I’m not entirely sure how it’s already back to school season, but here we are! I wanted to share some of the items I discovered and loved last year for my preschooler & a lot of these I repurchased now that Johnathan is also headed to preschool this year!
Simply Modern Water bottles – These water bottles are leak proof & are a staple in our house, plus they’re a little cheaper than the hydroflask guys!
Toddler Size Backpack – an appropriate toddler sized backpack can be hard to find. Last year I definitely sent will to school with a backpack that was wayyy to big. So this year both the boys are going with these!
Non-Toxic Hand Sanitizer – this is the only hand sanitizer Will will tolerate on his hands. It doesn’t dry your hands out and it smells like christmas, without all the harsh chemicals!!
Bento Box Lunchboxes – love these reusable bento lunch boxes. These drastically cut down on single use plastics! Plus this year I’ll be packing lunches in bulk!
Waterproof Name Labels – Probably my favorite item! These name labels either for clothing or supplies are dishwasher and washing machine safe. After a full year of preschool of the stickers I used are still intact, after many loads through the wash! This year I got some with the boys last name large and their names smaller because I know they’ll be interchanging waterbottles / lunchboxes. Plus they are totally customizable and come in so many designs / colors!!
If you have a favorite back to school item I’d love to hear what it is!
Father’s Day is right around the corner so I thought I’d share some ideas for anyone still looking for a gift for that Dad in their life! Plus all of these items are still in stock and will get shipped in time for Father’s Day!
RTIC Cooler – If you follow me on instagram, you might remember I polled asking for peoples opinions on the Yeti coolers and if they were worth the serious $$ they cost. Most people responded that, yes they were as good as they claim, however the brand RTIC was just as good with a smaller price tag! This 52 qt RTIC cooler is what I opted to get Chris this year, I liked it because it came with a removable divider and a basket! Compared to a similar yeti cooler it’s $175 less expensive!
Waterproof Hat – From the photo this might look like just another hat, but these are the perfect summer hat, they are water friendly, lightweight, and floatable! This was actually on my list for last Father’s Day and the color I had wanted sold out!
Battery Pack – This was a gift I got for my dad! Something he wouldn’t go out and purchase for himself but that he gets TONS of use out of! These will recharge an iphone about 3 times!
Wallet – This nonbulky wallet has a pull tab so you can easily access cards. I got this for Chris two years ago and it’s still in great shape & he loves it! Comes it lots of colors!
Breakfast Sandwich Maker – Make your own McMuffin at home! We own one of these and it’s so good! My dad actually gave this gift to Chris his first fathers day!! It makes for a fun easy weekend breakfast! Just fyi the metal tabs get blazing hot so use an oven mitt!
Car Vacuum – For the dad who hates crumbs in his car…
Last but NOT least, keeping it simple makes for the best gifts. I made these handprints with the boys last year for Father’s Day. Put them in a simple white frame and now they live in Chris’ office. Took 10 minutes and cost less than $10!
Since becoming a mom I have loved making the boys their own special birthday cakes and enjoy decorating them. I’m by no means a professional or have any kind of training – but I have learned a few things along the way as the evolution of photos at the end of this post shows! I thought I would share some of the simple tips that have made a big difference in my cake game, from amateur mom baker to another.
Make it easy on yourself – I don’t make the entire cake from scratch… I’m all about jazzing up a box cake mix (using milk instead of water, butter instead of oil). If you want to try to do a fun decoration don’t feel like you have to DO IT ALL. Make things easier where you can!
Invest in a cake kit. The first few years I didn’t spend the $17 for a cake kit and I kinda wish I had. A turntable, a scraper and a couple decent spatulas can really make a big difference. This is the one I bought this year. They sell ones with dozens of more pieces but I opted for something simple.
Freeze your rounds – this was a tip I discovered last year. Freezing or chilling your cake rounds makes frosting SO much easier!! There’s none of that crumbling you normally experience and it doesn’t take away from the taste or texture. Just make sure to wrap them in plastic wrap tightly if you plan on chilling or freezing for longer than 30 min.
Start small and pick a design or style that you’re excited about – I get most of my ideas off pinterest & I try to pick cakes that feel doable. Over the years I have slowly expanded what I felt like was “doable” 3 years ago I would have never even tried this Cars cake. The idea of doing a fondant checkerboard bottom alone would have been too much. Even this year, I was fully prepared to scrap that detail if it wasn’t working out!
Stop by your local bakery! – did you know most grocery stores will sell you their cake frosting?? This year I went to Safeway and bought a bunch of white frosting directly from the bakery & then dyed it red! I’ll definitely be doing this going forward. Again, make things easier where you can! Maybe someday I’ll have time to perfect my own cake frosting but for now this is a short cut I’ll be taking!
BONUS: Have fun with it! Even if your cake flops it won’t be the end of the world. I have store-bought cupcakes as a back up & I focus on the fun aspect! Also don’t underestimate the power of crumbled graham cracker or Oreo cookie as a way to add texture and make the cake look more detailed!
Why doesn’t anyone warn you about sensory overload as a mother. I feel like we hear about moms being “touched out” but it’s not just being touched. It’s the dog barking, it’s the wooden hammer on the cabinet, it’s the doorbell ringing, it’s the repetitive phrase your toddler has chosen to say louder and louder, it’s that toy with the annoying song that someone left on.
