Monthly Archives

May 2019

  • 5 Slow Cooker Meals for the Busy Mom (& Grocery List)

    If you’re a busy, on-the-go mom, you might appreciate slow cooker meals just as much as I do. This week, we have more recipes to share with you!

    This post may contain affiliate links, which means that we may receive a commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase using these links.

    As we continue to share our favorite slow cooker meals with you, we hope you will find ones that become a staple in your home. We’ll share everything from kid-friendly meals, healthy meals, soups, budget-friendly meals and more.

    The first thing when planning your slow cooker meal prep is to make sure you have a top-notch appliance. Here is our favorite – this slow cooker pumps out enough food for the entire family!

    Here are this weeks favorite slow cooker meals.

    1. Broccoli and Sausage Macaroni Casserole

    Only 7 ingredients – and you can’t go wrong with a recipe that incorporates mac-n-cheese!

    2. Pineapple Chicken

    The perfect summer chicken dish – with just the right amount of sweet and savory.

    3. Turkey Chili

    Image link to slow cooker turkey chili by Baking Beauty.

    Recipe by Baking Beauty

    Hearty and healthy chili chock full of beans and 2 different kinds of meat. The slow cooker makes this comfort food almost effortless!

    4. Ranch Chicken

    This ranch chicken recipe only takes moments to prep and then it will cook all day in the crockpot while you are at work, enjoying family time, or out and about! No pre-planning or thawing required

    5. Chicken and Dumplings

    Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings from Scratch is the ultimate in cozy day, feel better, warm your belly, cold weather, comfort food.

    To make things easier, use our free grocery list  for this weeks recipes!

    If you enjoyed this post, you might like our previous freezer meals post here.

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  • How to Create Your Own Cake Smash Photo-Shoot at Home

    How is it that the second child’s first year flies by even faster than the first? I’m over here scratching my head trying to figure out where the time went. It feels as though we were just in the hospital introducing him to big brother and yet here we are, only a few weeks away from his first birthday. (Don’t mind me, I’ll just be over here in my feelings)

    With time having left us little to work with, I decided to set up an in-home cake smash photoshoot for his first birthday so I could have the photos in time for his party. I feared that most professional photographers would be be booked by this point and I wanted to flex some creative muscles as photography is definitely a hobby of mine.

    This post may contain affiliate links, which means that we may receive a commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase using these links.

    I can only describe the in-home cake smash as a huge success! The photos are priceless. The experience was incredibly fun and it became a family ordeal, as big brother helped draw big smiles (as only a big brother can) and Dad assisted with props.

    The birthday boy normally doesn’t stop moving and can be difficult to capture. However, the cake kept him anchored in place long enough to snap some great photos. Once all was said and done, we had a few bites of what was left of the decimated treat.

    I want to empower other moms to have some fun with their own cake smash photo-shoots because it truly is so easy! Save time and money and capture some memories without having to leave the house. Flex full control over the shots you want to frame and print at your leisure without acquiring extra cost.

    Here is a step-by-step guide explaining how to create your own cake smash photo-shoot at home!

    Step 1.) Find a Location

    The lighting and background of your photo-shoot will play a huge role in the quality of your photos. Select a spot in your home with plenty of natural light. Use the space in front of a big window or sliding glass door. Turn off any overhead lights to prevent orange and brackish coloring in the photos.

    If there isn’t an ideal location inside, outside will work too. Be sure to choose a time of day where the shadows won’t be overpowering your subject.

    The background should be plain and simple. Use a white wall or purchase a backdrop on amazon that can be hung or used as a faux white wood floor. These elements ensure that baby will be the central focus of each capture. I’ve linked one below. A white sheet will work just as well!

    Step 2.) Cake, Props & Clothing

    The cake, props and clothing you choose will help develop the theme of the shoot. For example: because the theme of my son’s first birthday is barnyard animal, I used a simple cake on a rustic wood platter with a few sunflowers, and added suspenders to his shorts for a farm feel. I also used a sign for the pre-cake photos simply to indicate the occasion.

