18 month update

We’ve just passed the 18-month mark with our little Audrey, five weeks after Lilly hit the same mark in November. Although the girls change each and every day, I definitely feel that the second year is one of much more gradual change than the first year. That makes it really fun to do these updates each quarter to really reflect on how they’ve grown over the past three months.

Audrey on the left; Lilly on the right.
Audrey on the left; Lilly on the right.


At my last update I mentioned that both girls were late walkers at 14 and 15 months. We recently called on a physical therapist to evaluate Audrey’s gait as we noticed that she was walking consistently on the insides of her feet with her feet always pointed out; put in an adorable way, she sort of looks like a waddling duck when she walks!

The physical therapist agreed that her gait is somewhat abnormal, likely due to the low muscle tone we’ve seen in Audrey since the day she was born. We’ve added some orthotic inserts for her shoes and we’re hoping to see an improvement soon. We are also keeping up the swim classes for both girls in the hopes that this will help muscle tone, and they will begin gymnastics classes once the year turns.

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Baby Pencil 3 Month Update!

I’ve been looking forward to the 3 month mark because I know it gets so much easier from here! And with sleep training just around the corner, I know that soon I’ll be getting much more rest. There have been many ups and downs in the past few weeks since we recently moved, but overall I’m so grateful that she’s healthy and happy!


At 3 months old, she is:

  • 14 lbs
  • Awake for 1-2 hours
  • Sticking her tongue out
  • Sucking her fingers
  • Has much louder, “adorable” screaming sessions
  • Enjoys tummy time
  • Dislikes being left alone and likes being where the action is at
  • Loves to “read”
  • Enjoys singing and music

She is still a pretty easy baby and cries only a little bit when she’s tired or hungry. The biggest difference between her and Toddler Pencil is breastfeeding! (Since I didn’t breastfeed with Toddler Pencil.) During those 3am feeds, it’s really great that I don’t have to wait to warm a bottle. I can just feed her immediately and put her down without having to wash pump parts. I cringe at how I used to stare at a pot of boiling hot water to boil pump parts with Toddler Pencil – before I knew about Medela steam bags. This was definitely the reason why I wanted to breastfeed! I didn’t want to rely on pumping, washing parts, or waiting to warm a bottle.

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Blessings through baby’s surgery

Fitz post surgery

Following Fitz’s diagnosis with an undescended testicle, we found out more complications with his health that somehow also ended up being a blessing!

The first blessing was that we were recommended to a children’s urologist that was also the father of one of the students in my class that year. It was nice knowing that while I took care of his son every day in my 2nd grade classroom, he was taking good care of my son too! Just a little something that God gave me that helped calm my worries.

The doctor wanted to wait until Fitz was 6 months old before the procedure, and he assured us that the risks of surgery at 6 months are no different than for an adult.  Still, thinking of my sweet little baby undergoing surgery was so scary to me! During one of our pre-surgery visits, the doctor asked us many questions about our family’s health background, and I briefly mentioned that one of my nieces had been diagnosed recently with a bleeding disorder. I wasn’t sure of her exact diagnosis, but when she first started her period, the bleeding never stopped and she’s been taking daily hormones every since. The doctor said that the chances were quite slim, but since her blood disorder was probably genetic, we should test Fitz to rule it out and go into surgery with a clear mind.

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Gift Guide for Teachers, Nannies, & Coworkers

It can feel really hard to find the perfect gift for teachers, nannies, and coworkers, but it doesn’t have to be! In my experience, teachers, nannies, and coworkers are often the most appreciative among all gift recipients (despite all the viral articles claiming all teachers hate mugs). There are so many great gift ideas for this group, 10 of which I’ve rounded up below (price listed subject to change and hopefully drop during this week’s big holiday sales):

mug warmer

1/ Mug warmer ($24) – Teachers may have too many coffee mugs, but I bet most of them would appreciate a mug warmer. This is a wonderfully thoughtful and useful gift for any tea, coffee, or hot chocolate lover. Pair with a mug (if you dare – this one is my new favorite), a gift card to Starbucks or your favorite local coffee shop, or any other tea/coffee/cocoa themed gift.


2/  Flowers – Flowers are almost always appreciated by almost everybody. They’re beautiful and thoughtful and don’t end up as clutter.

