How Convenience May Make Your Life Harder

This past summer we were visiting my husband’s family in Europe so that they could finally meet the kids, and although I’ve traveled my entire life this was my first big family trip as a mother. Mom life is hard, and naturally whatever I can do to make life a little easier for myself & my family is a no brainer. It wasn’t until spending 6 weeks in Europe that I realized how “convenient” my life was in the U.S. because many Americas prioritize convenience in contrast to other countries around the world.

Things like high chairs offered in restaurants, public playgrounds right and left, air conditioned buildings, drive through fast food on every corner, speedy servers taking orders, stocked vending machines, huge restrooms with multiple stalls, mega shopping malls with everything you could hope to find. Of course there are many of these things in Europe, but not comparable to the extent of the U.S, especially in more populated areas. I think most Americans, such as myself, anticipate and take for granted the standards of services that are sometimes unavailable or unrealistic in many other countries.

We like to make life as easy, quick & comfortable as possible and are constantly coming up with more ways to build a better mouse trap. Who doesn’t want an easier life right? Isn’t convenience just another word for better? For most of my life I would have said “Yes” but today it struck me how wrong I was. Convenience often makes your life harder & less enjoyable by continually getting you into the habit of cutting out the things that matter most in life, which are community, health, education and challenging ourselves.

When you are deciding between making or purchasing a product- such as a bread, how likely are you to never learn how to make your own bread?

On a long day after work would you rather go home and cook a healthy dinner or go through the drive through with hot food ready to go?

When you’re feeling lonely isn’t it easier to grab your phone and SCROLL rather than actually use your phone to CALL someone?

Spending quality time with your significant other investing in a mutual hobby or finishing the 100th Netflix series of the year?

Playing with your kids or distract them with screen time?

By choosing the more “convenient” options in life I have become more lazy, lonely, unhealthy, undisciplined, disconnected, & entitled while also becoming less knowledgable, grateful, gracious and content. Yikes.

YES, we need to have grace on OURSELVES but we’re also responsible to take an honest look over our life and grow in the areas we know we could do better in. And THAT process to evaluate and change from within is probably the most inconvenient thing we could do, so naturally we put it off until it becomes more inconvenient to stay the same than to change. Read that again.

Often times we believe that life is easier by taking all these short cuts but it’s an illusion that leads to an unsatisfying life with a false sense of independence. We’re convinced that we can either do it ourselves or just use a service- so that there is no desire to ask any family & friends for help or try to learn something new. This also accentuates greediness because the more money I have, the more convenient I can live by hiring others to do the hard/ undesirable work for me.

But a good life is inconvenient, and it is WORTH the inconvenience.

It is inconvenient to learn to cook and make healthy meals for yourself & your family.

It is inconvenient to organize playdates or girls nights with your friends.

It is inconvenient to go to the gym and work out.

It is inconvenient to read books or do research on difficult topics or world events.

It is inconvenient to travel, especially with family to explore new places or see loved ones.

It is inconvenient to consistently gather with a group who has similar interests or hobbies and grow together.

It is inconvenient to do activities for yourself, your kids, your spouse, and make room for other events celebrating important people in your life.

It is inconvenient to have conflict and resolve it with difficult conversations or counseling.

It’s inconvenient to get the support and help you need.

Community is inconvenient.

Family is inconvenient.

Mental & Physical health maintenance is inconvenient.

Love is inconvenient.

An inconvenient life is a full life.

Of course there is a balance of using tools and finding ways to help us manage and organize our daily lives- and being convenient doesn’t make it negative! I just had no idea the exchange these seemingly innocent choices I made daily had on my life and now I’m trying to be more cautious and aware of their impact. I used to equate convenience with “better”, “more advanced”, “Life saver”- but there is a dark side and without caution you could get lost in it.

Choosing convenience is also less gratifying because joy often is the reward that comes from an act of self discipline or self sacrifice.

It’s counter intuitive, but the more we serve others the more blessed we are. The more we give the more we receive. Life becomes less selfish and more loving.

Motherhood and marriage have really shown me several areas of myself that I thought did well in- but really there is a lot of room to grow! For example I always thought I was a very patient person, but now I realize I could use a lot more patience! Lean into that and don’t create a “mom hack” to avoid becoming a more patient person and instead actually learn and exercise the virtue of patience. A big one for me is using screen time or snacks rather than working through big emotions around meal times. We all do it, and some days you have to for your own sanity- but it’s not doing you or your kids any favors to develop and depend on bad habits as solutions because they are just adding to the problem and they won’t work for long.

It’s really hard to make the right choice between what is easy and what is good, but oh, how life would be different if we did. That power is within us, and we can create a good life by choosing good habits even when it’s inconvenient.

So as the holidays approach and we’re faced with opportunities to choose between what is convenient for us in the moment and what matters enough to be inconvenienced for others- I hope your perspective is challenged and I wish you an inconvenient full & blessed holiday season with the people who love you. Give within your limits your precious time, unique strengths, friendship, and love.

We only have one life, let’s make it as inconvenient as we can with the ones we love.

The Connection between Sweating and Mothering together

FINALLY, for the first time since becoming a mom, I got a gym membership at the YMCA- heard it’s fun to stay there- and have been loving it so far because of the group classes. It’s much easier for me to join a group and follow the leader than to create my own workout.

