Parenting, Reviews

“Allons Danser!”: In Review

Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial.

download

I once heard that it’s easier to learn a foreign language when you’re little than it otherwise would be as an adult and children who learn to speak other languages at an early age tend are better able to pick up other languages when they get older. That said, it’s always been a goal of mine to teach my daughter at least the basics of another language early on. I recently had the opportunity to learn about Whistlefritz, an amazing organization that aims to teach children French and Spanish through total immersion. Their series of DVDs and CDs provide an outlet for learning that is fun for young children and I’m excited to share a little about their Allons Danser (“Let’s Dance”) CD with you today.

french-cover-allons

What I love best about Whistlefritz is that they provide the lyrics to each of the songs with a guide for translation to English so non-French speaking parents can follow along and learn too. If this is your first experience with the French language, I would suggest making flashcards with pictures and the French word associated with it on each card. Several of the songs were ones that we were already familiar with. Titles like “Le Vieux MacDonald” (“Old MacDonald”) and “La Tête, Les Épaules” (“Head, Shoulders”) are staples that we are already familiar with in our household so hearing them in another language makes it easier to pick up on new words. The best part about it?! My three year old daughter LOVES to listen to the music in the car and I won’t deny that I felt pretty b.a. rocking out to kid’s songs in French with the windows down the other day. I was all like, “Yeah, I can speak another language (if only a few words). It’s hot.” The other drivers were like, “Yup, she’s got it.”

Whistlefritz is on a mission and here’s what they have to say about it:

“(Our mission is) To support parents, grandparents, home educators, and teachers in teaching Spanish and French to children by creating high-quality French and Spanish language immersion programs that enable children to learn in a fun, educational environment.”

There are so many reasons to love what Whistlefritz has to offer and I encourage you to spend some time exploring their website to see all of their great language learning resources for children. Connect with them on Facebook and check out their extensive selection of CDs and DVDs.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Parenting

A Note For You This Mother’s Day

It’s Mother’s Day and the sun is shining (except not really because it’s nighttime here in Kansas City), I think this calls for a little something special from my good friend Mr. T:

In all seriousness, I couldn’t let this day pass without wishing each of you a very wonderful Mother’s Day.  Ten years ago, I wasn’t sure that I ever wanted to have children of my own. In the decade that’s passed since then, I can’t imagine life without them.  There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel blessed beyond measure for my role as “Mommy” to my amazing three year old daughter.  I spent a lot of time reflecting today on what it takes to be a good mother.  How can we quantify our success as parents?

Is our success in parenting measured by the number of toys our children have in their playrooms? The amount of time we spend baking homemade treats for after school snacks? The number of activities we cart our children to each week? Or is it the number of bags under our eyes after another sleepless night?  While society might sometimes have us thinking that these are the ways in which we measure how well a job we’re doing, I prefer to think otherwise.

I prefer to think that our success as Moms is in the hugs, the kisses, the “I love you’s”, and the “Mommy, I need you’s”. Your success in parenting is measured by the fact that you’re there for your children, that you love them, and that you’re the most wonderful Mom they’ve got.

To you, Happy Mother’s Day: You’re the best!

Also, I got you these flowers (aren’t I sweet?! ;))

mothers-day-flowers

DIY, Parenting

Creative Gift Giving For Kids: Idea #1 (For Less Than $30!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

gift ideas for seven year olds

It seems like everyone in our lives celebrates a birthday (haha), am I right or am I right?!  I absolutely love coming up with creative ideas for gift giving and I thought I’d share some of my ideas with all of you.  Today, I want to talk about gift giving for the six, seven, or eight year old in your life (this might also work for children who are slightly younger or slightly older, depending on the child).  I should mention that this idea is one that I think would be absolutely perfect for children who will be staying home during summer break since it provides daily activities that inspire creativity and encourage imagination. That said, I bring to you the Super Sleuth Spy Kit. The best part?! This gift can be assembled for a little less than $30!

