Travel Activity Bins

We are getting ready to hit the road for a few weeks of vacation. We are driving over 13 hours and this mama has been prepping! One thing I struggle with as a mama are whiny/crying children. Yep. It literally makes me want to hide and scream all at the same time. My tolerance for whining is VERY low, which is why I have put these activity bins together! I know it won't solve the issue (because let's face it, as an adult I whiney too by hour 10) but I am hoping it will give my kids something to do when they get board. My kids don't watch a lot of TV so when we go on road trips I let them watch as much as they want in the car. However, you can only watch so many movies in a row before you start getting bored with that too! 

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I wanted to share these stackable activity bins I have created for our drive. They are age appropriate and all "NEW" to my kids! These are things they have not played with yet which creates a little excitement too.

Toddler Travel Bin  

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I knew I needed to have a tray for my toddler to work on that could fit over her car seat. I bought a standard black tray (I have linked below) that I am eager to try. My hope is the tray table will make the activity bin more conducive for her to play with the items. 

One of my favorite road trip activities are these Water Wow! They are brilliant and mess free (all you need is water). My big kids like them, but our toddler LOVES them! A travel size Magnetic sketch pad is always a good idea. No markers or crayons to be lost on the floor. A counting book and "noise" book which my little one loves. The little farm set I found at the dollar section at Target. 

Boy Travel Bin

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For our little man cub I also put the Water Wow in his bin. The Hidden Picture book I thought was so great to keep him entertained and finding things that can be easily circled in the car! The "Adventure" checklist was a cute little purchase from the Target dollar section and has things they can check off the list as they discover them on our drive. Who remembers those lacing shoe string "activities"? Target had a dinosaur bag with them along with stickers and cards! The top blue pouch has a series of three games- Tic Tac Toe, Spy Guess and Build A box. I think my older two will love playing those games together in the car to kill a little time! 

Girl Travel Bin

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Our oldest is at the age where she really needs things that stimulate her academically. She has learned how to read and is constantly working hard at sight words and reading signs, labels etc. I took a workbook we had at home and laminated a few pages (the ones you see at the top left of the picture). I plan to put a few dry erase markers in her bin so she can easily practice writing. I also laminated all her sight words we have been practicing and put them on a ring so she can easily flip through them (as seen at the bottom right side of the picture). All the other items are the same as our Boy Bin with the exception of the magnetic mermaid activity. Instead of the shoe string activity our son has, I placed this Target find in hers. 

I hope you find these helpful and these bins inspire some of you to create your own! I am so excited to test these out! I will report back to let you know how we liked them and things we would change. 

 

Source List

All Items not pictured below were purchased at the dollar section at Target 

 

Toys that Engage

I am a FIRM believer in buying toys that engage my children’s mind and aid in their development. When I walk into any toy store (which is very rarely), I start hunting for toys that are going to enhance my child’s language, creativity, discovery and problem solving development. Because we are raising kids in a day where everyone has a cell phone, computer, tablet, TV I am not too worried they are missing out. There will be a time and place for my kids to get screen time and learn how to work a computer, but right now their little brains need to be engaged with things that are developing them. 

Don’t get me wrong, we do let our kids watch shows and movies. We have Friday Night Movie Night and let me tell ya… they LOVE Friday Night Movie Night! There are times I let them watch a 15 minute Mother Goose Club Houseor Masha and the Bear while I get ready for the day or finish up something work wise. But they do not get “screen” time on a daily basis and this is in large because of attitude and behavioral changes in my kids when they are staring at a screen.  To be honest, I just don’t want to deal with the excessive disrespect and attitudes they tend to have after screen time.  

So what do we do all those hours of the day? Well, I work really hard to keep them busy. I have a whole summer schedule for the days we don’t have something planned and it has worked well for us this summer. I will share the summer schedule in another post, but for now I want to share a few toys my kiddos are loving this summer. They are worth investing in if you don’t already have them! 

 

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Wooden Block Set

You can find these everywhere and they are not expensive. This toy has lasted in our home for about 4 years and it is probably the most played with activity! 

 

Grippies Builders

I found these on Amazon and they are awesome. They are magnetic and would be great for all ages. My only complaint is there are not tons in the bucket, but I think you can buy an extra pack to go along with them! My kids love building and even using them as pretend microphones and ice cream cones! 

 

Magnetic Tiles

My little man received these for Christmas and we ALL love them. These are magnetic so you can also place them on the fridge to make different designs! Our two year old loves them as well as our six year old so… win, win, win! 

