This year’s gift guide is very different than past years, primarily because COVID has changed our priorities, wants, and needs. This year I wanted to focus on gifts that you can purchase to support some of my favorite small businesses, which is how I am shopping as well. There is a focus on simple things, self-care and relaxation, and family fun while isolating at home.
If ever there was a time to treat yourself to artisan soaps, lavender bath bombs, and indulgent bubble bath, it is at the end of a long hard year that was 2020. These goat’s milk soaps from Old Slate Farm make for lovely teacher gifts and stocking stuffers. I’m obsessed with everything from Woodstock Lavender Farm (owned and run by my friend Alison and her mom) but think this Neck Wrap/Eye Pillow Set is the perfect gift. Their lavender tea and some bath bombs would also make a great gift set. I have some of their culinary lavender on my list. They are having a 10% off sale Friday and Saturday — use code SHOPSMALL.
Best of all, buying from all of these ladies supports small businesses and women farmers!
I also love all of the products by my friends at Tubby Todd. My kids use the Hair and Body Wash, the toothpaste, and the lotion. I love the bubble bath and the All Over Ointment. Perfect stocking stuffers 😉 And they too are having a sale! Starting Thursday, 11/26 at 6pm PST until Monday, 11/30 at 11:59pm PST — receive 15% off all orders or 20% off orders over $100 (no code necessary — discount will be automatically applied at checkout). Shop the sale here.
Last but not least, are skincare products from Beautycounter. I believe in and love this line so much that I joined on as a consultant a couple years ago. My skin feels the best it has in years (since having kids, I’d say) and the fact that the products are free of toxic chemicals and harmful ingredients is the best part for me. Beautycounter is having a rare sale too: 15% off and free shipping for orders over $50 through 11/29. I’ll also be sending a little gift to anyone who makes a purchase of $100 or more of product (before tax and shipping).
Books and Learning
My favorite sources and types of books for kids are ones that teach honest history, equality, kindness, and life skills. That’s why these are some of my favorite picks for gifts this year: A Kid’s Book About (offering a Buy 2 get 1 free deal, plus free shipping on orders of 3+ books), Little Feminist Book Club (giving 30% off new subscriptions with code GRATEFUL), Ditto Kids Magazine.
I also have a carefully curated collection of books I love or that we have in our kids’ library if you’re looking for additional ideas. You can find that list here. Also, a collection of board games, puzzles, and other fun things can be found here.
Heirlooms & Tchotchkes
Some of my favorite Christmas gifts to both give and receive come from Paloma’s Nest. It is a tradition to get our kids a new ornament from this lovely shop each year, dating back to Charlie’s first Christmas. They are currently offering 20% off + free shipping with code MERRYLITTLEXMAS.
Some other fun gift ideas for the fun people in your life (or me!):
RGB Tea Towel, Candles with a side of snark, and a whole fun Schitt’s Creek line. I’m particularly obsessed with their handmade pottery and ceramics (like these retro ceramic trees) and their ornament selection. All from Full Circle Gifts and Goods in Huntington, WV (but available to all thanks to their online store!).
Apparel and Accessories
My favorite kid tee shop is back with a new name and fresh style. Go check out Kid Cactus Club. And they are offering 20% off their entire site starting on Black Friday. I also love the tees from Megan Lee Designs, Passive Juice Motel, Wire & Honey (they also have super cute socks!), and
I’m also a HUGE fan of Birdling Bags. We have their overnighter and weekender and they are perfect for our family of five for weekends away, and I use their backpack for outings with the kids (it would work as a diaper bag too but doesn’t scream diaper bag). They are a fantastic company and their bags are such great quality. They are having a 30% off sale (no code, prices are as marked) so now is the time to snag a bag!
For the Furry Family Members
My friend Janeesa is the woman behind the Salvage Maria brand and she makes so many stylish goodies for our furry family members. We have one of her pet beds for our kitties and they love it. And best of all, they also look good in our home. Use code THANKSGIVING2020 for 20% off! Also, she makes fabulous masks that give back — snag some while you’re placing an order.
