5 Healthy Treats to Make with Your Kids

One of our favorite things to do together is cook–and with all of the extra time we have during summer break, it is easy to pile up a lot of irresistible desserts. We have been trying to pick healthier things to make that provide lots of energy to get through long days of camp, swimming and playing! Below are a few favorites:

Warm Chocolate Melting Cups

I was shocked to learn that these are only 200 calories apiece. My daughter loves the individual portion size and this recipe has an impressive presentation for something that does not take much time!

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via Taste of Home

 

 

No Bake Healthy Chocolate Chip Blondies

On hot days, who wants to turn on the oven? I love that these are no bake AND only take one bowl!

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via Laura Fuentes

Strawberry Ice Cream

This is perfect for cool days or as a way to use up strawberries after a picking outing!

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 via Country Living

Homemade Goldfish

I kind of rolled my eyes at making these because buying goldfish is so cheap–and isn’t the whole point that they’re an easy snack? But, I stand corrected. These were super fun to make and taste really great.

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via AllRecipes

Homemade Animal Crackers

 Another one that is a huge hit with kids! Bust out the cookie cutters and make this awesome snack. Added bonus: my kiddo makes up stories with the animals during snack time!

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via King Arthur Flour

 

Natural Energy Boosters for Moms on the Go

Maybe it’s the go, go, go pace of summer break or the fact that my baby is up at 5:30 every morning but I have been on the hunt for ways to keep my energy up so we can do all of the fun things, I can keep my house somewhat clean and get dinner on the table. Here are a few ways to get a natural energy boost:

  1. Exercise — I know, I know. Don’t hate me. But it’s true. An early minute walk/run or even chasing the kids around the yard with the sprinkler on is a great way to get your blood pumping, adrenaline running and even burn a few calories. It’s a win/win and the hardest part is usually lacing up your shoes. Try it!
  2. B Vitamins– Most of us mamas are putting our own nutrition behind everyone else’s. Its important to supplement those B vitamins which are integral to turning your food into energy.
  3. Water– Proper hydration boosts your metabolism and in turn combats that sluggish feeling. Pair that with outdoor activities that can leave you feeling drained and getting in those daily ounces is more important than ever.
  4. Essential Oils– They’re all the rage for a reason. A few dabs of peppermint or orange can boost your mood and give you a little energy!
  5. Chocolate–Cocoa contains stimulants that act like caffeine. Break off a small piece of dark chocolate to savor during nap time!
  6. Distractions– A lot of time that afternoon slump comes from ruminating on stressful things. Take 5 minutes to meditate or journal and distract your mind from turning the same problems over and over. You’ll feel refreshed!
  7. Coffee– While this may sound obvious, you may be surprised to know that the specialty drinks we tend to gravitate towards as a “pick-me-up” actually contain less  caffeine than regular drip coffee.

For Every First, There is a Last.

For every first, there is a last. I am spending a lot of time monitoring my youngest for her firsts, not wanting to miss the first smile or step or laugh. But at the same time, I realized when I tried to lift my oldest after she fell off her bike, that it had been a long time since I carried her. In fact, I could barely get her in the house. She is bigger now and needs me in new and different ways–and no longer needs me in the old, familiar ways.

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There will be first steps but the last time you rock them to sleep.

There will be first days of school but the last time you’re welcome to stay at the birthday party.

There will be the first bite of real food but the last time you all sit down for Tuesday night dinner.

There will be first soccer games but the last time they need you to tie their shoes.

There will be first words but the last time they say “hold me, mommy”.

Watching them grow is such a privilege.

For every first, there is a last. None of it stays the same and when you’re in the trenches, that is a welcomed sentiment. When they’re driving off on their own for the first time, it’s a dreadful reality.

Boy with his mother at road to school.

Motherhood is a constant tension between letting go and holding on. Here’s to hoping we can notice it all–firsts and lasts and in-betweens.

This sweet children’s book by one of my favorite authors is a good reminder of this. It’s not about enjoying every moment–an often frustrating ideal when you’re tired and overworked. It’s more about recognizing that it won’t always be this way–and thats both good and bad.

For every first, there is a last.

Kid’s Birthday Parties: Which kind of mom are you?

I feel like there are two camps of Birthday Party Moms out there. In fact, at some point, I have been both of them. We are in the throes of planning my oldest daughter’s birthday celebration (no party this year!) and so it got me thinking about how much effort I have put in some years versus how little effort I have put in other years–and how  regardless, she has always enjoyed her birthday parties.

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In my mind, I was this blissfully happy during these parties and not frantically running around looking for the lighter I forgot to buy.

