When J’s teacher told me he really enjoys math and that sorting toys would be a great idea for Christmas, I ran straight over to Amazon Prime and began the hunt for the perfect toy. I bought about a million puzzles, little projects and a whole slew of other games. But none so far can compare to these bad boys:
Before I get started, here is my only CON for this toy. These bears are a relatively good size and really hard, so they don’t scream “Put me in your mouth!” But, as all mothers know, this means nada. So…while they are awesome, this is a toy that requires some observation on the parent’s part. This is not the toy to busy your kid with while you hop in the shower or run the vacuum.
Now, the good stuff.
The opportunities are endless for free play with these little dudes. Here are the 10 sorting games I play with the boys (and they then play with each other – which is super cute):
1. What color is this? I have them identify the color and then place the bear in its matching cup.
2. Here are 3 bears (different colors). I have them identify each color and count them back to me as they place it in its matching cup.
3. Pick a “red” bear and give it to Mommy. I line up all of the bears (or even dump them in a big pile) and give them a color to pick out and give to me. This can be taken up a notch for more advanced kiddos, by asking them to give you a certain number of bears of certain colors.
4. Count our colors. We separate the bears into piles of their colors and then count them together back into the cups.
5. Clean up the bears. Seriously, they love this one. It’s like 52 pick up with animals instead of cards.
6. Line up your colors. Everybody loves to build a mini army of color-coordinated bear squadrons.
7. Stack and unstack the cups. Tower! When the bears get old, I swap to the cups. Some simple towers always bring a smile.
8. Flip cups – Bears on top. Instead of lining up the bears or grouping them in piles, we switch it up by using the upside down cups as platforms for whatever game we are playing.
9. Color patterns – What’s next? I set up simple patterns and ask them to pick the bear that fits next.
10. Give me “7” bears and count. I give them a number of bears that I want and they get to pick what colors they give back to get to that number.
One final twist that they love…turn the tables! They’re in control and get to ask me the questions. They LOVE to ask “Mommy, what’s this?” or order me to “give them a red bear.” Let them play teacher for a bit and you’ll keep them busy for hours!
Top Notch Products for Your Family
I don’t do product reviews very often. But every now and again, something catches my fancy and really hits the mark. If I’m going to review a product, it’s because I see some value for my working moms on the go. Most recently, I’ve had the opportunity to test out two such top notch items and I have to admit, I’m in love!
Let me start off by saying…if for nothing else, you must buy from this company because they have the cutest packaging on the planet! My items came shipped in an adorable box adorned with little marks of EverydayHappy and when I opened it up, it was like opening a perfect Christmas present. All of my items were packed with care, complete with bright colors and fun packaging filler, and they even included a cute little tote as an extra thanks. To take such care with styling the shipment of everyday home products, I was definitely impressed. It was absolutely top notch and a pleasant surprise! I felt immediately valued. I’ve never been so excited to receive detergent in my life!
This isn’t the package I received, but here’s a great example of how diligent they are with proper presentation. It feels clean and fresh. I love the eco-friendly vibe!
As I do with most items, I gave it a try on myself before I let the kids have at it. In truth, I have the most sensitive skin in the house, so in this particular case, I was excited to have some baby fresh formulated goodies to pamper myself with. I received the following items from EverydayHappy – detergent, lotion, body wash, cleansing soap. I loved that each item was very lightly scented. Almost indiscernible. Just enough to smell good while you put it to use. The lotion in particular was especially smooth and felt clean going on, which is a nice change from other lotions that often feel greasy.
I was thoroughly impressed with each of the items they sent me. They all worked fabulously, but more importantly, they made me feel like I was making a better decision for my kids by using eco-friendly products. I know I keep saying they felt “clean,” but it’s true! It feels good when you know you’re not putting anything unnatural on your skin or the skin of your children. There’s some sort of comforting affirmation that you’re being a good parent and it’s safe for use. I know I like feeling like a good mom and EverydayHappy gave me that little boost.
If EverydayHappy has captured your interest, you can try your own free samples HERE. Pay the shipping and handling, and your own little box of #EDHLove will be on its way in no time flat!
Yes, I know. My boys are well past both bottles and sippy cups these days. But when I mentioned this to Patti, she assured me that I might actually enjoy keeping this crazy looking, but perfectly awesome device all to myself. And she was absolutely right! It should come as no surprise to you that I HATE washing dishes. It’s gross and grimy, and there is nothing I hated more than cleaning bottles, straws and all else when the boys were smaller. And now, the deep dark inside corners of their water bottles and other on-the-go cups…YUCK. I feel like the dishwasher can’t possibly be getting in there to clean well enough, but I hate having to scrub them out myself. The SUDS washer is my personal dream come true. I use it for my own glasses, water bottles and other items that just need a quick rinse. Even the boys couldn’t resist giving it a try! And it might, just might, be an absolute perfect fit for a wine glass…I’m just saying.
