Baby Picasso: Bringing Out the Artist in Your Toddler

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I love encouraging Liam to be artistic. As a Pinterest addict, I love reading about different sensory play activities for babies and love to adapt them to Liam’s maturity level to keep challenging him every day. He loves to try new things and I think I’m just as excited as he is every time we tackle a new activity together.

A few weeks ago, I discovered a brand called HoneySticks, which are natural, nontoxic crayons handmade from 100% pure New Zealand beeswax. Since they contain no paraffin wax or cheap fillers, they are entirely safe for infants, kids, and children of all ages. 

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I couldn’t help but test them out with Liam when I received them, and although I didn’t expect him to understand how to doodle quite yet (he’s still all about putting things in his mouth!), I was pleasantly surprised when he grabbed a crayon and started to scribble across the page like he’d been drawing forever. He made his Mama proud!

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I encourage you all to occasionally introduce your babies and toddlers to activities that challenge and stimulate their creativity. As perfectly stated on Raise Smart Kid, “Kids should be exposed to the arts as their cognitive skills mature so that their right brain becomes as developed as the left, and both hemispheres work in tandem, thus achieving the full potential of the mind.”

Aside from the physiological effects, the New York Center for Arts Education also lists other benefits of exposing children to art:

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According to Kimberly Sheridan, Ed.D., coauthor of Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education, “”It’s not as easy to test the skills that children learn from the arts, but that doesn’t make them any less important”. She noted though that participating in a school arts program increases a child’s ability to:

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(RaiseSmartKids.com)

 

If you haven’t already, make sure you check out my post on how to put together a mess-free paint activity for your infant or toddler.  It’s super fun, easy, and applies to almost all ages!

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If you want some more inspiration, here are 50 creative activities you can do with your child, courtesy of Fun at Home With Kids.

Should I Discipline My One Year Old?

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Liam may be the sweetest 90% of the time, but he does have those occasional moments when Joe and I both look at each other and go, Uh oh, how the hell are we supposed to handle this one?

In the last few weeks, I really started thinking it was time to set some clear boundaries. At a little over a year, Liam understands a lot more than we give him credit for: he’s clever and constantly tests us to see if we’re consistent, so we’ve made an effort to (gently) start disciplining him.

The last thing we want is one of those controlling toddlers who gets his way by shrieking at the top of his lungs in TJ Maxx. No thank you.

Just like having a varied diet, I think disciplining your child has a lot to do with habit.  If you teach your child that some things are simply unacceptable and/or dangerous, they will eventually catch on and listen (with exceptions, of course. Every child’s allowed to have a meltdown! They’re not robots🙂 ).

The key, I think, is to discipline our toddlers in an intelligent way that resonates with them. Because let’s admit it, our toddlers can be quite stubborn when they want to be!

 

So, without further ado, here’s how we plan on disciplining Liam . . .  

 

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As our little one starts to discover the world on his two feet, it’s important to guide him through it. I think it’s important to be a hands on parent when it comes to discovering the world and that it’s never too early to teach our littles ones to be curious! When we do activities together, indoors and out, I constantly point to things so that Liam understands what they are (trees, cars, birds, clouds, etc…). It has become one of his favorite activities! I like to encourage Liam to touch things that are safe (tree bark, grass, or sand, for example), guide him when he touches things that are “fragile” (dogs, other people’s faces) by saying “gentle” over and over, and explain why certain things are off limits (“ouch” if something is hot, for example.) As parents, we lead by example… This is a great time to start teaching them the basic rules of life.

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Especially when it comes to baby proofing, it’s essential to think like your child. I frequently get on the floor with Liam to see the things he sees at his eye level, like electrical sockets, cupboards, lamps, etc.

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When you tell your toddler that something is off limits, make sure you, your partner, and all other caregivers are on the same page. There should be no room for confusion, here. If it’s not allowed, it’s just not allowed. Ever. Communication among adults is especially important, here.

