Last year I was introduced to the products by EZPZ and then had the opportunity to introduce them to all of you. In case you have forgotten (which is hard as they are super amazing!), their mats are an all-in-one placement + plate/bowl that captures kids’ messes. It suctions directly to the table, making it nearly impossible for tiny hands to tip over. It is especially designed for infants and toddlers (9 months+); however, I have to admit that I have used it too. 😉
This product has been one of my ultimate favorites and just to clarify they are the original!
So how could something that I love so much get any better? Partner up with the Care Bears™ of course!
If you grew up in the 80s like myself you definitely remember the lovable Care Bears™ who showed us how to have fun, be caring and kind. The Care Bears™ had his or her own trait and that was reflected on their tummy such as the sun for Sunshine Bear. I watched it often and had a few of the Care Bears™ in my collection of toys growing up. So imagine how excited I was to hear about a Care Bears™ Collection coming to EZPZ!!!
We received the Care Bears™ Mat In Share Bear™ (Purple) and the Care Bears™ Bowl In Funshine Bear™ (Marigold). There are a couple more colors available and each one has a meaning.
Share Bear is a nurturing and generous bear who considers everyone her friend. Carefree and loving, Share is happiest when she’s giving or baking!
Nothing makes Funshine Bear happier than hanging with friends or going on adventures. He makes the most of his days with fearlessness and sunny optimism. Funshine’s belly badge reflects this spirit – a smiling, blazing yellow sun!
Their meaning was absolutely beautiful and very fitting to the EZPZ brand. I would say this is a caring perfect partnership.
Now it was time to test out the new special editions.
Nikki was as excited as I was when she saw the Care Bears™ Collection and asked if she can use it for dinner. Of course our answer was YES! So that night we prepared dinner and at the table her Care Bears™ Mat In Share Bear™ was ready with her meal neatly in the spaces on the mat which look like a Care Bear. This design makes eating that much more fun!
Nikki and I give the Care Bears™ Collection 5+++ “care bear count down” out of 5. The benefits are all the same as the Happy Mat; easy to use, clean and store. It is 100% silicone; dishwasher safe; BPA free; PVC free; Phthalate free; hypo-allergenic; and does not harbor bacteria. We highly recommend this product to any family and this would make an excellent gift for any child and parent who would love a mess free dinner!
To purchase one, please click here. If you are located in Canada, please visit Hip Mommies who is one of the amazing distributors to purchase one.
Make sure to follow ezpz on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube for helpful feeding tips from Ms. Dawn Winkelman, Speech Language Pathologist & Feeding Specialist for EZPZ. There is also great other fun shares and great giveaways!
Recently I shared an article about our experience with swim lessons and Aqua-Tots Swim Schools. After a great interest from many of my loyal readers, we have decided to bring more information on this great swimming school and more information on swimming in general.
Today’s piece is an introduction to their weekday morning classes which run Mondays through Thursdays every week from 9am to 12:30 pm (with the exception of Fridays). These weekday morning swim lessons are great for maternity leave moms and dads, and other caregivers who take care of babies through the mornings as well as busy preschoolers.
Here are some highlights of the morning swim lessons available at Aqua-Tots which make mornings extraordinary.
Level 1 and Level 2
Stage appropriate swim lessons starting at 4 months of age.
Baby swim lessons are divided into 2 parent and tot classes: Level 1 Tadpoles (4 months to 12 months) and Level 2 Minnows (13 months to 30 months).
Level 1 focuses on water adjustment and level 2 on creating boundaries in and around water for tots – both classes have an emphasis on water safety skills and build comfort in the water for babies but also help in instilling confidence in the caregivers and their ability to practice proper holds and other techniques that build a sense of security.
These classes are a great opportunity to bond with your baby.
It’s also a wonderful chance to meet and chat with other caregivers: there is complimentary coffee and a play area which can turn a swim lesson into a full morning experience.
We also have change tables and encourage moms to come with strollers and car seats and “park” their items where ever is most convenient for them inside the facility.
We understand that nap times and schedules change frequently in those early years, that’s why switching to a different morning class time is easy, and hassle free.
In addition to the Level 1 and Level 2 classes that mainly take place throughout the weekday mornings, we also offer Level 3 – Leapfrogs classes on weekday mornings (2.5 and up) – This beginner class provides the foundation that helps children achieve comfort with basic swim skills.
