As Weston gets more and more into books, I get more and more excited to introduce new books to him. When I was sent a review copy of A is for Artisanal: An Alphabet Book for the Hip, Modern Baby, I was beyond thrilled. And, upon opening the book, I couldn't get over how incredibly smart, witty, adorable, and humorous it was! A is for Artisanal is written by Matthew Goldenberg and illustrated by Benjamin Schwartz. When Goldenberg, a practicing psychologist at Yale, started spending time with his brother's new baby, Ava (see: A is for...), in the yuppie/hipster area of Park Slope, the idea of the book, which is a take on modern parenthood and childhood, came to him. Illustrated beautifully and playfully by Schwartz, who draws for the New Yorker, this book is sure to become the next big baby shower gift! I mean, I can't help but love the book...because O is for Olivia!

I have to say, before I even read the book to Weston, I read it about five times myself. As a pop-culture junkie, I love all the references to movies, TV, radio, technology, and all the new popular baby names. I'm telling you, check out A is for Artisanal and you can't help but smile!

Lovelies, it is no secret that Weston and I are huge fans of The Sandbox Playspace in Huntington. From the classic wooden toys, to the mama-interaction-time, to the wonderful owners, we love spending our days at The Sandbox playing, hanging, learning, and loving life. The Sandbox has become our second home in town, where we land after a long day of errands or meetings. And now, I am so excited to announce that The Sandbox has opened up their own Toyshop! Owners, Toni and Rob, hand picked each and every toy that they sell, and I can tell you from experience, that the toys are beyond gorgeous and would make amazing holiday gifts. Not to mention that The Sandbox is now selling gift cards! What's a better gift than the gift of play (and uh, of mama hanging out with other mama time!)?! Sandbox gift cards would make a perfect first birthday gift, stocking stuffer, or even baby shower present!

I am thrilled to have Toni here today on Lovely to share some words about their new Toyshop, the importance of play, and how critical it is for parents to have a safe mental space to go to; thanks for sharing, Toni!

Childhood is new territory these days. Life can feel rushed, noisy & high-tech and it's easy to feel pretty disconnected from the natural world.

We wanted to offer toys to counterbalance the speed of life and to honor childhood. Toys that truly value play, slowing down, being in the "now". Toys that encourage making time and space for imagination and creativity. We wanted toys that will become beloved and last a long time. 

Wooden toys inspire the senses. The smoothness of wood and it's weight and coolness feels so good in a baby's hand as she begins to discover her tactile senses and explore grasping, clutching and coordination. Plus, our toymakers use only the highest quality, sustainably harvested wood and completely natural, non-toxic dyes, paints and finishes so wood toys can double as teethers and you don't have to panic when they go straight in the mouth. 

For bigger little ones, there is magic in watching a hand-carved horse become real. We treasure watching our own boys dig deep into playing. We love when they are talking in high little voices and forgetting about the real world around them. They don't know it, but as they flex their little "imaginary muscles", they are actually practicing creative, critical, flexible thinking- the kind of thinking which will serve them through their entire lives.

We like toys which stick around and remain loved for the long haul. Blocks, a ukulele, puzzles, a spinning top, a sweet, soft doll - they chisel a place in your heart and they teach children that some things in life are very special and not disposable.

And, if you are looking for the gift of togetherness, a gift card to the Sandbox is perfect under the tree. (E-gift cards for sale or call (631) 421-1600 or drop in to purchase a classic gift card) - A great suggestion for the uncle who might otherwise choose a dancing plastic chicken who squeaks "The Macarena" on repeat. 

Also, a perfect stocking stuffers, gift cards are available in any amount and can be used for a Sandbox Play Membership, Play Package, Open Play Visit, or for merchandise.

So, as the harsh days of winter approach you will have a cozy clubhouse to come and play together. Your sanity might just depend on it.

You have more than enough time before Christmas to stop in and stock up on toys which will become family heirlooms! Hope to see you there!

Today's "A Day in the Life of..." post comes from a long time internet friend of mine! I "met" Becky many years ago when I was wedding planning, and we've followed each other's stories since then. She's the mama to one adorable little girl with the best birthday ever (mine!). She's also an extraordinary event planner with her company Event Crush, and has a truly lovely wedding blog. You can find Event Crush on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook.

