Mom Tip of the Week: Save Your Money

A friendly reminder to parents and a tip for new ones… keep the cardboard boxes. They’re just as much, if not more, fun than the toy or whatever came in them.

That is all.

Unexpected Gains: An Adventure in Toddlerhood and Grief.

Okay, so, I’ve already failed writing every day in May.

Instead of writing, like I wanted to, I’ve either been outside, redoing things in my house or making DIY Mother’s Day crafts. With all the stuff happening in the world, it’s still nice to just connect with Mila and me to do heartwork and do the things that make us happy.

This week, we went on a hike. It’s the first one of the year and the first time Mila has been out of town for two months (or however long we’ve been locked down). We both love to be outside and the fresh air was so relieving. There are local trails around us and we drove about twenty minutes to this one, the Norma Johnson Center. We’ve had pictures done there before and it’s such a beautiful location. There were a decent amount of people on the trails, but everyone gave each other space and were friendly too.

While we were walking we had a little project, I saw (online) a color recognition scavenger hunt for toddlers and knew we had to try it. Since Mila is liking more colors than just green, I thought it’d be fun to use this while we walked too. She loved walking to the top of the hill and playing in the little kid area. I loved watching her search for the colors. We found the easy ones first but got stuck on blue. She kept saying blue, blue, blue, over and over again, while she was looking. It was so cute and I could tell she was a little disappointed we didn’t find a blue item.

The colors we did find were perfect. She was so proud of all of them and when we were done with our walk, she wanted to touch them all again and show them off. Watching her learn and just become this little, smart person is one of the best feelings ever.

We probably spent an hour in total out there. It wasn’t terribly long, but it was just what we needed.

When I started writing today, I thought I should look back on the May We All Heal prompt for the day… it’s Unexpected Gains. The days Mila and I have are typically always good. She’s a toddler so she definitely has her moments. Every day with her is a gift. Losing Jensen was the hardest thing I will ever have to go through. Even with all the bad in his death, he and Mila helped me find these unexpected gains. Through grief, I’ve found days where I’m lost in the moment. I still have Jensen in my heart and mentally place him where he should be, that’ll always be the case. But completely unexpectedly, I can value joy and peace again. I never thought I’d get that back. Somehow, they both have gifted me this monumental gain and, really, another chance at living fully.

I would one-hundred percent recommend getting outside and even out of your backyard to give your head some space during this time. We’ve felt rejuvenated since our little hike and it’s given us a little push to get a lot of things done this week. As I said, we’ve worked on some DIY Mother’s Day gifts that I want to post on here, so be on the look out!

At the beginning…

At the beginning,⁣
darkness was ever present. ⁣
Then, he showed me light. ⁣

It’s the start of a new month and with May brings a lot of different things. One, that I’ve tried to do since Jensen has been born, is May We All Heal.

Usually I end up starting strong, then something pops up and I get off track. Since we’re stuck at home, I’m hoping to be creative each day and maybe even have Mila join in.

Today, I wrote a haiku. I’m not the best at poetry, but I felt like this poem spoke to my heart. Losing Jensen was the hardest moment of my life and the grief after has been life changing. It was all darkness, but slowly, he’s led me to healing and becoming stronger through love.

I’ll forever be grateful for him.

Mommy and Me Art Box: Mila’s First Chemical Reaction

Mila’s second Mommy and Me Art Box came in and it definitely did not disappoint. Yesterday it let Mila become a scientist. Let’s just say, she loved it.

This month’s box is centered around Mother’s and Father’s Day. There are a lot of crafts to make for them. One of them is an item I’ve never worked with, so I’ll have to update how that goes. There was also one science experiment that we had to try right away.

Like last month’s box, every activity comes packaged separately and is color coded AND it included everything you need. It’s so nice because I can just pull out whatever activity and get right to work. I like how everything’s labeled on the little directions and the items too.

With this experiment, Mila was able to get things in place too. As I opened everything, she placed candy pieces in the candy mold. Some pieces might have disappeared too.

This is a little baking soda and vinegar experiment; the candies color the bubbles. Although most of us know what happens when these two mix, Mila had no idea.

At first she was shocked that the liquid she was putting on there was making it fizz. She kept saying woah and wanting more. After the first round of baking soda and vinegar, I asked her to help me sprinkle more on there. It sort of got a little messy, but we had fun. Seeing her reactions were priceless, especially when she accidentally dumped vinegar all over the mold.

