Monday, July 14, 2014

10 Tips for Picky Eaters with Lifeway Kefir



My 4 year old son Benjamin is especially picky. When he was a baby, I tried really hard to introduce him to all sorts of new foods, and he was a great eater. However, the older he got the more picky he seemed to become. Fortunately, he loves a lot of healthy foods and generally dislikes foods that are greasy or sweet. He hates all kinds of sauces from syrup on pancakes to ketchup with his chicken. He won't even eat most desserts like cupcakes, ice cream, or some cookies. He hates peanut butter, eggs, sandwiches, soda, and even bananas. The list of foods he hates goes on and on, and yet I feel like he ends out eating healthy balanced meals, because he does love enough healthy foods (like Lifeway Kefir Cultured Milk Smoothies) and because we work hard to make sure that such a picky boy eats well. #KefirCreations #CollectiveBias

This is definitely a loaded topic where a lot of people have very strong opinions. Some people probably think we should be stricter parents and make Benjamin eat whatever we put in front of him. Others might think we push him too hard to eat what we want him to eat and that we should let him choose to eat whatever he wants to eat as long as it's reasonably healthy. I think parenting is a little more complicated than that, and each child/family/situation is unique. Here are some tips that have worked well for making sure your picky eater gets healthy meals:

1. Offer rewards - Bribing your child is not always the answer. However, offering small tangible rewards for reasonable goals can be a great strategy to help motivate your child to eat well. It could be something as simple as "you get dessert if you finish your whole dinner." For Benjamin, it helps to have even more specific goals. For example, he knows he has to finish his turkey before he is allowed to eat his chips (we get healthy chips that he loves). We may even have to remind him a few times, but the reward (the chips) really does seem to motivate him to eat his turkey well.

2. Play games - Most people play games when they are feeding babies and young toddlers, but who says the games have to stop when you get older. One fun game that my kids enjoy is where we all take a bite at the same time. Sometimes we will all take a "big bite"... sometimes a "teeny tiny bite"... sometimes a "shark bite"... This is also a great way to make the dinner table a more fun place and less of a stressful place. When your kid can tell you're geared up to battle with him to eat his food, he's more likely to prepare himself to be stubborn.



3. Eat the rainbow - Offering your kid different colors of foods is a great way to make sure they are getting a healthy variety. It's also a way to make their food seem fun and appetizing. One meal that I will make for my son would be purple grapes, blueberries, strawberries, oranges, grilled chicken, and peas. He gets excited to see the rainbow of foods, plus he's getting a wider variety of vitamins and nutrients. Color is fun! Use bright fun spoons, plates, and napkins.


4. Find healthy "treats" - This is such an important thing for us. There are a few foods and drinks that Benjamin really loves that are actually healthy. When we find these kinds of foods, we stock up on them and make them something that he gets to have every day. Sometimes, these healthy foods even become our rewards. We recently got the chance to try Lifeway's Kefir Smoothies. We found them in the milk aisle at our local Winn Dixie, and they are very healthy and delicious. Even though they taste almost like a dessert, they're low in fat and have no added sugar. Kefir is very similar to yogurt - full of probiotics and great for your immune and digestive systems. Plus, they're a great way for Benjamin to get protein and calcium. I'm obsessed with the strawberry banana flavor, while Benjamin and Lyla especially love the raspberry (it's a little more tart). I also love that it's made with milk from cows that are exclusively grass-fed and never treated with hormones, pesticides, or antibiotics. (You can also sign up to receive coupons for Lifeway Kefir products here.)



5. Have picnics - This is another way to make meal time more fun. You can pack up your food and have a picnic outside, or you can have a spontaneous picnic somewhere inside your own house. Sometimes the kids in I will get out our picnic blanket and set up a little meal on the floor of one of the rooms in our house. This is always a big hit, and helps get the kids more excited about meal times. Every so often I'll even let the kids have a special kids only picnic somewhere unusual, like standing up on stools at the kitchen counter, or fully clothed in the bathtub. It seems silly, but it really does make meal time more fun and make Benjamin a better eater.

