Mary Helen Leonard, author of The Natural Beauty Solution and professionally trained culinary instructor, shares recipes, projects, tips, and stories about living a more natural, handmade, and creative life with her family in Austin, Texas.
Disclosure:This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Levana. The opinions and text are all mine.
Sleep when they sleep. These words are spoken no less than ten thousand time to every expecting parent, and it truly is great advice. Except for that part where you still need to shower, work, cook, take care of the house, and you know, get on with life. That's where the art of working through nap time comes in.
I never know exactly how long I'll have while the little one snoozes, so I make it a point to pack every moment of his sweet sweet slumber to the gills. I treat nap time sort of like bonus time. I might use it to catch up on work, catch a much needed shower, grab a bite to eat, prep our evening meal, or even sneak in a quick craft project.
...And sometimes I spend his nap on the couch binge watching trashy tv shows.
Anyway, however you choose to make use of those precious napping hours, having a great baby monitor is key. Being able to check on your little pumpkin without actually opening the bedroom door allows you to go about your nap time tasks with your mind at ease.
I was given the Willow™ 5” HD Touchscreen PTZ Video Baby Monitor to check out in advance of this blog post and I can honestly say that I was impressed. The camera has a high definition camera with pan, tilt zoom, and night vision - perfect for babies or toddlers that move around a lot as they sleep. The camera is extremely quiet too, so you don't have to worry about its motor waking your little one if you do choose to adjust the camera angle.
It's also incredibly helpful when checking on toddlers who are out of the crib. Since we moved C into a twin bed (mostly for mama's comfort, to tell you the truth) he's had the freedom to get up and get into pretty much anything and everything. Being able to swivel the camera around the room (and zoom!) lets me see what he's up to. If he's quietly reading books, I can snag an extra ten minutes of mama time before going to get him. If he's scaling the walls, I can intervene right away. It's pretty flipping awesome.
Besides being great for simply watching little ones, the Willow also comes with a ton of really cool extras like built-in feeding and nap timers, a temperature sensor, Talk to Baby™ or Parent Two-Way Communication, and the ability to play nature sounds and lullabies. The monitor uses a 5" touch screen, making it super easy to set up, operate, and customize features.
The 500 foot transmission range and 12-hour battery life of the monitor is also a big plus for busy parents. It gives you the freedom to move all over the house while staying in range. Not having to worry about plugging the monitor in as you go about your nap time tasks makes a world of difference. I can tote my monitor from the kitchen as I formulate recipes, out to the sun room to take photos, and then up to my office to work on a blog post - all without having to plug or unplug anything.
My inner tech geek loves that the Willow uses small private networks to transmit monitor data - discouraging potential hackers. Levana is a pioneer in high-tech monitors and puts a huge emphasis on safety, which is obviously a huge concern for parents.
I put together this cute little video to share a peek into how we make the most of nap time at our house. C loved starring in the mini-film, of course, and has asked me to play "his movie" no less than one million times since we finished it!
Click here for the easy-to share, short-form version
What would you like to do more of during nap time? Enter to win your very own Levana Willow Baby Monitor and make it happen! This giveaway runs until December 5. Good luck!
To find out more about Levana and their wonderful range of baby safety products, visit MyLevana.com. You can also follow Levana on Facebook, where the company shares adorable goodies, like the video below.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Levana. The opinions and text are all mine.
Disclosure:This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #RestAndRenew #CollectiveBias
It's no secret that children are adept at exhausting their parents. It sometimes feels like my husband and I spend every waking moment either at work or chasing our squealing toddler. There isn't much downtime for either of us, and it's been a long time since we've had the luxury of sleeping late or even through the night without interruption. Still, as most parents would tell you, we wouldn't trade our life with C for all the feather beds and R.E.M. on Earth. While the last two years have easily been the most tiring of our lives, they have also been the most rewarding
Still, there are days when I wonder if I might just fall asleep standing up. On those extra sleepy days my son is almost guaranteed to be overflowing with energy. Perhaps it's the universe's way of keeping the family's qì in balance - or maybe it's fate's idea of a cruel joke. Cosmic justifications aside, an over-tired parent and an abundantly engergetic child can be a recipe for trouble. Those are the days when I need to take some extra steps to help muster enough pep to get through the day.
