Category: Lily

Mudpuppy Puzzles Are Perfect for Travel!

Military life comes with frequent moves. That often means being far away from family and friends—and driving or flying long distances to visit them. So, military kids often do a lot of traveling.

My children are the perfect example. My twin boys logged at least five cross-country airplane flights by the time they were 2. My daughter took a 3,000-mile road trip with us at 5 weeks old when we moved from California to Virginia. Over the past two years, we’ve driven to New York to visit family more often than I can count. Add to that our various vacations, and you’re looking at some very well-traveled kiddos.

But while my kids’ extensive travel experience has made them a bit more flexible than other kids in many ways—they can easily sleep anywhere, they can handle schedule changes pretty well, etc.—at the end of the day, they are still kids. And just like any kid, they need to be entertained on long flights and car rides. They need things to do in the hotel room or at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. And because Keith and I don’t want their travel entertainment to consist solely of TV and iPad time, we’re often forced to devote way too much suitcase space to toys and books.

So as you can imagine, I was thrilled to have the chance to try out some of Mudpuppy’s portable puzzles. They are light and compact, making them easy to toss into my carry-on bag or diaper bag. And they are adorable and lots of fun! Here’s what we tried:

Pouch Puzzle: Mudpuppy’s 12-piece Pouch Puzzles (for ages 2 and up) come in zippered pouches, not boxes, making them flat and super easy to tote around. We received the Princess Castle puzzle, perfect for my little girly girl. We took the puzzle with us to Hawaii and on several trips to New York, and even when we’re not traveling Lily loves to put it together. The thick pieces are perfect for her little hands, and the puzzle is just hard enough that she feels challenged, but can still put it together on her own. Pouch Puzzles come in 16 themes and retail for $10.99.

Mudpuppy Princess Castle Pouch Puzzle
Our completed Pouch Puzzle

Puzzle To Go: The 36-piece Puzzles to Go, geared to ages 3 and up, are 12″ by 9″ when put together. That means they fit perfectly into an airplane or train tray table! We received the Outer Space puzzle and the Airplane puzzle, which was perfect because Nate loves space and Matt loves transportation. We first whipped these puzzles out on our long flight to Hawaii, and they entertained the boys for about an hour each! They were so excited to be able to do puzzles on the plane. And because they come in a drawstring pouch, the puzzles took up hardly any space in my carry-on bag. Mudpuppy makes 10 Puzzles To Go that retail for $9.99 each.

Mudpuppy Puzzle To Go
Look how small the pouch is!
Mudpuppy Airplane Puzzle To Go
Our completed Airplane Puzzle To Go

 

My First Touch & Feel Puzzle: Each of the six My First Touch & Feel Puzzle sets come with four three-piece puzzles for ages 1 and up. The pieces are chunky, and each puzzle has one textured piece for little hands to feel. We received the “In The Garden” set, and even at 2 1/2 Lily absolutely loves these puzzles. I’d say this set is the least portable of the puzzles we tried because it comes in a box, but a bonus is that the puzzles are small enough to fit on a tray table. My First Touch & Feel Puzzles retail for $12.99.

Mudpuppy My First Touch & Feel Puzzles
Our completed My First Touch & Feel Puzzles

 

In addition to these awesome puzzles, Mudpuppy makes lots of other fun travel toys and games for all ages, including Magnetic Build-It sets, felt Play Scenes, Ring Flash Cards, and more. So with spring break travel coming up and summer vacations just around the corner, now is the perfect time to visit galison.com/MUDPUPPY and get some for yourself!

 Disclosure: I received complimentary items to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own!

A Chemical-Free Baby Wipe … Plus, Win a $100 Walgreens Gift Card!

This post was sponsored by WaterWipes as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own. 

Baby wipes are a necessity when you’ve got little ones in diapers. Unfortunately, many of the baby wipes on the market contain chemicals that can irritate babies’ sensitive skin. So the very thing that keeps babies clean can also cause awful diaper rashes. It’s just one of those unavoidable aspects of parenting, right?