So, the first type of mom is the Pinterest mom. This mom loves a theme. My daughter had heavily themed birthday parties for her first four years–giraffes, then Minnie Mouse (I painstakingly halved Oreos to create “ears” for those cupcakes), followed by Disney princesses and then when everyone was doing Elsa, we were also doing Elsa. We went all. out. From the shirt, to the cake, to the banner and of course the invitations, there was a dedication to the the theme.

Don’t even get me started on the goodie bags. My greatest birthday accomplishments to date have been a solid goodie bag–forget candy and annoying trinkets. I would find the good stuff heavily clearance, stockpile throughout the year and whip up something truly spectacular at party time.

Those years I felt a similar excitement and intensity as I did when planning my wedding–the thrill of finding a bargain decor items that matches said theme, the rush of finding out the date you need at the venue is open, the feeling of seeing the party photos after–totally Instagram worthy. But let’s be honest–those parties are for the parents. My kiddo never really cared about much of these efforts—except when I put the Barbie in the cake–that was a win!

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I know its hard to believe but this is literally all your three year old girl wants for her birthday.

Then there is the “laid back” mom approach. In more recent years, we have fallen into the “lets have a cookout and a grocery store cake” camp. Its not because we care less–if anything, her parties are more about her than ever. But the focus is entirely on her friends and the playing that goes along with it and less about the photo ops. I am entirely okay with this– it is cheaper, easier and less stressful.

Although, I do miss the themes and will be returning to this strategy as my youngest approaches her first birthday.  She is 8 months old and I have the outfit and a few decor items and I AM NOT SORRY. After all, I survived the first year too, and we are going to celebrate in style.

I think birthday party planning is a lot like motherhood. You have to learn to adapt your approach as the years go by. You have to know when to bring out the big guns and when it’s okay to dial it back. This will the first year my oldest daughter does not have a birthday party. It feels like the end of an era but if I am honest, I know she will have more fun this way. She is a one-on-one type of gal and so having a a couple of friends over to go do all of her favorite things is way more her speed–and after all, it’s her birthday!

How does your family handle birthdays?

The Coolest Summer Getaway in NC!

Did you know that kids get into the Biltmore for FREE all summer long? Kids ages 16 and younger are admitted free of charge with the purchase of adult admission through Sept. 2. All kids must have a ticket for admission–available online. Up to two kids are allowed free per adult ticket when you purchase that adult ticket online

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This iconic view never gets old.

Did you ALSO know that Platinumsitters has expanded to Asheville?! Which means you can plan an awesome get away for you and your entire family–and still get a night out! We regularly head up to spend just one night–its only two hours from Charlotte and less than four from Raleigh.

You can head up early and spend the day with the kids at the Biltmore. We took my 8 year old daughter recently and got her the kid’s audio guide. It’s a 90 minute tour narrated by Cedric, the Vanderbilt’s family dog. While she did that, we listened to the adult version. Despite having visited before, it was a totally new experience this way! There are also tons of other hands-on tours, exhibits and things to do on the ground of Biltmore Estate.

Once you have finished there, you can head back to your hotel or airBNB. A PlatinumSitter can come hang with your kids and you can plan a fun date night! Asheville has amazing food. We love Packs Tavern, Bouchon, and Table Asheville. You could also hit up local breweries, Wicked Weed , New Belgium, or Sierra Nevada (get the pretzels!). We also love live music at Jack of the Wood!

Downtown old town street in hipster North Carolina NC famous town, city with stores, shops, sign for wine market, Biltmore, Yoga
Even just a stroll downtown is a great way to spend an evening.

Summer is a great time to explore Asheville so the next morning you can take the kids on a hike, try out the ziplines, or visit Hickory Nut Gap farm. Whatever you do, grab a Vortex doughnut before you leave town–you won’t regret it!

When you’re ready to book your Asheville getaway, be sure to reach out to us to help coordinate your sitter. You’re going to have a blast!

Why I Am Not Paying My Kid to Do Chores

Over breakfast, my eight year old daughter broached the subject of an allowance.

“Can I have five dollars every time I do the dishes?”

Go big or go home, am I right? While I respect a woman who reaches for the top of the salary charts, I still shut her down immediately.

Growing up, we had chores we were expected to do. My mom worked and there was typically an hour or two where my brother and I were alone after school. The reminder of what was expected of us was typically jotted on the back of an old envelope. “Jamie–empty the dishwasher, clean your room. Jeremy–take out the trash, fold laundry. NO TV UNTIL CHORES ARE DONE.” No one was there to check on us yet I am pretty sure that more often than not, the chores were done before we turned on the TV. It was just expected, so we did it. Young boy doing housework at home

I have the same expectation of my kids. My daughter is just reaching the age of being able to independently (and correctly) handle dish duty. I don’t make her do it every meal or even every day, but when I ask, I expect it to be done without a fight–and for free. Pitching in is the price you pay for being a part of a family that lives in a clean and orderly house. Quite the trade off, if you ask me.