It’s ideal for moms, dads and caregivers taking care of preschoolers looking for a weekday morning activities that promotes mental and physical stimulation.
This Level is the first time where young children go in the water independently with no caregiver, and have a chance to establish a trusting bond with a water safety instructor while a caregiver watches from the viewing gallery. This way you avoid the heat of the pool area but still get to watch your child’s progress during swim lessons.
For families with multiples, our flexibility weekday morning schedule allows for second -time parents to go in the water with their babies into a Level 1 or Level 2 class while their eldest preschooler goes in the water for a Level 3 class simultaneously. It’s a great way for the whole family to stay active and learn new skills.
We also have everything a parent or guardian of a young child would need for a morning swim lesson – swim diapers, cloth diapers, swim suits, goggles, and swim caps and a variety of snacks on sale for after swim class.
“We believe it’s more than just a swim lesson, it’s a morning experience.”
If you are interested in these swim lessons, give Aqua-Tots Swim Schools a call at 905-848-2782. Also make sure to follow them on Facebook to see what’s new.
Stay tuned for the next piece which is on turning tears into cheers!
There is no denying that Christmas is my favorite time of the year! To me it’s the spirit of Christmas that I enjoy the most as to me it’s the most caring time of the year. Therefore, when we got the opportunity to review a new book by I See Me Books on Christmas – I was thrilled!
Nikki got her “Very Own Christmas” from I See Me Books and she was as excited as me (in all honesty I must have been a tad more excited then she was).
This past weekend we sat down to read the story. When we opened the book, Nikki’s photo was there with her full complete name (first, middle and last) with her date of birth. It was a super sweet personalized touch!
The story is about the Santa quest to decorate the tree with a name to string across it for all the world to see. But it’s not just any name! It’s a name of child whose Christmas spirit is always shining through. The book then takes us on an adventure through Santaland where each character says a letter (from the child’s name) and using a positive descriptive word for the child. As we went through each letter and each page, my heart warmed up.
At the end of the story, Santa announces Nikki’s name and says that you can feel her Christmas spirit which warms up his heart to hear it. This last page had my eyes watering as that is exactly how I feel about my daughter. She is my Christmas spirit and now I have a book that I could read to her to let her know exactly that!
For this #MelandNikkiReview we give “My Very Own Christmas” 5+++ jingle bells out of 5. We also have included this on our recommended list which will be out soon!
The book is personalized to truly make the child feel special and unique. The words used are positive and empowering which we love! We just loved everything that this book had to offer us such as the beautiful illustrations, the customized and inspiring story, and for making us ALL feel special when Nikki is named as the child with Christmas spirit. This book even though was about her very own Christmas Story, I felt like it was mine too. We will definitely be reading this book leading up to Christmas and I look forward to it!
As many of my readers have learnt through my blog that giving and charity is something that I hold dear to my heart. This is why I am delighted to inform you all of a special partnership that started on November 1st with I See Me Books the Children’s Cancer Research Fund, and every purchase will benefit the national non-profit.
I See Me Books has also launched “Letters of Love” campaign. Anyone on this page can write an uplifting letter to a child with cancer and make a lasting gift of kindness. Near the end of December they will deliver the letters to the Children’s Cancer Research Fund, where they will be given to the children. For every 50 letters they receive, they will donate a copy of My Very Own Christmas to a child supported for the non-profit. If you would like to donate to this cause directly you can do so through the page. The goal is to reach $10,000 and I know it can be done.
If you would like to purchase your own book, please click here.
It always amazes me to see young people wanting to make a difference in the world and it is empowering to see them make an impact. This rings true to Owen who is already making a difference in his community and his inspiration came from his own family.
Imagine being a parent and told that your child has Leukemia. Sounds like a horrible nightmare, doesn’t it?! The Armstrong family had this happen to them when their nine year old son, Caden, was diagnosed with Leukemia. This family battled and stayed strong together. Now their other son, Owen makes benches and uses the proceeds to help other families travel to get treatment for their child.
We got a chance to chat with Owen and his mother Kirstin who gave us a deeper look at The Nice Bench Co. So grab your tissues and enjoy this inspiring story!
