*The Read to Learn Book Club does not give away book bags with the monthly books & activity guides;
these were only gifts to bloggers as a thank you for sharing the information about the Book Club.
I’ve talked before about how important reading is. One of my favorite gifts to give is a book - because there is a book for every occasion out there. And while books aren’t always the most exciting gift, they can be incredibly meaningful, and the right book at the right moment in someone’s life can be powerful and life-changing.
I also love to gift books because it can get expensive to purchase books constantly - as an avid (well, avid pre-kids) reader, I can tell you just how pricey books can get. Of course, there is always the library, but sometimes it's nice to have books you can call your own.
The Children’s Trust knows how important reading is, and how essential it is for there to be books in the home. This summer, I participated in their #Read30 Movement. But did you know that if you have a three year old and you live in Miami-Dade County, your child can receive a free book every month for a year while they are three? The Children's Trust Read to Learn Book Club encourages parents with children three years or younger to sign up to receive free books.
This is a totally free, monthly book club, and it is open to all three-year-olds in Miami-Dade County. On their third birthday, all children are eligible to receive a free book every month, delivered right to their home.
Children may be registered for The Children's Trust Read to Learn Book Club up to six months before they turn three, and on the month of their third birthday, their year of fun and learning begins. What if your child already turned three, you ask? You can still register them up until one month before a child's fourth birthday - I actually just did Caleb’s! And, you can actually register your child to receive books in English or in Spanish.
The Book Club supports The Children's Trust Read to Learn initiative. This initiative was formed in response to research which shows that early reading experiences, along with opportunities to build vocabulary, and literacy-rich environments are the most effective ways to support the development of pre-reading and cognitive skills, so children are reading at or above grade level by third grade.
So if you are a resident of Miami-Dade and your child is about to turn three or is three now, register them! Give them the gift of reading, of a literacy-rich environment, and teach them to love books.
The Read to Learn Book Club is funded and administered by The Children's Trust, Miami-Dade Family Learning Partnership and Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe.
For some more tips and facts about early literacy, visit here.
What are you waiting for??? It's FREEEEEEEE! Go sign up!
There was an article floating around Facebook recently about how raising our kids near their grandparents can be tremendously beneficial for both our children and our parents (their grandparents).
I was so fortunate to grow up with three of my grandparents around and involved in my life (I am still lucky enough to say that I have two of them still around). My kids are even luckier because they have all four of their grandparents around and involved in their lives. Eddie's mom spends one day a week here with the kids and picks Caleb up from school, my dad picks Caleb up and takes him to school one morning a week, and we try to spend time with both sets of grandparents every weekend - sometimes all together and sometimes separately.
And while grandparents can sometimes overwhelm us as parents and have a hard time with boundaries, I am the first to recognize how important they are to not only our children's well-being, but to our own.
Grandparents have been through it before. What seems like a huge deal to us, they know is just a phase and that "this too, shall pass." They can share a perspective with us that might make us feel a little less overwhelmed by whatever situation we are enduring with our kids - be it tantrums, giving us a hard time about eating, or not sleeping.
They also have a seemingly infinite amount of patience. Because they aren't elbow-deep in the trenches all day anymore, they can usually handle our kids with an ease that leaves us with mouths gaping. Situations that would have me reacting or snapping at Caleb, they handle with grace and patience. Caleb will fight both Eddie and I on everything from brushing his teeth to picking up his toys. The grandparents swoop in and ask in another way, and BOOM! He's doing whatever we wanted or needed him to do. I am honestly flabbergasted at the way that our parents can get Caleb to do almost anything.
For Eddie and I, grandparents provide some much needed relief and some extra hands when we need it. Knowing I can count on our parents and that they are so close by is something I have been trying not to take for granted. Just this past week, both kids had been sick, and Caleb wasn't improving. Chloe had a pediatrician appointment, so I wanted to take Caleb to the appointment as well so the pediatrician could check him out. But the thought of going to the pediatrician with both kids by myself proved a little daunting, so I asked my mother-in-law to help me out. Without hesitation, she changed her plans and came to help me with the two kids at the pediatrician's office. This isn't the first time she has done that for us, either. And this week, my mom, knowing I had had a rough week with the kids, made an unplanned visit that allowed me to shower in peace and blow dry my hair. By the time she left, Caleb had eaten dinner and bathed, too - and I had gotten a tiny respite.