Over the past two years I've developed a few tricks for re-energizing my mind and body. These healthy practices can be a boon on any day, but I find them to be especially useful on the days where I'm feeling a little sleepy.
Morning Walk - What better way to put a positive spin on an early wake-up than going for a morning walk? Exercising at the day's start can help boost energy levels all day long. This is a great example of making the most of a crumby situation - like having your kid jump on your head at 4:00am. If you're up anyway, you may as well do something to help yourself feel better about it. (Chocolate chip pancakes don't hurt either.)
Sneak in a Shower - I am going to go out on a limb and assume that I'm not the only parent who counts a shower as a luxury. Depending on your childcare situation and schedule, an unscheduled shower can be a tricky thing to pull off. But if you can manage it, a healthy spray of water can be just the thing to wake you up. If a real shower isn't in the cards, try just splashing your face with water or even dousing your head in the sink.
Power Nap - An even less likely option than showering for some parents, but again, if you can make it happen, bravo! A short nap, even as brief as 15-20 minutes can do wonders for your overall feeling of wellness. Try and sneak in a snooze while your little one naps, or grab a quick sleep break when your partner or sitter arrives.
Power Snacks - Try snacking on foods packed with energy-boosting vitamins and minerals, like B12, magnesium and potassium. Some great examples of healthy power snacks are almonds, dark chocolate, berries, peanut butter and bananas. Fresh fruit and power greens always make me feel a little better too.
Eat Lunch Outside - A little boost of Vitamin D can help to improve your mood, while the burst of sunlight and fresh air will help remind your body that it is, indeed, awake! If you have your kiddo in tow, this doubles as a way to get some of their excess energy out. Let them play hard while you soak up some rays.
Hydrate - Drinking plenty of fluids is key to good health in general, but is specifically useful for feeling awake and energetic. Being even mildly dehydrated can leave you feeling fatigued, so chug those liquids all day long. Adding a squirt of lemon to your water can add electrolyte benefit too!
Early to Bed, Early to Rise - Strangely enough, I often have a hard time falling asleep on the days I am most tired. This can be really frustrating, and can prolong the torture of exhaustion. I've learned to be pro-active when it comes to recovering from sleepless nights by heading straight to bed after putting my son to sleep. An added bonus to getting to bed early is being able to wake up before my son the next morning. Having some precious alone time when I first wake up is a real treat, and helps make me feel more together all day long.
Dance Party - Nothing gets your blood flowing like good old fashioned exercise. When you feel like you're really hitting a wall try turning up the music and dancing like you've got your own music video. Your kid will love it, and you'll definitely be more awake after a song or two.
In addition to energy-boosting strategies like these, finding a nutritional supplement that works well for you can be a big help. I took Maca Powder for the first time last year while I was trying to conceive. I had learned about the supplement while researching fertility diets, and found that this natural root vegetable, cultivated in the Andes mountains of Peru, has been traditionally used for both food and nutritional purposes. Traditional used for Maca Powder include promoting energy, balancing hormones, aiding sexual function, and the relief of PMS and menopause symptoms.*
I was asked to try out youtheory® Maca Powder previous to writing this post. Having tried several brands of Maca Powder over the past year I could immediately tell that youtheory® Maca Powder was superior in quality to the varieties that I had tried in the past. I found the aroma and flavor of this Maca Powder to be quite mild and easy to blend with everyday foods like smoothies or yogurt. It works especially well in anything with a nutty or spicy flavor. My personal favorite way to enjoy youtheory® Maca Powder is to stir it into pumpkin flavored yogurt.
