Organic Mattress Products

Our Search For A Non Toxic, Organic Mattress

November 29, 2017

One of my New Year’s Resolutions at the beginning of the year was to make our home as non toxic and eco-friendly as possible. I admit it. I’m a sucker for those articles that pop up on your Yahoo! homepage that scare the living daylights out of you by discussing the typical toxicity levels of homes and the impact of this on our health. Though I am a big believer of everything in moderation, I wanted to start this non toxic reboot mission in an area that we would perhaps benefit from the most. For me, a good night of sleep is one of my top priorities. Thus, first on my plan of attack? New mattresses.

Let me preface this by saying, I do not claim to be an expert in the mattress field. Nor do I intend to make this seem like a research paper. The information below is merely brief summaries of what I’ve learned in the last six months of reading online and talking to countless mattress companies.

First off, I found it to be down right scary learning about conventional mattresses (including ALL of the mattresses we had in our home). Most conventional mattresses are made of toxic materials and chemicals like petroleum-based polyester, formaldehyde, polyurethane, flame retardant chemicals like boric acid, and typically covered in PVC vinyl. Essentially, this means your mattress is releasing toxic fumes over time that not only you breathe in to cause allergies, long-term diseases, and respiratory problems, but they can also get into our body tissues. (They’ve even been known to show up in pregnant women’s placental tissue!) No bueno!

I literally spent six months researching and testing mattresses before narrowing our option down to the one we eventually chose. I educated myself about the many different kinds of mattresses, what to look for in finding an organic and non-toxic option, which materials and chemicals to steer away from, which certifications are best and what they mean, and like with any big purchase, we read TONS of reviews. After all, we spend a third of our lives on our bed…why not take your time and ensure you’re making the best decision, right?

In terms of our needs and wants, we decided the following were most important to us:

  • Organic, eco-friendly
  • Comfort level
  • Natural latex (as it is much better for your body long-term compared to a coil mattress)
  • Meets certifications (i.e. GOLS, GOTS, GreenGuard, certiPUR, etc.)

The below mattress companies are those that met our ‘green’ and healthy criteria. All are awesome companies that offer mattresses made of natural latex, organic wool, and/or organic cotton, AND they’re all made in the USA.:) It’s important to know that the reason these beds do not need to use fire retardant chemicals is because of their organic wool material. Wool acts as a natural fire retardant. (The second great thing about wool is that it also works as a heat regulator. It helps keep you cool when it’s warm and warm when it’s cold.)

  • Nest Bedding
  • Plushbeds
  • Zenhaven
  • Sleep On Latex
  • White Lotus
  • Brentwood – (Note: The Ojai Mattress is their only coil-free mattress option.)

Runner Up: Avocado Mattress. I LOVE this company, however, the only reason we did not test out their mattress was simply because they do not offer coil-free mattresses. They have pocketed support coils rather than open coils, which is good, but nonetheless, we wanted coil-free. If coils aren’t an issue for you, this is a great company!

OUR WINNER:  Nest Bedding!


We ended up going with their Q3 Mattress and the BKB mattresses for our children. Here are some of the main reasons why we chose Nest and what makes their mattresses so amazing:

  • CERTIFICATIONS. The Q3 Latex is both GOLS and GOTS certified. (Nest only uses materials that have a third party certification whether it’s foam or latex.)
  • COMFORT. Both the Q3 Latex and BKB mattresses are incredibly comfortable! Upon our first time lying on a Q3 in the showroom, my hubby and I looked at each and simultaneously said, “This is the one.”
  • AFFORDABILITY. Both mattresses were very affordable for organic, non toxic mattresses with proper certifications. The BKB mattress starts at $299 and Q3 starts at $999. (Note: We did choose the Alexander Signature Cooling Topper to go on top of our Q3 which runs at $159.)
  • SHOWROOMS. They have a showroom here in Los Angeles (along with ten other cities around the country) which made testing out the mattress easy and convenient.
  • ALLERGY OPTIONS. Nest provides the option to have an Oeko Tex certified blended latex mattress for those with latex allergies.
  • FAMILY OWNED. Being factory direct and family owned, you can get higher quality for less than major brands with better warranties and better service.

I’m happy to report that after a month of use, we are still in love with our Nest Q3 Mattress. We’ve been getting some of our best sleep ever! It has met and surpassed all of our expectations, and we highly recommend it as a fantastic option for a high quality, affordable, non toxic, organic mattress.

