Introducing The Mommy Camp

So many times when I talked about how BabyNav came to be I would tell the story of working in Corporate America and creating a gantt chart to ensure I was ready for the arrival of my first baby. Once I did that I found so much solace in being prepared and organized and in the meantime I became obsessed with baby gear. I started creating gantt charts for women who were pregnant that I worked with along with my friends and BabyNav was born.

While I worked on building BabyNav and supporting expecting families I was also caring for my three beautiful kids. For a variety of reasons my kids don’t go to any camps for the summer so for the last seven summers I have run mommy camp at my home. I approached creating mommy camp for them the same way I approached that first gantt chart. My kids love their summers and look forward to our theme weeks. My secret is that while my kids are happy and active and learning I am able to work from home thanks to the simple process and schedule I created.

Since Covid-19 started we (obviously) haven’t been in anyone’s homes to set up their nurseries and haven’t been personal shopping in person with anyone.  In early May I started hearing from so many friends and people around me how they were stressed about the summer and worried their kids would be on screens non-stop. It was then I realized that I should again share my processes and help parents prepare for the summer and The Mommy Camp was born.

The Mommy Camp is simple routines, smart supplies and engaging themes to help parents execute camp at home for kids aged 2-12!  Over the years we have tried countless crafts, activities and recipes and know which ones work and which ones are more work cleaning up than they are worth doing. I know which summer activities keep kids entertained and engaged and I know which ones to avoid. I know which craft supplies and products will survive the summer heat and lots of use. I know which ones will excite your three year old and which ones won’t bore your 12 year old. You don’t have to break the bank filling up your yard with activities and you don’t have to spend your nights scrolling through Pinterest only to find you don’t have all the supplies you need at home. And the best part is that getting all this info from The Mommy Camp is FREE!

Since we launched in June the best part has been to receive emails from BabyNav clients who we helped to build their registry and now they are following our theme week calendars for The Mommy Camp!

Head to www.themommycamp.com to subscribe and each Sunday I will send your weekly theme calendar for a week of memory making.

xo, Julie

This Time It’s Personal: OUR Summer

As I was preparing for Twin A’s pre-op appointment tomorrow, I realized I have not been fulfilling my promise to keep you up to date on our comings and goings! Normally at this time of year I am happy to see Summer leave and Fall start to arrive but this year is really different. I had had the best summer that I can ever remember because I was able to dedicate two months to being with my kids and now I don’t want it to end! Even with the exciting launch of the BabyNav partnership with Babies-R-Us and working with some great moms I have had more time than I have ever had to be with the kids. We visited so many fun places, created some new traditions, did lots of crafts and just generally enjoyed being together. I learned so much about the kids as individuals and as siblings but I also learned a lot about myself as a mom. I learned that I need to let go and let more messes happen. And I learned that I am the happiest when I give up some control and am just present with the kids.

Check out the pictures below for some of the highlights from our summer. I apologize in advance for my lack of photography skills and all of these were taken from my phone which didn’t help my cause! Enjoy!

   

1. We started out the summer with a big adventure to Field Station Dinosaurs in Secaucus, NJ. There are over 30 life size dinosaurs as well as games and activities to keep your little dino lover entertained. It was great for our 4 year old but the 2 year old twins were frightened of the dinosaurs, especially when the roars came!

2. Our big guy got his first big guy bike for his 4th birthday and he hasn’t been off it much since!

3. We did Liquid Sidewalk Chalk a few times and it was a big winner with all three kids (and Mom). It is super simple to make, use and clean-up!

4. You have probably seen a version of this “car wash” for kids floating around but we forgot to take any directions with us to the hardware store so this design is original. 😉 We made all of this with 4 long pieces of  3/4″ pvc cut into the sizes we needed at the store, some elbows and the water hose connector. My husband assembled the pvc, drilled holes for the water and added the pool noodles with some wire to create our car wash. The kids drove bikes, cars, scooters, balance bikes and ran through the car wash each time it was assembled! As a bonus – the car wash is gone but the kids now have a new construction set made from the pvc cut into smaller pieces and some added pvc connectors.

   

5. Our big guy did his first day camp! He went to a sports camp for 4-6 yr olds and he loved it! We celebrated with a spaghetti dinner…you know just like the real athletes do.

6. With goggles and hammers ready, we did Bashing Baked Cotton Balls. Honestly, all three kids had more fun making these than they did bashing the cotton balls. I think that was my fault because I set up the activity by calling it Exploding cotton balls and there is no explosion which was very disappointing for the boys.

