Wednesday, December 7, 2016

My Girl and Me, Partnering in Play


Family Play Ideas for Toddlers

Thank you LEGO® DUPLO® for sponsoring this post. Looking for creative play ideas for your little one? Find more play and learning inspiration at https://www.lego.com/family

I remember being pregnant with Essley and worrying (in addition to a million other things) that I wouldn't be good at playing with her. I'm sure that sounds ridiculous (now that it's been a few years, it admittedly feels a little ridiculous typing it out), but I'm just gonna go for it and be totally transparent here. I've always liked kids, but I wouldn't necessarily have described myself as a "kid person" before I had them myself. I enjoyed doing adult things (and still do, obviously), and I wondered if once Essley was old enough to engage in play together if I'd be easily distracted, or get bored immediately, or just not be a natural at child play time. I assumed it would just be something at which I had to work, but it wouldn't be something I instinctively loved, and that was okay.

Guess what guys? I was wrong. So wrong. I worried for no reason (which I've come to learn tends to most often be the case with worry in general), because not only do I absolutely treasure my playtime with Essley, I think I'm actually good at it. Really, I'm fairly confident that we're all good at it. Spending creative playtime with your kids (or any kids you love) is not only an incredible way to bond, it's also really fun. We were all kids once, after all, and I genuinely believe taking the time to partner in play with the little ones is therapeutic on so many levels. It's just the best.


Essley and I are both way into creating art, working on crafts, and building things, and it's those types of activities you'll most find us doing together. She also loves make believe and role playing, and we often end up in elaborate pretend scenarios with her toys and dolls. One of our favorite things to do together that involves both of these is to play with her LEGO DUPLO sets. LEGO® DUPLO® building toys are perfect for children Essley's age because they're specially designed for the small hands of little ones aged 1½ - 5 years. They're also twice the size of standard LEGO bricks, so they're safe for preschool aged kids. And playing with them is genuinely fun for me (and my husband), because I enjoyed LEGO bricks so much as a kid myself, and it brings back some pretty fantastic memories. It's also fun because there is little I love more than watching Essley's imagination in action.


While she does have random LEGO DUPLO pieces hanging around that she likes to use, lately she's been especially into her building sets (mainly her Big Construction Site set). She alternates between wanting to build it just like the picture on the box and making something completely different with the pieces. I have to say, there is something quite satisfying about putting the pieces together the way you're "supposed" to (sort of like a puzzle) - but I also love when she decides to come up with her own unique creations. It makes me so happy to see her use her imagination and explore different possibilities, and she's (usually; we are dealing with a 3 year old here) so sweet about delegating things for her dad and I to do with her pieces. It's also so cool to see her creating goals for herself as she plays, and getting so excited at the end of building something, knowing she achieved success in doing so. Play, as we all know, is essential for early learning, as it's the biggest way little ones learn about their world. And as parents, we're our childrens' very first partners in play! I feel like when we're doing this together, I'm able to truly witness her learning and growing, which is indescribably wonderful.  I love her so much, and I cherish these times where we creatively play together.


Are there any other parents who thought (before kids) they might not be good at playing with their children, only to find out they were absolutely wrong? Who else loves to use LEGO DUPLO products when you're partnering in play with your little ones?

Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby & Bean possible. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

My 10 All-Time Favorite Holiday-Themed Posts




10 Great Christmas Cookie Recipes // Bubby and Bean



5 Creative + Easy Last Minute Jar Gift Ideas (via Bubby and Bean)


10 Great Holiday Wreath Designs via Bubby and Bean


10 Great Holiday Cocktails, via Bubby and Bean


We don't do a lot of post re-sharing around here, but back in the fall I shared some of my favorite autumn-themed content from past years, and the post ended up getting all sorts of traffic. And I hope that means you guys liked it - but if not, apologies in advance, because here we are again! With the holiday season now in full swing, I've been having fun looking back over holiday posts here on Bubby and Bean and getting inspired for ideas for the next few weeks before Christmas arrives. Today I'm sharing my favorites with you guys. Just click on the images or text links above to see each of the posts in full. I hope they inspire you as well. Happy Holidays!

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

(Important!) Emmett's Journey + Infantile Spasms Awareness Week



I debated whether to put "important" in the subject of this post, but this is probably the most important post I've ever written, so I went for it. Thank you for taking the time to read it. And, if you can, please share. It means everything to my family to make sure this potentially debilitating illness becomes recognized, because it can have a permanent affect on the long-term outcome of a child's life in a very short period of time if not treated immediately. And as you'll read, even most pediatricians have little to no experience with it, which often results in catastrophic misdiagnoses. The disease is (sadly) becoming more common too, so spreading awareness is incredibly important.

