Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Weekly Pregnancy Photo Book

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you may remember the week-by-week photo book that I did while I was pregnant with Mac (HERE).  I absolutely love the way it turned out - it's so much fun to look back on that time in my life and read about what we were doing and how excited we were to meet our first baby.  

Being just as excited the second time around, I wanted to do the same thing for Mim.  I kept a similar layout, but made it a bit different, with fewer colors and more photos.  Since she is the second child, I tried really hard to make sure the descriptions were mainly about her and the pregnancy and not about what Mac was doing, but sometimes those were one in the same.  I tried to keep this updated as the pregnancy progressed (each week), because pregnancy brain makes it really hard to even remember what you had for dinner that day.  If I didn't stay on top of it, I'd never remember what we did a month ago.  If I didn't have time to update it, I made sure to write things down on the calendar, which I'll stick in the book and put in Mim's keepsake box.  

Once again, I'm absolutely thrilled with the way the pregnancy book turned out.  I made it with Blurb (see the preview here),which has really easy software to use and the quality of the book is fantastic.  I can't wait to be able to give this to her one day (maybe when she's expecting a baby) and go through it with her.  Makes me all weepy just thinking about it...

Anyone else make a pregnancy book?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Busy Bag Tutorial - Memory and Matching Games

Last week I showed you the amazing busy bag we received from Emily of Dear Owen (HERE).  Today, I'm going to be sharing a quick tutorial on how to make the busy bags we sent to Ethan of Schue Love.  If you checked out Natasha's post, you saw that we sent 2 games - a personalized memory game with photos and a Brown Bear heads & tails matching game. These are both really incredibly easy to make and only require a printer and some card stock.  

First up, the personalized photo matching game.  I started by stealing borrowing some adorable photos of Ethan and his family from Natasha's blog.  Any photos will do, but portrait orientation ones worked better for the layout I chose.  I picked 12 pictures and then made a collage of them on  I use Picmonkey for all my collages - super easy to use and basic collages and editing are free.  Once I had the photos in a collage where they were all exactly the same size and spacing, I just printed them out on my home printer.  
I cut them out, glued them to some red cardstock to make them all uniform and more durable.  Viola!
This game can be used in two different ways.  Since Ethan's still young, this can be a matching game.  Mix up the cards face-up and have him find the cards that match.  Once he's a bit older, he can flip the cards over and use them as a memory game.  Easy peasy!
The second busy bag we created was a heads and tails matching game using the animals from the popular and beloved Eric Carle book Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See.  Again, this one is so easy it really doesn't need an explanation.  I printed out the animals from a printable that I found HERE, mounted them on cardstock and cut them in half.  This couldn't be any easier.
I love this busy bag activity because it can also be used to teach different concepts.  Not only does your toddler work on the heads and tails matching, but you can use it to teach colors, sounds, animals, etc.
So there you have it...the world's easiest busy bag activities!  As I previously mentioned, busy bags can be as elaborate or simple as you want.  There's no right or wrong way to do them - if they keep your toddler busy for a few minutes, they're a winner in my book.

If you'd like more busy bag tutorials, make sure to check out the other bloggers participating:
Michelle at Ten June
Natasha at Schue Love
Erin at Hello Erin

Now it's your turn to join in on the fun!  We'd love it if you'd link up and share your favorite busy bag activity below.  We'd love to get a collection of all kinds of ideas.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Preparing for Potty Training

Well friends, it's about that time.  I guess I'm officially adopting the title of "mommy blogger" with this post and there's no going back.  I was sure that I'd never be one of those moms that talks so openly about my kid's private bathroom activities, but here I am...destined to embarrass him for all eternity with this post.  Part of me is horrified, but really, I knew this day was coming.  I've gone to the dark side, folks.  There's no going back now.

So, yeah.  Potty training time 'tis nearly upon us.  We've been talking about potty training Mac for a while now.  When he was about 18 months he started showing some interest in peeing in the potty. We knew he was too young to seriously start potty training, but we figured it couldn't hurt to get one of those little potties to put in the bathroom and let him use it whenever he wanted.  Occasionally he'd go in it - usually right before bath time when he was in there and saw it.  That lasted a few months, the novelty wore off and he really didn't care about using the potty anymore until about a month ago.
As much as I sometimes dread Mac growing up and becoming so independent, this is one area I'm actually excited for him to master.  I'm SO over diapers these days.  However, he just turned two years old, so we know that he's not quite yet ready to seriously begin potty training.  Some kids may be ready to start potty training at this age, but we're not quite there and he tells us he's not ready.  With the new baby, me at home on maternity leave and all the changes we've gone through this summer, I think we'll probably wait another 4-6 months before we "officially" have the time and energy to begin potty training boot camp.  However, that doesn't mean that we're not already working on getting him prepared and thinking about it.  There are definitely things we can do now to help us out in the future. 