Birthdays Golf Mini Golf

Mini Golf Birthday Party: Look Who Turned Fooooooore!

November 3, 2017

I knew it was bound to happen. I knew a golf-themed birthday party would be in my future, I just didn’t know it would be this soon. My husband, who is a scratch golfer, has a love for golf that I knew eventually would be passed down to at least one of our kids. (I play golf as well, and I enjoy it…however, I don’t watch the Golf Channel around the clock and spend my time at the gas pump practicing my golf swing with an imaginary golf club. Yes, my hubby does this and yes, he gets a lot of strange looks.) Our son AJ LOVES golf, especially mini golf. When asked what he wanted to do for his 4th birthday party, without an ounce of hesitation, he shouted, “a mini golf party!” 

We rented a 9-hole portable mini golf course which was set up at our golf club. It was the heavy-duty wood-framed holes with lots of different colorful obstacles on each (i.e. windmills, mazes, etc.). There aren’t too many companies that have portable mini golf courses like these in the Los Angeles area so it took me a while to locate one. Most companies have the flimsy, thin boards that have poor reviews or the kind that use your own grass and simply provide a border for a hole. I found this one from Party Pals. It looked adorable, especially with a sea of preschool-age kids in their little polo shirts and khaki shorts with colorful golf balls and clubs.

The kids had a blast! There were many kids that had never before played mini golf, but soon became hooked. They were incredibly excited to be able to go home and continue practicing as the party favors consisted of their own personalized putters from Noochie Golf and Mabel’s Labels. They also received two kid golf balls and a Stephen Joseph pencil box to keep their pencils and score cards.

We used Polkatots Cupcakes again for the cupcake cake which turned out AMAZING! Not only are they the most delicious cupcakes on the planet, but they did a remarkable job with the golf theme. 
Overall, it was an incredible par-tee with lots of fun had by all. Our little golfer was super-excited to share his love for golf with his family and close friends on his special day. His 4th birthday was one foooore the books!

Breastfeeding cabbage leaves and nursing Nanny Connie Weaning weaning process

Weaning Our 2-Year Old: The Process That Worked For Us

October 26, 2017

It’s official. After two and a half years, we are DONE breastfeeding! Woo-hoo! (Or from my son’s point of view, “Boo-hoo!”) I remember thinking last spring that I never thought this day would come, as he didn’t show any signs of slowing down. I swear…my milk must have tasted like a strawberry or oreo milkshake to him. You could sway a lollipop, cookie, or his favorite strawberry cupcake in front of him and he would choose my “milks” over all of it every time. And I didn’t mind. I LOVED breastfeeding. I am a huge advocate for it not only for the amazing nutrients it provides your baby, but also for the bonding element. The sweet bond you get to experience never gets old. Even after two and a half years, I loved every moment of it. Sure, at times I thought, boy wouldn’t it be nice to have my boobs back? But I knew this moment of my child being little only lasts such a short while, and I wanted to let him nurse as long as he wanted. One of my favorite nursing quotes by Marni Jackson reads, “Breastfeeding is an unsentimental metaphor for how love works, in a way. You don’t decide how much and how deeply to love – you respond to the beloved, and give with joy exactly as much as they want.” This quote couldn’t resonate more perfectly to me.

Sadly, due to the fact that I needed to start a major detox (from living in black mold) that is unsafe for nursing mamas, I needed to have Anders weaned by an actual date (September 1st). Since we knew I had to be finished nursing by then, we decided to schedule our first no-kids-vacation at the same time. Thus, the pressure was on!

When I started the weaning process, I had no clue where to start. My first-born weaned himself at 15-months. (I was also six-months pregnant at the time so I’m guessing the taste and flavor must have changed a bit which probably was a major factor in the self-weaning process.) The seemingly daunting task of weaning a two-and-a-half-year old (who was nursing four or more times a day) was a bit overwhelming at first. I called friends for advice, among them my go-to guru for all-things-babies-and-toddlers, Nanny Connie. (She is AH-MAZING…I’ve learned so much from this lady! You can pick up some great tips on her Instagram at @nannyconnie or nannyconnie.com). Obviously there’s no one-size-fits-all for the weaning process, especially when you’re dealing with toddlers, but what we did, worked! We basically listened to friends’ advice, completed our own research, and based on knowing our own child, we created our own process of weaning. Here’s what worked for us:

For two weeks, I stuck firm with the following…

  • I fed him more snacks in-between meals and was sure to offer him liquids more frequently.
  • My husband put the boys to bed, (instead of both of us), so Anders wouldn’t have the option to be nursed to sleep.
  • I changed up his daily routine a bit so he wouldn’t expect to nurse during his normal feeding times.
  • When I did nurse, I shortened the amount of time by half.
  • After the two weeks, I went for two days straight of not allowing him to nurse at all. I refrained from pumping during those two days as well.
  • On the third day, I pumped all my milk out, (a HUGE hallelujah moment!) and placed cabbage leaves on my breasts to absorb the little milk that came back.

