Archive for August 2013

Friday Review: The Miracle of White Noise: Munchkin Nursery Projector and Sound Machine

Friday, August 30, 2013

The sound machine is one of those things that I wish I had discovered much earlier than I did.  

Before the girls were born, I spent months on bed rest.  I was so incredibly bored.  But,  being sequestered to my bed and the couch did allow me an opportunity to read a lot of books.   One of my favorite parenting books that actually turned out to be quite useful after the girls were born was The Happiest Baby on the Block By Dr. Harvey Karp. He's the guy who coined the 5 S's- swaddling, shushing, side laying, swaying, and sucking.

After a long day of crying and not sleeping (for all 3 of us) the 5 S's weren't working and I was running out of ideas. That's when I remembered watching a movie, the one where Katherine Heigl and some other guy inherit custody of their friends' daughter after they're killed in an accident.  Anyways, in the movie  they hold the screaming baby up under the range hood with the fan on high.  The noise lulls her to sleep.  I thought, why not?  I turned on the kitchen fan and held my swaddled little girls against me while I got as close the the noise as I could.  It worked!  I couldn't believe it!

The kitchen fan filled me with hope in finding other ways to help my overtired little girls fall asleep.  I moved on to the complete darkness of our guest bathroom with the fan switched on, worked even better! 

Around 4 months, I found a white noise app on my iPad that I could set up in their room while they were sleeping.  The noise helped them sleep longer and more soundly.  For months, they frequently woke each other up by crying. The white noise helped the non-crier stay asleep.   We used that app for months!
Until I realized that I missed having access to my iPad.   

After my girls had gotten really good at laying down in their cribs drowsy, but awake,  I came across the Munchkin Nursery Projector and Sound System. It runs about $25 on amazon. 

It has six different sounds or melodies to choose from.  To this day my girls still prefer the white noise set at the highest volume.  

The projector has been an added bonus. There are three discs that project a colorful, rotating scene of either sheep in the night sky, sea creatures under water, or monkeys in a jungle onto the wall or ceiling.  We'll turn on the projector with the white noise when the girls lay down, and then sneak in to turn off the projector before we go to bed.  They are usually sound asleep within minutes of being laid down!  

There's also a blue night light that comes in handy if you need a little extra soft light to check on someone.  

I would highly recommend the Munchkin Nursery Projector and Sound Machine to anyone looking to help their little ones fall asleep. 

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Places to Visit: Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Two days ago, my husband and I took the twins to visit Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA. It's about a half hour north of Philadelphia.  My little 19 month old girls had a blast!


Sesame Place 

Passes- we bought Elmo passes that gave us a 2nd day free admission into the park.  We were able to go into the park Sunday afternoon ride a few rides, walk around, eat dinner, and take in part of a show.  We returned early the next morning to continue our sunny day adventure.  Don't worry if you only buy a one day pass online.  You can upgrade to Elmo tickets at guest services prior to admission.  Super bonus:  23 months and younger have free admission

Hotels- Sesame place is surrounded by hotels. We stayed at Springhill Suites.  The hotel had a walking path that led straight to Sesame Place. Door to Door was about a 4 minute stroll.  The hotel was clean and kid friendly with an indoor pool and a play area. The studio with one king bed was large enough for us to set up the 2 pack and plays we brought with us.  They offered a complementary hot breakfast, which we passed on (see below), but it smelled yummy. The hotel also lets you keep your car in the parking lot the entire day of your check out. Parking at Sesame Place costs upwards of $17per day. 

Breakfast with Elmo-We choose to eat breakfast with the Sesame Street gang.  Our only choice that day was an 8:45 reservation.  Everyone enters at one time.  The reservation tells you to arrive 10 minutes before breakfast, but the main gates don't open early.  You need park passes to dine.  The hostess gives you a table number when you arrive, so you don't have to worry about finding enough seating for your family.  The characters all take turns going around to every table to say hi and get pictures.  Except for Elmo. He sits in a designated area and you will need to line up to see him.  We were one of the first families to arrive that morning, so we actually got to get pics with Elmo before breakfast began! The food is typical buffet style food with a good selection of things like scrambled eggs, french toast sticks, tater tots, bacon, fruit, and bagels.  After breakfast some rides open early at 9:30. Unfortunately, the rides that opened were the roller coaster (too big for our little ones) and a few water rides. It didn't get warm enough for us to do water rides until closer to 11 the day we visited. The park also offers dine with the characters options for lunch and dinner.  