1. How did it all start? How was the idea developed?
“The inspiration for the benches came when Owen built and painted a bench for his little sister, Anikka. His grandparents and auntie loved Anikka’s new bench so much, that Owen was fueled to make more. He built twelve with scrap wood on Christmas Day! Those first bench prototypes were a little rough-looking, but the idea was born.”
2. What type of products does your company do?
“I get some help from a local high school student, named Ryan. He helps me build my nice benches. I have created three lines for these benches, “curious”, “wild” and “happy” – all words my mom uses to describe me! The “curious” line is basically anything I feel like doing, right now I’m really still in to stripes. The “wild” is roughed-up so it looks like it’s been out in the wild (rustic charm) and the “happy” line is solid paint in one of the milk paint colours I have chosen. There’s a big colour palette to choose from.” – Owen
“The step stools are painted using non-toxic, biodegradable, zero VOC milk paint and sealed with 100% natural hemp oil which often comes to us by way of donation from a Canadian company, Homestead House.
Owen has expanded his collection to include custom name plates and growth charts, and his step stools are now morphing into actual three-seater benches. We have some custom orders, with custom sizes for these that we are creating. Very exciting.
Every month, we try something new. Last month, in honour of childhood cancer awareness, we created a solid gold bench – the #gogold bench. This month we are featuring some artists work on the benches and later we will be doing something with Halloween inspired colour treatment.
Owen has some exclusive projects on the go for BRIKA (an online platform showcasing and selling heirloom quality artisan craft) and another: a screen-printed “THRIVE” bench for the ever-inspiring MAX LOVE PROJECT (a non-profit that aims to maximize quality of life and reduce serious health risks for all childhood cancer survivors with fierce foods and whole-body wellness).”
3. With the proceeds from the sales, how does it help families with children who are getting cancer care treatments?
“For every product sold, Owen collects $5-$10 ($5 from the sale of name plates and growth charts, and $10 from every bench) and purchases gas gift cards for childhood cancer families traveling long distances to Sick Kids Hospital for chemotherapy treatment.
Loss of income is huge, then add up all the extra hidden costs of medicine, childcare, meals on the road. Takes a toll on the family. Owen is hoping to offset that in the little way he can – by paying for the families to get their child to treatment.”
4. Can you describe what your family went through when your child was diagnosed and getting treatment?
“There are no words. Utter shock. A surreal, out-of-body experience. Our eldest boy, Caden was diagnosed with Leukemia at the age of nine. What? Kids don’t get cancer.
It is so cliché to say that our world was turned up-side-down but it truly was. Pure chaos. We had just moved three hours north of the city and were set up to live on an island for the summer when we found out we had to turn around and relocate to be near Sick Kids, in Toronto. We had nowhere to go. A family of five. Thankfully, friends and family (our community/life-support) helped us out in ways that go way above and beyond. An expecting couple gave us their home for the summer, we had meals delivered, activities set up for our other two children, the list goes on-and-on. Incredible. We are beyond thankful for their help, it brings tears to my eyes.
Watching Caden endure years of treatment, lumbar punctures, complications, IVs…gutted me. This nightmare has shaved years off my life. I’m sure of it. Despite it all, I was determined to remain positive and happy and strong for Caden. I think he was doing the same for me. He remained stoic, fierce and next-level brave through it all.”
5. Is there any advice that you can provide to other parents who are going through what you have gone through?
“I attached zero negativity to the cancer. I only wanted glowing, positive energy around him. It’s tough, especially in the middle of the night when all is quiet, but I wouldn’t let myself spiral into that abyss of darkness and let my mind go “there.” Mind over matter.
Mind Over Medicine by M.D. Lissa Rankin is all about the power of thought. This book really helped me in the very early days of diagnosis. It gave me back a tiny bit of control. I could adopt a positive mind-set and teach Caden to use visualization techniques. Every night he would send out his “patrol guys” and they would make sure his body was rid of any cancerous cell that may still be looming.
We got through it. We just celebrated Caden’s End of Treatment with that very community that supported us through it all.”
6. How can someone purchase your products?
“Products can be purchased directly from Owen’s website, https://thenicebenchco.com. Owen will also be featuring products to sell at the upcoming Seasons Christmas Show from November 17-19 at the Toronto International Centre. Stop in to meet the young kidpreneur!”
