BFL – Teaching an Attitude of Gratitude

Thanksgiving has just passed, and of course I am excited about so many things. Holiday from work, vacation to Denver, CO, to see my wonderful old friends, and my first gluten free turkey day dinner!

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I get very nostalgic and joyful around this time of year. Like many of us I become aware of how much I love life and others and how I want to spread my wings and give back to my community. And while I’d like to have a smaller waistline, less student loan debt and vets bills, and have more time for yoga, I am aware of just how blessed, lucky and down right thankful I am for all the gifts I have in my life!

Teaching kids about gratitude and thankfulness is a hot topic around the holidays in America and other parts of the world. We participate in food drives to feed the hungry, donate clothes, volunteer at soup kitchens or get involved in other ways of giving to others in our communities and beyond. It feels good to give back, and it feels even better when a child participates in service work and acknowledges their own gifts and want to share with others.

Here are some helpful tips on teaching kids about gratitude and being thankful during the holidays and and throughout the year.

  • Teach simple manners: Please, excuse me, thank you.
  • Sharing is caring and is the foundation of giving to another.
  • Make a gratitude list at the start or end of your day.
  • Play gratitude ping-pong.
  • Create a gratitude art project. Have your child draw a picture of what makes them happy and discuss the connection of happiness to thankfulness and gratitude.
  • Read a book or watch a movie that sends the message of gratitude and appreciation. Then talk about it!
    • The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein
    • Small Blessings, by Erica Becker
    • Have you Filled a Bucket Today?,  by Carol McCloud
  • Have a regular conversation about gratitude and giving back!
  • As parents and caregivers the best way we can teach our youngsters is by role modeling.
  • Gratitude starts with respect and acknowledgement of others and having polite manners.
  • Acknowledgment of others and a positive outlook!
  • Teach empathy.
  • Get involved with a community outreach program that support underserved populations.

Have a very Happy Holiday Season!

- Ali Sheppard

 

BFF – A Christmas Spectacular – Radio City Style

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Just in time for the onset of the official holiday season, the Bell Family Company headquarters had the privilege of attending the opening night of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular performance on November 13th! There is no better way to kick off the holiday season. Not only is it an old New York City tradition, but it is a great outing for the whole family!

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The show keeps the traditional performances of the “Living Nativity” as well as the “wooden soldiers”, while bringing in the new traditions such as digital projections, floating snowflakes, and of course real animals. This year’s plot is about two young boys cannot afford to buy their sister a Christmas present. The eldest boy is a Santa nonbeliever, but he soon sings a different tune when he and his brother are taken on a journey to the North Pole, where presents come alive, and teach the boys that Christmas is not really about the toys, it’s about feeling the magic and believing in the spirit of it all.

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My favorite part had to be the floating snowflakes in the number “snow”. It truly felt like magic was coming alive, and left you feeling like a believer yourself. I would recommend the show for children ages two and up.

WWW – Holiday Travel Tips with a Toddler

Good notes to keep in mind from BFC mom Maureen, esp with this storm brewing in the Northeast and inevitable delays…

Surprisingly, traveling was a lot easier when I had an infant who fell asleep in the car. Now it is harder to entertain a toddler on a long road trip. I’ve had to get creative with the activities and snacks I pack to keep Henry happy for 4-5 hours at a time. Here are some useful toys, activities, and snacks that keep the little man happy!

First, I usually try to bring along a few “new” and exciting toys. They don’t have to be freshly purchased, but about a week ahead of time I’ll hide a few small trinkets or books. The “newness” always appeals to Henry. Sometimes I splurge and actually buy him a new book or a Thomas the Train trinket, which he is currently obsessed with.

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Another thing I’ve noticed that has helped is giving him his water in a new cup. I go to the dollar bin at Target and can usually find a holiday themed cup. It’s worth the money because he somehow things the cup, and water in it, is magical! I’m a little uneasy about letting Henry snack in the car for obvious reasons, but I usually take a few of the Plum Organics “Mighty 4″ bars. They’re easy to chew and he enjoys them.