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Instead of scolding Liam for doing something he isn’t allowed to do, I find that I’ve had a lot more success by redirecting him towards something that he is allowed to do. If he is running towards  the stove, for example, I’ll take his hand and go, “hey! Look how cool this water bottle is!” Most of the time, even with a stubborn child, it works like a charm.

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I’m a big believer in explaining everything to Liam, even the smallest details. If he isn’t allowed to do something, I tell him why. If he points to something, I tell him what it is and how it works. If he is fussy and crying, I’ll acknowledge the reason why he is upset, and explain why he shouldn’t be. It may seem way beyond his years at times, but I really do think we underestimate his ability to understand what we’re truly saying. The kid gets it!

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It sucks to say “no” all the time and I get how, in our homes especially, it’s tough to let our toddlers roam freely. So many dangers! For that reason, we have a designated, fenced in space for Liam to play freely where nothing is off limits. I also think it’s important to pick your battles: if your baby wants the remote control or home phone, just take out the batteries and let him enjoy  it for a little. Some things might seem “annoying” to us, but we forget that it is only by being hands on that our little ones learn!

 

So that’s it, our list so far! We’ve had success with some of these and are still working on others. Hope you enjoyed reading! If you have discipline tips that worked in your household, please do not hesitate to share. I love a good success story🙂

Natural Pain Relief for Pregnant and Nursing Moms

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There is nothing worse than getting sick when you’re pregnant or nursing.

Why, you ask?

Because when it comes to pain relief, your safe options are beyond limited; whatever you put into your body (even popping a seemingly harmless Advil pill) goes right to your baby, whether through the placenta or directly in your breastmilk.

Some medications may be better than others in terms of toxicity, but it’s not because they’re on an “approved” medications list that they should be your first and only option. There are tons of safe alternatives you can try first! Anything that could harm your fetus/baby (even a tiny bit) should never be your first resort… especially for a virus going around, when all you’re doing is alleviating your symptoms anyway.

Before Liam, I was that “whiny sick person bundled under the comforter begging for someone to bring her chicken soup”person. Now, with a 14.5 month old who has zero sympathy for my symptoms, I have no choice but to suck it up.

Over the past two years, I learned to stop being a baby when I’m sick. Yes, I know how awful it is to feel under the weather, but I always try to ask myself, Is this really as awful as I’m making it seem? Do I really need to take anything right now or do I just need to rest? It helps me prioritize and really know whether the small risk is worth it (I haven’t taken any medication, even painkillers,  in over 2 years!)

If you’re pregnant or nursing and need some temporary pain relief, here are a few options you can try that have worked for me. Like I said before, it can’t hurt to try!

 

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A concoction of tea (whichever one you want – I made it with pregnancy tea while I was pregnant, milkmaid tea during the early days of nursing, green tea in the morning, and even chamomile tea before bed), whole cloves (about 4-5), the juice of half a lemon, a nice, big squirt of honey, and some fresh, grated ginger. I drink it with a straw so I don’t swallow the cloves. The best sore throat remedy!

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Don’t bash it until you try it: mix 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar and one tablespoon honey. Microwave for 8 seconds, stir, and shoot it down. Works like a charm! And don’t worry, the sweetness of the honey balances out the vinegar taste… It’s really not as bad as it sounds and it works like an over the counter numbing spray! Expect about 3-4 hours of sore throat relief.

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I love essential oils for all sorts of things, but they really shine when it comes to pain relief and cold prevention (I wrote about my favorites last year in this post.) It is important to know what you are doing when it comes to essential oils, because although they are natural, they are powerful substances that should be treated as such. Although many oils are unsafe for pregnancy and nursing, a lot of them are such as cardamon, German and Roman chamomile, lavender, frankincense, geranium, ginger, neroli, patchouli, petitgrain, rosewood, rose, and sandalwood.

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For migraines and stress, I love peppermint and lavender. Peppermint reminds me of Vicks – I smear 2-3 drops along my temples and sinuses for some cool relief. Nursing moms, do not overdo peppermint – heavy use has been proven to reduce milk production – but a little bit is okay!  Lavender has been my go-to lately, especially before bed, to unwind. I add a few drops to my pillow every night and it has really changed my sleep for the better – I fall asleep a lot quicker than I used to and feel a lot more refreshed in the morning.

