Saturday, June 23, 2018

Star Projection Night Light Review

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Both of my kids are totally and completely obsessed with all things outer space. They want to be astronauts, they read space books, they love space shows, and they love watching the astronauts read bedtime stories.

When it came time for my youngest child's birthday, the big 3, my family thoughtfully asked me to add some items to his Amazon wish list (best idea ever- you don't have to keep track of what item you told which family member he wanted, and they know what he has and what he wants even when they live on the other side of the country!). I stumbled across this Star Projection Night Light and thought how much they'd both love it. Our humidifier used to project stars onto the ceiling, but then that feature started failing and strobing and checking on them during the night was akin to being in an actual horror movie. So I added this to the list, and my amazing sister got it for him, and they've been obsessed with it for that last week.

It works great- you can set a timer so it doesn't go all night if you don't want it to, you can have it be an actual light, a lantern with stars on it, or projected onto the ceiling. There are many colors to choose from, including having a combination of colors or all the colors. It can rotate or be still.

Here's a link if you want to check it out more:

The first night we used it, they were actually excited to go to bed. When we turned it on, my five year old exclaimed, "It's like we're in outer space!" The birthday boy just reverently whispered, "I love it!" When we did bedtime prayers, my youngest was praying for the stars and all the colors he could see. 

It's been almost a week and they're still completely obsessed. They're still excited for the bedtime routine because it means they can watch the stars as they fall asleep. We've only used it with the cover off and on, but always with the star insert. I imagine if you're creative you could create another overlay and trade it out with animals, etc.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The High Tide Club Book Review

I love Southern Lit. It kept me grounded in my Southern roots while I was living up North, and honestly was a draw when we were trying to decide where we were going to live when Alaska was just too far away from our families. Mary Kay Andrews has written a long list of my favorite Southern novels, including The Fixer Upper and Spring Fever. Her novels always have a great cast of lovable characters, an intriguing plot, and often a little mystery that needs solving.

Her latest novel, The High Tide Club, is no exception. Once again, I'm drawn in to a (fictional) location I wish I could visit, characters I want to befriend, and a mystery I'm trying to solve the whole time I'm reading. The plot is riveting, and I couldn't put it down. I stayed up way too late at night reading, and let unread emails pile up into an enormous mountain I'm still whittling down.

The High Tide Club  follows nonagenarian Josephine as she recounts her past and her dearest friends, and bounces between the 1940s and present day. With friendships old and new examined and tested, the relationships between these strong women is intricate and envy-inducing. With the decades old mystery of a missing man, a small island being pursued by the state of Georgia, and limited technological resources because of the island's location, this mystery is engaging and may or may not throw a twist or two your way.

Andrews always creates rich and full worlds worthy of exploration and writes them in an accessible and enjoyable way. Whether you're looking for a beach read or to mentally escape for a few hours, The High Tide Club is a wonderful and worthy read.

Looking for more book recommendations and reviews? Did you know I'm on Goodreads? You can follow me here! I also Instagram mini-book reviews- if you want a short review, make sure to follow me on Insta!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

New Knoxville Moms Blog Post: Teach Consent Early

My latest Knoxville Moms Blog post is up over on the KMB site! It's on a topic I've always worried about, and I'm sharing my best tips for Teaching Consent Early. Check it out!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Dollywood Post- Toddlers at Splash Country

When you have older kids, a water park is the perfect way to spend a day- soaked in the sun, but with plenty of shade and lots of water to cool off in! But when you've also got toddlers, a water park can be intimidating to the point where you just don't go. With Dollywood's Splash Country about an hour away, it's a great way to spend the day- especially with toddlers in tow! Check out my latest post about all the great things to do at Splash Country with your toddlers here!

Remember, if you want to save $5 per ticket, use the code DWInsiders5 at online checkout and print your tickets!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Incredibles 2 Movie Review (No Spoilers)

No need to fear, there's no spoilers here!

So my love for Pixar and all its films isn't unknown. I try and be at the theater opening weekend to support their newest films, and for Incredibles 2 it wasn't a struggle. I've been looking forward to this release date since the title first appeared on an in-production list a couple of years ago. Since it happened to come out the Friday before my youngest son's 3rd birthday, it seemed like a great opportunity to celebrate with him and support Disney-Pixar at the same time.

A friend invited us to come with her and her family to see it, and seeing a movie in a big group is a fun activity I haven't done in a few years, because babies. It was fun to experience it not only through my kid's eyes, but to be able to share it with my friend and her family.

The Incredibles 2 is a perfectly crafted sequel. It picks up right where the first one left off, but if you haven't rewatched the first one since it released in 2004 (and if so, poor you because you're seriously missing out), you won't feel out of your depth. They do a great job of re-establishing what's going on without it being repetitive and redundant for those die-hard fans (like me) that basically have the entire film memorized and hum the theme song in their sleep.