Not necessarily. I recently discovered WaterWipes, the only baby wipe in the world that contains no chemicals. In fact, WaterWipes contain only two ingredients—99.9% pure Irish water and 0.1% grapefruit seed extract, a natural skin conditioner. That means WaterWipes are gentle on baby’s skin and help prevent diaper rash and other skin conditions. The National Eczema Association has even awarded WaterWipes the Seal of Acceptance.

When I first read these facts, I figured WaterWipes must be flimsy like other sensitive baby wipes I have tried. I was thrilled to find that that’s not the case at all. WaterWipes are actually quite durable! They also work very well, meaning I don’t need to use 10 of them to get Lily clean. And, they’re not inter folded in the package, a feature that’s supposed to help make them more sterile.

Sounds like a product that could only be available in health stores, right? Actually, they are fully stocked at many major stores, including Walgreens. That’s where we got our WaterWipes. They were very easy to find, smack in the middle of the top shelf of the baby aisle.

WaterWipes

WaterWipes

Even Lily was excited to buy them!

img_9294

We have been using WaterWipes for a few weeks now and have had a great experience with them. Though Lily has never had very sensitive skin, I still feel good knowing I am using such pure and natural wipes on her. I may not be able to protect her from everything, but why wouldn’t I avoid using harmful chemicals on her as much as I can?

Lily seems to love them, too. Have you ever seen a baby so happy to have her diaper changed?

Baby with WaterWipes

Click here to learn more about WaterWipes and get a coupon for $1.00 off.

Want to buy your own WaterWipes? Influence Central is giving away five (5) Walgreens gift cards. That’s enough to purchase WaterWipes and other necessities for your little one! Just click below by October 7, 2016 to enter:

WaterWipes Walgreens Giveaway

I-C will randomly select winners from all program entries and will facilitate fulfillment of the winning prizes (5 winners). Good luck!

Get Unlimited Kids’ Classes in the DC Metro Area with JumpIt Pass

Happy summer! Northern Virginia (NOVA) public schools have been closed for nearly two weeks now, but for Matt and Nate, preschool ended right before Memorial Day. That means it’s already been summer for us for over five weeks. And what a busy summer it has been. Besides the two weeks of camp the boys have done, we’ve gone to the pool, the splash pad, the nature center, movies, playgrounds, the trampoline park, the library, baseball games, and so many more fun places. Every day has been a new adventure. Here’s a shot of the kids at the Independence Day Parade in downtown Fairfax on July 4:

3 Kids on 4th of July

But there are still two more months of summer to go, and even with our upcoming trips to New York and Hawaii, we have many more days to fill. And it gets hot here. Really, really hot. That leaves me and so many other NOVA parents with a bit of a challenge: How do we entertain our children on these long, hot summer days without spending a ton of money?

NOVA—and the Washington, DC area in general—has many indoor gyms, play spaces, and other venues that offer children’s classes. The problem is, they are generally pretty expensive: Many of them have monthly memberships that cost $75 or more for one class per week. And what happens when your kid gets bored of going to the same place every week, or when your schedule doesn’t allow you to be at the same place at the same time each week?

Luckily, there is an option that can help solve those problems—JumpIt Pass. JumpIt Pass provides unlimited monthly access to some of the best kids’ classes across the DC metropolitan area. Families can attend classes at a variety of venues including play gyms, art studios, fitness centers, martial arts studios, dance studios, and more. You can take as many classes as you would like per month (up to three each month at the same venue).

When I first learned about JumpIt Pass back in October (about a month after its launch), most participating venues were in Bethesda, Rockville, or DC. As more and more NOVA venues got on board, I decided to give JumpIt Pass a try with Lily in January and February while the boys were at preschool. Unfortunately, frequent snow and the fact that Lily was still under 18 months old at the time prevented us from taking full advantage. But, we still really enjoyed the classes we took at Great Play of Fairfax with our JumpIt Pass.

Since then, JumpIt Pass has expanded even more. Now many NOVA venues participate, including Blue Box Sports in Chantilly, Gymboree Play & Music in Alexandria and Burke, BusyBees in Falls Church, Monkey Joe’s in Sterling, Tippi Toes in Alexandria and Arlington, World Karate in Fairfax, and more. There are also many fun locations in DC and Maryland. Click here to see a full list of participating venues.

