BFF – Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

That’s what little girls (and some boys) are made of.   If you are like me and have had a list of baby names since high school (WELL before a partner was actually in the picture, let alone engagement and marriage), you look forward to the most popular names of the year out of curiosity (and to buck the trend).  So,  it’s here! Bell Family’s STAND OUT names of 2014!

For more intriguing names ascending up the ladder, check out this article from Brit & Co.    Celeb baby names are more popular than ever for us normal people…

Every year we compile a list of our most commonly used children’s & babysitter names. Look how the names have changed for the girls Sophia is top for 2014 children VS Allison for sitters.

KIDDIES:

1.     William (most popular boy name on BFC)

2.     Sophia- Girl (most popular girl name on BFC)

3.     Cora- Girl

4.     Grayson- Boy

5.     Hugh- Boy

6.     Henry- Boy

7.     Callan- Girl

8.     Ella- Girl

9.     Quin- Boy

10.  Caroline- Girl

SITTERS:

1.     Allison

2.     Jessica

3.     Katie

4.     Laura/Lauren

5.     Sarah

6.     Rebecca

7.     Mary

8.     Michelle

9.     Anne

10.  Erin

 

 

WWW – Santa Baby!

It’s a well known fact that I have LOVED Christmas my entire life!  When my baby sister was in grade school she wrote a school poem about me entitled, “Christmas Freak”.  (Yes, even then she had a biting sense of humor.)  I love the cold weather, the lights & decorations, the music (I’m listening to it as I write this), the cards, selecting presents for people & wrapping them creatively, making holiday cookies & crafts and the general feeling of goodwill among people during this time.  It’s just the most wonderful time of the year…made even more magical by our daughter!

It’s always been amazing to watch her little mind develop, but this holiday just puts her into overdrive.  There are lights and colors and new tastes, sounds and textures!  An everyday trip to Target is an adventure when she spots the holiday aisles from across the store.  She tells me “keep going mommy” until I reach the sparkly trees.  When we decorated our own tree, she couldn’t wait to hang ornaments and then examine each one carefully.  Don’t get me wrong, her excitement lasted for about three ornaments…three longer than my husband’s…but she had fun in the moment!  Now she has her favorites that she visits daily, and each morning as we walk downstairs she says, “Lights on!”

We’ve painted paper plate wreaths, made a handprint Christmas tree, cut Play-Doh shapes with cookie cutters, glued puff balls on foam shapes, decorated her own tiny tree in her play room and made daily “peanut butter guys” with our gingerbread man cookie cutter. Every morning she tries to stand higher on her tippy toes than she did the day before to put a new felt ornament on her Advent calendar.  I’m loving it!!!  She’s learning new concepts and I get to indulge my passion for the season.

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One concept she’s got down quite well is a fear of strangers….particularly those in big red suits with long white beards.  She loves the guy from afar, can’t wait to yell his name at every opportunity, gets excited when we read about him in books, but the moment we get up close, all bets are off!   Last year’s Santa picture attempt was so traumatic I won’t even show you.  This year we tested the waters at a local party, and in mom’s arms, with fun auntie making faces behind the camera, it wasn’t so bad.

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We’re still not going near the mall Santa, but this was progress.  And progress is what it’s all about with a toddler.  It’s also what it’s all about with a first time mom…like the lesson that you don’t take your 11 month old to visit Santa and expect her to smile for the camera.  Parker and I are navigating these waters together and everyday is an adventure.  I agree that her puff ball penguins should have eyes on their tails and she agrees that our craft time together is more important than me cleaning the house….besides it develops her fine motor skills as she picks up and hands dust bunnies to me J

- jolynn

 

BFL – Baby To Go – Tips and tricks for winter with the wee ones

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Baby To Go – in the cold!

Do’s & Don’ts for Safe Winter Adventures

The seasons have changed *fast* here in the Northeast, and we are heading into the winter! Just because the temperatures have dropped, that doesn’t mean we all need to stay home, but it’s important to keep our babies safe and warm.

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DO – Use layers to bundle.

It is understandable to want to keep our tiny babes as warm as possible when it’s so cold outside, but puffy winter coats can interfere with correct fit of car seat harness straps, and overheating can be more dangerous than a slight chill. Concentrate on the extremities – keep tiny fingers and toes warm with socks and mittens.  Layer a light fleece under a heavier jacket so that the jacket can be removed in the car. A good rule of thumb for babies younger than 12 months is to add one more layer than you are wearing. Be sure to have a warm hat for baby, as most body heat escapes through the head.

