without further ado, the final gift guide for this holiday season. this is for all your favorite co-workers. even though I might be out of the professional workforce, we still have holiday gifts to shop for mike’s team. it seems a lot of the gifts we receive are focused around alcohol (not complaining), but for that reason we try to stray from that category to make sure people are not inundated with bottles of wine or liquor they might not drink.
mark & graham: anything and everything from here is a great choice. you have tons of options in all different categories and can personalize the gifts which adds a special touch. does your team travel a lot from work? consider one of the leather roll-ups to keep chargers, air pods, etc. all sorted. the possibilities are endless here! if you do want to go the alcohol route, kick it up a notch with one of these adorable wine bags.
entertaining plates: we know the holidays are all about entertaining! I like to give something bought with a little something homemade. we love these plates and dipping bowls from macy’s and bought them for mike’s team members that are married or have families. we’ll make christmas cookies and fill them up!
alphabet cheese board: I love these from pottery barn and they are a steal right now! add a cheese knife and a pretty bow and call it a day! this will be something they use during the holidays and beyond.
holiday plaid mug: similar to the entertaining plates, buy the mug and fill it with something yummy! coffee lover? maybe a gift card to starbucks or a local coffee shop. tea drinker? a favorite loose leaf tea and steeper. not sure? go for a hot cocoa bomb or hot cocoa mix and marshmallows.
some other ideas that I have loved doing in the past: buy a few winter scarves on black friday deal from old navy or gap and tie them around a cozy scented candle. one year i made homemade lasagna in keepsake baking dish (this is because i like to cook, am italian, and had the extra time. don’t think this will be happening this year ha!) also, don’t underestimate the enjoyment of an Amazon gift card, especially this year. that’s what all the under 30/single crowd will be getting on mike’s team! we’ll toss in some cookies too, but we know of all the things they want, they will use this the most.
this one is for all the wonderful grandparents we have in our lives. our own grandparents, but more so for our parents turned grandparents. our favorite thing to do is gift experiences. given the current situation with COVID, we are very limited with the type of experiences we have to choose from. instead, here are a few personalized and heartfelt gifts to spoil the ones who love our littles the most.
minted photo calendar: we did this last year for my in-laws and my parents and it was a huge hit! pack the calendar full of sweet photos of the grandkids from the year and they will be delighted! bonus is you include important dates so they always remember birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc.
memory of the year ornament: I love our ornaments from Old World Christmas and Bronner’s too. they make gorgeous glass ornaments and some very unique pieces you can’t find other places. unfortunately, the masked santa is sold out which is perfect for 2020, but think of some other things that are unique to the year for whomever you are buying for. for example, brady is getting a school bus because he LOVES wheels on the bus. landon became obsessed with golf this year, so he’s getting a golf ball ornament. we have done ornaments based on travel or life milestones in the past!
personalized ornament: this will be the 4th year doing this for our families (and ourselves too!). I love looking back at each year’s on our own tree, so I hope they do too. we usually include a family photo on one side and one of just the grandkids on the other.
digital photo frame: this is self explanatory, but I particularly like this one because of it’s style. we share so many photos digitally now and it feels like we never get them printed. resolve the issue with this frame! or resolve it by printing a bunch of favorites and wrapping them under the tree. I can argue digital or old fashioned any day 🙂
something homemade: anything homemade by the grandkids is always a crowd pleaser. look on pinterest for ideas! we have done little canvas “mistletoes” and handprint ornaments. I really need to step up my game again without school helping with ideas!
gift guide number 2: the developing toddler. I put brady in this category at 23 months, however, most of these gifts are great starting at just 6 months of age. they can easily grow with your child well into years 3 and 4. believe me, landon plays with more of “brady’s toys” than his own…
the nugget comfort: I recommended this for the active toddler, but also for your developing toddler. this transformer of couches can make a variety of obstacle courses specifically directed toward gross motor development. heck, add a mirror and you even have a great spot for tummy time in those early, early days.
