This is Liam’s first year in preschool. We ultimately decided on a little Montessori-based preschool and we couldn’t be happier with our choice. Why Montessori? Basically, it’s child-led learning and discovery. Kids are free to pick and choose what they’d like to do. The play time encourages learning, independence and social development. For instance, at school, Liam’s favorite thing is to play with the trucks. But the trucks cannot drive around aimlessly. They must do something. So sometimes they carry blocks to help a friend build a castle. Or they transport animals to the zoo. It’s incredible to see how imaginative the kids can get when you ask them to think creatively. We’ve been trying to create some of those same Montessori-inspired learning opportunities at home too. We recently received a felt story board from While They Slept and we’re having so much fun with it!
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While They Slept makes Montessori-inspired educational toys perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. The felt boards and story pieces are meant to encourage pretend play. As kids tell these stories with their felt boards, they’re learning narrative skills, problem-solving and how to work through real-life scenarios with their characters.

The one we have have is…you guessed it…the Firefighter Felt Story Set. Not that we wouldn’t love any of the great sets available at While They Slept, because I really think we would. But Liam loves any kind of emergency vehicle. Particularly fire trucks. Can’t you just hear his siren wailing?
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These hand-cut felt pieces are so cute and there’s quite a variety. I’m pretty sure Liam’s favorite piece is the building that’s actually on fire. Or maybe the firefighter who has a hose, all ready to go for the next fire emergency. Personally, I love the diversity in three people pieces. It’s something you don’t always get with toys. And there’s enough pieces to tell a different story every time we play. It’s so fun to hear Liam develop plot lines and name each character. Saving lives, one story at a time.
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The board is great for play at home, but we’ve actually packed this up a couple of times and taken it on the road with us too. It’s the perfect size to sit in Liam’s lap in the car. And because all the pieces are felt, they stick easily to the board and you don’t have to worry about them falling off all the time.

One of the best features about the board is that you can purchase multiple story sets and use them all on the same board. I’ve already added the Numbers Matching Game and the Pirate set to Liam’s birthday and Christmas wish lists.
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The felt boards at While They Slept are $19.99 (8×10) and $29.99 (9×12). Felt board stories range from $16.99 – $24.99, depending on the collection. Several of the stories/activities can also be purchased as a gift set with the felt board. Prices for these sets range from $34.95 – 49.95. The company’s Waldorf preschool calendar set is $39.99 ($69.99 with the board included). It contains 75 different pieces, so it’s quite extensive.

All of the gift sets are perfect for Easter baskets. While They Slept’s turn around time is typically 3-5 business days. If you order now, it will get to you in plenty of time for the holiday. Plus, you can use the code FIREBRIGADE for 15% off too!

Check out all the different sets in the Etsy shop and follow them on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest.  You can also join their Facebook group for access to giveaways, discount codes and exclusive sales.
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We received this product free for purposes of this review, but these opinions and photos are completely my own.

 

A good diaper bag is hard to find. It’s definitely one of those things that is difficult to know exactly what you need until your baby is born. And even then, it’s hard to find the right, functional diaper bag that will grow right along with your baby. I went through several in Liam’s first year or so. There were bags that weren’t big enough, those that were too bulky, and diaper bags that had several unused pockets taking up extra space. One bag didn’t have enough space for bottles, breastmilk AND cloth diapers, while another had a shoulder strap that wouldn’t stay adjusted. And Jamie gave every diaper bag the side-eye for its print or bright colors. I knew that I needed to find a bag that suited all our needs that was still gender-neutral enough for my husband to carry. Enter the Boken diaper bag from Boken Essentials.

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The Boken Everyday Diaper Bag is just that. Perfect for nearly every day and every outing. We tote it around to play dates, take it on road trips, the grocery store, doctors visits, trips to the zoo, etc. It’s been the right bag for us at every stage and great for our our family about 99% of the time. Now that Liam is potty-trained, the space that once was occupied by diapers and bottles is now full of toys and snacks. And there’s plenty of room for baby things when our new little one arrives. The only time we don’t take the Boken with us is while we’re doing extensive traveling and I want to take some of my camera gear with us without having to juggle multiple bags.

The bag can be worn three different ways:  cross-body messenger-style, on the shoulder or as a backpack. Personally, I wear the bag in all three combinations. I’ll often use the cross-body strap while we’re shopping so that I can easily access snacks and toys, handing them to Liam in the shopping card. The tote straps make it easy to sling over my shoulder when we’re going some place quickly, like from the car into a friend’s house for a play date. Backpack mode is great for when you need both hands free and the bag out of the way. Whenever I wore Liam in our Ergo, the backpack mode made it easy to cart around a toddler and all their stuff, but still have my hands free. The backpack mode is also Jamie’s favorite way to wear it.