There are so many perfectly captured moments, from the difficulties of parenting to the mom guilt all moms experience (super or no), that the overall quality of the film is totally Pixar. (I didn't cry though, so it's not UP level Pixar but classic, wonderful Pixar nonetheless). The animation is flawless, the plot engaging, and the new characters just as well developed as those we're familiar with. There are some moments so tense I reached over to hold my kid's hands...a little because I was worried they'd be frightened, but also because I was super nervous for the character involved.

As far as family-friendliness, it really depends on the kid. My now 3 year old did mostly great, though he did get a bit antsy during some dialogue heavy sequences in the middle, and was squirming and crawling all over me. Thankfully we had popcorn and lemonade to distract him, but that's something to keep in mind if taking toddlers. My five year old loved it, but he was nervous about seeing it because the previews show the villain, the Screen Slaver, and it's honestly pretty dang frightening. Here's the trailer:

As you can see, the Screen Slaver is a pretty scary villain. My five year old is sensitive and almost didn't want to go (promises of said popcorn and lemonade, earned for free through Coca-Cola's rewards program, tempted him to go and he was ultimately glad he did. I'm grateful Coke gives rewards for all the Coke my husband drinks!). If your kid is easily intimidated by new situations, it may be best to wait and watch this in your living room instead of a giant screen in the darkness of a movie theater. There are some intense battle scenes that may provoke your children into pretend battling each other for days following (as mine also do when they watch the original Incredibles).

This is one of the funniest Pixar films I've seen. Jack-Jack, Dash, and Violet all get more screen time than in the original, and it's wonderful. They're really well developed, and we get to watch them discover who they are and what's important to them. There's some great messaging for kids about growing up, responsibility, and the importance of knowing those things. Jack-Jack and Dash made me laugh out loud, uproariously, over and over again.

The relationship between Bob/Mr. Incredible and Helen/Elastigirl is further explored in a really realistic way. Since it's a sequel, we really get to delve deeper into what makes them tick and how they work together versus solo.

This is yet another fabulous Pixar film. I can't wait for it to come out on disc (I'm guessing around October or Thanksgiving, in time to be holiday gifts) so we can add it to our regular rotation of family movie night films. It's definitely worth seeing in theaters, if your kids are up to it. If you don't think your kids are ready, then it's still great for date night! (You know you're a true Disney/Pixar fan when you go see the movies and leave your kids at home- we did that with Coco because our sensitive one wasn't ready to see it. Now he loves it).

Have you seen Incredibles 2? What were your thoughts?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Love Your Library

Summer is here! The days are warm, fireflies are out, and the kids are out of school! All summer long! So what are you going to do with them?

There are so many things to do with kids these days. Camps and trips and excursions, oh my! But that's not the kind of summers I grew up with. Prepare yourself for my first 'Back in my day' rant, because we all know 90s summers were the best. We spent all day hopping around the neighborhood pools, using card tables and leftover poster board to 'build' lemonade stands, zoning out in front of the Disney channel, and riding our bikes from dawn until dusk. The world is different now and if I let my kids roam the neighborhood wild like I did, someone would likely call the cops on me.

So a true 90s summer isn't really an option for my kids. But I can tailor it to today's world dynamic, hanging out outside with them during bike rides and spending days upon days in the pool until we're all prunes and in desperate need of a movie marathon. There's also one thing I can do that my mom did do with me and my fellow 90s babes- visits to the local library.

I grew up going to the library frequently and I loved it. In fact, when my purse got stolen at the mall food court when I was 8, my biggest fear was that my library card was stolen (it was the first thing I'd ever signed my name to and I was terrified I'd be ruined for life and they'd never let me borrow books again. Side note- who the heck steals an 8 year old's purse?!) Thank goodness my library card was in a different purse, so whew- bullet dodged. I'd check out stacks of books and disappear for hours on end into a world that existed in my mind, built off the words of authors I loved like friends.

Libraries have definitely advanced since my days of huge stack checkouts. In our current city, the local library hosts fun events, has a scavenger hunt, and has puzzles for kids to play while they're visiting as well as numerous story times throughout the week.

Last week, the fire department came and did a presentation that included putting on all their gear and turning on their air so kids would know what firefighters look and sound like in the event they're trapped inside a burning building and need rescuing. Then they showed kids all the cool gadgets and tools on their truck, explaining the difference between a fire truck and a fire engine and telling them what each tool does. The thought behind this presentation was immense- kids in car accidents and fires will be much better prepared to understand what's going on in a scary situation having witnessed a calm adult on a sunshine filled day telling them all about it.

This week they're having a magician, and later in the summer there are LEGO days, a chemist doing science experiments, and more. This is all in addition to their regularly scheduled story times.

