Our Favorite Toddler Snacks + $50 Paypal Cash Giveaway

Friday, June 24, 2016

Last year I wrote a post about all my favorite snacks that I gave to my incredibly picky two-year-old when I wanted to try and get him to eat fruits and vegetables. Luckily, Em has proven to be a much better eater than her older brother. She always wants to be eating what we're eating, she loves fruits and vegetables, and she loves trying new food every chance she gets.

The main problem that we've had with Em is finding her a good collection of foods that she can eat, that she won't choke on. It's really common in children with poor trunk control and low muscle tone to expirience problems with chewing/swallowing/and choking. As Em has gotten older and stronger, most of these problems have gone away as long as she is eating in her high chair, but if we're eating on the go in her stroller, or in the car, we have to be very attentive to everything that goes in her mouth.

Over the last year or so we've really gotten into a groove with which foods do and do not work with Em, and she has some staples that she absolutely loves. I love hearing about what other parents give to their kids (because we could all use some new ideas right?), and so I figured that I would share what some of Em's favorite snacks have been to give you all some good ideas too!

Fruits and Veggies: We used to be die hard fans of the Del Monte fruit Burst pouches, but we bought the last 17 boxes at our local Kroger a few weeks ago when they were on clearance and we can't find them anywhere now. We're slowly converting over to applesauce pouches which Em doesn't mind, but Jay has a texture aversion to applesauce, so it's been a struggle for him. He's working on it though, and actually ate an entire applesauce yesterday for the first time. 

Em also really loves bananas. She usually eats one every morning for breakfast which is a huge lifesaver. She wakes up in the morning starving to death, so she'll eat that in her high chair while I cook her oatmeal and get the house cleaned. She also really loved mandarin oranges and can typically eat an entire can in one sitting if I let her. We have to do canned oranges instead of fresh ones since there are still parts of the rind on the fresh ones and she can't chew through those too well. 

Both of my kids absolutely love black beans. We usually go through one can of these organic spicy black beans from Kroger everyday. This is usually our snack in-between waking up from naps and eating dinner. I'm actually pretty proud that my kids love black beans since they're pretty nutrient dense. 

Dairy: Like any family, string cheese and yogurt are a must. I like these full fat french vanilla yogurts from Yoplait since they have 150 calories per serving they give Em the extra bulk she needs since she's so thin. Pretty sure we're the only American's that spend most of their time in the grocery store looking for the yogurt with the most calories. 

Pantry Foods: Em has always loved the strawberry filled Nutrigrain bars which are lifesavers when we need a breakfast on the go. Unfortunately Jay has never been on board with them, and needs milk and cereal every. single. morning. Another staple that both kids love are veggie straws. I never thought that I would be that mom who bought these all the time, but we totally go through a couple bags  a month. 

Another snack I really love for Em are these Lil Beanie snacks from Gerber. I love that they're made from beans and have two grams of protein per serving. They're also made from beans, which obviously this black bean loving family is a huge fan of. Most importantly though, I love that they dissolve easily in the mouth which means they're an easy snack to take on the go when we're in the car. It means that I can have peace of mind while I'm driving knowing that Em can eat her snack and she is significantly less likely to choke on something. I really can't even tell you how many times I've had to clean throw up out of my car, or pull over on the side of the road to help her because she couldn't swallow something in her carseat. The alternative to not letting her eat in the car is her screaming all the time so... #balance. 

Because I want you to experience Lil Beanies from Gerber for yourself, I'm self hosting a $50 paypal cash giveaway. Giveaway will run from now until July 14th at 11:59pm. Enter using the rafflecopter below. 

In partnership with Gerber.

Another Em Update

It feels like it's been ages since I've done an Em update. Since I quit blogging full time a couple months ago, everything has been go, go, go, in our house. We recently got Em setup with a local program through the public school system called, Babies Can't Wait. It's a program for 0-3-year-olds where they can receive free or low cost physical, speech, and occupational therapy at home. I had her initial meeting a few weeks ago and that was honestly really hard. I basically had to sit there in front of a social worker for an hour telling her all the things Em can and can't do and then have her basically tell me that had I been a more involved parent, Em would be a lot further developmentally then she currently is. 

I obviously wanted to tell this social worker that she had no idea what she was talking about, and that she should go take a hike, but instead I just bit the inside of my cheek until I could make it out of the office and then sob all the way home. People are so rude. 

The next step in that process is for their actual therapists (the ones who have actual degrees and know what they're talking about when it comes to development in special needs children), to come to our house and do an evaluation on Em so that they can see where she is at with everything and what kind of therapy she will actually need, how often, etc...