I almost feel bad asking for help sometimes, because I know that if I ask, they will move mountains to make their hands available for us. Many times I'll text my parents and ask, "Are you guys busy on Saturday?" And most of the time their response isn't, "We are," or "We're not," it's more often, "What do you need? How can we help?"
I know the relationship with grandparents can sometimes be difficult to navigate - as someone who finds it hard to relinquish control of my children to others, I really understand this. I become a huge micromanager when it comes to my kids. But I know how important grandparents are, and I am more and more grateful every day that my kids are blessed with four truly amazing grandparents. So while I am firm on some of my requests, I also try to give a little, because I know how special that relationship can be.
If you and your children are fortunate enough to have a good relationship with grandparents, who are involved and willing to be a part of your children's lives, take advantage of it. Give your parents and your children the gift of each other.
A couple of weeks ago I flew from Miami to New York to attend a product launch event for JOHNSON'S. I documented some of my trip on Instagram, but I didn't mention something. That was the first time in over ten years - since before Eddie and I were married - that I had really traveled alone. I've driven to Orlando from Miami before and met Eddie there, but in the almost NINE years we have been married, I haven't had a reason to travel anywhere alone. Add to that having a child attached to me 24/7 for the last nearly 4 years, and well, there went the time!
I always have a little bit of anxiety about traveling - mostly when I am in the packing stage. The morning I was leaving to New York, my stomach was a mess, I was so nervous, and I packed and re-packed no less than 3 times. I texted my best friend, and told her how nervous I was and she told me, "Of course you are, you're leaving your kids and husband behind." In my heart I knew my kids would be fine and well taken care of. Eddie is an amazing, hands-on dad and is so good with both of them. Plus we had the grandparents lined up to help out, too. There was nothing to worry about.
But then I thought, "What if something happens to me?" I literally created dozens of scenarios in my mind and stressed myself over things that, were they to happen, would be completely out of my control. Finally I snapped myself out of it, took a deep breath, and put my fears in God's hands.
Off I went, to do the airport on my own, get an Uber on my own, check into a hotel on my own, figure my meals out alone, sleep on my own, and attend an event where I didn't know anyone. But something happened along the way there. I relaxed. I enjoyed myself. I listened to music. I walked alone. I enjoyed silence. I walked like I knew where I was going. I met up with a friend for drinks and stayed up later than usual. And I felt good about it. I missed Eddie and I missed my babies, of course. I thought about them every moment. But doing this on my own made me feel capable, and it made me feel like I had a little bit of my self back.
When I was in college, I went to New York with three of my girlfriends. On our last day, we were tired and went back to the hotel room to nap. Well, I ended up being the only one who woke up from the nap and needed to eat, so I left the hotel and wandered around Times Square on my own for a little bit. The next morning my friends gave me some grief about going out on my own, but I never once felt uneasy about doing it. This whole trip kind of made me feel like that.
I have this fear of growing older and being so reliant on Eddie that I am incapable of doing things on my own. Eddie loves to take care of me, and I absolutely love that about him, but I don't want to be in my 60s and scared of doing things because someone else always did them for me. And while I don't want to leave my husband and kids all the time, I think doing it was really empowering for me.
Some of you might be thinking - what a baby, I do this for work all the time! And girl, do I salute you, but I have never had to travel further than Orlando for work, and even that was with coworkers. So for me, this was a big deal. But it was a reminder that I can do things I'm not always comfortable with, and that sometimes, stepping out of my comfort zone can be more rewarding than I anticipated. For me, this wasn't just a "work trip". It was about finding a little piece of myself, and growing in a way I didn't know I needed to.
So the next time you get a chance to do something that is new to you - don't hesitate. Take the step. I don't think you'll regret it.
P.S. As soon as I decided to go on this trip, I went looking for an outfit. I found this look at New York & Company - it was on a mannequin and I loved the combination of the polka dots and stripes. (Shop the look below.) I also loved the movement on the pants, but this bold of a print mixing was also outside my comfort zone - so you could say I tried several new things this trip!
I scheduled a shoot with Lauren of Laurel Creative and when we met up to take these photos, it was raining! (You can probably tell in the first couple of shots if you look really closely.) But we stuck it out, and got it done in under 30 minutes. I felt like a sweaty mess and my hair lost all it's curl after the drizzling rain stuck to it, but I still love what these photos represent (And hello, how amazing is that taxi shot?!).
