Wrapping holiday presents for kids

Last year I started taking apart excess packaging and putting toys together before wrapping them. This system has worked out extremely well for all of us. Christmas 2010 went so smoothly compared to the previous years. Even birthdays are that much more relaxing — and all because of this handy little tip.

Does this look familiar?

It’s really easy to do: Simply remove all plastic bags, twist ties and cut all strings prior to wrapping.
This picture is from last year but it shows how I took all the DUPLO blocks out of the bags, removed all toys from the packaging, set everything up (added batteries if needed), put them back in the boxes and then wrapped them up.

Prepping gifts for a toddler

My kids (like most kids) have no patience in the midst of all the holiday excitement, and want to play with their new toys immediately. Stressful Christmas mornings are now a thing of the past!

I also put aside all manuals (they normally get lost in the shuffle anyway) and wash all clothing before wrapping. My kids get excited about certain articles of clothing (Thomas, Buzz, etc.) and demand that they wear them right away. Washing clothes before wrapping has also cut down on the amount of Christmas day laundry… Which used to be out of control.

What kind of things do you do to make your holidays easier and more relaxing? 

Weaning Tips for Breastfeeding Mothers

The word “wean” means a passage from one relationship to another -not a loss or detachment from a relationship. The weaning process begins the first time your baby takes food from a source other than your breast – whether it’s formula from a bottle or mashed banana from a spoon. Weaning is the gradual replacement of breastfeeding with other foods and ways of nurturing. -KellyMom.com


There are also many reasons for a mother to slow down a nursing relationship and even purposefully start the weaning process with her child. Like so…

My first son quit cold turkey on me at 17 months. I was extremely uncomfortable after he stopped nursing and I tried everything (mainly cabbage and hot showers) to keep myself from getting a blocked duct and/or infection. I also tried to get comfortable so I could sleep comfortably. Which is an absolute necessity to ward off a breast infection during a child-led or mother-led weaning process, you need to get adequate rest.

My second son (at 15 months) was down to nursing twice a day when I became pregnant with my third son. I was extremely ill while pregnant with my third son; I couldn’t hold down a sip of water let alone a bite of peanut butter toast. My baby was growing rapidly inside my womb and my toddler wasn’t getting even close to the amount that he was getting before I became sick. I began supplementing more whole milk into his diet and I knew that he was nursing more out of habit, and for comfort, but he was definitely not getting (literally not swallowing) hardly anything. That and a few other factors led me to start furthering the weaning process. I refused to endure the pain that I had experienced with my first son so I cut one feeding at a time and I did it gradually. Here’s how I did it…


Depending on how long, and how often your child is nursing, determine an estimated date that you’d like to stop nursing.

In my case, I didn’t have a specific event or time in mind; I just wanted to make it a gradual and positive transition for my son and myself.

Gradually decrease the time at the breast by a minute every few days; then continue to decrease it by shorter intervals as you get down towards the end.

For example, my son was nursing 10 minutes each side, twice a day (before nap and before bed) at almost 17 months old. Taking his personality into consideration, I decided to cut one feeding at a time (starting with the before nap feeding). I cut the naptime feeding down by one minute every few days until we reached 3 minutes each side. I then started decreasing the time he spent on each breast by 20-30 seconds every few days… no joke. By the time we got down to 2-3 minutes, I would just count the seconds while he was nursing. The gradual decrease helped him transition and it slowly decreased my supply at the same time.

After successfully cutting out the naptime feeding, I started doing the same thing for the nighttime feeding. All in all it took about two months from the time I began cutting down the feedings to the last day he nursed. I did it slowly and listened to my son’s needs, my intuition, and my body and because of this, I was not in any pain associated with the end of our nursing relationship.

I did the same thing my third son but his personality would not have allowed me to cut one feeding at a time. My third son was also down to two feedings at the time that I decided to start the same weaning process. Unlike his older brother, I felt it was best to gradually decrease both feedings at the same time. Once again, he transitioned nicely and I was not in any pain related to the end of our nursing relationship.

You will need a visible clock.

You can use a sweep seconds hand clock or a digital clock. I used a digital clock (since I already had it in my son’s room) and just estimated.

Listen to your child.