November 24th, 2014
5:30 am – Briefly wake up to a kiss goodbye from my husband, Andrew, before he heads off to work for the day. Roll over and hope to get a couple more hours of sleep.
6:30 am – wake up to Addy crying from her room. I go get her out of the crib and bring her in to bed and attempt to nurse her back to sleep so I can catch a few more zzz’s.
6:45 am – It’s no use, she’s up for the day. After changing her diaper we head out to the kitchen and begin our day. And to be honest – after waking up at around 5:00 am every day for at least a year, 6:30 is pretty dang awesome.
7:00 am – First stop: My glorious Keurig. I get my first cup of coffee for the day and try to find something for Addy to eat. Before I know it, she is pointing at the TV and saying “oh oh ah ah!”
7:15 am – I give in and put Curious George on for her. I am a huge pushover in the morning, apparently. While Addy is enthralled with “Georgie,” as we call him, I am able to get some work done on my laptop (checking emails, working on upcoming blog posts, etc).
7:30 am – Addy is signing “eat eat” so I get her some yogurt and some cereal, which she picks at.
8:00 am – Addy decides to take all of the pots and pans out of the kitchen cupboards and arranges them on the living room floor. She is pretty impressed with herself. I am able to get a few more things done on my computer while she is entertaining herself, which is awesome. She also tries to wear a heavy pot like a hat which does not go over well.
9:00 am – I’m on my last pair of contacts so I call my eye doctor and order new ones. I read a few books with Addy and then we head in to my bedroom so I can do some cleaning.
9:15 am - Addy enjoys emptying out the bathroom drawers and dispersing the contents throughout the bedroom. She finds some chap stick and puts it on her lips, just like mama. After her lips are completely covered, I attempt to take the chap stick away. Naturally, this is the end of the world and she throws a giant fit. I try to distract her and tell her it’s shower time (which she loves) but she continues to throw a fit anyway.
9:30 am – She finally calms down and agrees to get in the shower, where she is instantly happy again. Afterwards, I coax her in to her room to get dressed. I tell her to “pick out an outfit” but I end up choosing her clothes anyway. I throw something comfy on myself for the time being, along with my fuzzy slippers. We play in her room and then in the living room and before I know it Addy is signing “eat” again and again.
10:45 am – We head out to the kitchen to get something for lunch. I whip up some mac & cheese and she has a few bites before acting uninterested.  I offer her various other things but apparently she is no longer hungry.
11:00 am -  I tell Addy that we need to cut her nails because they’re getting long (really long… yikes). I get the nail scissors and put on Curious George in hopes that it will keep her attention. I expect her to put up a huge fight like usual, but I am able to cut all 10 finger nails with ease and without a peep from her.  I am super excited… this is NOT normal and usually it’s a huge struggle where I end up calling in reinforcements from Andrew.
11:15 am – Addy begins to act tired, so I take her in to my bed and see if she will nurse to sleep. As her eyes get droopy, I contemplate if I should take a rare nap with her or if I should get some work done. I decide on the latter – there’s just too much to do.
11:30 am – After Addy is sound asleep, I sneak out of the room and head for the kitchen. I brew another cup of coffee and sit down at the kitchen table with my laptop. Time to work!
1:30 pm – I look at the clock, and am super happy that Addy is taking such a long nap and I’m getting so much done.
1:45 pm – My mom gives me a call and we chat for about 15 minutes. She gives me a much-needed pep talk, which is nice because we’ve been going through some crazy stressful stuff in regard to buying our first home.
2:00 pm – Our real estate agent calls and gives me an update on a few things. We set up a viewing of another house for later in the week.
2:30 pm – Addy finally wakes up from her nap and comes stumbling out to the kitchen. We snuggle for a minute while she adjusts to being awake and I tell her that we are going to go grocery shopping soon.
2:45 pm – I get Addy dressed in an adorable little purple sweater dress and I realize I have a purple headband that matches perfectly. I figure it’s worth a shot, so I grab it and put it on her head… and she didn’t take it off! That’s a first. In fact, we got out the door and in to the car without it coming off.
3:00 pm – We arrive to Fred Meyer and grab a cart. Addy loves riding in the cart so we begin our shopping adventure on a good note. We only have a few things to get this week since we are leaving town mid-week for Thanksgiving with my family in Washington.
3:05 pm - As we head towards the food aisles, we pass the women’s clothing department and I can’t help but notice all of the “sale” signs. We make a brief detour and before I know it we are in the dressing room with an armful items. We emerge from the dressing room with two shirts and a skirt. I feel guilty but also am in dire need of a few new cute tops … plus we aren’t getting that much food anyway….so I justify it.
4:00 pm – After our shopping trip, we get home to see that daddy is already back from work. Yay! We are both excited to see him. Andrew helps me put away the groceries and Addy plays with blocks in the living room.