Under 2, what to do?
There are quite a few rides and activities to keep the younger kids entertained.  My girls really enjoyed the carousel, Grover's World Twirl, Elmo's Flying Fish, and Ernie's Bed Bounce.  Big Bird's Nest was a perfect area to let the girls run free.  It's essentially a large padded sunken pit with foam blocks.  The parents are able to sit down on the steps surrounding the pit and take a breather.
  They also loved the water park! 
Take in a show- There are a few shows that run throughout the day. The website and the mobile app both gave different showtimes then the actual times. That was a bit frustrating.  We saw Elmo's World Live. The girls loved seeing Elmo and Mr Noodle.  We were literally the last family admitted into the theater. There was a line of people behind us who had to catch a later show. We lined up about 15 minutes before showtime.  
There is also a parade that runs twice a day.   People were lined up along the main street waiting for the parade over an hour early. 

What to bring:  

stroller (the park isn't very big, but I logged over 10,000 steps that day on my fitbit), bathing suits, towels, swim diapers (lifeguards won't let little ones go in without them), sunscreen, water shoes, camera, water, healthy snacks for the little ones, hand wipes/sanitizer

I hope you have a great visit!  Let me know if you have any questions about the park, and I will try to answer them for you.

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Friday Review: Top 5 Favorite Toys at 18 Months

Friday, August 23, 2013

Sometimes finding new, entertaining toys that offer some educational value can be daunting. Especially if you are searching for a gift.  That's why I chose the topic of toys for today's review.

The attention span of an 18 month old isn't very long.  The girls play with a lot of different toys in one day.  So when writing this post, I really had to think about which toys the girls  returned to time and time again.

http://www.fisher-price.com/en_US/brands/laughandlearn/products/30446

G and J's Top 5 Favorite Toys at 18 Months 


  • Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Learning Home- Girls love this interactive house. There are two modes- music and learning.  Teaches letters, numbers, counting, sorting, shapes, and colors. My girls especially love the clock, the shapes, the key, the working lights switch, and the interactive moon/sun. 

  • Mr. Potato Head and Extra Tub of Parts- The girls love putting him together and taking him apart over and over again.  Opportunities for parents to teach body parts, counting, and colors.  Helps develop hand eye coordination and fine motor skills. 


  • Playskool Elmo Cell Phones- The girls received these phones as a gift from my aunt.  They love them!  Slide the phone open and close, push the buttons, and listen to the sesame street friends talk. Teaches numbers, greetings, and salutations.  The volume is very tolerable, so they make excellent toys for the car. 

  • Board Books-The girls still LOVE to read and be read to.  One of their favorite quiet activities is sitting down and "reading".  Look for books that are interactive, repetitive, not too many pictures and words on one page, and/or rhythmic/sing- songy (not sure that's a word).  Some all time favorite books of my twins include, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, Where is Baby's Belly Button by Karen Katz (they love pretty much any lift the flap book by Karen Katz), most books by Sandra Boynton like The Going to Bed Book and Tickle TimeBrown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See by Bill Martin and Eric Carle, Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow , Mr Brown Can Moo!  Can You? by Dr. Suess... (whoa! so many more to  name...  future post idea?).  

  • LeapFrog Letter Factory Phonics- girls love inserting the letters into the letter factory.  Each letter sings a song. The tune is repetitive,  but letters and sounds are changed accordingly. Although my two think holding the letters up to my mouth or their own mouths and singing the song is hilarious. Even though the recommended age is 2+, the girls received this toy as a Christmas gift last year.  They still enjoy playing with it.  Teaches letters, letter sounds, and develops fine motor skills.    
Choosing the top 5 toys was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be.  I had quite a few runner ups.  Hope this helps if you are searching for that perfect new toy. There are so many great ones to choose from.  

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Finger Painting Made Easy(ier): Tips to Try at Home

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The girls LOVE to finger paint! I don't LOVE the clean-up.
In order to make finger painting enjoyable for all of us, I've had to come up with some ways to help keep the mess contained for a quick and easy clean-up time.