YBike: this is another great toy to encourage gross motor development. you can encourage standing, pushing/walking like other push toys, riding and striding, etc.
melissa & doug poke-a-dot books: have a child who actually does not like reading? I do. one that loves to read and another that hates books… so here is your solution to getting some interest in books. these books (in a variety of themes) have little finger poppers (think: the packaging bubble wrap) that your child can point and push to create a POP sound. both of my boys love this book! it’s also great for fine motor development – specifically index finger isolation to encourage pointing!
fat brain spinagain stack: another multipurpose toy, this spin again stacking toy. first off, it’s entertaining for your child. win. second, it’s a great fine motor tool, but also think about it for speech development with offering choices between two of the stackers or describing the colors. third, use it for gross motor development by putting it higher up and encourage reaching or standing!
stringing beads: we like these with our OT specifically because of the size (don’t have to worry about choking hazards) of the beads and also the skill level. this is obviously more geared toward fine motor skills, but use the cars (aka beads) to encourage speech development with “beep beep” and “vroom” noises.
fine motor hedgehog: it’s exactly as described – a fine motor toy. much like your typical shape sorter, this fun little guy lets your child place the spikes into the slots. brady loves this guy with his OT and I know the grandparents already bought this one for christmas! win!
fat brain duo dimpl: I can recommend every fat brain toy for every child, they are so great! but this one was a surprise favorite from last year’s christmas (thanks babci and papa!). another great finger isolation tool, but also speech tool. not to mention, very entertaining for your child. brady can play with this independently for 20 minutes! I am adding the simple dimpl to my cart as we speak for a great stroller and car toy for him!
lovevery playkits: this is a subscription service that provides playkits based on your child’s age. the toy I am most excited about for brady comes in the babbler kit for 13 month olds. it’s a ball popper that is taller, but also has a peek-a-boo box at the bottom to catch the balls and encourage other skills. I am currently trying to adjust the age range kit I can order for brady to match his developmental stage (I’ll keep y’all posted), but this is a great gift and ongoing gift for your child or a friend who is expecting!
stacking wood blocks: good old fashioned stacking wood blocks. we have a slightly different set, but this would be fun for kids of all ages. think about the stacking skills, counting, color matching, and shape sorting you can encourage! not to mention cause and effect with stacking and knocking down! brady’s favorite thing to do with these is to knock down all the towers landon builds and help put the blocks away (he really loves putting things in bags or buckets)!
that’s it for toy recommendations this year! I shared a few bonus toys in my instagram stories, so make sure you are following me there too. next up, grandparent and co-worker gifts.
here it is. the first of four gift guides for this holiday season. everything in this gift guide we either have and love or are planning to get for landon this christmas. landon is our ACTIVE toddler, and I mean active. he can play outside all day long and still have the energy to run laps around our kitchen after dinner. we are always looking for more ways to help him expend all of his energy.
the nugget: I recommended this last year and will continue to do so. we make climbing courses, obstacle courses, crash pads, tunnels, dance stages, etc. it’s such an open ended “toy.” buy some felt and cut out shapes to stick to the fabric to use as an art board. really, you can do anything with this!
over the door basketball hoop: you know this is a favorite in our house. we have two! one stays in landon’s room and is the perfect thing to keep him occupied while I am getting dressed or when he wakes up too early in the morning. we also use this for Brady on the back of a kitchen chair to encourage standing!
little tikes indoor trampoline: this is on our list this year. with the weather turning cold, we need more and more ways to make indoor play both fun and exhausting!
micro kickboard scooter: we got landon a different (cheaper) brand scooter and it was the pits. it wouldn’t glide over the smallest bumps or cracks outside and we were constantly worried that landon would bite it. learn from my mistake and splurge on this one. it will last and actually be something they can safely ride! don’t forget to throw in the helmet 🙂
balance bike: this is the ONE thing landon has been asking for from Santa, a new bike. we have decided to go with this particular balance bike that can also transform into a two wheel bike with pedals. we anticipate it will take some time for him to understand the balance bike aspect, but hoping that shortly after that he will be ready for pedals!
leaf blower bubble machine: two reasons we love this – first, because it mimics what daddy does daily in the fall. second, it’s the best bubble machine. my brother gifted once similar to this from target for his birthday and both boys (plus all the neighbor kids) are obsessed.
ride on motorized car: if you watch my instagram stories, then you know landon loves to drive brady around in this. when we were looking for a big birthday gift from the grandparents, this immediately came to mind. it comes with a remote for parents to use (read: intervene) with when necessary. now that landon has the hang of things, we really don’t have a need for the remote. what makes this one great is the power and two seats!
what’s the saying, “do as I say, not as I do?” this is one of those times I hope to impart some learning from my own mistakes. the subject: family photos. well really, any photos where you are paying a professional photographer to capture an important moment in your life – engagements, weddings, newborns, families, furbabies, etc!
I will start by saying, I love family photos…when they are done! HA! but seriously, it’s always a joy to get back the photos and see little moments in time captured so beautifully and to ACTUALLY be in the pictures! raise your hand if you are always the one behind the camera and not in front?? that’s me to a T. however, I will also say that family photos are also a source of stress and don’t always go according to our picture perfect plan. I’m here to share some lessons I have learned over the years in hopes to spare you some heartache.