5:00 pm – We are all getting hungry so I put a pot of water on the stove to boil for spaghetti. While I’m waiting for the water to boil, I receive an email with the first drafts of my potential new logos for my business, Event Crush. I am SUPER nervous but also excited to see them (what if I hate them!?). I finally open the email and I really like one of them which is great, but there were several changes I wanted my designer to make. I show Andrew and email it to my mom as well to get their feedback. I decide I will think on it more and get back to her in the morning with the changes I’m wanting done.
5:15 pm – We enjoy our spaghetti and then Andrew heads off to coach volleyball practice. I put on some cartoons and me and Addy play in the living room.
7:00 pm – Around this time, something super weird started going on with my right eye. I tried to read a text message and had a hard time reading it, as if I had just looked in to a bright light or something. I realized I had a sort of “blind spot” in my eye. I immediately took out my contacts to see if that would help, but it didn’t. I put on my glasses and tried to stay calm but nothing like this had ever happened before so I started to freak out a little bit. I googled “blind spot in eye” which definitely didn’t help.
7:30 pm – Andrew gets home and he can tell that something is wrong. I tell him what’s going on and he tries to console me.  I tell him that I read “if you have any changes in vision you should consult a medical professional or go to the hospital asap” and that I’m scared… he tells me to try to stay calm and give it a little while to see if it goes away. I agree.
8:00 pm -  My weird eye thing seems to have passed, although now I have a gnarly headache. I take some Tylenol, and then I bring Addy in to her room for bed time. Thankfully she goes down without a problem. I am pretty sure the headache is a result of me being stressed out about my eye.
8:15 pm – I text my mom about my weird eye issue and she asks if I’ve been over-wearing my contacts. Yes. Yes I have. I decide that’s the explanation for this and I try to get some sleep to rest my eyes, which is not coming easy with a headache (plus I am not used to ever going to bed this early). Eventually I fall asleep and get some good rest!
(Side note: I haven’t had any eye issues since then! It was super weird though).

You know when you come across moms who totally inspire you? That's Tara! She's a mother-baby nurse, a nutrionist, and owns her own "SnugBug Fitness Class" where she helps moms get in shape while wearing their babies. Not to mention she's super smart, friendly, and has a gorgeous pixie of a baby girl named....Magnolia. Swoon. Totally girl-crushing on today's A Day in the Life Of guest poster! Take it away, Tara!

A Day in the Life of Tara Allen…

6:00 AM – The alarm goes off. Magnolia has been up and breastfeeding since 5:30 (for her 5th middle-of-the-night feeding). I still set a ‘just in case’ alarm everyday.

6:15 AM – Done breastfeeding. Giggles, poking Daddy, and saying “Mama” about 20-30 times before we get out of bed.

6:45 AM – Done with diaper change, vitamins, dressing, combing hair, and brushing teeth. The brushing teeth thing is more like an opportunity for Maggie to bite my finger without being told not to bite. Teething again, right? ANY day now!

7:00 AM – Joe hangs with Maggie while I quickly wash up and throw some workout clothes on. We have 2 classes to teach today!

7:15 AM – Pack the car – carseat, baby carrier, diaper bag, pocketbook, iPad and notebook (a.k.a. my mobile office), resistance bands, water, breakfast and lunch for mini-me and me.

7:30 AM – Kisses, coats, and out the door.

7:30 AM – 8:15 AM – drive to Huntington, listen to music, news, podcasts. Turn it all off. Sing "The Wheels on the Bus". That seems better. Magnolia catches a quick cat nap. I find some parking in between construction zones. Please don’t wake my baby!