So if you're looking for a free activity to do with your kids that's educational and encourages an ongoing love affair with literacy, head to your local library. If you're in East Tennessee, check out the Knox County Library's site for details here.

If you're looking for a way to love on your library, donate books you no longer want that are in good condition. Even if there isn't a need for them on the shelves, they may be able to sell them at a library sale to raise funds for new books and events. You can also participate in these book sales to get a great deal, support your local community, and find your next favorite book. Libraries are often looking for volunteers, so ask your librarian how you can help.

What does your local library offer? 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Rainy Day Kid's Activities: Toddler Edition

May has been so hot, so early in the year...until last week, when it started sporadically storming throughout the day. The weather apps can't keep up, and neither can we. One minute it's blue skies and sunshine, and thirty seconds later it's flat-out pouring rain while the sun is still shining.

Since spending any length of time outside is prone to being ruined and rushed inside by the rain, I thought I'd share my list of inside, rainy day activities to do with kids 5 and under. My boys are (almost) 3 and (well into) 5, so these activities are great for those age groups and for doing with a mixed group of ages.

Since I work from home, I try to sprinkle a few of these into my breaks throughout the day so my kiddos are still getting some special mommy time and I can also still get things done. (Truth time-getting things done is significantly harder when it rains and I can't send them to play in the backyard during my work time).

Hide and Seek

Remember this childhood favorite? It's still fun as a grown up, and pretty hilarious when your kid is atrocious at hiding.

Duck, Duck, Goose

My preschooler learned this one at school and is currently obsessed. It's just the three of us, but it works okay. You can get goofy with it and they'll love it!

Memory Game

You can grab one of these in Target's Dollar Spot for $1-$3, or print/make your own. You just need 10-20 matching sets of images. If you make your own, you can simply print a page of matching images, glue it to construction paper, then cut. Voila! If you print them without color, coloring them adds another level of fun for the kiddos.

Video Games

Don't judge me, but my kids have suddenly become obsessed with video games. They're all about Mario- Super Mario Galaxy, Mario Cart, etc. We have the old original Wii, so we play Mario on there, as well as getting them moving with Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort. The first time they saw a real ping pong table, they were ecstatic and totally unafraid to try it (even though my youngest could barely see over the table!). So we do a few races, sports, or get a few stars in Mario, and they're happy and we all did something together. We play for maybe thirty minutes, so it takes a bit of screen time, but it's also quality family time as we laugh and play together.

Build a Fort

This one requires a bit of cleanup. But remember the joy of taking blankets and chairs, pillows and story books, and just snuggling in for a bit? It's a great time to read a story together, play pretend, or make shadow puppets with your phone flashlight and some silliness.

Movie Day

Pop some popcorn, pull out The Sandlot, The Little Mermaid,  or your childhood favorite, and settle in. Sharing my favorite movies with my boys from when I was a kid has brought me such joy, and they get the giggles just thinking about me being anything but a grownup.

Story Time

Whether you're reading at home or taking them to the library or Barnes & Noble (story times most Saturdays; check your local store for details), reading is such a valuable thing to do together. Studies have shown that people who read more live longer, so you're benefiting them and yourself when you read aloud. It's fun to get really goofy with it- something we don't do at bedtime since we're trying to settle them down a bit- and go crazy with silly voices, hand gestures, and wild faces.


Pinterest is basically exploding with toddler craft ideas (Here's my saved ideas). Summer crafts are a great way to help prepare your preschooler for Kindergarten in the fall- practice scissor skills, coloring, gluing, painting. These will all help hone fine motor skills and they'll have fun while doing it. I always buy a disposable table covering at Dollar Tree at the beginning of the season, then just fold and re-use throughout the summer to save your table from paint and crayons. Use what you have on hand and hit the Dollar Tree for new items when yours are looking sad and you'll add even more fun for just a few dollars (I refuse to buy expensive craft items for my kids. They're small and uncoordinated and while I love their crafts, I will not die with fourteen huge tubs of finger paintings in my attic. I take a picture and then recycle it. I keep all the photos in an iCloud album, and eventually I'll be organized enough to order the photos and put them in an album. I do keep my favorites and put them in a sheet protector in a binder- the Mother's Day cards, school surveys about their favorite things at this age, anything with handprints).


I've always loved baking, and I'm incredibly lucky that my kiddos do too. Baking is fun for them because we're doing it together, they get to feel grown up by helping cook, and of course they love sampling the results. Whether it's something from scratch or from a box, they'll treasure the memory of sitting on the counter, standing on a chair, and helping you measure and stir. If your kids are older, it's a great way to practice math too! Whether you're working on counting or fractions, baking can help with that.

What are your favorite indoor activities for these summer rainy days?