Right now, we're working on getting him to realize that he has to go potty and tell us about it.  We talk to him about it throughout the day and try to get him to recognize the signals that he has to go.  As a boy, he has zero qualms talking about pee and poop (which he finds hilarious), so that's going well.  We also got a seat that goes on the big potty and a step stool, so he can get up on the toilet himself and use the real deal, like we do.  Apparently that's a big deal to him.  He definitely does not want to use the "baby potty" any more.  We encourage him to use the "big potty" throughout the day and sometimes he'll take us up on it and sometimes he wants nothing to do with it.  
However, when he does want to go, he insists on doing everything himself...which includes taking all his clothes and diaper off (even if it's not wet).  So, recently we started trying him out in Pull-Ups.  The Pull-Ups are great because he can take them off and on by himself.  Well, he takes them off himself - they don't always make it back on before he does a lap or two around the house naked yelling "naked boy, naked boy!" which he also thinks is hilarious.  Toddlers are very easily amused. These Pull-Ups have Jake and the Neverland Pirates on them and he loves to look at them and say "Look mama, Jake!"
I'm also preparing myself for what to do when it's officially time to begin potty training.  I know a lot of other bloggers have had a lot of luck with the 3-day training method, which I intend to check out.  I've also signed up for Pull-Ups Big Kid Academy, which has a ton of really great information on potty training.  There's a great article on "How to Tell if Your Child is Ready for Potty Training" and another called "Potty Training for the Working Parent" that immediately piqued my interest.  Other topics include things like: how to talk to day care providers about potty training, the best clothing for potty training, solutions for nighttime and how to potty train on the go.  If you've got a kid anywhere close to potty-training age, definitely check out the Big Kid Academy.
So even though we aren't fully into training yet, I've done quite a bit of reading on the subject and wanted to share my top 5 tips for potty training a boy:

1. Wait until you know he's ready.  This is where we are.  We know our kid well enough to know that he's not quite ready for full-on potty training.  He's interested in the potty, but not enough.  More often than not he'll say no when you ask if he wants to use the potty.  He has no interest in wearing "boy boy undies" and is not overly uncomfortable in a wet diaper.  In this regard, Mim is probably closer to potty training than Mac - she can't go 5 minutes in a wet diaper.

2.  Offer incentives.  In this case, bribery works!  Use whatever your child is interested in as a token of good work on potty training, whether it be a piece of candy, a sticker, pennies, a matchbox car, an army man or just a lot of clapping and praise.  You know what your child responds to.  Reward your child not only for potty training successes, but also for trying.
3. Make it fun.  I think this is particularly appropriate and easy to do for boys.  My mother-in-law raised two boys and suggests putting something in the toilet for your little boy to "aim" at, to avoid accidents and keep them from making messes.  She suggested a Cheerio for them to use as a target.  Also, she said that boys love peeing outside, so feel free to let them skip the potty occasionally and take their business outside in the bushes or on a tree.  Be one with nature!

4. Prepare in advance.  We're doing this now, well before we're ready to move on to actual potty training.  As I mentioned, we have a potty seat and let him use it whenever he wants.  We have a few books related to going potty that we read at bedtime.  We've watched the Daniel Tiger potty episode (and every other episode) at least a dozen times.  And we even have a few apps that talk about potty time.

5. Be patient.  I'm including this one for my own sake - I'm sure I will need a reminder of this continuously once we make the decision to start potty training.  I'm going to write it in lipstick on the bathroom mirror in giant letters when the day comes.  Keep calm and carry a giant spray bottle of carpet cleaner.

What are your favorite potty training tips?
Have you tried the Big Kid Academy?

