What to Expect With the Terrible Twos

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Reason for meltdown: Mommy took the TV remote away (after the fifth warning to not slam it on the ground.)

Let’s be clear about one thing: we’ve only gotten a glimpse of what the terrible twos have in store for us. Liam started acting out around the 18 month mark and it caught us a little off guard at first… where was all this attitude coming from? How could someone so cute and small give us such a pounding migraine?¬†If, like us, you’ve started noticing changes in your little one’s behavior, you’ll relate to this post. Silver lining? Our babies are growing up, developing personalities of their own. One thing is for sure: they sure know what they want!

Here’s what we’ve experienced so far with Liam:

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I always admire families who take their kids to the restaurant. I watch in amazement as their little ones sit quietly¬†at the table, never once trying to yank all the cutlery off the table or reaching for the wine glasses. I mean… how?¬†Liam, being the very energetic kid that he is, is always the center of attention when we dare take him to lunch or dinner. I constantly need to keep an eye on him, and the experience is, well, pretty darn stressful. Lately, Liam has been acting out at the supermarket if he can’t get, say, a balloon or a toy he sees in an aisle. He’s been louder than usual when he doesn’t get his way, and definitely much more assertive. And yes, we’ve been getting a lot of side eye from other shoppers. Tip? We usually ignore¬†the tantrums (to some extent) or distract him – he eventually gives up on his own. If we give him the attention he craves, he only behaves more badly.

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When Liam isn’t in the mood to do something, there is no way around it. We’ve noticed this at Great Play, the baby gym we go to. If he has decided he wants to skip an activity, there is literally nothing we can do. At home, he will sometimes whine for hours… for no good reason. Fun times.¬†

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This is definitely new with Liam – he seems to have such a short fuse and refuses to wait for anything: waiting his turn¬†at Great Play, for his¬†food to cook… anything. I usually have to get down to his level and explain why we’re forced to wait – not sure if he understands, but it at least distracts him a little bit.

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There’s no rational reasoning with a toddler – if they’ve decided they’re unhappy about something, well, nothing you do will most likely change that. For younger toddlers, they understand most of what we tell them but obviously can’t reason like an older child. The best way to navigate these changes in our toddlers’ temperament is to distract them from the issue that’s bugging them.

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Mischievous¬†is Liam’s middle name! He constantly pushes the boundaries with us, whether it’s pulling the dog’s tail, doing what we tell him not to do, not to touch, ¬†or where not to go. This is part of learning boundaries and testing how serious we are about things. We try to be firm, and if he doesn’t listen, remove him from the situation. Moving to another¬†room or activity always helps.

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Liam loves to be around people. He loves being the center of attention, making people laugh, playing games… ¬†This was always a facet of his personality, but I’ve definitely seen him become even more comfortable around others, no matter how familiar they are to him. If a stranger gives him a smile or plays along with him, they become instant buddies! He yearns for a connection with others, and loves to watch older kids play.

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I’ve noticed Liam copying everything we do lately, whether it’s blowing our noses, reprimanding the dogs, or even singing a tune. He’s been mimicking the way we talk and the words we say, which is a fascinating change to witness. Our pediatrician made it clear that the biggest change we would see in the next few months would be language development and that is definitely true for Liam. He seems to be all about babbling away¬†these days.

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Liam is learning to be his own person, without Mom and Dad. At Great Play, he goes off on his own to socialize with other kids and their parents. He doesn’t even glance in our direction! He seems to always want to discover new things and go on a new adventure, and most of the time, he wants to be given free rein and as much independence as possible. Bittersweet for us, but so amazing¬†to watch him grow up.

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There is nothing Liam loves more than to be given a little job: put toys away with Mommy, participate in a house chore, go get something from the living room… it’s so fun to see him understanding our simple commands and how pleased he is when he does something well.

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As you can see, there are a lot of major changes that occur after the first birthday. Most of them take some getting used to (and we, parents, have to learn how to adjust!) but others are simply incredible to watch firsthand. Our babies aren’t babies anymore and they’re showing us in their own little way. Yes, the twos can be terrible… but if you try to overlook the little annoyances and see the bigger picture, our little ones are starting to discover who they are and what they like and don’t like. There’s so much to be proud of! Our little ones are becoming so smart, curious, and above all, these changes mean they’re are as healthy as can be. And that’s worth cheering for ūüôā

 

6 Popular Snacks That You Should Stop Feeding Your Child

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All moms face the same struggle: finding the perfect, non-messy, healthy snack¬†that can be packed on the go. The easier it is, the better. Unfortunately, though, food manufacturers and marketing teams know that very well. They focus their efforts on making¬†their products enticing¬†to moms, concealing the fact that their ingredients¬†are absolutely awful for our kiddos. We should never assume that foods targeted at children won’t be packed with the bad stuff – In the processed world, it’s all about the money!

