Your Kid Won’t Starve: The Chicken Nugget Battle

Photo Credit Patrick Fore

                Your kid will not starve themselves, I promise.  Parents concerned about their child’s eating habits is probably the number one concern I have heard in my 14 years of teaching early childhood.  Parents surveyed once their children are older reflect that worrying about what their child ate was among the top three things on which they wish they focused less. 

Photo Credit Louis Hansel
Photo Credit Toa Heftiba

                As adults, we have this lovely ability to eat emotionally.  Got a new job?  Let’s celebrate with tacos and margaritas until we’re so stuffed we can’t even move.  Your boyfriend broke up with you?  You have the right to gorge yourself on chocolate cake and ice cream.  Have your children stressed you to the point of no return?  Time to break out the Girl Scout cookies and wine.  It’s what we do.  Happy, Sad, Stressed we reward or comfort ourselves with food.  Children do not have that emotional attachment to food yet; therefore, we don’t need to worry about them over or under eating.  They eat when they are hungry.  That’s it. 

Photo Credit Sanjay Kumar

               

Now, don’t get me wrong, children can most definitely learn poor eating habits, and when we, as adults, use food as a constant reward or punishment, we are sowing the seeds of emotional eating. Food should be food.  Food can be fun and engaging, but it is food, something our body needs to survive.  If your child is presented with multiple options consistently, they will be more likely to try new things.  When we, as parents, worry that Billy doesn’t like anything other than chicken nuggets and fruit snacks, and hence only feed him that, we are depriving him of the opportunity to grow emotionally and physically.   I have seen it so often; a child brings the same lunch every day because mom or dad believes their child will go hungry unless they send the same five things known to be approved by their 4-year-old.  Guess what?  They won’t.  If your child refuses to eat the food given to them, yes, they may be a little hungry.   But they will remember what it feels like, that maybe they were a little grumpy or tired and after a few times of that feeling they will eat.  They will not starve.  They are not biologically nor evolutionary designed to allows themselves to.

Photo Credit Paul Hanoaka

                Here is where the fun science stuff comes in!  Metaphorically raise your hand if you have a picky eater at home… right, most of us have or do.  I have one now, and I know the struggle.  Now, what if I told you there is an evolutionary-based reason for this, would you feel better?  Young children, specifically between the ages of 3-6, are designed to be picky eaters, so they don’t poison themselves.  Back in the early human days of hunting and gathering, young children were often left unattended.  They would wander and play with other kids, and to make sure the human race didn’t kill itself off, evolution made young children extremely wary of unknown foods.  Hence, the creation of the modern-day picky eater.

                No one likes to see their child upset, but when we regularly give in to the whining and demands and make them mac and cheese for the 4th straight night in a row, we are allowing them to be in control, and we’re the adults, that’s kind of our job.  I get it, I’ve been there, I’ve capitulated too, it’s human.   But the key is to make giving in the exception, not the rule.  I had the battle of breakfast myself today.  My nine-year-old wanted frozen french toast sticks with syrup and powdered sugar.  I am okay with that; he’s a mostly healthy and adventurous eater.  The problem was, he wanted to take that sticky and messy meal to sit in the basement and watch TV.  I said no.  I explained that the meal was too messy to eat down there, and the tirade began.  I don’t trust him, and I never let him do anything, I am so unfair.  I calmly stated, again, why he was not allowed to eat such a messy meal over the carpeted floor and said what would be unfair is not to allow him to eat at all.  He stormed away, saying that since I wouldn’t let him eat, he was going to the basement.  Not what I said, kid, but okay.

Photo Credit Joshua Coleman

                Fifteen minutes later, he contritely came upstairs and politely asked if he could have breakfast.  See, it works.   I didn’t enjoy it, it raised my stress levels, and I had yet to imbibe the delicious smelling coffee sitting out on our coffee bar calling to me.  But, he was used to my consistency and knew it was a losing battle to push.  My younger one could live on fruit and candy, and he’d be happy.  That’s not sustainable, of course, but he is in the picky phase.  So I keep the house stocked with the healthy things I know he likes: oatmeal, yogurt, fruit, grilled chicken, cheese, and granola bars.  I also make new and non-favorites regularly and place them on his plate.  When dealing with a picky eater, you should always make sure they have at least one thing on their plate that you know they like.  That way they are guaranteed to eat something.  Then consistently and methodically keep trying the unliked foods and encouraging one bite.  That’s it—one bite. 