** Thanks to Pull-Ups for sponsoring today's discussion.  For more potty training advice and activities, check out the Big Kid Academy

Blogger Busy Bag Exchange

Anyone with a toddler knows the importance of finding something (ANYTHING) that will keep their interest and attention for a few minutes so you can get things done around the house.  Having a two year old is intense...they require a lot of hands-on fully-engaged participation nearly every second they're awake (or is that just my two-year old?).  Now that we also have a baby in the mix, it's SO important for me to find a few activities that can occupy my wild child so I can tend to the newest member of the family.  

Enter busy bags!

I'm sure you've seen these types of activities all over Pinterest.  The idea is to come up with a activity that will entertain your toddler, as well as teach them basic concepts like matching, sorting, fine motor skills, sequencing, alphabet, counting, colors, etc.  Busy bags can be elaborate or simple, home-made or store-bought.  Just so long as they do the trick of holding your kid's attention for a few minutes.  

Once again, the fabulous Erinn of Strawberry Swing and Other Things came up with a great idea to do a busy bag swap with a few other moms of toddlers.  The traditional busy bag swap usually requires that each person make a bag for everyone participating the swap.  That's a LOT of work.  So, being a busy mom of two and respectful of everyone's time (thank you, Erinn!), she only asked that we make one busy bag for another mom and receive one.  This was my saving grace and gave me the opportunity to make a fun busy bag for Ethan (son of Natasha from Schue Love).  Head over there to see the busy bag activity we came up with for him and come back next week for a tutorial on how we made it. 

We hit the busy bag swap jackpot when Emily from Dear Own & Co. drew our name.  Emily went above and beyond and created the most amazing busy bag/box I've ever encountered!  Prepare yourself to be blown away...
Emily created a sandwich shop for Mac, where he can put together fancy gourmet creations for us.
The shop came with an assortment of felt sandwich fixings (everything from 2 different types of bread, pickles, onions and cheese) with matching food pieces (with velcro on the back) that he can attach the the awesome clipboard while taking orders.
I love that Emily thought to include Mim on this.  Mac loved that he was making a sandwich for the baby.
She even included an adorable apron for "Chef Mac."
This busy bag does it all and there are so many different ways to use it.  It teaches how to follow directions and take an order.  It helps him learn sequencing, by putting the ingredients in order on the sandwich.  
It also helps him with identifying foods and categorizing them.  It helps him with matching, by finding the food that matches the picture.  And teaches him assembly and fine motor skills. 
I can't even tell you how much we love this busy box.  Mac thinks it's the coolest thing ever and has requested to play with it a dozen times since we opened it a few days ago.  I love that it's safe for him to do all by himself while my hands are busy with the baby.  Although he has tried to eat the food a few times.  Silly boy.  He's now requesting sandwiches for lunch more often too and willing to try some of the fixings (like bacon and pickles).  
Thank you SO MUCH for this amazing activity, Emily!  You are THE BEST.  I can't even begin to tell you what a lifesaver this is going to be for us. 
Make sure to check out Emily's blog next week for a tutorial on how she made this busy box and all the amazing things it can do.  
Since this is an idea swap (we need all the ideas we can get), we'd love for you to participate as well! Today we're sharing all about the busy bag we received, next week (Monday, September 15) we will be sharing how we made our own busy bags and we'd LOVE for you to link up a busy bag idea as well.  If you'd like to join in, just post your busy bag idea next week and link up on any of the blogs listed below.

And make sure to check out these other participating blogs to get some new ideas on fun busy bags to entertain your toddler.  
Michelle at Ten June
Natasha at Schue Love
Erin at Hello Erin

Have you ever made a busy bag?
What's your favorite busy bag idea for entertaining a toddler?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

End of Summer Recap - July & August Instagram

Now that it's September (how did that happen?!), I was going to post our August Instagram recap and realized that I never even posted our July recap, so you're getting a double dose of photos today.  As you'll remember, I've been trying to post at least one photo a day each month to Instagram, with the idea that I'd print a yearbook at the end of the year with all our daily memories.  It's still going pretty well, however I do miss days here and there, but I'm trying not to be too hard on myself about it.  I just post whenever I remember.  I love looking back at these photos and remembering each story/moment and seeing how quickly our family is changing and growing.  Just two months ago I had a giant baby bump and now I have a six week old that smiles at me!  Amazing.  If you want to follow along and read details about any of these photos, you can find me @sara_mccarty.  
 Anyone else addicted to Instagram or doing an IG photo project?