3/ Gift card to Walgreens or Michaels – This idea is definitely geared toward teachers, although my office sits above a Walgreens so it’d work for my coworkers too! Earlier this year our preschool director suggested Walgreens or Michaels gift cards as a way to give back to the school if your time/schedule did not permit hands-on volunteering. The teachers love to use the gift cards to print photos for the classroom or re-stock their arts and crafts supplies. When Big P handed his teacher a $20 Walgreens gift card earlier this year, I have never seen a smile so big or a person more appreciative of a small gift.


4/ A bottle of her favorite alcoholic beverage (and/or a 6-pack of Diet Coke) – My coworker celebrated her birthday yesterday and she received the most thoughtful presents: a bouquet of flowers, a 6-pack of Diet Coke (which is almost already gone ha), a bottle of Tanqueray gin, and a bottle of tonic to go with it. Clearly our coworkers have been paying attention to what she likes, and I can attest that she was very touched. Never underestimate the value of paying attention to what people like and gifting accordingly, even if the gift itself doesn’t seem expensive or special (I will pretty much love you for life if you bring me gummy bears). This tumbler is adorable, by the way, for any Diet Coke lovers.


5/ Rose water facial spray ($12) – A small beauty product can be a very thoughtful gift. This rose water spray has rave reviews and multiple uses. And it’s something I’d love to get as a gift myself, which is always a good sign.


6/ Spotify Premium or Netflix gift subscriptions – Gift subscriptions can be tricky because the last thing you want to do is purchase a subscription to a service the recipient doesn’t want or need. I would contend, however, that almost every single person enjoys music and movies/television (at least in some capacity). Teachers may be able to even utilize a Spotify or Netflix subscription in their classrooms. Bonus, you can buy them on Amazon!


7/ Cute beanie ($9) – I recently ran (well walked) a 5K and instead of a t-shirt the race gave out beanies. I’ve gotten so much more use out of that beanie than I would a race t-shirt, which got me to thinking that a beanie could be a great gift for teachers or nannies standing out on the playground or coworkers commuting into the office (or anyone really). This beanie is adorable and inexpensive too!

prime gift

8/ Amazon prime (starts at $33) – Every year we give our nanny an extra week’s pay as a Christmas present, but we also try to include a gift card to her favorite restaurant or some other small-ish but thoughtful gift. This year I’m giving her the gift of Amazon Prime, which let’s be honest is a really darn good gift. She already uses our Prime account to buy a few things (often for our own kids to whom she gives the BEST presents) and now she can do it freely without having to ask every time, plus she’ll get access to all the other Amazon Prime benefits including Prime Video.


9/ A really nice water bottle ($45) – Really nice water bottles are great gifts for almost anyone. Pair with a gift card or 6-pack of the recipient’s beverage of choice.

10/ A handwritten thank you note (free) – My kids are still pretty young, but I’ve already experienced the highs and lows of finding childcare and picking the right school. I am so, so, so unbelievably thankful for my son’s teachers and nanny. All the gifts in the world really couldn’t convey the level of my gratitude, so this year I plan to include a hand written note with each of our gifts.

Gift Guide: Two Year Olds

Two-year-olds are so much fun! They are still working on their fine motor skills, growing in their imagination and really starting to figure out their personal preferences. Lion recently turned three, so we’ve had an entire year of experience with his favorite toys at age two; Panda will be turning two in January. Between Lion and Panda, here are some of my favorite picks for a two-year-old.



1) Magnatiles – Lion has been playing with Magnatiles since before he was 18-months-old, but we definitely saw a huge improvement after he turned two. Panda pretty much only builds boxes and immediately smashes them, but this toy gets a lot of use from both kids.

2) Mop and broom set – Whenever we clean the house, the kids always want to help sweep or vacuum. We’ve been wanting to get them child sized brooms for quite some time and added these to their wishlist.

3) Blaze and the Monster Machines – Lion and Panda adore Blaze and the Monster Machines. While Panda doesn’t usually have the attention span for TV shows or movies, he will happily sit through an episode of Blaze and he loves reading books with Blaze in it. We have a bunch of the diecast monster trucks and they are well-loved.

