Never Leave Home without Your MiaMily

When I made the decision to move abroad with my twin toddlers, my first thought was, “You’re a dumbass! You can’t take the tots with you on your adventures. You cant hike, bike, or ride an ATV; you have TWO babies. The roads aren’t stroller friendly either. What will you do?” Then, I decided a backpack carrier was the only way to go. Surely I can take the babies on daily adventures with a backpack carrier, right? Well…not all carriers are created equal. 

  • I used wraps and kangaroo shirts when they were babies, but these dudes are pushing 30lbs now.
  • I tried the massive hiking backpack carriers and felt like they were appropriate next time I attempt to climb Everest, but they looked a little silly for a stroll to the farmers market.
  • I tried the ones where you can wear the baby dangling off your front or your back, but I knew that position wasn’t comfortable (or safe) for a baby’s hips.

Enter, the Mia Mily 3D Hipster! Hell to the yeah! This is what I’ve been looking for! I researched it ad nauseum, I read all the mommy blogs on it, read through reviews and so on, but when it arrived it was even cooler than I expected. The designers thought of everything!

Badass Fact #1:

Its designed with a baby seat to support baby’s hips whether they’re facing in, out, or worn front or back, or side.

Badass Fact #2:

I can wear my baby 9 different ways OR I can tandem wear! Yep, I can wear BOTH babies at the same time. #twinning

Badass Fact #3:

It comes with a carrying case, teething pads for the shoulders, and a shade to protect your baby’s face.

Badass Fact #4:

Its adjustable; and I mean adjustable to the fullest extent of the word! I’m 5’6 and small framed and my husband is 6’5 and quite the giant. We can both wear the carriers and adjust the straps at the shoulders, across the chest/back area, or the waist. We can choose hos high or low we wear the baby.

Badass Fact #5:

It’s super lightweight! I tried so many huge, cumbersome, bulky versions of carriers and the MiaMily trumps every one of these on portability. I stopped checking in my trunk to make sure I had my stroller, but instead, I never leave home without tossing the carriers in my front seat or in my grocery cart even. God forbid theres a tantrum in the cart while I’m mid shopping. Now, I just strap on the carrier, throw the fussy one on my back and keep on trucking!

I loved my carriers when I lived in Austin for daily life, but I’m in lust now for the way they assist me with adventure life in Central America. I’ve worn my boys at LaPaz Waterfall Gardens, hiking through butterfly gardens, riding ATVs through the jungle, shopping in mountain towns, on the beaches, monkey farms, animal sanctuaries, zoos, climbing down to the Rio Machuega, and even an aerial sky tram in the tropical rainforest 300 ft in the air!

The carriers support babies and toddlers no matter what position is preferred and get them at the right height to enjoy the same viewpoint as the adults they’re with. Whether its 95 degrees and humid in the jungle or 50 degrees in the mountains, the Mia Mily can withstand the journey.

You on live once! Strap that baby to your back and go! #YOLO

Stay Gold, 

That Girl

House of the Seed

An old petting zoo converted into a school in the jungle of a developing country. Children are barefoot, half dressed, and running amuck. There are no teachers, no whiteboards, no computers, and not a textbook in sight. There is no curriculum and no testing. In fact, it’s unclear who is in charge…if anyone.

This is the school my children will be attending and Im stoked! Why? Because, despite how it may appear to the untrained eye (or through the lenses of first-world glasses), this school is the future. This school is based on brain development, rather than content development. Its focused on a holistic view of the child as an independent, spiritual being, and believes the child is driven innately towards creating, exploring, learning, and loving. It is understood by the adults, who have over thirty-five years “teaching” experience”, that play is not only how children communicate, but it is how they learn. They incorporate learning into daily projects led by the children and provide a Renaissance-esque education for them that no public school in the states could ever provide.

I dreamed of this school a while back, which was either me putting it out into the universe, or the universe bringing it to my attention, but either way, we found each other. The past ten years have been bringing me to it’s doors. My years as a teacher in the public school system witnessing children with anxiety, depression, anger, and frustration built up a disgust for our education system. Listening to fellow teachers complain daily about the poor behavior from students, the lack of drive or ambition students had, the minimal parent support, and the bullying amongst peers in the classroom. I knew the drop out rates were increasing and the college attendance rates were decreasing and when I had my two boys I began experiencing my own level of anxiety about their educational future.