8:15AM – 8:45 AM – Mobile office open for business. Check emails. Post on Facebook about the construction / parking situation for everyone. Write routine for today’s classes.

8:45 AM – Princess is awake. Perfect timing – was just going to wake her. Quick feeding and diaper change in the car. Time to teach our SnugBug Fitness class!

9:00 AM – 10:00 AM – SnugBug Fitness class. We talk, we sweat, and I feel lucky to do what I do.

10:15 AM – Another diaper change and feeding in the car. Blog about class. Welcome new clients. A gentle wrestle and toy distraction to get M into her seat. It works!

10:30 AM – Drive, drive, drive. Magnolia needs a real nap now and this is just about the only way we can get one.

11:15 AM – She’s asleep!

11:20 AM – She’s awake!

11:30 AM – She’s asleep!

12:00 PM – Call my mom from the car (hands-free, don’t worry). We talk about some holiday plans we have coming up and schedule some Grandma-Magnolia time (which equals some work time for this Mama).

12:25 PM – Arrive in Mineola. Park and continue to work. An opportunity to meet with the web developer after this next class. Great! Take notes for meeting. Hopefully a little sweat and a baby won’t be a distraction for my meeting.

1:30 PM – M wakes up – 2 hour nap – sweet! Lunch time. We eat (where else?) in the car today. She reluctantly takes a bottle of pumped milk at this time. I’m starting to slowly wean, so this is the “no boobie” time. Diaper change. It’s warm today – we head outside for a walk and a little fun Mommy and me time.

2:05 PM – Enter the wellness center to set up for class. Magnolia loves this time as she runs around the room and we listen to music. Quick dance party. Maggie’s got some slick moves already at her ripe ol’ age of 1.

2:15 PM – 3:15 PM – SnugBug Fitness class #2. Fun, fun! 2 workouts in one day is not such a bad gig, either.

3:25 PM – 4:30 PM – Pack up and head over to meeting. Joe works in the same building and can take Maggie for a few minutes while I meet with the web developer. Perfect! Concentrating on updating site to take registration for upcoming nutrition seminar I will be teaching. Oh no, is she crying?? “Mama, mama, maaaaaa-maaaaa!” Yup, she is. “We’ll finish this via email. Thanks”!

4:30 PM – Back in the “boobie” time frame. Nurse M and change diaper. We drive home in traffic and I break out the Christmas songs very early this year. She sings along with a “ya-ya-ya”.

5:30 PM – Home and unpack the car. Shower / bath time for us! Pajamas X 2 (why not?). Maggie grabs a book. We read. She eats the book. We play with her new medical kit. “Are you going to be a nurse like Mommy?” “Mama?” I’ll take that as a maybe. A load of laundry goes on, breastmilk defrosting to make bottles, and time to start cooking. I cook dinner for us, breakfast/lunch/dinner for Maggie for tomorrow, and breakfast and lunch for myself for tomorrow – I will be working all day at the hospital. A giant post-it note details all of Maggie’s meals for tomorrow so our family / babysitters know what she gets and when. This happens when you’re Type A, a bit overprotective of your child’s health, and out of the house for 15 hours straight.

7:00 PM (shoot, later than I planned) – We eat dinner. Joe will be home around 7:30.

7:30 PM – Joe is home! “Hello”, catch up for 5 minutes, and he brings M into the bath. Phew! Time to clean up from dinner, wash the dishes, flip the laundry, and start to pack things for tomorrow. Set the alarm for 4 AM.

8:00 PM – Pack my breast pump for work tomorrow, stock the diapers and wipes in the nursery. Take out the garbage and diapers. Lay out my clothes in the bathroom (so I can just slip out of the bedroom without waking anyone in the morning). Joe does lotion, bedtime stories, and brushes teeth. Sleep sack on and we meet on the couch to breastfeed. She’s not sleepy yet. She climbs on us. Sleep sack off. We chase her. She giggles – a lot!

8:40 PM – Rubbing her eyes! Let’s try again. Sleep sack on. Breastfeed to sleep. Joe and I stare for a minute as usual. She’s so beautiful! We’re so lucky! Joe scoops her up as I plant one last kiss on her forehead. “Is the sound machine on?” “Yup”. Transfer to her crib. It may only last about 2 hours, but it’s a start! Time to fold laundry, finish last minute emails, post the recipe for what I made for dinner, and catch up with Joe about the day.

