Top Three Toys For My Traveling Toddler

As nice as it would have been to be able to avoid the 17 hours in the car, it just wasn’t going to happen. Knowing the trip was going to be long, we spent a little up-front money to make our trip more enjoyable, and it could not have been more worth it. We bought three toys for this trip and could not be more pleased with how well each of them worked in entertaining our toddler.

The list below is ranked with price and entertainment factored (number 1 being the most worthwhile investment).

3: Buckle Toy “Buddy” Backpack

B is all of a sudden all about buckling buckles, closing clasps, and opening/closing EVERYTHING. Though an at-home annoyance, it gave me a great idea for a travel toy. There are a lot of travel toys that have all different closures and buckling mechanisms on them, but most of the basic buckle toys were $20.00 or more. For just a few bucks more (we paid $26 for ours) we got a buckle backpack that worked as a great toy organizer and board-book keeper. This backpack has all different colors and types of buckles to keep a toddler entertained while also having something that we could spot easily in public. This came in super handy at the zoo, as most toddlers love to run. He enjoyed playing with different closures and had fun filling his backpack with books, snacks, and cars for his journeys. The only drawback to this toy was the frustration that came from not being able to re-open the buckles, so this toy required frequent intervening for B to actually enjoy it. There were many occasions where screaming was a result of the frustration derived from not being able to re-open the buckles. It makes a great toy and backpack, but may have been more age-appropriate had he been more skilled at buckles.

 

2: Magnetic drawing board

Here’s the link to the one we bought, but most magnetic drawing boards are very similar. We bought this one because it was inexpensive, had an attached magnetic pen, and had quadrants with different colors. I wasn’t sure if B was going to like this one, as he had never played with something like this before this trip. Sure, he’s drawn with colored pencils on paper, but his interest always seemed to be more aligned with chucking pencils across the room and watching the tips break. When it came to the magnetic drawing board, we scored big time. Not only is it $10.00 cheaper than the buckle backpack, but the action of being able to color, erase, and color again really interested B. I loved that the pen was attached so there was never a concern of whether or not we had to dig between seats to find the tool to make this toy work. It was self-contained and kept B pretty happy. There were no big drawbacks to this product for us. The one we bought is not terribly robust, but if it’s used only for trips, it really doesn’t need to be.

 

1: Magnetic fishing game

The third toy we got was not something we thought of beforehand, but rather a souvenir from our trip to the Miller Park Zoo. It was, by far, the best toy for the car. It seriously entertained B about three times longer than the other toys we brought with us. It’s a little puzzle with a magnetic fishing rod that allowed him to fish for the puzzle pieces. It was adorable watching him figure out how to get the magnet on the rod attached to pieces and was not complicated enough to frustrate him. It was entertaining to B, and allowed my husband and me to talk candidly without juggling snacks, books, or games. It also was very reasonably priced for a toy bought in a gift shop. We paid $13.00 at the gift shop for this game, but you can find it for cheaper online. Still, I would have gladly paid the couple of dollars more to have him entertained and help support this awesome zoo we visited. The only drawback to the magnetic fishing game was the loss of pieces. As you can tell from the picture above, we magically are still missing one of the ten pieces (Oops!). We seriously have not seen it since he initially started playing with the game. With that said, the game is still more than usable with the one missing piece, and it was well worth the price for its entertainment value.

With a trip as long as the one we were on, it was a given that extra money be invested in keeping B occupied. I prefer not to use electronics to entertain (just a personal preference) and the combination of these three, toy cars, and books did a great job keeping B happy. I hope for your next trip, you will keep these in mind, as they were HUGE life-savers for our sanity.

Book Review: You’ll Always Be Enough

When reading with B, I find that there are a lot of books that have the same message over and over again, but here’s one I think you will really like. Certainly, the message of embracing who you are is not a new topic, but I am just blown away by the delivery of this message of self-love.

You’ll Always be Enough, written by Laura Kuehl and illustrated by Pierre d’Arterie, is a new release taking the children’s book world by storm, offering a gentle message of self-appreciation combined with vivid illustrations assured to attract children of all ages.

 

Truth be told, I am good friends with Laura, but I guarantee my review is genuine. What impresses me most about this book is that Laura takes a complex topic most adults struggle with, and simplifies it for an audience of children, who otherwise could not articulate feelings of self-worth yet. In my opinion, this book does a beautiful job fostering confidence in differences that are so often pain points for developing children.