No, I don’t want Montessori, where they practice adult skills every day and learn shapes, letters, and numbers before they’re even three.

No, I don’t want a private school where they’ll likely be surrounded by elitist peers who care more about who’s wearing what and what their daddy’s do for a living.

No, I don’t want the Lord of the Flies preschool where they run around like wild banshees and their emotional needs may be overlooked in the “every man for himself” philosophy.

Then, I discovered the “House of the Seed” school via a mom blog and thought I was still dreaming! It exists! It’s real! A place where children lead their own learning and where culture, arts, and logic are all incoporated into the day. Where children learn to think, rather than memorize! A place set in nature that promotes respect for the environment and helps children understand how to be a part of the world, not just use the world. I fell in love and began begging my husband to take me there so I could see it in action.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to visit in person and I cried! I cried because I watched my boy’s faces light up from the inside and I watched the other children welcome them with open arms and show them things, teaching them without even speaking the same language. I felt I was finally at home and I knew they would thrive in a place like this and that my dreams for them could be realized if I could only get them here.

They can’t technically “attend” until age three, but I can take them daily since we will be living in the community part of the year and I can assist them in their transition and support their learning experiences daily. The leaders of the school encourage parent involvement because they understand the parent-child bond and respect the parent’s role in their child’s ability to learn. Parents enrich the experience rather than hinder it and they’re welcomed daily.

Some naysayers will wonder how children can learn without a clear curriculum or schedule. How can they learn history without a history class or learn literature without taking a Language Arts course? Math is so important to brain development and logical reasoning so how can the students be successful without that? The thing is- they’re learning ALL of this and more every day through projects, activities and play.

For example, while I was there I saw students building an organic garden together. They chose seeds from the kitchen to plant, they learned the different levels and types of soil as they used real gardening tools to prepare each row. They studied various insects before deciding which ones were helpful and which ones may be harmful. Some of the students didn’t care to help with the garden, but instead decided to make signs for it. They went to a construction zone and selected materials, measured, cut, and sanded the wood. Not only are these students learning life lessons, but they’re learning (and applying) science and math skills! They’re also learning about cooperation, communication, teamwork, patience, and nurturing the environment.

All of the materials I saw in the school were designed to provide concrete experience, and reach every type of learner, whether they were visual, kinestheic, or auditory learners. The students were engaged, happy, and self-directed. I loved every magical moment of my time there and can’t wait to go back.

Bonus? When the director noticed my son’s interest in animals and invited us to visit the stables so they could feed and pet the ponies. Winning!

Where is this place? I can’t tell you! I’ll keep this gem a secret in hopes it inspires people to create one in their own community all over the world and ignite change! It’s time to unschool and raise children to be lifelong learners who know how to think rather than memorize.

Stay gold, 

That Girl

We finished up our day with a dunk in the Rio Macheuga! Feeling the earth on your skin is so therapeutic! Dirt, water, sun, air…

Fighting the Good Fight: Raising Kids on Faith

“That’s my brother. My Mom calls him Captain Crazy.” Oops. Guilty mom alert and pretty sure I didn’t mean for the oldest to repeat that. But sometimes it’s not just one kid that’s crazy, it’s all three…and therefore I am crazy too.  Every now and then it is truly insane around here. And by insane I mean the most unpredictable, unthinkable, and what-on-earth-are-we-doing kinds of days.

But we’re fighting a good fight here. A really, really good one. It’s a fight to raise men of faith with character, ambition, courage, and (one of my favs) a healthy sense of humor.

Have you ever just watched a little boy play? Maybe a three year old captivated in his own little world of dragons and swords (squirrels and sticks) with an uncontainable zeal for life and enough energy to run a marathon. Always on the move; jumping, spinning, and throwing himself on the ground. On multiple occasions I’ve questioned my children’s hearing because I literally must shout their names 3 times before they snap out of dragon world with a, “me?” Yes sweet child, you. I am trying so terribly hard to help you tame that wild little spirit.

It feels like a lost cause to correct every single thing that my children do in the course of a day. Why? Because it is a lost cause.  In my mind, constant correction doesn’t tame the spirit, it crushes it. I love, love, love the wild little side of my boys so in these young years! The day to day is tough (understatement of my life) but my husband and I try to focus our efforts on a few broad categories and expect to focus more on specifics as the boys get older (check back in about 7 years for that post). And before friends and family laugh at these, remember that I said we’re working on these; we certainly have not mastered them.