I was so excited when our community manager in Raleigh, Abigail, shared this article with me about the concept. I was particularly drawn to this quote from Daniel Pink, author of The New York Times bestseller, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, about what paying kids for chores does:

“…sends kids a clear (and clearly wrongheaded) message: In the absence of a payment, no self-respecting child would willingly set the table, empty the garbage, or make her own bed. …. It converts a moral and familial obligation into just another commercial transaction—and teaches that the only reason to do a less-than-desirable task for your family is in exchange for payment.”

I want both of my girls to value a dollar but to also value what it means to contribute and what a healthy family dynamic looks like. I refuse to martyr myself over loads of laundry and piles of dishes. There are three capable humans here, so I shouldn’t be doing it all. More importantly, one day my daughter will likely be raising her own family and I don’t want to raise her with the expectation that she has to do it all–or even pay for her family to help her.

That doesn’t mean my kids won’t have a chance to earn money. We talk about basic things that keep our household running–laundry, vacuuming, dishes–as obligations that belong to us. It helps that my husband models this by pitching in regularly and owning specific tasks (hello, mowing the lawn).

But when my daughter wants to earn money for something? There are tasks that go above and beyond–dusting ceiling fans, cleaning golf clubs (you’re welcome husband), or   pulling weeds.

How do you handle chore distribution in your house? Do your kids get an allowance?

8 Great Summer Reads

I am seeing a ton of talk around the best book to take to the beach this summer. I thought I would compile a list of books I have loved in the past that would make great reads when you are able to make some time for yourself. Any books you would add to the list?

Where the Crawdads Sing

I would argue that this is THE book of the year. I have seen so many people talking about it–and for good reason. I thought it was slow to start but about a quarter of the way in I could not put it down. I devoured the final third of the book over two nights and was genuinely sad it ended. Think: love story, beautiful writing about North Carolina landscapes, mystery. Image result for where the crawdad sings

This Will Only Hurt a Little

Busy Phillips has been a favorite Instagram follow of mine for awhile. She’s funny, refreshing and offers a unique glimpse into her celebrity life–all while seeming like a mom you would be glad to run into at school pickup. Her book is an extension of her instagram persona. Think: behind the scenes celebrity stuff, early 00’s nostalgia, parenting laughs.This Will Only Hurt a Little

The Middle Place

I devoured this book last summer at my parent’s place in Hilton Head. Sometimes being with family can drive you crazy and summer vacations are ripe for the opportunity to be annoyed–but this book gave me such great perspective. I laughed. I cried. I felt grateful. Think: great perspective on motherhood, camaraderie, memoir.Image result for the middle place

Seat Arrangements

Beach reads are supposed to be guilty pleasures: slightly dramatic, indulgent and full of love stories. This one checks all of those boxes. It’s set in New England and takes place as a wedding unfolds. It contains all of the romance, betrayal and family dynamics you need to keep turning the pages. Think: rich people, family dynamics, wedding drama.

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Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

I love this book. I have purchased and gifted it several times because its one you’ll want to share. Cheryl Strayed has such a way with words and her life experience offers such great perspective on a variety of situations. Think: advice, affirmations, quick read. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give

If you’re married or thinking of getting married, this is a fantastic read. It is so real and raw–a telling of Ada Calhoun’s marriage without falling into the trap of being cliche or overly glossy. She tells the good, bad and ugly while somehow reminding how truly wonderful it is to be married. Think: marriage, humor, essays.

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Hanna Who Fell From the Sky

I am a sucker for anything about cults and religions so I was drawn to this novel about a young girl coming of age in a polygamist community. I was rooting for her the entire time and couldn’t wait to find out what happened–and was truly shocked when I did. Think: page turner, coming-of-age, romance

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The Engagements

This is one of my favorite books of all time. It tells the story of a singular engagement ring as it travels through generations of couples. The perfect beach read because its romantic, fun, and engaging. Think: historical fiction, all of the reasons we fall in love. Image result for the engagements

 

 

Top 5 Parenting Instagram Accounts

It’s raining–and it doesn’t appear to be letting up anytime soon. What better way to pass the time with a few great Instagram follows? Below are some of our favorites! While you’re at it, be sure to follow PlatinumSitters!