6. Avoid snacking - This can be tough for us because we want to make sure Benjamin is getting enough to eat and he loves to snack. He love to carry around bags of goldfish or crackers and eat them. However, when it comes time for him to eat his dinner or lunch, he is so much less hungry and less likely to eat what we put in front of him. What we've found is that it's better to give him a small healthy snack in between lunch and dinner (like a glass of Lifeway Kefir Smoothie, a handful of goldfish, and some apple slices) instead of letting him snack at will. Then, after he's eaten all of his dinner, if he is still hungry, we will let him have more snacky foods.


7. Cover the food groups - Try to make sure that most of the food groups are covered at any given meal, and that your child eats something from each food group at least once a day. For a picky child this can be tricky. Benjamin loves a lot of different kinds of fruit, but veggies can be difficult. Fortunately, he really loves peas, broccoli, and olives but those are about the only veggies he will eat. So that means that he ends out getting peas, broccoli or olives every day.

8. Offer a variety - Kids love to pick and choose, so I like to offer a lot of choices. When I put 4 or 5 different kinds of foods on Benjamin's plate, he always seems to get excited about his food and is more likely to eat everything. When I put only 1 or 2 kinds of foods on his plate, he's more likely to put his hands over his mouth and say "I don't like that" even when I know he does. One fun idea is to fill up an ice tray or mini muffin tin with many different kinds of little foods. Kids get so excited about all of the fun choices and want to pick and choose what they are going to eat first.

9. Make a fun presentation - Pinterest is full of great ideas for this one. I certainly wouldn't do this at every meal, but it's another great way to make meal time more fun and healthy food seem more exciting. Kitchen Fun with My Three Sons is a great blog full or creative and artistic meal ideas for kids. You might even have more fun preparing the meals than your kids will have eating them.

10. Let them be picky, but not too picky - This is where balance becomes important. I think it's okay for your kid to be a little bit picky and if you try too hard to make your child eat and like absolutely everything, every meal will turn into a battle and it will be harder to get them to eat a healthy meal at all. For example, Benjamin has always HATED eggs. I'm not sure why he hates them so much, but he always has. About once or twice a year I will get him to try one little bite of eggs to see if he likes them, but otherwise he knows he doesn't have to eat eggs at all. However, if I see him suddenly starting to refuse and turn down a certain food that he used to love (he has done this with spaghetti a few times), I won't let him get away with it so easily because I know he does like spaghetti.

Are your kids picky eaters? What surprising foods do they hate? What tips and tricks do you have for getting them to eat healthy meals? 

Monday, July 7, 2014

No Free Hands? Paperless Coupons to the Rescue

*This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.

I love saving money whenever I can. So if there are coupons out there, I, of course, want to use them! However, being a mom of a four year old, a three year old, and a three month old, my hands are so full that I usually forget to clip coupons and when I am able to clip I never seem to have them when I need them. The Walgreens app is helping moms like me save money on the go with paperless coupons. I am able to open the app, clip the coupons that I need, and easily scan them at the checkout saving me valuable time and money.


This past holiday weekend, for example, we had a lot of family in town and a crazy schedule. We also were planning a quick beach trip (since we live in Orlando and the beach is 45 minutes away this can be a fun spontaneous adventure). However, we had been so busy that we needed to stop for a few baby necessities on the way.


Of course there was a convenient Walgreens location, and I opened the app to find coupons for diapers, baby shampoo, diaper rash cream, and pacifiers. #WalgreensPaperless #collectivebias


So after quickly picking up a few goodies for Baby Oliver (he loves his new pacifiers by the way), I let the big kids pick out something fun for the beach with the money I saved with the paperless coupons. They both picked out little on-the-go sets of Play-Doh and some bubbles. Then at the checkout it took just one scan to use all the coupons that I had clipped.



We only lost five or ten minutes on our way to the beach and saved money to boot. That means we got to spend much more time playing in the sand and the waves!


Lyla was having trouble finding her bubbles...