                Don’t ever force them to finish the whole plate; this is another way to create an unhealthy relationship with food.  If they say they are full, then they are full.  They will not starve themselves.  If you served them their usual portion of chicken nuggets and they say they are not hungry, okay.   Since you know your child likes chicken nuggets, let them know if they are hungry later, they will be having the nuggets before they have something else.   I currently have 2/3 of a requested hot dog sitting in limbo. 

Photo Credit D. Hanelle

                In the end, you know your child best, and you have to do what you feels right for your kid.  When parents come to me with this concern, I impart a cliff notes version of the above, and I ask them to speak to their pediatrician.  If your child’s doctor is not concerned with their eating habits or weight, then realistically, neither should you.  We all want happy, healthy children, and concern about their nutrition is valid.

Photo Credit Elevate

Food should be enjoyable. We should certainly find times to celebrate our triumphs and share our sorrows over a meal. A staple in every major holiday is the food. So celebrate the diverse options we have in this world. Enjoy the night out with friend’s just because. I simply ask you to consider the science behind children and their eating and the benefits of creating a healthy relationship between your child and food as young as you can. You will make it through, and they won’t starve.  Promise.

Are Dresses Without Pockets Even Worth It?

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No.  A resounding no.  Nothing is a more perfect and essential garment than a maxi dress with pockets.  Done.  I could end the post here.  Of course, I am not going to because I feel the desire, not the need, to expound on why dresses with pockets are a must.  If it needs explaining, then this post probably is not for you. 

Photo by Joanna Malinowska

First, where else will I put all the lovely things my children and students give me throughout the day?  A hundred tiny pieces of white paper my son handed me saying they were diamonds for Valentine’s Day, glad I have a pocket.  The 37th pipe cleaner bracelet one of my students has made me?   In the pocket, it goes; I love my students, but even I have difficulty keeping up the excitement after the 10th bracelet in a row.  Snotty tissue, you guessed it, in the pocket.  Every single damn Lego you find because they are never actually in the Lego container, viola! Pocket.  Pockets are one of the most essential tools when interacting with younger kids. 

Photo by Xenia Bogarova

Second, pockets are perfect for the socially awkward adult that I am.  I have no problem talking to kids all day but put me in a social situation where I am expected to speak to adults, and I have no idea what to do with my hands.  Even worse, are one on ones where there is no one to get me out of the conversation I do not want to be having.  For example, when the woman in front of me at Panera Bread turned around to exclaim to me that nobody should eat the food here because it causes cancer, hands in the pockets. Or, how about when my co-worker started telling me about the problem she has been having with her vagina.  Perfect. Pocket. Situation. Or, what about when checking out at the grocery store and the woman scanning my items was talking to the cashier the next station over about her nail fungus? Put ’em in the pockets. 

Third, pockets are everywhere in our life because they are functional.  You have pockets in your car door, and on the back of the seats, I am not currently utilizing any of these pockets, but it makes me happy to know they are there.  Purses and backpacks have pockets because it makes finding things easier.  I love pockets so much that when my mom made me a themed bag as a gift for a theatrical production, I was in, I gave it back and asked for her to add a pocket (which she did, thanks Mom!)  Cabinets are basically pockets for your kitchen, I mean where would you put all your stuff if your kitchen didn’t have pockets?  As a side note, I decided on the spot that I will hence force refer to cabinets at kitchen pockets.