 

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Kinesthetic Sand

I do have to supervise with this activity (mostly because our two year old still puts everything in her mouth) but this is a great activity! I bought this one because it came with an inflatable “pool” to put the sand in! The kids love digging around in it and creating.  

 

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Lite Brite

You probably had one of these when you were younger. Maybe? I didn’t, but I didn’t grow up in North America. My husband did and he said he loved this as a kid. My older two especially think this lite box is so cool. I enjoy creating designs with them on it! 

 

Sight Word Puzzle Set

Basically, I love everything Melissa & Doug. I bought this sight word puzzle this past year to have a fun activity as we were practicing sight words for school and it continues to be a great activity my older kiddos do on their own! 

Leave a comment with some of your favorite toys you have for your kids! I always want to see what others are using! I hope you find these helpful!  

 

Gender Neutral Baby Shower Inspiration

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As I was preparing for this baby shower I kept thinking about how we choose to celebrate. I LOVE planning an event to make someone feel valued and loved. I like to think through the person I’m celebrating and what they love, their style, what interest them, etc. When we stop and think about the person behind the celebration it makes all the planning and prepping worth it and more meaningful. 

I want to share this recent celebration I hosted. My sweet friend is expecting her second child so we threw her a gender-neutral baby shower, even though she knows she is having a little boy. Her style is more neutral and so I decided to stick with a neutral theme. 

Décor

Decorations were fairly simple. The colors I wanted to stick to were white and gold mixed with greenery and wood tones. I ordered large white balloons for the corners of the dinning room along with a large BABY balloon sign in gold.  I wanted the gold balloons to be the main feature on the wall and they ended up being much larger than I expected. White tablecloths and lots of greenery really dressed up the food tables. I went to a local wholesale floral place here in Birmingham (Davis Wholesale) and also picked up a few extra flowers from Trader Joes. We used plastic wear and they were all gold or clear, which went perfectly with our color scheme. 

Food

Willow + Fifth had the privilege of collaborating with Mason Dixon for this event. Mason Dixon provided all the food items for the shower and I must say it was INCREDIBLE! Mason Dixon is a 100% Gluten Free bistro and bakery. If you have been following along with me for any amount of time you know how important this is for me living with Celiac Disease. We had a brunch spread consisting of Quiche, Fruit Skewers, Scones, Sugar Cookies, Cake Pops and the most beautiful Cake. It was amazing being able to scan the table and not think twice about what I put in my mouth. Mason Dixon also provided a MOM-OSA Bar which everyone enjoyed. 

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Mason Dixon also provided our party favor... Gluten Free Macarons beautifully packaged for guest to take home! How adorable are these?!  

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I just have to add, Mason Dixon has a location in Huntsville and Homewood, Alabama. If you are local to Birmingham you must go checkout the Homewood location. You can order food, coffee or they have things you can grab and go. The quality of their food is incredible. I am so thankful for Mason Dixon and the opportunity to enjoy delicious food free of any gluten! 

Games

Last but not least here are a few cute game ideas to have at a baby shower. I love having something for guest to do that does not require a lot of work or facilitating. I found these Baby Prediction and Advice Cards on amazon for guests to fill out while eating and talking. We also had the guests write a funny saying or letter on diapers. Our guest book was a children’s book for everyone to sign and mom to take home for her little ones. 

I hope this gives you a little inspiration on how to throw a beautiful baby shower for that friend or family member! And I hope those local to Birmingham also check out Mason Dixon for your next catering event or lunch out, especially if you are gluten free. 

Leave a comment below about how you love to celebrate or feel loved and celebrated by others! I’m always wanting to hear from others! 

*This post is sponsored by Mason Dixon through our collaboration, all opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel Guide Nashville, TN

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We recently spent a weekend in Nashville, TN to celebrate our anniversary. We both were excited to see Nashville as neither of us had been there.  

I have to be honest, we were not immediately wowed by Nashville as a city. Coming from Austin, TX, the live music capital of the world and home of some of the greatest food that has ever hit my pallet, we were surprised to find a few places we really did enjoy. I will not share all the places we went but I will share a few. I'm not going to tell you to check out all the country music and museums because you can google Nashville and it will give you a fancy list. These are just a few places we went, enjoyed and would recommend! 