For the Planet
With a focus on reusable and sustainable products, Reuse Revolution is my go-to for swapping disposable household items with reusable ones. It’s (past) time to kick plastic to the curb!
And while I strongly encourage you to shop small and support your favorite local spots, I also know that many are shopping on a tight budget and can’t leave home. So I’ve created a gift idea list on Amazon as well, which you can find here.
And a disclaimer and reminder: some of the shops or products linked here are affiliate links. They are a way you can support my small business this season, which has also taken a major hit this year. To purchase through one of my links means I earn a small commission but at no additional cost to you. I always appreciate the support <3
I wish all of you a happy and safe holiday. I’m very grateful for each one of you.
Hi guys! It’s been a minute since I was able to post here. There’s a ton going on at our house right now, including a major mold remediation and some renovations around our home. (You can read our whole story here if you missed it or also follow along on Instagram). I originally had some fun garden content planned for the blog, as well as a garden makeover planned here at home, which all got sidelined when we found hidden mold in our home and realized what a huge undertaking and expense remediation would be. Maybe we’ll revisit that next spring! So for now I thought it would be fun to have my friend Annie from Seed Babies share some tips on what you should be doing in your garden right now.
The best part about gardening is planting and harvesting.
But what about what happens in between those two things? Maintenance. While maintenance may not be as glamorous as planting or harvesting, it is just as important. Even a small garden can produce loads of veggies if it is properly and regularly maintained. Gardens that are well maintained are also healthier and more productive. There are ways to keep your garden low maintenance, but in general there are a few things we should all be doing regularly in the garden.
This includes basic tasks like weeding and watering. It’s also important to be regularly checking your plants for pests and diseases. The earlier these things are caught, the easier they are to address.
There are three reasons to prune in the garden. First, you can prune for space i.e. thinning plants. By doing this you are giving the plants the space they need to thrive. Second, you’ll want to prune for health. For example, you can prune off growth that is affected by pests and diseases. This keeps the plant happy and healthy. Finally, you can prune for production. This means you’ll prune off extra growth so the plant can focus more on producing.
This happens in a couple of different ways. First, you want to feed or amend your soil to keep it healthy. You can do this by adding compost and soil amendments. The second way to feed your garden is to fertilize your plants during different stages of development. You can fertilize for leaf growth and fruit growth.
Sometimes plants need extra support too. Plants like tomatoes, peas, and cucumbers need to be trellised. You can also stake certain plants for light support and to keep them from falling over. Peppers and eggplants sometimes need this as well.
There you have it. The four things you should be doing regularly in order to have a healthy and thriving garden.
Want more help in the garden? Download Annie’s Garden Maintenance Checklist here to help you get started, follow her on Instagram, and take her virtual gardening workshop (she’s having one tomorrow, 7/16!)
Do you have a garden? What questions or issues do you face? What is your favorite thing to grow?
More about Annie: Annie is a garden coach. Owner and Founder of Seed Babies. Aspiring minimalist. Lover of nature, pancakes, and dystopian future books. She learned how to grow food in a small community garden while living in NYC and hasn’t stopped growing since. Her company, Seed Babies, designs, builds, and maintains edible gardens and coaches clients on caring for their gardens. Annie is on a mission to get everyone in Columbus growing food.
We’re about 5 months into our Healing Lyme journey with my son Charlie and we’ve come a long way. Our day-to-day is now a mix of life before Lyme (which is wonderful!), walking on eggshells when we can tell it’s needed, the occasional (a couple times a week) emotional outburst/panic attack), and a daily routine of supplements, OTC meds, herbals, and antibiotics. It still takes all of that to keep his inflammation at bay and his moods and progress stable. His OCD is still very present, though not debilitating like it was before. He still has food restrictions. I describe it like having food aversions when pregnant — how something you used to love now turns your stomach and the thought of it makes you ill. That is how he reacts to some (many) foods now. He can’t even look at them. I might make him something he ate the week prior and then the next week he looks at it and flies into a panic. It’s getting better, but it’s still there.
