, immediate skin-to-skin, and a relaxing labor experience (think low lighting, my husband DJing my tunes and the ability to eat and drink throughout the birthing process). Nonetheless, I realized that in a hospital birth, not all the things you want can be accommodated due to standard policies. I needed to pick and choose my battles and write a plan that was easy for doctors to read so our most important goals were met.

I went to work researching examples and I noticed one birth plan that stood out from the rest — an individual who covered various scenarios that might occur and her wishes if found in that particular situation. This resonated with me. It would be great if I was to have a natural, unmedicated and non-augmented birth, but that doesn’t always happen. What would we want in a situation where I might need medication, or if we were faced with a Cesarean birth or emergency delivery? The process of answering these questions allowed me to be more open and flexible about the birth experience… After all, the thing that truly mattered in the end was a healthy mommy and baby.

How did my labor and delivery turn out? After 26 hours in the hospital laboring naturally (with that low lighting and my husband playing my favorite tunes), I found myself having a C-Section after four hours of pushing (little did any of us realize I was carrying a baby that was almost 10 lbs and 22 inches long!) Luckily, because the birth plan covered our wishes if I was to have a C-Section, I was able to ask the right questions of the surgeon in what would otherwise have been a very confusing situation. Almost all of our requests were granted — I was allowed to have skin-to-skin during surgery, nurse in recovery and had special stitching that would allow me the best chances of a VBAC for our next pregnancy. None of this would have happened without having a plan and advocating for it.

Here are some tips for writing a birth plan that will be read (and hopefully followed!) by your doctors:

  1. Like a good resume, keep to one page.
  2. Outline each of the various scenarios you may find yourself in and list your top objectives if confronted with that situation. Be specific and concise!
  3. List who you want with you in labor and delivery and how much time you want for just you, your partner and baby once in your post labor room. I wanted another hour to nurse and bond uninterrupted and without visitors.
  4. Laminate! This sounds silly but it shows you are serious. Plus it won’t get wet, torn or discarded in the delivery room (and it makes for a pretty good fan when laboring… I kid you not!)
  5. Last, be flexible with your plan. Know that not all labors go accordingly, and in the end all that matters is getting to hold that precious new love of your life.

The Joy of Family Traditions

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Fiddler on the Roof is one of my favorite musicals. It is the story of Tevye, a father of five daughters, who sings about his family and the importance of their traditions. “Who must know the way to make a proper home? The Mama, the Mama! Tradition!” Tevye was a smart man.

This mama is a big believer in creating and preserving family traditions. They are the colorful threads that create a family tapestry of memories and tie the generations together. Traditions don’t have to be complicated or expensive. The best ones often happen unexpectedly and become part of a family’s fabric over time.

Take my great-grandmother. Whenever she drove away, she would wave a white handkerchief out her car window. Three generations later, our family still scrambles to find something white to wave when we drive off. Over the years, it’s been everything from a fast food paper napkin, gas receipt, baby wipe and sock pulled from a hamper of clean clothes heading back to college.

When my children were toddlers, I bought them cassette tapes with a personalized birthday song. It was a cheesy melody featuring a man named Zoom who lived on the moon and came down to Earth to sing them a tune. “Hey, John/Allison it’s your birthday and I’m here to say, Hey John/Allison, you’re the big star today!” It ends with Zoom’s promise, “I’ll see you next year!” And indeed he does. Zoom and his personal song surprise John and Allison every year on their birthdays. During breakfast in elementary school. In the car on the way to middle school. Recorded on their cell phones early in the morning when they were in college. Today, many of their friends know Zoom’s song and will post the lyrics on Facebook as their birthday message.

Perhaps our family’s most famous tradition is Jack-o-Lantern cheeseburgers at Halloween. My mom started the tradition by carving faces into squares of American cheese. I took the tradition up a notch by letting the kids carve the faces and adding orange and black side dishes: carrot sticks, cheese doodles, mac and cheese, black olives and raisins. Orange soda and root beer rounded out the menu in the days before Big Gulps ruined it for everyone. The tradition expanded over the years to include friends and neighbors and today it is an annual Halloween event.