This book is geared towards children between the ages of six and nine, but B LOVES the colorful illustrations of animals. It is best for a household with siblings, as the message is received by the older siblings and the fascinating images are interesting for the little guys too. My niece has read this book to her brother and my son, and each child has taken away exactly what they needed at that moment. That’s the beauty of a book like this. Everyone’s image of self-worth looks a little different, so this book allows for a rudimentary understanding that will develop over time.

If you haven’t had a chance yet to check out You’ll Always be Enough, check it out here. To learn more about Laura Kuehl, the author, visit her website hereYou’ll Always be Enough has become a part of our nighttime reading routine and I strongly suggest you make it a part of yours. We love our children more than the world itself, so don’t forget to remind them that no matter what, they’ll always be enough.

Sweet Potato Tacos

Family dinners are always challenging. First you make a salad, then a side dish or two, followed by a main course of some sort. Even before kids I couldn’t coordinate these pieces of the meal puzzle and I certainly don’t have time for it now. Needless to say, all-encompassing meals are my favorite way to cook. They are so much easier to make, and generally provide more time-saving left overs.

At the moment, my favorite meal to make (and eat!) is sweet potato tacos. It combines all of our favorite foods into one super, tasty package. They’re pretty much God’s gift to Taco Tuesday.

One of the best things about tacos is their versatility. You can add as much or as little of what you want, and these spuds are no different. I like to add lettuce, tomatoes (or salsa), and cheese, whereas, B strictly does a little meal and cheese with tomatoes on the side. To each their own, and they can with these tacos!

Ingredients List:

4 sweet potatoes

1lbs ground beef, ground chicken, or meat of your choice

2T extra virgin olive oil

1t Salt

½t ground black pepper

2T taco seasoning (or more to taste)

1/3C water

Whatever you like on your tacos (tomatoes, salsa, lettuce, cheese…)

The Potatoes

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Wash sweet potatoes and cut off any undesirable spots (usually the ends).
  3. In a bowl, take the olive oil and apply generously to the potato skins. Add salt and pepper to the skins. Once the skins have crisped in the oven, you’ll be happy you seasoned the skins.
  4. Place fully oiled and seasoned potatoes onto a baking sheet. I use a jelly roll pan since the potatoes have a tendency to want to roll and no one likes fishing a rogue potato out of the bottom of the oven.
  5. Vent the potatoes, using a fork, and place baking sheet in the oven.
  6. They will remain in the oven, depending on size, between 45-60 minutes. We are looking for a well baked potato, so if at 45 minutes your potato is still resisting your fork, give it the extra time it needs to soften. I have found that most sweet potatoes I’ve made will bake for closer to the 60-minute mark.
  7. Once they’re ready, take them out of the oven and let them sit. If you’re still working on making the taco meat, you don’t have to worry about the potatoes getting cold. They hold their heat very well.
  8. Once you’re ready to serve, cut potato down the middle lengthwise. Open potato and smash with a fork. Now you’re ready to add your taco fixings.

Taco meat

Tip: If you are short on time, try prepping the meat with other meals requiring ground beef. Taco meat freezes beautifully.

  1. Brown meat and drain off excess fat.
  2. Place meat back into pan and add 1/3 C water with 2T of taco seasoning. Cover and let simmer while stirring occasionally (between chopping toppings) for about 10-12 minutes. If you are tired of forgetting the small packet of pre-made taco seasoning or are just looking for a better alternative, whole new mom has my favorite taco seasoning recipe. It is free of preservatives, added sugars, and dairy.
  3. Is your meat done? Well, you are ready to taco! Pile taco meat, cheese, and whatever else you like on top of the mashed sweet potato. With every bite, you will be hit with the salty goodness of the meat along with the molasses-sweet flavor of the sweet potato.

I hope you and yours enjoy the sweet potato tacos as much my family does.

I’m Back!!!

After a lot of changes in How We Mommy and much soul-searching, I am excited to say that I have come back to blogging. Since How We Mommy started as a creative business venture of four, three, two, and ultimately now one; I knew it was time to took a step back and make sure what I’m blogging about is my passion. With a lot of care and thought, I am now ready to again share what captivates me on my parenting journey. I want to thank everyone who continues to read HWM. I am thrilled to be back and cannot wait to share more with you in the coming weeks.