Shockingly, this worked like a charm. He didn’t experience hardly any of the emotional behaviors that I had read so much about. We took our trip on the following day (after pumping all my milk out), and I was officially done with nursing. I wore cabbage leaves during our long flight to Tahiti, and once we landed in Bora Bora, I was milk-free and pain-free. It was truly a pleasant surprise. And equally shocking, Anders did just fine while we were away. When we arrived back home ten days later, however, it was a bit of a different story. He definitely tugged at the shirt and asked for his “milks,” but I stayed firm on not allowing it. He tried relentlessly for a couple of days, and has even tried a few times since, but thankfully, all of that is lessening. When you wean at this age, it’s definitely not something they soon forget! It’s a natural tendency, and they certainly remember how soothing it is for them.

I never knew how long I would breastfeed my babies when they were born. I simply hoped I was going to be able to breastfeed, and once I could, my goal was to breastfeed for a year. Two and a half years for my second son was far longer than I ever thought I would breastfeed. I’m grateful I was able to do it as long as I did considering I know how much he needed and loved it. I miss it more than I thought I would, yet at the same time, it is pretty darn nice to have my boobs back! Best of luck to all of you weaning mamas…no matter the age, it’s still a daunting and bittersweet process that requires some tough navigation.

 

 

 

Bora Bora Travel Vacation

Bora Bora Vacation Review

October 23, 2017

After four years, we finally did it. We took a husband/wife trip without kids! For a year, we had tried planning a kid-free trip to nearby places like Palm Springs, San Diego, and San Francisco. For whatever reason, (usually my husband’s work schedule), none ever materialized. After an insanely busy summer on top of being out of our home due to water damage/renovations, my husband and I decided to pull the trigger. “If we’re going to do this, let’s commit to it and just go big,” I said. “Otherwise, it’s never going to happen.” I had always wanted to show my husband my all-time favorite island destination, Bora Bora, which I had visited a few times before for work. (Not too shabby work, huh?!) I’ve raved about my favorite Polynesian paradise for years…how “nothing compares to it,” and “when you’re there, you feel like your surrounding is fake,” and “it’s too beautiful to be real.” After showing photo after photo and acting as though I was a sales representative for the Bora Bora Board of Tourism, my husband gave me the thumbs up. Thus, we went online, put our saved up airline miles to good use, and booked our adult getaway to the “Pearl of the South Pacific.” Bora Bora, here we come!

When I had previously experienced Bora Bora for work, I visited some lovely resorts. I stayed at the Intercontinental, Sofitel, and my favorite property was what is now the newly renovated Conrad Bora Bora Nui Resort. However, I had heard and read so many amazing things about the Four Seasons Bora Bora. After doing our own research and finding a deal, we decided to give it a try.

To provide an overview of the hotel, Four Seasons Bora Bora is perhaps one of the most picturesque spots on the island. The location is phenomenal. The resort is surrounded by white sand islets on an outer coral reef harboring the most gorgeous color of turquoise lagoon. And as if that isn’t enough, the backdrop is the absolute best views of Mt. Otemanu. (It’s seriously the most gorgeous views EVER!) Talk about some major beauty-sensory-overload! It consists of 300 over-water-bungalows and ten beachfront villas. The resort’s sprawling property includes a spa, lagoon sanctuary, infinity pool, fitness center, tennis courts, four restaurants, and a chapel.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • SPA – The spa is FABULOUS! We enjoyed a couples polynesian massage in the spa suite which was divine. The massage tables are situated over a glass window in the floor so you can admire the large amounts of fish in the lagoon while you lay on your stomach. The suite has its own charming soaking tub with flowers, coconut oils, and fresh fruit.