In all, we played with this activity for thirty minutes… which was when we ran out of baking soda and vinegar. If I would have had more outside, she would have easily played for longer. I can definitely see us doing this again too! A little side note though, if you include candies in your experiment, there’s a huge chance they’ll be a snack.

Mila nabbed all the candy hearts… I’m unsure what vinegar and candy tastes like and wouldn’t eat it myself, but Mila didn’t mind. I guess that’s what being two is all about.

Again, this is the Mommy and Me Art Box! We’re on month two and LOVE all the activities and can’t wait to see how the rest go.

Capturing a ‘Last’ Moment.

She smelled like a baby today.

Any parent knows that smell. You don’t even know what it means until it’s truly gone. I remember everyone telling me she smelled so good and I’d think, ‘obviously, I bathe her.’ Then when it went away, I knew what they were talking about.

And today I got it back.

Somehow the smell fought through her hands and face covered with Cookie Crisp cereal. It overpowered the candles burning and the flowers on our dining room table. I don’t know how it pierced through the after smells of lunch, but there it was.

Maybe it was because she napped on me on the couch like she did when she was itty bitty. Maybe it’s because you never notice the last time you’ll experience something, but I know this moment was it.

This is the last time my Mila will ever smell like a little baby. It was only for a few moments, but it’s all I needed.

It’s a bittersweet symphony of being happy she’s growing, thriving even, and a sweeping melancholy for knowing she’ll never be this little again.

So for the rest of the day, I’m just going to keep her close. We’re living today in a mix of crazy toddlerhood and sleepy infancy. It’s not going to be long until it’s full out toddlerhood and into independent childhood. I know I say this a lot… but I’m really going to miss these moments.

Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Quesadillas

There’s been two things I’ve learned about myself since the COVID lockdown: I love to cook and I’m a terrible food photographer.

Some days I make these amazing recipes and try to document along the way. Then when I’m done and have already ate, I realize the pictures I’ve taken are awful. It happens and it’s life, but today you’ll be getting badly taken pictures of food and a yummy recipe.

Normally on meatless Monday’s, Mila and I fail on the breakfast part. She loves sausage and eggs, but this morning we had raspberry yogurt and Cheerios on the trampoline. I felt pretty confident tackling the rest of today’s food choices.

After a while of playing outside, we came inside to eat. As you all know, I’ve been obsessed with Pinterest lately so I followed this recipe.

The ingredients I used:

  • Sweet Potato
  • Canned Black Beans
  • Corn
  • Tomatoes
  • Avocado
  • Queso
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Tortillas

A lot of these items can be substituted. Or if you like all the main ingredients and want to make nachos or a burrito bowl, that would be really good too. We normally eat a lot of rice or quinoa, so it was a good change of pace for us.

I followed the recipe as close as I could. Instead of flipping the tortilla over on itself, I just put another one on top. It sort of looked like a Mexican pizza that Taco Bell sells. I still let each side go on the pan to make the cheese melt and get perfectly gooey. It didn’t take long to make or eat. Mila even loved it!

I dipped my pieces in salsa and sour cream. She preferred ranch. Both tasted great.

This meal could definitely be made for dinner. It’s filling and makes you feel warm. We love to go out for Mexican, but since we can’t go right now or if in the future we’d rather just stay home, I’d make this meal again.

I have no idea what’s for dinner, but fingers crossed I can keep our Meatless Monday going.

10 Things I’m Grateful for This Week.

This week has went so quick, but has felt like a lifetime with all the things that have happened. Since Mila kicked me off our new toy, I’m reflecting on all the pictures we took this week. During this time we can all use a little happiness, so I just wanted to share ten moments that have made me the happiest.

Mila Cuddles

I’m unsure if she knew my heart has needed them, but Mila has been so cuddly lately. She’ll come sit on my lap to watch movies and at night she wants me to lay right by her while she plays with my hair. It’s made my heart feel so full lately.

The Piñata Beatdown

All of Mila’s second birthday was the best, but watching her spear the piñata… I don’t think anything can top that. If you didn’t see her second birthday blog post, go back and watch it. I giggle the whole entire time. By the way, the piñata is still being used. It’s broken, but can still be hit multiple times.