And since children are attracted to bright, colorful snacks… well, you know what that means. Healthy, unprocessed, natural foods¬†are never neon-colored, Mamas, remember that… No matter what the label says!

Here are five popular snacks that you may be fooled into thinking aren’t¬†so bad for your child. Think twice! They really are.

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It’s easy to read these cereal packages and choose to settle for¬†‚Äúgood source of whole grains‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúmade with real fruit‚ÄĚ instead of really looking at the ingredients in question.

The sad, scary truth is that popular cereal brands are 40 to 50% sugar by weight. If¬†corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, fructose (a manipulative trick¬†to get you to think it’s a “healthier” option, when it’s actually just a new title¬†for HFCS), or any other sugar in the top three ingredients, then¬†move on. ¬†Most sugary cereals made from refined grained are stripped of their fiber and nutrients and all you end up with is a blood sugar¬†spike.

Alternative: Whole Foods has many options similar to these traditional cereal brands, only healthier and with less sugar. Add a banana, berries, and cinnamon for a healthier, filling breakfast!
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We assume that yogurt is good for our kiddos because, well, it has probiotics and dairy is good for their little bones, right?

Go-Gurt (among other brands) is literally sugar milk (sugar and corn starch are the second and third ingredients listed), and there are most likely no probiotics left in those little, plastic tubes.

Go-Gurt contains 2/3 of the daily recommended amount of sugar for children in just one tube. The thickener carrageenan, shown to cause intestinal problems in animals, and potassium sorbate, a preservative that may cause allergic reactions, nausea, diarrhea, and even DNA damage, are also used (mamavation.com).

Alternative: Aim for plain, organic yogurt (always buy organic dairy products¬†to make sure it’s antibiotic and hormone free!) and add a spoonful of honey or maple syrup. You’ll be know exactly how much sugar you’re adding!

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These “fruit” gummies¬†are nothing but sugar, artificial colors and flavors, and should be viewed as candy, not a healthy snack. Claims like “Made with real fruit” or “made with real fruit juice” don’t¬†mean anything because of all¬†the added sugar.

Remember: if sugar is in the top three ingredients, don’t buy it. And the longer the ingredient list is… the less healthy it most likely is!

Alternative: Dried fruit (apricots, plums, figs, mango…)

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A few issues with Goldfish that make it an absolute no no for the kiddos:

  • Enriched wheat flour seems harmless, but it means that many of the¬†natural nutrients are¬†stripped away in the processed flour and that¬†things have to be added back in.
  • The iron added is a metallic form that our bodies just can‚Äôt absorb fully.
  • As for the folic acid,¬†research now shows that the fortification of foods with folic acid is linked to cancer.
  • The cheddar cheese¬†is not organic, meaning that the cows ate a diet of genetically modified grains and then produced milk for the cheese. Conventional dairy may also contain rbST, another Monsanto product, which causes many health problems. The cows are injected with this genetically engineered hormone (banned in Canada, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia) to stimulate milk production.
  • Vegetable oils, unlike olive or coconut oils that are extracted from pressing, are made in a very unnatural way. They are heated to unsafe temperatures, oxidized, and treated with petroleum solvents. Then the oil is treated with chemicals to make the color and odor of the oil more pleasant. On top of that, they are also made from GMO crops like corn and soy (Mamavation.com).

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The issue with juice boxes is that they are essentially all sugar. The kids drink them out of thirst, get a sugar rush, and then crash.

All types of fruit juice are problematic, but apple juice is the most concerning because parents seem to think it’s healthier than orange, grape, or cherry juices, but they’re wrong. Even 100 percent apple juice can sack kids with 160 calories a cup, most of it sugar.

The claim that juices are “fortified with vitamin C and minerals” is only a way to manipulate parents – don’t buy into it. Children aren’t usually lacking in these nutrients.

Although we know soda should not be given to our kids, fruit juice seems to be one of those misconceptions when it actually is just as bad. Most popular brands are also made with high fructose corn syrup and artificial colors… so read labels carefully!