Jack-o-lantern cheeseburgers
Jack-o-lantern cheeseburgers — now a neighborhood tradition!

Recipes are another easy way to create family traditions. I pity whoever tries to change up the recipes for my dad’s turkey stuffing (not dressing!) and sister’s Thanksgiving gravy. My mother-in-law’s chewy cakes are a Christmas day staple and my grandmother’s key lime pie is the bar by which all others are measured. My most cherished recipes are those hand-written on recipe cards, yellowed and ingredient-stained, by relatives who are no longer with us. Recipes.com will never evoke the same sentimental memory.

What are you family’s traditions? How are you keeping them alive and making memories your children will want to share with their children? Tell us your favorites!

{Giveaway} My Gym Children’s Fitness Center

olderwithteacher_010_color_smLooking for some healthy, weatherproof fun for your kids? Look no further than My Gym! When it comes to capturing the interest of active toddlers and teens (and parents too!), My Gym Lake Mary and My Gym Maitland are the answer. With classes for kids age six weeks to 13 years, My Gym has a program for every family.

Offering structured, age-appropriate, weekly classes, My Gym encourages kids to move and play in a safe, clean environment that promotes self confidence and fine motor skills development. Classes feature music, dance, games, gymnastics and more. And, My Gym’s state-of-the-art facilities, extensively trained staff and award-winning curriculum make it one of the highest rated early learning programs in Central Florida!

Interested in trying My Gym for yourself? Three (3) lucky Orlando Moms Blog readers will receive a My Gym Fun Pass for use during your choice of classes, Practice & Plays or Parents’ Night Out at My Gym Lake Mary or My Gym Maitland.

Enter below now through Thursday, Sept. 26. Winners will be notified by email.

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Educator Tips: Working With Your Kid’s Teacher

teacher-ABC-fullIt’s a new school year. You’ve met the teacher and might have already had Open House at your kids’ school, now what? Becoming a partner in education goes beyond becoming the PTA president. As a public school teacher and mom, I have a few tips on the best ways to help your student at home.

Homework time. Homework is dreaded by parents even more than students. This is not your homework, this should be a time for your student to practice, to see what they know or do not know. Yes, you might want to sit with them for some help. A re-explanation at home can help reinforce classroom learning. If your student can’t do something, you need to make sure the teacher knows. Doing the work for them is not helping anyone, though tempting when it is taking too long and the family to-do list is waiting! The same goes for projects.

Communicate with the teacher in a positive fashion. Teachers are not out to get students! I remind my students giving everyone all A’s would be even easier in my job, but that is not my job! With teacher’s schedules usually dictated down to the minute during the school day, e-mail is usually the easier way to contact them, however ask at open house. E-mail is a great way to give a teacher a heads up, such as with homework. A quick note saying, Hey Johnny had a really hard time last night, do you have any resources I could use to help him at home? Also, teachers need to be aware of big changes in the personal life of students. A death or divorce in the family can dramatically affect how a student acts in class, even if they are acting fine at home.

Conflict as Learning. As with any relationship, there might be a point when there is a conflict. This is a place where parents play a much bigger role model than a teacher can. If our kids have problems at school, we are very quick to go and fix it for them. Instead, work with your student about how to handle, even maybe coaching, depending on age, of what to say the next day. Jenny might not understand her test or essay grade. Instead of e-mailing the teacher demanding an explanation, have your student learn to appropriately ask the teacher for further explanation. This gives them a learning experience that goes beyond a letter grade on an assignment.