Tips and tricks for finger painting at home with little fuss: 

  • Be prepared before you let the finger painting commence!
  • Tape down  paper onto a flat surface (keeps paper from being thrown upside down onto floor)
  • Place a drop cloth, an old sheet, or inexpensive plastic shower curtain liner on the floor to prevent spills and splatters
  • Dribble small amounts of paint onto the paper for child to spread around (ideal) or put paint on a paper plate to be thrown away when finished (*Note-plate can be tossed onto floor if not taped down)
  • Have children wear a plastic washable bib or one of your old T-shirts to prevent clothes from being painted
  • Use washable paint 
  • Keep wipes easily accessible so that you can quickly grab one for a preliminary cleaning as soon as your painter has finished her work of art (Note for Mama's of Multiples under 2 years old- I've found that when one is complete, both are complete. Take it from me- Do not leave materials out and accessible while you take one to wash up at the sink, no matter how close the sink may be. You just may end up spending extra time cleaning fingerprints off of your pants legs, the kitchen cupboards, and who knows what else) 
For Easy Clean Up...
  • Keep a bucket full of soapy water, a sponge, and paper towels handy for quick  hand washing
  • Have a place in mind and ready to go for pictures to dry, out of reach. Move the pictures before you start washing hands or finger painting may begin again as you are cleaning. I use the breakfast bar counter top, too high for my little ones to reach
  • Remove old shirts or bibs before they run off to play 
  • Use the sponge and soapy water to wipe up the drop cloth/shower curtain liner, and anything else that might need a quick wipe down 

A few final tips...

Crayola washable paints works great and cleans up easily.  But, I also like to try different mediums.
For example...
Paint with water outside on the sidewalk using a large paintbrush.
Add a few drops of food coloring to water and paint on paper using a small paintbrush
Use hands to paint with Cool Whip or Shaving Cream on the tabletop
Use homemade flour paint on wax paper(see recipe below).
I came across this flour paint recipe on productiveparenting.com.
"Spoon 2 tablespoons of flour in a bowl and add a few drops of water at a time to the flour until it becomes a thin paste.  Add a few drops of food coloring to the mixture.
Place a large piece of wax paper in front of your child.  Drop small amounts of the finger paints on the paper and let your child move the finger paints around the paper.  To preserve your child's creation, press a piece of construction paper on the painting and hang it to dry.  Your child will love to see it displayed for all to see!"


Girls painting with homemade flour paint
Hope these tips help make finger painting a little more enjoyable for everyone involved! Have fun painting! 

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Friday Review: emeals- Easy Family Dinner Plans

Sunday, August 18, 2013



I knew I needed help when sitting down and planning weekly dinners and roaming the grocery store with twins became too time consuming and stressful. That's when a very wise friend (also a new mommy) recommended emeals.

Emeals is a weekly meal plan that you select based on your family size and food preference. I receive the weekly dinner plan, but they also have breakfast and lunch add-on options.

You receive the plan and grocery list via e-mail every Wednesday.  You can also download your plan on the company's website www.emeals.com or use one of their mobile apps.

I started using emeals about 11 months ago after purchasing a groupon that gave me a years worth of meal planning for about $30.  If you decide to give emeals a try, be sure to check groupon.  I still see emeals deals popping up.

I began by selecting the clean eating meal plan for 2. The recipes made plenty of food for my husband and I plus extras for me to puree or give as finger foods to the girls. When the girls were about 16 months old I changed our plan to the family menu, which says it serves 3-6. I always have leftovers.  You are able to change your plan option once a month, if you so chose.  After a few months of the clean eating plan I wanted to try something new, so I switched to the portion control plan.  There was a lot of days where chicken was the star. Although I am not a vegetarian any more, I don't eat anything with four legs and I like to keep my poultry intake to once or twice a week. So, I found myself cutting out too many meals.  That's when I switched to the Natural and Organic Family Meal Plan. Although I still cut out a few meals a week, that's ok with me. Some nights we will have leftovers, make something quick, or order out. I also find it easy to substitute ingredients every now and then (ie. fish for chicken or ground turkey for ground beef).


Pros

Easy to read and follow recipes
Comes with a printable grocery list
11 different meal plans to chose from
Good variety of daily plans 
Saves time- your whole week is laid out in front of you
Gives you prep and cook times 
Mobile App 
Special Occasion Plans are included at no extra cost (ex. Vacation Menu, Father's Day Menu...)

