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Megan Manzi

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Dear New Mama

I’m a year into motherhood. One full year. And while I spend the majority of my days still feeling like I have no clue what I am doing, there are a few lessons I’ve learned in these 365 days that I wish I could go back and tell myself, or at least share with the soon-to-be mamas in my life. Because dear new mom, you need to know…

It’s not your fault. Doesn’t even matter what you are asking yourself about. Nine times out of ten, the answer is, it’s not your fault. Trouble nursing? Not your fault. Baby won’t sleep? Not your fault. Kinda hate your husband? Not your fault. Don’t want to leave the baby? Not your fault. Can’t wait to leave the baby? Not your fault.

The way your baby came into the world will never matter again once you are home. Whether you had a cozy home birth or a traumatic hospital stay or anything in between. Be thankful for what went right, mourn the way things went wrong, then work on slowly letting it go. Don’t let the way you delivered dictate the way you parent. There’s no time for pride, fear, or regret now that there’s a baby who needs you.

Breastfeeding is hard. And that’s okay. Then one day, it magically isn’t. And that’s awesome. But then it’s hard again. Basically it’s a long journey, full of snuggles and clogged ducts along the way. If possible, please get professional lactation help. And surround yourself with cheerleaders who will root you on when you need the encouragement.

Invest in the expensive nursery chair. You know the big, cushy, rocker/glider combo with the high back that takes up way too much room that you can drift off to sleep in? That one. Get it if you haven’t already because you will spend more hours in it than you can imagine. And it’s still less pricey than multiple chiropractor bills.

Maternity clothes aren’t just for pregnancy, so don’t pack them away just yet. It’s totally fine to wear those stretchy waisted pants and flowy tops for a while after the baby has made it’s debut. Most of us do. And do not even THINK of weighing yourself until at least 6 weeks have passed. This is the time to lay low, eat well, and be kind to your body that just made another human from scratch!

Get out of the house. I know you haven’t showered and the baby is cranky and the dishes are piling up, but get out of the house. Fresh air puts things into perspective. Bonus if you can get to a place where you will actually get to talk with another adult. Often they will remind you of two important things you need reminding of: 1. You are a fully functioning grown-up in the world. 2. Your little bundle is actually really super cute when it’s not 2am.

Take a moment for yourself. Take a few. Take the time you need and you’ll be a better mother. Maybe you need a shower in peace, a sweaty yoga class, or a girls night out with wine. I know it doesn’t feel possible, but the baby will be okay without you. If there is someone who can help you, let them. Adults are often much more generous, and babies much more adaptable, than we give them credit for.

(originally posted on Mahmee.com. Photo credit: Lauren Guilford)

Outside The Box Questions For A Babysitter

Hiring a babysitter can seem like a daunting task, so we’re here to help! Of course its important to connect with your potential sitter about logistics like availability, pay rate, and references. But what do you ask when you want to go a bit deeper? Check out our Outside The Box Questions For A Babysitter!

“What was your favorite childhood toy?” This question is a lot more exciting to answer than the generic, “What do you like to do with kids?” It takes the pressure off the sitter to come up with the “right,” educational answer and allows her to speak from the heart. The type of toy or play she reminisces about is also what she will most easily engage your child with today.

“Who was your favorite babysitter or teacher growing up and why?” This question tells you a lot about your sitter’s past and what traits she values in a caregiver. You may even ask if she’s had any negative experiences with sitters or teachers. Hearing both sides, get a full vision of the type of babysitter she aspires to be.

“Do you have young kids in your family?” This is a great way to find out more about her personal involvement with family care. Watching a proud auntie’s eyes light up as she talks about her toddler nephew is a great way to get to know her. And it may even lead into a conversation about which ages she finds the most exciting or challenging to care for.

“What are your favorite things to do on your days off?” This is a more open ended question than the usual, “What would you do with my kids on a long Saturday afternoon?” You will learn a lot about what activities she enjoys, who she prefers to spend her time with, and what types of places she feels the most at home in.

“What are some things a family can do to make a babysitter’s job easier?” Encourage her to be honest! Does she feel overwhelmed by food prep? Does she hate getting called at the last minute for work? Does she feel uncomfortable disciplining a child without the parents there? This is also a great time to ask about her past experiences with families. The good, the bad, and everything in between. Learn more about her up front and it will smoother sailing throughout your babysitting adventures!

