Eczema Stinks….But Non-Toxic Dream Cream is Here to Save the Day! {giveaway, too!}

The opinions in this non-toxic Dream Cream post are all mine.

If you have been reading this blog or following me for any amount of time, you already know that 3/5 of our family have had a hard time with eczema.  The Captain used to scratch his thighs in his sleep and cause himself to bleed.  We had no idea what to do or how to fix it.  We tried many different treatments, necklaces, wet wrapping, and more.  Some worked, some didn't, and some worked for awhile and then stopped working.  I learned through my own eczema that moisturization is key, but it seemed that most moisturizers and even "safe" baby soaps would irritate his skin.  After many tears and frustrated days, we figured out that he can only have 1-2 baths a week and he needs lots of lotion made with pure and natural ingredients.  

We somehow avoided eczema with D, but When Baby Brother started developing an eczema rash on his face, I felt better prepared.  His was tougher to combat though, because it was on his face.  I had a rash on my face through much of my babyhood, but I felt confident that we could get rid of it.  Well, we exhausted all of our natural remedies and lotions and treatments, and ended up at the pediatric dermatologist.  She prescribed two VERY expensive creams that were definitely NOT natural and pure, but they worked.  His eczema cleared up after a few months and thankfully has yet to return.  He does have very dry skin and scratches like crazy if we bathe him too often or if his skin isn't hydrated well. 

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I was really tired of buying expensive cream to treat his dry skin and eczema and was definitely not comfortable slathering his precious baby skin in chemicals that were made in a lab somewhere.  That's when my friend Becky, whom I met many years ago when she was pregnant with her oldest when I was pregnant with the Captain, posted on Facebook about a company she had discovered and really believed in because their products were toxin free and made of good, truly all natural ingredients, Ava Anderson.  She mentioned that she used the diaper cream on a spot of eczema that she had, and it cleared up.  So, I bought a tube and used it on Baby Brother's dry skin.  I know, you wouldn't really think that diaper cream should be used all over a baby's body, but it totally makes sense!  Diaper cream clears up diaper rashes by creating a protective barrier and locking the moisture in.  I really wish I had known about this when he had his face eczema.  Who knows, we could've avoided an expensive trip to the dermatologist and all of that expensive prescription lotion.  

Now, any time his skin is dry and itchy, I know it's time for more Ava cream.  I even ordered a grown up version….Ava Dream Cream…which is the same thing as the diaper cream, but with a different scent (scented with essential oils) for grown-ups.  I use it on my extremely dry face and it keeps it hydrated and feeling soft.  I love it!

dreamcreamAva Anderson was just 14 when she saw a news story about the number of harmful chemicals in the blood of teenagers.  She soon learned and discovered that products that claimed to be "pure," "natural," and "safe" were actually still riddled with toxins.  Her mission was clear: share important information about toxins in every day products and develop a collection of products that are completely safe for individuals, their families, and the environment.  Her company, Ava Anderson Non Toxic, launched in 2009 when Ava was 15 years old.  Today, Ava Anderson Non Toxic is proud to offer the safest full line of personal care and home products on the market. They are all about the ingredients – the right ingredients.  Safe, organic, toxin-free, and harmful-chemical free ingredients that you can feel good about.  Ingredients you can trust for your family that are both safe and effective, like organic essential oils, organic coconut oil, shea butter, and jojoba, to name a few.  There's absolutely nothing in their products that they are not proud to put right on their labels.

Ava Anderson has much more than just skin care, too.  It's a whole arsenal of non-toxic products for babies, kids, women, men, pets, your house, your garden, and much more.  Check it out at Becky's Ava Anderson site or Facebook page.

Becky is giving away both a tube of Dream Cream AND 15% off winner's first order (no purchase required to win, though!)  Enter to win in the Rafflecopter form below!

Ava Anderson Dream Cream Giveaway

 

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Nobody Is Happy if The Toddler is Hungry

This is a sponsored post brought to you by Gerber and Mom Select.  All opinions are mine.