 

  • FOOD – The four restaurants offered a great diversity of lunch and dinner options. Our favorite was the beach restaurant with live entertainment. The elegant French restaurant was excellent, as was the sushi restaurant. Our favorite dining experience, however, consisted of simply ordering room service on our private deck in our bungalow at sunset…it was by far the most romantic and picture-perfect setting for a private dining experience.

    Overwater bungalow room service dinner on our deck…

  • ACTIVITIES – Despite wanting to mostly relax, we did venture off to do some activities. We ended up booking the Vitamin Sea Catamaran which was a must-do! We also rented jet skis off property and had a great time on the 2-hour tour around the island, which included a stop to wade in the water and a second stop to learn how to open a coconut. We loved it so much that we ended up doing the tour twice. We also went into town to dine at the notorious Bloody Mary’s, shop, and enjoy chatting with the locals. The boat transfers to the main island were a bit on the pricey side, but it’s pretty much the only way to get there.

 

  • STAFF –  The staff were so welcoming and lovely. The staff didn’t just know our names, but every person we saw who walked by a staff member would be greeted by name. How they memorized all of us, I have no idea but it was mighty impressive! The attention to detail in the rooms was quite special. Each day, we came back to our room with a different ‘surprise.’ Whether it was an already-drawn bubble bath with petals and champagne, or a plate of delicious sweets and fruit at our bedside, the little details were very memorable. A big, heartfelt “maururu” to the staff for making our experience so magical.

 

  • OVERWATER BUNGALOWS – The famous straw-roof luxury huts on stilts in the middle of the most beautiful lagoon are just as amazing as they sound. To be able to fall asleep with the sound of waves beneath you -even on the windy nights with the crashing waves- is so soothing. The private decks enable you to jump into the ocean around your bungalow and admire the colorful fish and sea life underneath.

Overall, it was truly an unforgettable, magnificent experience. Our mission to spend quality time together, recover and rejuvenate from our summer, and create some beautiful memories in such a special place was accomplished. It truly exceeded all of our expectations and then some. We HIGHLY recommend a Bora Bora vacation, hands down. I didn’t do any scuba diving on this particular trip, but I have in all of my previous trips to Bora Bora. To date, it has been my most favorite scuba diving destination with the vibrant colors and amazing variety of sea life. If you can stay a while and are able to travel around, I would definitely suggest visiting Moorea and a day in Papeete (the downtown market is a must-do!), both of which I’ve visited on my previous work trips. I have also visited Rotorua and Huahine which were also memorable. (Huahine has some great vanilla bean fields…I love me some vanilla beans so I greatly advise to order vanilla bean-flavored desserts in Tahiti as they are the real deal! Best Vanilla Bean Ice Cream on the planet!) A few of the friends we made on our vacation visited The Brando on Tetiaroa and said it was unbelievable. I have never been but it sounds exceptional! Even though Bora Bora is a hike for those in the Midwest and East coast, I would still highly recommend this Tahitian paradise…(especially considering the Zika scare in other tropical destinations). It’s truly a magical place that you will create some beautiful memories with your loved one.


 

Photos by Sadry Ghacir and myself






 

 

Birthdays Parenting Products Toddler Products

2nd Birthday “Rock” Party

October 20, 2017

After fixing some website issues, I am finally back up and running! HOORAY! With that said, I am now able to post some of my saved posts from the last six months. I’m starting out with my favorite…Anders’ 2nd Birthday “Rock” Party!

I don’t know what it is about rocks, but my Anders is OBSESSED! Small, big, rough, smooth, ugly, pretty…it doesn’t matter what they look like, he loves them all! Thus, when I was trying to figure out a theme for his 2nd birthday, I asked my husband, “Why don’t we throw him a rock party?” I knew it sounded strange, but I couldn’t imagine him loving anything more than a party centered around his passion for rocks.

Since the party-goers consisted of his fellow two-year old music class pals and their siblings, we kept the rock activities very little-kid-friendly. We had large bins filled with cereal in the shape of small pebbles/rocks and provided small shovels to scoop the ‘rocks’ into little dump trucks and buckets. We also had a rock painting table which seemed to be the favorite among the older siblings. In lieu of gifts, we asked everyone to bring a cool rock. The actual invitation read, “In place of gifts, please bring a rock of any shape, size or color. Whether it’s from your backyard or off the side of the road, anything will do!” Needless to say, Anders LOVED his new rock additions to his collection. Some of the gifted rocks were quite impressive! He received some awesome geodes, a large rock with his name painted on top, and one that was bedazzled. Who knew an actual rock party involving rock-gift-giving could be so cool?!