Sights and Shops:

Nashville Farmers Market- Every Saturday and Sunday the Nashville Farmers Market is open and it was defiantly a highlight for me. I loved seeing all the vendors and goods that were offered. I highly recommend going! 

World War II Memorial- If you are looking for a place to walk off the delicious food you've eaten in Nashville, this park is friendly to walkers and is right across from the Farmers Market! 

BATCH- My favorite little shop for goodies from Nashville. This is located inside the large building connected to the Farmers Market. It has so many cute goodies from Nashville. We bought the kids a Nashville coloring book! I loved the shop! 

White's Mercantile- Another great local shop. Prices are a little higher but they had cute gifts, clothing, baby items etc. Go check it out! 

Herban Market- You can grab food, coffee and healthy grocery items not to mention their massive collection of cooking oils! It is located in Franklin, TN right outside of Nashville. 

Coffee Shops:

Sump Coffee- Located in an office building this coffee shop is clean and unique. It has a modern feel with expert baristas using modern techniques to brew your coffee. 

Red Bicycle- Located in Germantown this coffee shop is a Nashville must see. They had great coffee and a wonderful environment to sit and chat! 

Restaurants:

Little Octopus- The atmosphere was AMAZING! Clean, crisp, and the food tasted like it was straight from the garden. A wonderful lunch or brunch place while visiting. You have to try their Hibiscus Sprits! 

Peg Leg Porker- We stood in line for probably 30 minutes but it was worth it. Delicious BBQ. A great lunch spot. 

Mas Tacos- A bit of a hole in the wall, which adds to its charm. We have had the hardest time finding real tacos here in Alabama and this place satisfied our desire! It is amazing and a great lunch or early dinner spot. We opted to sit outside which I would highly recommend. They had an amazing Margarita! 

Chauhan Ale & Masala House- Located in the Gulch was an incredible restaurant. My one note is you need to make a reservation. We did not and it was a three hour wait, we opted to eat at the bar so we could taste the incredible Indian food that was offered. I want to go back.. it was so tasty! Great dinner place.  Take a quick read about the Executive Chef and you will want to say you've tasted her food =) 

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We loved visiting a new city and I hope next time you are in Nashville you will try some of these places too !

 

Wild Animal Brunch

Are you needing a little Birthday Inspiration? I am always looking for cute, cheap ways to make others feel celebrated! I hosted a Wild Animal Brunch Birthday for our two year old. 

We had the party outside in the backyard. It was very windy the morning of the party which made things a little more challenging but it all turned out great. We had 25 people present at the party. I ended up going $9 over our budget but I was very happy I stayed as close to the budget as I did. For those who missed the birthday budget chat visit this cute little Tea Party BirthdayI threw.   

I wanted the décor to be simple and woodsy but not too masculine as this was for my daughter’s birthday. I bought little animal figurines from the dollar tree and spray painted them gold. I laid them out on the food table and they also ended up being weights to hold down the flying napkins! I bought a number 2 balloon to hang in the center of a greenery piece I made from our back yard. The morning of the party I collected my stick and greenery from our yard and tied it the way I wanted it and hung it over the table as a centerpiece.  I absolutely loved the little honey bear cups that held juice and chocolate milk for the guests. I tried to stick with a white and gold theme, which is why I bought all gold plastic wear. 

Over the years I’ve steadily collected serving platters and tablecloths that I use for any events we host at our home. I’ve always looked for neutral pieces so that they can be utilized for any theme. The wooden trunk displays were borrowed from a friend.  

As for food, it was a brunch. We had fun picking wild animal names for the various food items:

Mini Quiche- Critter Quiche

Sausage- Wild Game

Croissants- Duck Feed

Fruit- Birdie Bites 

Nuts and Pretzels- Deer Corn 

Juice- Honey Bear Juice 

Mint Water- Watering Hole 

Our daughter is allergic to eggs so I always make a homemade egg-free cake! If you follow along on Instagram you probably saw me making the cake. But for those of you who didn’t, here is my little secret for making an easy egg-free birthday cake. 

Recipe: 

You buy an egg-free box cake (Just check the labels and make sure there are no eggs in the mix.)

Substitute the eggs with applesauce. For every egg called for on the box, substitute a 1/3-cup of unsweetened applesauce. 

Substitute the water with sprite. 

That is it! You then follow the box directions as usual. However, I usually have to bake the cake a little longer than usual. The cake turned out extremely moist and the guests loved it! 