Baby Brother is in that crazy phase of wanting to be independent, but not really being able to do much for himself.  He's learning to talk and feed himself, but he still needs a lot of practice.  Mealtimes are messy and while is usually willing to try anything, he has discovered there are some things he does not like to eat.  We have all figured out that if he is hungry, nobody is happy.  He isn't quite able to tell us what he wants, or even that he is hungry, but he is learning.  It's a trying phase for all of us.  I like to keep snacks on hand that I know he loves for those times when he is just hangry and we are between meals or dinner won't be ready for awhile.  

Baby Brother's favorite snacks are fruit, yogurt, and Gerber fruit strips and yogurt melts.  I know that if he is hungry, he will never deny those snacks!  Gerber products make it easy to snack on the go, too.  We all know that hangry toddlers in the car, at the store, or at church are not pleasant.  #GerberWinWinMomentBaby Brother loves to feed himself and he is so proud when he can!  Gerber graduates keep that in mind when creating their delicious snacks for toddlers!#GerberWinWinMoment

Gerber is making snack and mealtimes a Win Win for you, too.  The products that we know and love now have an added bonus.  If you visit the Gerber Win Win page, you will see the easy steps to get your own Gerber Graduates gift set, valued at $11.98.  The gift set includes a Gerber® mealmatTM by NUK® ‚Äčand a Gerber® bib.  Simply purchase 10 Gerber Graduates products all in the same shopping trip, upload a picture of your receipt, and receive your gift set to make mealtimes more fun!  See… it's a Win-Win!

#GerberWinWinMoment

Show Your Team Spirit With A Personalized Fabric Covered Wooden Letter

Fabric Covered Wooden LetterWe are pretty big Dallas Mavericks fans.  Well, the Captain insists that he doesn't like the Mavs, but as long as he lives in our house, he is a Mavs' fan….HA!  Well, when he was a baby, I ordered some super cute Dallas Mavericks fabric on ebay for a custom cloth diaper.  Well, I had to order a lot of it, and so I had some left over that I didn't know what to do with.  While shopping, I found the Captain a wooden letter for his name and decided to make him a cute personalized fabric covered wooden letter for his room, using the Dallas Mavericks fabric.  It has become a tradition in our house, and now all of the boys have one.

Yesterday I realized that Baby Brother is almost 17 months old and still didn't have a Dallas Mavericks letter, so we all made it a family affair to make him one.  Here's how we did it!

Materials needed:

  • enough fabric to cover your letter – I bought mine on ebay, but you can get it at some fabric stores or on Amazon, you just have to search!
  • Mod Podge for fabric
  • small paint brush
  • scissors
  • craft paint, if desired

Instructions:

  1. Lay your wooden letter on the fabric.  Pull the fabric up and over the sides of the letter to see how big you need to cut your fabric.  Trace around it.
  2. Make sure that you cut the same size border around the whole letter and cut all around it.  Don't cut out holes yet, if your letter has one.
  3. You have two choices at this point.  You can either cut the fabric to cover only the front of the letter OR you can wrap it around the sides.  The latter is a bit trickier, but you can do it!  If you want to only cover the front, you can now cut exactly where you need it and cut the holes out.  If you want to cover the sides, continue to step 4.
  4. To cover corners and curves, you'll want to pull the fabric and either fold down or clip.  I chose to clip on the corners and insides of the letter.
  5. Cover the front of the letter with Mod Podge with your brush.
  6. Position the fabric how you want it, face down, and lay the Mod Podge covered letter on top.  Turn over and smooth out bubbles and wrinkles with your fingers.  
  7. Now, paint the sides of the letter with Mod Podge.
  8. Work the fabric so it covers the sides.  You might need to make adjustments or extra clips as you go along.
  9. If you have a bare spot, don't worry!  Most places can be fixed easily with extra remnants of fabric.
  10. You'll want to make sure that the fabric lays down nicely.  Add more Mod Podge on top to create a shiny finish and to make sure it all lays down nicely.
  11. **If you did not cover the sides with fabric, wait until the Mod Podge dries and then use craft paint to cover the sides, careful not to paint the fabric.
  12. Let dry and hang!

Dallas Mavericks Fabric Covered Wooden LetterMy letter Z does have a few wrinkles, as you see.  I should have pulled it tighter at the top.  The good news is, this project is fairly inexpensive, so I can make another easily!