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One of my favorite things about the Boken? You can clean it! The material is water-resistant and easy to wipe down with a damp cloth for quick clean ups. I usually turn all the pockets inside out so I can dump out all the crumbs hiding in the corners. Then, I wipe it down to get anything I may have missed. You can toss it in the washing machine too if you want. Just simply close all the velcro pockets, remove the messenger strap and store away the backpack straps. Turn your bag inside out (again, crumbs), toss it in the washing machine on a gentle cycle and hang to dry.

The Boken diaper bag only weighs 13 ounces, so it’s super lightweight. This is probably the most significant different I’ve noticed compared to other bags. It also includes an extra large diaper changing pad. The inside is pretty minimalistic, with one large mesh pock and a zippered pocket. There are two outer pockets on the sides. One has a velro flap and is perfect for a sippy cup or baby bottle. The other pocket is mesh and it’s large enough to fit my Nalgene bottle. Two zippered pockets are on the front. I typically store hand santizer, our NeatCheeks face wipes and a few other small things in these pockets.

Some people really like lots and lots of pockets on the inside of their diaper bags. I thought I needed them too. What I found, though, was that tons of pockets didn’t really work for us at every stage. Since the Boken bag is pretty basic when it comes to design, you can outfit it to be as organized (or not) as you want! I try to use small zipper pouches to store snacks, toys and extra clothes. This makes things much easier to find. When it comes to pricing, the Boken diaper bag is super reasonably priced at $68. I’m embarrassed to say that I spent quite a bit more on other diaper bags that I ended up disliking.

You can purchase the Boken diaper bag on Amazon or through Boken Essential’s website. Make sure you’re following Boken on Instagram and  Facebook for the latest releases and sales!
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We received our Boken diaper bag for free, but the opinions in this review are completely my own.

I like to read books. Well, at least I used to, before I became a mom. I can probably count the books I read last year on one hand. Scratch that. Maybe a single finger? We’re more about the kids book these days. Not that I mind a whole lot. Especially since Liam’s really been getting into reading lately. He loves hearing a good story and it’s fun to watch him flip through the pages and retell it in his own words. So we love a good book around here. Particularly when it includes a good lesson to learn and the leading characters are some of our favorite animals. We recently received a copy of Laurel Walther’s new book The Bats Don’t Have a Bedtime to review and I can’t wait to share my thoughts with you!
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The Bats Don’t Have a Bedtime is a story about a little lion named Will. He has a hard time winding down from the excitement of the day and doesn’t want to go to sleep when it’s bedtime. Sound like any toddler you know? He points out to his mom that the bats are just coming out to play and he wants to stay up too. His parents, like any good ones would, explain the importance of getting a good night’s rest – especially because he has a big race coming up the next day. Of course, Will doesn’t listen and stays up most of the night. He finally falls asleep just as the sun comes up.

When morning comes, Will notices that he’s feeling a little bit off, but doesn’t know why. He doesn’t have any energy to compete well in his race and  ends up coming in last. Will realizes that his parents were right and that rest is important for his body.
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I really like the storyline of the book. This is a topic that’s still hard for me to grasp as an adult, crazy as it sounds. I’m a night-owl by nature with a seemingly never-ending to-do list. But Will’s mom and dad are right. Rest is so important for your body. And I’m trying so hard to teach Liam how to be kind to his. I love that this story helps to do that in a fun and memorable way. When Liam says he’s not tired at bedtime, we talk about the story again and how important it was for Will to get some sleep.

The illustrations by Emily Hercock are so colorful and cute. They definitely help keep Liam’s attention in the story and stay engaged with the characters.

I do wish that the book was a little bit shorter or condensed. There are 32 pages total, 19 of them with text. For an active 3-year-old like Liam, it’s hard for us to read through the entire book in one sitting.

Overall, though, we really love this book! I’m all about books that teach us something important that I can easily reference later. Because goodness knows, this threenager doesn’t always do a good job at listening to mommy and daddy.

You can add The Bats Don’t Have a Bedtime to your own library of kids books too! It’s available for purchase on Amazon here.
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We were given a free copy of this book to review, but the photo and opinions stated in this post are completely my own.