7. I know this picture may seem a little odd but I give this bouncy house by Little Tikes credit for potty training both our boys. We originally bought this bouncer for our big guy’s second birthday party when we discovered it was cheaper than renting one. The weekend after his birthday party we spent an entire day outside bouncing in the bouncy house and every thirty minutes we took a break to take a drink of water and sit on the potty. From that day forward he was in undies so this summer we repeated with Twin A and it worked like a charm the second time. Unfortunately, Twin B didn’t fall for it so maybe bouncy houses can only potty train boys. 😉

8. Even at 2 1/2 the twins still put a lot of things in their mouths so paint projects make me nervous. I was happy to find this (what I called edible) paint recipe and the kids turned it into a hand and foot painting party on an old sheet outside.

   

9 & 10. The Olympics gave us two weeks of really fun projects as we learned about different sports, lots about London and how the whole world comes together to compete. I hyped up the opening ceremony which was a bad idea because there was nothing exciting for kids but they loved making salt dough Olympic medals, having a formal afternoon tea with homemade scones and having our own competitions in the front yard. All summer our local library has provided some great content but the books we got about London and the Olympics were some of our favs.

11. There were certainly a few rainy afternoons this summer and we tried to fill those up with lots of sensory activities. One of the kids favorite was a found object game with colored rice. After making the colored rice in each of the kids favorite colors (must do the day before to dry) I collected 21 small objects from around the house and divided them among three paper bags with the kids names. The kids started with their own bin filled with rice and then every few minutes blindly reached into their paper bag to find a new object to add to their rice. With each new object the use of the rice and the existing objects would evolve but my favorite was watching Twin B feed a kangaroo rice with a lego.

12. One of my favorite toys that the kids have is a set of Matchbox cars that was their Dad’s (it is even still in the original case). It has been mixed now with new cars but they love to hear the stories of where their Dad got his and what he liked to do with them. We had one day this summer that was totally dedicated to those cars. I took out all of the electrical tape and painters tape (I didn’t plan ahead on this one as I hadn’t looked at the forecast) I could find in the house and covered the living room with a track for the Matchbox cars and let the kids’ imaginations run.

   

13. & 14. Sometimes it was just the simple things that we enjoyed. The week we talked about the letter “B” I taped up some bubble wrap in our dining room. Each time the kids walked by I would hear a little POP and a giggle. We also took advantage of the rainy days to head outside in our rain-boots and splash in the one puddle we get with each rain. That puddle also provided lots of giggles.

15. The kids really love animals and we are really fortunate to have a place like Muscoot Farm so close. We visited Muscoot at least 4 times this summer and the kids never got bored. It also provided a summer full of story telling after I got too close to a cow and it licked my leg as a warning to get away. The kids LOVE to tell that one!

16. We also looked to several traditional art & craft projects like water colors to create some fun pieces. This simple twist of adding tape to create their initials was a fun reveal and looked great to have on display.

   

17. We went to fairs, fairs and more fairs. The kids are at ages where they may love a ride or may scream during the entire time it is motion but we kept going to the local church, town and fire department fairs to test our luck. By the end of the summer Twin B would go on every ride she was tall enough to tackle and her big brother would not attempt one ride.

18. At the end of the summer I felt the need to use up some of the jumbo pack of Ivory soap I bought to microwave (not a highlight for me) so we had a soap boat race. I created the boats using only Ivory soap bars, tooth picks and foam stickers. We created a race track on a small hill with heavy duty aluminum foil (or you can use a rain gutter) and turned on the hose. The more we raced and the more soap was on the foil the faster the boats got and the louder the cheers got!

19. With the summer coming to an end I was thinking about packing away our water table but decided to give it one more use. Instead of filling it up with water we used shaving cream. I gave the kids wooden spoons and every so often would add drops of food coloring to the shaving cream and let the kids stir it up. Let’s be honest, by the end they were just rubbing it all over each other but I loved how nicely they were playing with each other so I let them do it until the shaving cream ran out.

20. To end the summer we went on our FIRST official family vacation to Long Beach Island. We all loved the trip so much we are already trying to book the same house we stayed in this year for next year. The kids cried when we left but to keep the memory alive once we were home, we painted the shells we found on the beach and gave them to daddy as a thank you for our awesome vacation.

Today was the kids first day at their new preschool and after a cheerful drop-off I found myself sitting in my car with tears streaming down my face. I knew OUR summer was over and I was crying tears of joy for the time I had with them and tears of sadness that it was ending.

Tomorrow we head to a pre-op appointment because Twin A is having a cardiac catheterization in 10 days which is all in preparation for his 2nd open heart surgery. We know he is going to do great and I will keep you updated on that journey! In the meantime there are Fall projects to plan and MANY babies to plan!

xoxo, Julie

Tuesday Introduction: EssentialMom

For many moms keeping up with all the info available on pregnancy, babies, kids, camps, schools, great weekend activities, classes and anything else you can think of is exhausting. Sometimes we just want to play with our kids and enjoy the fleeting moments that we have but the social demands of today often make us feel like we should be researching for the next great moment. Thankfully there are moms like Gretchen from EssentialMom.com that are out there helping to cut through the clutter! EssentialMom.com is truly one stop shopping for parenting questions and what is going on in Westchester. If you don’t live in the Westchester, New York area it is still worth checking out for all the great info but fair warning it will leave you wanting an EssentialMom.com for your town.