Here’s a quick video showing it in action!
Do you have any must-have family items? Be sure to link them in the comments below!
All Work + No Play = Business Failure
Business Failure. Those two ominous words that plague the nightmares of every entrepreneur, young and old. The ever-present possibility of the professional “face plant” motivates us to keep driving, keep pushing, keep learning…but keep playing?
When Somer and I joined forces in professional partnership back in 2014, we very quickly saw how our friendship morphed into a constant business meeting. There was so much to do and the stakes felt so high, every spare minute we had away from our children was dedicated to developing our business. Every conversation centered around our perpetual to do list, go to market strategies and future plans. We were laser beam focused on avoiding business failure.
And you know what? We kind of stopped having fun for awhile there. We almost forget how to be friends. Why? Because all work and no play causes that one big terror that we’re all trying to avoid. Business failure. Play is a pivotal part of professional and personal success. We must laugh, shake off the stress and settle back into that excitement that fueled the entrepreneurial fire in the first place!
So how do you build play time into your business partnership? It’s not as easy as you think! The “Let’s grab dinner!” plan quickly stumbles into a working meal. The “Happy Hour Date!” often slides into a professional woe-fest. Here are a few tips and tricks to making sure your play time stays play time!
- Invite others. It’s hard for conversation to wander towards business when other friends are present that would feel left out of that chitter chatter. Shake things up and bring an extra pal or two to make sure you leave the job at home and just get social! Somer and I almost always invite one other person when we head out to eat. It allows us to make time for those people most important to us and we end up spending our time laughing and sharing, instead of working and grinding.
- Make it about somebody else. The very best way to stop making the conversation about “you” is to focus your energy entirely on serving someone else’s needs! Consider volunteering together at a local shelter, soup kitchen or getting together with friends to stuff gently used purses with toiletries and goodies like we did with our local Modern Femme™ crew. Service projects open our hearts to the needs of others, minimize our focus on our own selfish needs and allow us to focus outwardly, giving back as a team.
- Go big or go home. Sometimes you just need to kick your own butt to get your mind off the busyness of business. Go for a run, take a kickboxing class…break a sweat and challenge yourselves physically! Somer and I are already bonded on a professional level (and of course a personal one). When we dig into something that physically challenges us, we discover a whole new level of how committed we are to supporting each other through our individual and shared obstacles.
Most recently, Somer and I took a drive up to Williamsburg to visit our friends at Go Ape! Treetop Adventure Course at Freedom Park. There’s something incredibly powerful about getting outside, climbing a tree and taking a leap of faith as you navigate ziplines and obstacles. Our first experience with climbing had been back in October with our local Modern Femme™ group at The Adventure Park at Virginia Aquarium. I’ll be totally honest. I was not looking forward to it. Nature “isn’t my thing,” and I find myself getting a little nervous when it comes to facing physical challenges in front of my peers. Now…I’m hooked. I love it. Every minute! Every bruise! Every sore muscle!
Our friends at Go Ape! did not disappoint. It was a beautiful day and we were itching to climb, get a great workout in and focus our minds on what was directly in front of us instead of going back and forth over the many million things we need to get done before the May convention (Do you have your ticket yet?! Discount codes expire on April 15th!).
At first, we wondered whether the courses would challenge us as much as we were hoping, but it only took a few stretches to see “oh heck yeah” we were working hard! This course really challenged our upper body strength, and as we tired more and more, we had to rely more and more on each other to cheer each other on our climbs back up to the platform after a tough rope net hit or swinging loop traverse. It allowed us to verbalize when we needed help and also gave us the opportunity to put the other person’s needs before our own. Needless to say, after some really demanding climbs, a few hilarious rides into the mulch and maybe even a few perfectly executed profanities…well, work was the last thing on our minds!
When was the last time you did something with your business partner just for fun? How do you carve play time into a dynamic professional relationship?
New Must-Try Apps for Busy Working Moms
I met with my favorite group of local gals at our monthly chapter meeting for Business Among Moms this week. I recently took over as the Hampton Roads leader as part of my promise to myself to invite more friends into my home and into my life this year (and forevermore!).
Our topic was must-try apps for busy working moms. I had my little go to list of powerhouse players on hand. You’ve heard me rave about them before! My usual suspects:
My very favorite, interactive to do list, Trello allows me to organize my life, my business, my clients and everything in between. Without this tool keeping tracking of open projects, conversations with clients and timeline progress on our planning for Modern Femme™, I’d be lost and A LOT of critical work would be falling between the cracks. I go into a bit more detail in How to Use Trello to Organize Your Life and you can find it on the Google Play Store or on iTunes, or access it online.