I’ve only been going a couple times a week for the past month now, and it would be generous to say that I am totally unfit. Haha. As I heave and ho my way through a group “cardio & abs attack” fitness class surrounded by mirrors and people- I thought to myself, Wow. Here is a group of people coming together from all different backgrounds doing the same workout, all struggling & pushing ourselves towards to do our best- and isn’t that what Motherhood is or should be?

Some of us are carrying heavier weights. Some of us are completely out of breath. Some of us are have been doing this for years and it shows while others are completely lost and just trying to catch up. Some naturally athletic, others took years of practice. It makes no sense to judge or compare because you cannot know another person’s journey by looking at their current state.

Some of those women were sweating a lot more than I was- but they were adding 10lbs more weight and really pushing themselves to the limit, whereas I was just trying not to fall over. Our goals, motives, appearances, and performances are completely different- and yet we are in it together motivating each other. Just as accountability can help strengthen our bodies, we can also strengthen each other as moms.

There are so many things to process when you become a mother, and such little time & energy to actually process it. These real life comparisons help me visualize and understand what this adjustment in my personal development is like and I hope it helps you mama to not feel insecure to be seen struggling getting into the grove of motherhood- but to allow yourself to be surrounded by other moms and not compare yourself to them. It’s a very vulnerable thing to open yourself up when you don’t feel like you have your life together. Naturally we don’t want people to see the things we are not good at, and so we hide ourselves away and choose loneliness rather than community.

If this is you, I challenge you to be brave and take a step towards transparency. Let someone into the struggle. Maybe you’re not ready to be surrounded by strangers and mirrors just yet- but find one friend who is either going through or has gone through your current season of motherhood. Someone who is safe and understands. Then ask them to introduce you to another friend if they can, and just go from there. It’s much better to find quality friends over a quantity of friends so just take your time getting to know the people around you.

If you don’t know where to find other moms, some ideas are playgrounds, the mall, Peanut (phone app), indoor play areas and churches or community centers. Sometimes hospitals or local organizations also organize “mommy & me” playdates, and often you can find community mom groups within your city.

It’s definitely hard to make friends as an adult- especially when your life is revolving around a tiny person’s nap schedule- but nothing tears down a person more than loneliness, so it is worth the effort for your self care.

I was at a Bible Study today and the speaker mentioned that during her transition to being a First Time Mom, she would take turns with friends going to each other’s houses and watching the kids. cleaning each other’s houses and cooking together. They would rotate houses and at the end of it, everyone was bringing home a casserole and the living room was spotless. Imagine how different this season would be if you had this support in your life. Now make a list of 3 people you could text and ask if they’d be interested to do something like this. I’m sure they would! We all need each other, and it’s not being we’re weak- it’s because we’re stronger together.

I hope this helps mama, and you’re doing a great job. We’re all in this together, so let’s do it together and have some fun.

What to PACK when Traveling Overseas with a Baby & a Toddler

Traveling to another country with young children can be very exciting and a bit overwhelming. Here is a list of what to pack for kid’s 2yrs and under.

Carry On: You are allowed a complimentary carry on or diaper bag on most overseas flights.

  • You will want at least 1 set of change of clothes,
  • Enough diapers to survive a 24hr layover, (Even if your toddler is potty trained, I recommend diapers for the day of travel because you do NOT want an accident in the plane).
  • 1 snack per every 2 hours you’re traveling,
  • 1 fruit/veggie puree POUCH per every 4hrs you’re traveling
  • A Washable Silicon Pouch Bib
  • Pack of Wipes
  • A Special Item (Lovey, Pacifier, stuffed animal, blanket)
  • 1 game/activity per every 3hrs you’re traveling.
  • A Jacket & hat- it gets cold on the plane!
  • Extra Pacifier
  • Baby Carrier
  • Refillable Water Bottle
  • If Nursing maybe a nursing cover because it can feel a bit vulnerable nursing SO close to strangers on a plane & a Boppy Pillow because it’ll help save your back AND it doubles as a comfy bed for your baby!
  • (If formula feeding- have enough for a surprise 24hr layover, burp cloth, extra bottle)

Checked Bag: This most likely will have a baggage fee attached to it usually between ($50-$75). I suggest just packing your kid’s clothes with your own if you have enough room so you’re only paying for 1 checked suitcase.

  • Clothing- Research the weather ahead of time and pack for 5 degrees over and 5 degrees under as a precaution as well as raincoat.
  • Baby Monitor
  • White Noise Machine
  • Diapers at least for the first 48hrs so you’re not panicked
  • Any Medication your child may need (teething, cold, allergies). It can be difficult finding the right medication in foreign countries.
  • Gripe Water
  • Nasal Aspirator
  • Accessories (hair ties, hats, sunglasses- etc)
  • Toothbrush
  • Swimsuit & Swim Diaper
  • If Formula Feeding research ahead of time to see how accessible your formula is to purchase in the country you’re visiting because it may not be sold, therefor you may want to bring the amount you need with you. Best to not change formula brands when your baby is already adjusting to so many other changes.