So what makes youtheory® Maca Powder a great supplement for tired parents? Maca is regarded as a “superfood" and is an "adaptogenic botanical”, meaning that it helps the body adapt to stress and supports normal functions throughout the body. It's considered safe for long-term use, and it can benefit both men and women by helping to encourage healthy hormone levels.*
Nothing messes with my mood and energy level like having my hormones swing out of whack, so I pretty much LOVE Maca Powder. Since this supplement is also used to support reproductive health*, I'm crossing my fingers that making Maca Powder a part of my daily routine will help my body get in better shape for baby-making. We're currently trying to conceive without the use of prescription drugs or treatments. (Mostly because we can't afford that path financially, but also due to the fact that my toddler is still not ready to wean. Ugh.) Cross your fingers for us!
And while you are doing something nice for me, do yourself a favor and think about how you're going to give yourself a little extra energy every day. Will you pledge to take power naps, make morning walks your new healthy habit, or maybe try adding a supplement like youtheory® Maca Powder to your meal plan? Let me know what you're planning to try (and how it works out for you) in the comments below!
Want to learn more about the benefits of youtheory® products and see how others are using them? Check out RestandRenew.com for more info. You can also follow youtheory® on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Look for youtheory® Maca Powder and other Maca Powder products on Costco.com, and FYI - you don't need to be a Costco member in order to shop on their website!
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
This morning my 2 year old son insisted on wearing a frog costume to Target. I pick my battles with this fiercely individualistic soul. He wore the frog suit - but also wore shoes. That's a win in my book.
We had a little discussion on our way over about the importance of staying with Mama while in the store. We even made a deal that if he stayed with me the whole time he could pick out a small treat. There would be a bonus treat if he could manage to stay inside the cart the whole time.
"Ok Mommy.", he says.
I ask him to repeat the point of this talk back to me - just so I know he gets it. (Every now and then, this little exercise actually works.)
"No run away. I'll remember, Mommy."
About five minutes into our trip, C stands up in the cart's child seat, does his best Incredible Hulk impersonation, and snaps the silly little safety strap wide open. He quickly proceeds to pull up his legs and JUMP out.
I manage to catch his wiggling, wriggling, inexplicably heavy body about halfway to the ground before letting out a big sigh and reminding him of his promise not to bolt.
"Yes, Mommy", he says.
And so we shop. Me reminding and cajoling constantly in order to keep the child in my sight, him stopping to RIBBIT and hop at other children as they pass by. Strangers giggle. Kids shriek. C makes demands for random treats as we pass an endless parade of colorful end-cap displays.
When I stop to consult my various coupon apps before purchasing this week's giant tub of coffee he begins pulling things off of the shelf and dumping them into (and under) the cart.
"I need this. Need oatmeal. Need this one. I have this one, Mama."
I pause to appreciate the fact that he hasn't made any mad dashes yet when he spots a little girl at the other end of the aisle.
RIBBIT! HOP. HOP. HOP.
He hops up and rams into her shouting RIBBIT!!!!
The little girl bursts into tears. I apologize and stick C back in the cart. He complains. I explain. We keep shopping, but in minutes he out-muscles and escapes the cart once again, gives me one wicked grin, and bolts.
He's running at break-neck speed down the aisles, through the grocery section, and to my advantage, toward the checkout.
When I finally catch him he is giggling madly. I try to get him back in the cart but he turns his body into a big wet noodle, making it physically impossible to pick up.
Since I can't lift him up, I pin him down instead. I'm winded and frustrated and unsure of what to even do next but doing my best to keep it cool as we wrestle on the floor of the checkout section. I've learned that things like yelling and threatening have zero effect on this kid. I have to find a way to calm him down instead.
Meanwhile, I am pretty much dying of embarrassment. Everyone sees us. Everyone has an opinion. I grit my teeth and try not to look at anybody's face while my kid squeals and chatters on the linoleum.