PB Awesome Apple Dip

If you are anything like me, you have a sweet tooth and are constantly on the lookout for better food alternatives. Sure, in an ideal world the Calories from Oreo’s would be good, healthy Calories that nourish your body, but that’s just not the case. I find myself in a constant struggle of instant gratification and hating myself a little bit for making decisions that make my body feel sluggish and overall unpleasant. Well, I have decided to take one of my favorite foods and dress it up to make a delicious snack!

What is great about this snack is that it’s good for just about every age. There is honey in this recipe, so I do not recommend giving this snack to little guys and gals below the age of one. Assuming you and your children have graduated to at least toddler status, you will love this tasty snack that feels more like a treat than an alternative to highly processed sweets.

Ingredients:PB Dip

2              Apples, cored and sliced

¼ C         Peanut Butter

2 T          Honey (raw if you prefer)

2 t           coconut  butter

 

  1. First collect a bowl to mix ingredients. This will require nothing bigger than a small cereal bowl or a coffee mug, depending on your preference.
  2. Measure and combine peanut butter and coconut butter. I have little experience using coconut butter but have found that it gives a nice, subtle freshness to my baking and can be used to make a recipe fluffier. If you are looking for that lighter quality, use a fork to beat mixture quickly.
  3. Once butter is to your desired consistency, fold in honey.
  4. If you haven’t done so already, core and slice apples. Once slice, the apples are good to go!

Tip: Because the dip is already sweet, I recommend using a tarter apple, such as a Granny Smith or Braeburn.

It feels like a recipe should be more complicated than this, but that is the beauty of this dip! With this dip being easy and versatile, you can make it for yourself or for large gatherings. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with tweaking the recipe to your unique preferences, but I bet you will love it just the way it is!

Peachy Squash Baby Puree

I have found myself very passionate about making baby food for Little Man and I cannot wait to share ALL of the awesome, yummy baby food recipes I’ve come up with! Just to give you a little background: I do my best to feed Little Man as little processed food as possible and I do not like to have any kind of preservatives in my baby food. The way I keep my baby food from spoiling is by freezing it in the Fresh Baby Trays. I don’t really worry about them getting freezer burnt as Little Man does an excellent job eating them up in a timely fashion. With that said, I don’t go nuts and make more than a month’s worth of baby food at any given time for the simple reason that we just don’t have the space in our freezer.

This week I made a super tasty baby food recipe that is too good to keep to myself. It’s simple, took very little effort, and I had no problem licking it off my fingers when Little Man decided to share!

 

Special Kitchen tools you will need:

Food Processor

Jellyroll pan

Fresh Baby So Easy Baby Food and Breast Milk Trays (2)

 

Peachy Squash

Ingredients:

1              Acorn Squash

1              Butternut Squash

1              Peach/Nectarine

 

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Cut both squash in half the long way. Definitely use a large-bladed knife as you may need the cleaving power.
  3. When you’ve cut both squash in half, remove seeds with spoon and discard seeds and guts.
  4. After the squash are gutted, I recommend cutting the curved side of the squash as we will be placing the squash face up on the jellyroll pan. I have tried roasting squash both facing up and down and have found without adding oil (which I prefer to keep out my baby food), face up works best.
  5. All four halves of squash should fit nicely on one jellyroll pan. Once oven is preheated, place squash in oven on middle rack for 45 minutes to an hour. Cook time will vary depending on your oven and size of squash. You will know they are done when they are easy to pierce with a fork.
  6. Once your squash are ready to come out of the oven (you will likely notice the skins beginning to brown and edges will curl slightly), remove from oven and let them sit for 20 minutes. Once you can comfortably handle the squash, feel free to move on to the next step!
  7. Peel squash with knife, or if tender enough, scoop out contents with a spoon. There’s no need to keep the squash in any particular form. If you end up with it chunked, that’s perfectly fine. It all ends up in the food processor anyway!
  8. Once peeled, take half of acorn and butternut squash and place into food processor. Process until smooth.
  9. Empty squash from food processor into a bowl and repeat step eight with the remaining squash.
  10. At this point, peel and pit a ripe peach and add to food processor. Process until well incorporated into squash puree.
  11. Pour the remaining puree from food processor into bowl and stir.
  12. If Freezing*** pour puree evenly over the Fresh Baby Trays and freeze for at least 6 hours. Don’t worry if the puree is still warm when freezing. The Fresh Baby Trays are BPA and phthalate free!

Tip: Since I have two Fresh Baby Trays, I usually have some left over puree. I recommend storing the rest in the fridge and using that up first. I found that it is usually gone within three days, so there is no additional need for other forms of preserving.

