Thursday, November 7, 2013

Sneak Peek of Aurora's birthday party theme this year!

I bet you can guess what it is...

HALLOWEEN!!

Aurora has been OBSESSED with dragons ever since someone gave her one at the Big E a month ago. So, when it came time to decide on Halloween costumes, I already knew what the answer would be...
A purple dragon!!
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This was Aurora's first year trick or treating, and even though it was a little rainy outside, she had a blast! Of course mama had to dress in a coordinating purple sorceress costume...
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Aurora loved her costume so much, in fact, that she insisted on wearing it the whole next day while she watched Dragon Tails on Netflix. 2013 - Year of the Purple Dragon.
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Monday, September 9, 2013

The Hardest Thing I've Ever Had To Teach My Child

When you become a parent, you know there are things you will have to teach your child. Things like; "Don't put that in your mouth", use the potty, "Say please and thank you", learn your ABCs and 123s. Other stuff happens as a reaction, like no hitting or biting (or swearing.. oops) and be gentle with animals. Then there are the things that you don't realize need teaching until you are faced with them head on.
For instance, how to behave in a social situation, or how to make friends.
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For me, the hardest lesson to teach, and to accept myself,  has been "not everyone is friendly". In other words; "leave people alone if they don't want to interact with you". When Aurora first learned that she could get a reaction from people by smiling or talking to them, it was incredibly exciting for her. When she was a baby, she would wave at everyone and there was nothing more frustrating for me than watching people go out of their way to ignore her. At that age, though, she was oblivious and, because I was always holding her and she had a short attention span, the moment usually passed quickly. These days, though, she is more persistent. If someone doesn't acknowledge her, she will often go out of her way to get their attention.
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Many people respond well, but others, not so much. She is curious about everything and it's her job at this age to learn about the world around her. This includes the people she sees every day. She wants to know about them too. She is learning important information about how to interact with others. This is something that could set the stage for her entire social life. How do you explain to your child, who is just trying to make friends, that many people don't want to be bothered? She knows that I love her. She knows that the people she sees on a regular basis like her. She knows that she can make friends with other kids and some other adults. But... what about that guy on the bus giving her a dirty look for asking too many questions? 
If other kids don't mind her questions and most people will interact with her in a very age-appropriate way, why can't everyone?
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Aurora is extremely social... I'm sure she gets that from me. She is not shy and has no problem voicing her opinions. She loves interacting with other people and I think it's important for her. Moreover, she's really GOOD at making friends. Whenever we're in a situation where there are other kids, she gravitates towards them in a very natural way. Sometimes, it's as simple as sitting next to someone until they notice her.
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Sometimes she plays alongside and occasionally she will ask about something the other kid is doing.
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Sometimes, she goes so far as to give a random person a giant hug...
 for no apparent reason other than the simple fact that she wanted to.
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Almost universally, the other kid responds well. It is the parents (myself included) that stand by waiting for something to go wrong. Why is that? Most kids are born with a natural ability to make personal connections and we, as parents, spend their formative years discouraging it! We do this by imposing our own prejudices on them or by outright teaching them to be more reserved. What is so wrong with giving someone a hug just because you want to? Why is it such an imposition when someone we don't know starts a conversation? These are adult hangups and we have no right to train our kids the same way when all they want to do is make friends. I think it's wildly unfair. However, I also recognize that we are a society that revolves around everyone having a bubble of personal space that no one should invade. I know that some people will react poorly if Aurora is always so outgoing. I also realize that some people may not have the best intentions.
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I guess where I am going with this is, do I really have to teach her that talking to or touching other people isn't okay? Do we have to go over guidelines about where/when and how she is allowed to make friends?This goes beyond the typical "Don't talk to strangers" diatribe. Personally, I hate that lesson. I understand where it comes from (fear) but I refuse to make it that cut and dry for several reasons. For one, some people genuinely DO want to make connections and I think that is important. Secondly, I don't want to instill universal and unwarranted fear of the unknown into her. Should we be teaching our kids that all strangers are 'bad' just because one or two in her life may actually be? For me, the answer is no.
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I think learning to trust your instincts is more important. I've rarely, if ever, been wrong when I get an uneasy feeling about a person. This is something we all have the ability to recognize. Some people make your hair stand on end, others you want to cross the street to avoid talking to, some people are fine to talk to but you question the validity of everything they say. We can all see these things. However, it took me many years to fully trust that instinct. Why? Because I grew up with a "don't trust strangers" mindset. Then, as I grew older, I realized that if I never trusted strangers, I would become a creepy unemployed and reclusive cat-lady who never made friends or had lovers and who would inevitably die alone. 
The truth is we NEED strangers in our lives. They help us learn and grow and without them we would be incredibly lonely. Not to mention the fact that we would never get jobs or go on dates or make new friends.
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Reconciling these two truths became very hard when I was in my teens and early twenties because I never had to rely on my gut before. Strangers were bad... period. Upon the realization that strangers were actually very important, it became hard to decide which ones were trustworthy. I had completely lost touch with that basic social instinct that we are all born with. I had no bullshit detector. I didn't know when people were just using me. I found myself believing people when they said they were telling the truth, even if a tiny part of me knew they weren't. I was desperate to let people get close to me and I made quite a few poor decisions as a result. Then, I sort of went the other way...
TRUST NO ONE.
I spent the majority of my mid-twenties as a jaded and miserable person. I thought everyone had ulterior motives. I assumed that I would never find someone who genuinely loved me. It took me a very long time to let all of that anger and disappointment go. I often wonder how much heartache I could have avoided if I had a better grasp on how to judge people. Is it really just a matter of getting older and wiser?
I think that is part of it, of course. But I also believe that we are fundamentally set up for failure because we never learn how to socialize.