A big thank you to our photographer Ashley Burns for the awesome photos! And thank you to Stephen Joseph Gifts and Hape Toys for the great party favors, as well as our beloved Polkatots for the AMAZING cupcake cake (with edible rocks)! And I can’t forget my son AJ who helped his mama decorate the night before and make the Oreo dirt cups…he loved putting the gummy worms and mini dump trucks on top of the “dirt” topping. This party theme truly “rocked.”:)

Pics below by Ashley Burns.

 

Our simple table decorations of cheap work hats, cones and Hape dump trucks.

 

Our lovely street-table runner made out of construction paper.

 

Our party favors were these adorable Stephen Joseph activity books and pull-string backpacks. Dump truck-theme for the boys and a pink garden/owl-theme for the girls.

 

Polkatots never disappoints! How awesome is this dump truck cupcake cake with edible rocks?!?

 

Rock painting table.

 

The pebble/rock table (i.e. Cheerios and the healthy version of Cocoa Puffs) with small scoops.

 

Our awesome Oreo ‘Dirt’ Cups, which was one of my personal favorites as a kid. AJ took great pride in decorating them with the worms and dump trucks.

 

Dessert table consisting of Polkatots cupcake cake, two cakes (red velvet and strawberry), and “dirt” pudding cups.

 

 



 

 

 

Movie Review

Finding Dory Premiere

June 9, 2016

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Last night marked my son’s very first movie theater experience. (As well as his first movie premiere!) And it was a big one. The premiere for Finding Dory! Considering Dory and Nemo comprise 90% of his conversation topics at home, we knew it would be a big hit for him…and it was indeed!

We had been talking about the Finding Dory premiere for weeks with AJ. He watched the previews, and though he doesn’t quite understand the meaning of a “sequel,” he knew we were going to a movie to watch more “Dory” and “Nemo.” When we pulled up to the premiere on Hollywood Boulevard, he instantly expressed a look of excitement with a hint of confusion. He excitedly pointed at the large Dory and Nemo signs and figures, but looked a bit confused as he noticed the massive crowd of screaming fans, a sea of photographers producing a constant glow of white flashes, and a big blue carpet full of people posing and talking into microphones. (I’m sure he now has a bit of a warped idea of what ‘going to a movie’ means.) We made sure to arrive and walk the blue carpet just before the movie began as I didn’t want AJ to get restless sitting in the theater too long. (The people who arrived early had to sit and wait for well over an hour or so for the movie to start.) We saw several friends (mostly ones with kids) who came predominantly for their little one’s obsession with Disney movies, like ours. Below is a selfie with our friends Allison Holker, Stephen “tWitch” Boss, and their beautiful daughter Weslie. (I adore this family so much. Their handsome two-month old, Maddox, stayed home.)

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AJ did great walking his first ‘blue’ carpet. (It was quite sunny so there was a lot of squinting.) He literally squealed with delight when he was given his little “Dory” bucket of popcorn –two of his favorite things in one. After being given a booster seat by one of the El Capitan Theater ushers, we sat and enjoyed watching AJ scan the beautiful theater with big eyes and lots of “wows.”

The movie itself was very enjoyable. Let me preface this by saying that I thought Finding Nemo was perfect in every sense of the word. I wasn’t expecting Finding Dory to be as good –afterall, what sequel is better than the first? For me, it didn’t match the perfection of Finding Nemo, but it was very close. It was incredibly cute, clever, funny (for kids and adults alike), and had a wonderful central theme of the importance of family. The storyline had a lot of moving parts and detours, which may have made it more challenging for the younger kids to fully understand and follow. Nevertheless, I loved the new characters, especially Destiny and Bailey, and appreciated how it cleverly tied in the history and tidbits of Finding Nemo. (For instance, I thought it was great to discover that Dory could actually speak “Whale” and loved the way they exposed how she learned to speak it.) AJ absolutely LOVED it, despite him clutching on to Daddy’s arm a couple of times during the suspenseful and scary moments. He was certainly smiling from ear to ear afterwards and was genuinely happy that (sorry…spoiler alert!) “Dory found Mommy and Daddy!”