He was able to return to school after over two months being homebound. It hasn’t been seamless. He is tardy every day but we’ve gotten a note from our doctor and it is built into his 504 to allow for tardies or absence due to his illness. And he still asks to stay home most Mondays — but don’t we all feel that way? 😉 He works at a slower pace than his norm, math is harder due to his brain inflammation, and he gets tired. And now that we’re doing online learning at home due to COVID, we’re dealing with new struggles. But we’re doing our best. Sometimes his OCD causes him impulse control issues (this happened A LOT at onset before we went homebound) but mostly he has done great. I’d say we have him 75% back to his old personality. We haven’t retested any of his infection titers yet but will likely do that next month, and we’re considering doing some mold testing as well.
One of the hardest parts of healing Lyme has been learning the healing process. There is so much more to it than taking an antibiotic. For people with chronic stealth infections like Lyme and mycoplasma (Charlie has both) the infection can hide and be hard to kill. Lyme is a spirochete and it can burrow itself into just about every area in the body: joints, liver, brain, heart, etc. Many of these bacterial infections also exist in a biofilm, which helps it evade the immune system. Also, when you do kill the infection you need to be able to detox that from your body or it can also make you feel really sick (this is called a herxheimer reaction, or herxing.) Herxing is a sign that things are dying or being released from their hiding places into the body. When the organs that detox can’t keep up your body releases cytokines that cause a lot of unpleasant symptoms (both physical and emotional). What the body couldn’t see before is now visible and the immune system goes into hyperdrive. And if you have autoimmune disease like PANS/PANDAS that can make things go even more haywire. This is why proper detox is so important.
Your body’s natural detox system does a great job under normal circumstances, but when you have chronic illness your detox pathways often need a little assistance.Two big ways your body detoxes is through sweat and stool. Since kids with Lyme (and most people with chronic illness in general) often aren’t feeling up to working up a sweat, this one can be tough. We do epsom salt baths that help work up a bit of a sweat. Many people do infrared saunas as well (we haven’t tried this). It’s also important to make sure there are 1-2 bowel movements daily — we push water, foods high in fiber, and keep an eye on stooling. When we notice a backup, I make a “poop smoothie” with aloe vera juice, senna tea (smooth move), prune or apple juice, magnesium citrate, or a combination. We NEVER give Miralax (I shared why here).
Another tool that has been huge for aiding our detoxing is the IonCleanse foot bath. Our LLMD has one at their office and we tried it a few times there and I saw such a difference in Charlie. He was more relaxed after using it, was sleeping better, was having more regular BMs, and his mood seemed to improve. The 1-2 days following his foot baths were always better. I reached out to A Major Difference to see if they would be willing to send us a machine to continue testing so I could see if it was a tool that worked for us with continued use and in combination with our treatment plan. I wanted to be able to see how it worked for us before I shared much about it or recommended it to other PANS/PANDAS families. We’ve now been using it three times a week for over two months and I feel like it has made a huge difference for us. I have also used it on myself and find myself more relaxed and sometimes tired (I use it before bed and sleep better).
Let me just say that before Charlie got sick I would never have imagined that alternative treatments and therapies would be something that I would be doing, let alone recommending. But honestly, when traditional medicine and doctors failed us by not believing me (and even gaslighting me) and dismissing our positive test results, I became more open to other avenues of treatment. Because honestly, they were my only avenues. Had I done what the infectious disease specialist at Children’s hospital advised, I would have gone back to psych (which we had already done) and never treated Charlie’s Lyme. I can’t imagine where we would be now or years down the road if I had listened to that terrible advice. With that being said, when we first started using our foot bath and I shared about it on Instagram I had more than a few people commenting negatively and skeptically. And I get it. But seeing is believing, and I have seen such wonderful positive changes and improvements after using ours. On the nights that Charlie does a foot bath before bed, he has his best nights of sleep following — he did one last night and slept 15 hours! I don’t think he moved all night, honestly. And when these kids are trying to heal from these awful stealth infections and brain encephalitis, sleep is so important.
