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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Pampers Easy Ups Potty Training Tips & Giveaway

Pampers® Easy Ups Trainers for Boys
My twin boys are now 2 1/2-years-old and I've been dreading starting to potty train two kids at once. Our routine is finally in a groove and just the thought of throwing a new wrench in the mix is giving me a headache.

To start the process and make the transition easier, we've switched to Pampers Easy Ups training pants. Easy Ups are designed to help the diaper-to-underwear transition by allowing potty-training toddlers to set aside their diapers and wear something with more of an underwear-like look and feel that still helps contain accidental messes no matter whether they happen at home, on-the-go or overnight.

My boys meanwhile went crazy over the fact that Thomas the Tank Engine is on the boys version of Easy Ups as it's one of their favorite programs. They especially love dancing to the theme song.

I also found that Easy Ups are quicker for parents to put on their wiggly and busy toddlers than traditional diapers.

In order to further prepare, we are working on "potty learning." We have been encouraging the boys to start pulling down their own pants and diapers by themselves, which Logan is doing in the photo on the left. We have also been working on getting them to better communicate to us when they have poop in their diapers. Ben has this down, but Logan just ignores my question all together, lol.

Any other tips or steps we should be taking? I welcome all the advice I can get! I also hope to learn some other pointers during the following twitter party next week.

Join @Pampers on April 21 from 9-10 p.m. EST as they host a Twitter Party with Dr. Laura Jana, pediatrician, award-winning parenting book author and potty training expert who co-authored to Its You and Me Against the Pee…and the Poop, Too! Dr. Jana will be sharing her tips to help simplify and improve the potty training experience for little ones and their parents. RSVP here:

Pampers Easy Ups Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: This review and giveaway was made possible by Double Duty Divas and Pampers. I was compensated for my participation in this campaign, but all opinions are 100% mine.
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Friday, April 17, 2015

Where should you visit in Europe?

This is a partnered post
If you are thinking of a European getaway this year, be sure to consider all the options like choosing to fly out somewhere with inter-railing - that way you get to see a number of European cities over the course of a few weeks! Alternatively, you might have your heart set on somewhere and want to make the most out of an all-inclusive weekend stay. Whatever you choose to do, read this guide on some of the continent's finest offerings for inspiration.

Sun kissed Lisbon, Portugal's capital city, is the ideal getaway for those seeking sandy beaches and old school charm. Head to boho Bairro Alto, a bar lined cobbled street in Azulejo, where you can sip cocktails and watch the sun go down over the quietest corner of the Atlantic coast. It's a year round destination- beautiful in spring, summer, autumn or winter.

Sun drenched Madrid is a great long weekend destination, with its incredible culture and laid back lifestyle, whilst Barcelona is more suited to those who are on the lookout for adventure, with its vibrant night-life and endless activities and active nightlife. You can even try a fish spa like I did when I visited this vibrant city. Those looking for beached out bliss though might want to visit more Southern locations such as Andalusia, where you can sun yourself on the beach by day and soak up the local culture by night.

Dubrovnik is the perfect place to visit if you are seeking a relaxed, tranquil beauty which can only be found deep in the heart of the Adriatic. Flights to Croatia are relatively inexpensive if you try visiting around February and March, when the weather is mild and therefore isn't such a popular destination with sun worshipers. Check out its beautiful UNSECO World Heritage Sites in the medieval old town. I really enjoyed the food too.
The view from the Walls of Dubrovnik
Malta is the deep sea diving capital of the world, and scuba divers, as well as snorkelers come from all over to don their wet suits and sample the beauty of Malta's crystal clear water and amazing marine life. Take a day trip to Gozo (boats leave every hour from Valletta Harbor), for the best scuba experience Malta has to offer.

If you do choose to inter-rail - or even cruise - it’s worth planning your route in advance to avoid getting way-laid during your trip. If you are staying in the one country, it's definitely worth catching a bus or train to different cities to get a full feel for the way of life in the country's different areas. Happy travelling!
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Monday, April 13, 2015

Toddler Visit to the Nature Conservancy in Naples

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center in Naples recently opened the fun and educational “Little Explorer Play Zone” designed for children age 18 months to 5-years-old with animal stories, crafts and activities. However, we soon found out there was lots more to enjoy there beyond the play area.
The air conditioned play zone room was the perfect way to start off our visit on a hot day to the nature center. The boys ran through the little tunnel and played on the platform area, but spent most of their time coloring the different activity sheets on the little pint sized tables.

Right next to the Naples Zoo, the 21-acre experience is dedicated to protecting Southwest Florida's unique natural environment and quality of life. The nature center also has hands-on exhibits in their Dalton Discovery Center including a touch tank where kids can touch a sea star and other critters. We also saw different reptiles on display and even watched as a snake was handled and shown to a group of kids.