Almost everyone I know has similar childhoods. They had a select group of friends that didn't change until school, if it changed at all. For the most part, the only adults in their lives were relatives. I can't remember any significant childhood memory that involves someone outside of my family or my two friends growing up. Granted, I also grew up in the time of 'children are seen and now heard'. I'm sure this also played a part. The thing is, the memories I have of my family are mostly amazing ones. They were adults who interacted with me in a way that was different from my parents. I learned things, I grew, and these moments stuck with me. Imagine how many more I might have had if I had met more people?

So how do we bridge this gap between "don't talk to strangers" and "only talk to the right strangers"? For us, so far, it has been a matter of teaching Aura that "not everyone is friendly" for now. She is allowed to say hello to whoever she wants (as long as she is with me). If they don't want to talk to her, I redirect her and explain later. Sometimes even when she is initially well received, she gets too excited or tries to touch people which makes them uncomfortable. In those situations, I tell her to keep her hands to herself and if she can't calm down, I redirect her. She seems to be picking up social cues little by little and will often get the hint that someone doesn't want to interact. On more than one occasion, she has told me "That person isn't friendly" which I always think is hilarious and which I secretly hope will teach the other person a lesson.

As she gets older, and is in situations where I am not right next to her, we will have to elaborate and learn the difference between strangers who are safe and those who are not. This raises a whole new set of issues. Is the person with the uniform on always friendly? How about the person teaching children's activities at the park? Are they always safe? How can you be sure they work there?

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In my opinion, the simple answer is; you can't ever be sure based on appearance. But this doesn't mean you should be afraid of strangers! This is where trusting your instincts will come in. We already talk about being able to judge moods, she knows when people are happy or sad and she's pretty good at spotting a faker! I'm hoping this will translate well into being able to tell if someone is honest. I also want to teach her to trust her gut. If something doesn't feel right, it isn't. She's not obligated to trust anyone except for me. She doesn't have to talk to someone if she's uncomfortable and she never, ever has to go anywhere with anyone. Ever. But that doesn't mean she has to stay in a bubble and be afraid. I don't want her to ever think that she has to be afraid of people. I don't want her to feel like she's not allowed to make new friends or to be outgoing. 
Some people aren't friendly.
That's their problem, not hers.
Plenty of other people are.
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Keep your home, and your little ones, safe!!

I live in an urban area and, while we have never had any problems (knock on wood!), a few of our neighbors have had issues with break-ins. Because of this, I've been shopping around and debating whether or not to install a security system. While doing some comparisons, I came across Protection1 home security systems. They have many of the basic features I was looking for (alarms, obviously, and remote options) but they also have many options that I had never even considered, like energy monitoring and automatic door locks. There are also options for video monitoring.

Perhaps what I like most about this company, however, is their focus on families. For instance, they are running a National Baby Safety Month campaign to raise awareness for potential household hazards. There are even some helpful infographics HERE which break down the information for each room in your house. Some of the information is common knowledge, but there are also some helpful things that I feel are often overlooked, like anchoring furniture to prevent tipping. These helpful tips are available for free on their website right now and are even available as links for social media. I find the fact that they are promoting this safety awareness for families very comforting and it has definitely swayed my opinion towards their company vs. others who are just focused on sales. They are offing a free quote on their website right now, as well. If you are looking for ways to make your house more secure and protect your family, I suggest checking them out!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wordless Wednesday XXXVI - (Our micro stay-cation!!!)


Just found out about this AWESOME new site!!!

Pleygo is a Net-Flix like service for Legos!  Subscribe, rent, play, and exchange sets of LEGOs unlimited times per month.  Shipping is always free both ways and sets are sanitized when returned.  We offer a convenient, quick, and inexpensive solution that relieves clutter and saves space at home while saving money.  Co-Founded by influential parenting blogger and creator of A-List mom Elina Furman, Plegyo is the perfect way to supply your child with endless developmental tools and allow for that much needed quiet time at home!