Cons

Inability to modify plans to specific preferences (ie. seafood only, no brussel sprouts)
Very few grocery store specific options
Occasionally may need extra side dishes to add in more fruits or veggies

Would I recommend emeals?

Yes! 
If you find weekly meal planning time consuming and stressful or are tired of choosing the same boring meals over and over again then e-meals is for you! 
 Low Country Boil Recipe from Natural and Organic Plan. Yummy!!!

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Family Friendly Vacation: Cape May, New Jersey

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Last week, my family of four along with my husband's three brothers, their wives and six of my nieces and nephews ranging in ages 4-12 vacationed in Cape May, New Jersey.
This is our third time renting a vacation home as an extended family in Cape May, although the first time with our twins.

Cape May=Historical Charm

Cape May, self dubbed "The Nation's Oldest Seaside Resort" is located at the southernmost tip of New Jersey nestled between the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The national historic landmark's streets are filled with beautifully maintained Victorian-era homes. With their painted clapboard siding and gingerbread moldings these houses beg for you to stroll leisurely along the streets or enjoy a trolley ride at night among the gas lit street lamps.
We were going for historic charm and location when this house was chosen. 

Where to Stay?

Renting houses in Cape May is very easy. My sister-in-law used By The Sea Realty on Bank Street to book our stay this year. We rented an adorable house built in 1902 complete with a carved wooden staircase and rocking chairs on the front porch.  Recently renovated and full of charm the house had no problem accommodating the 16 of us. However, don't go renting an old home with expectations of open concept living spaces or a plethora of bathrooms. When renting, in addition to enough beds you may want to look for a few added details...
Outdoor Showers and Storage Areas- no need to drag sandy, wet children or beach things through the house
Front or Back Porch- makes a great hangout for everyone during the day or for the adults once the kids have gone to bed 
Air Conditioning- our house had a main cooling unit on the first floor and individual units in the bedroom which was great for controlling ideal sleeping temps but not so great for bathrooms and humidity
Large Dining Area-if you plan on eating meals at home be sure there will be enough room to accommodate everyone
Parking- staying closer to the beach means paying for street parking, so look for a house that has plenty of off street parking or be prepared to park further up the road to avoid meters 

Don't worry if renting a house isn't for you.  Although you won't find chain hotels here, there are a number of adorable bed and breakfasts, charming inns, and historic hotels.

What To Do With Toddlers?

The Beach-My girls loved going to the beach and playing in the surf and sand.  Just be prepared to buy beach tags ( $15/week per person over age 12) when you step on the beach and don't forget them if you need to go back to the house for something. The beach tag inspectors will ask for tags. 
Washington Street Mall- charming area filled with boutiques and restaurants. Take the stroller or let them walk with you to burn off that extra energy before bedtime.  Great place to grab some dinner (we liked Stewarts or Cape May Fish Market this year) and then some frozen custard at Kohr Brothers. 

Kiwanis Park on Madison Ave.-Great playground and duck pond. Two baby swings and a large jungle gym made this park a favorite for my girls.
Walk the Promenade or Beach Ave.- The Promenade is the paved area that runs between the beach and Beach Ave. It's perfect for morning jogs or afternoon jaunts.  There are shops, an arcade, and a few restaurants dotted along the path. With plenty more on the opposite side of Beach Ave. I had some very yummy Salted Caramel Ice Cream from Zoe's one afternoon.

Cape May Zoo- We didn't make it there this year. But the zoo is a favorite among the kids. Many zoo memberships offer free or discounted admission to this zoo so be sure to check that out before you go.

For older kids...

Mini Golf
Activities at the Nature Center like "Dipping For Fishes" or "Ghost Crab Hunt" are big hits for kids ages 3+
Whale Watching Boat Tour
Finding Cape May Diamonds at Sunset Beach
Touring the Lighthouse
Movie on the Beach on Thursday nights
Historical Tours

Where to Eat?