If your child becomes ill, is not responding well to this method or is not ready, take that into consideration. Wait until your child is feeling better, try another weaning method or wait until you feel your child might be ready and try again. Also, give your child extra snuggles, reading time and attention while trying any weaning process.


This is just one weaning method to consider. Most children gradually wean themselves and a weaning method isn’t even needed but as much as I support breastfeeding (and a mothers choice to breastfeed), I think it’s only fair to share the good, the bad and the helpful when it comes to breastfeeding. I appreciate all the support that I received when I was breastfeeding my children and I only hope that I can do the same… for those that want it.


More weaning information-

How Weaning Happens at Kelly Mom

Weaning Techniques at Kelly Mom

FAQs about Weaning at Kelly Mom

How To Wean at Ask Dr. Sears


This post can also be seen at Rated By Mom

Tips For A Memorable 2011 Holiday Cards

Photo Source: Minted.com

It’s that time of the year again! Time to start planning and preparing for the Holidays… well, Holiday cards that is. Especially if you are planning to include a family photo– like we do.

One of our favorite family photographers, Vicky from Family Photos By Vicky, has come up with some wonderful tips on how to create a lasting impression with your 2011 Holiday Card.


Tired of sending the same holiday card every year?  Don’t want yours to end up at the bottom of a drawer?  Creating an interesting greeting that tells your family’s story can be a lot of fun—and less work than you might think!  Here are a few ideas:

  • Use Minted.com to create a Yearline photo card that tells your family story along a timeline, with multiple photos and text blocks. I discovered Minted when I was shopping for wedding invitations – the designs, paper quality and printing are beautiful.
  • Download a free MS Office Word family newsletter design template from the Microsoft website, fill in some text, drop in some pictures, and print at home on nice paper from Staples. My husband has an aunt who does this every year, and we absolutely love getting them.
  • Use Animoto.com to create a holiday music video greeting using your own photos, text and even video clips. Animoto has a very cool technology that matches up the movement of your images and text with the music you choose. Try the “Simplicity” template for a video greeting that is much more professional and less cheesy than the typical video greeting. 30-second, small hosted videos are FREE!
  • Commission a professional photographer to take your family portraits and design something completely unique for you. One of my most popular products this year has been the magnetic mini accordion book. Clients love them, and I know a few who will be using them as holiday gifts for family. Check out my blog for examples of these books, as well as a few other unique holiday photo gift ideas.




  • If you’re doing a photo card, schedule a photography session as soon as you can! A lot of photographers have Holiday Session Specials going on right now and they are booking up fast. If you’re not doing a photo card, it’s still a great time to get family pictures done. Think gifts for the Grandparents!
  • Select which company you want to order from. Vicky provided some new (I’ve never heard of them before) ways to create a fantastic card or you can ask your photographer if he or she can create a design for you.


  • Select or narrow down which card design you want. And after you receive the photos, pick the pictures you would like on the card… if you’re doing a photo card. Trust me, it’s not always easy to narrow down the pictures.


  • Order the cards
  • Print address labels and buy stamps


  • Send the cards out the day after Thanksgiving! Okay, not really, but some do. I’ve done that once but I think I only had one kid that year…


What are some of your tips for preparing and sending out Holiday cards? And don’t forget to check out Vicky’s Blog for even more information and tips!


Keeping the Lines of Communication Open With Teachers

We’re far enough into the new school year now; Back To School night has long passed (or is happening now depending on when your child started school) so you and your child have a pretty good feel of what is to come and what is expected this year.

Each teacher is different so what worked last year may not work this year but I encourage all parents to find the method of communication that best suits your family and your child’s teacher. Why?

Because school and home should be a partnership.

Just as you would expect the teacher to inform you of any schedule changes, field trips, attitude changes and problems while at school… parents should communicate a lot of the same changes, problems, and even triumphs with the teachers. I have yet to meet a teacher (and I was one) that didn’t want to know about changes that your child is going through at home– both good and bad. This knowledge can make a huge difference in your child’s day while at school because the teacher has an idea of how to handle behaviors and insight as to why your child’s behaviors have changed.


Here are some ways you can get more involved:

  • Volunteer in the Classroom

If you are able to help out in your child’s classroom, sign up! This is a great way to get to know the teacher better and to see the classroom dynamics. You can volunteer in many ways– at home, by taking group pictures at events, in the classroom, during field trips, etc.– just tell your child’s teacher what your availability is and ask how you can help.