A Target employee comes over and offers to help get my groceries from the cart to the belt. I thank her profusely and take advantage of the distraction to buckle C into the cart again. Ellen, this morning's grocery shopping angel, then proceeds to play peek-a-boo with him while I finish getting check-out. The fellow behind the register tells me stories of his own childhood and how he once ran away from his parents during a trip to Disneyworld.
Their kindness helped me laugh off the chaos and guide my little frog through the end of our trip without any tears. On our way out he, of course, gets out of the cart one last time to try and steal someone's handicapped shopping cart and then play with the job application computers in the customer service area.
When we get to the doors he lets me strap him in one last time - accepting that the parking lot was just too dangerous a place for kids to walk. As I load our bags into the trunk a couple with a smaller toddler walks over to us. They coo over C's frog costume and he treats them to a couple of shy RIBBITs. That's when the mother totally catches me off guard by saying how impressed she was at how well behaved he is. Apparently they had noticed him sitting there in the cart and watching me load the trunk as they were parking.
I nearly choke. "HA!", I said. "You should have seen him inside." I regale them with a quickly summarized version of his morning escapade. She laughs and thanks me for reassuring her that she isn't the only mother with a wild, bolting child.
I didn't say it at the time - mostly because it didn't sink in at that moment - but I'm thankful for her comment too. It was a reminder that we only see a slice of other people's lives, of other kid's behavior and their parent's reactions to it. Sadly, our trip this morning was pretty typical for C. He is a challenging shopper. With a food blogging mama he has no shortage of experience going to the store, yet he seems to get more wild with each passing day.
I often bribe him to stay in the cart by opening boxes of snacks, buying him balloons, or even pulling out a lollipop. Unfortunately, food never buys me much time, and balloons are prohibitively expensive. The worst thing, perhaps, about the bribery is that it earns me nearly as many dirty looks and snide comments as I get while chasing him through the store.
People look and see a child being spoiled. They don't see the exhaustion and desperation behind the box of cheese crackers. They don't understand what it's like to lose sight of their toddler in a crowded store - to abandon your purse, cell phone, and cart full of groceries to run screaming through Walmart after a runaway kid.
It can be maddening, mortifying, and worst of all, it can be discouraging. Lately I've been watching the other kids in the other carts and wondering why mine can't just ride in the seat like everybody else? I wonder if it's me. Am I just a crappy mother?
All those doubts are compounded by every nasty stare, every rude comment, every grouchy cashier or horrible old lady who encounters us during a trip to the grocery store. There have been times that I've sobbed in the car after leaving the checkout - feeling like a complete failure for not being able to control my own child.
This morning I remembered that while I may have limited control over my toddler, I do have control over my perspective. I can, and should, remember that my perception of other families only tells a tiny sliver of their story. In those instances when I torture myself over their apparent perfection I'm judging them and myself from an incomplete picture.
When strangers choose to be nasty instead of being kind they are doing the very same thing. They don't know me. They don't know my child or the unique challenges we face as a family. They are choosing to pass judgement on a situation they know nothing about.
That kind of judgement is crap. And it's not worth holding on to.
My son is scared of the Easter Bunny. Terrified, to be more exact.
It all started on the first day back to pre-school after CC's Spring Break. Let me paint the scene. Here was a class full of toddlers who had just returned from about 12 days spent at home. Mondays are often emotional for little kids because they settle in to life at home by the end of every weekend. Just imagine what a week-long vacation does! His beloved teacher, Miss A. was also out on vacation abroad so the teacher the kids were left with was a substitute.
As a rule, kids aren't super flexible. Even the smallest change to their routine can result in meltdown - so I would categorize this situation as a toddler powder keg. It also happened to be the school's annual Spring Celebration so their anxieties were about to be soothed with games, treats, and special activities. Maybe, I thought, CC's first day back to school will go alright after all.