But when she finally did, she laughed with glee. The bubbles were a fun edition to our time on the beach!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Bing in the Classroom

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Bing in the Classroom. As always all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Have you heard about Bing in the Classroom ? It's a wonderful program that helps bring technology to schools in a number of different areas. The internet is such an important learning tool and platform, but it can also provide a lot of distractions. Bing in the Classroom is helping to make the internet more accessible and less distracting for students.


1. Ad-free search - Bing in the Classroom is a new ad-free search engine that is available to many schools. It also offers a safe search with strict filters to block adult content, while even preventing the students from being subject to ad targeting. This program is offered free of charge to many schools, and it only takes a few minutes for an administrator to sign up.

2. Free Suface Tablets for your school - You can also help your school, or a school of your choice earn rewards just by searching the web through the Bing platform. Once you've signed up ( Sign up for Bing Rewards! ), when you search the internet on your computer, tablet, or phone, you earn points for your school. Every time a school earns 30,000 credits, Bing sends the school a Microsoft Surface Tablet with Type Face.

3. Digital literacy lessons - Bing offers 3 daily learning activities based on the Bing homepage. They are basically puzzles that can't be solved with a simple search, but require a combination of computer search skills and critical thinking. They are a fun way to practice and build important skills.

 

Show support for #adfreesearch!
This post was created in partnership with Bing.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Gift That Keeps on Giving with Unlimited Wireless

*I was able to review the Walmart Family Mobile plan as a part of a sponsored post through the Collective Bias Social Fabric Community. As always, I only review things that I really love and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Last month I shared about the awesome gift I picked out for my husband Grant - his first smartphone. He has been using a really cheap and sad phone to save money, and I wanted him to have a nice phone where he could actually send and receive quality picture messages, talk to his family and friends as long as he wanted to, look up directions on the go, and even play games while waiting in line. The crazy part is that the Unlimited Wireless Plan from Walmart Family Mobile is the same price per month that we were already paying!


My kids were so excited to help give their dad his new phone. We ended out giving him his smartphone and 3 months of service on the Walmart Family Mobile plan about a week before Christmas. He was thrilled and couldn't wait to start using it. He found that I had already activated it and set up this adorable picture of our daughter Lyla as his background. I think he was even more excited to find out that the plan was only $39.99 per month for UNLIMITED talk, text, and data. Plus, there are no overage charges or hidden fees. You're just billed at the end of the month for your service. You can easily view and manage your account online. It's the gift that keeps on giving.


The past few weeks have actually been a little rough for our family. We've all had this terrible cold and flu going through the family. It just doesn't seem to end. And now, my dad who was here visiting is in the hospital for severe pneumonia. We spent Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas at doctor's offices, plus I'm 27 weeks pregnant and already busy and exhausted. Grant has used and needed his new phone and unlimited plan more than ever, and it really has made our lives a tiny bit simpler and easier over the past couple of weeks.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Glow and Go this Holiday Season with Conair

Lately, I’ve been feeling a little out of sorts. I just entered the third trimester of my third pregnancy, which means I’m also chasing around my two kids who are 3 and 4. Whenever I have a little bit of time to myself, I spend it napping or resting. I really enjoy getting dressed up cute and wearing my hair down or braided, but lately I feel like I’ve been wearing my hair up in a sad little ponytail every day.

Part of the reason for this is that I have really thick hair. It’s mostly straight, with a few almost-curls in the back, with a lot of volume and body. This may sound like a good thing (and in many ways it is), but it just means it takes me a lot longer to take care of it. I almost NEVER dry my hair. It just takes too long. Plus, drying it seems to make it bigger, and I still have to straighten it.  But especially around the holidays where there are so many different Christmas parties, events, shows, and family gatherings, I want to take a little time to look nicer. But of course, things are so busy that I have less time than ever to spend on my hair.

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So when I got a chance to try out the Infiniti Pro by Conair Hair Designer Drier that dries, conditions, and straightens all at once, I was thrilled. There is a cool attachment at the front of the drier that acts like a comb to hold your hair in place while the drier gently dries your hair. The attachment can be turned at different angles, and the settings can be adjusted for different textures of hair. It looked a little complicated when I first opened it, but it was really easy to use. In fact I was able to snap a couple of selfies with one hand while using the drier. There is also a little roller at the top that is lightly coated with Argan oil to prevent breakage and keep your hair shiny and smooth as it dries.