4) Trampoline – We put this on the kids’ Christmas wish list last year, but didn’t get it. We’re putting it on again, though, and if we did end up with it this year, that would be even better since both kids would be able to use it. I think it’s a great way for kids to be able to burn off a little extra energy indoors, especially in the midst of winter when it may be too cold to venture out for too long.

5) Tegu Blocks – We have a very small number of Tegu blocks — just the eight pack travel case. And yet, on a recent trip, Lion and Panda had a blast on the two hour plane ride with four blocks each. They’re much easier for a (less than) two-year-old to connect than other magnetic blocks, but still lots of fun for a three-year-old.

6) Standing easel – Panda loves art and when we visited a children’s museum, he got the most enjoyment out of painting at an easel. At their old daycare, Lion was frequently using the standing easel when I picked him up, so this would be a great gift for both of them.

7) Hot Wheels cars – Both of our kids love all things that go and race cars seem to be everywhere in our home. While our boys love the Pixar Cars characters, the Hot Wheels packages provide great deals.

8) Balls – Footballs, basketballs, soccer balls, baseballs, you name the ball and our kids love them. We buy foam balls that the kids can use indoors and they’re another toy that make their way out of their bins every day.

9) Duplos – Whenever we went to the library, Lion and Panda made a beeline for the Duplos so we purchased some this summer. They love stacking and playing with the Duplos, with a particular fondness for trains, cars, and other Duplos with wheels.

10) Thomas minis – Lion became obsessed with Thomas minis from the moment we gave him his first one at around age 2.5. He loved the idea that Thomas and his friends were “dressed up” in costumes.

11) Tee ball set – We recently took a long weekend trip with the little guys and their grandparents who were visiting out of town. Since we were staying on a farm (we live in a condo and don’t have a backyard), Mr. Dolphin picked up a tee ball set for them to play with. They were in heaven and both kids enjoyed trying to hit the ball off the tee.

12) Silky crayons – By chance, Panda and I stumbled across a children’s art studio where he got to try out some silky crayons, which are a cross between crayons and pastels. He LOVED them and I picked up a set for him for Christmas. They’re easy for young toddlers to use and you can dip your finger (or a brush) into water to help blend colors together once you draw on the paper for added fun.

13) Stickers – I can’t tell you how much our children love stickers. They have kept our kids quiet and entertained on many a long car ride, during church and during a graduation ceremony.

23 Unique Gift Ideas for 6 Year Old Girls

Olive’s 6th birthday just passed in October and I shared a a gift guide for 6-year-old girls back then. She’s pretty easy to please when it comes to gifts since her love for stuffed animals and mini toys haven’t waned over the past couple of years. But I scoped out stores like Etsy, Magic Cabin, Hearthsong, Anthropologie, and Uncommon Goods to put together this guide of unique toys for the 6-year-old in your life!

little patient

Little Patient Doll – A fun way to teach kids about the organs, and a great addition to our homeschool classroom.


Sun and Moon Plush – We talk about the sun and moon a lot here since a full moon is a big deal when you live on the beach. Mr. Bee’s nickname for Olive is also “moon” since Charlie is the “son.” I think they would love this set.


unicorn horn – If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. The unicorn craze that is. Anthropologie also has some very pretty, more embellished unicorn headbands.


Unicorn Cereal Bowl – A handmade bowl for my cereal loving girl. There’s also a matching mug that would be perfect for holiday hot chocolate (this is a more affordable option).


Personalized superhero cape and mask – The success of Wonder Woman showed the world that superheroes are not only for boys.


Cat Collective Toddler Quilt – We recently rescued a litter of 6 kittens and kept two, and Olive is absolutely OBSESSED with them. She would adore this cat quilt, though Anthropologie carries so many other beautiful prints!


Fuzzy Fox Body Pillow – A body sized plush to cuddle with every night.


Unicorn Glow in the Dark 100 piece Puzzle – Olive is really into puzzles these days and this combines two of her favorite things — unicorns and glow in the dark!


Mood necklace – Olive loves my mood ring but she’s likely to lose a ring, so she’d love a mood necklace.


Montessori Wood Pencil Holder – A beautiful way to organize our tons of color pencils.