Extra Tips for Packing/ Temporary Traveling Solutions:

  • Most flights also allow you to check in a STROLLER at the gate. I highly recommend doing this so that your kids are contained and SAFE in the crowded airport, your hands are freer, it’ll help cart your bags around, and you will also have your stroller on your vacation.
  • I recommend a sturdy jogging stroller (Like “City Select Jogging Stroller”) for old ROUGH roads (like the cobblestone in Europe) or a light umbrella stroller or “Yo Yo stroller” easy to fold & carry for vacations with more complicated transportation (metros, busses, trains, escalators, boats- etc) that do not accommodate strollers. If you need both, bring your sturdy stroller and then purchase a cheap umbrella stroller during your vacation.
  • Make sure to also research if you need OUTLET ADAPTERS for your vacation. For example traveling from the US to Europe you need adapters to use any electronics.
  • You may want to bring outlet covers to baby proof where you’re going, however if the outlets are different and your covers do not fit- use TAPE to temporarily cover outlets.
  • If you need to BLACK OUT windows for the baby to sleep/nap comfortably use tin foil, black trash bags and tape to temporarily black out the light. It may look a little ugly, but whatever you can do to help the baby sleep on vacation is most important.

Your top priorities as a parent don’t change much while you’re on vacation. Just make sure your baby is SAFE, FED, RESTED, and LOVED. Everything else may be unfamiliar, but mommy & daddy’s arms are the same so give lots of hugs.

Have extra grace & patience with yourself and your family and have a safe flight! Hope this packing list helps!

20 Activities for You, Your Toddler AND Baby

The transition from 0 to 1 was quite difficult for me, so when I found out I was pregnant I was so nervous how I was going to do it again- WITH a toddler! It all seemed so overwhelming. Take it from me mama, the load does get heavier, but don’t be discouraged because YOU also get stronger.

I’m about to celebrate baby #2’s 1st birthday, and I can honestly say although we had some rough sleepless patches in the year (darn that 4m sleep regression), this has been one of the BEST years of my LIFE.

With that being said, here are 20 fun activities my toddler, baby and I enjoy together.

  1. Play Hide & Seek. (Carry the baby and take turns looking for or hiding from your toddler. It’s great practice for your toddler to count, take turns, practice being patient and QUIET, and bonding with their new sibling realizing it’s FUN to have a little brother or sister to play with).
  2. Water Table play. Add ice cubes, balls & cups for more fun.
  3. Make Oobleck. (1 part cornstarch & 1 part water). This is MESSY but very easy to clean up. I recommend doing it on a bare easy to wipe service, cover chairs with a towel, and have a bowl of water & paper towel nearby to rinse the toddlers hands). Add food coloring or edible luster dust to make it pretty.
  4. Dance Party! Turn on some of YOUR favorite danceable tunes (It doesn’t have to be Cocomelon- your mental health matters! haha) and dance around! Music does wonders for baby’s brain development & it’ll help burn your toddlers energy.
  5. Bake Together. While baby is in the high chair (so both of your hands are free to help your toddler) baking is a great way for your toddler to understand sequence (first, then, after, next-), following instructions, fine motor skills and starting & finishing a project together. Banana bread is a perfect place to start and a tasty treat for everyone! Your baby will also enjoy seeing the pouring, mixing & interaction.
  6. Go on a Treasure Hunt. Do this by hiding items (stuffed animals, dollar store large gold coins, anything that’s not a choking hazard) in an area like your living room and have your toddler & infant look for the items. You can even have your toddler “hide” the items for the baby to find too. This way they can cheer on their little sibling as they crawl or learn to walk towards it. If baby is too little you can pretend to look for the treasure while carrying your baby to the item.
  7. Use magnetic tiles for your toddler to build towers that your baby can knock down. Call the game “Godzilla” or “Tear down the Tower” and make sure your toddler understands your baby destroying their tower is a PART of the game; otherwise they may be upset (which you just explain that’s what babies do!)
  8. Doodle Mat. These are so fun and mess free because the “pens” are filled with water, So your little can still create art but there is no paint or coloring involved.
  9. Reading Books. Have your toddler pick out the books they want and read to them for as long as they’ll let you.
  10. Visit an Aquarium. It’s very soothing to see fish and other sea creatures swimming- plus they are dark & have AC which is ideal for a nice nap and not over stimulating.
  11. Play the piano (or whatever available instrument) together. Even if NONE of you can play, banging on the keys together stimulates BOTH sides of the brain (music is the only activity that does this). If you are musically inclined, play familiar songs and sing together!
  12. Take stroller walks on shaded trails. Don’t forget water, stroller fan, hats, & sunscreen! Walking will also help you process your thoughts & feelings, so this is the perfect activity to do when you feel overwhelmed.
  13. Go to the splash pad! Find one on Amazon for the backyard as low as $8, or check the area for public ones. If local see my list of splash pads in the area. LINK:
  14. Go to a Farmer’s Market. Lots of interesting things for baby to see from the carrier and a perfect learning environment for your toddler to recognize fruits, vegetables, animals and other items they may see.
  15. Play I SPY. This is great if you’re trapped on the couch by your sleeping baby but your toddler wants to play. Whatever room you’re in say “I spy with my little eye something *state the color*” and have them find the items.
  16. Walk around the mall. Perfect for when you need to get out of the house but the weather is yucky. Very accommodating for double strollers and there’s always good snacks.
  17. Go on a Picnic. Bring a blanket, some food, water, shade & pack n play. Can be a field, park, or even your backyard! I just recommend a bathroom nearby if your toddler is potty trained.
  18. Do the Hokey Pokey and other songs with dance moves! (Probably will need to carry the baby). There are plenty on YouTube if you don’t know many yourself.
  19. The Orlando Science Center is filled with STEM activities for all ages, including babies and toddlers! Our favorite rooms are the orange grove and water zone.
  20. Make a beach trip! Our favorite local beach is New Smyrna because you can drive directly on to the sand which makes it easier to haul everything. We like to set up a tent for shade, use a pack n play, bring beach chairs, a beach mat, cooler, snacks, sand toys, mini pool, baby floaties and diaper bag filled with sun protection & beach wear. It’s a lot to pack, but the beach is a wonderful place for kids to explore and learn- and the sand alone is great sensory play.