The company explains so much better than I can how the IonCleanse by AMD works, so I would advise you to do your research and read more about it here. But I am always happy to answer questions. Getting one is an investment, but when you have a kid with PANS/PANDAS and Lyme you already know that everything that goes into their treatment is expensive, and all you want to know is “will it work?” This has worked well for us so far. I’ve heard of people with other autoimmune conditions, ASD, other behavioral disorders and developmental disorders, as well as other things like heavy metal or mold toxicity benefitting from this treatment as well. If you are on the fence about buying one but have questions, please feel free to reach out via email!
Do you have any other Lyme or PANS related questions I can answer? Or questions about the foot bath or other treatments we’ve tried? Don’t forget to read my other Lyme and PANS posts if you haven’t already. You can find them here.
And thank you again to A Major Difference who provided this foot bath for us to test out so we could see if it was a treatment that I could share and recommend to my fellow PANS/PANDAS and Lyme parents.
Hi there! How are you doing? Are you feeling the Coronavirus / COVID-19 anxiety? As a mom of children with wonky immune systems (thanks to the autoimmune disease PANS/PANDAS + Lyme Disease and co-infections) and a person who struggles with anxiety myself, I’ve had to balance being prepared and aware with turning off the news and trying to focus on things here at home and staying positive. I think that, for me, I feel better just surrendering to our circumstances and hunkering down at home with my family, taking deep breaths, and trying to find the positives in this slow down. I know my husband and I are very lucky because we work from home and are able to do this without too much hardship. I feel for those of you who are facing bigger challenges professionally, economically, and logistically.
For those who will be quarantining at home with kids, I thought I would share the activity list my kids and I made that we’ll refer to when we feel bored or to help keep a bit of structure to our days (my PANS kiddo especially does better with structure because it helps keep his OCD at bay when he’s busy). So here’s our list, along with links to some of our favorite board and card games:
- play with sidewalk chalk
- outdoor play-doh
- nature scavenger hunt
- paint rocks for garden
- garden prep and other spring yard jobs
- plant early veggies and learn about them as we go
- plan our herb garden
- plan our flower gardens
- scooter rides
- family nature walks/visit metro parks
- hop-scotch (can do multiplication hopscotch for older kids)
- bike rides
- backyard nature study
- Mr. Fox
- wash the car (if warm enough)
- bug collecting
- plant identification (I use PictureThis app)
- make a gnome/fairy garden
- clean up/open sandbox if weather permits
- set up birdhouse and fill bird feeders to do some birdwatching — can ID birds with our bird book
- outdoor painting
- backyard DIY obstacle course (can be simple)
- plant a tree
- do a weather study
- water play once warm enough
- write a story
- pick a topic and then research/read about it (could also ask kids’ Alexa)
- listen to kid podcasts or audiobooks
- break out old lego sets and magna tiles
- write letters to family and start sending postcards to pen pals
- Nugget fort/play or build a fort if you don’t have a Nugget, set up a tent, etc.
- GoNoodle (body movement)
- CosmicKids Yoga
- dance parties!
- indoor treasure hunt
- Charlie’s indoor quidditch game or homemade Minecraft board game
- invent other new games
- organize/clean rooms
- save cardboard boxes from the many deliveries we’ll have to avoid stores and come up with creative ways to use them. Build a robot, make a playground for the cats, etc.
- Go through old clothes and see what fits and what doesn’t. Make a donation bag. Also go through old toys while playing indoors at home and put in a donation box. Explain where our donations go and how others enjoy them and environmental benefits to second-hand goods.