We are actually going to keep going to our same physical therapist through Children's Healthcare of Atlanta since we've been going to her for an entire year now and we have an established relationship with her that we're not willing to give up. We actually had our one year reevaluation at physical therapy last week, and it was really amazing to see how far Em has come in a year. When we started PT last June Em was 10 months old and could barely roll over. Now she's rolling, belly crawling, standing for minutes at a time with her leg braces, she can tripod sit when she has the desire to do so, she can get around in her wheelchair (although she doesn't really like using it anymore now that she can belly crawl), it's just been amazing to see such big changes in her over the last year. 

The results of the evaluation were that for sitting and crawling, Em is at about an 8-10 month capacity. The crazy thing is, with standing, she's at an 11 month capacity. Our therapist told me that once Em figures out how to crawl on hands and knees, she will probably start walking about a month after that. She thinks from now until walking is only about 6 months away. Our therapist did say that Em's hips were "displaced" and that we would spend the next year really working on getting them rotated forward more like the should be, and that should really help her sit, stand, and walk better.

Intellectually, Em has been doing a lot of amazing things the last few weeks. She knows what sound a lion makes, she can point to her eyes, ears, chin, nose, belly, and toes when you ask where they are. She can say about 20 words. She can hold a crayon and scribble on paper. she can comb her hair, and she can wipe her mouth (and bum).

I constantly remember back to two years ago when no one would have ever promised me a little girl who could do any of these things, and yet she is here and defying her own odds everyday. I feel so blessed to be able to watch her grow and write her own story. 

Margherita Pizza| The Best Homemade Pizza Crust

Saturday, June 18, 2016

We've been having pizza for dinner a lot lately. It's an easy meal that I know my kids will eat without a fight, and it's nice that you can typically throw whatever ingredients you have leftover in the fridge right on top, and it becomes a new adventure every time. I always see everyone with their fancy pictures of Margherita Pizza on instagram and this week I decided we should try it out to see if it lived up to the hype.

We had fresh basil from our garden and I never knew that basil could smell so good. It was definitely the most aromatic basil we've ever had. The smell literally filled the entire house, and Em sat on the couch with a bundle of leaves in her hands just smelling them. Apparently the baby version of catnip is indeed, basil.

The real star of the show though was the fresh Stella Mozzarella that we bought from Publix. It's a new line of cheese that Stella has recently launched and it is phenomenal. This was actually my first time cooking with real, fresh mozzarella, and now I don't think that there is any going back. You can try Stella Cheese for yourself using this $1 off coupon, and you can head over to their site to find it in a store near you.

Because I want you to be able to experience the magic of Stella Cheese, I'm self hosting a $50 paypal cash giveaway so you and your family can taste it first hand! Enter using the rafflecopter below! Giveaway will run until 7/11/16 at 11:59pm EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

2 1/4 tsp yeast
1 1/3 cups warm water
3 1/2 cups bread flour
2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp granulate sugar
cornmeal, for dusting pan
Toppings: I did fresh mozzarella, roma tomatoes, and fresh basil

In a mixing bowl, proof the yeast in the warm water for 10 minutes. When the yeast has dissolved, add the flour, oil, salt, and sugar. Mix together until it forms a smooth ball.

Spray a clean mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray and then transfer the ball of dough to the bowl and toss the dough around the bowl until it is coated with cooking spray on all sides. Then place a dry clean towel over the bowl and allow the dough to rise for one hour.

Once the dough has doubled in size, punch the dough down and divide it into two separate balls. Allow the balls of dough to rest for 15 minutes, lightly covered.

Preheat the oven to 475°, and spray your cooking sheets with nonstick cooking spray and lightly dust them with cornmeal. Then prepare your favorite toppings.

When the 15 minutes is up flatten and round out each pizza dough on it's baking sheet until you have a 12 inch circle. Then curl the edge of the dough up to form the lip for the crust. Lightly brush the top of the dough with olive oil, and allow to rest for 15 minutes before topping.

Top your pizza with the desired toppings, and then bake for 12-15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the cheese  is melted.

For margherita pizza, top with fresh basil after cooking. Slice, and serve immediately out of the oven.

This post was sponsored by Stella Cheese, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

The Ultimate Chex Snack Mix + $50 Paypal Cash Giveaway

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

We don't have treats in our house all that often. Mainly I'm too lazy to make them, and when I'm at the grocery store, I get pretty heck bent if I'm going to go over our grocery budget by $5 in the name of cookies or ice cream. But sometimes, for the good of doing something fun with my children, and switching up our routine a little bit, I like to go to the store, get some fun things, and then roll up our sleeves in the kitchen to make a special treat. Especially in the summer when it seems like things are 10 times more relaxed then usual (and I don't even have kids in school), it's a nice way to spend a lazy summer morning. 

Jay and I recently made this yummy snack mix together after I had put Em down for her nap and he just loved measuring all the ingredients, stirring the melted chocolate, and of course eating little samples of Chex Cereal, pretzels, and popcorn to his heart's delight. When I slow down and do fun things like this with him, it's so fun to see his little personality beam through even more.