Shop My Look
*Links are affiliate links.
July has been a busy month! It's obviously my favorite because I celebrate my birthday, but I love the laid back vibes that July always brings because it's summertime. I'm not crazy about this heat, but I can't change that, so we embrace it with trips to the beach and lots of indoor activities. Anyway, here's what I've been loving this month!
Becoming a mother has made me realize that my birthday isn't just my day - it's also my Mom's BIRTHday. Without her, there would be no me. I wanted to do something different for my birthday post, and I thought hearing my birth story from my mom's perspective would be cool. Thankfully, my Mom was up to the task and agreed to do write it out - 33 years later! It's safe to say I am a lot like her, and that's not a bad thing, in my opinion. Read on to hear all about the day I was born!
On a sunny Sunday morning in late July, July 28th to be exact, I started feeling what I thought were contractions and the beginning of labor. I showered, dressed, and put on make-up. For those who know me, this is no surprise. Eddy (Jenise's dad) and I waited until the contractions were steady and every 4 minutes. We very nervously and excitedly headed to the hospital. Upon our arrival, I was placed on a monitor to check the contractions. About 10 minutes into this Jenise must have decided to take a nap because the contractions all but stopped. Soooo, they sent me home at about 4pm. I drank water to hydrate and we took a walk. Of course the contractions started again but I was embarrassed and did not want to be sent home again. I tried laying down, but the contractions were stronger and I could not sleep.
By 11pm, Eddy and I could take the waiting no more and went back to the hospital. I was admitted and placed once more on the monitor. The doctor came by and we discussed our wishes. I wanted no pain meds nor an epidural because I did not want any drugs affecting the baby. The doctor said, “We will do our best.” The doctor and the nurses came in periodically to check, and although everything was progressing as it should, it was really slow going. I did not know it at the time but we had a waiting room full of people: grandparents, my cousin, and some friends. Jenise was the first baby, grandchild, to be born into our family.
By Monday afternoon, the doctor said he was going to start a pitocin drip to get things going a little faster. I had been in labor for 16 hours. Things got going all right. The spikes in contractions were impressive. During the afternoon, I had been hearing women screaming down the hall. Those had all had their babies, but as I heard one more screaming, I remember grabbing Eddy and pulling him close to me and begging him, “If I start to yell like that, promise to smother me with a pillow.” I was starting to get really tired and at 11pm, the doctor came in and said he was going to give me Demerol because he was worried that by the time I had to push, I would be too tired to do so. I was upset because that meant drugs but I also understood I needed some help. Thankfully Jenise was doing just fine and was showing no signs of distress. Demerol was the most interesting experience. I would work through a contraction and as soon as it was over, I would be asleep. Eddy says that I would ask for ice chips, he would turn around to get them and when he went to give them to me, I was already asleep. It certainly allowed me to rest some.
I don’t remember when I started to push, but I know it took awhile. Jenise came into the world 30 hours after I was admitted to the hospital, at 5:02am on Tuesday morning, July 30th. The moment that perfect tiny baby was placed in my arms, I realized that I had not understood what loving a child was. I felt this tremendous joy and sense of wonder that can only be understood when you experience it. My beloved and I had created this perfect tiny creature with ten fingers and ten toes, not to mention, absolutely beautiful, and she depends on us completely for everything.
Our waiting room entourage ended up exchanging clothes with each other in order to get to work. 😝
Jenise has been a constant joy in our lives and makes us proud every single day. Her determination, patience, kindness, creativity and conviction, make her an amazing daughter, mother and wife. I could not be prouder of the woman she has become.
Thanks Momma for doing this, but more than anything, thank you for being my Mom and for being amazing at it! I love you!
P.S. Yes, my dad's name is Eddy and I married an Eddie.
P.P.S. My mom made sure she was made up before she left for the hospital. Does my love of makeup and being put together make sense now?
P.P.P.S. She's barbaric. 30 hours? Pitocin and no epidural? 'nuff said.
Disclosure: I've partnered with Blueberry Pediatrics for this post.
How often have you been woken up in the middle of the night by a sick kiddo? Or been on vacation, only to have your child develop a fever or show signs of a stomach bug? I’m sure I haven’t been the only one. In those situations, I’ve always wished that I could get a hold of a pediatrician who could give me a quick rundown of what I should do, and what symptoms I should watch for before I really need to worry.