Photo by Amy Humphries

Now perhaps you are not pocket dependent like I am, and if so, I probably am falling flat on my face as I describe the importance of pockets to you.  But, if you love dresses with pockets as much as I do, I know you’re standing beside me in perfect pocket solidarity.  I love dresses with pockets so much that I am wearing one right now as I write this.  This spring, I have systematically started to replace every dress I own with one with pockets.  I have been known to squeal with glee when I discover a dress I like has them; at times, that is the only impetus I need to purchase the aforementioned dress.  When I am wearing a dress with pockets, I lord it around the house like a queen in her castle; somehow, they make me feel instantly better.  Pockets provide a sense of security.  Whether it’s a place to put things, hide my hands or for comfort, I need pockets in my life.  I cannot always hide from the world, but I can slide my hands into those delicious pockets concealing at least a part of me; for that alone, I will always love a dress with pockets.

Teacher’s Pest

The long weekend is over, and that means time to head back to homeschooling. So much fun.  I don’t mind spending time with my kids but the horror that has become school work in this house is a reoccurring nightmare (or in this case daymare) I get to relive every Monday through Friday.  If I’m being totally truthful, they usually have work to finish on Saturday because the battle to get them to do more than one or two things a day has me pulling out so much hair that I usually give up.  Ok being really, really honest, I typically send them to their dad’s Saturday night with work to complete on Sunday. 

So…. I was grateful that there were no assignments yesterday.  They spent a lot of time playing outside and watching Minecraft videos.  I spent a lot of time doing work outside (I put up a new gate!) and household chores and all around we had a great day.  But now, the clock is looming over me, a big and significant 9:05 AM and I know the terror is soon to begin.  They haven’t come out of their room yet, so I am going to hold my breath and wait, why bother a resting dragon?  I know as soon as I hear that door crack my spirits will temporarily sink and the chaos of creating the balance between their desired fun time and schoolwork will begin. 

What makes it so bad you may ask?  Well to start with my younger one has ADHD.  It’s severe.  I think the only time he is fully stopped in motion is when he’s fast asleep.  However, he’s been having night terrors again, so even in sleep, of late, he can’t fully rest.  Trying to get him to focus on a tiny laptop screen and pay attention to a disembodied voice as it goes over the slide it’s showing is near to impossible.  I’ve tried having him wear earphones, and that works to some degree, as long as he doesn’t forget they are on and walk away.  Which he does.  Often.  In addition to the ADHD he has anxiety, like me and his older brother, and while his manifests in a different way than his brother’s he seems to have this intense fear of getting the answer wrong.  When he’s not sure he just says “I don’t knoooooooow” or makes up a ridiculous answer that he’s knows for sure is incorrect and starts playing with a toy nearby, or doing somersaults (literally, he loves gymnastics), or just rolling like a log across the floor.  The question could be “Name and animal the book said lives in the water.”  And he will reply “I don’t know, a monkey.”  Not cute kid, not cute.  So, I will either replay the segment or read it myself and over annunciate every word.  “Some. Animals. That. Live. In. The. Water. Include. Frogs. Snails. Crayfish. AND. ALLIGATORS.”  He’ll look at me and say “I said a monkey.”  I reach a fevered pitch and say “Just pick one of the animals I just said!”  and I’ll get “Ohhhhhhh that’s easy, frog.”  A question he could have probably answered before even reading the book since his brother is a budding Herpetologist and plans to move to Orlando and work for Dinsey’s Animal Kingdom.  I am not in the slightest joking; it has been his goal since he was 3.  We have a subscription to Reptile magazine that makes me cringe every time I flip through its pages. 

Animal Kingdom, 2016
Photo by Tiago Pereira on Pexels.com

The new phrase for the expression “If I had a dollar every time you said (blank) is “Am I done now?”  It is asked after every single question answered or math problem solved.  I have done my best to break their work up throughout the day.  An assignment here, then a break, then another assignment, then a break.  Problem is, they want to break constantly.  They want to live in a world of perpetual breaks.  And, amazingly as soon as I say it is time to work, everybody is miraculously hungry and needs a snack right now.  This literally just happened as I was editing, so I came back to add the dialogue.  It was currently 11 AM.  My kids got up around 9:30. I offered breakfast to both.  One ate, one did not, although he told me what he wanted.  I prepped his bowl of dry cereal, then he told me he wasn’t hungry.  Ok cool, it’s dry cereal, it’s not going anywhere.  At 11, I call down to the basement, “We are starting schoolwork in 5 minutes” and on cue “I HAVEN’T EVEN EATEN BREAKFAST YET MOM!”  Sigh. Eat, then work.