We were recently invited to a birthday party for one of our sweet friends who was turning into a seven year old. Although the theme was “Monster High”, I knew I wanted to do something a little out of the box (I love unique gifts) for our gift to her.

gift ideas for a seven year old

 

The inspiration for this gift idea came to me when I was perusing my local Target for gift ideas.  While walking around the book aisle, I came across Judy Moody’s Mini-Mysteries and it was there that the lightbulb went off in my head. Why not create a Super Sleuth Spy Kit for her?!

 

Creative Gift Ideas for Kids

The book (which retails at around $6.00), provides some great suggestions for items to put in your very own spy kit. With only a couple of exceptions, I purchased everything the book suggested and separated them into gallon size zip lock bags based on which type of sleuthing the items would be most appropriate for (because you all know how important staying organized is to me).

Super Sleuth Spy Kit for Kids

The first bag included all of the materials a seven year old would need to collect evidence during an investigation: Composition books, a magnifying glass, pencils (and a pencil sharpener), and tweezers.

Disguise Kit

The second bag included some materials that could be used as disguises. As you know, a super sleuth can never be too careful. The book recommended also including a hat but I figured she probably already has a few around the house she can use.

Lock Pickers

No detective is complete without their lock pickers (bobby pins), of course!

Spy Material Kit for Kids

Some of the other items included in the kit were a mirror, lipstick (chapstick) for writing secret messages (sorry Mom and Dad ;)), a ruler, tape for picking up fingerprints, and a cup for listening through walls.

Spy Snacks

And because spies often get hungry on the job, I also included some fun super sleuth spy snacks.

Super Spy Kit Gift Idea for kids

I put all of the items together in a large case and wrapped them together in her gift bag. I will admit that I was nervous when we gave her the gift at her party. I wasn’t sure how it would go over with someone her age (especially after she got a series of new dolls from other guests) but her mom tells me she’s had a lot of fun collecting evidence all around their house.

Daily Life, House & Home, Parenting

Tips For Organizing Your Life: Toddler Toy Edition

546 Organized toddler room

As any parent would tell you, young children accumulate a lot of stuff. All of the toys, books, games, dress up clothes, and stuffed animals that multiply with each passing holiday, birthday, or visit to Grandma and Grandpa can become a little (or a lot) overwhelming. One thing I’ve learned in parenting my three year old is that messiness begets messiness.  The less organized I am, the less likely my daughter is to keep her belongings organized.  I’m slowly trying to change our household habits and I’ve noticed a huge difference in how my toddler treats her belongings. Once I got everything organized, I implemented a standing rule that once she’s doing playing with one toy, book, puzzle, or game she has to put it up before getting something else out. So far, it’s been a total success!

Organizing your toddler's room

When my daughter was an older infant and started actually playing with toys, I kept them in bins and thought I was organized.  Now that she’s older, I realized that’s not going to work for much longer. We were constantly missing puzzle and toy pieces and having a difficult time finding all of the parts to the one puzzle we wanted to work on.

Bins For Toys

I dumped out all of the toys from each bin (one by one) and organized them.  Then I set aside all of the puzzles (I did the same thing for the toys and games) that were missing pieces to organize later when the lost pieces came home. Tips for organizing I only used two of the puzzles for the picture because, honestly, nobody wants to see the ungodly mess that was my daughter’s room the day that I took on this project.

Tips for toddler organizing

Each puzzle went into a gallon size zip lock bag which was labeled with the name of the puzzle, toy, or game, a description, and the number of pieces that are supposed to be included in the bag.

tips for organizing toys

It is so much easier to make sure we have the right amount of pieces for each toy to avoid a meltdown later on.