Such an inspiring and strong family! We are truly touched by what Owen is doing and admire his drive as a kidpreneur. We know that Owen has a very bright future in anything that he does and the assistance that he is providing to families is heartfelt. I am sure the families that are getting the help appreciate the heart of gold from this family. Keep up the great work Owen and know that what you are doing is so much more than a nice bench. You are giving hope to families by helping them travel to get the treatment they need for their child. I know in my heart that this means the world to them. Special thank you to Owen and his mom Kirstin for taking the time to have us interview them as we are honoured to have had this opportunity!
As a special to Momma Braga readers, use the code MommaBraga to get 15% off your purchase from The Nice Bench Co. You don’t want to miss out on this great opportunity! Not only will you be getting a quality product but you will also be helping children with cancer. Its a win-win for everyone!
Okay my mombies gather your little monsters and let’s make your Halloween party a big hit. I will share with you some fun Halloween games you can have at your party, that’s also super easy to do.
Remember to use your best judgment on which tasks your child can help you with.
Strike Those Ghosts!
What you will need: A ball, six clear or White plastic cups and a black marker
First create your ghost faces on your cups, remembering to have the opening of the cup face down on the table.
Once you have completed that you can place them in a corner, stacking them to create a triangle shape.
Decide where you want the starting line to be.
Then each person can take a turn to roll or throw the ball to get strike out the ghosts.
Feeding the Monsters
What you will need: Large box, scissors, paint and balls
With a large box you will create three monster heads, so there are three different eating levels.
With scissors cut the mouth holes and make sure it is large enough for a ball to be thrown in.
Then together paint your monsters and add some details. Then once dried, decide where you want your starting line to be and have people take turns throwing a ball into any of the monster’s mouths.
*Fun Tip: You can use glow in the dark paint and put a black light on during the game. You can also add some creative features such as teeth to make the monsters look more realistic.*
What do you feel?
What you will need: Empty tissue boxes, Black paint, foods that would resemble body parts and a blind fold
First paint your boxes with the black paint and set aside to dry.
Once that’s done fill your empty tissue boxes with your food ideas. You can label each box with the “item” that you want it to be, for example “eye balls”.
Once your guests are ready to play have them put on a blind fold and stick one hand in the boxes to feel the objects. Some examples you can use is:
Noodles with tomato sauce as mushed brains
Grapes as eye balls
Jell-O as guts
*If you wish not to use food you can add Halloween items and have them guess what they are, for example, you can put fake spiders in a box.*
Witch Ring Toss
What you will need: Black construction paper, tape, paint, card board and rings
First cut your Black construction paper into a Triangle shape.
Then fold the corners together, closing the Triangle shape and creating a cone shape.
Then with another Black construction paper cut out a circle to complete the witch hat look.
Together decorate the witch hats with paint.
Once you have taped the two pieces together and set aside to dry. Once completed tape or glue each of them onto the cardboard leaving some space between each of them.
Then create your starter line where your guests can each take turns in throwing the rings trying to get it around each witch hat.
Whether you decided to do one of these or all of them, your guests will have a great time at your Halloween party. Remember that sometimes not keeping score can create a more fun, laid back atmosphere and will help you avoid the “competition” conflicts that may arise.
We all know that every good Halloween party or get together, needs some munchies to keep your little monsters full and satisfied. I will share with you some “not so scary” Halloween munchies, that are easy to make and yummy to your tummy.
Remember to use your best judgment as to which tasks you can have your child help you with.
What you will need: Bananas, White chocolate wafers, Chocolate chips and Popsicle sticks
First unpeel your bananas and cut them in half.
Melt your wafers until your white chocolate is liquid (I did mine in the microwave for 40 seconds).
Then dip half of your Popsicle stick into the chocolate and stick it into the end of the banana.
Once completed, gently dip the whole banana into the melted chocolate and add three chocolate chips (two for eyes and one for a surprised spooky mouth).
Then set all the done ones onto a tray over wax paper and put it in the freezer for about an hour.
What you will need: A large tray, veggie dip, baby carrots, broccoli and cucumber
First lay out your baby carrots in to a circle shape and use the broccoli as your stem of your veggie pumpkin creation.
Remove the baby carrots from the areas in which you would like to have the eyes and nose and place a small container with veggie dip in those places.
Finally remove the baby carrots to create your mouth and add some sliced cucumbers in that area.