9:20 PM – Crawl into bed. Try to get a solid hour or two for now. Magnolia will be up between 10:30 and 12 and will be nursing and co-sleeping with us from then on. Now’s my chance to sprawl out on the bed! Double and triple check my alarm. Goodnight!

Bring on tomorrow….

Thanks for reading! My blog can be found here

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Lovelies, I love when life works out in funny ways and you meet people on your journey whom inspire you; take for example, Kerry Hotine. Kerry is a mom to five kids, with two sets of twins, and runs her own business, Bows For Your Bellas. We've posted about Bows for Your Bellas before, and I am so excited to have Kerry "back" today! 

A day in the life of Kerry, mother of 5, with 2 sets of twins ages 7, 6 and 4

Nov 5, 2014

7am: Which is the time I let myself get out of bed, I grab a cup of coffee and I sneak about ½ hour of computer work in while my kids slowly come down from bed, they are either watching TV to wake up or they are starting to get themselves dressed.

7:30: The kids are now asking for breakfast (the ones who have not eaten) or that would like something hot (oatmeal or pancakes); for the most part my guys can get what they want, cereal, muffins etc.

7:45 am: I start making 4 snacks for school and 3 lunches for my elementary school kids. One of my 4 yr olds is home sick today with the stomach bug, so she will be on the couch for the day with me!

8:15: I am finishing up the snacks and lunches (3 kids want 3 different things of course)! And now I come to realize that they have not finished their homework from the day before, so as I am finishing lunches I am now helping finish up homework.

8:45: Time to get my self-dressed before we need to get out the door for bus and preschool.

9:00 am: Last call for hair and teeth, coats back packs and we all pile into the car, even my sick little one.

9:10: The bus gets the 3 older, then I race to preschool which started at 9am, and drop off Julia while Emily comes with me.

9:20: I grab a quick coffee at Starbucks and a hot chocolate for Emily, even though I know I should not since she has had the stomach bug for the past 2 days! Then we are off to Jefferson school to make copies for a fundraiser that I am in charge of!

10:05: We finally leave Jefferson from making copies and then distributing out to all of the teachers, so that each child gets a copy in their back pack to bring home to their parents.

10:15 am: I start to do some laundry, put some groceries away from yesterday that never made its way into the cabinets, finish up the morning dishes that are in the sink and need to get into the dish washer.

10:45 – I get on the computer to do some Bows For Your Bellas work, Jefferson PTA and then some United Methodist Preschool work because I have a board meeting tonight with the school that I need to run, since I am the chair person for my girls' last year of preschool. This is consisting of emails, agenda, phone calls, getting my volunteers for my fundraiser for the following week.

Noon: Emily is asking for soup, so I make that for her, I also make my own lunch while I am at it and we sit together!

12:30: Emily and I make our way to the car because I have to make a few deliveries of bows before we pick up Julia from preschool at 1pm.

1:15: Now home with Julia I make her lunch, then clean up from all of our lunches and the I finally make my way into the shower.

2:00pm: I shower (only because I have that board meeting tonight).

2:30 – I take some time out to be with the girls, read and they decide they want to play in the snow! Yes, even though there is no snow, they are so ready! Here is a great picture of them in the snow suits!

3:15: We head back up to Jefferson school because I need to meet someone and drop a check to them for the PTA, while I am there I pick up my older 3, which I normally do not do, they do take the bus every day, unless something comes up. From there we run to R&S Butcher in Southdown to pick up meat for tonight and tomorrow night’s dinner.

4pm: We are home, the kids unpack their back packs, have a snack and onto homework. For the 3 of them homework usually lasts about an hour or so…

5:20: I start prepping and getting ready for dinner (a little earlier tonight due to my 7pm board meeting).

6:15: We are all sitting down having dinner together, the kids all come together and help set the table and help get the food on the table.

6:55: My husband gets home and I walk out the door so that I can make my meeting.

8:20: I arrive home and of course the kids are waiting for me, so I now put them down to bed, read a few stories and tuck them in.