Mommy Danae

How to Make Bunting

Supplies bunting

Making fabric bunting is really easy if you have the right tools. I would not have done this without my Olfa Rotary Cutting Set. This is a must have for a many crafts, especially quilts (which we’ll get to eventually). I’m going to be honest, I think JoAnn Fabrics has a better price on these than Amazon, whether you wait till they’re on sale or use a weekly coupon.

You can get triangle templates by the quilting supplies of your local craft store, but it’s just as easy to cut a template yourself. My triangles are 8 inches long and 5 inches at their widest. If you want to get really precise, you can use a protractor to get your proportions exact. My triangle has two 75 degree angles and one 30 degree angle for the point.

The key to a successful sewing project is a hot iron. Really. Iron your fabric and cut it into 8 inch wide strips. Use your template and the omnigrid ruler to cut out your triangles. The rotary cutter will make this so much easier than using scissors so I really recommend picking up a set. Once you have your triangles cut, play with the arrangement of your different patterns to see what you like best.

Bunting 2Take your double fold bias tape (I used 1/2 inch wide) and slip the triangle between the fold. You can measure out the distance between each triangle and pin it in place or you can just eye-ball it. I prefer to eye-ball it as I’m feeding it into the sewing machine. Your thread should match your bias tape or if you want it could be a contrasting color. I used a straight stitch, but you could see how you like the zig-zag stitch. If you’re using a hot glue gun, just put a thin line of glue along the top of the triangle and press down the bias tape. You’ll have to flip it over and repeat on the other side. If you’re going to use glue, I would iron out the bias tape before gluing the fabric.

After sewing (or gluing), it’s time to iron again. Spray the bunting with starch and go to town. I used cotton quilting fabrics, so that means high heat. Make sure you follow the iron settings depending on the fabric you’re using. Avoid ironing over areas you have used glue. I don’t do any sort of finishing on the edges. Chances are these are for a one time event and you just need something that can be thrown together quickly. Especially if the event is inside, you probably won’t have any issues with fraying edges if you use 100% cotton fabric. The bunting in this tutorial was used for my bridal shower (which was outside) and they were blowing around all day without issue.

Now if your children decide to play with them, I’m not making any guarantees.

Happy crafting!
-Auntie Kelley

How I’m Not Just A Stay-At-Home Mom

Being a stay-at-home mom is a wonderful experience, but it does not come without its tradeoffs. For example, I was at a garage sale yesterday picking out some books from a newly retired teacher when she asked if I was also a teacher. I responded without even thinking, “Oh no, I’m just a stay-at-home mom.” Just a stay-at-home mom… My mother, who was there with me, quickly corrected my statement and said that I AM a stay-at-home mom. Why would I belittle my role as a stay-at-home parent? I am very proud to stay home with my son, and it is not like it’s a cake walk. That is, unless your cake walk also includes the following: chasing a tiny, squirrelly guy out of danger; conquering mountains of laundry; cleaning up spills; wiping sweet potato out of not only Little Man’s hair, but my own; running household errands (banking, grocery shopping, diaper runs, going to Target for pretty much anything…); waking up at all hours of the night; and whatever else falls into my lap on any given day.

I think there is a lot to be said about being a stay-at-home mom and having it be a thankless job. To me, the benefits of staying home with my son far outweigh the cons; however, the benefits are not instant like they are with most jobs. As a millennial, the lack of recognition can be very difficult to handle, and I end up feeling underappreciated. I used to work in a bank where I had colleagues that thought I was pretty awesome, and I reciprocated the sentiment. If I helped a customer or a colleague, you bet I got a ‘thank you,’ a smile, and the satisfaction of knowing I did my job correctly. With staying home with Little Man, operations are not as clear-cut. There are no instructions on how to parent the right way (even though we own The Baby Owner’s Manual).  For months at a time, we played a drawn-out guessing game of “What does the baby need???” and “When will I actually get to sleep today?”

Though it’s not as clear cut or glamorous as other jobs can be (and by glamorous, I mean wearing a necklace not made of silicone), I would not choose another path for myself. I remember when Little Man was four months old and he rolled over for the first time. It had been a long day already and it was only 10:00AM. I left the living room for a minute to take the trash out and when I returned I saw a stunned little boy who magically found himself on his belly. In true mom fashion, I scooped him up and made sure he was alright while simultaneously crying in pride of the joy I (almost) witnessed.