I hope this list helps get you excited for all the fun times ahead. Having a baby & a toddler is a lot of work, but who says that work can’t be fun!

The goal with all these activities is having fun learning and creating a safe environment on a foundation of love and trust, bonding not just with you, but with each other as siblings. The house and your hair may look a mess, but keep in mind it’s only a season and it goes by FAST, so enjoy as much as you can!

In Addition 7 Items I recommend to make going out easier: *No Affiliation*

Baby Hip Carrier- I actually use this a lot for carry my toddler while I push my baby in the stroller. GAME CHANGER. LINK: Baby Hip Carrier

Ergo Baby Carrier. LINK: Ergo Baby Carrier

Portable Pack N Play LINK: Regalo Portable Playard

City Select Double Stroller LINK: City Select Stroller

Portable Stroller Fan: LINK: Stroller Fan

Rather than a traditional “diaper bag” I prefer a draw string bag that’s lite. Link: Adidas Bag

Crocs shoes for toddlers- SO easy to slip on & off and easy to clean. Link: Toddler Crocs

Add them to the registry & send the links to grandma & grandpa! haha.

Cheers mama, hope this helps.

5 Conversations to Have on Independence Day with Your Kids

On 4th of July weekend we think about BBQ’s, pool parties, fireworks, and whether or not to put salt on watermelon, but as parents we should not waste any opportunity to have important conversations with our children.

Here are 5 conversations to have over the long patriotic weekend.

  1. Take the opportunity to share America’s history and the birth of our country. Who were the Indians and the pilgrims? The founding Fathers? Why did they seek out America? What struggles have we gone through as a nation? Why is America a Republic and what is the constitution?

2. Play the armed forces medley and take a moment to appreciated our country’s heroes serving all around the world on military bases. Growing up on a military base overseas my entire life, I saw first hand the sacrifices American military families faced on a daily basis and I want to make sure my kids feel the same gratitude towards our amazing soldiers in all branches. Not many countries have the protection of armed forces like we do.

3. Go over the pledge of allegiance and ask your child what they think it means. I remember my dad doing this with me. We used to say it every day in school, but I never really thought about what it meant until he asked. Liberty and Justice for All.

4. Talk about your favorite American patriots and advocates. Why do you like them? What were they passionate about? How did they make a difference and what was the legacy they left behind? How can we imitate them?

5. Share why you love America and what makes it different from any other country in the world. Why are immigrants from all around the world coming to the United States? What does being an American mean to your family?

The past couple years our country has become more divided than ever, and that can be very difficult to explain to your children. I remember when I was about 8yrs old during a presidential election another kid in my class told me that if you voted for one representative your family would starve. I was so scared because as a naive child you believe anything you hear.

I can only imagine now what kids are hearing their parents say and repeating it to their peers. Fear mongering, misinformation, fake news, sensational headlines have an effect on little naive minds, and with social media access kids are exposed to politics wether they like it or not. As parents we are responsible to protect and create a safe place for our kids. Let them know that everything will be ok and teach them to be a model citizen of the America you hope for their future. One day your kids won’t be so little anymore and they will remember these conversations. The best thing we can do for our country is to have open communication with one another, especially our children.

Having traveled to several places before kids, I can say confidently that we have so much to be thankful for. America is a country like no other, and it is a great honor to be able to teach our children the values and beliefs we have without fear, and I am proud to be an American. Pass on the gratitude and help create a better future for us all.

Happy Independence Day!

How to continue your child’s education throughout the summer

Summer break doesn’t mean a break from learning. Now is the PERFECT opportunity to teach your kids an incredible variety of subjects, hobbies, and skills that are better received OUTSIDE of a classroom setting. Here are some ideas and ways to take advantage of this time to invest in your child’s education.

Dive into the history of your city or a city nearby.

Every city has a history. Google your city’s history together or ask your child to do their own research and give a presentation to the family! Then you can spend a weekend visiting various historical sites in your city, such as the oldest building, city hall, historic downtown, oldest restaurant, and important sites. If your city’s history doesn’t seem to be very exciting you could take a drive to a place with a richer history such as St. Augustine! Take a day trip visiting the fort, riding the bus tour, enjoying the museum and asking your child questions about what they think of past events, and how it could be applied to present day. This is a simple but incredible way to help your child apply the knowledge from gathered local historical events. Make sure you stop in for brunch at the Blue Hen Cafe! Their biscuits alone are worth the drive!

Explore Nature Trails.