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He has a new love of stickers and magnets. The reusable sticker books and tin sets make Henry a happy guy! The dollar bin at Target is also FULL of cheap and quick activities for kids. Toddler “fun packs,” musical instruments, books, gel clings for the car windows, etc. You know your tolerance for what you can handle noise wise in the car!

Let’s not forget about the iPad. I don’t want him sitting in the car staring at a screen for hours at a time, so I usually save this as a last resort. Once he has the iPad you can kiss a nap goodbye and all the other entertainment you bring because he won’t find it interesting. Some of our favorite “Apps” are Monkey Lunchbox, Curious George Shapes and Colors, and any of the “Tiny Hands” 2+ puzzles.

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This is our last car ride with one child as we are expecting baby #2 in January. Soon I’ll have to brainstorm toddler and infant entertainment for our long trips to Michigan!

Happy Thanksgiving!

BFL – Happy Family Product Review

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Happy Family was generous enough to send some of their new product to a few of our BFC mamas.  Their kiddos ate it all up and here is what they have to say…

Avery and Sydney

I was so excited when I received the Happy Family products in the mail.  We were just starting to introduce our 6 month old Sydney to solid foods (pureed), so the timing was perfect.  She loved the Happy Baby Stage 1 food!  What I loved about the Happy Baby products is I found them to be much thicker than the brands I had been using.  Often times the Stage 1 food is so runny, but Happy Family was different.  Also, the pouches made it much easier to feed her and WAY less messy!  Sydney and I actually enjoyed the product so much I went out and bought the Stage 2 Happy Family pouches and Syd loves them!  The simple combos they provide make it easy to ensure she is getting the fruits and veggies at the same time.  When Avery was a toddler, I was always going back and forth between the veggie jar and fruit jar, but this is SO much simpler!  And the organic fruits and veggies seem to be easier for her tummy to digest, which is a huge win!  Although they cost slightly more than what I was using before, the advantages are well worth it.  And for brands that offer similar products (organic solids in pouch packaging), the cost is the same. What busy working mom doesn’t want healthier, simpler, and cleaner options for their babies??

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Sydney also tried out the happy baby teethers.  While she enjoyed playing with them, she didn’t seem to enjoy eating them all that much.  J  I found that while she would attempt to eat them, the baby teethers would end up stuck to her clothes and face or on the floor, not dissolved in her mouth.

And finally, we tried out the Happy Tot Best Friends cookies.  Avery loved them…both the taste and shape!  And as a mom, how reassuring that they are made with organic whole grains.

Henry 

My two year old sampled the Happy Family “Super Nutrition Shake” in vanilla and chocolate, the “Happy Creamies,” and “Fiber Protein” pouches. Overall he had a good response to the products. He absolutely loved the strawberry, raspberry, and carrot “creamies” and wanted to eat the entire packet at once! It made me feel good that they were healthy and that he was getting some veggies, which I struggle getting him to eat.

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He doesn’t really like the pouches in general and won’t even try them. I put some in a bowl and left it there until he got interested enough to try it with a spoon. He really liked both flavors, but the pumpkin, peach, and cinnamon was his preferred choice and he was soon reaching for the pouch to finish it off!

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The shakes were a tougher sell. First, anything that has a straw becomes a toy. Half the shake ended up on his tray. Also, he doesn’t really like sugary milk drinks. He’s always wanted plain, skim milk. I couldn’t even get him to drink whole milk as a baby. Overall, I like that product, but I don’t think Henry liked the flavors. I will definitely be purchasing the pouches and “creamies” again!

Lulu & Cole

We have been using – and loving – Happy Baby snacks since my son started eating solid foods 4 years ago. Puff and yogurt melts were staples in our house, and family favorites, so I was psyched to try out their new products. The samples we were sent were geared toward toddlers – perfect for my 5 year old and 3 year old, who have graduated from baby food! We were happy to taste test Best Friends Toddler Cookies in both Honey Buckwheat and Chocolate Pumpkin flavors, and both were very tasty, although my 2 year old preferred the chocolate ones. I was a bit wary because they are Gluten Free, and I have found, personally, that I don’t care for most Gluten Free snacks – but I will happily share these. I love the resealable bag, and – since they are peanut and tree nut free, they’d be a great snack for nursery school! We also received a bunch of different pouches to try.