As most of you now know, on August 9th, our then 7 month old son Emmett was diagnosed with a devastating, dangerous form of childhood epilepsy called Infantile Spasms, one that often has a very poor prognosis. Like most people, we had never ever heard of this illness before. Emmett had been doing some strange but subtle occasional head nods for a few days that I was able to capture on video, and despite being reassured by friends and family that they looked like normal baby movements (which they absolutely did), we decided to have them checked out by his pediatrician, just to be safe. Thankfully our wonderful pediatrician, despite not being sure exactly what it was, immediately sent us to a child neurologist. After an emergency EEG, we were given the Infantile Spasms diagnosis, and within a few hours we were checked into the hospital as Emmett went under countless tests including an MRI, lumbar puncture, 24 hour EEG, and numerous blood draws. He was also started right away on a hardcore medication called ACTH that causes extreme side effects. After almost a week, we were sent home, and Emmett spent the next two months getting daily at-home injections in his legs. Those two months were also full of not-so-fun things that included another hospital stay, a 48 hour at-home EEG, countless blood draws and doctor visits, developmental therapy assessments, and a baby who bloated up and spent over two weeks straight during the high medication dose period screaming almost constantly. It was really, really hard.


All of that said, we have (so far) been one of the more unusual cases of Infantile Spasms where it was caught very early, the medication worked, and development seems to be typical. Once medicated his spasms stopped after three days, he is now less than two weeks away from being four months seizure free, he's almost two months medication free, his most recent EEG was normal, his epilepsy genetics panel was normal, and every assessment he's had from Early Intervention has put him within the range of "normal" for development of children his age. We still don't know what caused this, and Emmett will be meeting with a genetics specialist in February in an attempt to hopefully find some answers, but for now, things feel pretty miraculous. I'm actually ugly crying as I type this out you guys, because we are really lucky. And I feel guilty even calling ourselves lucky because that implies that the thousands of other babies and families who are struggling aren't. IS can have many different outcomes, and every single child who has this is incredible regardless. But when I think about what we have gone through this year and how profoundly difficult it's been, and then I think about what other families go through (seizures that cannot be controlled, serious brain abnormalities detected, major developmental delays, constant hospital stays, etc.), I realize how lucky (again, that word) we are. And that is why I have vowed to do everything I can to (1) help other parents going through this (I have something exciting to share about a fundraiser I'm working on in this regard; stay tuned in the next couple of weeks) and (2) spread awareness of Infantile Spasms so parents know exactly what to look for. 


And that brings me to 2016 Infantile Spasms Awareness Week, which starts today. IS Awareness Week is a collaborative initiative of the Child Neurology Foundation and the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance, along with over a dozen other partners, and provides a platform for increasing disease awareness, distributing new research, and recognizing exemplary contributions to the treatment of IS. I'm going to share some important facts about IS with you below (via a seriously awesome infographic from our friends at CNF), but you can read more about the week here, and follow along on social media using the hashtag #ISAW2016. I am also always here to answer any questions you might have about Infantile Spasms or our personal journey. I am also a member of a couple of closed support groups on Facebook that are full of wonderful parents with IS babes, and would be happy to share them with others going through the journey.

I also want to make a pretty thrilling announcement - Emmett's neurologist, Dr. Steven Coker, was chosen as the winner of the 2016 Infantile Spasms Heroes Award! We truly feel that he has been Emmett's angel, so we decided to nominate him. I cried when I found out he won. You can read about him, along with our nomination and Emmett's story, about half way down the page right here.

(Click on infographic below to view full PDF version.)

If you're interested in joining me in spreading awareness of Infantile Spasms Awareness Week on Facebook, you can change your profile picture here, and below is a cover photo you can save and upload (click on the image for full size). You can also follow along on social media using the hashtag #ISAW2016. For those of you on Twitter, there be a Twitter chat to kick off ISAW using that hashtag today at 2 PM EST.



If you're still reading, thank you - for being a compassionate, kind, caring (and patient :)) person. I know it was a long post, and I also know that it can be difficult to relate to a rare disease if you don't personally know someone affected by it. (Although even with those of you we don't know in person, we feel you are part of Emmett's extended family, and we are grateful beyond words for the kindness you have shown him.) But if you are a parent of an infant, or you know any infants, or you know anyone who is pregnant or adopting a baby, or anyone who is planning on having a baby someday, knowing the signs of Infantile Spasms and being aware of it as an illness is profoundly important. If you take a moment to help spread the word by either sharing this blog post, or the infographic above, or utilizing the social media images provided above, I would be so very thankful. You may not even realize what an incredible difference you could make in one child's life just by doing so.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Adios! (+ Vacation Schedule)



Hi and happy last day of November! December is my favorite month (well, tied with June and July anyway; I can't shake my summer love even during the most wonderful time of the year). I'm so excited to really celebrate the season and get to experience the magic of the holidays through my kids' eyes. It's so cliche, I know, but man is it awesome. But before we get into full swing holiday mode, we're going to spend a few days hanging on the beach. In fact, as you read this we'll all be on a plane headed down to the Dominican. And because, despite the fact that I feel I've come pretty far in just letting things go and remaining present, I'm still a Type A planner by nature and a week away from the office feels like an eternity (a blissful one, but still an eternity), I have a few things I want to share with you guys.

1. VACATION/WORK SCHEDULE: I will be out of the office through next Tuesday morning (December 6th). I will be checking emails but very sporadicly, so if you do contact me, please allow a few days for a response. If you have an urgent matter regarding either the blog or the Bubby and Bean Art shop, you can contact my assistant at morgan (AT) mountainsofthemoon.com.