This post contains affiliate links.
 

Stream Christian Movies And Shows Instantly with gMovies – FREE 2 Week Trial {giveaway, too!}

Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.   Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

gmoviesAs the boys get older, we are becoming more and more aware that what they see on TV can greatly impact them.  Their attitudes and behavior can change just from watching one commercial!  We try to stick with kids' channels, but even those are iffy sometimes.  We  have tried other instant streaming services, and the Captain quickly learned how to navigate and select which show he wanted.  But even with the parental controls in place, I wasn't happy with the selections.  

A few weeks ago, we were given the opportunity to try out gMovies.  I hadn't heard of this service yet but I am glad that we found it!  gMovies is full of faith and family content that we all can enjoy, for only $4.99 a month.  gMovies is powered by the UP network, which is America's network for uplifting entertainment.

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With gMovies, you can select the genre of TV show or movie you'd like to watch, read some information about it, and instantly watch it.  We quickly found "Pahappahooey Island" in the kids' section!

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Also on gMovies is the teen drama "Much Ado About Middle School" and countless movies and TV shows that all ages would like!  

Over 2 million people are already enjoying gMovies.  Join them to get instant access to over 300 Christian movies and TV shows with new titles added monthly.  Stream from your iPad, Android, or PC.  And there is no contract – just cancel anytime!

If you'd like to check out a 2 week trial of gMovies for FREE, enter code "FREETRIAL13" at the gMovies website.

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Want to win 6 months of gMovies?  All you have to do is enter in the Rafflecopter form below!  Good luck!  US/CAN only, please.

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Watch Disneynature’s “Monkey Kingdom,” Learn, and Give Back!

monkeykingdom54877da023d63I am so excited about the newest movie from Disneynature!  "Monkey Kingdom" is coming to theatres on April 17, just in time to celebrate Earth Day 2015.  My boys are excited about this movie, because they are in love with animals!  

About the movie:

Life is an adventure for Maya, the clever and resourceful blonde-bobbed monkey in “Monkey Kingdom,” Disneynature’s new feature film set among ancient ruins in the storied jungles of South Asia. Maya’s world is forever changed when she welcomes her son, Kip, into her complicated extended family. Like all families, Maya’s has more than its share of colorful personalities—and she’s determined to give her son a leg up in the world. When their longtime home at Castle Rock is taken over by powerful neighboring monkeys, Maya's whole family retreats, and she uses her street smarts and ingenuity to uncover untapped resources amidst strange new creatures and unsettling surroundings. Ultimately, they will all have to work together to reclaim Castle Rock, where Maya can hopefully realize her dreams for her son’s future.

 

Featuring a rich variety of characters, including a mischievous mongoose, simple-minded langur monkeys, predatory leopards and monitor lizards, “MonkeyKingdom” is narrated by Tina Fey (“30 Rock”), directed by Mark Linfield (“Chimpanzee,” “Earth”) and co-directed by Alastair Fothergill (“Chimpanzee,” “Bears”). With music from award-winning composer Harry Gregson-Williams ("The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," “Shrek” movies), Disneynature’s eighth True Life Adventure—the follow-up to 2014’s “Bears”—swings into theaters April 17, 2015.

monkeykingdom547fa84e5b6d9 monkeykingdom547fa84e7cbf9And to make the educational message stick further, download the free activity pages in the Educator's Guide.

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Did you know?

  •   For every ticket sold opening week (April 17-23, 2015), Disneynature will make a donation to Conservation International to help    protect monkeysand other endangered species in their natural habitats. 
  • “Monkey Kingdom” is the sixth theatrical release for Disneynature, the first new Disney-branded film label from The Walt Disney Studios in more than 60 years.  The label was launched in April 2008 to bring the world’s top nature filmmakers together to capture a variety of wildlife subjects and stories.
  • The first five big-screen releases under the Disneynature label—“Earth,” “Oceans,” “African Cats,” “Bears” and “Chimpanzee”—are among the top six highest grossing feature-length nature films of all time.
  • Walt Disney was a pioneer in wildlife documentary filmmaking, producing 13 True Life Adventure motion pictures between 1948 and 1960, including “Seal Island” (1948), “Beaver Valley” (1950), “The Living Desert” (1953) and “Jungle Cat” (1958). The films earned eight Academy Awards®

Watch this "Thank You" clip from Disneynature:

Will you be seeing "Monkey Kingdom" this weekend?