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I LOVE pouches with my kids because they make a GREAT quick and healthy breakfast as we inevitably sleep late and are trying to fly out the door – we are not morning people. I find the pouches to be a much better option than throwing a bagel at my kids, and appreciate that there are many options with fiber, protein, and/or vegetables mixed in.  Neither of my kids loved the Pear, Kiwi, and Kale flavor, but Lulu scarfed down her Pumpkin, Apple, Peach, & Cinnamon and requested more!

WWW – Holidays are Upon Us

It’s officially that time of year…

I was driving home from work earlier this week and was struggling to find a song that I had not already heard 30 times that week when I came across the “holly” station on Sirius- and there blaring away was Elvis Presley’s version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town.  It was then that it hit me, Halloween had come and gone and here we are, mid November, moving full steam ahead to Thanksgiving and Christmas!

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And truth be told I really am very excited, I’m not ready for the endless replaying of Christmas music on the radio and in every store but I am ready for everything else that comes with it; time off from work, delicious meals that I am not yet preparing, watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade, quality time with the fam, fires, buying presents, picking out our tree, decorating the tree, the list goes on! And at the very top of the list is being able to experience the holidays with our daughter, who will be 15 and 16 months.  While planning and packing for her adds an entirely new somewhat stressful element, the opportunity to experience and relive the holidays through her eyes all over again is worth every painstaking second of the holly station from now through January!

- Sam Heller, Sitter2Mom extraordinaire…

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BFL – Gift Guides Galore, oh my is it that time of year?

Is that Jingle Bells I hear already?  Halloween is barely over and the holiday music, decorations and displays are abundant.  I swear each year it moves up a week, soon we will be making lists right after Valentine’s Day.  While this is great for planners (such as myself), not everyone has the headspace to make a list, check it twice and buy everything in advance.  So BFC is making it a tad bit easier and doing you a  favor… We’ve gathered a few of our favorite gift guide picks…

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Cool Mom Picks – always a favorite for their out of the box thinking and eclectic taste.  This year they have 2 guides…  Their Indie Gift Store & The Classic Holiday Gift Guide chock full of amazing categories from Foodies, to DIY, Homemade, Frozen Toddler Gifts, In Laws and more.  Don’t forget to check out the Cool STEM gifts for girls then scroll down and ETW the greatest gifts with a prize package worth over $800…

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Uncommon Goods is a gem of a website and catalog.  Always inspiring and just plain neat (yes I’m aware that word went out in the 70′s).  Great stuff for everyone at every price point.  Check out their 20 Gifts for People Under 20 Gift Guide while you are perusing through.

RT stackedRed Tricycle has a whole slew of mini gift guides for tots to tweens and beyond.   While you are there, sign up for your city edition of the hottest happenings in your area each week.

Stem photograph courtesy of Cool Mom Picks

- Kelly Miller is a contributing writer and consultant for BFC.  She has 90% of her holiday shopping done already, but ill probably now spend more after writing this article as she discovered lots more cool stuff her kids must have….

 

BFF – For the Love of all Things Crafty

“Are you a school teacher?” I get asked this a lot from store clerks lately as I pile their counters high with my carefully curated purchases.  My husband should probably worry.  My life long love of crafts and school supplies that has been squelched for years, has been UNLEASHED with the birth of our daughter!

Growing up, every September I got so excited because it meant shiny new pencil boxes and brightly colored notebooks and pens, pens and more pens!!!  (I think I’ve only kept a paper calendar all these years as an excuse to use colored pens.) As an adult, my sisters would forbid my walking down the school supply aisle in stores for fear of losing me.  And art supply/craft stores?  Forget it, I love them!  I think designing jewelry was my way of translating crafts into commerce.  However, other than my own journal writing and an occasional need for holiday stickers on jewelry sale signs, there has been no reason to purchase any of these items…until now!

Now, I have the education of my daughter to think about and she MUST have the proper paper, crayons, google eye stickers, sparkly cut out letters, furry pipe cleaners, colored pom pons and don’t forget the colored pens to ensure her future status as genius!! And thank goodness a smart mom in our neighborhood organized a “mommy school” so that monthly I can create craft packets for other kids too!  I now HAVE to spend hours on Pinterest.  I mean, I can’t show up with a lame craft…my toddler would be so embarrassed!