Tips for organizing toys

Putting them in the labeled bags also helped make it easier to store them in my daughter’s bins. Take a look:

Tips for organizing toddlers

I did the same thing with all of the other toys in her room.  I know it may *seem* like a lot of work but, trust me, I am confident you’ll find that it is totally worth it.

organizing toys

Tips for organizing your toddlers room

toddler toys

Since they don’t fit into gallon size bags (and because it’s not safe to put plastic bags over ‘living’ things) all of her dolls live together in a bin of their very own:

Toy bin ideas for toddlers

The last thing that I did was to create a small reading area in the corner of her room with several books and all of her stuffed animals (which were outgrowing her bed) so that she can relax and read to her favorite monkey, dinosaur, and bear.

Toddler Reading Area

How do you stay organized?

Daily Life, Parenting, Society

How “Queen Elsa” Broke My Heart

Elsa Frozen

My daughter celebrated her third birthday a couple of weeks ago (more on that in a later post) and, now that she’s getting older, we’ve started allowing her to watch Disney films. It would be an understatement to say that we’re movie fans in this household (duh- I write movie reviews) and that love for film is something my husband and I are passing along to our child. I don’t mind when my daughter pretends as if she’s Queen Elsa from Disney’s “Frozen” or Merida from Disney’s “Brave” but she said something the other day that caught me completely off guard.

“I want to be just like Queen Elsa.”

Now I know it’s common for little girls to emulate and want to be like their role models (and Queen Elsa is a great role model to have) but it broke my heart to hear my three year old child say that she wanted to be anyone other than the amazing little lady that she already is.

We live in a World where most of us are constantly trying to be like everyone else, chasing unattainable standards of beauty (you can read more of my thoughts on this from my previous posts on the subject), thinking we’re never good enough, and nothing could have prepared me for the day when my daughter wanted to be different from who she already is. I explained to her that many of the same characteristics we appreciate about Queen Elsa are ones that she already has.

She is strong.

She is smart.

She is wonderful.

I recognize the innocence in my daughter’s words. I understand that she may not already be feeling that sense of inferiority that seems to plague us all with time but the mere fact that she feels the need to be different from the perfect person she is concerns me.

How do we find a balance, especially in our society, of encouraging our daughters as they look up to the heroes around them and teaching them that just being the person that they already are is good enough?

Daily Life, Parenting

Lessons For My Daughter: Part I “It Really Isn’t About You”

What Other People Think About You Is None Of Your Business

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a very personal post on parenting and faith. In that same spirit of sharing about my life (which is not always something that’s easy for me to do), I want to talk about the most important lesson I plan to teach my daughter as she gets older. It’s a lesson that’s taken me years to learn and it’s something that, even as someone who tends to think logically and objectively, I still struggle with from time to time.

The way people treat you has nothing to do with you.

It has everything to do with them.  

I am the adult by product of divorce. My father, who retired after serving twenty years in the United States Air Force, and my mother, who made her career working with new and expecting parents in Labor and Delivery, divorced in the mid-nineties. About a year later, my brother and I, along with our mother, relocated to the East Coast where we lived until I started college. My junior high and high school years were a whirlwind. Full of changes in our family structure, adjustments to a different life, and an assortment of other things that are irrelevant to this post. My relationship with my dad changed very little throughout the years in that it was, at best, distant. With lengthy deployments under his belt from the time he spent serving our country, I didn’t know that our relationship could have been any different and I spent years excusing his absence from my life on physical distance and busy schedules. One thing always remained the same, I love my dad. Always.

The issue is that the way that I express love is so vastly different from the way my own father does and, in the past, it left me feeling inadequate, undervalued, and unloved.

The little time that I did spend with my dad in my own childhood was wonderful. I have fun memories like the time we attended the “Father/Daughter Dance” when I was young or the vacation we took together to Orlando when I was a teenager. It’s easy to let those moments become overshadowed by the lack of communication in our day to day lives. The same can be said for my father’s relationship with my own daughter.