Wow! It is now about 8:45 and I am wiped! I get myself into my PJ’s, get a glass of wine and go into the living room to talk to my husband only to find that he is asleep from his long day at work! So I drink my wine, watch a funny show and get myself to bed around 9:30

On to another day tomorrow!!

Lovelies, I have a very cool Day in the Life of post for you today! Jillian Darlington is the mom and mind behind the new app just for moms, MomCo! Launching this Monday (!!), the app is designed to help moms meet each other, find local deals, and branch out into the greater world. Jillian is an extremely hard working mama of one young son, and boy oh boy, she is going places...I can't wait to see what she creates next! 

A little more about the MomCo App (from their website): "The MomCo App connects moms with other moms in their community for friendship and support, based on proximity and common interests. It also helps them find the resources, products and services that they need. Moms can organize playdates, share and get support through the forum section, save money through exclusive local deals, and access local events. The MomCo app is also the perfect platform for any business or service provider that caters to women and children to list themselves where their target demographic can easily find them."

My name is Jillian Darlington. I am an entrepreneur, founder and CEO of the MomCo app, and
the single mom of 7 year old Taylor. My life is 24/7 and a little nuts. I do not recommend this to
anyone who has an alternative and respect for their sanity. For me, there is none. Failure is not
an option. Not being a full time single mom is not an option. Most days I can handle my crazy
lifestyle. Somedays I end up in tears from shear exhaustion. But every day I get out of bed and
just go. I also found out Sunday night that my episode of Millionaire Matchmaker is airing so my
life, MomCo app development, and our marketing campaign have been thrown into hyper drive.

Here is an average day in my existence:


6:51am: Alarm goes off. Get up, get Taylor a Zbar and juice, make his lunch, pack his backpack and at 7:25am, it’s off to school

8am: get home from drop off. Check pilates schedule, send some emails, call my COO Beth and map out work schedule for the week

8:20am: publish my “Mom on a Mission” blog and share it on all my social media. I featured Kristen Helms, she is a very successful blogger here in San Diego and she just launched a online women’s magazine called “Tribe”. She totally rocks.

9:20am: get off the phone with my Tech team and email my lawyers. Clearly not making it to Pilates today.

10am: Finally had a shower. Time to build an Ikea desk for my office. I build it without incident while listening to an interview with Oren Klaff. I am currently reading his book: Pitch Anything

12pm: I record an interview with Erin Smith. She is an entrepreneur in Texas and she is documenting my life as well as 9 other entrepreneurs that are launching startups, via her podcast show for the next year.

12:50pm: My door bell rings while I’m still talking with Erin. It’s Carly from Car’s Jars. She is delivering my wonderful and healthy salads for the week. Having these salads in my fridge keeps me from eating junk. They are easy and yummy so I eat them instead of hands full of Pirate Booty.

1pm: My COO Beth arrives and we hunker down in the office to get down to some serious work. So much to figure out and fast. Crazy!

1:55pm: Go grab Taylor from school.

2:30pm: Back home. Taylor is happy and playing. I hunker back down in the office with Beth and it’s back to work. We work until about 6. Mean while I’m making snacks and making sure Taylor is happy. No way I could have done all this with a toddler. Now that he is 7, I can actually get stuff done while he is home. THANK GOD.

6:30: Beth leaves and I realize that I had forgotten to put Taylor’s fish sticks in the oven 20 minutes prior. Taylor is soooooooo hungry, according to him so I make him a sandwich while I prepare the rest of his dinner. Surprisingly he still eats all of it, even after the sandwich appetizer.

7:30pm: Taylor and I play two games on Candyland. He murders me both times. That makes his day. I didn’t let him win either. I am unbeatable at Trouble but this kid rules Memory and Candyland.

8pm: Shower for the kiddo followed by reading. He reads me a book and then I read him one. I fetch me some water for him and he is done for the day.

8:35pm: I email Jessica Alba and The Honest Company about a partnership with them and the MomCo App.

9pm: I am done working for the day. I turn on E!News and try to turn my brain off. That lasts for about 12 minutes. I start texting with a friend about pitching. He is a male and obviously thinks cause he has a penis, that he can “help me." After clearly schooling him on my skills, I shove my phone under the pillow next to me and fall fast asleep by 11:30pm.