DON’T – Use puffy coats or after-market car seat covers that interfere with the harness straps.

Injuries sustained in car accidents are the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13. With that in mind, it is important to minimize risk by using car seats in the safest way possible. Coats with too much bulk make it difficult or impossible to tighten car seat straps correctly, and can make an accident more dangerous. Car seats are not crash tested or designed to be used with after-market accessories, and anything that interferes with the harness straps can reduce the safety. Instead, tuck a blanket around your little one after the harness is safely fitted or look for shower cap style covers that don’t touch the harness straps.

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DO -Use your body heat.

Babywearing has offers incredible benefits to both the parent and baby. In the winter, wearing keeps both of you warmer. Use a maternity coat or a jacket a size or two too large to zip over baby snuggles. There are also many specialty baby wearing coats and jackets available.

DON’T – Overdo it.

Babies, especially younger infants, lack the ability to regulate their own body temperature. Babywearing can help, but your baby will get colder quicker than you. Limit outdoor activities when the temperature drops too low, and take breaks indoors to warm up. Watch for signals that baby is too cold – blue lips, pale nose or fingertips, fussy or lethargic – or overheating – sweaty, flushed cheeks, bumpy rash.

BTG - skiing

- Sarah Ludwig is a stay at home mom who never stays at home. She loves helping families on their path to parenthood, and works as a childbirth educator, doula, and CPST. She is a Babywearing Educator with the local chapter of Babywearing International, and she blogs about her adventures at lovetheludwigs.com.

BFF – Ahhhh Arbonne

Last weekend I had the pleasure of doing a three day, trial with the Arbonne facial kit. Arbonne is a one of a kind skin care and wellness line for women that provides a chemical free anti-aging kit. In a study conducted by naturalnews.com, they discovered that women apply an average of 515 chemicals a day to their skin. Makeup, perfumes, lotions, mascara, and other beauty products all contribute to the toxic brew that can cause health problems for women.

Arbonne photo

My experience with the Arbonne anti-aging kit was excellent. After the second day of using the product my skin felt fresh and radiant. By the third day I could noticeably tell the difference in my skin, I saw improvement in moisture, clarity, and blotchiness. I enjoyed all of the products in the process which takes less than 3 minutes to complete but my favorite product had to be the Corrective eye Serum, it made my eyes look fresh, and awake. This is a great gift for the holidays, and I recommend this for women of all ages! For more information, please contact Rebecca_Wong@me.com and receive 35% off your first purchase.

- Hannah, BFC Sitter Coordinator and resident beauty guinea pig

WWW – Accidental SAHM

We have a new contributor to the BFC blog – Jeanne Oh, pastry chef extraordinaire at some of NYC’s renowned restaurants, and now SAH Mom of 7 month old Kermit, living in the West Village with her hubby…….

I am an organized planner.  I have a healthy respect for deadlines and guidelines. While I was a student in college and in pursuit of three post graduate degrees, I never missed a class or forgot an assignment.  I assured myself that I could have it all but just not all at the same time.  Just when I thought I had it all figured out, life got in the way and I gained a sense of humor.

My husband, Joe, and I met in August 1997, engaged in December 1999, and married in October 2001.  Today, he shared a quote by Warren Buffett who pontificated that the single most important decision one will make in his life is who he marries.  We both agreed.  For starters, we never knew how difficult and long it would take to have a child and never took conception and pregnancy for granted.  Fortunately, we had each other through the good and bad.

Our little miracle arrived in April 2014.  Kermit is a sweet 7 month old boy whose toothless grin melts our hearts every single time he smiles.  For the first few weeks of his life, I swear I could watch his eyelashes grow for hours on end.  Each day I find the beauty of life’s discovery through his eyes and revel in the goodness of life’s blessing in him.  I cherish every single moment with him.  Our persistence, heartache, and perseverance were a small price to pay in exchange for our son.

kermit

Because we waited 10 years for our privilege to parent, I do not want to relinquish any more time child rearing than necessary.   A lot of my friends who are mothers struggled with their decision to continue working, whether part or full time, but I did not.  I never even considered returning to work because I only want to spend time with Kermit.  I recognize it’s a luxury to exercise this option.  I may have not planned staying at home before I was married but I accidentally found my path in life.

 

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!

Thank_You

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!

Radio City

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

happyfam

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??

  MBHF

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…