After the movie, they had a huge premiere party with lots of fun kid activities including crafts, sand activities, photos with Dory, a mini trailer aquarium with live sea creatures, a huge inflatable slide, bubble machines, and an impressive sand mound of Finding Dory carvings. (We almost got in major trouble as AJ decided he wanted to help them in the sand box by attempting to hop in…luckily, I swooped in before he ruined any of the carvings. He did leave a footprint on the side, but it was quite minor compared to the damage he could have done.) They had a great buffet and dessert table (the whoopie pie sandwiches were my favorite), and adorable little Dory juice boxes for the kids.

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Overall, it was a fabulous and memorable evening with our little Dory-and-Nemo-lover. What a perfect film for AJ’s first experience in a movie theater! I highly recommend seeing Finding Dory when it comes out next week. I’m sure we will be seeing it again soon, as AJ woke up talking only about wanting to see Dory, Nemo and “Dory’s Mommy and Daddy” again. Thank you Pixar and Disney for another amazing movie with a lovely story and feel-good message. We loved it!

Birthdays Family

‘Let’s Have A Ball’ First Birthday Party

May 11, 2016

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And a ball we had! I have to say, this was one of the most fun (and easiest) birthday themes I’ve had the pleasure of throwing. I wanted the party (which served as the first official party thrown at our new house–woohoo!) to revolve around Anders’ favorite things and cute little personality. Since he is OBSESSED with balls, I thought he would be delighted with a yard and pool littered with his favorite toy…beach balls, bouncy balls, and literally any and every ball we owned. And indeed he was!

Here’s some highlights from the party:

  • Bouncy balls party favors. I was on the lookout for large bouncy balls and found them on sale at Target a couple of weeks before the party. Though it was a nightmare trying to navigate two carts full of bouncy balls with my toddler and infant by myself in the store (with constant runaway balls), it paid off. They were a huge hit!

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  • The Mobile Play Patch LA. This is the cutest soft play area setup that is perfectly age-appropriate for infants and toddlers. It’s the ultimate party play patch including a ball pit with over 1,000 balls! The bright colors definitely fit the theme of the party beautifully. The kids LOVED this! It can be set up indoors or out. You can check it out at themobileplaypatchla.com.

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  • Pool filled with beach balls. This was the perfect reason to finally inflate a 12-foot beach ball I found on Amazon a while back. (I used our air bed pump to fill it, which took a good twenty minutes.) It produced many “ooooo’s” and ahhhhh’s,” amusing kids and adults alike! (The small beach balls kept wanting to hover in the corner. Hence why my hubby is shown here trying to disperse the balls.)

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  • Cake and cupcakes. I made the cake and cupcakes the morning of the party using a fabulous applesauce-for-oil-substitute recipe. (Applesauce makes it super moist and, obviously, healthier.) A big thank you to my aunt who helped me frost all 30 cupcakes and three-tiered cake! We placed large, colorful gumballs on top to tie in the theme. Super cute!

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  • DIY boards. The stats and ‘watch me grow’ boards are among my personal favorites. My ‘staple’ at all of my parties are typically some kind of photo board, quiz, fun facts wall, etc. There are stats boards you can order via Etsy, which are great, but I always love doing them myself. I like to personalize them more by adding corresponding photos. (This was one of those wait-til-the-kids-are-asleep projects that I completed around 1am one evening.:))

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  • Center Pieces. We created these an hour before the party from leftover items.  I must say, they turned out adorable. M&M’s, pinwheels, jars, and ta-daaaah! The perfect center piece!

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Overall, it was a fabulous and fun day of celebrating our little one-year old on his first birthday. The kids loved the bright colors and balls galore. (I think the adults were big fans as well!) Even though I’m still wrapping my head around the idea of my little guy being one, I do know one thing for sure…he certainly had a ‘ball’ on his big day!

 

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 Photos by Ashley Burns

Products

The Cutest Personalized Gift Wrap

April 28, 2016

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I just wanted to share a new awesome find that I am absolutely in LOVE with! Recently, I was introduced to Stardust Prints at the Los Angeles SpringFest a couple of weeks ago. They had used a photo of my boys from my Instagram and gave me a roll of their personalized gift wrapping paper. Since then, I have ordered several more as they have some ADORABLE themes. (I’m beyond excited to utilize them for Christmas!)