LESSON 1: location is not that important.
don’t stress over your location. it’s not THAT important, unless it is. here is what I mean.
our wedding ceremony was held at the church I grew up going to. it’s not the prettiest of churches and doesn’t offer many spaces on the exterior that I (read that again, I) thought was pretty or worthy enough to use for pictures. I spent a month trying to scout locations nearby and coordinate timing with transportation and the photographer to make it all “work.” well guess what, it was a massive waste of my time and SO MUCH STRESS. I finally went to our photographer saying, I just don’t know how to make an alternate location make sense. and you know what she said, “don’t worry about it! we’ll get exactly what you want working with the grounds of the church.” I didn’t believe it was possible, but she’s the professional and worked her magic. what IS important, the overall look/vibe you are going for. communicate with your photographer if you want outdoor, indoor, grassy, rustic, industrial, field of flowers, etc. then let them do the heavy lifting. odds are, they have a few locations in mind that will fit your theme and suggest what they know will work great for lighting. it’s amazing what a photographer can capture within a sliver of grass, or against a brick wall, or tucked behind some basic bushes. I am being serious!
now, here is an example of when location matters…. this was worth every freezing minute of our session. but this is what we wanted!
LESSON 2: plan your outfits to be coordinated versus matching AND well in advance.
okay, before everyone says “duh, stefanie.” let me explain. first, in my opinion, I find coordinated outfits to look better and more timeless than the “matchy matchy” outfits, especially for family photos. think more of an overall color family versus just everyone wearing blue or white. some of my favorite pictures are from our family shoot last year and I just loved how the overall color scheme worked instead of having everyone in jeans and a red sweater sort of thing. catch my drift?
next when it comes to outfits, pick the toughest one to dress first, then work around. for most of us moms, the most difficult person to find something great for is ourselves. so start there! pick something you LOVE and feel great in. then coordinate the rest.
and last when it comes to selecting your outfits, plan for spares and extras. I have made many mistakes with this and FINALLY feel like I am prepared for the worst (but always hope for the best). for example, if you are outside in the fall or winter, make sure to bring outwear for the whole family that you would be OK with being photographed. remember how I mentioned we froze earlier, well we FROZE during that maternity shoot because we didn’t bring any coats, the next time we froze was with landon as an 18 month old because again, didn’t bring anything appropriate for photos! learn from me. also, pack a backup for everyone especially if you are photographing with kids. it will never fail to have a diaper blowout or potty accident when you are least prepared. or the time we were taking landon’s newborn photos and he peed all over me….yeah…I didn’t have a spare prepared so I did the rest of the photos in a pee soaked shirt and we carefully placed his body in ways to disguise it.
LESSON 3: bring toys and snacks to keep your kids happy.
if you plan ahead, you can make this work well even if there is a tonka truck in your perfectly planned and curated photo session. I didn’t understand the need for toys and snacks until we had a very testy toddler who HATED anything to do with pictures or a stranger. sound familiar? I remember feeling bummed (i’ll get to the attitude lesson next) that we had a bright blue snack cup in our pictures because we needed anything to stop him from crying and to be distracted. i wish i had planned for it to be IN the pictures… that is why I say, if you plan ahead, you can make things blend better – like buy a stainless steel snack cup or bring a brown ball instead of an orange ball so it’s not so obvious. bring whatever will keep your kids happy because nothing is worse than the screaming, crying, freezing child who refuses to smile one time… although we had that and I still love the pictures (more on that next).
LESSON 4: it’s all about your attitude!
nothing goes according to plan, so just roll with it! if you keep your expectations in check, you will not be so stressed when it feels like it’s all a disaster (because it will feel like that)! for me, this has been the biggest lesson learned. it starts with the fact that my own, adult husband, has a bad attitude about taking photos. sometimes it feels like I am dealing with three toddlers! but in all seriousness, it’s not his thing and I understand that. SO we agree to put on our best faces for the time allotted and PRAY the kids cooperate at least a little. they are the wildcards you cannot control. chances are that even through all the crying, fussing, tantrums, etc. your photographer will snap a good one. AND even if they don’t, I have come to embrace it all in the season you are in. it is all a season. I have embraced it so much that I sent out christmas cards last year with a tearful landon alllllll over them (because even when he’s crying, he looks cute). I have also changed my attitude so much about embracing our seasons that I PLANNED to bring his golf club for this year’s pictures. to my surprise, we didn’t need the basketball or golf club! I was SHOCKED in the best way possible!