This would be my older one, and he is a whole different ball game. I think he might even be another sport. If there were a prize for whining and complaining, he would destroy all the competitors. I didn’t even know it was possible for a child to whine as much as he does about schoolwork. His usual proclamations are “This is sooooo hard”, “This is going to take forever!”, “I don’t understand this, it makes NO sense”, and my ultimate favorite “Can you do it for me?” No child, I will not do it for you. I went through second grade once, and that was enough for me. What I can do is sit with you, help explain things and I don’t even mind typing if it is a lengthy answer, since at 9 it is not his strong suit. But I will not simply do your work for you. I do my best to encourage him to at least read the directions and make an attempt before I jump in. His teacher and I have had many conversations about his sloppy mistakes because he rushes through to be finished. This is a boy fast tracked for the gifted program next year, but his anxiety and laziness jump in and everything becomes jumbled. Most of the time, when I attempt to help him, he doesn’t like my answer, or the way I am explaining it and then the fireworks start. He is very much like me in temperament. We both want to be perfect, we both embarrass easily, we crave our private time but at the same time want the people we most rely on close and at our disposal and we both cry at the drop of a hat. When I have tried to teach him anything over the years it usually ends badly, this is no exception. He gets mad says I’m so mean and don’t help him with anything and I snark back that I am not going to help someone who is being ungrateful and won’t listen. Lovely, I know, these are not my proudest moments as a parent. This will usually happen two or three times throughout the course one assignment. Then once the dust settles, we get to move onto the next one. Wash. Rinse Repeat.

I think it has been this crazy stress of homeschooling that has depleted my energy these last few weeks. I am a teacher, I tell myself should have been able to handle this, yet I haven’t; at least not the way I wanted to. But me being a teacher doesn’t separate the fact that I am still a mom, like all the other moms and dads out there, struggling to figure this out.

I made a promise to myself yesterday after we had so much fun putting a tent up in the backyard.  I am going to turn my engagement back on.  I will struggle through the muddy waters of schoolwork as required, but also make sure I am participating in fun things with my kids too.  I have let the stress of work take over the fun we used to have.  Summer is almost upon us, and with that the end of homeschooling, but it is still unknown what life will be like moving forward.  Will my son’s summer camps (that are all pre-paid!) go forward or will he be here with me?  Three of those weeks are camp learning about animals and reptiles and snakes (his favorite!).  He has already lost his baseball season, is he also going to lose his first time at sleep away camp?  What about the week of magic camp or baseball camp?  Will schools even open in the fall and if so, in what capacity?  We are heading, as Elsa so eloquently put it, Into the Unknown.  I can’t control the schoolwork that needs to be done right now, or the cancelled vacations and camps that may arise, but I can control how we handle our time here.  So, for today at least, I am going to create some fun, hopefully lessen everyone’s stress and then try again tomorrow.  As another one of favorite heroines said, “After all, tomorrow is another day.”

A Walk Through My Wonderland

Today I did one of my favorite things and it was very restorative. My boyfriend and I walked around and through the streets of downtown Historic Annapolis. If you don’t know where or what Annapolis is, then you are missing out on one of America’s gems. Annapolis is the State Capitol of Maryland. It is a small, historically preserved city that is set on the water. It is nicknamed “The Sailing Capital of the US”. The city is ripe with early American history. It is the place George Washington resigned his military commission in 1783. I have stood in the very room. It’s a blend of old world historical charm and modern restaurants and shops. I used to live in Annapolis but last year my boyfriend and I purchased a house 15 minutes away. It has become our place. We both has history there as performers and it is where we had our first date. At least once a month we can be found there milling about, enjoying the delicious food or just sitting by the harbor drinking Starbucks. Today we enjoyed the city as tourists and really slowed down to enjoy some of the sites. Enjoy my photographic journey today!