We then went on a 45-minute cruise along the Gordon River among the mangroves. The electric boat ride is included with admission. I feared the boys wouldn't last the entire trip, but they enjoyed looking out and seeing the fish and ducks that we passed. The captain said during the winter months you can even see manatees.  Expert Tip: when you first arrive, after buying your tickets, be sure and make your reservation for the boat ride, then check out the different areas while you wait for your trip.
Another must see spot is their animal rehabilitation hospital, which provides medical care to injured wildlife, which rescues bobcats, deer, pelicans, herons, gopher tortoises and many other species of native animals needing treatment. You can also visit the viewing window and watch staff provide care for the animals. We saw baby possums being nursed. The nursery viewing window is open daily from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

There are also nature trails known for its bird watching, but we only made it a few yards to their newly planted butterfly garden. We brought our double stroller, but we kept parking it, so we were probably better off not bringing it.

Admission is $12.95 for adults, $8.95 for children 3 to 12 and free for children under 3.

On Saturday, April 18 starting at 10 a.m., check out the Conservancy's annual Earth Day Festival featuring live animal shows, special programs, live music, local vendors and exhibits.

For more fun ideas in Naples for toddlers read Surprisingly Family-Friendly Destinations in Florida.
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Monday, March 30, 2015

Easter Basket Ideas for Toddlers

For the first time in a long time I’m excited for Easter (no offense JC). Why? This year, my boys can actually participate more in the festivities.

Our community had a fun Easter Egg Hunt the other day and the boys loved discovering treats and prizes inside the eggs that they collected. Although, Ben's encounter with the Easter Bunny was not so fun for him. Look at that pout!

We will be doing our own egg hunt this weekend at our house, so I've been busy selecting age-appropriate goodies for toddlers to fill their plastic eggs and baskets with. I've learned that you don't have to spend a lot either to make for a fun-filled basket. Here are some suggestions to consider...

Easter Basket Gift Ideas for Toddlers: 

  • VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels or Go! Go! Smart Animals are interactive cars that make for a great non-candy alternative for only $7.99 each. They are also perfectly sized for Easter baskets and little hands. For ages 1-5, these electronic toys play music, make sounds and light up. Little ones will also learn about different letters, animal sounds and more while engaging in important pretend play too. These cars also further respond to SmartPoint locations on larger Go! Go! playsets, but can also be used just by themselves. We love adding new cars to our collection, but will also take individual cars like these with us on road trips to keep the boys busy while driving. 
  • Parragon Books' Bunny Loves to Play ($5.51)- Read and wiggle the cute bunny puppet built in to this adorable story board book encouraging interactive play, hand-eye coordination, and language development for babies. For older tots there is also the beautifully illustrated picture book perfect for spring - The Best Easter Egg Hunt Ever. Both books are available on Amazon Prime too.
  • Bubbles 
  • Crayons 
  • Coloring Books
  • Sidewalk Chalk 
  • Play-Doh
  • DVD (see below on how to make this a tradition) 
Easter Egg Prizes for Toddlers 
  • Cut up a sticker sheet and put individual stickers in the eggs 
  • Bouncy balls (the kind you can get at the grocery store gumball machines). 
  • FunnyFace Choo Choo Cherry dried cranberries. With with 50% less sugar these are a great alternative to traditional dried cranberries and jelly beans. 
  • Mini pretzels or crackers
  • If doing your hunt outside you could fill an egg with glitter for a surprise glitter explosion. 
  • Balloons, which you can then inflate
  • Easter colored socks
  • Mini bubbles
  • Play-Doh rolled up in a ball and out of the canister
  • Alphabet magnets
  • Toy cars
  • Temporary Tattoos 
  • Silly Bandz 
  • Mardi Gras bead necklaces to wear
  • Plastic whistles
  • Small hand stampers (I found some plastic Easter ones at Target)
When I was little, I loved that every year my mom, I mean Easter Bunny, would put a new musical VHS video in my basket. It became an on-going tradition each year as I’d wonder what the new musical I’d discover this time would be. We’d then enjoy the video on repeat for the rest of the year – Grease, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, The King and I and Oliver! You could do this with Disney DVDs too or another chosen theme.
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Thursday, March 26, 2015

New Florida Smoke Alarm Law Will Help Save Lives

Did you know that someone dies in a U.S. home fire every three hours? And most of those deaths occur in homes without a smoke alarm or with one that isn't working. Scary to think about.

Kidde is one manufacturer of smoke alarms with 10-year batteries. As of January 2015, a new law went into effect for Florida families whose homes have battery-powered smoke alarms. The law aims to reduce home fire deaths and decrease the likelihood that a firefighter would be injured or killed trying to save a life. Florida now requires that homeowners replace any battery-operated smoke alarm more than 10 years old with a unit powered by a 10-year sealed-in battery (that makes the alarm tamper resistant and removes the burden of changing batteries every six months, which people typically fail to do anyway).