Living in Florida we’re blessed to have so many nature trails all around us! Use this AMAZING site to find new trails. All you need to do is type the city that you’re interested taking a walk in, and an entire list will pop up! Our favorite trail is the Seminole Cross trail that runs between Oviedo and Winter Springs. Plenty of shade and perfect for dogs on short leashes, strollers and bicyclists! You can park at the Townhouse parking lot early and take a long walk before the sun gets too hot. Then when you’re done, stop by Walls of Books and grab something to read while enjoying a delicious breakfast at the Townhouse, and maybe some of Kelly’s homemade ice-cream for dessert after! (119 N Central Ave, Oviedo)

Music Lessons

Music is not only a wonderful hobby, but also the only task that strengthens both sides of the brain simultaneously, an emotional outlet, and great skill to have for personal growth. Taylor Academy of Music located in Winter Springs is one example of in home private lessons available for summer classes! Find our more here: Taylor Academy of Music

Summer Work books.

I remember my parents doing this with me in elementary school. I can’t say that I enjoyed it, however I noticed an improvement in my spelling, reading and mathematics. You can always find them in book stores, but often brand new at thrift stores for $1!

Play Games Together.

Bring back Family Game Night! People of all ages learn by having fun. Games are a fantastic way to learn about taking turns, counting, numbers, animals, following instructions, negotiating, managing finances, strategy, winning, losing, and playing fair. By playing games with your children you will receive more insight into their maturity and temperament. What do they enjoy about the game? What do they struggle with? What frustrates them or gets them excited? Are they a good sport? Gullible? Strategic? Do they cheat? Do they care about winning? Are they a quick learner? A risk taker? Games are a fantastic way to build relationship and finding more intimate details about who your child is as an individual. Make sure to let them play as themselves! As long as they’re playing by the agreed upon rules, let them make their own mistakes and victories. It’s not about teaching them to win, it’s about getting to know them.

Science Experiments.

Mad Science located in the Oviedo Mall has several camp options for kids to explore the wonderful world of science! Find out more here: Mad Science Or, if you’d rather conduct these experiments in your own home and don’t mind the mess, check out this blog filled with science experiments for kids! Kids Activities Blog

Gihonn Online Tutoring.

Gihonn is a new online tutoring company helps kids 7yrs-22yrs specifically in the areas of math & coding! For math, they go over the future class syllabus to ensure all lessons help the student get ahead in class. In a world continually advancing in new technology and computers it’s an invaluable skill to have. Click here for a free consultation: Gihonn Free Consultation

Summer Reading.

Encourage your kids to spend less time on electronics and more time with their nose in a book. A few ways to encourage your children to read is by creating a summer reading list of books you find appropriate for their age level. When they complete the entire list they get a prize! (Classic childhood dream prize for me was a pizza party with my friends!) Or a small prize per every book they finish. In elementary school my parents used to give me $0.50 cents for every book I read (I was going through the Romana Quimby series). I don’t think most kids would get out of bed for $0.50 cents anymore lol- but you get the idea! Another idea is to join a summer reading camp. There is one I highly recommend organized by the Literacy Equestrian Center that takes place as the Cheyne Ranch in the company of adorable farm animals! Some fresh air and reading is exactly what kids need more of. Click this link for more details: Literacy Equestrian Center Cheyne Ranch

School House Rock Songs.

OLD SCHOOL, I know- but I learned a lot from those tapes. Music is an incredibly underrated weapon for learning. How many songs do you know by heart? Imagine if the lyrics helped you ace tests and get summer jobs! Plus you can find them all on Amazon Prime for free about grammar, history, science, and more!

Teach them about Finances & Budgeting

Depending on their age, give them the task to pretend budget for. Perhaps they are responsible for “paying” for the family going out to dinner and have to make sure they have enough money for what everyone orders & including 20% tip! Or maybe they need to budget for an entire month’s necessities. Hand them a fake paycheck of what they might earn for their first job or what you earn and give them a list of monthly bills of the house, car, phone, subscriptions- etc. They also need to budget & buy the groceries, and any other errands for the home & family. This could be just a day project or an on going more realistic project throughout the month. Managing finances is one of the many skills I hear adults say they wish they’d known more about before leaving the nest.

Cooking & Baking together.

The “Freshmen 15” is pretty well known most likely because so many teens go off to college and then realize they don’t have any idea how to cook for themselves. So they end up eating microwavable filth or ordering off the dollar menu. Do your child a kindness and spend time together in the kitchen. It’s a great way to pass on family recipes and cultural heritage. If you’re not the greatest cook yourself and feel unqualified to pass on any kitchen expertise, don’t let that stop you! Youtube and Instagram are filled with cooking channels! My favorite YouTube chef is Laura Vitale. Here’s a link to a pretty simple dinner win: Laura Vitale Fettuccine Alfredo. Incredibly easy to follow and 100% success rate following her recipes. If you prefer cook books, follow local business mama, Christine Pittman, on Instagram @cookthestory and check out their chicken cook book available at the My Oviedo Store! With the price of beef these days, I know I’ll be eating a lot of chicken- so I’m very thankful for a book like this to help mix it up!

Visit Museums!

Theme Parks and Playgrounds are wonderful areas of learning, exploring, and getting energy out- but don’t forget about these equally entertaining and more intellectual alternatives such as the Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando Science Center, Winter Park History Museum, Art & History Museums of Maitland, Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, Sanford Museum- so on and so forth. There are so many museums in the Orlando area that you could visit one every other week for the whole summer! Plus, they’ve got AC!

Lastly, just ask your child to pick one thing they’re interested in, and learn about that one thing all summer together.