LESSON 5: pick the right photographer and package for YOU.
this one also seems like a no brainer, but it wasn’t always so simple for me. the photographer we have been using lately offers 15 minute, 30 minute and 1 hour packages ALWAYS. she doesn’t have to have a day full of “mini” sessions for me to snag the shorter time slots. this is one of many reasons why I love her. I used to think we needed an hour. false. you really could get away with 15 minutes and come out with so many options. what I have settled on for us is 30 minutes. it’s the perfect amount of time to keep everyone in their best moods. plus, it’s just the right amount of time that we can scoot around to different spots within our location to get new backgrounds. also, in regards to your photographer, find someone whose style provides what you need. it’s more than just the overall look of their photos. I mean that mostly in the sense of direction you will get from him/her. do you want someone who will just follow your lead? or do you need someone who likes to help with poses? mike and I are not very affectionate people in public or in front of other people, so WE need someone who can give us a little direction otherwise we just feel uncomfortable and awkward. I know that’s not everyone! and I will say that is not every stage of life or event. for example, our wedding, we didn’t need much direction! it’s a day all about our love and we wanted it documented naturally. family photos, that’s a different story. we want more direction so we can get good, smiling shots of the whole family and the boys.
the last thing I will say is to know your audience, aka your partner or kids, and know when to call it quits! just because you paid for an hour, doesn’t mean you should use the full hour especially if the entire crew is crying or not cooperating. same thing in reverse, if you paid for 15 minutes and it’s going great, ask if you can extend and pay for more time! this is also why we only do paid sessions one time per year – it’s just not worth it to ME.
I hope this helps a few of you out there stressing over that so called perfect family photo. don’t let instagram fool you, we are all on the same struggle bus. and if you are one of those moms with the unicorn kids and husbands who LOVE these sort things, cheers to you! I would love any tips on how to train my crew lol
y’all!!! I am so excited to share this bathroom with you. it has been a labor of love, but one I am so proud of! this was my first true DIY makeover. sure, i have done an ikea hack here and there before, but nothing compares to having the guts to pull the trigger on attempting woodwork. I loved doing this project so much, I asked for a nail gun for my birthday! I have a list of projects ahead and can’t wait to (slowly) tackle each room.
a little backstory on how this bathroom became a DIY. last year we had a water leak in our master bedroom coming from our exterior siding and chimney box. while we had a contractor over to give us a quote on those repairs, I took the opportunity to pick his brain about other cosmetic, interior projects I had in mind. little things (and some big) to take our home from generic to feel more custom. most of what I wanted was wall trim in the staircase and a couple bedrooms. he quoted us THOUSANDS of dollars for the trim alone. I said, “yeah right. I can do that myself!” so in an attempt to save us money, I took to google to see just how hard it really could be. after some researching, I convinced my younger brother to help (after-all he had the power tools and muscle I needed) and that was that. we were off!
it all started as a vision in my head and it truly came to life. this room was inspired by the woodwork Angela Rose Home had done in her home and the moody, dark rooms Studio McGee has done lately. I wanted something bold and beautiful. while it may be a kids bathroom, I still wanted it to be a design statement!
first, the pretty photos of the “after.”
and because we all love a good side by side before and after…
a couple days ago, i posted to instagram sharing our daily “schedule” during this interesting time we are living in. surprisingly, i got a lot of responses and “thanks” for sharing what is working in our home. i thought it might be best to let this live on the internet forever on the blog. nothing directly brady related or down syndrome related, but related to CAMPIRR life these days…
full disclosure, we do not follow this strictly. sometimes the tv time category is doubled or tripled in any given day (keeping real people), but this gives us/me a good framework to keep things interesting and different when we are stuck within the four walls of our homes and yards. also, if you have toddlers, you know how laughable a “schedule of activities” really is… unless you see them at school, and then you wonder, “how do they get him to sit still and listen like that?” i swear they must put something in the water 😉
please leave a comment with other fun activities that are a hit with your kids! we are always looking for something new to incorporate into the day to break up the monotony!
another LONG overdue post. brady is officially 13 months old, so what better time than now to share his nursery ha!
brady’s room was one of the very first rooms completed in our new home when we moved to georgia. it was a fun project and labor of love (just ask my mom how the wallpaper hanging went)! i am incredibly proud of it and really feel like this room can grow with him for years to come.
my inspiration was this dresser from crate and kids, but in an effort to not break the bank, i refinished an ikea dresser and the room just blossomed from there. listen, don’t get me wrong, i like expensive things. i do. i have a knack of picking the more expensive option if given the choice between two similar items. however, i LOVE a good deal and getting the same look for less and spend where it makes the most sense.
note: the curtains are a dark, deep green not black (it’s hard to get the true color in the pictures).