Last year, more than 100 Floridians died in home fires and in nearly half of those fires, smoke alarms weren't present or weren't working. Also, industry data from Kidde Fire Safety, the world’s largest manufacturer of fire safety products, found that nearly a quarter of U.S. homeowners with homes built before 2000 have outdated alarms.

When we moved down to Florida, we didn't know about this law nor did we think to replace our home's smoke alarm units with newer technology. In fact, we weren't even sure if our house's alarms detected carbon monoxide or not. :(

Then... one late night the alarm in our bedroom above our bed went off (too hot in there I guess, lol) scaring the hell out of us. Fortunately, there was no emergency and it didn't wake our boys either, but it definitely ruined our sleep. We of course changed the batteries, but it went off again the following week for no apparent reason. We then realized, we had no idea how old the unit was since we weren't the ones who originally installed it. I was also worried that this might happen to the alarm in our boys bedroom.

We have since installed a Kidde Worry-Free Kitchen alarm with a sealed-battery (available at various retailers, including The Home Depot and Amazon), which complies with the new code changes. It also detects carbon monoxide and is photoelectric sensing, which may detect visible fire particles (associated with slow smoldering fires) sooner than typical ionization alarms. Plus, now we are set for a decade!
Worry-free alarm by Kidde with 10 year battery 
Even if you live in another state you might want to upgrade to a worry-free alarm too. Also, just because you might have a hard wired emergency system a back-up battery powered one is also good to have since they still work during power outages.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, but sponsored or not, I only share stuff I am passionate about. Truly.
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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Mysteries of Laura interview

I recently was invited to participate on a Q&A phone call with Executive Producer Amanda Green and writers Margaret Easley and Laura Putney of NBC's dramedy The Mysteries of Laura starring Debra Messing on Wednesday nights at 8/7c.

I agreed to do the interview since I was curious to learn more about the show since I hadn't seen an episode yet, but I immediately binge watched five episodes online and on-demand and really enjoyed it. Although they are already on the 16th episode in the first season, you can easily jump into watching the series like I did.

For those that haven't caught the series yet, Debra plays Laura Diamond, a brilliant NYPD homicide detective who balances her day job with a crazy family life that includes two unruly twin boys and a soon-to-be ex-husband (Josh Lucas) -- also a cop and her boss  -- who just can't seem to sign the divorce papers. Between cleaning up after her boys and cleaning up the streets, she’d be the first to admit she has her “hot mess” moments in this hilariously authentic look at what it really means to be a “working mom” today.

Overall, The Mysteries of Laura reminded me of the quirky crime-solving charm of Monk and a less edgy Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce.  I of course related to the chaos of parenting multiples too. I especially liked the recent episode with Debra's former Will & Grace co-star Eric McCormack who guest starred as her ex and a prime suspect in a case.

Here are some highlights from the interview:

Question from Fangirlish: I love the twins on the show. They’re so cute and adorable, and, you know, a little bit of trouble. But so I wanted to know, did you guys take any experiences from your own life of your children to use for this show - for any of the scenes?

Amanda Green:  I think your question could probably be paraphrased as did we take anything today of our children. It’s pretty constant and chronic, and between the three of us we have seven kids. And so they are a constant source of inspiration, of - I mean we’d be talking about them even if we didn't have the twins to write for because that’s what we talk about, right, as human beings, as mothers - what our kids do. It drives us crazy. It’s adorable. It’s ridiculous. It’s aggravating. It’s why we get up in the morning - why I got up at 5:00 this morning because my daughter just doesn't get daylight savings time yet.

Margaret Easley:  And I will say that in the time we've been writing this, there’s been a great turn in my life where I’m at home, at the end of my tether, almost sobbing. And then that little voice in my head goes, “oh, I can totally bring this into the writer’s room.” It’s been a good thing for my parenting.

Amanda Green:  I think - this is Amanda again. I think, and I bet you all know this in your own writing, is to be able to take the crises of our daily life with our children as - or with our mom’s help - and to turn it into art or comedy or relatable drama, is medicine. You know, as Margaret was just saying, it redeems those moments where otherwise you’d be saying that’s it, put me in a straitjacket and ship me off because I can’t take another minute, into knowing that you can share that experience and that vulnerability through this show with lots of other moms. And that’s fantastic.

Me: You've had some interesting guest stars. Are there any more funny appearances coming up, or any particular stars you’d like to see on your show?

Amanda Green: Oh wow, that’s a great question. I’m just trying to think of what we can tell you. I think there’s definitely some fun coming up.

Laura Putney: We’re not sure what we can say. We've got a great mom coming up. 