  • How long ago did you start EssentialMom.com and what was your inspiration?

I started Essentialmom about 8 years ago ? I had two children under the age of four and I thought all of the running around, questions, and resources should all be in one place. I found myself spending so much time trying to research things to do, places to go and parenting advice, that it was taking away from my actual parenting! I also found that my friends had all of the same questions and figured that I might as well find a way to share the info I was finding with others all in one place that was easy and accessible 24-7.

  • Can you describe your journey to launching EssentialMom.com? Were there an big milestones, success or failures you learned from?

There have been plenty of both, successes have been building up the business and having it become a great source for parents in the community. Failures were usually in the tech department where I had to count on other people but my greatest find recently has been to switch over to wordpress and get control over my own site, it is truly an amazing tool!

  • Does the information on your site cover all ages?

The site covers all ages, new babies through school aged kids. We have resources for parents, classes, a huge events calendar, school news, summer camps, local shops, etc etc . Anything and everything you need to parent in Westchester.

  • Do you have any favorite topics you like to cover or is there information that you always seem to find people searching for?

I love that I can help local non-profits in their efforts. They provide amazing services to our community from nature centers to events happening throughout the county. I like to support them, as they support us parents! People are always seeking things to do with their kids and the non-profits are often the solution. Our calendar is always chock full of things going on around town.

  • Do you have any advice to a mom that wants to start her own business?

Patience and more patience. Owning a small business is a 24 hour a day job and although it often means you can work from home and make your own hours, it also means that you work from home and never get to leave your job. Be careful to not let it take over your life. Whatever is on your to do list, will likely still be on the list tomorrow if you don’t get to it so take it all in stride and remember that you are working from home to give you a better quality of life not worse!

  • What does your daily schedule look like?

I check my email first thing in the morning while the kids are still groggy then I put it away until they get on the bus and head out for the day. I work hard from that time until they come home after school and then try to put it away until they go to bed at night.

  • How do you divide your time and priorities between your family (can you tell us a little about your family), your home and your business?

I have a 12 year old and a 9 year old. In the beginning, I was terrible about separating work and family. I worked long, long hours and often late into the night. Over the years, I have realized that what doesn’t get done can usually wait until the next day. If I am more careful about separating my time and concentrating on one thing at a time it usually works much better than trying to be everything to everyone all of the time.

Thanks Gretchen for the great info on EssentialMom.com and giving us a sneak peek into your world. I know I personally have your quote about my to-do list still being there tomorrow taped to my computer!

Happy Reading! xoxo, Julie

Don’t be afraid of…

No, not the dark. The Grocery Store! The grocery store is actually a great family outing and can be a fun learning experience for babies and toddlers. Heading to the grocery can even be a good choice for the first few outings for a new baby. Make sure you have a packed diaper bag, a travel changing pad, your nursing cover or the next bottle and of course your shopping list (or you iPhone/iPad with the Grocery iQ app loaded). You can keep your baby cozy and away from germs by keeping him in his infant car seat. However, I know it is tempting but don’t prop the baby up in the child seat of the shopping cart….instead you push one cart with the baby and have your husband grab a second for the food. No matter your baby’s age, he will enjoy the different lights, faces and colors that he gets to experience each week. Once you have a baby that sits up we recommend a shopping cart cover that covers all sides of the seat and includes a safety strap (check out Balboa Baby). Go for style and skip anything with toys…instead keep baby busy by describing all the great colors and textures in the produce section, letting him peak at the lobsters and snuggling in the frozen food section.

Worried about bringing your older children with a new baby? Give him a job depending on his age….older kids can do anything from holding the list to actually loading and uloading the cart. You can keep everyone engaged and get a little help along the way!

Happy Shopping! xoxo, Julie

Meal Planning Made Easy

Do you find yourself driving home each night wondering what you are going to make for dinner? Or do you spend Saturdays staring at meat defrost knowing you are going to end up with take out again? Or my favorite, do you attempt to throw some unplanned meal together in 20 minutes and get aggravated when no one eats it or guilty when they do and you know it isn’t very nutritious? This can be solved with one inexpensive office supply – a white board! Spend 30 minutes the night before you go grocery shopping and plan out each meal for the next week. This will also help you make an accurate grocery list if you can create that at the same time. If your little one is eating purees this still works…just put a star next to the foods you want to puree from your meal or give baby their own line on the board and plan their jars out.

Planning your meals out for the week and hanging the menu where the whole family can see (hint: Dad can help get dinner started when his late meeting gets canceled) will save you time, take away some stress, ensure you are offering a balanced diet and might even save you a few dollars. Happy Planning!

xoxo, Julie