Be a snoop. I’m not saying break into diaries, but look at your children’s work. If you have older children, take a look at notes and notebooks. Instead of accepting the “nothing” answer for “what did you do today”, spark conversations about what you are seeing. You will learn a lot about students by looking at their notes. Are they legible? If not, maybe a discussion on slowing down, or maybe note-taking tips. Can your student talk about the topic beyond reciting what is in the notes? This is what tells you if they ‘get it’. The days of school being rote practice are gone, it’s about training the mind to think critically. I have heard many times from parents, “I know they studied”. Check-in with them, are they studying or just staring at notes? Staring won’t get them far, but a discussion will.

Let them make mistakes. Sounds silly, but do not be so focused on your student getting into to Harvard in 6th grade that they do not feel they can make a mistake. Your student needs to take risks and chances to learn. They will stop taking those chances if they think it is all about having a 100 in every class. Push them to their best, but realize how much you learned from your mistakes. Talk about your mistakes in school, but don’t take every opportunity for them to learn from their own mistakes away from them.

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Ashley is a wife, mom, and Middle School teacher. She spends most days trying to balance being a full-time teacher and mom, and realizing those lines blur, constantly.

Cloth diapering, no intimidation necessary

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When I was pregnant with my (now 20-month-old) son, I had grand plans of exclusively cloth diapering. Saving money, helping out the environment, and my baby looking so darn adorable in a t-shirt and diaper — it seemed like the perfect diapering trifecta.

Cloth Diapering Baby
Fluffy bottoms are the best!

I immediately went out and spent a small fortune on the latest and greatest the cloth diapering world had to offer. Once my son was in my arms, without any research (or even reading the insert) I snapped the diaper on and sat back with a smile, so proud that I was a cloth diapering mama. Within a few minutes, I realized that he had peed out of the diaper and all over the front of his sweet little outfit, one that had taken me 15 minutes to finagle him into. My smile (and sense of pride) quickly faded into frustration and within two weeks I had sold my cloth diaper stash on Ebay, recouping only a portion of what I originally spent. Feeling defeated, I resigned to using disposables.

Fast forward nine months, when a dear cloth diapering friend sat me down, covering the ins and outs of the process, even loaning me enough diapers for a full trial run before making any additional purchases of my own. It was exactly what I needed to make the leap into cloth diapers again.

If you are considering cloth diapering, or maybe you’ve tried and failed, here are a few tips:

  • You do not need to spend your life savings in order to cloth diaper. My $12 Kawaii Baby diapers work just as well as pricier options. Keep an eye out for deals, especially on cloth diapering websites such as Kelly’s Closet.
  • Read the insert before using.  For best absorbency, diapers need to be washed three times prior to use. If you do not pre-wash the diapers, your baby’s urine will wick out immediately. Guaranteed. The inserts also give information to help you get the best fit for your baby’s age/size.
  • Install a kitchen sprayer to the back of your toilet using a t-shaped adapter (available at your local hardware store). Many of my cloth diapering friends hadn’t heard of this and once installed, it changed their lives. This allows you to spray the poop directly into the toilet, decreasing the chances that it will get on your hands,  or worse under your fingernails!
  • Purchase a few “wet bags” to store soiled diapers until laundering. My favorite is the Planet Wise brand. Every 2-3 days, empty the diapers into your washer, tossing in the empty bag. One quick wash cycle using cold water, one full cycle using hot water and an approved cloth diaper detergent (I like Rockin’ Green), and then one additional rinse cycle.
  • Be careful with diaper creams. Use only those intended for cloth diapers.

My final and most important piece of advice —

You do not need to become a full fledged hippie just because you cloth diaper. Some people exclusively cloth diaper, some only when at home, some people use them during the day and then disposables at night. Do what works best for you! For our family, this means at church or the gym my son is in a disposable, or when my husband has him for an extended period of time.

All in all, I am so glad that I gave cloth diapering a second chance and that my wonderful friend showed me the ropes. My son looks adorable in his little puffy underpants and we have saved a lot of money at the same time.

 

 

Kid Free Friends: Please don’t lose my number!!