And this summer is the perfect time to try JumpIt Pass because there’s an amazing promotion going on. JumpIt Pass usually costs $99 per month for unlimited classes for one child and $169 per month for unlimited classes for two children (additional kids cost $70 per month extra), or $59 for a three-class starter plan. But this summer, you can get 50 percent off any JumpIt Pass by entering promo code SUMMER at checkout. That is a huge bargain!

So if you live in the DC area and are looking for ways to entertain your kids this summer, head over to jumpitpass.com and give it a try. Your child may just find a new favorite place or discover a new passion. If you try it, let me know what you think!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary JumpItPass to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own!

 

 

Don’t Give Up!

When I first started writing this blog while I was pregnant with the twins, I mainly intended it to be a way to keep my family and friends updated on the pregnancy and babies. It was also a way for me to continue to put my writing out there. I had left my full-time job at Scholastic in order to move to Colorado Springs, and my freelance writing career hadn’t really taken off yet. So, I had a decent amount of time to spend on my little hobby.

Then life got crazy. The boys, and later Lily, were born. Keith deployed to Afghanistan and was wounded. We moved to California, then to Virginia. We traveled. And most of all, my freelance assignments began to pour in. I found myself with less and less time to devote to the blog.

But then, public relations folks began to take an interest in the blog. They started to reach out to me, asking me to review their products or visit their family-friendly locations. Then I received an invitation to Blogger Bash last summer, where I met and became inspired by so many successful bloggers. I decided to try to spend more time on Double Duty Twins and use it to impart some of my hard-won parenting advice to other moms and dads. And for a while, I was able to post more regularly.

But I’m not going to lie: It’s been extremely hard for me to keep it up. My writing career has really taken off, and I’m regularly juggling several assignments at once. I’m still writing a ton for Scholastic, and Care.com and Bentley University have kept me very busy as well. (You can check out some of the stories I’ve been working on at jennifermarinowalters.contently.com.) I also wrote four children’s books for Red Chair Press that are slated to hit shelves in August.

The kids have also been keeping me on my toes. The boys are in tee-ball, soccer, and swimming, and Lily and I go to Gymboree and other activities while they’re at school. Then there are the play dates, trips to the playground, birthday parties, etc.

It’s a very tough balancing act. I feel caught between the stay-at-home mom and the working-mom worlds. I’m trying to be both at the same time, but I am not fully either one, which makes managing my time really difficult.

I’m not complaining. I love being busy with work. I love doing fun things with the kids. It’s just impossible to do everything, which means something has to get lost in the fray. And that something, unfortunately, is usually this blog.

But I’m trying. I’m always looking for ways to organize my time better. I found a really great co-working space in Vienna, Virginia called Play, Work or Dash, and it’s got on-site child care for Lily. She and I go there weekly while the boys are in preschool. I’ve also been making better use of Lily’s nap times now that the boys are older and can entertain themselves. I have a nanny come about 12 hours a week while I work. And being a night owl helps, too, because I can write late at night while everyone is asleep.

My point is, I am not giving up on this blog. I’m asking that you don’t give up on it, either. It is never going to be my full-time job or my main source of income—especially as I continue to land more and more freelance-writing clients. But it’s always going to be a place where I can speak my mind and talk about the things that I want to talk about. And that is priceless to me.

So I will continue to do my best to write when I can and to find interesting things to share with other parents. I will also attend Blogger Bash again this summer, where I’ll get lots of new material. So please stick with me! If you want to stay updated on new blog posts (whenever they may come) and on my other stories, follow me on Twitter at @jmarinowalters. You can also find me on Instagram at @jmwalters718, and on Facebook at facebook.com/doubledutytwins.

And just for fun, here is a recent photo of my crazy crew during our recent trip to Disney World!

Minnie Mouse Disney World

Hope everyone is having a great month!

 

Give the Gift of Books All Year Long

Monthly box subscriptions for kids are all the rage these days, and they come in all kinds of themes to suit any interest—Kiwi Crate for kids who love to craft, Little Passports for geography lovers, Brick Loot for little builders. (Check out my review of Brick Loot here!)

