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!
KatyFest 2015 #MySummerStaycation
Let’s face it. I haven’t been on a REAL vacation in what…a decade? Life demands it, at least for now. But one thing I do plan regularly is my annual KatyFest. If you’ve been following me for awhile, you’ve run into KatyFest at least once or twice. Every year I take a week to myself. I don’t go anywhere – I stay put, keep the kids in school, keep appointments to a minimum and catch up. I’m sure that doesn’t sound like much of a vacation, but to me, it’s heaven. This year, I celebrated #MySummerStaycation as part of KatyFest2015 and with the help of my pals at ProFlowers. You may remember them from a recent post about starting fresh as a family in this new season of my life as a single mom. #LoveGrowsHere
Why am I writing this post?
To remind you that it’s important to schedule time for yourself.
It’s important for me to schedule time for myself! #MySummerStaycation gave me the opportunity to clear my head, find some peace of mind and just rest in silence. ProFlowers sent me this awesomely amazing little terrarium thingy (Formal name: Hanging Paradise Terrarium), which was the perfect solo project for a peaceful afternoon. Something about creating a little piece of earth is supremely calming. Now when I look at my hanging terrarium (which are the ONLY plants I can keep alive!), I am reminded to breathe and rest.
1. Add charcoal. 2. Add sphagnum moss. 3. Add soil. 4. Arrange plants in soil. 5. Add decorate rocks and moss. 6. Gently water. 7. Keep in medium-high light (no direct sun) at room temperature.
Who knows when my next opportunity to actually visit Paradise will be, but until then, #MySummerStaycation will remain in the form of one perfect week of KatyFest hermit time. How do you recharge and refresh?
Welcome to the New Chaos & Kiddos! Blogger to WordPress Transfer by Blogelina
It’s here! I made the leap!! Today marks the first official day of the new Chaos & Kiddos. I’ve migrated from Blogger to WordPress and I couldn’t be more excited. I loved Blogger and had my little workflow down, but truth be told, I am an HTML nightmare, and as my blog began to grow, so did my need to integrate additional programming and functionality. I quickly became overwhelmed with how to insert the appropriate HTML in the appropriate places. I needed the easy button. The volume of available WordPress plugins and easy-to-use formatting options had captivated my interest some time ago, so I decided to make a change. And then it hit me. How in the heck do I do this?
It was time to be very honest with myself. Up until this point, beyond tiny things, like buying my domain URL (If you haven’t done this, read 3 Mistakes I Made When I Started My Blog!), I hadn’t spent money on my blog. Mainly, because I hadn’t really, truly set up the monetizing strategy platform that I wanted yet. I realized that I’ve been beyond blessed to have had such great blogging success in a brief 7 months of existence, and it was time to treat this puppy like the real deal. It was time to outsource. For a big move like this, I wanted to be sure my content carried over, my image links didn’t break, and that all of the hard work of the last 7 months wasn’t completely lost when I switched platforms. I knew I had neither the knowledge nor the time to commit to this task, so when Blogelina was suggested to me, I know exactly what I needed to do.
Blogelina offers a wealth of great information and resources on a constant basis, and I’m always finding new tips and tricks on their blog. It’s very clear that they know what they’re doing. Whether you’re just a reader that keeps up with their recent posts, a seeker of quality takeaway resources for your blog , or looking for help taking your blog to the next level, there’s something for everyone. I was of course delighted to see the “Stress-Free Blogger-to-WordPress Transfer Package,” and knew I was in the right spot. And while I was at it, I opted for the Blog Makeover as well. If we’re going to do this, do it right!
I could not be happier with the new blog. I love the new style and the absolutely mind-blowing plugins I have already been able to put into play so quickly with WordPress, but even more satisfying is knowing that all of my content is there, all of my images are present, and any back links or pins or anything other linked items will properly redirect to our new home. I know that if I had done this by myself, it would have been an absolutely nightmare and the source of countless panic attacks. I am so relieved that it is complete and so excited for what this means for the future of Chaos & Kiddos.
I highly recommend the folks at Blogelina. They were timely, personable and patient. I had about a million questions, and they provided appropriate resources and friendly communication whenever I needed it. I am thoroughly satisfied with their work and my own sister already plans to use them to migrate her blog at the end of the summer. I always talk about how delegation is key to the success of a small business owner, especially one with a family. You need to know when you’re not the best man for the job, and I was definitely not the best man for this job. Choosing to invest a small bit of money for the promise of a seamless transition, more time with my family and less headache…worth every, single penny. Well done, Blogelina! And thank you!
Click on the pictures and links below if you want to give Blogelina a whirl! I promise – you’ll be so glad that you did!