 Three levels of subscription starting at just $15 allow you to find the plan that best suits you.  We offer credit towards you account for sets and mixed bricks that you donate to us, and we provide the shipping label too!  Pleygo is a perfect gift for a family friend, loved one, or birthday party.  Purchase a gift subscription and send it with a special message from you!  We are constantly expanding our inventory with more sets!

Receive your First Month FREE at  http://www.usfamilycoupons.com/coupon.php?bid=11329&dealid=1389®ionid=75 or directly at www.Pleygo.com to register!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Foo Fest 2013! Aurora is a Rock Star PLUS a Special Announcement!

This was Aurora's third Foo Fest (You can read about the other times HERE and HERE). For the first time she was truly able to appreciate our little family summertime tradition! It's hard to believe that just two years ago she was a little bean who spent most of her time in a carrier just staring at the bright lights. Where has the time gone? This year we went to brunch at a new place called The Grange.
Aurora spent quite a bit of time drawing "funny faces" on the napkins.

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Then we headed to Foo Fest!
The first stop was the mini makers market where we found some 3D dinosaur puzzles that Aurora loved!

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Next was the musical instrument 'petting zoo' where Aurora tried her hand at guitar and drums and started an impromptu toddler band with another little girl.

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Then we went to the face painting area. This was Aurora's first time getting her face painted so she had to stand and check it out for a little while first. After, she was excited to tell us that she had a 'butterfly face'!

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Then my former boss treated Aurora to her first giant pretzel. You can tell by her face that she loved it:

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After some more walking we ate our dinner from the roof of a double-decker bus restaurant!

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Finally, Aurora played with Auntie and a new friend making more dinosaur puzzles and then we headed home. It was a great day as usual.

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NOW...
Are you ready for the super exciting announcement?
Aurora is officially POTTY TRAINED!!
After introducing the potty around Christmas time and doing a few stints here and there, Aurora finally decided about a week and a half ago that she was ready! She woke up and asked to go to the potty and she's been going ever since with no daytime accidents and only two nights of waking up wet! We even made it the whole long day away from home at Foo Fest and got back totally dry!
Needless to say I'm pretty proud of my big girl!

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Need help with translations? Try these guys first!

Unfortunately, my dreams of one day learning a language aside from English have yet to be realized. After three years of French in middle school, all I remember is words for food, swears and very basic conversational phrases (i.e. My name is..., Where is the bathroom?). I've picked up a handful of words and phrases from a few other different languages, like Spanish, Chinese and Italian, but I'm not the slightest bit fluent in any of them. I swear one day I will buckle down and learn Spanish, since people often assume that I can speak the language and I live in a very diverse neighborhood.

Anyway, in the meantime, I often come across things that need translating. I'm sure you've all realized by now that search engine translation like Google translate or Babelfish are rarely reliable. Sure, you can usually get the gist of what someone is saying, but quite a bit gets lost. When you're dealing with larger documents, the search engine option is pretty useless. So, in these instances, the best thing to do it to work with a translation service or translation agency.


One of the best international translation services I've come across so far is Rosetta Translation (http://www.rosettatranslation.com/). They are an international translation agency, headquartered in London. They offer translation services for every major language and specialize in legal, medical, technical and financial translation. This is particularly helpful because these documents are often the hardest to translate and require the most accuracy. If you want to check them out, you can upload a document and get a free quote right away! If you try them, be sure to come back and tell me what you think! I love hearing about other people's experiences with companies that I like.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Aurora's Summertime Adventures! - HUGE Photo update!

Oh boy have we been busy around here. Trying to enjoy as much of that summer sun as we can! Of course, now that I'm not taking so many classes at a time, it's actually a little chilly here this week. Hopefully it's nice out next week so I can enjoy my first full week off after 17 weeks of non-stop schoolwork! Aurora is growing by leaps and bounds. It's almost overwhelming. At her last appointment even the doctor was amazed by how tall she had gotten and that she was speaking in full sentences. It's like she went from a baby to a big kid overnight. There's very little trace left of that helpless baby I held in my arms just two and a half years ago. Lately, she's been making new friends, playing outside as often as we possibly can and, of course, eating lots of yummy foods! On that note; my new canning hobby has quickly turned into an addiction so I'm sure some canning posts will make their way onto the blog soon, as well. Stay tuned! In the meantime, here's some highlights:
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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Sorry! I've been slacking...

For anyone who doesn't know, I've got an unusually heavy courseload this semester and it's been a little tough to make myself sit down and update. Usually I want to get as far away from the computer as possible! The good news is; the semester is halfway over and I've been surviving, with my 4.0 average still intact. Soon it will get easier! The bean and I have been enjoying the warm weather during the day though... here's a quick glimpse of our last few weeks:
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Aurora practicing her bike riding skills at Nana Poo's house.
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Aurora at her best buddy's 2nd birthday party!

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Drawing and eating fruit snacks!
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Picnic at the zoo!
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Painting with water at the zoo (I really need to make her one of these!)
Meanwhile mama has been canning awesome salsa; running and obsessing over salads!!
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