Recently, we had the chance to try out a subscription box that suits my little book lovers perfectly—Bookroo. Each month, Bookroo will send your child three board books or two picture books—whatever you choose.

My kids love books and love to have me read to them. Now that the twins are 4.5, they’re also learning to read themselves. So I feel we can never have too many books in the house.

The problem is, when given the chance to choose books for themselves at the bookstore or library, they almost always go for the Star Wars or superhero books. While that’s perfectly fine—I firmly believe that kids should be allowed to read whatever they choose—I do want to make sure their reading selections are varied. So I always pick a book or two on my own. Once I read it to them, they usually end up loving it, and have actually found some of their favorite books this way.

So I was really excited to give Bookroo a try and to see what books we would get. I signed up for the box that would send two picture books. When it arrived, the boys were really excited to see their names on it and to open it. And when they did, I was super impressed! The hardcover books were individually wrapped with pretty paper and tied with twine. It was like receiving a present directly from a loved one.

Bookroo books

I was even more pleased with the selections we received: “Ribbit!” by Rodrigo Folgueira and “Hugless Douglas and the Big Sleepover” by David Melling. Both books are colorful and beautifully illustrated, and the kids were laughing out loud at the stories!

“Ribbit!” is about a lovable pink pig who tries to make friends with other animals by “ribbiting” like a frog and tweeting like a bird, much to the animals’ bewilderment. “Hugless Douglas and the Big Sleepover” is the third book in a series about a bear named Douglas. In it, Douglas gets invited to Rabbit’s sleepover, but ends up inviting too many of his animal friends to go with him. With too many animals and not enough space, how will anyone ever get to sleep? Douglas finds the perfect hilarious solution.

Bookroo picture books

I enjoyed the books as much as the boys did. So did Lily, who is 16 months old. They will make great additions to the kids’ library.

But what if we had already owned one or both of the books that came in our subscription box? All we would have had to do was email Bookroo a picture of us giving the book to someone else and we’d receive $5 off our next box.

So if you are looking for a gift for a child who loves books, or you just want to discover new books for your own child, give Bookroo a try! It comes in a 1-month, 3-month, 6-month, or 12-month subscription. The price ranges from $15.99 per month for a 12-month subscription to $17.99 per month for a 1-month subscription. Shipping and handling to the U.S. is $5 per month. Plus, use this link to purchase your subscription and you’ll receive $5 off. It’s a coupon just for Double Duty Twins readers!

If you decide to try Bookroo, leave a comment here and let me know what you think! Happy reading!

Disclosure: I received a discounted Bookroo box to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own!

Check Out These Adorable and Stylish Baby Shades!

Remember when my family and I lived in California? And remember how I couldn’t stop talking about how much I loved every warm, sun-soaked moment?

I did—and so did my twins. But protecting their little eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays was a struggle. It stressed me out. After all, pediatric optometrists warn that lifetime UV damage starts in early childhood, with retinal damage from the sun having its greatest impact in kids under 10 years old.

We bought the boys all sorts of fun little toddler shades. But no matter what we did, their shades could not seem to survive very long. They always seemed to end up mangled at the bottom of the beach bag, crushed under the double stroller in the trunk of the car, or destroyed by grubby little hands that managed to find them even when I thought I had put them in a safe place. Eventually we gave up, tired of constantly spending money on toddler shades that were just going to break anyway, and just tried to improvise by shielding their eyes as best we could with sun hats and baseball caps.

Recently, I received an email offering me the opportunity to try ro•sham•bo baby shades. These stylish, Italian-made sunglasses come in many fun designs named after ’90s icons, like “Kelly Kapowski pink” and  “Zack Morris blue.” (Where are all my “Saved By the Bell” fans?) They block 100% of the sun’s UVA/B rays and are BPA- and pthalate-free. They’re also a favorite of celebrities like Reese Witherspoon and Jamie King.

But here’s the part of the email that intrigued me the most: “Designed specifically for babies and children’s use, abuse, and love of putting things in their mouths, ro•sham•bo are so durable that they can be bent, stretched, pulled, and stepped on (they have even been run over and survived!) and bounce right back to shape.”