    Tip: Balloons are a cheap and easy prop. Scatter them around and snap photos of baby chasing after them.

    To continue to keep costs low, find a toy or piece of decor around the house to boost the theme of the photos. Bake a cake or grab a cheap one from the supermarket. I purchased the cake featured in my son’s photos at Target for $10. The “One” prop used in the photos below I picked up from a craft store for $5.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Step 3.) Camera

    For this step, the good old iPhone (especially in portrait mode) will do just fine. But for full disclosure purposes, I wanted to note that when capturing these photos I used my Nikon DSLR D3400, linked below.

    Now, I know what you’re thinking: we were supposed to be saving money here and that camera sets me back almost $400. Hear me out: since purchasing that camera when my first child was born, I’ve used it on many occasions that I probably would’ve paid a photographer to capture. Birthdays, holidays, vacations, and everyday moments in between, the Nikon has taken some incredible photos and in the long run has definitely saved us money.

    This my advice: Hire the professional for monumental family moments when mama, you need to be in there too. Invest in the camera for the smaller occasions. Or, if you’re totally cool with the iPhone quality then use the iPhone. I’ve snapped some awesome photos with my iPhone camera as well.

    Step 4.) Take as Many Photos as Possible

    When the shoot is all set up, the props are handy, and baby is happy and ready, start snapping and DON’T STOP! Snag as many shots from as many different angles as possible.

    Focus in on the details of the cake, the messy hands and the cake covered faces. The more photos you have the more likely you are to be happy with the outcome. It’ll also be easier to select the best photos for editing!

     

     

     

     

     

     

    We even let big brother get in on the action!

    The Aftermath…

    Step 5.) Culling and Editing

    Now that you have an amazing crop of photos, it’s time to decide which ones to edit. Pick your favorites and make sure there is a solid variety with good resolution and quality lighting. Those will withstand the editing process the best.

    For editing I use the Lightroom app on my phone. It’s free and will provide the best quality photos without having to pay for an expensive editing program.

    Feel free to edit the photos to your liking OR you can do what I do, and use a Lightroom mobile preset to enhance your photos. Below you can see the before preset and after preset photos.

     

    I’ve linked my favorite lightroom presets here but you can always browse Pinterest or Etsy for presets that provide the desired feel. Some are free and others may charge a small fee.

     

     

    LET THERE BE CAKE (smash photo-shoots!) We hope you enjoyed our step-by-step guide on how to create your own cake smash photo-shoot at home and feel inspired to get creative! Please share photos of your DIY shoots!

    Craving more DIY treats? Check out our Homemade Air Fryer Poptarts!

     

     

     

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  • Fostering Your Child’s Mental Health & Ways to Build a Strong Foundation

    As my son gets older and more submerged into the world around him, I often find myself hard-pressed on how well he will be able to cope. Have I prepared my child for the trials and tribulations of life that is to come? Have I implemented all the tools necessary to ensure a happy life for him? Surely I can’t guarantee his happiness, but I can give him a strong foundation for his mental health – and that could be everything.

    Children learn from the behavior modeled by the important adults in their life.

    The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a topic near and dear to my heart. And as an advocate for mental health (and a parent), it is not lost on me how influential my role is on my sons childhood mental health.

    As described in a 2013 MMWR report, mental health in childhood is characterized by “…the achievement of development and emotional milestones, healthy social development, and effective coping skills, such that mentally healthy children have a positive quality of life and can function well at home, in school, and in their communities.”

    There are many other ways to foster your child’s mental health. Here are some daily steps to keep your child as mentally healthy as possible.