I have been very happy with how my hair looks after using this nifty drier. It does seem to dry your hair much more quickly while leaving it straighter and smoother than a traditional hair drier. You can have a salon quality look at home! I still have to straighten the little bumps in the back of my hair after using the drier, but it has turned a 15 minute hair straightening routine into a 1 minute one. Plus, it knocked off about 15 minutes from the time that it usually takes me to dry my hair. That’s precious extra time to spend on putting together a cuter outfit, spending fun quality time with your family, or just reading in bed and resting.

Here are a few pictures that show the before, during, and after process of using the Infiniti Pro by Conair Hair Designer Drier. The after pictures show my hair after quickly using the hair drier and nothing else. I also decided to stick with cell phone selfies to give a real and unedited view.



I also got a chance to try out the True Glow Conair Sonic Cleansing Brush, which is another quick and simple way to enhance your beauty routine at home. It cleanses and exfoliates your skin (both face and body) with professional results. It’s easy to use with 3 different speeds, 2 different brush heads, a 60 second timer, and a convenient charging stand. Whether you are using it at your sink to wash your face at night, or in the shower to exfoliate your skin and make it smoother and softer, it’s easy to incorporate the True Glow Conair Sonic Cleansing Brush into your daily beauty routine.

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The Infiniti Pro by Conair Hair Designer Drier can be found exclusively at Target for an average retail price of $39.99 and comes with a two-year limited warranty. You can also follow along with Conair on Facebook.

For more information about Conair hair styling appliances and beauty tools, including great holiday gift ideas, visit http://www.conair.com/promos/holiday_2013.   

This is a product-provided, sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Conair. The opinions and text are all mine.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Make a LEGO Minifigure Family Holiday Card

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of LEGO for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.
I think that I love LEGOs even more than my 4 year old son Benjamin does, which is saying a lot. LEGOS are just plain fun, encourage the imagination, and help you learn to build and create. When we saw that you could create your own LEGO Minifigure Family and send and share it as a holiday card, we were all over it!
LEGO Christmas Card
Benjamin sat in my lap for about an hour as we created different versions of our family, and even other family members. He eventually wanted to turn everyone into a gingerbread man. After we designed all of the people, we arranged everyone in order, and picked a fun background. Our favorite was either the fireplace (love the little LEGO stockings) or the igloo.
Christmas LEGO Minifigure Card
I'm sure that Benjamin and I will make quite a few more versions over the next few days, and I suspect this will turn into a fun little tradition for the two of us. Make sure to check out the instructional video on how to make a LEGO Minifigure Family so that you can create your own. Remember, it's quick, easy, and free to do and it just takes one click to share with your family and friends on Facebook or Twitter. You can also save and download your card to print or use later.


Visit Sponsor's Site

Sunday, December 15, 2013

10 Christmas Traditions to Celebrate in Your Pajamas



For me fun family Christmas memories and pajamas go hand in hand. There is nothing like snuggling up together in pajamas by the Christmas tree or on the bed, and spending quality family time together. My kids get more excited about their pajamas than any other clothes they own, and look forward to picking them out and putting them on at night. Since my kids are still pretty young (Benjamin is 4, Lyla just turned 3, and our little boy is due in March), we are still making new traditions each year at Christmas. So this year, I shopped online at Sears to get some special new pajamas to be a part of our new holiday traditions this year. I was able to use my Shop Your Way rewards account to make a fun catalog of my favorite pajamas, as well as to earn rewards and save money on my purchases.


I especially love the traditional flannel button down pajamas at Christmas. For Benjamin, I picked out green pajamas with footballs and baseballs all over it. I like that they look like Christmas pajamas, but he can wear them all year long. Lyla's pajamas are my very favorite! Foxes are certainly a 2013 fashion trend, and these cute wintery fox pajamas are adorable. I love that they are a little bit girly without being all pink. And of course, Lyla loves them almost as much as I do.