Here’s how it works. Simply, log on to their website at stardustprints.com, pick from one of their charming designs, upload a photo (of you, your child, your pet, family, etc.) from your computer, Instagram or Facebook, select the quantity, and in a week you have the cutest personalized gift wrap (with free shipping!).  The ‘Center of the Universe,’ ‘Fairy Dust,’ and ‘Whoos Watching Over Me’ themes are my favorite. I am using the Center of the Universe gift wrap (shown above) for some Mother’s Day gifts. Clearly, my mom and mother-in-law are going to ADORE them! After all, don’t all grandparents love getting anything that is adorned with their grandchildren’s photo?

(NOTE:  Stardust Prints did not ask me to blog about them…I just love their product so much and wanted to spread the word!)

Disneyland Family

Our Most Magical Disney Experience Yet

April 8, 2016

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Growing up, my family made two trips to Disney World. The first was when I was three (from which I only remember getting my Mickey ears hat), and the second when I was eleven. I recall being so in awe of the whole Disney experience. From the corn dogs, the songs, the parades, the employees, to the rides, I loved how every square inch of the place was designed to make your experience a magical one. I remember afterwards begging my parents to move to Orlando because after all, shouldn’t that kind of magic and fun be experienced all the time? (Needless to say, we didn’t sell the family farm in Iowa and move to Orlando to become professional Disney-goers.)

Cut to present day, I am fortunate enough to have Disneyland 45 minutes away. I’ve had the great pleasure of enjoying the Disney experience several times with my stepdaughter, but we had only been once with my son AJ. We took him soon after his first birthday, which I admit, was a bit too soon. Even though he seemed to enjoy it, it was a far cry to what it means to him now. For starters, my son is a HUGE fan of Finding Nemo and Cars. If he could, he would watch these two movies all day, everyday. Thus, to see the sheer excitement in his eyes the first time he recognized his beloved Disney characters in ‘real life,’ was pure and utter joy. AJ was over the moon while exploring Cars Land, riding Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters, meeting Lightening McQueen, checking out the Cozy Cone Motel, and admiring Stanley’s Statue. His excitement grew to a new level on the following day while watching Daddy film an episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos around the Disneyland park. When AJ saw Daddy film a segment with Lightening McQueen, he truly viewed his Daddy on a whole new level of ‘coolness.’ AJ’s jaw dropped to the ground when he watched as his daddy shared laughs, gave high-fives, and seemingly started a friendship with his cherished Lightening McQueen. It quite literally left my toddler speechless. Daddy is friends with Lightening McQueen…say what!? 

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The high quality excitement and too-good-to-be-true reactions didn’t stop there. Perhaps AJ’s favorite was the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. He squealed and shouted “Nemo!” and “Dory!” every time he spotted them on the ride, which was quite frequently. (My apologies to those sitting near us.) My favorite was watching him jump out of his seat with more enthusiasm than I had ever seen from him during the Paint The Night Parade when seeing Nemo. It was truly a magical two days and it completely melted my heart to see my little boy be so moved by the Disney experience. I know he probably won’t remember this years from now, but I know my husband and I will. (I only have over 800 photos to show AJ when he’s older.) Though it wasn’t his first Disney experience, it was his first Disney visit where he was old enough to experience the ‘magic of Disney.’

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We had an extra-special treat during our Disney visit. My husband won a one-night stay in the Disney Dream Suite (at a Disney-related function) and we were fortunate enough to schedule it during the same weekend. For those of you who may not know, the Dream Suite is located upstairs from Pirates of the Caribbean. It was originally planned as a private apartment for Walt Disney to entertain special guests and to use for his family, but he passed away before it was completed. The suite is absolutely STUNNING! It is beautifully designed and captures the very essence of the Disney inspiration. (It even has an exquisite horse from a carousel that is reminiscent to the one Walt watched his daughters play on when he first dreamed up Disneyland.) The suite is full of special effects, including a special button in both bedrooms labeled “goodnight kiss.” You can push it up to three times for various ‘surprises’ that appear in the room. My personal favorite was the master bathroom where the large master bath had a gorgeous stained-glass window lit by tiny stars (including a hidden Mickey) in a dome-like setting. The kids were entranced with the fireplace, which had a lovely silhouette of the castle and firework-like sparks from the fake fire. Just like the way details are carefully looked at in the Disneyland park to ensure everything you’re surrounded by is magical and special at all times, the same holds true for the Disneyland Dream Suite. Love is shown in the details. They put a lot of love into this special space and it was truly a dream to be able to appreciate it.