And it may, in fact, HAVE gone alright, until the staff decided to introduce a stranger in a bunny costume to the mix. The story I was told about CC's reaction to his very first mascot costume character was heartbreaking. They told me that all of the kids ran screaming from the bunny to hide behind their teacher's legs, but CC seemed especially upset and was actually shaking and chattering with fear.
Needless to say he was a total wreck when I picked him up. He talked about the Easter Bunny all afternoon and cried at bedtime, telling me that the Bunny was going to get him and was waiting outside his window. He woke up screaming with nightmares multiple times the first night and off and on again for many nights after that. Every day when we went to school it was the same thing.
"The Bunny, Mama. The Easter Bunny get me."
And then Easter came. We had to warn everyone in our family not to bring up "You Know Who" which was pretty tough because everyone we ran into wanted to ask CC if he was excited to get a visit from him! Even strangers at the grocery store would chime in, telling CC how the Bunny was coming to his house and asking him what did he think of that?
I'll give you three guesses as to what it was he thought.
Luckily, CC didn't seem to associate the Easter Bunny with Easter itself and was pleasantly surprised by the actual holiday. He was thrilled with his basket of treats and had a blast hunting for eggs with his cousin. In a strange twist, Easter was a big hit and he has ALSO been going on and on about how much he loves eggs and baskets ever since. It's pretty much his favorite holiday.
You know, except for the whole evil murderous bunny thing.
So, would you believe that even after months and months the poor kid still brings this up? Like, all the time?
Just the other night we were snuggling up for bedtime when he told me the Bunny was at his window again.
"I scared, Mama. The Easter Bunny, Mama."
I launched into my usual routine of explaining that the Easter Bunny was certainly not outside his window and could not hurt him or get him. I told him there was no Easter Bunny here and that he was safe.
He nodded, but I could see the look of worry on his face. He was staring into space and nodding, his little brow furrowed. I know how that look feels. It's the look I get when I want to believe something someone is telling my but my gut disagrees. It dawned on me then that he wasn't just talking about a costumed stranger. He was scared of the boogeyman - of the world outside of our cozy little home where there were very real things (and people) who could hurt him.
The concept of danger and consequences is a relatively new discovery for CC. He's always been a bold and daring child. Only recently has he taken time to stop and consider getting hurt before launching his body wherever it wants to go.
While he is still a very friendly child he's now run into adults that scare him, make him uncomfortable, or even behave inappropriately - like the old bearded grandpa-type who thought it would be funny to growl and bark at him while he ran from Mommy at the zoo, or the not-so-great replacement teacher at school whose high anxiety level and motormouth caused him to come home every day in a frenzy.
CC is discovering that not everyone he meets wants to be his friend, nor are they all people that HE would like to be friends with.
As for me, the dangers of the world and how they relate to my tiny precious child have been my constant companion for a very long time now. Before I ever even considered becoming a mother the idea of being responsible for someone so small was scary. Once he was here I could see how easy it would be to slip into a cloud of anxiety and never come out. I'd never loved anyone so much in my life, so I'd never been so vulnerable.
Lately the mama-fear has been pressing me harder than usual as we prepare for CC to have a small surgery sometime in the next month or two. My baby is sick, and even though all of the odds and statistics and general medical wisdom point to him coming through the whole experience completely unscathed it is difficult for me to not become consumed by fear.
Many things have changed since I became a parent, but nothing is more altering than the knowledge that I can not live without him. He's as much a part of me as my beating heart and my fear of him being hurt or lost is the only thing that surpasses my fear of failing to do the right thing as his Mama.
So when he was cuddled up to me, whispering his fear about the big bad world outside I held him close. I promised to protect him and keep him safe and to love him forever and ever. I saw his face soften and his body relax as he looked at me and said, "OK, Mommy."
I breathed in and out, my nose in his hair, taking in the smell of his hot little head and the warmth of his soft little body in my arms. I reminded myself that he's right here and that he's OK, and at least for a little while even my Boogeyman kept his distance.
How do you help your kids cope with their fears? How do you manage your own? Comments below, s'il vous plaît.