5 Ways we use Alexa in our House

Max's first interaction with Alexa
Max’s first interaction with Alexa

When it comes to technology in our home, Mr. Ice Cream is always jumping on the latest bandwagon to make our home even “smarter.” Before we got our first Amazon Echo, I wasn’t sure how often I would use the voice-activated speaker, but now, I can barely remember how I lived without it. I’m constantly asking Alexa to set a timer, dim the lights, play ____ song or how tall a certain celebrity is (I’m obsessed with knowing the heights of famous people!). Here are our five favorite Alexa features/skills.

1. Create Smart Home Groups

If you have multiple Echos or Dots you can create smart home groups so they act together. For example, our downstairs devices are grouped, so if we want NPR to play on all of them we simply say,

Alexa, play NPR downstairs

The audio plays perfectly in sync across devices and provides a seamless surround sound effect. Each device can still be used individually but grouping allows the option for multi-room sound. It is especially helpful if you spend a lot of time walking your baby around your house in a carrier.

Set up groups from the Alexa App:

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Summer Camp Planning for School Aged Kids

When Lil’ Miss Louboutin started Kinder, one of the most daunting tasks was figuring out camps. This was new territory for me because her preschool only ever closed for major holidays, and all we had to do was pay a small extra fee on top of our regular tuition to cover the extra fun summer activities they built into their program. In short, every season was business as usual, and I did not have to think about alternate care for things like summer break. After all, it’s not like working parents get a break just when the kids do.

Once we got the school year calendar, I discovered just how many days off her public school had. On top of the usual Thanksgiving break, winter break, spring break, and summer break… there were also staff development days, parent conference days, and “student/teacher holidays”. These were all alternate phrases for “the school is closed so figure something else out for your kid”. Beyond that, there is also a slew of minimum days.

Our elementary school has an on-site aftercare program that covers all the breaks, so that has always been one option. But we also considered other options that suited her interests, such as gymnastics camp, art camp, science camp, and camps offered through our city such as culinary camp, sports camps, chess camp, etc.

Winter and Spring camps are relatively easy to coordinate since they are only one to two weeks long. It was the ten weeks of summer that really required some planning. Although I could’ve made it easy by enrolling her in her aftercare program all summer long, I wanted to give her some variety.  We ended up with:

  • 3 weeks of STEAM camp
  • 3 weeks of art camp
  • 3 weeks at her school’s onsite aftercare program, which included field trips such as beach days, water parks, and bowling.
  • 1 week of gymnastics camp

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5 Reasons Why the Woom Bike Wins

Right before Lil’ Miss Louboutin turned 7, we considered getting her a new bike because she was starting to outgrow her 16″ big box store bike with training wheels that we bought her when she was 4. Not only that, but it was heavy and clunky, and she didn’t love riding it. Just as we started thinking about teaching her to ride without training wheels, we were introduced to the Islabike, and its competitor, the Woom Bike (also available on Amazon with prime shipping). A whole new world of bikes opened up before me, and I went down the research rabbit hole. I liked what I was reading on both brands, but Woom’s seemed more accessible for purchase, so I went that route.



The manufacturers of the Woom seem to have taken every detail into account when designing these bikes. From geometry to weight to parts and accessories, everything is thoughtfully designed with children’s ergonomics in mind. We ordered the bike directly from Woom, and it came a few days later.  Minimal assembly is required – we only had to install the front wheel, then attach the handlebars and pedals.

There are Woom options for every age group, starting from the balance bike level and on. It is also incredibly lightweight, making a huge difference for kids and their little bodies. Each Woom also comes with a pre-installed kickstand and bell. Woom bikes use hand brakes instead of coaster brakes because it is less confusing for the child, and they don’t come with training wheels because they believe those tend to hinder a child’s riding progression.

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An almost 3-Year-Old and a 4-Year-Old

You know how as a mother, you can remember so many little tiny details about giving birth, or the first few months of being a mother? You have little flashbacks and it seems like it just happened. This is where I am. My babies are no longer babies. And they tell me this daily.

LeLe just turned 4 in January. She is in her second year of preschool and she is a non-stop talker. I am continuously amazed at how smart she is. I hate even saying this because I don’t want to sound braggy, but holy moly, she surprises me with her amazing ability to pick up new concepts. I know this is kids in general, but because she is mine, it is especially amazing. She is huge too. She is the size of a 6-year-old, so tall and lanky. We are just beginning to learn how to read, and although this is a long process and sometimes very frustrating, when I see her make progress it is awesome. She loves princess things, glitter, baby dolls, and her bike. It’s hard keeping up with her because she is always moving from one thing to the next.

The best thing about LeLe is her imagination. This girl can create elaborate situations and play them out in their entirety. She has been naming everything in our house with some very interesting names (think Tinkle Christmas). It’s so great having another person in the house to talk with and interact with. She really is one of the coolest people I have met and I feel really lucky that she is mine.