Constant Singing

Two has also brought all the singing. Throughout the day, she’ll just start singing as loud as she can and want me to join along. Her favorite song to sing is the intro to Frozen, the ‘nah nah nah nah.’ If you’ve watched the movie or have an obsessed toddler, you know. I’ve also been listening to “My Favorite Murder,” which is a podcast, and she sings the intro tune for it too. Maybe I should mute that when she can here, oops.

An Organized Fridge/Snack Drawers

This is the smallest things and no one really thinks about, but this week, I cleaned out my fridge. I feel like a new person. Now I know all the food I have in there and everything has a spot. Mila even has her little snack and juice corner that she has complete access to. It’s the little things that make you happy and life go a lot smoother.

Gardening

I’m officially a plant mom. I check my little plants multiple times a day to see what else has sprouted. Anytime I see they need watered, I have my little squirt bottle and go to town. I didn’t know how seeing that sort of growth would make me smile so much. It gives Mila and I something to look forward to doing every day. A new part of our routine!

New Recipes

If quarantine has shown me anything, it’s my Pinterest addiction. I’ve found SO many new recipes to make now and try in the future. This weeks new recipe was this bacon cheeseburger grilled cheese meal. Oh my goodness, it was amazing. I’ve been craving grilled cheese lately, but this new recipe is just so good. I’ve also found new vegetarian recipes to make on Mondays and whenever I’m not feeling meat. It’s gotten to a point where I want to share all the new recipes I make, but that would be bombarding.

Mila’s Crafts and Independent Play

For the last few weeks, Mila’s started to play more independently. I’m unsure if it’s because I’ve put more thought into her activities throughout the day or she’s just getting older and her imagination is growing. We do an art craft or experiment almost everyday then talk about it, which she looks forward too. Then we read all the time, but she’s started ‘reading’ to her stuffed animals and Max. Another contributing factor is she got a lot of independent play toys for Easter and her birthday that have worked. I’ll try to write a post about toys she likes and maybe that could help another parent in deciding what to gift their two year old (or around this age) for whatever. One thing she’s gotten that has been used multiple times a day is her new easel. I love seeing her creative side.

Playroom Art

This venture will definitely be a blog post… or two. I’m converting Jensen’s room into a playroom. It’s been hard, but I know it’ll be worth it in the end. Again, I’ll save this for a future post when the playroom is completely finished. ANYWAYS, I recently found a college student who makes this artwork from pictures. It’s like she takes a photo of you and sort of makes like pop art. There’s bright colors, the outline of the bodies, and the details in the clothes, but all other details are blurred. It’s so beautiful and I’m thankful I found her!

Almost Finishing Spring Classes

If you didn’t know, I’m so close to finishing all my classes to teach full time. After this semester is finished, I’ll only have four more classes and student teaching. Not a lot at all! But, I still have to finish the two classes I’m in right now. Anyways, the stress of everything going on right now has made it hard to work on my finals. I kept putting them off, but as of yesterday, I’m done writing papers for the spring semester. That’s something to celebrate!

Trampoline Time

The new toy I Mila kicked me off of is a trampoline. It was put up last night and it was a birthday gift for her from my mom and dad. Every time she saw a trampoline, she’d tell us she wanted to jump on the ‘lean.’ Mila is so active and even though she’s a little young to have one, she’s obsessed. While we were putting up the safety nap, she was on there jumping and all day today, she’s been jumping. I love that she’s so active and seeing her get more comfortable with her body makes me happy. It’s crazy because it seems like she excels at whatever she tries to do. No matter if it’s gymnastics or running or doing defensive basketball slides, she’s just naturally athletic. I can’t wait to make memories and watch her make them on her trampoline. This is only the beginning.

I hope all of you can find many moments you were grateful for this week. Just a reminder that we’re all doing our best.

Its just an inch, but feels like a mile.

Today we made a memory. One that isn’t going to go away any time soon either. I marked Mila’s height on one for the doorways in our house.

Through this little mark, I learned two things. The first, Mila is actually pretty tall. I didn’t realize it until I stepped back and saw how high it was compared to a door. When I see her running around, I still see a little girl. I know she’s getting tall, but wow. The second thing… how much I’ve healed in four years.

I know that probably sounds silly. How does a little mark show growth? For me it’s the permanence of the mark. When I was pregnant with Mila and for so long, I thought I was going to lose her. I thought she was going to die so many times during pregnancy and that first year. Then I thought she’d be taken away with the psychological mind games that were played with me.

