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.
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.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Carter’s; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
During the summer my little one spent quite a lot of time au naturale. That is to say - in the buff.
The baby buff.
I'm a big fan of baby buff. It's arguably the best look ever for people under one year old. It's comfortable, versatile, and really works well with their whole brand new human vibe.
Then autumn arrives and a chill hits the air. Rain starts to fall and the promise of colder weather looms ahead.
It's time to put some clothes on, baby.
The folks at Carter's asked me to put together a checklist of essential baby clothes for the Fall. I'm a fairly practical mama, so my list is short and sweet.
That doesn't mean that I don't indulge in the occasional pair of tiny suspenders or denim jackets. I am not immune to temptation - especially when it comes to tiny cute clothes.
But this list is all about the basics - six essential items for the autumn baby!
Carter's selection of baby clothes makes dressing even the most free-wheeling babe a breeze. Take my nephew here, a natural born nudist. Even he feels cozy in a soft cotton bodysuit.
Basic items like the classic bodysuit, tiny little socks, and soft stretchy baby pants keep little ones comfy and warm without a lot of fuss.
Bodysuits are probably to most essential item in the baby wardrobe. Available in short or long sleeve, with or without cutesy graphics, and complete with quick snaps and envelope shoulders you can get them on and off in moments. Wear them alone or under pants, skirts, or overalls. Anything goes with this baby wardrobe basic.
I start off almost every baby outfit with a bodysuit. They are easy to change into and out of in case of (ahem) diaper trouble. AND they match pretty much everything.
Socks are another key item in keeping the autumn baby properly outfitted. As many a random stranger has told me, "your baby needs socks." I have rolled my eyes at these people plenty of times, but keeping tiny feet warm during chilly weather is actually kind of important.
Baby Pants is not just an incredible nickname for your child, it's also a very important item for their autumn wardrobe. I like to keep my basic collection of baby pants soft, comfy, and stretchy.
These are even available with feet. Just think, you can readily avoid the nosy sock strangers by dressing your kid in pants with built-in socks.
Then there are the extras - those fun little items that help prepare baby for cool fall weather while also making him EVEN CUTER. (Not so sure cuter is a real word, but I'm just going to go with it. Ok?)
Hoodies, Vests, and Jumpsuits make it simple to add or remove layers as needed - keeping baby ready for cold snaps or outdoor adventuring.
Booties and itty bitty Crib Shoes are great for providing extra warmth while seriously upping your baby's style game.
I think my little CC wore booties all of one or two times during his babyhood but the cuteness factor was pretty intense. Sometimes I wish we'd lived in a cooler climate just so I could have taken more baby bootie pictures. Those of you with Northern babes had better take advantage!
Pajamas are one of those things that sometimes take the parents of Spring and Summer babies by surprise. During the hotter months you may not need baby jammies at all. But when the weather gets cooler babies love feeling snug in long sleeves and footy pajamas.
Save 25% at Carter's
Right now you can stock up on babyhood essentials at Carters by using this super special discount code: CARSEPB. This little lovely will score you a cool 25% off of your purchase of $40 or more. (Details below)
What are your must-have babyhood essentials for the fall season? Share your picks and photos in the comments below or by tagging your social media posts with #lovecarters.
Giveaway! Win a $50 Carter's Gift Card
From now until September 26 you can WIN FREE Carters goodies by participating in the Carter's Pin Baby Pin Contest. To enter, just upload a photo of your little one dressed up to the nines. When the contest ends 75 lucky winners will be picked to receive $50 Carter's gift cards.
Disclosure: This post includes a sponsored mention of Prevention Magazine's R3 Summit. My opinions are my own.
When I was invited to this year's R3 Summit by Prevention Magazine I wondered what my big takeaway would be for 2016. Last year I attended with Baby C strapped to my chest. He made a great companion for the day, but his need for a nap meant not staying the whole day. I thought that surely this year would be different. With C left safely at home with an Auntie I would sit in on every session, partake in each wellness workshop and even get in a workout or two. I was really excited for Mama's day out!
The universe had other plans and managed to hit my poor boy with a nasty cold at just the wrong time. Instead of spending that Saturday at the Summit I stayed home and cared for my sick little boy. Trading yoga and celebrity interviews for boogers and nebulizers stung a little - but I know that I made the right choice. Besides, I hadn't missed the entire Summit. I did sneak out the night before for the opening reception and Bob Roth's talk on meditation.
Bob Roth, also known simply as Meditation Bob, has been teaching people from all walks of life about meditation for decades. His particular specialty is called Transcendental Meditation, a mantra-based meditation touted by both celebrities and Roth's non-profit, The David Lynch Foundation, for lowering dangerous cortisol levels, reducing stress, and helping to heal a laundry list of psychological issues from addiction to PTSD. The David Lynch Foundation provides TM training to inner-city students, veterans, and other communities who can benefit from their help.
Roth's talk left me inspired to make meditation a priority in my own life. While I do have a habit of meditating that habit is pretty undisciplined. I tend to meditate when the mood strikes me. Experts, like Bob Roth, recommend twice daily meditation, so moving forward I am going to make that my goal.
Now how does a busy working mama make time for meditation? For me, the key is choosing practices that work with my erratic lifestyle. That means that the techniques must be brief, targeted, and very simple. Here are a few ideas to get us all started.
Mindful Mama: This is the meditation that saw me threw countless sleepless nights during my son's first year. It is a great coping practice for those times when you are feeling totally tapped out and pushed to your limit. Start out by taking a few deep breaths and deciding to quiet the swirling thoughts and persistent desires (like your need for sleep!) going on in your mind. Shift your focus to observation mode. Take a moment to simply observe your body and the space that surrounds you. Feel the air on your skin, the weight of the child in your arms. Focus on the breath rising and falling from your chest and from theirs. Feel the hot baby breath on your neck or the soft rug under your toes. Listen to the quiet (or the buzzing chaos) of the world around you. Try to exist in that moment, aware only of the present. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
One Track Mind: This meditation works well for those sacred moments when you are actually alone. This may not happen often (or at all) for some mamas, but if you have a ten-minute window during the day of peace and quiet this is a simple way to make the most out of that precious solitude. Pick a single song to use as both the focus and the timer of your meditation. There aren't really any rules for which song to choose, but I like using instrumental music that feels calm and soothing.
1-2-3: I like to practice this visualization-style meditation right before going to sleep. It helps quiet my mind after a busy day - not always an easy task! Start by closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths. When you are ready to begin, inhale as you visualize the number one and repeat the word "one" over and over until you finish your breath and exhale. Repeat this with the number two and so on up until the number ten, then back down to number one again.
Mama Mantra: When I was getting ready to have my first baby the midwives in our practice advised creating a mantra to help get through labor. I didn't come up with my mantra until about four hours into active labor, but when it came to me it was just right. During the night I labored I repeated the mantra "Just one minute" through each contraction. Later, after my son was born and I found myself losing my cool during the long sleepless nights I brought the mantra back. Only this time I repeated "just one year". To use the mantra I would close my eyes, breath deeply, then repeat the phrase as I also visualized the words in my head. I would repeat this for several minutes or until my feelings of frustration, anger, or despair subsided.
Do you have your own daily meditation? I'd love to hear about more methods for including meditation in your daily routine.