if you care to know where things are from, i added sources at the end of the post.
here are some cute little details around his room. ps i couldn’t let his adorable helmet go to waste! good thing it matched the color scheme perfectly!
in typical fashion, i have neglected the blog posts. between mike’s travel schedule, brady’s appointments, landon’s most epic 4 month long sleep regression, and the holidays, i just couldn’t get myself to stay up to write posts. not kidding, we were going to sleep at 9 every night….
here i am at 7:30 pm writing brady’s one year update almost a month late. whoop whoop!
first, let’s just get this out of the way – BRADY IS ONE YEAR OLD. how????? i don’t know, but mike would say it’s felt every bit of one year, ha!
in the last few months, brady has changed a lot. physically, he has gone from just starting to push up to sitting, to CONSTANTLY pushing up to sitting. it’s both adorable and frustrating when you are trying to change diapers, get him dressed or work on trying to crawl. the kid wants nothing to do with being on his tummy anymore! he’s started to army crawl and can pretty much get anywhere he wants to go with a lot of rolling involved!
if you follow us on instagram, then you know the rollercoaster that is brady’s feeding journey. brady has feeding therapy once a week and it’s by far our biggest challenge. we take a few steps forward and a few back. feeding is more challenging to see progress and sometimes this momma needs that progress to keep it up. however, he has definitely made progress in the last few months. brady is moving on from purees to soft solids. he’s showing interest and is not gagging or choking as often as he was before. this is huge! i pray he can continue to make strides in the right direction with this all.
speech is also a major challenge for brady. speech therapy is something that will be in his life forever. brady is not babbling much and does not have any words just yet, but he’s vocal, loves to “talk” and makes his voice heard when he wants to.
in other news, i officially sent in brady’s katie beckett (medicaid) application and we are praying and praying for an approval soon. we hit a small bump in the road and the medical review team requested more paperwork. our hope is the updated paperwork is the final piece to the puzzle and we can get an approval! this is incredible important for this calendar year because the number of therapy visits brady gets per year, will not be enough. after those visits are used, it will be up to us to pay for everything totally out-of-pocket. with katie beckett, medicaid will take over those overages when we reach our private insurance limit.
i’m back with another gift guide, this time with ideas of what to buy for the young babies and toddlers that are both fun, but also strategic. i say strategic because they are fun enough that they won’t know they are actually working on their fine motor or gross motor development. most of these are based off of recommendations from our PT and OT…
fisher price laugh & learn piggy bank: i will start by saying, we do not have this (yet), but brady AND landon love to play with it when our OT comes to the house. there are two versions and this is the one she recommends most. the reason being is that this one is less complicated for the littlest of hands and minds, yet open ended enough that it will grow with your baby into toddlerhood. initially you are developing fine motor skills and an understanding of cause and effect. then as they master entering the coins into the piggy bank, you can work on counting, color matching, sorting, etc. see how it can work for years with your kids?
fisher price sit-me-up: we have this one in the owl theme for brady and it has been my new favorite seat. this seat isn’t as long lasting BUT it works early when you are working on head and neck control. ever have the baby that is sick of tummy time or lying on their back, yet can sit totally unsupported? we did! and i wish we had it with landon too. it’s more supportive, comfortable and entertaining for the babes!
kinetic sand: i love the idea of a sensory bin, yet hate the idea of the clean up and managing that comes with it until they learn the “rules.” if you want to start easy, this one is a good option. kinetic sand is a breeze to clean up, fun to play with, and provides tons of sensory input. landon can sit and roll balls or make shapes without much need for intervention. most of the time i plop a gathre mat under the bin just in case, but 99% of the time i can easily clean up the spilt chunks off the carpet.
peg board: this one is another OT favorite for fine motor development and open ended toy. this is a great tool for brady at the current moment in his development, but it’s a fun toy for landon too. he loves building the towers with the pegs and doesn’t know he is actually mastering some fine motor skills without knowing it.
the nugget: before i get started on this one, let me preface this with saying you will NOT have it in time for christmas. the demand is so high right now and they are completely out-of-stock. we are still waiting to snag one (i should have ordered it a month ago, but hesitated because i didn’t want to store it for that long and now i am kicking myself. as soon as it is back in stock, you better believe this is coming to our house. this is the big gift for both boys. why? for brady, he needs different surfaces to encourage crawling and to help with that gross motor development. for landon, he LOVES to crash and burn. now he can have a safe place to do it. this will grow with them for YEARS. forts, imaginative play, jungle gym, flips, etc. and when not in play time use, it’s a couch for reading, movies, homework and more. catch my drift here? we cannot wait to have this!