2. HOLIDAY CARD ORDERS: The Bubby and Bean Art Shop will remain open for orders this week. Any orders placed from today through Sunday December 4th will ship the week of December 5th. Orders will be processed and shipped in the order they are received. Wholesale orders will be be shipped by December 7th.

3. BLOG: Although there will be a couple of days without posts while I'm gone, the blog will remain active. I'm especially excited about tomorrow's post, which is a post from my heart to kick off Infantile Spasms (the rare type of childhood epilepsy that Emmett has) Awareness Week.

4. FOLLOWING ALONG: If you'd like to follow along with our Dominican adventures, you can do so over on my Instagram or Snapchat (both @bubbyandbean).


I'm laughing out loud reading this because if you guys saw my house or office space, you would likely describe me as the least organized person you'd ever met. But when it comes to planning events, parties, or vacations, I'm meticulous.


I'll be sending lots of sunshine from Punta Cana! Enjoy the rest of your week!
Background photo of Punta Cana, DR for top image found here.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Our Go-To Easy Breakfasts




On the weekends when Robbie is home from the road and our family is all together, we absolutely love to make big, elaborate breakfasts together (or more accurately, watch our house chef Robbie make them, devour them, and then help clean up afterward). There is something so special about creating intentional time together on a lazy weekend morning, where we can slowly prepare, cook, and serve a morning meal. And getting to take our time eating the breakfast is the most wonderful part of all.

Now that I've describe this idyllic breakfast scenario, I'll come right out and tell you that, while quite lovely when it occurs, this realistically only happens maybe once a month, at best. I'm guessing most of you can relate. In fact I'm confident that reality (kids, jobs, activities, life) prevents these type of leisurely breakfasts from being a regular thing in most houses, not just ours. Those of you who are regular readers know from other posts about my morning routine that I'm lucky if I have time to brush my teeth (and again, I bet most of you can relate!). Fancy, slow, relaxed morning meals are saved for special occasions, and that's just life.


All of that said, I think it's important to at least attempt to put together delicious, wholesome breakfasts even on the rushed mornings - and thankfully, after some trial and error, I've discovered how to do that in a way that is easy and quick, but that goes a step further than scarfing down cereal or grabbing a bar on the way our the door. We really like to include fruit in our breakfasts, so the first thing I do is pick out a fruit or two to have the night before and get them washed and ready. If it's something that keeps well sliced, like apples or oranges, I'll cut them up the night before as well so they're ready to go. Then I make sure to have a couple of the new Farm Rich Bakery Products on hand in the freezer. As soon as I wake up I turn on the oven, then once we're all dressed I pop them in and in a few minutes, they're ready to go. I serve them with the fruit, some high-protein Greek yogurt, water or juice for the kids, and coffee for the grown ups, and we have a hot baked, filling breakfast in minutes. (I'll also say that it makes me feel like I'm a breakfast goddess/badass mom, despite the fact that I usually can't even cook scrambled eggs without ruining them. Truth.)


My personal favorite of these easy morning breakfasts is berries and blueberry scones with Greek yogurt. I heat up Farm Rich Bakery Blueberry Scones (which lucky for this scone lover are one of the first ready-to-eat frozen scone products available nationwide - and are so good on their own that I heat one up and eat it on my way out the door when I run errands several times a week), break them into bite sized pieces, and mix them with whatever berries we have on hand (usually strawberries and blueberries). Then I serve them topped with plain Greek yogurt. It's our take on a yogurt parfait, and it's genuinely one of my top breakfasts ever. And best of all, it's incredibly simples to throw together.


My other go-to easy breakfast idea (and this one is also Essley's and Robbie's favorites because, duh, it involves donuts) is hot baked cinnamon sugar donuts with fruit and Greek yogurt. I heat up Farm Rich Bakery Blueberry Scones (which I'm not even kidding you are the best donuts we've ever had - even better than our favorite local bakery's), slice up either oranges or apples (again, usually the night before), and serve them together with a side of plain Greek yogurt. This is yet another super tasty, satisfying breakfast that is ready in minutes and can be enjoyed quickly without a mess. Because the donuts are a sweet treat, we often enjoy them for dessert as well.


If your mornings are busy (we often use the word "frantic" around here) but, like me, you appreciate the importance of a genuinely delicious, filling breakfast, I highly recommend checking out Farm Rich Bakery products and keeping a few on hand to enjoy right from your freezer. (And here's a sweet coupon to print to save on them when you do!). Like I mentioned above with my on-the-go scone snacks, they can be enjoyed any time of day - whether during a rushed morning, an afternoon hunger strike, or even as an after meal treat. They offer items both sweet and savory, and they're always ready in minutes - you can't ask for much more than that when it comes to food. And in addition to the scones and cinnamon sugar donut holes that we love so much around here, they also French Toast Sticks, Chocolate Donut Holes and Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Pull Aparts - so there's really something for everyone. You can also sign up for the Farm Rich Loyalty Club to receive exclusive offers, news, quick recipes, snacking ideas and more right here.


What are you go-to easy breakfast ideas? Have you tried Farm Rich Bakery items yet?

Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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