    First and foremost, our children learn by example. As parents, there is so much we can offer to help nurture their mental health during the most developmental stages of their life. Here are just a few:

    1. Build Their Self-esteem

    • Be on Your Child’s Team: Regularly support and encourage your child. Make sure to praise their efforts, not their achievements, and to believe them and believe in them.
    • Let Them Learn Naturally: Promote independent learning. Have your child experience and accept the natural consequences of life and experience the benefits of positive actions as well.
    • Encourage Healthy Self-Talk: Use words of encouragement and daily affirmations. See our list of affirmations for kids here.
    • Ensure Their Sense of Belonging: Your child needs to feel like they are invited, accepted and loved. Make sure to spend family time together, play with them and remind them how valuable they are.

    2. Create a Safe and Comfortable Environment

    Provide an environment that demonstrates love, compassion, trust and understanding every day. Let your child know you are a safe place and confidant when it comes to their feelings and thoughts. Implement a predictable routine in the household, as to create a sense of stability and comfort.

    3. Establish Healthy Habits

    Make sure your child is getting enough rest, eating healthy foods and getting enough play time/exercise. Physical health is just as important.

    4. Explain Feelings and Reactions

    Listen to how your child is feeling and validate their emotions. Guide your child through big feelings and show them important coping mechanisms and ways to manage challenges (like meditation). Teach them the importance of expressing their emotions through language.

    5. Model Healthy Behavior

    Children learn from the behavior modeled by the important adults in their life – so be sure to lead by example the best strategies regarding self-care, healthy social interactions, communication and emotional stability.

    These guidelines aren’t just for children either, but are important for everyone looking to take care of their mental health! If you enjoyed this post, you might want to read this post on building your child’s confidence.

    Note: Through research, I was able to find these helpful tips on nurturing children’s mental health. If you have suggestions or advice, we would love to hear it! Comment below or email us at contact@rockitmama.com.

     

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  • The 4 Best Takeaways From The Whole-Brain Child

    As a stay at home mom who is basically on 24/7,  I’m always looking for new methods to improve the relationships I have with my kids, and solutions for handling the big emotions that come with parenting. Most of my research pointed to The Whole-Brain Child written by Daniel J Siegel, M.D., and Tina Payne Bryson, PH.D. This practical child rearing read is a New York Times Bestseller and for good reason.

    Photo of woman reading The Whole-Brain Child.

    This post may contain affiliate links, which means that we may receive a commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase using these links.

    The 12 no-drama discipline strategies laid out in the book are game changing. The illustrations and relatable narratives offer parents an effortless implementation and are easy to follow. However, the most beneficial piece to this read was the information regarding brain science and the many links to child emotional development. The authors provide a thorough explanation as to why children are at times highly emotionally reactive and how to better understand their struggles.

    Overall, The Whole-Brain Child can help foster happier and healthier kids which is what we all strive for. Here are the 4 Best Takeaways from The Whole-Brain Child.

    1.) Integration – The Many Parts of the Brain

    Most of us understand that the brain has many different parts with many different functions. There’s the logical left brain and the emotional right brain. There’s an instinctive reptile brain and a mammal brain that helps us foster emotional connections and relationships. New research shows that all of these components of the brain need to work well together in order to flourish and thrive. This concept is called integration.

    Because the human brain isn’t fully developed until the age of 20-25, we can’t expect the littlest among us to be experts in brain functions such us emotional intelligence or sounds decision making.

    The book notes that because children are right brain dominant, they aren’t experts in getting messages across without mastery of the left brain logic. As a result, it is difficult to explain how they’re feeling. This is often the cause of a tantrum or meltdown. Parents can integrate the the child brain by providing them experiences in which the many parts of the brain can collaborate.

    The book expands on these experiences and gives various strategies for integration. However, simply understanding the composition of the brain allows parents to nurture the child brain more effectively.

    2.) Attunement – Allow them to Feel Felt

    “When a child is upset, logic won’t work until we’ve responded to the child’s emotional needs first,” -The Whole-Brain Child

    I love this quote directly from the book. When we respond to our child’s tantrum with a logical answer, it probably won’t connect because the child’s emotional needs are commanding the brain in a way that is all-consuming. That is precisely why responses such as (below) don’t resonate.