This is where Blueberry Pediatrics comes in. Blueberry Pediatrics offers a true VIP (Very Important Parent) experience when it comes to helping treat your children from the convenience of your home, office, or on-the-go. They have the latest technology and exceptional service, with a pediatrician available 24/7 and just a phone call away! Even better than that, Blueberry Pediatrics offers their service for a monthly fee that's less than your Netflix and Hulu subscriptions, is all-inclusive and won't increase per child. No hidden costs, no additional fees, no waiting rooms, and access to a doctor 24/7. Sounds too good to be true, right?
When they reached out to me, all I could think was, “Why didn’t I come up with something like this?!” But really, the service was started by a cardiologist who is also a dad, so it makes sense that it would, well, make sense! Signing up is so easy. You go to their site, (go here for a special discounted rate they are offering my followers), register, and a couple days later you get a welcome kit with all the tools you need for a successful visit with the doctors. You have a thermometer from Innovo, which is the most accurate thermometer on the market, a pulse oximeter, and an otoscope that will help the doctor see into your child’s ears.
Once you receive your box, you set up an intro call with one of the pediatricians. I had my call with Dr. Garbi. On our call she asked me a few questions about Caleb and Chloe, and their medical history, and she explained the tools to me (because who wants to try to figure those out when their kid is sick and you’re flustered?).
After that, you are set up and ready to go! The pediatricians aren’t just there for when your kids are sick, either. Their platform has two options: you can do a sick visit, or you can message the doctor. The messaging service is for less pressing questions. I asked Dr. Garbi about putting sunscreen on Chloe. Check out the screenshot below to see just how quickly she replied! If I had sent this in the middle of the night, she probably would not have replied so quickly, but once she replied, I received an alert on the site, as well as via e-mail.
I also had a chance to complete a sick visit. Chloe had a diaper rash, and being a first time girl mom, I wanted to make sure I was doing everything I was supposed to do. For the visit, I filled out several questions on the platform, and submitted my visit. I received a message stating that I would be called within 60 minutes. Imagine my surprise when less than 15 minutes later, a phone call came in from Dr. Kay. She reviewed all the information I had entered, including the photo I had sent of the rash, asked me a few additional questions, and discussed a course of action to help get rid of Chloe’s diaper rash. Once the visit is completed, the doctor sends you a summary of what you discussed at the visit and it is updated in your profile, so you don’t have to worry if you missed something or forgot something they said (Come on, I can’t be the only one who gets flustered when the pediatrician is giving me instructions and then can’t remember what they said five minutes later). All in all, a really easy process!
I think telemedicine is here to stay, and I for one am all for it. I'm excited for such easy access to a doctor - it's almost like having a doctor in the family. And for $20 a month, I don't think you can beat it. I mean, think about how easily most of us spend $20 a month - the other day I stopped at Starbucks with Eddie and we spent more than that!
So quit waiting around, quit freaking out every time your kid has a little something worrisome, and sign up for Blueberry Pediatrics. I don't think you'll be disappointed!
Disclosure: I’ve partnered with JOHNSON’S® for this post.
At one point or another, you or someone you love has used JOHNSON’S® baby products (more than likely their baby shampoo, amirite?). It’s what my mom used on my brothers and me, and I’ve used it on both of my kids. But this iconic brand is getting a makeover, and JOHNSON’S® is all new inside and out. They redesigned all of their products and reduced the number of ingredients in their portfolio by more than half, including removing sulfates and dyes, and 96% of the ingredients in their leading products are now naturally-derived. By doing this, they are making their products more gentle, so you can feel confident in using their products on your babies (and yourself).
The brand new JOHNSON’S® is choosing gentle by making five promises to you, one promise for each finger of baby’s little hand.
JOHNSON’S® has a new standard of gentle that is guided by these 5 promises to parents:
Their promise to be open and honest really resonated with me, because part of why I started this blog was to be open and honest with other moms, and with myself, about the realities of parenting. And while I tend to be very open, once or twice, I’ve hesitated about clicking the “publish” button, for one reason or another. Whether it was talking about my struggle with infertility, sharing my body insecurities, revealing the fact that my toddler had been hitting me, or talking about how I have felt undervalued or underestimated as a stay-at-home mom, sometimes it just isn’t easy to put that information out there. And every single time, you have surprised me with your responses. Instead of responding with judgment, I have always received numerous messages or comments giving advice, a new perspective, or saying, “This happens in our house, too!” And truthfully, it’s really nice to know you’re not alone. So while being open and honest isn’t always the easiest thing to do, I know that it helps to open up conversations that wouldn’t otherwise be had and to keep me accountable to you.