Um—yeah right, I thought. They haven’t met my Lily, who shares her big brothers’—ahem—curiosity. But this video of the shades being manhandled and surviving was quite convincing:

 

I wrote back and said I would love to try the shades. I received two adorable pairs—one in “Breakfast @ Tiff’s teal” and one in “Simpsons yellow.” Lily seemed to prefer the teal ones, and so did I. So, even though it’s winter here in Northern Virginia, we bundled up and took them with us to the playground on a warmer day. She looked super adorable in them! She also wanted to wear her brother’s blue puffer vest—a little fashionista in training. Here’s Lily modeling her cool new ro•sham•bo shades:

Toddler wearing teal shades
See? Adorable! (Please excuse the crumb on her chin!) Since that day at the park, we’ve had gloomy days followed by the mega blizzard now known as #Snowzilla16, so Lily hasn’t had much opportunity to sport her shades out and about. However, I have allowed her to play with them to her little heart’s content, and so far, they really have held up! She even chewed on them a couple of times. I’m really surprised that there aren’t any scratches yet.

Now, the question is: Will Lily keep them on for longer stretches at the pool, the park, and the beach this summer? I think she will. The lightweight arms bend gently inward to help keep the shades on a baby’s head. And because they’re so soft, they seem to be a lot more comfortable than stiffer shades. I know because I tried them on. (No, I will not post a picture of that!)

ro•sham•bo baby shades fit babies and toddlers ages 0 to 2 and up, depending on the size of the child’s head. And, get this: They come in adult and kids’ sizes, too! I’m seriously considering getting teal ones for myself and the boys so we can all match. (I doubt I’ll get Keith to go along with it.)

To purchase your own ro•sham•bo baby or adult shades, head to roshambobaby.com. Baby shades sell for $20 per pair and adult shades cost $35 per pair. Buy three pairs and enter the coupon code Family10 to get 10 percent off your order. Purchase four or more pairs and enter the code Family15 to get 15 percent off your order. Then, feel great about your purchase: The company donates a portion of all proceeds to autism research!

Now, let’s hope summer gets here quickly!

Disclosure: I received two complimentary pairs of ro•sham•bo baby shades to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own!

 

Build STEM Skills With Brackitz!

At 4.5 years old, my twins love building toys. LEGO bricks, Magna-Tiles, Lincoln Logs, and Tegu blocks are regularly strewn all over my family room. As annoying as that can be (we’ve all experienced the misery of stepping on a stray LEGO brick), I love the fact that Matt and Nate are learning invaluable STEM and problem-solving skills—and using their imaginations— while they build. To me, a little mess is a small price to pay to mold the minds of my future engineers or architects.

Naturally, I thought I knew about all of the building toys out there. But then I learned about Brackitz. Brackitz are durable, open-ended blocks that enable children of all ages to build any imaginable structure in any size. Naturally, I was eager to let the boys give Brackitz a try.

We received a Brackitz Inventor 28-Piece Set to try in exchange for our honest opinion. With so few pieces, I thought the boys would get bored quickly. But I was pleasantly surprised by how long they were able to entertain themselves. I was also impressed with how many different creations they were able to come up with.

The kids were eager to build as soon as I opened the box. Even Lily got in on the fun!

IMG_0335Matt was super excited about the 4-way connectors, so the first thing he did was make an X!

IMG_0342Nate made an airplane.

IMG_0344And then of course, Matt had to build an even cooler airplane, while Nate turned the remaining pieces into a “giraffe that’s eating popcorn.”

IMG_0354These photos were taken last week, and the kids have played with their Brackitz every day since then, creating all sorts of vehicles and other crazy gadgets. It’s really interesting to see how creative they have gotten and all the combinations they’ve been able to dream up with only 28 pieces. The 4-way and 3-way connectors really increase the building possibilities, and there are even little motion connectors that let you add moving parts to your creations, such as spinning propellers.

The Brackitz Inventor 28-Piece Set currently retails for $19.95 on Amazon. You can also get 50-piece, 100-piece, and even 200-piece sets. I definitely see a larger set in our future, as well as many Brackitz birthday gifts for the boys’ friends.

If you’ve got a little builder, give Brackitz a try and let me know what you think!