It is those little moments (months and months later) that make my job so fulfilling and more than just a job. I AM a mom who stays home and works tirelessly for my family and am honored with experiencing many firsts (or at least seconds). No, I don’t bring home an income, build a 401(K), or pad my stock portfolio, but I do get the opportunity to watch Little Man morph from a tiny peanut-head alien, to a baby, and to a toddler. So thank you to those who remind stay-at-home moms that it is a worthwhile vocation and that it is just as important as suiting up and going into an office every day.

The Runaway Bunny

 

The Runaway Bunny
Written by Margaret Wise Brown
Illistrated by Clement Hurd
Harper Collins Publishers, 1972
ISBN: 0061074292

Okay All. I know this one is an oldie, but it’s a goodie! My parents grew up hearing The Runaway Bunny, it was read to me, and now Little Man has the very same copy! The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown, is a classic by all definitions. If you are not captivated by the sweet message, you will surely be stunned by the clever artistry poured onto every page.feature

I find this book most appropriate for toddlers since they are starting to understand verbal language. Little Man is a bit too young to grasp the meaning of The Runaway Bunny, but I think by the time he’s one and a half, this will become a bedtime staple. Sure, he already loves chewing on the thick, board pages and looking at the illustrations, but I look forward to when he can start to grasp the love the mommy bunny has for her baby bunny.

What I like about this book goes far beyond what is inside the covers. When I read this book to Little Man, I am thrown back in time to when my grandmother read it me in the light of her vintage, summit lamp on the bedside table. I can still remember how it felt as we read the book while we were all snuggled into the blankets with her stuffed bunny Beatrix (who was always invited to partake in bedtime stories). This book is powerful in stirring up memories of times passed and I only hope for Little Man to have the same.

Is this book the best book I’ve ever shared with our son? No, but the fact that it has been around long enough for several generations of my family to enjoy makes it stand out. There is no substitute for building beautiful memories and sharing family lore with little tikes and this book is a great way to do it! If you have since forgotten about this unyielding classic, click here to renew those memories for yourself and start passing them on to your sweet baby bunnies.

Mommy Danae

How We Simplified Breakfast

After waking up several times a night, the last thing any mommy wants to do is get up for the day. No matter how hard you will yourself out of bed, there’s always that little voice telling you to crawl back under the sheets and stay there. Those nights are rough and happen much more often than we’d like, but moms don’t have the luxury of sleeping in. Sadly, I cannot magically make your kids sleep through the night, nor can I silence your deepest desires to sleep the entire day away, but I can offer you an easy solution to your breakfast woes.

As a family that has three mouths to feed, we now collectively devour one super yummy, hydrating and healthy smoothie filled with all the nutrients we need to get our day off on the right foot. It’s not always IMG_3227 (2)the case that three people will like the same foods, but this smoothie is satisfyingly sweet and packed with plenty of fiber and nutrients found naturally in the fruits as well as a minimal-ingredient protein powder. We use Vega Protein Powder (vanilla flavor) which has proteins from plants rather than dairy or soy and tastes delicious! We used to take out a small portion for Little Man before adding the protein powder, but now recognize the health benefits the protein powder has for him too.

Here’s how we make our family’s breakfast smoothie and also an adorable testimonial photo from Little Man.

IMG_3225 (2)

Ingredients:

1 Banana

1.5 Cups Frozen Pineapple

2 Cups Frozen Strawberries

2 Cups Frozen Blue Berries

2 Cups Water

1 Scoop Vega Plant-Based Protein Powder

 

  1. In a blender, layer frozen fruit and banana. If you have a standard-size blender, this will likely leave you with just enough room to add the lid.
  2. Pour the two cups of water over the fruit. I found that adding the water all at once helps to get give the blender a little more to work with and does not run the blades without actually blending.
  3. Blend fruit until slushy and resembles desired smoothie consistency. I start with medium-high works well and increasing to high once the large pieces have been blended.

Tip: You may notice with this quantity of fruit may be a lot for your blender to handle. If that’s the case, make sure to stir with a wooden spoon as needed. If you are lucky enough to have a Ninja Blender, this won’t be an issue for you. This blender is at the tippy-top of my wish list!

  1. Pour one scoop of Vega Protein Powder on top of the blended fruit. And blend until evenly incorporated.
  2. Once done, you should have roughly five cups of smoothie, which you can then split among the family. We like to enjoy our smoothies with bendy straws because you are never too old for bendy straws!

Mommy Danae