LISTENING: My sweet boys have the biggest and brownest eyes you have literally ever seen. 

Big eyes

I’ve learned that they have a certain stare that can be translated, “Mommy, I see your mouth moving but I’m not hearing any of your words.” My new approach is to make eye contact, give short and concise instructions, then have them repeat what I said. It works a solid 60% of the time. In my mind, listening and following through will be appreciated by future teachers, will get us closer to being out the door on time (I once heard myself say “put on your shoes” 12 times), and will certainly save my sanity.

RESPECT FOR STUFF: Literally everything falls into this category…toys, utensils, cups, papers, books, trees, flowers, chairs, shoes, floors, cars, etc… Little boys must touch everything…EVERYTHING!! I tell myself that it’s part of learning, which is true. However, breaking things is not ok. One of my pet peeves is things being ruined or broken just because “he breaks everything.” Don’t get me wrong here, my kids have broken, spilled, torn, and squished plenty of things but I try to stay a step ahead of them or at least use teachable moments to constantly encourage respect for ‘stuff.’

ADVENTURE: One look at kid entertainment and you’ll see superheroes, explorers, discoveries, and a whole host of action packed adventure. My sweet boys seem to be “adventurous” in quite scary ways; jumping off couches, scaling high furniture, climbing the door frames like monkeys, or sword fighting using any and every object that is remotely long or skinny. 

Standing on Couch

It is truly a case by case basis to figure out what we will and will not approve of for the boys. Some of their suggestions are an immediate ‘no.’ But other suggestions have me coming back to a couple of thoughts; we are raising men and men love adventure and adventure is ideally both fun and safe. Will they possibly get hurt? Yep. Will they possibly build confidence? Yep. Will I possibly regret this? Yep. Will I possibly be overcome with pride? Yep. Is parenting a whole host of difficult questions? Yep.

CAMARADERIE: I am not competitive; never have been, and never will be. But these boys? I can’t even count how many meltdowns per day we have over who is the ‘winner,’ the first, best, fastest, tallest, loudest (my middle child always win this one), and the list goes on. The only real loser of these conversations is me! So we started to focus on brotherhood, teamwork, camaraderie, and we made a shift to encouragement over competition. 

camaraderie

And let me tell you, it has been GLORIOUS. Good attitudes make winners and bad sports make losers. Talk about a good fight! Fingers crossed that this one pays off when high school sports begin.

Don’t misunderstand me here, we do a whole lot more parenting than these four things. But life with boys can quickly become a crazy house full of little minions that don’t listen, break everything they touch (which is going to be everything), run wild in dangerous ways, and allow natural competition to break one another down. We certainly don’t get it right every time but we’re trying and we’re fighting the good fights.

From the battlefield,

Mommy Pigg

 

 

 

Grab & Go Snacks

Caden LOVES food…all of it! There have been a few times I’ve had my camera ready, just knowing he would make a hilarious, disgusted face when I introduced him to whatever new food it was (peas, green beans, sour apricots), but…nothin’! He’s enjoyed everything we’ve tried so far…smacking his little hands on the high chair tray for more and opening wide like a baby bird! We have pretty much gotten through the puree phase and we’re moving toward more solid foods! Watching him start to feed himself is so much fun…proud mama bird here!

IMG_9925

So even though we’re still a ways away from needing it yet, I wanted to create a list of (mostly) healthy, easy, on-the-go snacks that I can refer to when it’s time! I love the idea of having a basket in the pantry labeled “Caden’s Snacks” that we can easily grab from when we’re headed out (and eventually he choose from the snack basket himself too)!

Here’s a list of 30 “Grab-&-Go” Snacks for your little one…I hope you find it helpful!! Feel free to leave a comment and add to the list!! I would love to keep it going!