Total Blogger to WordPress Transfer Package
How to Use Slack and Why Your Business Needs It
As Somer and I continue to expand our various brands (If you’ve been keeping count – We have 5 now! Chaos & Kiddos, The Studio Hampton Roads, The Hampton Roads Creative, Modern Femme Photography and The “CLICK” Series – yup, we’re insane.), we constantly struggle to keep pace with the different conversations, decisions and strategies we’ve had for the varying markets and platforms. Simply put, that’s a lot of market information to keep straight and it’s been nigh unto impossible to stay organized and focused. And then we discovered Slack. MIND. BLOWN. I couldn’t be more excited to show you how to use slack and why your business needs it. Like yesterday.
Slack is a powerhouse online tool that allows you to organize your business content and keep communication, files and activity all in one place. And that special one place is SEARCHABLE. For Somer and I, that meant ditching Facebook messenger for our daily chats, which meant eliminating scrolling and scrolling and scrolling (and scrolling!) through old messages to find links, decisions or to do lists we had created on the fly during a busy work day. Slack allows us to communicate within the tool (real time) and we can pop search terms in later that will pull old conversation history and remind us what was said. Major win.
Slack also allows us to create different “Channels” for our different brands. We keep our day to day chit chat in our “Direct Message” hot spot, but anything specifically business related (action items, relevant files, pending publications, event dates, etc.) goes into the appropriate channel. Each time a new piece of information is added in a channel, it highlights the channel so that when you sign into Slack, you can immediately see where to head for new updates. It also puts a lovely little “New Messages” line that keeps track of where you left off during your last visit to the site.
Now, onto my very favorite part! Besides the awesomeness that is being able to EDIT your comments and posts, your can STAR comments! And then SEARCH via your stars! For Somer and I, this has become our active to do list. While in conversation, if something gets identified as a task that I need to complete, I star it. Then when it comes time for me to devote a few hours to cranking out tasks, I search by my starred items and there it is! Once I complete the task, I can remove the star and it falls off of the list. YAY!!!!!!
Another amazing feature is the incredibly long list of third party app integration options. Rather than reinventing the wheel, you have tons of options to connect outside resources to Slack, bringing your important files right into the tool for one stop access for everything that keeps your business going. We have all of our logo files, ad files, PDF docs, resources, marketing pieces uploaded to Slack via third party Google Drive app integration. Adding those files to Slack was as easy as getting the Shareable Link from Google Drive and dropping it in a comment. Slack did the rest! We can also post Tweet links and have them show as a full preview and upload Dropbox documents. If we need to chat face to face, a simple entry of /gotomeeting launches the application IN Slack!
They’ve also created a nice little home base for your notes to yourself. Slackbot is your personal rep. They offer tips and tricks, recommendations and even follow simple commands and auto response directives! My personal favorite is the /remind me in <time> to <message> which allows me to set notifications like “Remind me on Tuesday” or “Remind me in 24 hours” to “call Somer” or “check on open inquiries.” SO COOL! There is also a whole SLEW of keyboard shortcuts and slash commands that can prompt actions and even formatting on the fly. I’m still familiarizing myself with all of the secret inside tricks.
Here is what it looks like when you upload files. Images get populated with previews, documents get formal names and attachment links. YouTube videos can be played right inside of Slack (no jumping off to a new window!) and URL links will show a preview. The tool really allows you to access multiple sites and storage files without ever leaving your home screen. No more 300 tabs open on your browser!
Lastly, a major big win for Slack is the easy accessibility. Your account is given a unique URL and each employee is given a unique username and login. Pop that URL into any browser, anywhere, sign in and you’re up and running. No more signing in remotely to your computer to keep up with the office while you’re on the go. You can also create a shortcut application on your Desktop via Chrome, and there is an iPhone and Mac application!
A few features that we don’t put to use, simply because we are a two-man operation:
1. You can tag people similar to Twitter (@somer_anne) and they’ll get a notification of a “Direct Mention” (and can SEARCH by DMs too!).
2. You can create “Private Groups” for private conversations between more than 2 people that don’t require a dedicated channel. For example, you have a company wide channel (that everyone can see), but a sales team private group (that only the sales account reps can see). Keep in mind, channels are in place for transparency. By nature, anyone who joins your Slack site can join the available channels and view what’s going on. This is great for open work environments where everyone is involved and the company believes in keeping its employees completely “in the know.”
I know this is a mega-long blog post, and I have to tell you, I feel like I’m only barely scraping the surface of what this program can do. They really paid attention to every detail. From personalizing your profile, contact information and even a fun picture, to creating a #random channel to encourage people to connect socially and professionally, they’ve created an avenue for companies to work seamlessly in collaboration and transparency, keeping an active, searchable history within reach at all times. Nothing gets lost, no one gets left out, no hunting for websites, information or other portals to sign in. I can’t imagine what our professional life would be like if Somer and I hadn’t discovered Slack. Especially as things are getting busier and busier, just in the short time we’ve implemented it, I can’t imagine how we would have managed our current workload with our old ways. Oh wait…a fun little tidbit for you. Slack is FREE!!!!!