    • “You’re fine.”
    • “It’s not a big deal.”
    • “Calm down.”

    Help your child feel heard and felt by affirming their feelings (no matter how irrational), not invalidating them. Assuring a child that they’re not alone and  that we want to know whats happening on the inside can help calm the situation. Once their emotional needs are met, it will be easier to break through to the developing logical left brain, to work through the problem.

    For more on appropriate responses to tantrums read our article 5 Simple Tips for Taming Tantrums.

    3.) Traumas – Name Their Pain

    When a child experiences a trauma, a parent’s first instinct is to avoid it or distract the child from re-living the experience. But due to the inner workings of the developing brain, it’s important to talk about the trauma in order to overcome.

    This section of The Whole-Brain Child points out that while we don’t want our children to hurt, its vital for them to have these experiences to learn how to heal and grow. Traumas should never go unresolved. Recount the fear and walk through it together.

    Trauma is a word that is often misunderstood. Trauma doesn’t have to be the death of a family member or a scary car accident. It can be any deeply distressing or disturbing experience. For children, a perceived trauma can be something that an adult would find silly or irrational. Examples of child trauma:

    • Getting sick at preschool or daycare
    • A scary encounter with an animal
    • A toilet overflowing
    • Falling off the playground

    Though these situations may sound minor, something as simple as a toilet overflowing can create anxiety or discomfort in a child that needs to be worked through.

    4.) Morality

    “A sense of not only right and wrong, but also what is for the greater good beyond their own personal needs,” -The Whole-Brain Child

    This one resonated with me, as its one of the most important values I wish to instill in my kids: a strong sense of morality. The book explains that a well integrated upstairs brain with the following attributes culminates in morality.

    • Sound decision making
    • Controlling emotions and the body
    • Self-understanding
    • Empathy

    A great way to exercise this part of the brain is to place a child in scenarios in which they practice good decision making. A few examples of hypotheticals (that kids love) directly from the book:

    • “Would it be ok to run a red light in an emergency?”
    • “If a bully was picking on someone, would you intervene?”
    • “If you found a toy at the playground that didn’t belong to you, would you take it?”

    By challenging kids to think critically about decisions, and by guiding them through these scenarios, we allow them to build the morality necessary to make good choices. Being able to assess the implications in any situation is a crucial life skill and is important in helping children develop sound decision making skills.

    We hope that our 4 Best Takeaways from The Whole-Brain Child left you wanting more! You can purchase this essential parent read below.

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  • The States I’ve Visited – A Printable Travel Log & Learning Activity for Kids

    It is a personal bucket list item of mine to visit all 50 states and if possible, the National Parks within their limits. With summer road trips and family vacations on the horizon, I wanted to find a way to pass this passion for travel along to my oldest who appears to share the same adventure spirit.

    Additionally, I wanted to create a fun way to learn about the 50 states and the protected lands we call our National Parks.

    The parks offer an exceptional gateway to the unique features each state has to offer. By highlighting each park visited my hope is that he will be encouraged to continue to visit these sites throughout his life.

    Above all, it’s important that my son understands the seriousness of protecting these sacred properties that our memories are made on.

    The printable domestic travel log and learning activity for kids (available for download below!) is a great way to foster an excitement for travel and exploration, and serves as a good introduction to the states that embody this vast, beautiful country. It can be printed and placed in a binder or framed on the wall for display.

    We hope your littles enjoy adding marks to the checklist year after year, and learn more about the 50 states as they color in the shapes on the map.

    Here are a few photos of my son filling out his own domestic travel log and how we’ve decided to display this fun learning activity for kids!

    We decided to make the map colorful but it would be fun to color code each state by year visited or otherwise! It is displayed here in a frame but a binder with page protectors is also a good idea to preserve the log.

    For the 50 states checklist, we added the dates that we traveled to each one (for the ones we could remember) as a memory keeper. We circled the parks that we’ve visited but a highlighter would work too!



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