The best part about this snack is that you can easily customize it to be gluten free if you need to. Publix has a great selection of gluten free snacks available to you right at your finger tips. To help you experience all the wonderful gluten free options that Publix has to offer, I'm hosting a $50 Paypal cash giveaway to help you get your shopping on. Enter using the rafflecopter below. Giveaway will run until 6/29/16 at 11:59pm EST.

3 cups Chex
3 cups Popcorn
3 cups Pretzels
2 cups M&Ms
8oz white chocolate, melted

Pour the chex, popcorn, and pretzels together in a 9x13 baking dish. Mix them together and then pour the melted white chocolate on top of the chex mixture. Mix it all together and then toss in the M&Ms and then lay out on some wax paper for about 15 minutes to harden.

This post is sponsored by General Mills, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Our New Homeschooling Plans

Saturday, June 4, 2016

When I wrote my post about why we're not red shirting Jay for kindergarten, I very openly admitted that only time would tell if our plans went through and if what we thought originally would work for us or not. In May we got the first bill for August's tuition for Jay's preschool, and Derek and I found ourselves questioning, "is this really right for him?" The main things we weren't jazzed about were the payments of $245/mo for the next ten months, and I didn't really know what I had even wanted for Jay to get out of school for that year. There was also the fact that I would have to wake up and get him out the door four days a week by 8:30am, which seems daunting when you sleep as little as we do, and lastly, we really wanted to be able to sign Jay up for soccer and other fun extra circular activities this year, and with $245/mo going to preschool tuition there really wasn't the extra funds to facilitate any extras.

There were also other contributing factors like, what will happen when our lease is up? Would we force ourselves to buy a home close to his preschool? Would I drive him 30+ minutes everyday to finish out the school year? Would he like going on a daily basis? How would I be with him not being home everyday? Needless to say, there were a lot thoughts going through my mind. 

So then I sat down and thought about what I really wanted for Jay to get out of school this year. What are the things I really want him to know before we dive into the big open world of kindergarten the following year? I realized that I really wanted to work on more craft projects at home with him. He's literally never cut anything with a pair of scissors, and so I'm thinking one structured at home preschool craft a week could definitely fulfill this need. I wanted him to work his way through the kindergarten workbook that we bought for him since he finished the preschool level one this last school year. I'll be honest in that the kindergarten one is a little too much for him right now, and we do have to modify some of the activities in it so that neither one of us get frustrated, but I still like it just as much as the preschool one. 

Another thing I wanted him to be working on is coding. I mentioned this to Derek a few nights ago and he raised an eyebrow at me and said, "Does he need to know that at age 4?" but according to code.org, kids should start learning about computer science and coding at the age of four since it's like another language and it's easier for other languages to be picked up when they're younger. In a world that is getting more and more digital by the second, coding really is going to be a part of our kids future. I love the easy lessons that you can do through code.org and how they're broken up by age group and you can do both "unplugged" activities with crayons, glue, and paper, but they also have activities on the computer as well, and the entire thing is free. 

Once I realized that those were my objectives for him to learn over the next school year, I realized that those were things that I could easily do at home for significantly less money than the price of preschool. Since we were saving money, we realized we could put some of it towards extra curricular activities so that he was still getting the social interaction that he needed. We signed him up for fall soccer through the local YMCA branch, and after digging around our community and learning about the multitude of activities and classes that they do for people of all ages, we got him enrolled in a community art class for four-year-olds as well. We spent less than $200 on activities that will last him for the entire first half of next school year, and I'm sure he'll have a lot more fun. 

Finally, once I had fully accepted and embraced that we were going to be "homeschooling" next year, I bought Confessions of a Homeschooler's Letter of the Week Preschool Curriculum for all of $15. I love that I was able to download everything that I needed and then I can just pull the lessons together and print them off each week and have structured things to do with him each day. 

While it may sound like we have a ton of plans, and it sounds like I have all this stuff I'm wanting to throw at him this next year, I do know that we really need to just pace it and take it slow. I never want to be the parent that is forcing my kids to learn things that are too hard for them, and I never want to have false expectations for things with my children. I think often we get so caught up in having to make our kids the best/smartest/everything etc... that we can push them too hard and make them resent learning. I loved this video by The Encouraging Homeschool Mom where she talks about teaching 3-4-year-olds and how at this age, it really all just needs to be about having fun and not pushing them. I've really taken that to heart these last few weeks. While I really want to be able to expose Jay to all these different and fun things, I don't want to push him into doing things he hates. I know he loves writing and counting, but if it turns out he hates coding? We'll put it on the back burner for six months and see how he feels about it later. I'm mostly excited to just have a lot of fun this next school year, and he is too.

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