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Remember those days when you were “child free” and life was just, different (carefree some might say)?! I can distinctly recall the day when the first couple in my and my husband’s circle of friends announced they were expecting baby number one — it was a defining moment in our adult lives as we succumbed to the realization that our gang of four under-30, fun loving, drop-everything-and-grab-a-cocktail couples was about to become three. And, while it was a natural and welcome milestone in our evolution into adulthood, their announcement made me realize that, when we embrace parenthood, relationships WILL change.

When those friends became new parents I made an effort to keep in touch with my girlfriend, why wouldn’t I? Just because I didn’t have my own offspring didn’t eliminate the fact that we were still women who could discuss shoes, shopping and spa days, right? (Okay, I may have been a little naive at the time!)

Then, one day during lunch, as I cooed over her sweet little bundle of joy, I was taken aback when she thanked me for continuing our friendship. The majority of her kid free friends (KFFs) had lost her number she said. Was it the fear that pregnancy was contagious or simply their perceived inability to speak “parent” that drove these KFFs into silence? At that moment, I vowed to never become that kind of “friend” and today, as a new parent, I see so much more clearly the value of my own kid free friends.

You see, while it is terribly important to develop your mom tribe as you transition into parenthood (exhibit A: Orlando Moms Blog), it is also imperative that you maintain your relationships with your KFFs. I’ll speak for myself here, but there have been more than a few times over the past 18 months when the hormone-induced pregnant lady/new mom “identity crisis” has attacked my psyche, and, if not for my kid-free friends, I would have most certainly lost my mind.

Oulette_037It was my KFFs who freed me of the stress of coordinating, financing and executing my 100+ person baby shower; loaned me their pool for a baby-free swim; insisted I leave the house (the state even) for a night out on the town; and listened to my spit up, poop and baby food laden stories during miles of baby-weight-reducing walks.  These are the same ladies who have kept me in tune with the rest of the world and connected with my always-evolving career life. They’re also the ones who allow me to check out of babyville from time to time, because they generally don’t speak the language of the babe and, to me, that’s their greatest asset.

When you become pregnant, people like to give you a lot of advice (often unsolicited) about finding the elusive “balance” that will provide you “peace” and “happiness” in the mommy-hood. In my brief experience with motherhood, kid free friends have been essential to achieving that balance.

So, I implore you MOMS, please don’t alienate your KFFs, embrace them (they love to babysit and cherish rare moments with cute kids because they know they get to give the child back!) and, kid free friends, please don’t lose this mom’s number!

{Giveaway} Green Meadows Petting Farm 25th Birthday Party

These days, it’s rare to find educational and entertaining activities that appeal to a wide range of ages, but Green Meadows Petting Farm delivers in the form of good, old fashioned family fun. Ideal for a day outing off the beaten path (ie: I-4), the Farm is nestled on 50 acres in Kissimmee and provides the perfect setting for kids and adults to reconnect with nature.

horseWith our infant and toddler OMB “kid kritics” in tow, we recently paid Green Meadows a visit and were quickly reminded how farm animals provide a truly sensory experience! Our guided tour, which is thoughtfully designed to educate guests about farm animals by touch, sight, smell and sound included hands-on experiences with cows, ducks, goats and more!

Additionally, pony rides, a tractor-drawn hayride and an open-air train ride were a hit with the kids and provide a nice break from the heat and walking tour. The Farm also offers multiple play spaces and covered picnic pavilions.

tractorIn honor of its 25th Birthday, Green Meadows has invited Orlando Moms Blog readers to its birthday celebration Sept. 20, 21 and 22 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Guests will enjoy a special birthday rate of $13 which includes:

  • Live entertainment by local country artist Kenyon Lockry (Saturday and Sunday only) and Ernie Sites a national yodeling champion and trick roping, country-singing cowboy
  • Osceola County Fire Department and Sheriff’s Office demonstrations
  • Musical entertainment by the Osceola County Historical Society live
  • Face painting
  • Hay and train rides
  • Cow milking and up close interaction with farm animals
  • Birthday cake, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts giveaways and more!