Alternative: Look for juice boxes that contain 100% organic fruit juice, with nothing artificial (and not from concentrate). Even better: make your own, fresh juices at home for extra vitamins and nutrients!

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These may seem like a healthy snack, but really they contain very little protein and fiber, and hit kids with so much sugar all at once that it’s¬†just as dangerous as a candy bar.

Read ingredients lists to make sure the bars contain real nuts, fruit, whole grains, and no high-fructose corn syrup or other added sugars. The fewer ingredients listed the better!

Alternative: Make these delicious, homemade granola bars (with nuts, dried fruit, and dark chocolate) that I whipped up this summer. Delicious!

Traveling With Baby: Ages 0-2!

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Hi Mamas! If you’re on the East coast, I hope you’re enjoying this polar vortex… not!

On my end, I’m counting down the days, hours, minutes until our winter vacation in the Caribbean. As I find myself daydreaming about the beach, I’m also starting to panic at the thought of flying with a toddler, this time around. Not an infant, like last winter/summer, but a full blown, walking, talking, wailing toddler.

Last year, I was worried about my infant son not sleeping on the flight and it turns out that both times, he actually miraculously did. This time, however, I’m pretty sure our 18 month old may be too stimulated to nap. He’s also twice the size he was last winter, so there’s that, too. The poor child may not be able to get too comfy this time around.

For you Mamas planning trips in the near future and are wondering how you’re going to survive the flights, I compiled a list of all the “must-have” travel items we used for Liam at three different ages: 5 months, 12 months, and for our upcoming trip, 18 months.

It’s important to remember that our babies change at the speed of light and that some toys/activities are better suited for certain age group (for example, an iPad would not work for a baby in the 0-6 month age group, as they obviously can’t stay focused on a screen for extended periods of time.)

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Blankets – it was nice to bundle Liam up so he was comfortable, hence less whiny. He slept comfortably after I nursed him.

Pacifier – essential for most age groups, but especially for our little ones. Like nursing, sucking on a pacifier prevents a baby’s ears from popping. Meltdown averted!

Bibs – it’s easy to forget about that stage and all that spit up, but it’s inevitable. Bring bibs, lots of them, and even a change of clothes for everyone.

Sling – when going through security and customs, especially, a sling can be a life saver. When we landed, we found out our stroller would be waiting with our luggage, so turns out we had to carry Liam all the way there. 

Flyebaby – this amazing, little invention facilitates travel with newborns and infants. Think about it as a baby hammock – it doesn’t get better than that! Bonus? It can be used as a highchair, too. See my review of the Flyebaby here

Toys/Distractions – You may not need much, but I did notice that it helped to have some distraction items like rattles or Sophie the Giraffe. 

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Blankets/Pacifier – Still a must, just to make sure your baby stays comfy and pain-free during take off and landing.

Water bottle – This time around, your baby will be drinking some water. Bring a spill-proof cup like the Munchkin 360 or any learner sippy cup, like the NUK.

Solids & Snacks – Since your baby will have been introduced to solid foods by now, you will want to be prepared with food. I always recommend Puffs, which are super easy and loved by all infants. For our trip with Liam, we steamed and mashed a whole sweet potato to make sure we had enough food for him. We also brought a few fruit pouches to vary flavors.  

Toys – This time around, a rattle probably won’t cut it. For Liam, we traveled with a bunch of toys for his 12 month trip: we brought a few different squeaky toys, balls, and stuffed animals to make sure he had enough to play with. We also brought his lovey to make sure he was able to nap on the flight. 

Books – Liam has always been into books and we knew that would most likely be the best distraction for the flight. We brought a bunch of little board books and musical books too.  

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Blankets/Pacifier – May not need the paci, but still worth having in the diaper bag, just in case. 

Water bottle/solids/snacks  – Again, we plan on being really prepared in the food/drink department. Now that Liam eats a variety of foods, I will bring some puffs, cheese sticks, crackers, pouches, but also a complete meal like meatballs and veggies. I’m planning on preparing two meals worth of food, just in case there are delays or he’s fussier than usual. 

Books – Still a book worm, so we’ll be bringing a bunch of books with us on the plane.

Tablet – I never let Liam watch much TV, but over the course of the past week, I’ve been trying to see if he’s able to sit through a whole episode of Mickey Mouse Playhouse or Little Bear (which is actually his favorite!) We’ll be downloading a few shows from Netflix on our iPad to make sure he sits still during some of the air time.