This mini lending library is outside St. John’s College and I adore it! I even found two books today to take home with me so next time I got downtown I will replace those with two old ones of mine!

I love this wall. I have loved this wall since I first saw it. It actually stretches along the entire side of the house but I wanted to capture the plaque. You will see plaques like this on many of the homes that have been designated as part of the Historic District. This one is located on Fleet Street and it is one of my favorite side streets to walk down.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church boasts a beautiful garden behind the church. Winding paths and plenty of benches can make this a quiet respite on a busy day.

The Annapolis Harbor is always a delight to view. It’s particularly lovely on a beautiful, sunny summer day when boats can be seen sailing all over the water.

A replica of the original Liberty Bell is placed on the grounds of St. John’s College. In 1991 Alumni dedicated the memorial to fellow alumni who had died in service to their country. On the other side of the pathway is the monument pictured below which was erected in 1920. Students placed it for their fellow alumni who died in First World War. A beautiful place to pay remembrance this holiday weekend.

I wish each and everyone of you a Happy and Safe Memorial Day.

In Flanders Fields

BY JOHN MCCRAE
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.

Just Me and My Baby….. and Grad School

I embarked on the terrifying journey of applying to grad school 5 years after I left undergrad.  My constant thought was, “Can I do this?” Not only was the idea of applying to grad school daunting, but I had completely switched career paths. 

I grew up watching old musicals with my mother and my grandfather. My grandfather used to play Judy Garland on our drives to his house in Florida, and it was love at first sound. He used to say that he went to high school with her, which I passionately believed until later in life when, I found out he never went past the eighth grade. I bragged about this to my fellow second and third grade friends who had no idea who she was. I was the only ten-year-old I knew who could sing “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart!” from memory, or really who sang it at all.

Image Source Barbra Streisand in the film Funny Girl, 1968

With my mom, it was Funny Girl, Hello Dolly, and Oklahoma! At 13, I was pretending to be Fanny Brice in my bedroom. Barbra Streisand was my idol, and I knew I was born to perform. And not just perform, but to perform on Broadway. I was going to be a star. I wanted to sing “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No” from Oklahoma in my 6th grade talent show. They told my mother I needed to choose a different song because it was inappropriate. Seriously? It’s Rodgers and Hammerstein. For my 14th birthday, my mother took me to NYC to see Glen Close in Sunset Boulevard. It was Game Over. The final nail in the destiny coffin. Broadway star I would be. Norma Desmond is still one of my dream roles. Twenty-five years later, I’m finally almost old enough to play her… almost.

Ueno Zoo, Japan 2007

Life had different plans.  I got married at the ripe old age of 26 (already way late in the acting game) and moved to Japan for a year to save up and teach English.  Towards the end of that year, the CEO of the English school I worked for stole all the company’s money.  While I got a heartfelt apology from the company, I did not get paid for my last two months of work.  Since the company was supposed to be paying for my apartment, I was now being evicted because they also, hadn’t paid my rent for two months.  I was forced to purchase last-minute airfare to the states.  Between not being paid, having to dip into savings to pay my bills back in America, purchasing a costly flight ticket, and needing a place to rent, which required a down payment, almost $10,000 in savings were gone. So, instead of landing in New York ready to begin my struggling actor attempt, I arrived in D.C. as a reading instructor in D.C. public schools.  From there, I transitioned to an assistant preschool teacher. 

During my first two years in that position, I decided to commit to education as a career.  I’d always enjoyed being around children and had worked with them in a multitude of settings, church, girl scouts, babysitting, to name a few.  I seemed to be good at it, and I enjoyed it.  The kids made me laugh and smile, it was a good feeling.  The more I learned about child development, the more I became hooked.  Who knew so much learning and development occurred between birth and age 5?  Well, I mean the experts knew, but I didn’t, and I found it fascinating.  The question I posed to myself was, “So, now what?”  I hadn’t given up my dream of acting yet, D.C. has a vibrant theater community, and I was still performing.  Since I needed to maintain a full-time job due to having lost all my savings, I didn’t have the time to pursue acting on a professional level right now.  I had to make one of the most difficult choices I have ever made, and that was not to no longer pursue acting as a career. After a few months of indecision, I applied to grad school. 