Things That Stress Me Out and How To Relieve The Stress of Parenthood

This blog post is part of a paid SocialMoms and RESCUE blogging program. The opinions and ideas expressed here are my own.  #StressLess2BMyBest  Relieve the stress of parenthood!

There is nothing like becoming a parent to quickly figure out what truly stresses you out.  For me, I have about three things that really get under my skin and have made me go a wee bit crazy in the past.  As the boys have grown older, I have learned that life happens and not to stress out about it, but it has taken some practice! 

1.  Spills and crumbs – One time the Captain spilled a whole can of salted mixed nuts all over and under and inside of our couch.  I was furious.  I tried to hold it together as I stomped to the hallway to get the vacuum cleaner.  I think he was 2 or 3 then, and he was just trying to serve himself a delicious snack.  We found nuts and salt for months after that, though.  I was reminded of this incident tonight when Baby Brother grabbed a bag of popcorn we had bought at the zoo and dumped it all over the carpet.  Instead of getting mad, I just stayed calm and vacuumed it up without yelling or stomping or anything.  I'm not sure how I reacted when D pulled this stunt and ate dirt out of our houseplant:

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2.  Sick kids – I know, that makes me a horrible mother.  I just can't deal with sick, whiny kids for very long.  I love to hold them, cuddle them, administer medicine to make them feel better, but if I can't help them, I feel helpless, and that stresses me out.  And what's worse is when they're sick and cannot tell me what hurts or what would make them feel better.  Again, I've learned to be patient and do what I can and realize that I cannot always solve their problems.  Time will heal them and I just have to make them comfortable.

3.  Kids that don't sleep – Sometimes I cannot believe I'm still dealing with this one.  Seriously.  Baby Brother is 16 months old and he will go a few weeks sleeping mostly through the night and then, bam!  Newborn mode activated.  I try to be patient, but being woken up three times between the hours of 11 PM and 6 AM is NOT fun.  I think I'm patient the first two times but after that…nope.  I get mad.  And stressed.  And hubby usually gets the brunt of it.  I'm working on it!

I have learned that yelling benefits no one, kids deserve respect, accidents happen, and we are all human and make mistakes.  I have also prayed for patience and matured through my years of being a mother.  I think I have done alright, but we all have our moments!  I think a big thing that helps is to laugh it off.  If I cannot laugh about something, I'm probably more tempted to yell, so I've been trying to find the humor in all potentially stressful situations. Along with finding the humor, these are five ways that I relieve the stress when these parenting stressors come up!

stress

1. Ask for help – We moms think that we are showing a sign of weakness if we ask for help, but really, we cannot do it all.  I've learned to ask for help from Hubby, friends, family, etc, when we need it.  It benefits my children because it allows me to lessen the stress and recharge.  Last week when I had been sick for ten days, I asked my parents to take the older two boys and I felt better because my sons were being taken care of and not forced to sit around just because Mommy was sick.  They got bonding time with their extended family and I got some extra rest.  

2.  Say no – Some may think I say  no too much, but I just have learned when I have to say no to things.  If I'm not confident that a situation will be doable, I say no.  Sure I feel guilty, but it's okay to say  no!

3.  Do whatever works best for your family.  People love to give advice and that's okay, but in the end, you have to do what's best for your family.  I had to wear Baby Brother a LOT when he was an infant because it's what worked for us.  It worked for him and worked for me and we were happy.  Same thing with when the Captain had a cot in our floor for when he was scared in the middle of the night.  It worked for him, it worked for us, it was better than the alternatives, and we all got sleep.  And you know….he did grow out of that phase!

4.  Find a hobby you love and let go of the stress.  If you have a lot of stress built up, it's important to let it go.  Whether it's gardening, cooking, watching a movie, running, or something completely different, do what you love and let go of the stress!  Channel your inner Elsa and LET IT GO!

family playdates

Be ready for anything your children throw at you with Rescue!  AND, click on the image below to download a BOGO coupon and be entered for a chance to win prizes from Bose and GoPro in the RESCUE #StressLess2BMyBest Sweepstakes.