It can be anything! Baseball, Make up tutorials, Bowling, Animals, Speaking French, Anime, Cooking, a specific Country, their favorite band, local restaurants, hiking trails, kayaking, learning hip hop, working out- whatever it is, become “experts” together and make an effort to bond over it. Either asking every night at dinner “What did you learn today about ____” or every Saturday morning either researching or performing the activity together. Make it consistent throughout the summer and then plan a “finale” before school starts. If bowling is the hobby, plan a bowling party. If makeup is the activity, invite a bunch of friends to do all their makeup, have a photo shoot afterwards & go out to dinner. If it’s learning about another country or language, go to a restaurant or cook a meal traditionally served in that culture. If there is a finale, your child is much more likely to continue to explore and learn throughout the summer because there is a goal to look forward to and accountability especially if their friends are involved.

I hope this list gives you some ideas on getting involved with your child’s development and learning together. We only have 18 summers with our kids before they graduate. What were the things you wish you knew more about before you graduated high school? How can you share those lessons with your kids now? Knowledge is a gift, so make it Christmas in July and give it all away. There is no better time to invest in your child’s future than in the present.

What will you be teaching your kids this summer?

The Hardest Part About Parenting Surprised Me

I was the youngest in my family and did not grow up around any younger family members. I WAS THE BABY. And I liked it. Well, most of the time.

My husband and I were expecting our first baby right before I turned 27yrs old. Although in my late 20’s, according to my family, I was still the baby. I didn’t know anything about newborns, other than the fact that they made me uncomfortable. Although I always wanted to be a parent, but I didn’t know the first thing about parenthood. It seemed like most parents were fine and that this was just the natural way of life. I knew it would be hard, but how hard could it really be?

Turns out, it’s pretty hard. It looks different for every family, but it’s clear that every single parent faces challenges regardless of how they may appear.

In the first months of postpartum I didn’t hide the struggle, because living transparently and leaning in on community is how I operate. I find when you let down your walls and expose your raw desire for help, healing often follows as others begin to share how they went through the same hardships. I’m writing this post because it needs to be talked about. I know those walls are still up for many of you, and you need to know, you are not alone.

Parenting is indeed hard, but to my surprise, that hardest part about parenting was not labor which was what I thought it would be.

It was not the round the clock nursing every 2-3hrs day & night for 3 months. Although that was exhausting.

It was not learning about all the milestones & pediatrician visits to make sure the baby was developing on track. Although that was stressful.

It was not about sifting through the millions of parenting methods on birthing, sleep training, baby lead weaning, nursing, pumping, baby wearing, pacifier giving– and so on, each claiming to be the only correct way to have a healthy happy baby. Although that was draining.

The hardest part about parenthood is facing your flaws and insecurities as a parent.

Feeling unqualified because you cannot live up to the idea of the perfect parent you wanted to be. Failing over and over again chasing a mirage, then realizing, it was never real. Facing the reality of your limitations and not pushing yourself too hard because you’ve been comparing yourself to others- many of which you’ve only seen pictures of.

It’s fighting to stay present and “enjoy every moment” with your baby rather than dragging yourself down with anxious loathing thoughts. It is humbling yourself to the conclusion that it is not about your beautiful flawless journey being the perfect parent and having the perfect child. It is the unique and messy adventure of continually learning and growing with your beautifully flawed little one.

It’s looking at your failures and choosing to rise above them by making practical changes in your day to day behavior; such as the way you talk to your spouse, your attitude about the day, and not giving in to laziness at every chance.

The hardest part about parenthood, is growing up and taking on the responsibility. Your kids don’t need perfect models as parents to look good and seem fine, they need role models to look up to, especially when life is hard. Do you model the attitude, work ethic, faith, and relationships that you’d want your kid to have?

Choosing to be an example amidst your flaws so that they can grow up to be the best version of themselves amidst their flaws too.

And every day that you fail, not making excuses, hiding, or breaking down- but instead staying, apologizing and adjusting so it becomes less and less a part of your family’s baggage. Your child needs to see the way you model handling failures too.

The hardest part of parenthood, is facing your flaws and still being confident that YOU ARE THE BEST for them. How do I know? Because more than anyone else in the world, YOU WANT to be the best for THEM.

As parents we ALL have our failures & doubts if we’re “good parents” because we all have hard days. We also live in a world that makes money off that feeling that we are never enough.

What you need to know is that a bad parent wouldn’t have those doubts. They wouldn’t be worried or concerned. The reasons you worry is because you CARE. You cannot be the best parent in the world, but you can be the best parent for your child. If you love them, protect them, guide them, and honor them, and do your best, you ARE a good parent.

Here are 10 TIPS to continue to grow yourself and your character as a parent.

  1. If you need counseling or therapy, go for it. Your mental health is not an expense, it is an investment into you and your family’s future.
  2. Eat healthier- If you eat crap, you’ll feel like crap.
  3. Exercise 3 times a week (even for just 20min). You don’t need a gym or any equipment. Just go for a walk, have a dance party, do some jumping jacks. It does make a huge difference chemically.
  4. Prioritize your sleep over your shows.
  5. Be mindful of how you talk to your child & spouse
  6. Ask your spouse what is 1 thing that you could work on
  7. Journal, paint, shoot hoops- do what you need to creatively process.
  8. Call one of your parents or another role model to talk about it.
  9. Invest in an old or new hobby that is not baby related.
  10. Hold and hug your child and tell them how much you love them every morning and every night no matter WHAT. Do it as often as you can- but prioritize at least starting and ending the day with them knowing how much you love them.