1. Cheese Sticks/String Cheese – cut into small pieces
2. Apple Chips (I love to eat the Snapz brand myself, yum!)
3. Veggie Chips/Straws
4. Homemade Fruit Roll-Ups

15. Wheat Thins with a Laughing Cow cheese wedge
6. Yogurt Melts
7. Granola Bars (Kashi, Cliff Z-Bars, Larabars, Nutrigrain)
8. Dried Fruit, coconut & yogurt covered raisins
9. Whole Grain Goldfish & pretzel pieces
10. Cheerio Necklace (make the necklace together…fine motor skill practice!)
11. Beef Jerky
12. Rice Cakes
13. Egg Muffins

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14. Nut Mix-Up (walnuts, almonds, peanuts, shelled pistachios, shelled sunflower seeds)
15. Puffs (I like the Happy Baby brand)
16. Baby Dill Pickles – low sodium
17. Hard Boiled Egg pieces
18. Granola Trail Mix (2 granola bars broken up, raisins, Craisins, pretzels, & marshmallows for fun)
19. Annie’s Bunny Fruit Snacks
20. Fruit/Veggie Pouches (Favorites: Happy Baby, Plum, Sprout, Ella’s, Peter Rabbit)
21. Bag of Berries (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, etc.)
22. Halo slices
23. Fig Newtons cut into pieces
24. Grapes & Cheese cubes (halved or quartered)
25. Applesauce Puffs (love this recipe!)

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26. Popcorn (throw in a few M&Ms for fun)
27. Olives
28. Veggies (steamed carrots, peeled cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, zucchini sticks, bell pepper sticks – orange/red/yellow)
29. Cheese slices with pieces of deli meat (turkey, ham, or chicken)
30. Kid’s Favorites Fun Mix (favorite pantry snacks all mixed together – animal crackers, teddy grahams, goldfish, pretzels, fruit loops, chex, etc.)

Now, go snack away…I hope your littles enjoy being on the go as much as this guy! 🙂

IMG_0771

5 Reasons My Kids Have an Amazing Dad

My husband Eric and I have two little girls, Kinley, 4, and Khloe, 3.  Since the moment our first daughter was born, I saw a change in my husband that I could have never anticipated. As the years have passed with our daughters, he has transformed into the most incredible father I could have imagined for our children.

Father’s Day is fast approaching and I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge all the ways that he is forever impacting our daughters and their image of a truly great dad.

1. He fills our home and their little hearts with laughter and fun.

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Laughter is the number one sound our household is bursting with.  During playtime, my husband is willing to be silly and crazy and the ladies think he is the funniest guy on Earth.

Eric teaches the girls knock-knock jokes and they practice them each night before bed.  They blow bubbles, draw silly pictures with sidewalk chalk, name bugs, pretend they are hunting for monsters, chase each other around the house, and build forts,  all while giggling and having fun.

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2. He shows patience and kindness.

Any time one of the girls gets fussy or throws a tantrum, my husband exudes the patience of Job.  While I instantly want to jump in and I get frustrated, Eric stays calm, relaxed and discusses the situation with them in a way that deescalates their tantrum and solves whatever problem caused the fussiness.  He is truly the toddler whisperer.

He shows our children how to be kind to one another, not only by how he treats them and myself, but when they are arguing he steps in and mediates the situation and teaches them that they will both feel better if they can be kind.

3. He gives them his time and is there for them daily.

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My husband is always there for our children.  It doesn’t matter what he is doing, if they ask him to play or they tell him they are hungry, he will drop what he’s doing in order to give them the attention they are craving.  I have seen him come home from work exhausted, and he still makes time to play and laugh with the girls.  He shows them each day that they are the most important aspect of his life, and that spending time with them is what he values.

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Eric takes turns taking each girl on a daddy-daughter date each weekend.  They will go see a movie, grab ice cream, go to the pet store to look at animals, sit on the town square and listen to music, go to the library, or whatever else the girls can think of that they’d like to do with him.  This time is truly special to the girls, where they get his full attention, and in turn he has developed stronger relationships with each of them, and this aspect of their relationship has made them fall even more in love with their daddy.

4. He educates our children.

Our children are always asking questions.  ALWAYS.  Eric and I are both educators, and from day one my husband has turned each experience he has with the girls into learning experiences.

He teaches them that every good thing is from God, and shows them how incredible life can be.

He shares music with them by playing guitar and singing with them, or turning on music so they can all let loose and dance.

He teaches them how to be kind to animals, and which animals are nice to look at but not touch.  Eric has investigated the wonders of insects with them by catching bugs, holding them, feeding them and discussing how they contribute to the world around us.

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He reads books and teaches them lessons and morals through stories he tells.