When you’ve grown up knowing you were only going to do one thing and life throws a curve-ball straight to your head and makes you see stars, you have to come to and make a decision.  Once I made the choice and became accepted to school, the idea was no longer scary or painful.  Two months into school, I became pregnant.  It wasn’t wholly unplanned; since I was no longer going to auditions why not peruse my other dream, becoming a mom. I just didn’t think it would happen that fast.  As my due date approached, I worked ahead and informed my professors.  The day my son was born, about a week and a half before the semester ended, I submitted my final project hooked up to IV’s and in the delivery room.  I am nothing, if not dedicated, to my work.  I had a few weeks of new mom bliss (Ha! Mesh maternity underwear, ice packs for my vagina, and nipples so cracked and sore from nursing I had to get $80 prescription-strength cream) and then it was time to go back to school.  Fortunately, I was earning my degree online from a brick and mortar university; that’s campus, to this day, I have never stepped foot on.  I fit assignments in between nursing and naps and diaper changes.  When it came time to begin work on my thesis, I would leave the house.  I was back at work by this point and could often be found on my lunch break at the Starbucks on N.W. D Street and Indiana Ave in D.C. doing research.  In the evenings and on the weekends, if my husband of the time was home (he was taking pre-med classes), I would head to our local Starbucks, sometimes for hours at a time.  On my walk over there, my anxiety would kick in, wondering if someone would be at one of two favorite tables.  If someone was at my table, yes, my table, I couldn’t concentrate or get any real work done.

I would sit where I could see the coveted spot and watch like a furtive hawk so I could sweep and claim the table once vacated.  These days that anxiety is channeled towards my weekly trip out of the house to the grocery store.  I go early every Friday morning, re-stock day, and panic prior to my arrival.  What if they don’t have toilet paper again?  What if there are out of the flavor of Hot Pockets my son obsesses over?  Can there please be my favorite brand of seltzer water??  And don’t even get me started over the lack of frozen French toast sticks…. It’s not fun.

I pushed on through anxiety, countless hours of research and writing, and re-writing, and finally, two years after I started, I graduated with a 4.0.  Going back to school was one of the greatest things I have done for myself.  I still perform regularly, although corona-virus has put that temporarily on hold, but now, I do it solely for me.  I may not have made it to Broadway, and honestly, I still hold out hope, but I have become a pretty big deal in my own way, and for that, I couldn’t be prouder of myself. 

From top to bottom: Your’e a Good Man Charlie Brown 2019, Damn Yankees 2018, How the Grinch Stole Christmas 2017.

The Power of Music

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As a singer and performer music has a phenomenal power over me. It takes me to places deep inside and gives me a strength like no other. Singing is how I express my soul to others. It provides me a way to communicate when nothing else gets through. Face to face I can be extremely shy and quiet. I may come off as goofy or awkward but when I sing I can reach you. Here are some songs that get me through when it is dark.

Rescue by Lauren Daigle

This is Me The Greatest Showman Soundtrack

Defying Gravity Wicked

Almost Sweet Hoozier

America’s Sweetheart Elle King

Gold Once: A New Musical

Waving Through a Window Dear Evan Hansen

Piece by Piece (Idol Version) by Kelly Clarkson

Uninvited Alanis Morisette

First Burn Hamilton Remix Single

Below are some of my recordings. I am not looking for praise or approval. I know they are not perfect and I make mistakes but I wanted to share my musical soul with you.