Frankincense is another useful oil during pregnancy and even over the course of your nursing journey. It is known for its comforting properties, and is useful for helping overcome stress, anger, anxiety, and despair. It can also break up phlegm deposits in your respiratory tract and lungs, and can relieve bronchitis-related congestion.

 

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Homeopathic medicines are FDA approved and available in health food stores and drugstores everywhere. When used as directed, they are completely safe for everyone— including pregnant women, newborns, children, and adults—and you need not worry about toxic side effects as you do with conventional medications. Homeopathic remedies are composed of plants and minerals and work with your body’s own natural processes to heal you gently and naturally.

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Last Christmas, while I was out of the country visiting family, I started to feel very sick, developed a fever, and felt nauseous for 3 days straight. As a consequence, I couldn’t produce any milk at all for Liam… which was terrifying. I didn’t want to take medication and decided to take homeopathy for my symptoms first: Belladonna for nausea and body pains, Nux Vomica for fever and nausea, and Oscillococcinum for its strong antiviral properties. In a day or two, the nausea subdued and the fever went down. Whether this was just my body naturally getting better on its own or the homeopathy’s doing, I’m not sure: all I know is I got better quickly without having to take any risky medication.

For basic morning sickness, you have a few options based on your symptoms:

Pulsatilla: Your nausea is worse in a warm, stuffy room, better in the open air, and better from walking slowly. You crave rich, sweet, fatty foods, but they make you feel worse. You are not thirsty. You tend to be weepy with changeable moods; you want comfort and reassurance. Eating the wrong foods can bring on headaches with a bursting pain over your eyes.

Nux vomica: Your nausea is strong, especially in bed on waking, but you’re unable to vomit. You are very hungry but feel worse after eating, with indigestion and cramping. You may be irritable and oversensitive to noise and light.

Colchicum: You are extremely sensitive to the smell of food and may gag at the very thought of food. Your nausea can last all day and is worse from motion. You want carbonated drinks. You prefer to lie with your knees drawn up, since stretching out your legs can cause nausea.

Ipecacuanha: Your severe, constant nausea is not even relieved by vomiting. You salivate profusely and may have to spit frequently. (Note: This remedy is homeopathically prepared and diluted Ipecacuanha and is NOT interchangeable with the common drugstore Ipecac used to induce vomiting.)

Sepia: Your nausea is worse from the smell and thought of food. You have a sinking feeling in the stomach that makes you feel faint; eating may relieve it but only temporarily. You crave vinegar and pickles, as well as sweets. You have a sensation of heaviness or sagging in the pelvis. You may feel indifferent to your loved ones because you’re exhausted; but physical exercise makes you feel better overall.

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Ginger is fantastic for nausea. I cannot even begin to tell you how many Gin-Gins I sucked on during my pregnancy (they got me through the first trimester!) If you happen to feel nauseous while pregnant or nursing, buy ginger hard candy or grate fresh ginger and add it to a cup of hot tea. Peppermint is another great fix for nausea… so go ahead, chew that mint gum!

 

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During pregnancy, Arnicare Gel can be used for back pain, swelling, and muscular aches. During pregnancy, it can help with minor injuries, like discomfort from an active baby who kicks, causing soreness. During labor, it can help the muscles do their work with a minimum of physical stress and strain, and may even speed the labor itself. Postpartum, Arnica homeopathy is often prescribed by midwives to help strained tissues recover from childbirth.

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Robin, my midwife, used Arnica oil on my perineum as I gave birth to Liam, and she also prescribed me Arnica homeopathy for the week after delivery to help my body heal naturally. Arnica helps with the “bruised all over” feeling that many women feel after birth. It helps stop pain and bleeding and ease the effects of physical and mental shock.  I was stunned to see how quickly I felt like myself again and the significant progress I made each day recovering from my natural birth.