Total I spent $59 for this wild birthday party and we had such a lovely time visiting with friends!

Décor Items I Bought: 

Balloon(this is not the exact one but similar) 

Animal Figures(I bought these individually at Dollar Tree) 

 Spray Paint

 Honey Bear Cups

Birthday on a Budget

Tea Party

When you have multiple kiddos, birthdays get tricky. As a mama I want my kids to feel celebrated but I also don’t want to break the bank on birthdays, especially because our house celebrates four birthdays within the first three months of the New Year. This year my husband and I decided to allot a dollar amount to each child and they got to choose how they celebrated their birthday.

 

I want to share a few ideas to make a simple, yet fun and creative, birthday party. Mamas who have little girls, this one is for you.

 

Our afternoon tea party was a great way to invite a few of my daughter’s friends and their moms. We had 11 people present for the tea party. The girls came dressed in their finest tea dresses and the mamas visited while managing the amount of cake and tea that was spilt.

 

I sent a free online invitation to each of the families. No need to pay for an invitation when an online one is free and easy to get an RSVP.  I went to Trader Joe’s and bought discounted flowers and eucalyptus. I hung eucalyptus over the table and placed a few flowers in mason jars on the tables. I wanted the table to feel elegant so I used white dishes I already had- again, free. I did buy pink plastic utensils to make the clean up easier. I bought a 97 cent balloon and tassel arrangement to place by the food table.  

 

The morning of the party I ran to our local grocery store and picked up a clearance cake and cupcakes. They were the perfect size, very elegant and tasted just as good. Cheap but beautiful! Win- win in my book! We had heart shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit, homemade muffins, crackers and hummus and last but not least non-caffeinated tea. I also provided juice and mint water for those who didn’t want something hot.

 

I always love to have a little game to play at a party. My sister helped me by making this game; pin the teacup on the saucer. The girls loved it and it was cheap to make. I only had to buy the white poster board and doilies. I had the construction paper and glue. We also had coloring pages I printed off from my personal computer. I downloaded a few sheets of teacups for the girls to color as we waited for everyone to arrive at the very beginning! It was a great time-filler for the girls before we really got started with the party.

 

Total I spent $50 for this amazing tea party and it was a total hit! It was a beautiful party. I stayed within my budget, which made my husband and me happy! Our girl felt celebrated and valued, not to mention it was a great time visiting with other moms and their daughters. 

Adoptive Breastfeeding: What You Need To Know

Adoptive Breastfeeding Part III

I will never forget the look in the pediatrician’s eyes as she walked into our hospital room and saw me breastfeeding our 12-hour-old adopted daughter. She looked uncomfortable. She barely made eye contact with me. Then she asked, “I’m sorry, are you the birth mom or the adoptive mom?”

She was confused.

With a big confident smile I responded, “I’m the adoptive mom… I induced lactation to be able to breastfeed our sweet girl.”

She was shocked, with big eyes and a polite smile, “OH… I didn’t know you could do that and it actually work!”

When I tell people I breastfed our youngest they usually have a similar response to the pediatrician. I usually chuckle a bit and respond with a confident, “I know right? It is amazing!”

Adoptive breastfeeding is AMAZING! The fact that our bodies are able to produce milk for a child you did not carry is just…remarkable. So few adoptive moms (and even those in the medical field…obviously) know about this option, which is why I want to share how I induced lactation.

How I Began

I am attempting to keep to basic information, so I won’t spend too much time on all the details. However, if you are interested in knowing more because you are considering a journey down this path, please reach out! I would love to chat!

When we met our daughter’s birth mom we only had 8 weeks until our little one was due. We were not planning to privately adopt at the time but God had a plan. We were fostering at the time and had not considered a traditional infant adoption. But HELLO… I am so thankful we don’t write our own stories because His are far grander than I could ever dream.

With only 8 weeks to start the process I followed this Accelerated Protocol . This website is a wealth of knowledge on the issue of adoptive breastfeeding if you would like more knowledge on the topic. I took 20 days worth of hormones (a simple birth control pill) along with 20mg of domperidone 4 times a day. After those 20 days I stopped the birth control pill but continued the domperidone and began pumping EVERY TWO HOURS. Yes, you read that right. I pumped every 2 hours by day and every 3 hours by night with a double electric breast pump. Within the first week of pumping I began producing drops. Each drop was carefully stored, because I felt as if that breast milk was GOLD my friends!

By the time our little one arrived I had saved a fair amount of my own breast milk, which was really helpful.