(originally posted on Toddler Blog)

The Zany Animal Zoo

You know all those plastic animal figures you keep stepping on? Time to put them to work! Welcome to “The Zany Animal Zoo!”

First have your toddler sort the animals. This is a great time to work on reinforcing colors and size. I love to sort the animals into two groups, big versus small, and then encourage my toddler friends to place them in size order from biggest to smallest. For an added challenge, separate the animals in different corners depending on where they live — sky, sea, or land.

Next, color the animals’ feet with washable paint or stamp pads. Have them hop, race, and gallop across a piece of paper. Look at how each animal’s tracks look different! For more messy fun, paint the entire animal figure a wild color. A bright purple duck is even more fun than a yellow one.

Finally, it’s time to give our zany zoo animals a bath! A sponge, water, and some soap will keep toddlers happy for quite a while. Take this time to review body parts. Guide your toddler to sponge off the plastic horses’ back, maybe even his hooves, etc. Best part is, our toddler has had a fun filled, educating activity and done most of the clean up themselves!

Right Brain Left Brain Challenge

When kids aren’t working from both sides of their brains, chaos ensues. Ever tried logic with a tantrum throwing tot?!

Our right brains are emotional and impulsive, and they often take over. While the left side of our brains are logical and organized, we still need the right for creative problem solving and for reading nonverbal cues. It’s a peanut butter & jelly situation. One can’t work nearly as well without the other!

But how do we encourage our kiddos to use both sides of their brain for optimum growth? Through play and games of course!

– Lead your little one to color or paint with their non-dominant hand. Or for double the fun, use both hands at once! It may be frustrating at first, but once they get a grasp of it, they’ll love the challenge.

– Move and groove while crossing the midline of the body. This twisting does wonders for brain development. Try marching and hitting each knee with the opposite hand as you go!

– Take a kids yoga class. Breathing boosts brain activity and standing on each limb individually will promote balance!

– Play ball! Run, throw, kick, and catch. Bonus points if you make sure to alternate which arm/leg is doing most of the work!

– Tell a story together! This simple, creative act will build communication skills, empower the imagination, and help you make awesome memories. Who knew playing make believe could do so much good for our brains? (Okay, we did!)

(originally posted on Toddler Blog)

A More Challenging Choo Choo!

When we can’t pull our toddlers away from their favorite toy, we can try changing up how they use it! One toy can always be used in a multitude of ways to make it more developmentally stimulating.

Today we’re exploring an old favorite, the Toy Train Track, to make A More Challenging Choo Choo!

– Play with color! Connect all of the red trains, then all the green, etc.

– Make a pattern! What if you linked a green then a red then a green — What color would come next? Older toddlers will benefit a lot from starting to build and recognize patterns!

– Never stop counting! Can we connect just two trains? How about three? Four? Have your little count as you go.

– Practice listening skills! Call out Red, Green, or Yellow Light and have your little adjust their trains’ speed accordingly.

– Play with speed! Can your tot practice restraint and drive her train in slow motion? Then try filling up the gas tank and taking a super speedy loop around the track!

– Change direction! Practice going backwards when someone calls out Reverse!

– Go off railing! Why not make your own track together on a large piece of butcher paper? Winding roads and a great view make for one exciting trip!

– Time for a wash! Take your favorite toy outside with a bucket of water and washcloth. Watch your little’s face light up as you get your trains all spick and span!

(originally posted on Toddler Blog)

Don’t Ask Me About Motherhood

People keep asking me how much I love motherhood. As if motherhood brings with it a revelatory joy that’s kept hidden from all the other, non-mothers out there. People talk like I’ve finally gotten into some secret society I was longing to be a part of.

People keep asking how much I love motherhood and the answer is, well, I don’t.

Motherhood is braving one hell of a long hazing process. It’s worrying every minute if you’re doing enough and if you’re doing it right. It’s feeling completely inadequate because you can’t get up the nerve to cut such tiny fingernails.

Motherhood is that tinge of jealousy when you hear about your single friend’s freedom. It’s canceling date night because someone is teething and needs your shoulder to gnaw on, and no one else’s shoulder tastes quite the same.

Motherhood is waking up every other hour through the night because you are desperately needed, but feeling altogether useless. It’s mashing organic sweet potatoes and freezing them into ice cube trays while you forget to make dinner for yourself. It’s never being alone, yet feeling so very lonely.

Don’t ask me about motherhood. You know what it entails.

But if you want to know how much I love being a mom, I’ll ask you, how much time do you have?