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Homemade “Lära Bars”

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This recipe is phenomenal, guys. You know those Lära bars that cost you almost $2 a piece at Whole Foods? Well, say goodbye to them. I mean it. You’re about to find out that making your own energy bars is ridiculously easy and can be done in 20 minutes or less. Not only that, but you will have bars for days, unlike those overpriced boxes you feel obliged to buy. No more, Mamas. No more! 

All you need is:

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Did I mention this is the easiest recipe ever?

  1.  Throw all ingredients into your food processor (I used my Ninja blender because it does a great job pulsing everything evenly)
  2. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet (I used parchment paper to avoid the clean up and stickiness after!)
  3. Use a rolling pin to spread everything out in a thin layer. I added another piece of parchment paper on top of the mixture as I flattened it (again, to avoid the mess!)
  4. Once nice and flat, remove top layer of parchment paper and throw it in the oven for 10 minutes at 400 degrees
  5. Cut bars into rectangular pieces (as pictured above) or into shape of choice. Et voilà! 

Warning : They’re addicting!

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Teething Remedies à la “Naturelle”

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This goes without saying: our little man is a trooper

All four of Liam’s canines are poking through and he’s been a slobbering mess over the last few days. On top of that, Daddy’s sick and Mama’s just hoping everyone else manages to stay healthy (we live in a germaphobic household right now, believe me!) But our little man has been doing just fine through all of it, minus a few tantrums that I have a good feeling are teeth-related.

I thought I’d share with you a few of my tips to get through these rough patches… You might not avoid the fever or meltdowns every single time, but at least you’ll offer your little one a bit of comfort when he needs it. Good luck!

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, nursing is not just offering food! It’s also comforting your child, soothing, and protecting him. Especially while your baby’s teething, be generous with breastfeeding. There is nowhere else your baby wants to be than against you, so spoil him! A mom’s worse nightmare is feeling powerless when her baby is in pain, but when it comes to teething, we can actually help. Love it!

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Camilia teething drops have worked wonders for us (and a few of our friends I’ve recommended them to!) What I love about them is that they’re safe, with no side effects. Homeopathic medicine works naturally with the body and although their efficacy is controversial in the drug world, I think there’s no harm in trying it out before the “hard” stuff. Personally, homeopathy is always my go-to first, especially with Liam but also for myself as a nursing mom.

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Gingival gel is always on Liam’s changing table. It works quickly and calms him down when the pain strikes. Its exclusive formula, made of natural ingredients and plants recognized for their soothing, pain-relieving qualities, helps moisturize inflamed mucous membranes. Simply rubbing the gel along the inflamed gum helps stimulate blood flow and provide relief for baby’s discomfort. Unfortunately, this gel is hard to find in the U.S. (online, you can purchase it from France or the UK). They key with teething gels is to look for natural ingredients. Do your research and choose wisely!

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I love giving Liam pineapple cores when he’s teething. Bromelain, an enzyme found in the stem and core of a pineapple, actually helps with inflammation and pain! Pineapple also supports digestion and is loaded with vitamin C, fiber, and B vitamins. Talk about a super fruit for teething! Other great options are frozen fruit pieces or chewable veggies like celery sticks. This is also a great time to whip out those mesh teething bags!

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Personally, amber has worked for our family. Liam seems a lot more mellow with his teething necklace on during fussy phases. I recommend purchasing one to see if it relaxes your little one. Again, there is absolutely no harm in trying!

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While teething, babies need things to chew on. We have a wide array of teething toys, but Liam seems to love my silicone teething necklace above them all. When he’s especially fussy and needs to be comforted, I just clip it on and hold him in my arms so he can play with it. Crisis averted each and every time!

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How to Survive Your First Week Breastfeeding

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… Because I’ve been there.

The loooong nights, raw nipples, and failed attempts at the “perfect latch”, no matter what position you try. You are certainly not alone! I’m 14 months into this whole breastfeeding thing and, I assure you, it does get easier. A lot easier.