I hope this message was both challenging and encouraging to you as a parent. It’s a fine balance continually growing our weaknesses and operating confidently in our strengths. The best way to show your child not to give up on themselves, is by not giving up on yourself.

Send this to a mom or dad that needs to hear this. Maybe it’s your spouse? Maybe it’s your own parent. Maybe it’s for that mama who was like me, struggling with a newborn and feeling unqualified. Share it freely, because we could all use the reminder every now and again.

The New Online Tutoring Program Young Adults Need Now

School is on break, but your child’s education does not have to be. Just in time, the new online tutoring program is here for mathematics and IT coding and completely set up around your child’s current or future class curriculum. Introducing Gihonn Online Tutoring.

Tutoring sessions are done one on one and open to students 7-22yrs old of all skill levels from elementary to college level. Because lessons go over your child’s own class curriculum or syllabus, students will be assured to thoroughly understand the material in class and excel.

The individual attention given by your tutor will help build the confidence to meet your child’s specific needs and go over exactly what they will be tested on in school. Math can only broaden the possibilities of what your child pursues as a career, and strengthens the life skill of managing bills, budgets and finances. If you can make sense of numbers, you can make sense of the modern world.

Students being tutored in coding will have the opportunity to build and program their own games, which allows creativity, confidence and invaluable skills for numerous jobs. The IT world is growing daily and so are the opportunities for young adults with the knowledge to program and code. A few hours a week learning to code is an investment towards a secure future with a stable job and income for your child.

There are weekly and biweekly tutoring options which can be discussed during your free consultation, set up with a tutor to ensure the learning environment is a perfect match. Knowledge is power. As parents, we want to empower and prepare our kids for the future as much as possible. Gihonn Tutoring will help pave the way to a bright and stabilized future.

Use this link to set up a Free Consultation and to find out more details on various learning options catered to your child: Ghinonn Tutoring

15 Splash Pads in Central Florida to visit this Summer

It’s Summertime in the Sunshine State, and it is hot hot hot! Splash pads are a great way to keep kids cool this summer, and thankfully there are a lot of options!

Here is a list of 15 parks, playgrounds and areas that have awesome splash pads.

  • Torcaso Cove (Our favorite one!)
    • Address: 104 N Moss Rd, Winter Springs, FL 32708
    • Perks: Newly renovated, Gated Splash Pad, Playground, picnic area, HUGE adorable sandbox, walking path around a small lake, grass field, and swings.
    • Cost: Free to Winter Springs residents, $3 for guests.
  • Central Florida Zoo
    • Address: 3755 W Seminole Blvd, Sanford, FL 32771
    • Perks: Located inside the Zoo, petting zoo nearby, connected to Mission BBQ & a picnic Area.
    • Cost: Need a Zoo Ticket (Includes zoo, petting zoo & splash pad) $14-$22. 2 & under are free. Online Ticket LINK:
  • Capeheart Park Orlando
    • Address: 715 Capehart Dr, Orlando, FL 32822
    • Perks: Playground, Large Shaded area, gated splash pad, large walking path, swings, basketball courts & shaded picnic area.
    • Cost: Free public park.
  • Trotwood Park
    • Address: 701 Northern Way, Winter Springs, FL 32708
    • Perks: Lots of shade, Playground, swings, several picnic pavilions, Gated Splash Pad, Walking path, Tennis Courts, Basketball court, Stationary Workout Equipment, Lake, Water Fountains, & Little Library.
    • Cost: Free to Winter Springs residents, $3 for guests.
  • Downey Park
    • Address: 10107 Flowers Ave, Orlando, FL 32825
    • Perks: LARGE splash area, wheel chair accessible playground, swings, picnic area, shade, baseball field, water fountain (for dogs also), lake, and walking path.
    • Cost: Free public park.
  • Barnett Park
    • Address: 4801 W Colonial Dr, Orlando, FL 32808
    • Perks: Gated Splash Pad, playground, walking path, large picnic area with several tables under a large pavilion.
    • Cost: Free public Park.
  • Dr. Phillips Park
    • Address: 7943 Fenton St, Orlando, FL 32836
    • Perks: Gated splash pad, Large shaded Splash pad, large grass area.
    • Cost: Free Public Park
  • Oviedo Aquatic Center
    • Address: 148 Oviedo Blvd, Oviedo, FL 32765
    • Perks: Large pool for lap swimming and playground/splash pad kids area in shallow water.
    • Cost: $5 for Oviedo residents & $7 for guests. Pass & other payment options available here: Aquatic Center Fees & Membership
  • Winter Garden Interactive Fountains
    • Address: 119 S Lakeview Ave, Winter Garden, FL 34787
    • Perks: Large concrete area, located in a park with several walking paths.
    • Cost: Free.
  • Trailblazer Park in Lake Mary
    • Address: 550 Rantoul Ln, Lake Mary, FL 32746
    • Perks: Gated splash pad, large shaded playground with rope structures to climb, swings, walking paths, picnic area and pavilions.
    • Cost: Free Public Park.
  • Aquatica (Seaworld’s Water Park)
    • Address: 5800 Water Play Way, Orlando, FL 32821
    • Perks: Large water slides, Lazy river, wave pool, big kids play zone in shallow water, toddler play zone in shallow water, eating areas and small aquariums.
    • Cost: With the current Memorial Day 50% off sale tickets are $46. LINK: Aquatica Tickets
  • Oviedo on the Park
    • Address: 299 Center Lake Ln, Oviedo, FL 32765
    • Perks: Small Splash pad, next to playground, water fountains, nearby dog park, picnic area, amphitheater, Food truck event the last Thursday of every month, and several free community events hosted. Also a variety of restaurant within walking distance.
    • Cost: Free Public Park
  • Reiter Park
    • Address: Reiter Park, 311 W Warren Ave, Longwood, FL 32750
    • Perks: Gated Splash Pad, Small playground, grass area, walking path, pavillion and nearby lake.
    • Cost: Free Public Park
  • Fort Melon Park
    • Address: 600 E 1st St, Sanford, FL 32771
    • Perks: Gated splash pad, playground, large grass area, and walking paths.
    • Cost: $2-$3 & FREE on the first Friday of Every Month!
  • Wes Crile Park
    • Address: 1537 Norbert Terrace, Deltona, FL 32738
    • Perks: Large gated splash pad only open for the summer. Playground & basketball courts. Closed Mondays for maintenance.
    • Cost: Free Public Park.