As my daughter grows and begins to understand more about the World, I want to give her the gift of understanding. It’s something that’s taken me years to figure out on my own. I want her to understand that the way that other people interact with and treat you represents who they are, not the other way around.

I want her to know that she’s worthwhile, good, and amazing. 

I want her to know that the only thing that defines who she is as an individual is the way that treats herself, others, and the World around her.

I want her to know the one thing that I’ve spent years figuring out: That we’re all different. The way I express my love for those around me may not be the same as the way my own father does but that has nothing to do with me.

Simply put: Take the good, leave the bad.

Culture, Daily Life, Parenting

Parenting Without Faith

I want to preface this by mentioning that this is not an easy post for me to write. Although I’ve been documenting my life as a parent online for well over a year now, it isn’t often that I share intimate details of my thoughts, feelings, or beliefs. What I want to discuss tonight is something that’s been weighing heavily on my heart for well over a month and I hope that you’ll allow me the rare opportunity to be vulnerable with you without judgement.

Last month, I had lunch with my incredible friend Bethany. She’s someone I’ve been close with for several years and I was happy for the chance to spend some time with her while she was back in town. As we were eating, we witnessed a father and his young son at a table near us. Before they began eating, they sat together and prayed. It was really moving. But it was also heartbreaking, for me. Heartbreaking because that’s not something that I can share with my own daughter. We’ll never (at least not at this particular moment in our lives) share a moment like that together because I am parenting without faith.

Having grown up in a Christian household, been a leader in my youth group during high school, and active in my religious community during college, I am no stranger to what it means to have faith. While attending undergraduate studies with a major in a religion and culture so vastly different from my own, I began exploring other faith based systems. My journey, thus far, has led me to a place with a lot of unanswered questions. When my husband and I had a child of our own, coming to terms with the fact that we simply don’t know, was even more difficult to accept.

Fast forward to last week when my little family of three was sitting together in the kitchen. My daughter, now almost three, asked my husband (after he let out a loud cough) if he was okay. He replied, without thinking, “I think I’ll live.” Without missing a beat, my daughter said, “I want you to always live. And mommy.” Speechless. As the tears pooled in my eyes, I found myself thinking back to that father and son last month and how I wish, more than anything, that I could provide that same comfort and promise to my own child that this stranger was undoubtedly able to offer his son.

You see, parenting without faith (at least for me and my spouse) is not simply a choice that we’ve made for our family. I want, more than anything, to be able to provide my daughter with answers to life’s biggest questions (Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?) but the truth is, I can’t. We’ve flirted with the idea of attending some sort of religious institution for the sake of giving her a foundation of faith but, for us, that would be disingenuous to where we’re at in our journey and what we believe about life. There is comfort in religion – a comfort my family does not have.

For now, we’re teaching our child that the World is a beautiful place. That life is a precious, precious gift that we should cherish, respect, and enjoy. That we should treat this planet and all of its inhabitants with love and compassion. That people have all sorts of beliefs, ideas, and differing answers on life’s biggest questions and that it’s okay. One day, when she’s old enough, we’ll encourage her to explore and find her own path…wherever that might lead her. While we certainly can’t make any promises about what tomorrow may bring, and as heartbreaking as that may be for us, we’re forced to simply focus on today.

I think it’s important for people to understand that we’re not parenting without faith because we reject God or because we somehow are apathetic or indifferent towards having beliefs. I wish, more than anything, that I could be certain that I had answers. But that’s not my life. We’re not parenting without faith because we don’t care about our child’s future or her (perceived) eternal salvation, we simply don’t have the answers. Parenting without faith doesn’t make us immoral people and it certainly doesn’t mean that our child will grow up to be any less respectful, loving, or compassionate towards herself, others, and the World around her. Our goals, our hopes for our child (and any other subsequent children we may have later on down the road) are the same as yours.

So, please, don’t make assumptions about our lifestyle and don’t assume things about the way we raise our child. I may not be parenting with faith, but I’m still parenting with love.