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Multi-Functional Convertible Dress by Henkaa Will Last Through Life’s Many Stages

I'm excited to partner with Henkaa for this convertible dress post.  All opinions are my own.

It's hard to believe, but I have not bought many clothes for myself over the past 6+ years.  I have bought a few pieces when I absolutely had to, like for my brother's wedding when the Captain was 8 months old, or when I needed new jeans at some point, but shopping for clothes is not something I have ever enjoyed, especially after having kids.  It's amazing the size variations that I have been through, but that is probably true of most women.  I just did not want to buy anything that I was not going to be able to wear for long.  Through three pregnancies, baby weight, and fluctuating sizes, I have made do with what was in my closet.  That does tend to get boring after awhile, however!

I was thrilled to learn about the Henkaa convertible dresses.  These beautiful, luxurious dresses are good for maternity and post partum, but Henkaa convertible dresses are great for all women, in all sizes, in all stages of life.  Another reason that the Henkaa dresses are perfect for moms is the wrinkle resistant fabric.   The signature Lenaa™ fabric has a beautiful sheen that is perfect for any occasion or photograph, is machine washable and easy to take care of.

convertible dressAs you can see, Henkaa convertible dresses are adorable as maternity dresses, and very forgiving as post partum dresses.  They can be worn in so many ways, it will definitely be a new mom's go to dress. 

Henkaa Convertible Dress

The possiblities are endless with Henkaa.  You can choose colors, lengths, styles, and on top of that, each convertible dress can be worn in multiple ways!  Sleeveless, long sleeved, halter, one sleeved, and more.  These dresses are good for weddings, church, holiday parties, formal dinners, and just about anything else.  The style is up to you!

Henkaa Convertible Dress

Learn more about Henkaa on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.  Also, make sure to check out Henkaa YouTube to see the many wonderful dresses and ways to wear each beautiful dress.

How would a convertible dress be beneficial to you?  Could you see yourself wearing one through all of life's stages?

Adventure + Education = The Wild Kratts! New DVD Out April 14th

This Wild Kratts post was brought to you by PBS Distribution.  All opinions are mine.

The Captain and D love anything and everything about animals. There are a lot of animal shows, but the one they both love and enjoy immensely is Wild Kratts.  The Captain has been a mega fan for about two years now, and still dresses up as Chris Kratt and D is Martin Kratt, of course!  They loved their Wild Kratts birthday party a couple of years ago, and still talk about how awesome it was!

Wild Kratts partyAlong with being loads of fun, the boys have learned so much from this awesome show!  I love TV shows that actually teach something instead of being silly the whole time.  The boys have learned about extinct animals like the Tasmanian tiger, cool birds like the Peregrine Falcon, and much more.

The Captain has seen just about every episode of the Wild Kratts, but having them grouped into thematic shows is awesome!  He flipped out when we received this new DVD in the mail.  Wild Kratts:  Shark-Tastic! is available April 14th and includes four episodes, two of which are bonus episodes.  The Wild Kratts talk about great white sharks, dolphins, and other sea creatures, like a hawksbill turtle, a tiger shark, a giant pacific octopus, a bowhead whale, a manta ray, and many more!

Shark-Tastic

In each episode of Wild Kratts, Chris and Martin Kratt take us on animal powered adventures.  In each episode, the Kratt Brothers are transformed into animated versions of themselves and the real life zoologists visit wild animals in their habitats and showcase key science concepts along the way.  Wild Kratts:  Shark-Tastic! contains these four episodes:  "Octopus Wildkratticus," "Tortuga Tune Up," "Speaking Dolphinese," and "Stuck on Sharks."

Wild Kratts airs weekdays on PBS KIDS.  Check your local listings and don't miss an episode!