10 Christmas Traditions to Celebrate in Your Pajamas

1. Make a Christmas book advent calendar. We love reading books as a family, and this year is the first time that we've attempted this tradition. It's such a fun idea for kids of all ages. Simply wrap up 24 books and number them from 1 - 24. You can wrap up mostly books you already own, and throw in a few new ones each year as your kids grow. Each night before bed, you unwrap the book for that day of December and read it together. We started with How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and save The Night Before Christmas for Christmas Eve. The kids are thrilled to open a new book each night, and we all enjoy snuggling up on the bed in our cozy pajamas to read the new book together. We also have wrapped up a lot of books that aren't explicitly Christmas, but that fit in with the Christmas and winter spirit (for example: The Little Engine that Could, The Snowy Day, Polar Bear Polar Bear, and The Mitten.)


2. Have a fun Christmas Lights Photo Shoot - Christmas lights are one of the most special and magical parts of the season, and are a very fun photo prop for taking cute pictures of your kids. Not only do they give a fun glow to your pictures, but they also help create fun expressions on your kids' faces. I love the expression on my son Benjamin's face. This year when I asked him what he wanted for Christmas, the only thing he came up with was more Christmas lights. Of course be VERY careful when letting your kids play with or sit near lights.

3. Have a Family Movie Night - This is a classic that is fun for the whole family. Pop some popcorn, snuggle up in your new pajamas, and watch your favorite Christmas movies together.

4. Make a Keepsake Craft Together - There are so many fun crafts to make as a family, and doing it in your pajamas makes it even more fun. Our favorite thing we've made this year are these Clay Thumbprint Snowman Ornaments. They turned out beautifully and Benjamin and Lyla really especially enjoyed making them.

5. Record Yourselves Singing Christmas Carols - We love singing Christmas songs together, and this year, we got dressed up in our pajamas and recorded the kids singing Christmas songs (twinkle twinkle little star counts!) I even recorded myself singing with them, but for your sake I won't share that video with you, haha. Benjamin and Lyla LOVE watching themselves over and over as they sing. This is the first year we've recorded them like this, and it will be fun to have a few videos of them each year to watch together each Christmas as they grow older.



6. Drive Around and Look at Christmas Lights - Everyone loves driving around town looking at Christmas lights, but why not do it with everyone in their pajamas. This will make it even more fun and exciting, plus your kids will think it's hilarious that Mommy and Daddy wore their pajamas outside of the house.

7. Bake and Decorate Cookies - Another classic Christmas tradition that is just more fun in your pajamas!

8. Have a Christmas Scavenger Hunt - This is so much fun. Everyone gets in their pajamas and has a flashlight. Turn the lights low in your house, and hide about 10 Christmas ornaments around your house. When someone finds an ornament, they put it in their special basket. Make a list of what you are looking for, and create a fun prize for your kids to earn if they find all of the ornaments. We created this game for my kids this year as a team effort, but as they get older, it would be fun to hide even more ornaments and turn it into a big contest.

9. Look at Family Pictures and Videos - Whether you are scrolling through pictures you've uploaded to Facebook over the past few years, or browsing through scrapbooks you have made, this is a fun way to spend time together and turn an activity into a tradition. You can relive past Christmas mornings, talk about how much everyone has grown, and look forward to this year's Christmas.

10. Wrap Gifts - It's important to teach your children that Christmas is about GIVING and not just about getting. One way that we try to do this (it's really a hard thing to do!) is to talk to them about how fun it is to give gifts, and to let them be a part of picking out gifts and wrapping them as much as possible. Snuggling up in your pajamas and letting your kids help decorate and wrap is a great way to do this. As you wrap the presents you can talk about how much you love the person who the gift is for, and talk about how happy it will make them when they open it.








For more style inspiration you can follow along with @searsStyle on Twitter and Facebook. You can also view or follow this Pinterest board for more great ideas:

What are some of your favorite Christmas PJ traditions?

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