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Once the guests had left and the park was officially closed, we all put on our bathrobes and ventured out with our lovely guide for a walk around the empty park. (We put our sleeping boys in the double stroller and took them along for our 12:30am-2am stroll around Disneyland.) It was surreal to be the only guests in the park. The guide was so sweet, as she was a trooper for agreeing to take so many pictures of us. And it was beyond fascinating to listen to our guide and learn about the little known facts and features as we aimlessly wandered around the park. The Main Street lights were still on so we took full-advantage of using the street for a little photo shoot involving clicking our heels in the air and acting like children again by doing silly Disney character poses. (My inner-child was never more awakened than during this trip!) We kept looking at each other saying, “OMG, can you believe we’re here?!” It was truly an unforgettable and amazing experience for all of us. (We had invited two of our biggest Disney-fan friends –legitimate Disney-addicts– as guests for the second bedroom in the suite.) Just like the first two days at Disney, I have a slue of photos from our truly enchanted middle-of-the-night adventure in Disneyland.:)

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Overall, it was by far the best Disney trip we have ever before experienced. Staying in the Dream Suite was much like a fairytale. Thank you Disneyland for the smiles and memories. We loved every second!

 

Photos by Ashley Burns & Angela Ribeiro

Parenting

Helping a Too-Rough Toddler with Baby Brother

March 29, 2016

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Perhaps the biggest news in the past month has been a change in my job title. I am no longer a Stay-At-Home Mom. Nope. I am now officially a full-time bodyguard for my 10-month old. The need to constantly protect him from his two-year old brother is a necessity these days, sadly.

Don’t get me wrong, AJ LOVES his little brother. He adores him to no end. He loves kissing him, holding his hand, and being sweet with him. However, sometimes he executes these gestures a little too forcefully. He will squeeze him too tightly while giving a hug or pull on his arm too much when trying to lead him to the playroom. (He would most likely drag him by a limb to the playroom if it weren’t for Mommy.) Moreover, AJ is a fireball of energy and can be a bit of a brute. He is constantly bouncing around the house and if something or someone is in his way, he has little regard. Thus, on numerous occasions throughout the day, I have to dive in front of speeding scooters, deflect toys thrown in Anders’ direction, and race to Anders’ aide when his big brother is trying to pick him up to move him to a spot as a ‘target’ to throw balls. And there’s always the tantrums after Anders takes a toy from AJ, or vice versa. Who knew that a little hand taking a three-inch Thomas the Train toy by his brothers’ side can result with end-of the-world level screams? Ultimately, you can NEVER turn your back when they’re together. (Hence the need for the job change!)

I know I’m not alone when I say that my toddler isn’t known for his “gentle” touch. And why should I expect him to be? He is a toddler. Toddlers aren’t developmentally programmed yet to treat things -like a baby sibling or a glass vase- with the tender care necessary. All I can do is try my best to help AJ learn a more gentle approach with his brother through continuous attempts of sticking to methods that show progress and abandoning ones that don’t. Every toddler learns and reacts differently, and I’m sure every toddler has different reasons for being rough. As for my son, here are some areas that I’ve found success in warding off aggressive behavior and seeing subtle progress with the word “gentle:”

  • Getting down on the floor several times during the day and playing with both of them is always key. I can help gear the play in a way that won’t lead to conflict and prevent them from taking each other’s toys and consequently, aggressive behavior.
  • I have them play separately when AJ isn’t playing kindly, and tell him to take a time-out and rejoin when he’s ready to play nicely. When he does play nicely with Anders, I am sure to always praise him.
  • We make sure to have individual time with each. I will take Anders out for a walk or to the front yard for some play time while Alfonso will take AJ to the living room and have a dance party together or go outside for some golf or baseball play time. We will then switch and do different activities with each. They both seem to thrive with individualized attention.
  • Starting up a creative “be gentle” game. I’ve come up with many variations, but the one that has seemed to work the best is simply lining up a bunch of objects and stuffed animals. I then challenge AJ to go down the line and if he can be gentle with each one, we do a choreographed celebration dance. Each time we do the dance, we add one movement (i.e. a turn, a wink, a wave, a clap, etc.).
  • I just purchased Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves by Naomi Aldort, which was recommended by a few friends. I’m hoping to gain some more tips and guidance once I start reading it this week.

I would love to hear of more ideas or suggestions that have worked for others who have dealt with the same or similar issue. I’m all ears!!