How To Survive (and Thoroughly Enjoy!) Walt Disney World with an Active Toddler : Part One

toddlerdisneypartoneWe recently took a family vacation to Walt Disney World in Orlando.  It was a great opportunity with a group of homeschool families to participate in Disney's YES class.  Hubby had been to Disney World a few times as a child, but I had never been.  To say I was apprehensive and nervous to take three young kids is an understatement!  Hubby and I talked about it and we also talked with others who had taken friends to Disney World and we decided it was a great opportunity that we should just sign on for and hope for the best!  I began reading up and educating myself as to what to expect.  I *may* have driven hubby a bit crazy a few times, but hey, I needed to be prepared!  We waited until about 48 hours before we left to tell the boys we were going to Disney World, which was the best decision for all of us.  It was hard to wait, but it was worth it!

Many people (even strangers at the store, oddly enough) had told me "wait until they're older so they will remember!" and honestly, that did concern me.  I was worried that I would be standing around trying to keep Baby Brother, who was 15 months when we went, while the other boys and Daddy rode all the fun rides.  I was worried about naps, food, night time sleeping, and more.  Would it be a disaster?  Our trip was Monday – Friday and oh yeah, we would all fly in an airplane together, too!  That was a first for the boys, but I'm so happy to tell you that the plane ride went more smoothly than I could have even imagined. I made sure to pack all of the essentails:  diapers, wipes, sippy cups, snacks, snacks, and more snacks!  Also, coloring books, crayons, books, and tablets for the older two. 

Most people really do know more about Disney World than I did, but just in case you don't, I have thought and thought about the best tips for how to survive and enjoy your trip, even if you DO have an active toddler!  Please leave any other suggestions you may have in the comments section, as well. I have broken this into two parts, so make sure to check out Part 2 at a later date, as well!

1. Think about the season when making plans.

If at all possible, plan your vacation during a pleasant season.  It's Orlando and it is often hot and/or rainy.  We went in March and it was hotter than I would have liked the first three days and cold the next two.  You just never know, but I, personally, cannot imagine hauling a toddler around in the summer heat.  That's just my preference though!  Just make sure, no matter when you go, to pack sunscreen, ponchos, and have lots of water on hand.  I was told that any restaurant in Disney would give you free water and ice, but we just took chilled water bottles in a small soft cooler.

2.  Have groceries delivered to your room. 

We had pre-arranged for a few essential groceries to be delivered to our resort when we arrived.  We used Garden Grocer and were very satisfied, but there are other services available, (I just haven't used them so I can't recommend them one way or the other.)  If you spend less than $200, you will have to pay a $15 delivery fee, but to us, that was SO worth it!  We were without a car, so it was so beneficial to have fresh fruits, deli meats, crackers, yogurt, and bottled water readily available for us.  (I highly recommend grapes and apple slices for the kids.  They are easy to pack for a day at the parks.)  A few days before we left, I ordered online, chose a time frame for delivery, and then when it was delivered, I received a text.  We called the front desk and a resort crew member delivered our order to our room.  Note:  check Garden Grocer's facebook page, because they have a discount available the earlier you order.

Magic Bands Disney Fast Passes

3.  Plan fast passes accordingly, as soon as you can.

Fast Passes are available for anyone staying on Disney World property and can be accessed with your ticket or Magic Bands, (which are THE best thing ever, by the way!  You can pay with them, get into the parks with them, zoom through a line with your Fast Passes…they're so awesome!)  Whenever we received our tickets, I researched which rides the Captain (age 6) and D (age 4) could ride, and also, which rides Baby Brother could ride.  I tried to schedule one a day that the Captain could ride with Daddy and at the same time, D, Baby Brother, and I could ride a different ride together.  I then scheduled a Fast Pass for the two older boys to use with Daddy, and we used the Rider Switch option so Daddy could ride with the older boys while I watched Baby Brother, and then we switched and I got to ride with the older boys while Daddy watched Baby Brother.  (Splash Mountain was especially awesome for this!)  Check the Disney World site or app to see what rides Baby can ride and start planning. (More about this in Part Two!)

4.  Make reservations early

I had absolutely no clue what to expect for food, so I did a lot of research a couple of months in advance.  Turns out you can make reservations 180 days in advance.  I didn't, and we managed just fine, but we also didn't have the best options all of the time.  We chose not to purchase the Disney dining plan since our boys' eating habits are hit or miss, but it is definitely something to look into if you have a family full of big eaters.  We decided to only make three reservations and try out the quick service, resort dining, or delivered food the rest of the time.  We made reservations for lunch at Via Napoli at Epcot one day (Mariah from Formula: Mom wrote about her family's great lunch experience at Via Napoli, so check that out!)  Make sure to look at the map and see where the restaurant is before making reservations.  The worst 15 minutes of our entire trip was lugging three hot, hungry, grumpy boys all the way to Via Napoli in Epcot, but we survived.