As part of their promise to be open and honest, JOHNSON’S® is committed to continue sharing their decades of research with everyone—including parents, their competitors and health authorities. They are also sharing 100% of the ingredients in their products, including those in their fragrances.
So while it may be the same company that you grew up using, or used on your kids, JOHNSON’S® is all new, from the inside out. To read more about the new JOHNSON’S®, visit their site.
Before I became a mom, I had all these ideas in my head of how I would be this “perfect parent.” You know, the one every book and blog and sanctimommy (a sanctimonious mommy) tells you you should be. I would only breastfeed, I would read the perfect amount to my baby every day, I would feed him the most perfectly balanced, completely homemade organic diet, I would do all kinds of activities for his development. He would never touch sugar, and I would never have to punish my child. My house would be a spotless dream home because my perfect child would allow me to keep house like a good wife should. Real moms, are you laughing yet? Because I’m killing myself with this daydream.
Over the years, I’ve learned to throw out the image I had in my head and the expectation that I would be this “picture perfect” parent. For starters, I’m not Susie Homemaker, nor will I ever be. I forget to switch the laundry and have to re-do a load sometimes more than once. More often than not, 5 pm rolls around and I’m face palming myself thinking, “Oh crap, I forgot to defrost something for dinner.”
I did manage to breastfeed well past my goal with Caleb, but it wasn’t without its hiccups. I struggled to produce enough milk for a while, and I had to come to terms with supplementing with formula or donor milk until I could get my supply to where I needed it to be.
And while I did manage to make a lot of his meals, I also learned really quickly that I needed to make the most efficient choices for my family sometimes, and sometimes, a homemade meal was just not in the cards. Pouches and store bought foods became my BFFs. And even though I managed to keep him away from added sugars his first year, after that it was a losing battle - so I limit it when I can and I don’t let him have it in the evenings, but I’m not going to lose my mind over a little frosting.
And my perfect house? Haha. You can only imagine how that turned out.
But what I have learned is that motherhood doesn’t have to be ALL or NOTHING. It is a huge balancing act. And we need to stop feeling guilty for not being the perfect image we had in our heads.
Picture this... you’ve been breastfeeding your whole maternity leave. Come the time you go back to work and you’re struggling to pump and keep your supply up while you’re away from baby. You’re not producing enough while at work. Does this mean the end of your breastfeeding relationship? If you don’t want it to end, why does it have to be breast OR formula, when it very well could be both? Breastfeed while you’re with your baby, and give formula when you’re not. Simple as that. You stop making yourself crazy and you stop beating yourself up.
Food? Pick your battles. All organic can get expensive, and sometimes you just don’t have the budget for it. So stick to buying organic when it comes to the “dirty dozen,” and don’t worry about the rest. Whole Foods doesn’t need to take all your money, contrary to popular belief. If you're really set on home-cooked meals for your toddler, a service like Babe Appetit (which I have talked about here) could fit your bill - and it's been a lifesaver in our house.
And my house? Well, I’ve succumbed to the organized chaos around me, but when we were married, one of the non-negotiables was someone to clean the house every two weeks. So it may not be perfect all the time, but it’s clean.
When it comes to gear, you don’t NEED all the “latest and greatest” contraptions that exist on the market. All these companies are constantly ploying to get you to open up your wallet for them. They convince you that you NEED the $1000 stroller or the $200 baby food maker. Truth is, your baby will be just as safe and just as comfortable in the less expensive stroller and with baby food you made in a blender you already own. Pick and choose what makes sense for you and what will truly SIMPLIFY your LIFE. Babies actually need very little when it comes down to it.
What I’m trying to get to is that there’s no perfect way to parent. Love your kids. Do your best by them. Your best may look different from my best and that’s okay. You have nothing to prove to anyone and nobody needs to be involved in the decisions you make in parenting your children. And if another Mom tries to make you feel bad about something you’re doing, then throw her a bone, because she’s probably beating herself up about something, too.
About this Mom
A Miami wife and mom documenting her days with her toddler and all that comes along with it.