Here’s My Checklist for Going to the Splash Pad (Keep in mind I’m packing for a baby & toddler 😂)

  • Sunscreen
  • Change of Clothes to play in because you know they’ll want to go on the playground too! (Loose Fitting)
  • Swim Diaper (if needed)
  • 2 Towels (large & small)
  • Diaper Changing items: wipes, diaper, changing pad (if needed)
  • Plastic bag (for wet clothes)
  • Swim Floaty (if needed)
  • A bucket (to collect & pour water)
  • Hat with chin strap (so they can’t pull it off)
  • Sunglasses
  • Crocs shoes (waterproof & easy to slip on & off)
  • Snacks & Picnic Lunch (Basically a PB&J and pouch for toddler & a protein shake/ smoothie for me because kids aren’t the only ones that get hangry)
  • Water bottle (for you too!)
  • Portable stroller fan
  • Charged Phone
  • Stroller
  • And of course, a friend because playdates are needed for your little to develop social skills AND for mama- because having friends is not something you grow out of.

I hope you find this list useful to help cool your kiddos down while enjoying some good summer fun. Tag a friend & where you want to go below! Don’t forget to share & subscribe.

Books & Babies: 10 Tips on Raising a Little Reader

Reading books to a baby may is one of the best ways you can spend this valuable first year together.

Here are 10 tips on raising little readers.

1. For 0-3m start with Books with Black and White contrast. Since your baby is born colorblind, Black and White books with simple bold patterns are more stimulating to newborns than colorful busy picture books.

2. Listen to classical music before reading together. Studies show that kids who listened to music before engaging in auditory exercises had much more brain stimulation. This is because listening to music is like doing warm ups before an exercise for your brain. If you read after breakfast, play classical music during breakfast time (while nursing, bottle feeding, or feeding solids).

3. Create a routine. Routines are very helpful for babies to anticipate activities and adjust themselves to this strange new world. The anticipation of “reading time” can help prevent fussiness or “the wiggles” because it’s a part of their daily rhythm.

4. Slip in Reading a book that YOU enjoy too. At this age, your baby cannot understand what you are reading so the storyline is not as important. Pick a book you love or have been wanting to read as a form of self care for yourself in addition to the development of your baby. (However still continue to also read children’s books; since they intentionally use alliteration, rhyming, and other sounds with baby’s first words in mind).

5. Be very expressive when you read. Use different voices for different characters, speak with emotion, make silly sounds and bring the book to life however you can. Your baby is learning the art of communication, such as what it means to speak in high and low tones, quick and short expressions, shrill and relaxed voices. You tone and “HOW” you say it is just as important as “WHAT” you say.

6. If your baby is too wiggly and does not want to sit on your lap during reading time, try rocking them in a rocking chair or allow them to play while you read. It’s better to enjoy reading together while they’re playing then get frustrated or give up reading altogether.

7. Writing & journaling is a great way to help process postpartum and ground your thoughts. One idea is to read your journal out loud to your baby. This can bring another element of healing and gratitude for you to process also. Because you are reading your own words it will be a very personal way to bond together.

8. Place books strategically. Always keep a book (or book case) next to your rocking chair, or by the crib so that it’s easier to remember to read during morning and evening routines.

9. If your baby wants rip apart your book or eat it as a snack, keep a teething toy handy alongside your book so that they have something safe to chew/ play with while you read to them. Perhaps invest in baby books that babies can safely play with & chew on without ripping the material. Water books are perfect- and waterproof so you can even enjoy them even during bath time!

10. Have a reading goal for yourself and your baby. The goal could be to read twice a day for 5 minutes or 5 baby books a day. It could be to finish 1 Chapter book a month. It could be to get through a list of books over the summer. It doesn’t matter what your goal is, as long as it helps encourage you to read together daily.

Bonding with your baby over a book is priceless. I hope you enjoy these tips and have a wonderful time reading together with your precious baby.

What are is your reading goal? What sort of tips help you stay consistent with reading with your littles?