Via Napoli was excellent for the boys and us, too!  The food was authentic and delicious.  We split a pizza and Arancini, which are fried risotto balls filled with mozzarella and meat ragu.  Baby Brother really liked those!

Epcot Via Napoli

We also had lunch at The Plaza Restaurant in Magic Kingdom another day, which was good and reasonably priced.  It is a restaurant filled with mirrors and lots of natural light, and plenty to look at, which was great for Baby Brother.  Plus, the boys' meals came with their choice of dessert!

Mickeylodeon Magic KingdomThe final day of our trip, we had a character lunch at Hollywood & Vine (or Play 'n Dine) in Hollywood Studios.  My boys are still into Disney Junior, so Play 'n Dine was so perfect for us.  They were excited to get to meet Sofia the First, Jake, Doc McStuffins, and Handy Manny, all while eating delicious food.

Hollywood Studios Hollywood & vine

 It was over $100 for all of us to eat (Baby Brother was free,) but there was seriously more than enough choices for all of us.  It is a full buffet of salad, meat, veggies, fruits, dessert, and many, many different entrees.  Hubby's favorite was the lobster and shrimp mac & cheese and mine was the salmon.  The boys ate meatballs, salad, chicken nuggets, and more.  

Play 'n Dine Hollywood Studios DisneyThe best part was…. the dessert bar was fabulous!  Chocolate dipped everything, ice cream, and pastries.  Yum!  

play n dine desserts

Drinks are included and the tip is automatically added, so keep that in mind when planning.  It was well worth it, but I cannot say we would pick the same place again.  We might try a different character restaurant next time. 

Note about reservations:  Just because your reservation is for a certain time, you might still have to wait.  I think we waited 15-20 minutes to get a table at Hollywood & Vine, but it was ok. I felt a bit rushed because we had Fast Passes for the Frozen Sing Along show right after lunch, but we made it and all was good.

We found the quick service restaurants to all be awesome.  Plenty of choices for everyone and the kid's meals all came with two sides and a drink (water, juice, milk, etc).  The kid's meals were a great thing, in my opinion!  The favorite kid's meal of the week was at Restaurantosaurus at Animal Kingdom, because they came in their own pail with a shovel, for the same price.  Fun!

You can also take small coolers into the parks, as long as they aren't on wheels.  Taking a picnic lunch would be a great idea, if you have the space to store it.

5.  Request a Pack 'n Play and/or Bedrails at Disney World Resorts

When making your resort reservation, request that any pack 'n play or bedrails you may need be delivered to your room upon arrival.  This was SO helpful!  Not having to worry about lugging a pack 'n play on the plane was priceless!  Baby Brother's pack 'n play even came with a Mickey Mouse crib sheet in it.  D's bed had one bed rail, and that really helped, as well, so I did not have to worry about him falling off of the bed.  

Check out Part Two of How to Survive (and Thoroughly Enjoy!) Walt Disney World with an Active Toddler for the rest of what worked for us, rides Baby Brother loved, what must-have baby gear you truly need and how to get the most out of your vacation, despite naps and bedtimes.

 

Six Tips To Help Parents Get More Sleep

 Disclosure: I am part of the PTPA Brand Ambassador Program with Restonic and I received compensation as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own. #GoToBed  Six tips to help parents get more sleep

I frequently joke that I haven't gotten a full night's sleep for about 7 years now.  I used to be able to sleep through the night, but then around the second trimester with the Captain, I had to wake up multiple times a night.  I either had to use the restroom, or my hips or back were hurting.  Then, of course, he was born and my sleep was interrupted by a crying baby….often.  He did not sleep through the night until he was about 18 months old, and even then, it was not every night.  Through three pregnancies, three newborns, multiple moves, sicknesses, and more, I can honestly count on one hand the nights I have slept 6 consecutive hours.  Baby Brother, at 16 months old, is working on sleeping all night long, and does great sometimes, but other times, not so much.  I crave a 20 minute "siesta" after lunch on most days!  