Best of all, one lucky Orlando Moms Blog reader will win a Family Four Pack of tickets (Enter below now through Thursday, Sept. 19. Winner will be notified by email.)!

Before you visit the Farm, read these OMB Recommendations for Parents:

  • Plan to have fun and get dirty! If you’re not a fan of dirty hands, shirts and shoes, bring hand sanitizer and a change of clothes. (Please note: restrooms and hand washing/sanitizing stations are easily accessible and readily available throughout the farm.)
  • Wear closed-toe shoes. You (and the kids) will be walking on dirt paths and playing in animal pens.
  • Pack your “all terrain” stroller. Again, dirt paths aren’t always umbrella stroller friendly, so plan accordingly.
  • Bring lunch! The Farm permits coolers, so save yourself a few dollars and carry your favorite snacks and beverages.
  • Schedule your day with naps in mind. If napping is still a part of your daily routine, plan your day accordingly. The Farm’s guided tours last 2+ hours, with the option to hop on and off the tour if necessary.

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Have Toddler, Will Travel!

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Does the idea of traveling with a very small child give you anxiety? As a new mom (I have a 13 month old toddler) and being 24 weeks preggo with another baby, the idea of traveling to the grocery store can cause anxiety, let alone traveling a long distance by car, train or plane.

With so many families separated by hundreds, if not thousands of miles, traveling with small kids is a reality many of us will have to face. My family and I recently traveled out of state for a family party and learned a lot along the way!

This says it all...use these tips to "keep calm and road trip" on your next road trip adventure!
This says it all…use these tips to “keep calm and road trip” on your next road trip adventure!

First question — to fly or drive? I truly wanted to take a 2.5 hour plane ride versus an 11 hour car ride. However, small babies and toddlers need a lot of stuff and none of it packs into small packages. In order to answer the fly or drive question for yourself, ask yourself the following additional questions…

  • What essentials does my baby need…I mean REALLY need? (Car seat, booster seat, crib, bouncer, etc.)
  • Can I beg/borrow/rent or even ship any of these items to my destination ahead of time?

My main advice, if you are traveling to be with friends and family, ask if you can borrow or ship any of these items. This can save significant amounts of time, money and hassle. If you are traveling to a hotel/resort/cruise ask about crib and car seat rentals.

If you cannot do any of the above, decide if driving is a better alternative. For us, for this trip, it was better for us to drive. The family we were staying with does not have any children nor did they have any friends with the essential car seat and crib we would need once we got there.

Once we determined we would drive, it was a matter of timing. Our trip was about 11 hours. Since our baby sleeps through the night (thankfully!) we decided to drive all night in order to minimize numerous stops and turn 11 hours into 20 and have an unhappy, ready to walk and run 13-month-old in the back seat!  We did our usual bedtime routine – dinner, bath, story – and instead of putting to bed in her crib, we put her in her car seat. After about an hour on the road (at about 9 p.m.) she fell asleep and truly slept until 7 a.m. when we were an hour from our destination and stopped for breakfast!

Not going to lie, this is rough on the drivers but so worth it!  If you are the driver(s) be prepared to be sleepy the next day and plan to take a nap to catch up.

Other perks to driving at night…significantly less traffic and fewer stops! I personally hate multiple bathroom, food and gas stops that come along with road trips…the fewer, the better!

Just a few words of caution  if you choose to drive at night…

  • Have a companion with you (spouse, grandparent, friend, etc). This will help to keep the driver awake and alert plus allows for a change in drivers if one becomes sleepy.
  • If you stop for gas/bathroom late at night, chose a well-lit, busy exit with a well-lit service station or rest area.
  • Be aware that a lot of highway construction is done at night and be on the look out for lane closures and reduced speeds in some areas.