Being a mom is sneaking in another sniff of her skin while drying her off after the bath. It’s wondering how long she’ll trust me this fully as I feel the weight of her in my arms. It’s holding my breath in awe as she drifts off to sleep because I’ve never seen something so beautiful.

Being a mom is counting the minutes until I can get home to see her nose scrunch and gummy smile after I’ve had a bad day. It’s living on the verge of tears because my heart is overflowing in my chest, ready to pour out my eyes at any inopportune moment. It’s the way she makes strangers on the street feel like my oldest friends with one giggle or wave.

Being a mom is cheering harder than I ever have at any sports game as she tries with all her might to put one chubby leg in front of the other. It’s remembering that a smashed avocado is heavenly, a half empty water bottle is a thing of mystery and a ceiling fan is straight up miraculous.

(originally posted on Mahmee.com)

Spray Bottle Saturday

Next time your little one needs some weekend fun, get out a spray bottle and your imagination! You’ll be surprised at how much there is to do, when SPRAY BOTTLE SATURDAY comes to the rescue.

  1. Make safe spray paint! Mix a 1/4 cup of cornstarch with 1 cup warm water and about 5-10 drops of food coloring. Then spray a large piece of paper or old sheet into a marvelous mural!
  2. Water the plants! Can you spray just the roots? How about only the littlest leaves or largest petals? Your budding gardener will love the challenge.
  3. Give your dolls a beauty treatment. Spray her hair, then brush and style it into your best coif creation! Add a couple tablespoons of fabric softener to your spray for extra stylin’ hold.
  4. Play spray bottle freeze tag! Burn off some energy with a super speedy round. If you get sprayed, strike a funny frozen pose until you are sprayed free once more!
  5. Target practice on tissue paper! Place different color tissue squares on top of white paper. Then spray each, one by one. Watch in awe as the colors run!
  6. Aim for the alphabet. Use chalk to draw the ABCs on the ground. Then call out each letter and let your little spray it until it magically disappears.
  7. Make the old new again. Spray an older painting to see how water affects the colors and changes the whole piece. Add your latest abstract, modern art to your gallery.
  8. Try spray bottle science! Fill your bottle with 3/4 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup water, and a bit of paint. Squirt a pan full of baking soda and examine your experiment’s funny fizzle!

(originally posted on Toddler Blog)

Beat Balloons!

Meet the Beat Balloons! Balloon fun reaches new heights when they’re filled with small household finds. Not only will your little bean be able to peek through and investigate what object is hidden inside, they’ll also be able to hear it once they give it a shake!

We filled our balloons with sprinkles, Qtips, cotton balls, dry pasta, old buttons, small toys, and more. And we made two of each so we could also play with matching the pairs that sounded alike!

Stretch your balloon out a bit before filling it with a tiny treasure and air. And of course, please supervise littles when they’re exploring balloons and small objects.

Disobedience

Parents are always talking about getting kids to be more obedient. But I can’t stop thinking that the handful of successes and adventures I’ve had only happened when I stopped listening. It was when I stopped worrying about being wrong, that I started finally doing something right.

So I hope you do test my limits, challenge your teachers and know when to tell someone above you to back down. Because there will be plenty of times you shouldn’t listen.

Don’t listen when I say “hold my hand” going up the stairs, when you know you’re strong enough without my help.

Don’t listen when I say “be careful” at the playground, when you have faith in where your feet will carry you and how long your arms will hold you.

Don’t listen when I call out “slow down,” when you know I’ve just forgotten how awesome the wind feels in your hair.

Don’t listen when I say, “you should save for an emergency,” when you already have an itinerary for backpacking around Europe.

Don’t listen when I say to “go over them,” when you are confident you already have the test questions down pat.

Don’t listen when I say, “you’ll make the team next year,” when you’re already plotting how to become the captain by then.

Don’t listen when I say, “that doesn’t match,” when you are purposefully expressing yourself, mixing patterns and making a statement.

Don’t listen to me because I do hope you dirty the legs of your pants hopping in puddles, cut your own hair while playing stylist and paint your bedroom walls orange during an artistic rant.

Don’t listen, speak up. Tell off the class bully and then the boss who wants you to work late for no pay. Tell them that you are worth more and be unapologetic about your immense worth. Go ahead and act out, rebel, talk back, stand up and make a scene, all for what you know is right. Be anything but obedient.

(originally posted on Mahmee.com)