He has them eat different foods and has taught them how to get creative with food and make cooking fun,

5. The most important factor of a good dad – HE SHOWS THEM LOVE.

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My children are growing up understanding exactly what love is, and what true love looks like.  Eric shows the girls how a man is supposed to treat a woman through his relationship with me.  He shows the girls how a man should treat them by his interactions with them.

He hugs and snuggles with them each day and tells them how much he loves them. I’m not sure they will ever understand the depth of his love for them, but I think they have a good grasp on it even as toddlers.

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Each day I find myself falling more and more in love with my husband as I watch him raise our children with me.  I know that I am truly blessed to have married a man with such a big heart, and I am so pleased with the way he is with our daughters.

I know that having such a great father will mold them into great women, and I can’t wait to watch all the new adventures they will have with him as they grow older.

xoxoxo

thatKelligirl

 

Do you also have someone in your life that’s an amazing dad? What are some other qualities you see that make a father truly great?

How To Avoid Raising an Asshole

I hear you, “You can’t call a child an ‘asshole’!” Um…if you’ve known as many kids as I have, you’ll agree, some kids are definitely assholes. But, more importantly, I got your attention! No one wants their kid to be an asshole. 

How-to-avoid-raising-an-asshole

So…how do you avoid raising an asshole?

1. Set limits and create structure

I can’t tell you how many parents reach out to me for parenting support or a workshop AFTER the kid starts acting like a maniac. Kids get maniac when they lack routine and structure. Their world is chaoitic, therefore they behave chaotically.

Limits begin DAY 1 of the child’s life in the form of swaddling. A swaddled infant feels safe, secure, and knows their position in space, rather than feeling lost. HINT: Those flailing arms are not because they “enjoy feeling their environment” and they’re certainly not dancing or happy, those flailing arms are a symbol of stress and a sign your baby is seeking boundaries and containment.

Watch your baby and follow their lead intially to create a routine, but as they get older, it’s okay to create a routine. It’s best for the child if you adhere to mealtimes, naptimes, bedtimes, bathtimes, etc.

2. Allow for choices and freedom wherever possible

Offering choices is not about being permissive. It’s about giving your child control where control is allowed. Ironically, the more control you give away, the more you keep.

“Good morning! It’s time for breakfast. Would you like eggs or yogurt for breakfast?”

“It’s almost time to head home. Would you like to leave the park now or in five minutes?”

“It’s time for your bath. Would you like your monkey towel or dinosaur towel when we’re done?”

With offering choices where choices are possible (and offering choices you’re comfortable with), the parent is actually maintaining control, but the child is also experiencing the feeling of decision making. Kids who don’t feel in control of their lives will act out of control in order to regain control.

3. Feed your child as if they’re training for the greatest race of their lives

Fact is, they ARE training for the greatest race of their lives..life! I have watched kids go from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde in under 30 minutes flat simply from drinking high sugar juices or eating junk food. Ever wonder why toddlers always seem to be constipated and cranky? Let me tell you, if it’d been three days to a week since I’d had a poopy diaper, I’d be enraged, too!

Our bodies were not designed to run on trash, just like cars can’t run on trash although we all wish they could. Our bodies need whole foods, clean foods, and organic foods as fuel. Toddler, just the same, require a diet full of clean, lean proteins, healthy fats, and fruits and vegetables of all different colors and textures.

Your child will feel at their best physically, but also mentally, emotionally, & socially.

healthy foods for tots

Major tips for avoiding an asshole:

  • Don’t bargain with them
  • Tell them what they CAN do, instead of what they CAN’T
  • Smile, kiss, hug, and provide positive touch often
  • Create chores and assign responsibilities as early as 15-18m (picking up toys, wiping their face, stacking plastic cups, putting shoes in a basket, etc)
  • Use feeling words in daily conversation (share your feelings, identify their feelings for them, validate their feelings, and respect their feelings)
  • Remember: Kids don’t need to be “entertained”. They need to utilize imagination and evelop comfort during times of silence and delayed gratification
  • Allow for various caregiving experiences (church nurseries, school, gym childcare, grandma’s, etc) to create a healthy secure attachment
  • Encourage children to solve their own problems, but guide them in using effective problem solving skills
  • Keep their environment organized (label, color code, sort, stack, etc) so they know where to find what they need. An organized home is an organized heart.
  • Allow for free play without forcing your own agenda
  • If you can’t say it in 10 words or less, don’t say it. Kids respond to chunks or words at a time, not lengthy lectures or winded explanations

Most important? Love!!