Kid’s Activities

First up, Busy Toddler! This mama of three is constantly churning out the coolest ideas for her preschool and elementary school kids. This is the perfect follow for a rainy day because you will instantly have something to do to keep them busy. Almost all of her activities include household items you likely already have–or something you can Prime in less than a day or two! Plus, I love that she keeps it real with cute hots of her kids followed by the messes they make. It would also be awesome to set up one of these ideas ahead of your sitter’s arrival–then they can handle cleanup!


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Mindful Parenting

Simply on Purpose is an account focused on helping parents get the most out of the journey. Ralphie’s soothing tone and real life examples help make her parenting tips seem practical and doable. I love her whole child approach. She really values childhood and letting kids be kids while also holding them accountable and her stories are a nice reminder in my day to reset my mindset.


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FeedingLittles

Even though I have been at this parenting game for a little while now, I was still a little stumped about introducing my youngest to food. I have always been a fan of babyled weaning and stumpled upon FeedingLittles. I love their take on food and find their infographics super helpful.


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For Keeping it Real

I started following Leslie in the middle of the night while nursing my youngest baby and found myself stifling my laughter as I scrolled her post. She iss funny and refreshing while still recognizing motherhood as a calling. I appreciate the balance and her candidness about things like nursing, date nights and hard topics (her recent posts on talking to her daughter about death were great).


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For the Coparents

Janey is HYSTERICAL so I would honestly suggest you follow her even if you don’t have a coparenting situation. She is also an amazing human being who puts her therapist skills to use on international trips where she helps provide wheelchairs and OT to impoverished children (check out her stories for how to donate to her latest trip). But what REALLY makes me love her is her fresh take on coparenting her oldest son. She keeps it light, encouraging and honest–what more can you ask for?


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Preventing the Summer Slide

As a former teacher, I can attest to how much a student can backtrack during the summer months. There are so many exciting things happening–vacations, lazy days, playdates–that it can be hard to remember to keep skills fresh. However, it doesn’t have to be as humdrum as a workbook. Here are some creative things we do to keep the learning alive:

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Find a PenPal

My 8 year old loves to write letters to her Mimi–and loves getting them in the mail even more! Sitting down once a week or so to share what is happening brings them closer, keeps her practicing writing and grammar, and teaches her life skills like addressing an envelope! You can write grandparents, other faraway family members or friends!

Outdoor Math

Writing math facts on paper? Dull. Writing math facts with chalk or a squirt bottle full of water? Fun! Keep it fresh by varying your materials and location and your kids will actually look forward to practicing math!

Word of the Day

Introduce a fun new word each day–or let your kids pick one themselves. Challenge them learn the definition and work it into a sentence at dinnertime. As the summer progresses, keep track and have a competition. The one to use the new words the most gets a prize!

Basketball Facts

We all know H-O-R-S-E. But what if you had to play to get name the parts of the scientific method? What about the branches of government, colors of the rainbow or the names of planets? The possibilities are endless!

Get Cookin’

Cooking and baking together is a great way to stock the fridge for the endless snacking your kids will do while home–but is also a great way to get academic. Following directions–reading! Halving or doubling recipes–math! Meal planning–budgeting and finance! Making the right choices–health and nutrition!

Family Storytime

Even if you have family of varying ages, you can engage everyone for 20 minutes during family story time. Older kids can read aloud while younger kids draw scenes or hold the book. Its a nice way to unwind after those busy summer adventures!

Free Activities to Beat The Summer Heat

Summer is here! It’s official–and its freakin’ hot already! If you’re like us, school is wrapping up and I am looking at the next two months wondering how we will keep cool, keep our sanity, and keep busy. I did some research on some free (or super cheap!) things you can do this summer with your kids that go beyond just throwing popsicles at them.

Free Bowling

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Sign up to receive up to two free games per child–every week! You will have to rent shoes but otherwise, this a great indoor activity that you can count on each week.

The Library

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The local library offers so much to do! Every summer we do their summer reading program, which can earn you free perks like amusement park tickets! We also attend story time and other programming. The first week school is out, our local library has three different programs for kids!

Toy Stores

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Charlotte still has old school toy stores like Toys and Company that have lots of toys on display. Lakeshore Learning Toys also has a location in Matthews which offer fun, interactive activities for kids. Local LEGO stores often offer building classes, too.

Splash-pads

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Our go to “free day” is a trip to the park–and we always pick one with a splash pad! We bring a change of clothes, bathing suits, and a picnic lunch and it lasts for hours. Many of them have shaded coverings which really helps on scorching hot days. Bonus point if you bring cups and buckets to add to the water fun.

Scavenger Hunts

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We often go online and print out free resources like this to guide outdoor play. Finding shaded wooded areas helps keep kids cool and the guided play keeps them entertained longer.

What other things do you do to save money and keep cool and entertained in the summer? I’d love to hear!