It just occurred to me the other day that I haven’t yet shared our profile video in its entirety and I’m also overdue for an adoption update. I shared a short snippet on Facebook and Instagram, but here is the full thing. Hannah from Milk and Hannah Photo did such an incredible job at capturing our family’s craziness. I looked at tons of adoption profile videos ahead of time, but I felt like our profile book did such a great job at saying everything we wanted Expectant Mothers to know about us. Doing more of a lifestyle video felt right. And it’s perfect.

And since we’re on the subject, we have some exciting news to share. We’ve been MATCHED!

If it sounds like this went pretty quickly, you’re right. Our home study was finalized at the end of December and we’ve now been matched for about a week or so. We knew that matching quickly was a possibility, due to our openness about various potential situations and our agency’s average time for waiting families. But now that it’s official, it feels like there’s so much that still needs to be done.

There’s still many details we don’t know and many that we do, but may or may not decide to share. I’m generally an open book about…pretty much everything. But the Internet is a living, permanent thing and honestly it’s not necessarily my story to tell.

But what I can tell you is that the baby is due soon. As long as everything goes as planned, we will be a family of four before Easter this year. EASTER!!! Which means that there’s so much to do in a really short amount of time!

A lot of people have asked about what our needs are. Thankfully, we have a lot of the big things taken care of because we kept everything from when Liam was a baby. I need to go through his old baby clothes to see if we need anything additional, since Liam was a fall baby. But most likely we have all the major necessities.

We’d like to provide breastmilk to this baby as long as possible. I’ve already begun collecting some milk in our basement freezer, so if you know of anyone in our general local area who has breastmilk to spare, that would be greatly appreciated. I’d especially like to get a hold of a little colostrum to use early on. But since that’s pretty much liquid gold, I know it’s hard to part with.

The baby will be born in North Carolina, which makes things just a little bit more complicated. Basically, it means that not only will we have to travel there, but we will also have to stay in that state until they can tell us we can leave with the baby. Which makes sense. It just takes a lot of time. One of us, probably me, has to plan on being in North Carolina for a minimum of two weeks. Longer, if the baby needs some time in the NICU. We are trying to figure out all the logistics and whether or not we’ll all go or if Jamie will return with Liam to give him a little bit of normalcy.

Because of this, we’re also saving up money for our travel expenses and things we’ll need while we’re there. We will need to find an inexpensive (or free) place to stay while we wait in addition to food and gas. We also need to buy diapers and formula to get us through these first couple of weeks.

Our agency says that because this will be a North Carolina adoption, there’s a good possibility we could finalize everything sooner. But that also means that we need to come up with all the money needed earlier than we’d planned. We’re looking at around $37,000, not including our travel, food and lodging while we’re in North Carolina. The cost break down looks like this:

$25,000 – our agency fees (we’ve already paid a portion of this, but the rest will be due at finalization)
$8,000 – legal fees (both for us and the Birth Mother)
$4,000 – Birth Mother’s living expenses

A domestic adoption through an agency is really expensive, as you can see. But we love that our agency has made “C” a priority and will make sure that she has support and everything she needs to make the right decision for her. We’ve already had a chance to chat with “C” and I already like her a lot. She seems really sweet and we’re looking forward to getting to know her a little more these next few weeks.

We’re working hard by taking as much overtime (Jamie) and extra freelance jobs (Kim) as possible. In addition to our YouCaring campaign and Just Love Coffee fundraiser, we’re also busy going through the things in our house. Basically, we’re planning to sell anything that isn’t anchored to the wall. 😉 If you’re local to us and would like to help, I will definitely take you up on it. I need help photographing things and listing them online. It’s so time consuming! We’re also thinking about other fundraisers we can do or things we can make to sell. So if you have any ideas, we will gladly hear them.

Our t-shirt fundraiser brought in nearly $1,000. We were just blown away by the support. And it’s been so fun to see everyone proudly wearing their shirts.
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Aren’t these great? We still have a handful of women’s slouchy and adult unisex tees left. You can purchase them here and here.

Prayers are obviously the most needed thing right now. Pray for “C” and her family. For peace and clarity in her decision and for a healthy pregnancy. Pray for the baby and the upcoming delivery. Also for us the next several weeks as we prepare our home and make travel plans. And for my sanity, because it feels like there’s not enough time to get everything done.

I promise I won’t wait as long to make another adoption update next time. I have a feeling there will be plenty to share in the coming weeks!