Wood Peg Doll Family – I’ve wanted to get one of these for ages and I like that this set is simple and affordable. There are so many different styles available including ones you can personalize with your family’s faces. I loved this Gruffalo one!


Mandala – This is pricey (on sale here) but since we live in nature and the kids are always collecting things like seashells, I think it would be put to great use! It teaches art, symmetry, math and much more!


Padded Bow and Arrow Set – Olive’s gross motor skills have always been delayed, and I really want to encourage her to play with toys like these that will increase her strength and gross motor skills.

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Solar Print Kit – Something so simple is just so cool. Art and science all in one.

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Hugglepod – We have two of these and the kids adore them.

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Paint Your Own Nutcracker – My kids are all about arts and crafts and they would love this activity!

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Woodland Friends Tea Set – My kids played with their tin tea set all the time. Many pieces are now dented, and I’d love to upgrade to a cute set like this.


Little Feminist Playing Cards – This deck of cards features beautiful illustrations of famous women in history. I would love to share the stories of all these strong, smart women with my little girl.

little people big dreams

Little People Big Dreams Book Series – This series of books targeted to children ages 5-8 features beautiful illustrations and inspiring stories of famous women who made history. There are already 10 books in the series with plans for more!


How to Find Flower Fairies – This is the first book in a series of three with intricate 3D cutots, flaps and more for your kid to explore. My daughter would absolutely adore this!


Doctor Who Mr. Men – The Doctors: Time and Space Collection – The Little Miss/Mr. Men series is one of Olive’s favorites. We already purchased one of the books in this series of 8 books, and Olive has asked for more so I would love this entire set.


Flipbook Kit – Olive loves to make little books of her own. This flipbook is sure to be a blast.


Family Dinner Box of Questions – We’ve done highs and lows of our day for years at the dinner table. I love that this mixes up what we talk about each day instead of just asking each other what we did that day.

Gift Guide for 7 Year Old Boys

Since Drake is my oldest, it’s always interesting to see what toys are out there for the older kids. These are some of the ones that perked my interest when I was searching out things to get Drake this year.


1) Seedling Design Your Own Marble Maze – Drake has been getting more into Minecraft recently and my friend told me about this Seedling toy that I thought was somewhat similar. It apparently allows you to create your own maze world and then step into it and move through it. It sounded pretty neat and when a nearby toy store was going out of business over the summer I managed to snag it at a great price. I’m hoping Drake likes it as I think it sounds pretty cool!

2) Ninjago Legos – Drake hasn’t really moved into Legos much like a lot of the boys in his class have. In the fall we ended up going to a party at the movies where we saw Ninjago and he really liked the movie. I was hoping that this would be the stepping stone for him in getting more into Legos.

3) Adventure Kit – Drake loves exploring and playing in our yard. He always wants to borrow our flashlights or binoculars so when I saw this set I thought it was perfect for him.

4) Glow in the Dark Terrarium – Drake made a terrarium this summer with his church class, but sadly it didn’t make it and we had to throw it away. I have been meaning to try again with him. This one look pretty neat and he can keep in his room to look at too.

5) 3D Puzzle – Fiona and Juliet both love puzzles, Drake not as much, but these 3D ones look kinda cool. I got him one of the White House for Christmas since he is very into Presidents. Maybe that will be a nice fun afternoon activity for him to make and display in his room.

6) Light Board – I’ve wanted to DIY a lightboard for Drake for a while, and I still might, but this lap size one might be a good start to see how he enjoys it. Right now he is really into making maps.

7) Tinker Crate – We are huge fans of Kiwi and Koala crates. We’ve never tried out Tinker Crate,but as Drake gets older the projects might be more suited for his age and interest. It’s also fun for kids to get things in the mail so it’s an added bonus to spread out the holiday excitement.

8) Art Set – We go through markers, crayons, and paper like water in the house. Sadly because Fiona is not so great about remembering to close markers or be gentler with crayons, many of them get damaged or ruined this time of the. This time of year it’s nice to get a restock. I got this art set on a Lightening deal over the summer and have been saving it for Christmas.

9) Clue Jr -I’m trying to move to more board games with all my kids. Clue was a favorite of mine as a kid.

10) Crystal Growing – We love science in this house and these look like a fun experiment to try on a rainy afternoon.


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