I struggle with overstimulation big time. I first started really noticing it a few months into breastfeeding J. Combining feeding a distractible infant while cross monitoring what a busy two year old is getting into had me almost always in this fight or flight mode. It was not the peaceful breastfeeding experience I had with Will. After stopping nursing I realized another rapid fire way for me to get sent into sensory overload was when we would roughhouse. It would only take getting hit in the face a few times for me to suddenly feel like my walls were closing in, my skin would start crawling, I’d immediately want no one to touch me.
It is easy to question yourself, to feel alone. Why is the dog barking or my kid wanting to “wrestle” me causing me to feel SO uncomfortable. My heart beats faster, I feel annoyed, angry at seemingly insignificant things. Each noise feeling like an interruption into the single thought I’m trying to complete. I found myself deeply craving silence. In the moment feeling like I want to retreat into darkness.
Before we had kids I would occasionally feel this way after a busy shift. Chris would play music in the mornings and I remember this same feeling, the music was too much, it felt like my brain was still too close to that fight or flight mode. Even if I slept it still felt like all the alarms, ringing phones, or screaming patients were still right there. All it took was turning the music down and it’d go away quickly. Well with kids you can’t just turn down the volume and often times the volume feels like it’s just increasing.
If you feel this way too, you’re not alone. It is totally normal to get sensory overloaded and you are not selfish or a bad mom for wanting silence. Letting our brains decompress from the stimulus of motherhood is absolutely necessary in order for us not just to survive but thrive in motherhood. We all have difference tolerances and triggers when it comes to stimulus but there all ways to help both prevent and rescue yourself from fight or flight.
Know your triggers & set boundaries around them. Find out the sounds or types of stimulus that push you quickly into that mode If that toy remote your kid has plays a song that makes you want to tear your hair out – take the batteries out! Make certain toys for outside play only. I personally stopped buying dog toys with squeakers, instituted a drumming outside only rule, and encourage loud play to be done in bedrooms instead of common areas. I also know to put my hair up so it doesn’t get accidentally snagged by a toddler, and to set clear boundaries when we roughhouse I usually say something like “If I get hit in the face again, I will need to take a break from the game”. It sounds silly but the boundary setting works & is another valuable skill to teach your kids. When it comes to your body setting clear boundaries that you hold in turn teaches your kids that it is okay and they can set boundaries with their bodies too! Tickling is the prime example. Whenever my boys say stop to tickling we ALWAYS stop. Continuing to tickle your kids when they say stop is saying “it’s okay to ignore people’s boundaries”.
Practice LOUD & soft – when your kids are already screaming is not the time to try to teach them how to whisper. Instead turn it into a game at a time when they are fairly calm. We play this at the dinner table. We can’t expect our kids to know things we haven’t bothered to teach them, teaching them how to control their volume is an important life skill and future teachers will thank you!
Breathe mama breathe – When you are seeing white & are in that mode. Literally stop moving, and start breathing. Take a slow deep breathe, hold for 4 seconds, exhale. repeat. Closing your eyes helps too. This physiologically will help bring your body and your nervous system out of fight or flight.
Carve out quiet. I personally get up 1-2 hours before my kids now that they both sleep through the night. I use this time to meditate, journal, read, workout, get breakfast ready. I know this is not for everyone. At the very minimum I get up 10 minutes before them. Enough time to sit in silence and stillness. Creating a quiet morning ritual will give you a sense of control over your day. You are not immediately thrown into a reactive state. This has probably been the thing that helps me the most. Sitting in stillness feels like the most luxurious thing once you have kids and meditation has helped me actualize this concept that peace is within us and are able to find it whenever we like.
Use a screen, recompose, and don’t feel guilty. You will be more present and a better parent. When I had peaceful nursing sessions it was either in the middle of the night, while Will was sleeping or when will was watching Mickey Mouse. Looking back I’m thankful I did that and wish I had recognized this sooner and found more ways to make more peaceful nursing sessions.
Speak Up. Do not suffer in silence. Name what you’re feeling. Is the clutter overwhelming you, is the music too loud, is toddler hanging from your leg pushing you into a reactive hyperstimulated state? Name it. Talk about it. If you are lucky to have a partner or support system talk to them, and try to find ways to release. Some days when my husbands comes in from work (he works in a detached office in our yard) I will tell him I need to go sit in the office for a few minutes of silence.
We celebrated Will’s 3rd birthday with a Three Rex theme. This birthday felt so emotional, he just seems so big all of the sudden. He’s going to preschool in the fall, he’s taking swim lessons, he tells funny little stories & is constantly asking “wanna know…” Ex: wanna know what that sound was, wanna know what’s in mama’s mouth, wanna know what Johnathan’s doing and on and on. Will turned two a month into the pandemic. While the world shut down in 2020 Wills world expanded beyond measure. We moved, he became a big brother, he learned to ride his scooter, he got stitches (see previous), he cooked with me a TON and asked Santa for knives. It’s SO fun to watch him become his own person & every birthday is just a little reminder of how quickly time goes! It was so wonderful to have a small party to celebrate our guy and Johnathan got to meet some family he had never met yet so that was extra special.
Party decor was primarily from target. His cake I can proudly say I baked & decorated! It’s a Ghiradelli box cake mix & Betty Crocker chocolate frosting & funfetti vanilla frosting that i just added green food coloring to, for the dirt – crushed up Oreos. I took inspo from a picture on pinterest & I was so happy with how it turned out! My biggest tip is to freeze your cake for 20-30 min before trying to frost it. It seriously makes a HUGE difference!