  • Lisa Slusher

    Hi Kim! It was so good to see your beautiful smiling face for a few minutes this past weekend. And such exciting news you have!! Where in North Carolina will you be needing a place to stay??ReplyCancel

    • It was so good to see you too! We will most likely be in the Raleigh area, but it sounds like we may have gotten our housing covered! I will let you know if that changes. Thank you! <3ReplyCancel

I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand the taste of tap water. I grew up in a household where we used water filtration systems for as long as I can remember. Everything from water pitchers to the expensive systems that connect right into your sink plumbing. Because of this, I’m pretty good at telling the difference between tap water and filtered water. And while your local city water does a good job (usually) at making your water drinkable, there are still some things that make it through into your water. Not to mention the chemicals and additives you may not want. We recently had the opportunity to try out the new Brita Stream water pitcher and I wanted to share my thoughts with you.

The Brita Stream pitcher couldn’t have come at a better time. Our refrigerator broke the same week this pitcher arrived. Thankfully, I’m married to a very handy husband who can fix just about anything by watching YouTube videos and spending a little time on Google. But it also meant that thanks to the Brita Stream pitcher, we had filtered water a-plenty the entire time! Even Liam had fun pouring his own glass of water.
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After I opened the box, my first thought was confusion. Where is the water reservoir?? You see, if you’re used to these water pitchers, you’ll know that the water reservoir usually takes up half the pitcher. You fill up the top half, wait for the water to filter down to the bottom half and then you’re able to pour the water into your glass. This is especially aggravating when we visit my family in New York City during the summer. It’s something we always swear we’re going to change in coming years and only visit during cooler months. But then we don’t. So you’re painstakingly waiting, dehydrated from the humidity and heat, as the water filters through. With the Brita Stream, your wait is no more.

The filter in the Brita Stream connects directly to the top and filters as your pour. This allows you to have filtered water instantly. I’m actually thinking about sending one of these babies to my grandmother so that we have instant filtered water the next time we’re in the city. If you don’t believe me, I put together a quick video to show you just how quickly your water can go from tap to filtered. Hydration tip – I like to add fresh fruit to mine sometimes to give it a little extra flavor.

A blogger friend of mine wrote about some of the funk found in ice machines, like mold and other icky things. (You can read her post here). While her post referred mostly to commercial ice and soda machines, I also wonder if the same could be said to the ice machine and water dispenser on my own refrigerator. After all, it was here when we moved in. We don’t know how old it is and we’ve certainly never cleaned it out. Even though the ice and water seemingly tastes fine, I wonder how much there is you can’t see.

There’s none of that guesswork with a water pitcher. You clean it when it’s dirty and you change the filter when it needs it. There’s a light indicator on the top of the pitcher that lets you know when the filter needs to be changed. And each filter is good for 40 gallons of fresh water. For the average family, that’s about 2 months. You can also create an account on Brita’s website and they’ll send you a reminder when your filter needs to be changed.

Cost-wise, the Brita Stream costs about $35 on Amazon. This is a pretty good deal considering the cost of purchasing disposable water bottles on a regular basis. The filters vary slightly in cost, depending on on how many you get at a time. A pack of three filters, for instance, will run you around $20. And remember, at two months a filter, that’s half a year’s supply. Have you added up how much you’ve spent on water bottles lately?

Other plusses of the Brita Stream include its controlled pour feature. This makes it easy to refill reusable water bottles without overflowing them too quickly. Or in my case, it allows a toddler to fill his own glass without overshooting it. You can also easily add ice to the pitcher. This makes it easy to have ice-cold filtered water when you want it. And the water tastes good. It filters out the chlorine taste. To me, that’s the biggest indicator of tap water. And, ick.

Oh, and I almost forgot. The filters don’t require any soaking. NO soaking. I have no patience for prep work like that and I was so surprised I didn’t have to do that with this filter. As soon as I took the pitcher out of the box and washed it, it was ready to be used.

The biggest con, if I had to find one, is that a water pitcher is just one more thing to take up space in the fridge. We’re used to an in-fridge filtration system, so it took a little rearranging to find some room for it on a shelf. But if you’re willing to find the space for it, it’s definitely worth it. Plus, it has a fairly slim profile, so it still doesn’t take up that much space. And the stuff in my fridge could probably use some paring down anyway.

In all my years of using a filtered water pitcher (in college, apartment living and travel), this is by far the best one I’ve used. It’s definitely worth a try!
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We received the Brita Stream hydro water filtration system for free from Influenster in exchange for our honest opinion. The photos, video and opinions on my blog and social media are completely my own.

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