I exclusively breastfeed our daughter the first 2 months of her life. As soon as we got home from the hospital I started taking fenugreek, a natural herb, to boost my milk supply. I ate a lot of oatmeal, stayed hydrated, and baked lactation cookies to continue to help boost my milk supply.

We had issues to overcome in the beginning like a tongue and lip tie that made feeding difficult but that was soon sorted out and she was nursing well and my supply was sufficient.

After 2 months the doctors were concerned our little bundle of joy was not gaining the weight she needed. We tried the Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) on the breast but she did not take well to the tube and honestly it was more work than I could manage.  

We started her on formula around 2.5 months due to the pediatrician encouraging us it was the best thing. Honestly, I wish I had gotten a second opinion. My supply was what she needed but the pediatrician felt my milk was not fatty enough for her. I began to rotate feedings, one on the breast, the next on the bottle. I continued pumping and storing throughout the day after comfort nursing her because my supply was still healthy. I would add it into the formula and continue giving her my breast milk through bottles as well.  

At 6 months my daughter was comfort nursing a couple times a day but I was tired of pumping. I decided to stop pumping. Having induced lactation with such little time to prepare I was very happy I made it 6 months with producing milk.  

I am so thankful we had the privilege of beginning our journey as mother and daughter so close and vulnerable with one another. I can humbly say our connection is deep and strong. I am so thankful we chose the journey of adoptive breastfeeding. Sitting on this side of having breastfed I can confidently report all the hard work was totally worth it!

*Please note I did consult my doctor and lactation consultant before starting this process. My doctor was open-minded to the idea of inducing lactation and comfortable with my plan.*  

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

  

Bonding through Breastfeeding

A Note Before Reading: I am aware adoptive breastfeeding is not for every adoption case. I have two babies I did not breastfeed because of various circumstances. I do not think breastfeeding is the ONLY way to bond with your child, but I do believe it is an amazing opportunity if one is able. I am simply sharing my journey with our youngest daughter and spreading awareness of Adoptive Breastfeeding through these posts. I know some mama's who birth their babies are not able to breastfeed. There is absolutely no shame or guilt meant to be portrayed here if you have chosen differently or have circumstances that have hindered you from breastfeeding. I believe everyone's family story is unique and beautiful, I'm just sharing part of mine!

Adoptive Breastfeeding Part II

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She was here, finally.

It was late in the night. She was just minutes old. She had been wiped down, but still held evidence of delivery. The nurses had left the three of us in the dark hospital room to nurse and bond for the first time. As I cradled her 8lb body to mine those dark slanted eyes began to open.

 

There we were.

She stared at me and I at her.

We were connected.

We were bonded.

We were close.

 

She effortlessly nursed for 45 minutes and I could barley believe we were here. All those hours that went into having this precious, natural God-given moment seemed totally worth it.

 

As an adoptive mama I didn’t have the privilege of birthing my daughter. God didn’t write her story or mine that way. Her beautiful birth mom carried her for nine months, and then labored many hours to bring our daughter into the world. We celebrate this in our home. We welcome the fact God wrote our daughter’s story this way. We also rejoice that God allowed me to nurse her from the moment she opened her eyes. I cannot fully explain the deep attachment that takes place between a nursing child and their mama. God created it to be this way. I’m confident He designed it this way for far deeper reasons than a nutritional one, although that reason is enormous, for sure!

 

The deep connection adoptive breastfeeding creates is undeniable. The loss our daughter experienced at birth affected her and will continue to do so her whole life. As her mama, I wanted her to know from the moment we heard about her we were “for” her. We wanted the very best for her and we knew being emotionally and physically connected to us was crucial. My husband and I had cared for many children who did not have this connection at an early age. Children who were emotionally detached or those who attached to everyone they met because they had not experienced safe, nurturing and caring. We knew the hardships for children who were unable to bond deeply their first year of life. We wanted deep, safe connection for our daughter and chose to begin that journey through adoptive breastfeeding.  

 

Many who observed us as new parents probably thought we were a little crazy. The great extent we went to bond with our little girl that first year of her life was extreme by some standards. As we now approach our daughter’s second birthday, there are no regrets. The choices we made to bond with our sweet girl make the sacrifice seem small.  

Our deep connection is unyielding.

Our profound bond is immeasurable.

Our closeness is abundant. 

 

I can’t help but think breastfeeding played an enormous part.