It sounds dramatic and overboard, but it’s true. She’s mine and no one can take her away, but I never believed she could stay. I felt like if I let myself believe it, something would happen. It’s been an awful battle. But she’s not going anywhere.

When I look at that little mark, I can picture the next sixteen years of measuring her. You know if she lets me and all. But I’ve never been able to see past so many years ahead. I’ve always thought I just had today. Those intrusive thoughts with parenting after loss are hard and can suck the joy out of everything. I’m really trying though.

We made a memory today and the physical memory is about an inch long. I know when I look back on those hashes, I’ll see Mila wanting me to remeasure her and the shock in her face that mama drew on the wall. I’m sitting here picturing how tall she’ll be next year and thinking I’ll write what she wants to be when she grows up beside them too.

I’m so happy about her growing and progressing. There are so many moments I wish I could pause, but I want her to keep getting older and growing as big as she’ll get. I know what it’s like to not have my child grow and have their hashmark on the doorway. Jensen has taught me so much about life and myself and Mila is teaching me how to move forward and grow. One piece of information doesn’t shadow the other. The light and heavy are always present in my life. I’m just doing my best juggling the both of them and making sure they both know how much I love them.

Mommy and Me Art Box: Earth Activity #1

Yesterday, I planned on writing a recommendation post while Mila napped. Turned out, I must have needed one too. Her usual quick nap turned into her and I snoozing for three hours. I’m definitely not complaining about the extra sleep, but it pushed back some of my plans. Oh well.

Since Mila took her nap a little later and longer, she wanted to stay up. I figured instead of just watching a movie, we could do an Earth week inspired activity. There’s a few that I’ve saved on Pinterest, but during the lockdown, I found a subscription box that caught my attention.

The Mommy and Me Art Box is an activity box for kids of all ages. It can be modified for younger and older kids, which is perfect for siblings. March’s box, the one I have, came with four activities and a seed bomb visual recipe. The really cool thing about this box is everything you need comes in it, besides the visual recipe ingredients. This is a game changer. I have a lot of craft supplies at my house, but usually when I was to do a specific one, I have to go to the store. The Mommy and Me Art Box takes care of the trip to the store or tearing your house apart. It’s also all color coded. So, the instruction card comes with a colored dot and you can find all the supplies you need for that specific card with the same colored dot.

The mom who makes these, Melanie, does an amazing job of organizing the boxes, making sure everything’s in there, and explaining what needs to be done. Unfortunately, I didn’t snag a picture of everything wrapped up. Mila thinks everything need unwrapped immediately (thanks birthday week!). All activities are clever, creative, and conducive to learning. It’s definitely worth the price as well. The best option is $33 a month and you get everything you need. I think between having all the supplies and not having to search a while for activities, it’s so worth it. If you want to check out the boxes and want $10 off, press here.

Back to our story…

I grabbed the box and Mila had tore everything open. It wasn’t hard to figure out what went where, but she thought her way was better. When looking through everything, she kept noticing the picture of the Earth and she does this weird thing where when she sees it she tries to eat it. It’s from watching a movie, Pets 2. The next time we watch it, I’ll try to record and share; makes me laugh every time. Anyways, the activity I chose for her to do was the mixed media Earth collage.

It came with: cardboard cut in a circle, blue and green paint, a packet of buttons, a packet of gems, a glue stick, string, washi tape, glitter glue, and a paint brush. A laminated picture of the world, along with directions, supply list, and information about the craft accompanied it as well.

Mila is obsessed with the buttons and gems! She kept saying ‘cute!’ I told her we were using green and blue because that’s the color of our earth. After the eating noises stopped, she pointed to the different colors and I told her she needed to paint the earth on her circle. She did typical painting routine and I think she nailed it. I asked her why it wasn’t all blue and green and she pointed to the clouds. At least I know she was referencing the picture.

By then, it was getting late and Mila started yawning. We cleaned everything up and let her earth dry over night.

When we woke up and after we watched Frozen of course, Mila insisted on seeing her earth. The paint dried up nicely and we started right on adding other media.

She’s never really experimented with glitter glue or a glue stick, but caught on after I showed her. She loved squeezing everything out and was insistent on glueing the buttons and gems down. When it got too sticky for her, she let me help her. We played around with the different media for about thirty minutes until I thought she couldn’t add anything else.