Little Bug is almost 3. I seriously can’t believe it at all. Part of the disbelief is that I imagine that he is small, but in reality he is huge too. Both of my kids are going to be significantly taller than me. The other part is that he really is my little shadow. Bug is always by my side. He is still very much my little boy and I think we have a bond that is hard to describe. It seems like he needs me more than his sister, and for this place in time, I am grateful for this. With him likely being my last, I cherish this time that he still needs me.

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A day in the life: Two working parents and kids in elementary school

It has definitely been a while since I posted a blog here on Hellobee. It is kind of like saying hello to old friends who I haven’t seen in awhile. So I figured a quick day in the life post would help us catch up. Now we are a household with 2 full time working parents. My three boys are in 3rd grade. My oldest is 9 and the twins are 8. My daughter is in kindergarten and she is now 6. I don’t know what shocks me more; that my boys are headed into upper elementary or that my little baby really isn’t much of a baby any more.

It was windy on this hike but we made it to the top. Life with big kids is a wild and fun adventure. It was windy on this hike but we made it to the top. Life with big kids is a wild and fun adventure.

So here is a glimpse into a typical day, with all the chaos and craziness that you might imagine in a household with four kiddos.

5:30 – The calm before the storm.

I wake up first. I have to get myself and all of my things ready before waking up the kids because once they wake up it is a crap shoot whether we will have a fabulous easy morning or an all out brawl kind of morning. I get up and shower, make coffee, change a load of laundry and then get myself dressed.

6:00 or 6:30 – I wake up the beasts.

Tuesdays and Thursdays they go to school early for running club so I get them up at 6. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we get the luxury of that extra 30 minutes. I get to drink a cup of coffee and work on this blog post before getting them up. I love that extra 30 minutes of uninterrupted, coffee drinking, work time. It is quiet bliss.

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6 Month Update!

Baby Pencil is now entering my favorite baby phase: 6-9 months. 9 months is my absolute favorite! Staring at her newborn baby pictures makes me really sad, but I am so over that postpartum and recovery stage. I’m now enjoying her little chuckles and blowing raspberries! We just had her 6 month exam and here are her stats:

Weight: 17 lbz 11 oz (70% percentile)
Height: 26 and 3/4″ (90% percentile)
Head: 43 and 1/2″ (70% percentile)


Since Toddler Pencil was a much bigger baby (90% percentile all around for about a year), I was kind of saddened by how much she’s slowing down. Aren’t moms so strange? We worry when our babies are “too big” or “too skinny” even though it really doesn’t make a difference! Her insane cheeks still make me feel like she’s a healthy baby overall.

Besides the usual adorable rolling around and being entertained by dust particles, it’s been harder to keep this one entertained. What does she like the most? Me! That’s me in her face, talking, laughing, reading, singing and playing with her non-stop. So that lasts about maybe 7 minutes before I start getting emotionally tired.

For Toddler Pencil, I was a WAHM so I was able to take him to nice (expensive) music and art classes during the day. We had trips to the mall, the zoo, the aquarium and other places that he has no recollection of. (Wonderful.) But since I’m now a SAHM and taking care of a toddler on top of everything, I barely have enough energy to grocery shop. I’m lucky if I remember to checkout my groceries in the time frame of my 2 hour free delivery window! Thank goodness for Amazon Prime Now.

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A Week in the Life with a School-Aged Kid

It seems like there is a lot of interest in seeing what goes on in the life of a school-aged kid, so I thought I’d share a snapshot of our week. This is a week in the life as a working mom of two, as a full-time telecommuter, with dual drop-offs and pick-ups. Mister Chucks is in his last year of preschool (I’m counting down the days!), and Lil’ Miss Louboutin is in 1st grade. We also have a few rules – no TV on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and no iPads until the weekend.

There were definitely some freedoms we took for granted as parents to pre-school-aged kids, such as not having to worry about spring, summer, and winter breaks because daycare covered them all. I still  remember the time a seasoned mom of teenage kids telling me, “life will only get busier the older they get.” My mantra “it doesn’t get easier, it just gets different” holds true today. The busyness of parenthood doesn’t ever go away – there always seems to be something – it just transforms as the children enter different seasons in their life.


A moment of peace

Daily – Wake the kids up by 7 am, get breakfast ready (usually oatmeal, cereal, or pancakes), pack lunches and snacks, and one of us will do drop off. We have a carpool situation set up with a neighbor where they’ll do pickup and dropoff one week, and we’ll do the other for our 1st graders, but that still leaves us with Mister Chucks. When it’s our week, depending on who has the more flexible/open morning, either Mr. Heels or I will put the kids in the car, pick up our neighbor’s daughter, drop Lil’ Miss Louboutin and her friend off at school (starts at 8:15 am, but we drop them off by 8:05 am), then drive an extra 15 minutes to drop Mister Chucks at his preschool.  By the time we get back home to work, it is 8:30 am.

A week in the life

Our week at a glance (as you can see, it’s a mad dash til bedtime)

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