 

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Of course I’m kidding…kind of.  I have always believed in the power of arts education and now I get to put it into practice with my own daughter.  I see how she learns words through songs, how she understands concepts through art and learns essential movement through dance.  Playing is learning for her and it’s pretty amazing!

We are lucky to live in a place where there are thousands of really cool activities every month for kids.  I am working part time so I now have time to take Parker to toddler rock concerts, art class, story time with crafts, museums with hands on exhibits, or just hang out at home and have a dance party in the living room or sit at her table and stick “googles” on everything in sight!  She shares my passion for creativity and I love it!!

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So no store clerks, I’m not a school teacher…just a mom who loves the arts with a little girl who loves to make it!

 

BFL – weeSpring – gear reviews by mamas for mamas

Much in the tradition of Yelp, Open Table, Mommy Nearest and all of the other review sites that seem to be popping up like a dandelion not wanting to be picked comes weeSpring – a site for parents by parents that is review driven.   A few years old they are already a trusted source for everything  from bottles to gear, to food, to diapers and more.  You can add your own products if you don’t see them, comment on others, like and love everything.

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Hear from Ally, the founder on why she started and join today!

The first time I walked into a Babies R Us, I burst into tears. I looked up at a ten-foot wall of baby bottles and saw – in all of those options – a metaphor for how completely unprepared I was for the hundreds (thousands!) of choices I’d have to make for my baby.

We founded weeSpring because we wanted new and expecting parents to have a simple, accessible resource where they can find out what helped them survive the early months, and then pass on their own tried-and-true advice.

We also realize that while there’s no shortage of people telling you what you should buy, it’s your friends who will tell you what you shouldn’t. Being a new parent is expensive enough, without buying things you don’t need or that don’t work.

 

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WWW – Weekend with the Kids

My weekends typically were filled with non-stop babysitting during  my 20s. I babysat All. The. Time. & I loved it

Since my toddler nieces were born, I have filled in as much as I can for a true taste of working momness and I get the sweet memories of my babysitting days.

A few weeks ago, my new husband & I ventured to NJ to stay for a weekend with the ‘nugs’ as my family calls them. They are very cheerful and love to get into everything. My husband was constantly surprised how fast they could make it up their highchair side when you looked away for one second, or when you followed them into the bathroom, and they are already climbing to get on top of the toilet.

They are really funny.

Do any of your kids fake sneeze? These two fake sneeze all the time. & then they laugh about it.  And both of them get this face when they say ‘ohhhh No’ & hold their head like they are in real distress. Its hysterical.

Their favorite activity is being pulled in a wagon. Here’s a picture of us pulling them along looking at Halloween décor. They don’t cry one bit, just are so observant as we point out all the different trees, houses & pumpkins to look at.

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These two nugs certainly are getting heavy. They weigh 25lbs each, so when my husband went to get dinner, I lugged them both up stairs & gave them a bath.

Then bedtime for them. But not for me, at all. They were generally good sleepers, but I was not. I got up every 30 minutes to check on them and make sure they were still breathing. Every noise I heard, I got up & looked around. I used to do that babysitting too, I can’t help it.

All in all, its just so fun being around kiddies. I love teaching my sitters all the tricks I’ve learned over the years. I’m sure I will have more to come when I have my own one day.

- Lindsay Bell is the founder of Bell Family and pictures of her nieces are frequently the stuff of fodder in our posts.  

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10 Recipes that use leftover Halloween Candy

From our friends over at Cool Mom Picks – check out their genius ways of using up leftover Halloween candy (until next year!) or donating to a worthy cause……..

If you’re like me, you’re going to wake up in the morning with a sugar hangover, wondering just what the heck to do with all those leftover Halloween candies.

Hit our archives and check out our post on 10 delicious recipes that use leftover Halloween candy on the outside chance you have actual Butterfingers or Snickers leftover. But hey, even Tootsie Rolls and Jolly Ranchers find a second use here.

If not for very long.