Ultimately be safe!

Traveling is and should be awesome. With a little extra planning and organization, traveling with small children can be just as awesome!

Happy trails and safe travels!

Living books out loud: Make “Floors” come to life for your kids!

Have you ever made a book come to life? We did! And it happens to be on this year’s Sunshine State Young Readers book list, so parents of 3rd – 5th graders in particular might find inspiration in the idea. Sadly, I just discovered your window of opportunity to live this particular adventure closes on September 30, so read fast!

The book Floors by Patrick Carman is about a whimsical hotel – The Whippet Hotel – full of fun adventures and outrageous characters. The eccentric owner of the hotel loves ducks, and there are some residing in the hotel. They even have their own duck elevator! The maintenance man’s son – our protagonist – obtains various key cards that allow him access into secret and fantastical areas of the hotel.

The book that started it all!

Lucky for us, we have a Peabody Hotel here in Orlando, complete with the world famous Peabody Ducks. I took my kids to investigate. We found the ducks in the fountain, and it only took a second for the kids to make the connection that we were at “the Whippet”!

The ducks enter and exit their favorite fountain by literally walking the red carpet!
The ducks enter and exit their favorite fountain by literally walking the red carpet!

The duck march occurs every day at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., with the hours between spent in their fountain. We got to watch the ducks march single-file down the red carpet with a lot of pomp to their own real duck elevator! Then we left the crowd in our dust as we executed my boy’s genius plan of running up the stairs to beat the elevator to the roof, where we caught them exiting the elevator and taking their place in the duck palace for the night.

The sign reads:                                                                   Reserved for the Peabody Ducks
The sign reads: Reserved for the Peabody Ducks

The poor Duckmaster (yes, it’s a real job) had to suffer through questions from my kids that probably made no sense whatsoever to him, as he has not had the pleasure of reading Floors. But he was obliging, as his post no doubt demands twice daily. Dressed to the nines, he was. A dapper old gentleman, looking very official in his fine livery.

This hotel has orchids just like the book, a pool on the roof just like the book, and a very nice associate even gave us a key card just like the book! The kids think it is the elusive black key card that would get us into the most secret places in the hotel…if only we could find them! I did catch them trying it on a service door or two on our way out.

We also snuck into an empty banquet hall called “The Orchid Room”; and when we found an orchid standing alone in a window, we just knew it had to be the ghost orchid, the most rare and delicate of all orchids. Before they could really inspect it, I claimed to hear voices coming, so we ran like lightning before getting caught! Whew. Close one.

While my kids are old enough to know it’s called The Peabody Orlando, I’m pretty sure they are convinced it’s the Whippet and that magical things are really afoot there. Whenever we drive close enough on I-4 or I-Drive to see the hotel looming in the distance with the Peabody duck logo on the side, we shout, “There’s Betty!” I will carry the memory of this day close to my heart for many years and hope they too will always remember the day we lived a great book out loud.

 

As mentioned earlier, the hotel has recently been purchased and our beloved Peabody ducks will march for the final time on Sept. 30, 2013. I urge you to go now, even if you aren’t done with the book. Heck, go even if you haven’t started it! It will all make sense later, and the pictures will be priceless. There is a cost to park in the garage, since you can’t live in this moment properly within the 30 minute complimentary grace period; but it’s well worth the price of admission for Floors fans. Of note, the Orlando Sentinel recently published a story on the upcoming early retirement of the ducks, which states that the Peabody Hotel in Memphis will continue the tradition of the duck march. Little consolation for little Orlando readers, but better than a complete loss of the 80 year tradition!

Even if the Peabody Orlando’s days are numbered, the Floors fun continues when you read the sequel, 3 Below by Patrick Carman, about the mysterious floors they later discover below ground level.  

To help you get started in picking books to live out loud, check out Florida’s 2013-2104 SSYR books for Grades 3 – 5 and Grades 6 – 8.  Now go make your own adventure!

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