Me: Okay, great. And PS, I’m a mom of twin boys, so I like the twin boys.

Margaret Easley:  I’m so sorry.

Me:  (laughs) Thank you. 

Amanda Green:  It’s always great to hear from moms and dads too, you know? That’s what we’re trying to do with this show is to make a show that is honest to the experiences we’re all having. Whatever the job it is we do, whether we’re a cop like Laura or a blogger or a writer or we work at Wal-Mart or, you know, we drive a truck or a school bus or whatever that, you know, we’re all making the same juggle. And we’re just so excited that not only do we get to write this character, but that it connects for everybody else.
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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Disney On Ice - Toddler's Night Out

When you have kids, you get the excuse to do fun childhood stuff all over again or for the first time. For me, I've always wanted to go to a Disney On Ice show, but never had the opportunity...until now when I went with my husband, boys and my mom for a fun family night out.

Fortunately, my 2-year-old toddlers enjoyed it even more than I expected. I was afraid that they'd be antsy by intermission, but during the break grandma bought them fun Mickey-swirling globes and they were the ones leading us back to our seats. We also entertained their munchies with a bucket of popcorn. They actually lasted the entire show sitting on our laps!
Disney On Ice isn't just for little girls and Disney Princess fans either. My boys were riveted even more so than when we go to the hockey games at the same arena. They loved seeing their favorite cartoon star, Mickey Mouse, all the action taking place out on the ice and enjoyed hearing the classic Disney songs playing throughout. 

Disney On Ice, Let’s Celebrate! Presented by Yokids features more than 50 characters from 16 Disney stories live on ice, so there are characters for every fan to enjoy including Toy Story.

Take a look:

Disney On Ice, Let's Celebrate! is doing seven performances at Germain Arena in Ft. Myers from March 19-22. Tickets start at only $16, but enter the following reader discount code PMSAVE for $5 off the following performances: Mar 21 at 11 am or 7 p.m. and Sunday 1 and 5 p.m. The discount is not valid on price levels 1, 2 or 3.

Disclosure: We received complimentary media tickets to the Harlem Globe Trotters for review, however, we had planned on attending either way and all opinions are of course my own.
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Monday, March 16, 2015

Getting Away From It All - A Lovely Weekend in Athens

This is a partnered post

It’s that time again when you can imagine all the lovely destinations you could go on a potential vacation with your family. Something exotic, but relaxing, like a nice weekend with some sunshine and not too far away, where you can enjoy sunny days, good food with evenings of fun and laughter. Not to mention adding culture and history to the itinerary. That’s why a weekend in Athens may be appropriate and here are a few reasons why:

The gorgeous climate
For most of the year Athens has a lovely Mediterranean climate where you can take it easy under the sun and enjoy laidback walks around the city. July and August are the exceptions to this, when the city can become a bit too hot for comfort with the temp often well over 90 degrees: sun hats, bottled water, sunscreen and shades are advised. We went in late September when it was warm (80 degrees as captured in the pic I took below), but not so hot that it kept us from seeing the sights. However, when it does get really hot the little restaurants and taverns in the city tend to spray a light water mist on their patios, which kids enjoy as well!

The mesmerizing history
Historical places of interest are always good to tick off on your bucket list. I remember learning all about Greek mythology and it's imperial rule in school, I can even picture the classroom that I was in, so it was surreal to finally be standing in the place from textbooks. To see the remnants still standing is mind boggling. Athens was first settled around 7,000 years ago with the ancient Greeks ushering in the beginning of the modern world (in the west anyway). The Athens Acropolis is a reminder of Greece’s immense history and its periods of ancient prosperity. The most famous monument on the Acropolis is  the Parthenon with its iconic structure and beautiful decoration by the sculptor Phidias. The temple was built as a gift of thanks to Athena, the goddess of wisdom, for the triumph of Athens over the Persians. It’s amazing that their lavish tribute has remained their all these centuries and how it was even able to be built in the first place without our current technologies either.
The tasty cuisine 
The Greeks are renowned for their cuisine. The salads, fresh seafood and fired meat dishes are simply that good! Sadziki (yoghurt, cucumber garlic and salt on toast) paidakia (grilled lamb ribs) and moussaka are all dishes to look forward to. A family meal in Athens will certainly make for a great experience and a night to remember. Yes, Athens is definitely the place to go. But then again Venice is nice at this time of year, which is where we started our trip, then over to Corfu and Mykonos… so many choices, but there’s always next time too!

Cats of Greece
Need another reason? There's also the plethora of street cats too! Here are just some that I met along our travels, but you can easily get sucked into a Google Image search of Greece Cats with some amazing photos of felines crawling over historic building and lounging in front of iconic Mamma Mia-style architecture.

My recent travel posts:
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