Somer and I go on and on and on about the awesomeness of Slack in How to Use Slack and Why Your Business Needs It, and I hold true to every, single word. It’s a powerful tool for teams on the go, or for teams like ours…with several people working at random hours of the day and night all over the country. If you’re tired of using Facebook Messenger to communicate with your crew, it’s time to give this FREE tool a shot. Available online, on the Google Play Store and on iTunes.
If there’s one tool you’re probably already using or at least are very familiar with, it’s Google Calendar. The better question is…are you maximizing how you use it? Check out 10 Ways to Use Google Calendar and for bonus points, grab my free downloadable with another 25 recommendations for ways to braindump into this mastermind tool. Grab it on Google Play here!
What I did not expect to encounter at the meeting was a feeling of panic when I realized I didn’t have a piece of paper to take notes on all of the other amazing must-try apps for busy working moms that my other gal pals used to stay sane. I raced to the kitchen, grabbed a scrap of paper and a pen and quickly jotted down a list of tools that I plan to put into use IMMEDIATELY.
Ever had someone ask you for a business card and you go “Crap. I don’t have any with me.” Check out this website!! Trymms allows you to create a custom electronic business card that you can text, email, QR scan and more to make sure you never miss a networking opportunity again! You can also have multiple business cards for your different projects, so you’ve got all bases covered, all the time!
How many of you are like me? When it comes to travel, you have your little manila envelope or folder in hand, with all of your directions, itineraries, confirmations and other important details safely printed and in hand when you hit the road. Anyone? Anyone?
How about this. Do you ever find yourself frustrated with travel because you need ten different apps to log in for the flight, hotel, rental car and all other confirmations? Tripcase solves that problem in a very big way. Email all of your itineraries to your Tripcase email, and the app recognizes similar information and organizes it by destination! When it comes time to head out for a vacation or business conference, you have everything you need from your flight details, to your hotel confirmation and more, all in one, safe spot. Available on both Google Play and iTunes.
SOCIAL MEDIA GRAPHIC DESIGN
I’m pretty sure Somer cried when she heard about this app. And then she cried again when she heard it didn’t have an Android version (yet!). It allows you to create amazing graphics with custom typography for Instagram and other social media profiles. Not sure exactly what you want to say? No problem! It will make some suggestions for you! Photo editing and social media graphic design just got insanely easy. Available on iTunes.
Admittedly, I am super lazy about this. Why? Because I’ve never encountered a way to track mileage that didn’t annoy me. Enter MileIQ and all of my problems are solved. It automatically detects movement and tracks your mileage, which you can later classify as Personal or Business with a simple swipe! For those busy working moms with MLM businesses or in-home care, this is a definite must have. You can download it on Google Play or iTunes.
PARTY PLANNERS/MLM DISTRIBUTORS
This is the one app that I don’t really need, but so many friends in my busy mom network have MLM distribution side projects (or full time gigs) of some kind. This can handle your invites, event management and all of those other pesky details that go along with wrangling guests in for a hosted party. Available on the Google Play Store here.
TO DO LISTS
I’m really excited about this one (and it needs to come out on Android SOON)! Ever get this text or call? “Honey, I’m headed to the store. Do we need anything?” Or from your business partner…”I’m headed to Sam’s Club. Is The Studio all stocked up?” Cue the frenzy of wracking your brain for that one item you know you really need but can’t think of right this second. AnyList solves that problem! Share grocery, to do lists and more with those special people in your life so that everyone is on the same page. You can both edit and access shared list, so the grocery list is built together, one item at a time. That way if you happen to be at the store, you’re in the know too!
(SNEAKY TIP: The mom that shared this with me Velcroed her old iPad to their fridge so that they can update the app right there on the spot when they run out of something!) Available on iTunes (please Android soon, please!)
One of the big challenges of working remotely with a team is the absence of eye contact, body language and those important cues that let us know the intent behind the messages we receive. I’m sure we’d all agree to having had those moments when we were offended by a text or email simply because it read differently than the writer intended. Voxer has solved that problem by allowing you to send voice messages back and forth, walkie talkie style, so that you can have quick on-the-go conversations and communication, without the guesswork of impersonal texts (not to mention no texting while driving!). I’m very excited to use this when Somer moves to Tennessee at the end of the summer! Grab it here on Google Play and here on iTunes.
Do you have any must-try apps for busy working moms that aren’t mentioned here? Please share in the comments below!! If I learned anything from this week’s Business Among Moms meeting, it’s that there is a laundry list of amazing tips and tricks out there that I haven’t even heard of yet!