- chores (make it a game or contest)
- workbooks/activity books for littles // homework for big
- marble run
- cars/car tracks
- reading / read-to-self
Non-Animated Movie Ideas for Bigger Kids
- The Goonies
- Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (original)
- The Dark Crystal
- The Greatest Showman
- Akeela and the Bee
- The Sandlot
- The Mighty Ducks
- Flight of the Navigator
- The Sound of Music
- Wizard of Oz
- Harry Potter(s)
- The Chronicles of Narnia
- The Princess Bride
- Mary Poppins
- Little Giants
- Honey I Shrunk The Kids
- The NeverEnding Story
- The Jungle Book (live action)
- Lion King (live action)
- Beauty and the Beast (live action)
- Pete’s Dragon
- The Karate Kid
- Back to the Future
- Space Jam
- Rookie of the Year
- School of Rock (older kids)
- Spy Kids
- Free Willy
- Cool Runnings
- Jumanji (old and new)
- Mrs. Doubtfire (older kids)
- Kindergarten Cop
- Star Wars (originals and prequels are best for kids)
- Jurassic Park (Jurassic World for older kids as well)
- Indiana Jones
- look for other options on Disney+
These are ones that we have/would let our oldest son watch. He’s 9 but a bit more of an advanced movie lover and won’t really watch animated films anymore. He will flat out tell you that his favorite directors are George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, and he pays no mind to swear words — it’s all about the art 🙂 That being said, we may feel ok with letting our kids watch something that you would not, so be sure to check out the movie at Common Sense Media or on IMDB first. Please don’t come blame me when you let your kids watch The Goonies and then they start using new words afterwards 😉
Free Learning/Activity sites:
- Scholastic: https://classroommagazines.scholastic.com/support/learnathome.html
- Prodigy: https://www.prodigygame.com
- Cool Math For Kids: coolmath.com
- Splash Learn (math)
- PBS Kids (for ages up to pre-K) https://pbskids.org/
- ABC YA (games for both math and literacy, will also read books aloud): http://www.abcya.com
- Read Works (literacy for K+) http://www.readworks.org
- Common Lit (geared toward higher grades) http://www.commonlit.org
- Time for Kids: timeforkids.com
- Typing Practice: typing.com/student and typing.com/typinggames
- Minecraft, education edition: http://education.minecraft.net
- Crash Course
- Who Was? App/Site
- Nat Geo Kids https://kids.nationalgeographic.com
- Time for Kids
- Smithsonian for Kids
- Ted Talks
- Duolingo (learn a language for free!)
- How Stuff Works
- Nasa Kids’ Club
- Code Academy (learn to code free)
- Growga is offering free yoga classes and meditations for kids online
- Mystery Science has a limited free lesson membership
- Use your library card to download books for free from apps Libby (I use this one for myself and always check for books here before I buy on Audible) and Hoopla
- Classics for Kids (music games)
- Brain Pop Arts and Music
- The Good and the Beautiful: free language arts worksheet pdfs for download
- Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems (daily online doodling with the author of the Pigeon books!)
- Khan Academy: free learning site
You can also use code SCHOOL7771 for free access to ABC Mouse, Early Learning Academy, Adventure Academy, and Reading IQ while schools are closed.
Virtual Field Trip Ideas:
(I did not create this amazing list, just sharing it!)
15 Broadway Plays and Musicals you can watch on stage online:
We can do this! Stay safe and healthy everyone. xx
This post contains affiliate links. If you click one and make a purchase I may earn a small commission at no cost to you.
This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SOLOLifeSensor #CollectiveBias
Driving with kids: it can be fun, loud, crazy, and sometimes miserable. Balancing everyone’s needs in the car while actually driving a car can be quite a feat. On top of the responsibility to keep your kids safe while on the road are the day to day demands of caregiving that can leave you hurried and distracted in your normal routine. While you may not have control over other drivers, you can make sure that children are properly protected in your own car. Here are some things I do or use to keep my kids safe while we’re driving in the car. Read More
This post couldn’t have come at a more perfect time – I’ve just gotten over the flu, my older son has a double ear infection and pink eye, and I’m just holding my breath to see what the baby ends up with. It seems like so many of us are dealing with a particularly nasty cold and flu season. And as frustrated as I am with the sickness, I can’t help but consider us lucky: lucky that this is the worst we have it, and lucky that we have healthcare that enables us to go to the doctor and get medicine we need. I kid you not, I’ve been to the pediatrician almost weekly for the last two months.
So I thought I would share some of my tips for surviving this germ-filled season (besides taking your kid out of preschool for the duration, which I’ve been tempted to do myself…)Read More