Magnetic Sketch Pad – Recently, Liam has been having fun drawing on his magnetic sketch pad. We’ll be bringing it along since it’s an easy item to pack. You can buy one here

Gel Clings & Stickers – For this flight, we also had the idea to purchase gel clings so Liam can have some fun on the plane window. You can get some affordable packs on Amazon, like these GelGems! Liam loves stickers as a whole so we may bring a few sticker sheets as well to keep him busy. 

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8 Genius Mom Hacks for Life With a Toddler

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Life with a toddler isn’t always easy. Some days are better than others, sure, but in the end, we can all admit that we’re exhausted when bedtime comes along¬†(or, what I call it, Mommy Happy Hour!)

I’m not going to deny that I count down to bedtime sometimes, and literally do my happy dance when I shut his bedroom door, knowing I am free for the next 12 hours.¬†First mom hack? Start every day with a cup of coffee and end it with a glass of wine ūüėČ

All jokes aside (not really, though), I’m always looking for ways to facilitate our lives with Liam, and hopefully these 8 tips will be helpful in your household, too. If you have any suggestions, please do share in the comments section below!

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The key here is to have your toddler be self-sufficient. The snack catcher¬†comes in handy in all situations, but especially when you can’t physically be there to assist him/her with snack time. This goes for car rides, especially. It’s saved us from many, many tantrums, believe me. Scoop bibs are great because of minimal cleanup and the fact that they also act as great snack holders. I’ve often taken my son out to lunch and sprinkled some Puffs in his bib as an easy distraction. Serious mom¬†points right there!

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I can’t emphasize how amazing crockpots are as a mom: what’s easier than a “dump meal”? Basically all you need to do is dump ingredients in the pot and let it simmer all day to work its magic! It doesn’t get easier than that. I ¬†also usually steam veggies in bulk (zucchini, carrots, broccoli, and green beans, mostly) to make sure I have a few meals worth. So much easier than worrying about it at¬†every meal!

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When my husband works a night shift and I have a relatively slow night at home, I try to prep a few of Liam’s meals ahead of time and throw a load of laundry in. It’s a lot more manageable when it’s a small load! No one likes hour-long folding sessions at 8am.

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This is up for discussion, but to me, there is no better toddler cup out there. Let’s just say my son isn’t the most delicate human being on the planet… Our Munchkin 360 cup has been thrown from his high chair hundreds of times and, still, not a single scratch. It doesn’t spill, which is a major plus, considering that we had to give up all our straw cups for that exact reasons. Bonus? It teaches your little one how to drink like a big boy!

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If you are a compulsive shopper like I am and don’t know about either Honey or Ebates, you owe me. Big time! Honey is a Google Chrome add-on that compiles all online coupons for the site you’re on. At checkout, it simply applies them for you to see if they work! I can’t do any shopping without it. Ebates is a cash back site that actually pays you a percentage based on your online purchases. You literally get paid to shop! Sites offer between 2 and 10% for the most part (the deals change often, too, so you might be pleasantly surprised!) and Ebates sends you a check every couple of months. All you need to do is go through Ebates instead of the site itself… So easy!

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It is essential to get your child accustomed to independent play time when he/she is really little. Why? It’ll make your life so much easier later on! Our son knows that after breakfast, it’s independent play time. He reads books, plays with his toys, and practices his speaking skills (which is so cute!) while Mommy enjoys her breakfast and coffee. He does this for an hour, guys. Amazing.

Toy rotations are a great way to not only ensure that your child doesn’t get bored of his toys, but also prevents the mess and toy chaos in your living room. Every other day, Liam¬†gets a new set of toys to play with and it’s the best distraction. I got a three drawer bin at Walmart and labeled it “Monday-Tuesday”. “Wednesday-Thursday”, and “Friday-Sunday”.

 

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These two are must-haves for life with a toddler. There’s not much that they aren’t able to fix, from burns, dry skin, itching, inflammation, and restlessness. If you haven’t experienced it for yourself, give it a try – most of the so-called “natural” products we¬†buy have these ingredients in tiny doses among others, so imagine what they can do on their own!

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And last, but not least… best tip ever: to gel your toddler’s hair, just use sugar water. When it dries, it literally holds like hair spray! Best natural alternative ever.

 

5 Christmas Gifts Mom Won’t Return After the Holidays

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Check out my post¬†on Westchester County Moms Blog¬†this week… and maybe print it off and leave it on the table for your husband to “accidentally” see? ūüôā

So excited to share that my little blog post was featured on the Tampa, Raleigh, New York City, Quad City, and Green Bay sister sites!