  • Exchange Email Address’

Ask your child’s teacher if you can correspond via email or if they prefer another method of communication. My son’s teacher last year preferred text messages!

  • Be aware of what’s going on at school

Ask the teacher how your child is doing; don’t wait for parent-teacher conferences. Also, ask your child what he or she did while at school or what he or she worked on while at school.

  • Familiarize yourself with notices

Know where the schedule and updates are posted and check them daily. Check your child’s cubby, backpack, mailbox, etc. for notices and written communication on a daily basis.

  • Classroom website or blog

Learn about, suggest or help construct a classroom website or blog for your child’s classroom. This is a great way to not only communicate with the teacher but it’s an easy spot for all parents to check and communicate through.

  • Verbal communication

Send a note or arrive early enough to tell the teacher if the child is having a bad day, didn’t get a good night’s rest, etc. Communicate any concerns about your child both in and out of school with the teacher. Teachers have seen a lot of different personalities so chances are, they can give you advice or suggestions if you want them.

  • Encourage and support your child at home

Establish a habit for homework and make it a priority. Listen to your child read, answer homework questions and help when help is needed. Doing homework with your child is a great way to see eye to eye with the teacher and how your child is progressing. You can also schedule an in-class observation to help accomplish this.


What are some ways you communicate with your child’s teacher?


This post can also be seen at Rated By Mom

Back To School With Mabel’s Labels

Houston! We have an announcement… Mommy has put down the Sharpie and has a new obsession.

Mabel’s Labels.

It takes something pretty spectacular to rip a Sharpie out of my hot little hand so I’m pleased to tell you about Mabel’s Labels. After receiving my labels, I found myself labeling everything I could get my hands on! Which is not necessarily a bad thing considering my 9-year-old would forget his brain if it wasn’t attached (it’s the age or so I’m told). My 3-year-old simply doesn’t care about which jacket (unless it’s the Train Jacket) he brought to school and I have a toddler distracting me every 2 seconds… so I usually forget said jacket. Needless to say, the Lost and Found Bin is my friend. And now? I actually have fun labeling the contents of the Lost and Found Bin. No joke… if you love Sharpies (and really, who doesn’t) you will adore Mabel’s Labels.

This year is especially important because my oldest son has to wear a uniform to school. Well, not a true uniform but he has to wear clothing consisting of three specific colors. I can barely spot him out of a crowd of kids while he’s at school!

I used the Ultimate Back To School Combo Pack and went to town.

Labels have been blurred, they do not come that way...

I labeled all his polo shirts, jackets, sweaters, sweater vests with the Tag Mates labels and shoes with the Shoe Labels… then I started labeling his hats, umbrella, beanies, etc. He doesn’t wear hats to school but he does take them to friends’ houses and to places where they can easily get lost.

Labels have been blurred, they do not come that way...

Then I attacked the lunchbox and backpack with the Teeny Tags and the water bottle and school supplies with Skinny-Minis labels.

But oh no, I wasn’t done.

Labels have been blurred, they do not come that way...

That would be one of the jackets that lives half the time in the Lost and Found Bin, the school lunchbox and a sippy cup that gets toted to playdates, grandma’s and beyond.

And that nifty little box in every picture? It’s the box that the Ultimate Back To School Combo comes in. It ever so neatly houses the unused labels– until I’m ready to attack the closet again. I keep my unused labels (in their designated box) in each of my son’s closets, on the top shelf, so I know exactly where they are (and so little hands can’t get to them). The Ultimate Back To School Combo Pack comes neatly packaged complete with labeled pages and a guide in the back explaining where each label is best suited.

I’ve Mommy Tested them already, too. Mabel’s Labels are UV resistant, dishwasher, microwave and laundry safe… and they have passed my test.

The Ultimate Back To School Combo includes:


The only piece of advice I can give to Mabel’s Labels is, maybe rethink your tagline to say Labels for the stuff kids and their scatter-brained moms lose! instead of Labels for the stuff kids lose! ;) Kidding… kind of.

Disclosure: I received a few Ultimate Back To School Combo packs but was not paid to write a review or article. All my opinions and words are my own, as always.


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