Shallow from A Star is Born sung with my guy

The Wizard an I from Wicked

When We Were Young Adele

Too Early for Wine

It’s a rainy Friday and everybody is stuck inside at the end of another long quarantine week. I mean I did get to go to the grocery store this morning and had the opportunity to make multiple trips from my car to my house in the pouring rain. Yay for outside time! There are loud but not concerning noises coming from the basement and no amount of coffee seems to be doing the trick as I go about my tasks for the day. It reminded me of this photo from December when I thought the two weeks of winter break were draining, wasn’t that a cute thought. It’s only noon and there is school work I will have to wrestle with them to complete, I’d like to find the energy to finally finish my book, and did I mention the mountains of laundry waiting to be folded and washed? I think today I just need to get by, ignore that crash I just heard, it may have been the Lego bucket, and power through the day. The coffee may not be working but eventually the socially acceptable time for wine will be here and that always helps.

These are a Few of my Favorite Things… for Kids

As both a mom and a Pre-K teacher I have purchased and interacted with A LOT of toys. Some have been fantastic and surpassed my wildest dreams while others have left me out to dry. I’ve complied a list of some my top toys. If you’re not familiar with these already then I hope I just introduced you and your child to their next favorite thing. Click on the name of any of these items to learn more!

Zingo! This a fan favorite in my four and five year old classroom. The set in my classroom used to be my personal game before my two outgrew it. It’s Bingo but requires letter and word recognition. It also promotes memory and hand eye coordination skills.

Lego Marble ~ Few things keep young children busier than Legos. Combine that with a marble run and there are endless opportunities. This is the perfect toy to boost STEM skills, problem solving and creativity.

Lazada Pig Pillow ~ My six year old has this and it goes everywhere with him. It’s so incredibility soft I want one of my own. It comes in a variety of sizes and options and is bound to be your child’s new best friend.

Chalk. Colored chalk is one of the most popular toys I have ever utilized. It is open ended and provides so much opportunity for creative expression. Plus it’s a great way to get everyone outside and enjoying the sunshine!

Dan&Darci Flower Growing Kit ~ Spring is the perfect time to take your kids outside and teach them about gardening. This kit is a great starter garden for your budding botanist and bonus it comes with paints to decorate the flower box!

Flybar My First Foam Pogo Stick ~ These are fantastic! Both my boys received these this year for their birthday and they are loving them! They hold up to 250 pounds, so you better believe I tried it out too. This toy is great for building balance and gross motor skills. Hey, if your kids don’t want one get it for yourself!

Kanoodle ~ This is a fantastic logic game that has even stumped me at times! Admittedly, when it comes to logic puzzles, I am not the best. I had to order a second one of these for the house because my kids were fighting over who got to play with it. Logic and problem solving are the key skills honed by this marvelous, inexpensive toy.

Piano Music Mat ~ We had one of these for years in our home and it was always a favorite of my two. Your kids can jump and dance around and make sounds with the instrument options and it has a record setting so your little Mozart can play back the music they made. I used it to reenact my own Tom Hanks “Big” Moment.

I could list so many more, and I will probably will down the line! When purchasing toys for kids I like to think about what possibilities the toy presents and what senses it engages. For me, the less electronics the better. Guide your children while playing by asking them open ended questions as this will engage and enhance their language and literacy skills.

If your quarantine brain is starting to fuzz on what to do to keep your kids engaged then I hope this list can give you some ideas or at least set you down the right path!

Things I’ve Learned During Quarantine

Today marks the 6th week since my personal quarantine started and I have learned quite a bit about myself in that time, I imagine you have too. I am lucky because I have not been completely alone. I own a house with my partner so I have adult contact daily, which is important when I happened to be quarantined most days alone with my two boys ages 9 and 6. Additionally his two youngest children (12 and 14) are here part time so more human interaction there. Overall, I have to admit I’ve managed this well. I started thinking about where this journey to no where has taken me and this is what I learned.

1. I CAN live without Target. It’s true. I haven’t shriveled up and died due to lack of Target. I went in the day I was furloughed to pick up some items to entertain my children and I have been inside Target exactly once to purchase my favorite brand of razors, David’s, and a few other household and bath items my grocery store doesn’t carry. Huh. Who knew I could go so long?