There are a lot of great restaurants, but some of our favorite this year include

Uncle Bill's Pancake House Beach Ave.- delicious light, and fluffy pancakes and good coffee. Yum!
McGlades on the Pier Beach Ave.- we went here for breakfast twice since it was so close to our rental house. Excellent omelettes and blueberry waffles. The girls loved the french toast and the fresh fruit plate is one of the best I've seen. 
The Lobster House Schellengers Landing Rd- there is an inside restaurant part, but eating outside on the deck overlooking the water was fun for the kids and adults. Be aware the Take Out Shop is very busy and hectic at dinner time.  My sister-in-law loved the lobster salad and my husband was very happy with his fried clams.  My girls split the kids shrimp with french fries and we still had leftovers. I had crab cakes. It's hard to compete with real Maryland crab cakes, but I enjoyed my meal. 
Stewarts Rootbeer Washington Street Mall- soda shop complete with burgers, sandwiches, and root beer floats. Great for kids. 
Cape May Hot Bagels Beach Ave- looks like a total dive, but has great pancakes, coffee, and breakfast sandwiches
Kohr Brothers Frozen Custard Washington Street Mall- cool, creamy, and refreshing. Goes beyond the traditional chocolate and vanilla custard with flavors like peanut butter, orange cream, and strawberry. Have your scoop rolled in sprinkles for that extra something special. 

Vacations aren't the same as they used to be pre-twins.  Not so relaxing or rejuvenating, but there is something magical when watching your child squeal with delight as she splashes in the surf or catching the pure joy that flashes in her eyes when she tastes her first bite of frozen custard. Every day unravels a new experience for a toddler and as the parent you get to share in those simple pleasures all over again through your children. So, yeah when you return home you may feel that you need a vacation from your vacation, but don't let that stop you from planning something special.

Let me know if you have any other great places to eat, stay, or things to do at Cape May. I'd love to try something new next time!

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Friday Review: Newborn Twins- Where Do They Sleep?

Friday, August 2, 2013

My husband's colleague recently became a father of twins. A few weeks ago he was looking for advice on things to buy for his twins and where to save his money. This led to a discussion between my husband and I about those early days of where to put our babies to sleep at night.

When our girls were newborn and eating all the time, I wanted to keep them close by my bed.   We had their cribs set up in the nursery, but that was just too far away from me!


My husband and I did a lot of research looking for the best sleeping options. We finally settled on the original co-sleeper. It costs about $200. Here's the link on amazon http://www.amazon.com/Arms-Reach-Natural-Original-Co-Sleeper 

We didn't actually use it as a co-sleeper, meaning we didn't attach it to our bed. Our bed was too high to safely secure it.  I just set it up like a pack-n-play, right next to me.

The difference between the original co-sleeper and a pack-n-play is that two babies can sleep safely in the bassinet. I needed the girls to be at the bassinet level to make it easier for me to reach them while recovering from a c-section. The bassinet was plenty big for our two little ones and it can hold up to 30 lbs. We used to swaddle the girls so tightly that I didn't have to worry about them rolling into each other and suffocating. (Yes, that was a fear of mine).

It comes with one sheet and it is fairly easy to set-up.

I do have trouble taking it down and packing it into it's carrying case. 

We still use the co-sleeper today during nap time. Separate rooms for naps have always worked best for us. So one in the nursery and one in the co-sleeper that stays in the guest room.  Long gone is the bassinet, but it transforms into a mesh sided play pen that can hold up to 50 lbs.

bottom line...

Would I buy the co-sleeper if I had to do it all again? 

No, I would not.

In fact, we found the perfect alternative for us when the girls were a few months old, and for a fraction of the cost. The Fisher Price Rock and Play Sleepers. link to rock and play

My friend Erin was using one for her little girl, and recommended it. The girls loved how it provided a cocoon like atmosphere. The fabric is soft and cozy.

The rockers are lightweight which makes them very portable. They are easy to tote around the house and are great to take on weekend trips. They fold flat.

They can easily be set up next to your bed (or the couch) which means you can  rock your little one back to sleep without getting up (so great when you're running on empty).

The other benefit is that it lays raised at a slight incline. For two babies with severe acid reflux, sleeping with their head higher than their tummy is a huge bonus. There are straps to buckle your little one in to keep them from sliding or rolling out.

The downside is there aren't any sheets that can be removed to wash. You need to spot treat stains.

 I hope this post helps any new mamas of twins trying to narrow down her options. Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions. 

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