And the good news is…. there are definitely “mom hacks” to get through that first week. which I know can be excruciating when combined with no sleep, stitches, and getting over the fact that you somehow managed to push a baby out of you. Oh, and your mid section having absolutely zero muscle tone.

It all gets better. I promise.

Here are my favorite items for the first week of breastfeeding… I swore by them! And keep in mind that if I could do it (along with billions of other women), you can do it too. It won’t be easy at first, and does take some getting used to, but it’s 100% doable if you want it badly enough. Good luck!

 

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The My Brest Friend nursing pillow is an amazing tool to tackle the first week of breastfeeding. Unlike other boppy pillows on the market, this one ties around your waist for extra comfort and support. I also loved that the surface was flat, making it easier to position Liam at my breast. You might not need a breastfeeding pillow for a very long time (you do become an expert eventually!), but it’s super useful to get started.

 

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 8.58.28 PMI swore by the Earth Mama Angel Baby Organic Milkmaid Tea during my first year breastfeeding. If I happened to have less milk than usual, got sick, or stressed because of work, it helped give me the extra boost I needed. I personally think it’s delicious, too! I drank 1-3 cups a day, depending on my milk supply.

Ingredients:  Organic Fenugreek Seed,  Organic Fennel Seed, Organic Red Raspberry Leaf, Organic Stinging Nettle Leaf, Organic Milk Thistle Seed, Organic Orange Peel, Organic Anise Seed, Organic Caraway Seed, Organic Alfalfa Leaf.

 

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The best thing you can do as you embark on your breastfeeding journey is jot everything down. Write down feed start times, of course, but also end times (as newborns can nurse for 45 minutes to an hour sometimes!) The countdown to the next feed begins from the moment your baby unlatches from the breast, so be aware how long you nursed for.

I  also found it interesting to see a pattern in my notes in terms of schedule and shorter feeds. As Liam grew and matured, he became more predictable and I loved that I saw it happen before my eyes.

 

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These gel pads are life savers the first week. My lactation consultant recommended that I dab a little bit of breastmilk on my nipples and place these gel pads on them, preferably right out of the fridge for extra relief. They helped so much! Once I recovered, it was a home run from then on (I still have a few packs of gel pads in the fridge, just in case I have any takers!)

 
I didn’t use this nipple butter a whole lot after the first week, but it was a life saver at first. Although I got the hang of breastfeeding rather quickly after the hospital, I did get a few “booboos” at the hospital from bad latches.

This butter offered relief and I love that it’s baby-friendly in terms of ingredients. An smells yummy, too! I used it in combination with the gel pads for optimal relief.

 

 

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in their lives… if not numerous times!

These disposable nursing pads are great for the few occasions you will step out of the house during the first month. They will not only save you the embarrassment in public, but also save your nursing bras from stubborn milk stains.

 

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 9.00.27 PMI’ve always made it clear I’m not a fan of pumping, but hey, if it can let you sleep an extra two hours I’m all for it. Take advantage of your enormous and unrelenting milk supply and pump a whole lot as soon as your milk comes in. That way hubby can take over at least one night feed once in a while. Or you can finally get that deep tissue massage you’ve been dreaming of since you were eight months pregnant🙂

Snack Time : Banana Oatmeal Bites

Hi Mamas!

I’ve recently been trying to come up with more breakfast foods for Liam other than fruit and Puffs. Don’t judge me, he is absolutely obsessed with them.

He usually eats about half of my breakfast as well – whether it’s a buttered bagel or eggs and toast, the kid will house it. Some days, I resort to stuffing my face in the kitchen while he’s not looking (just to avoid the constant whining and begging!).

That, or waiting until his first nap to indulge.

Liam loves everything right now and is a major foodie, which is a blessing, so I thought it was time to experiment with some baked goodies for my boy.

Here is my super simple recipe I put together for banana oatmeal bites, perfect for breakfast, snack time, or even for lunch on the go. Simple ingredients and quick and easy prep! Mama (and Dada!) approved as well🙂

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