I really loved this activity and Mila did too. We talked about why we were adding blue and green and what they represented. She kept pointing to the the blue and saying beach or pool. I can definitely see us doing something similar in the upcoming years. She enjoyed it and I think it’d be interesting to see how she progressing in her understanding too.

Our little earth doesn’t have a home yet, the glitter glue is still drying… she ended up using the whole tube. She’s all girl and loves her glitter. I’m thinking of putting all our Earth Week crafts where I usually have garland. When Mila sees her art hanging, she always points to it and shows it off when people visit. It’ll be adorable to see all of her different interpretations.

I’m seriously so happy with this art box. When we do the next activity, I’ll make sure to show everything packaged together and lined up. I really want to do a “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” activity, just trying to find something for her age. If you have any ideas or suggestions, let me know!

Again, if you’d like to look up more information on this, click here. If you follow that link, you can get $10 off of your order!

Starting a Garden with a Toddler!

Fun fact… Earth Day is next Wednesday, April 22.

A few posts ago, I was talking about eco-friendly changes I’ve made and how I wanted to share them. Since it’s techincally “Earth Week,” I thought now would be a great time to start talking about those and some activities Mila and I are up to to thank our world.

Before I start, I am not an expert on this stuff at all. Just thought I’d throw that out there. I do what’s best for my little family and try to imagine what would be interesting for Mila. If anyone ever has suggestions or anything that would help benefit others with anything I talk about, please let me know and I’ll do my best to add it in here! As humans, we’re all doing our best to get by and be happy.

Back to the earthy things.

Last week, I got ambitious. I had been thinking about starting a garden this year or just getting a tomato plant or two. Honestly, I’ve never really had a green thumb, but maybe that’s because I’ve never tried? I just knew I wanted to try it out and see how it went. In my mind, I have this beautiful vision of Mila and me gardening and making a dinner with some vegtables we helped grow. It may sound silly, but I’ve never done it before and there’s no time like the present.

Back to ambition, I saved up some egg shells, egg cartons, and other containers to try and do seed starters. When I saw so many people starting their seeds, I knew I needed to hurry. I walked down to the local hardware store and grabbed some potting soil and seeds. I ended up getting two different types of tomates (I heard they’re the easiest to start), green peppers, and a few different herbs. When I got home, I prepped everything on my kitchen table to start our little garden.

Mila loved playing in the dirt and crushing the excess egg shells that I had. Yes, I was going to use them, but she mashed them up and was having fun; so, I guess I’ll pick my battles. She helped me put the dirt in most of the containers and sat watching me for a while. After about thirty to forty minutes, she was over it. She’d come over while I continued pressing on to make sure I was doing a good job, but she played and did a good job entertaining herself.

I can’t blame her, if I was watching someone put seeds into random egg cartons and old containers, I’d be bored too.

FULL DISCLAIMER. I didn’t realize how much work was all entailed with planting everything and getting it all started. Halfway through planting, I realized that I had purchased entirely too many seeds. I felt like I was planting seeds for seven hours. By the end of it, I was just like throwing seeds into pots because I didn’t save enough egg cartons and containers for everything. Then I was stressing out because I was worried about the watering situation. I’m just being real here. Next year, I’ll be a lot more prepared!

When it was all done, I was super proud of myself and Mila’s patience with the whole ordeal. She likes to check on our little garden throughout the day. It makes me happy that she’s so excited about it, it’s probably because I make it a big deal every morning to see if any have sprouted.

It’s been a week since we started our seeds. I’ve been a little disappointed since nothings sprouted, but it hadn’t even been a week. Well, last night, I checked on them before I went to sleep and there are sprouts! I’m feeling like such a proud plant mom. Hopefully, more will sprout up in the next few days too. I’ll for sure new you guys updated as they grow and we eventually move them outside.

If anyone has any suggestions or tips moving forward about starting a garden, I’m all ears. Seriously, I am going into this blind and just relying on Pinterest and blog posts. I’m really excited though and can’t wait to see Mila’a reaction as our little plants grow.

Later today, I’m going to share either a new eco friendly project or subscription that’s newly in my life OR Mila and I’s Earth Day craft box, which is a monthly subscription that provides various crafts and activities monthly for kids!