2. I am perfectly happy not interacting with society on a daily basis. I have always been a loner and introvert, more comfortable with children than adults, but even I thought I’d crack after 6 weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I miss my close friends and my students. I miss my twice monthly karaoke outings and I am bummed I haven’t seen my sister’s new puppy in person yet. I talk to the people close to me on a regular basis but otherwise, I think I could be a hermit if required.

Yeah! I made that!

3. I like cooking. Not only have I learned to like cooking, turns out I’m pretty dam good at it. It was never something I enjoyed and usually found it to be a mind numbing task trying to keep track of all the ingredients, measurements when I was supposed to add this or add that. Something would usually burn, an ingredient was almost always forgotten or left out and that 30 minute weeknight recipe? Ha! We’ll eat in about an hour and a half. During quarantine I have had time to cook and little by little I mostly stopped using recipes. I may look up ideas for inspiration or guidance but I can actually create on my own and, if I may brag, 9/10 times is tastes great!

4. I am not as patient or creative with my kids as I thought I would be. The first few weeks I was super teacher-mom. I had daily activities in art, science, cognitive skills…. then homeschooling started and since I have to practically drag my children to the computer to do work it seems my Mary Poppins desire blew away on the wind. My bag is still filled with everything imaginable so hopefully one day soon the magic will come back to me, spoon full of sugar and all!

5. Daily mediation and Yoga have become essential to me. Again, these are things I have always enjoyed but never seemed to have the time for before. Yoga and meditation help me wake up in the morning and a few simple stretches can diffuse so much stress. One of my favorite techniques is to sit with my eyes closed and listen to what’s going on around. Presuming it’s not the screams of my children having a fight in the basement, it is a very peaceful exercise.

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

This has been a stressful time for all of us, no doubt, but I hope you have been able to find your own little silver lining and time for self reflection too. Things are still uncertain, but hang on, we’ve got this.

Essential Mom Outfits

If you are a mom, guaranteed you are busy and have your hands full most of the time. There is often little time to yourself, let alone time for fashion and strategically planning outfits. I have been known to go to Target in sweatpants and a t-shirt because I just couldn’t care at that moment. But, if you’re like me, it feels good to feel put together from time to time, even if it is in a casual way, so, I’ve created a list of my favorite and easy go-to “mom looks” that won’t make you look as haggard as you may feel!

1. This is one of my favorite go-to looks. A Graphic T, Denim Jeggins, and Nude Flats. Toss your hair up in a messy bun and you are good to go. It’s classic, simple and won’t break the bank. I have a selection of graphic T’s that could rival what’s available for sale in the entire Women’s section of Target and Kohl’s combined and own jeggings in light blue, dark blue and pink.

2. For the days you don’t care but still don’t want to look like you just rolled out of bed (even though you did), I recommend patterned leggings, a plain oversized sweatshirt and some stylish sneaks. LuLaroe are my favorite leggings and can be found on eBay and in thrift shops. The great thing about leggings is they come in so many colors, patterns and designs there is guaranteed to be a pair out there for you.

3. My other, personal favorite, go-to is a maxi dress, especially if it has pockets. They are sooooooo comfortable and they make it simple to get ready with little effort, while at the same time look put together. I often wear mine with sandals, flip flops or flats. This look is as easy as 1,2…. no 3 needed. I have two of the dressed posted currently hanging in my closet.

4. These are all things you probably have in your closet already. A pair of jeans, a loose T either solid or striped, a cardigan and a pair of white sneakers. Four very basic pieces that can be easily slipped on and have you ready to be out the door in no time. I prefer a pop of color in either the cardigan or shirt but this look can easily be done with more neutral/calm tones like gray and navy and look just as good!

5. Lastly, we have the sweater or sweatshirt dress. I usually pair mine with thick tights and boots in the winter or with loafers or flats in the spring. They are cozy, cute and it’s basically like wearing a hug.

The important thing is that no matter what you wear that you stay authentically you. I love would love to hear from other mom’s about what your “go to” looks are! Please comment so I can get some more ideas for my closet!