People do not realize how your sleep takes a drastic hit once you have kids.  Now, if you are one of the lucky ones who has a baby that sleeps through the night consistently, do know that you ARE lucky!  I have heard stories of parents with six year olds who still wake up in the night.  

The Captain did not sleep through the night consistently until D moved in his room when the Captain was 4 1/2!  It seems he just needed to know someone was nearby and thankfully, his little brother sleeping in the same room helped.  Hallelujah!  But there have also been nights when everyone is sick and we are up multiple times a night.  When Baby Brother was a newborn, I made this meme to add humor to our situation because for awhile, this was all too true:

wake up our parentsWe are on the verge of it all being behind us (hopefully!) but it isn't quite funny yet.  Some kids just don't sleep well and unfortunately, 2/3 of our sons are like that.  That's okay…we have learned to make the most out of our son's sleep habits and are counting our blessings for our one good sleeper.

Six Tips To Help Parents Get More Sleep

We have spent six and a half years thinking about, craving, and not getting enough sleep.  So, I consider myself a professional of parenting while not getting adequate sleep, and I have compiled a list of five tips to help every parent get more sleep, no matter what kind of sleeper you were blessed with!

1. Reevaluate bedtimes.  We found that no matter what, the Captain would wake up at 7:15 on the dot, most days.  We discovered that he was sleepy by 8 PM and so I started aiming for 8 for their bedtime.  This gives us more time to catch up on chores, veg out in front of the TV for a few minutes, spend time together, and finally, get to bed at a decent hour.  Every parent needs a little downtime, and bedtimes don't have to be super early or super late, just do what works best for your family's sleep needs.

2.  Don't be afraid to train kids to help themselves in the morning.  I know, I know, this might sound horrible, but there comes a time when kids are old enough to be independent.  We told the Captain that if he couldn't help waking up at 7:15, that he didn't have to wake us up until 8.  Call us lazy, but those extra 45 minutes are blissful, especially after the baby has been up during the night!  I sat down with the Captain, who is 6, and wrote out a list of things he could do in the morning.  He isn't allowed to watch or use a "screen" until 7:30, to allow his body to wake up naturally and so he doesn't think he can get up at 6 AM and watch TV.  He can pour himself a bowl of cereal, read books, color, etc.  Now, it took some training and a lot of worrying on my part.  I checked on him a lot during those first few mornings, and coached him through it.  He loves this special time when he is the only one awake and he knows what he cannot do.  I trust him to be safe and he likes the independence.  And on the days when D wakes up before we do, the Captain loves taking care of him and helping him with his cereal.

3.  Go to bed!  Set a timer for the time you want to be in bed.  Get everything you need to get done before that time and if you're not done, save it for tomorrow.  And, either leave your phone in the other room, or set another timer so that you will only spend 5 minutes on your phone and then turn it off (or silence it.)  Smart phones are a great convenience, but really do mess with sleep!  Go to sleep!

4.  Use a sound machine and put the baby monitor in the other room.  I leave the monitor in our bathroom, close the door, and I still hear him when he gets up.  I don't need to hear every single sleep noise, only when he needs me.  And the sound machine drowns out the annoying noises like birds in the morning, kid's sleep talking and noises, and more, but isn't so loud that it drowns out crying and yelling "Mommy!" when someone has a nightmare.

5.  Don't be afraid to nap.  Naps save me, no lie.  I am both lucky and cursed that I can only sleep for about 15-20 minutes and then I'm up.  Naps are a great way to recharge midday.

6.  Most importantly, don't take your sleep for granted.  It's simply not true that you can ever "catch up" on your sleep, so sleep when it's time and don't sacrifice your sleep for things that just don't matter and can wait until tomorrow.  Because you never know when the kids will be up sick or having a nightmare in the middle of the night!

 Visit Restonic for more information about getting a good night's sleep!  And make sure to follow Restonic on Twitter and Facebook for the latest news.  And follow the #GoToBed hashtag on social media channels, as well.