What you will need: Toast bread, cold cuts, mayo, cheese, circle shape cookie cutter and green olives with opening
First with your cookie cutter, cut out circle shapes on your toast bread slices.
Once completed, assemble your sandwiches using your mayo first, then cold cuts.
Before you add your cheese, use a knife to design your cheese slices to look like sharp teeth.
Once you have added that and put another circle piece of toast bread you are ready to add your eyes. That’s right you guessed it! Use the olives as your monsters eyeballs.
To keep them in place you can add a tooth pick to each one, just make sure your guests can see the tooth picks so that they can pick them out before taking a bite.
Sweet and sticky pumpkins!
What you will need: Rice crispy Squares, Rolo chocolate and green cookie icing
Feel free to make your own Rice Crispy Squares from scratch. Or you can just buy a box of Rice Crispy Squares, add two drops of Orange food coloring on each, pop them in the microwave for 8 seconds and then shape them into a pumpkin.
Once you have that done stick one Rolo chocolate on the top as your pumpkin stem.
Now you can stop right there or you can use the green icing to create some more detail on the pumpkin like leaves.
Eye love cupcakes!
What you will need: Your favorite cupcake recipe, white buttercream icing, red icing, black icing and lifesaver candy
First make and bake your favorite cupcake recipe and then set them aside to cool down.
Now comes the fun part… decorating!
Spread your white buttercream icing on all of your cupcakes.
Then place one life saver in the middle of each cupcake.
Using your black icing fill in the hole in the middle of the life saver to complete the look of your eye.
Finally add your final detail using the red icing and drawing out some veins.
I hope I didn’t make you drool too much! All of these ideas are super easy to make and it doesn’t take too much time to make.
Every year we hear about children falling into pools or waters and drowning and it’s always tragic to hear. This is why we felt it was important to have our daughter learn to swim. Of course we will combine the swim lessons with water safety and what to do in case of an emergency.
Therefore, my sister-in-law was on the case to help me find a swim school that would be a great fit for our family and provide the program that would teach the skills that my daughter needed to know. After a lengthy research she found the Aqua-Tots Swim Schools.
The school was originally founded in Arizona in 1991 and has grown considerably over the years to have a strong North American and international presence thanks to its carefully crafted swimming program for children. Aqua-Tots Swim Schools Mississauga is the first Aqua-Tots location in Canada and has had its doors open to the Toronto West and Mississauga communities since January 2017.
With a focus on safety, a heated pool, a facility designed for families, and on-going progress reports across eight swim levels, Aqua-Tots Swim Schools introduces babies and children of all ages to safe swimming and water practices. Open six days a week, with flexible morning and afternoon lesson times, the swim schools offers a range of classes.
Aqua-Tots Swim School had a great history and structure and we loved their mission statement: “With more than 80 swim schools worldwide, Aqua-Tots was founded on the principle of equipping children with life-long water safety skills. Aqua-Tots Swim Schools is committed to helping children of all ages develop these life-saving skills through an engaging curriculum that is especially designed to complement each child’s life stage.”
This is exactly the type of school that we were looking for and therefore, Nikki was registered in the Beginner program which is Level 3, LeapFrogs.
Aqua-Tots Swim Schools, teaches babies as young as 4 months old and children of all ages how to be safe in and around water and develop a love for swimming. Each of the eight levels has a focus that’s specific to the age and ability of the child. For example, the Level 1, Tadpoles class is for guardians and infants and focuses on water adjustment. Additionally, attention is on safety and breath control.
Level 2, Minnows, on the other hand, is still a guardian and toddler program, in which toddlers learn about the importance of boundaries in and around water with an ongoing focus on safety. Each new level develops at a comfortable pace for the child. Advanced levels, such as seven and eight have little ones working on the butterfly stroke and building endurance after they have mastered the other main strokes.
Our first swim lesson was scheduled on a Sunday afternoon and we made it a family affair. I have to be honest as that is the only way I know how to be but I was very nervous for many reasons. One reason was on how Nikki was going to react going with the instructor to the swimming pool without me and the second reason was on her safety. I think it is natural for us parents to feel like that especially with something new.
The time came and it was time for Nikki to start her class. The instructor called her name and took her hand and her progress sheet (I like to call it her report card) and off they went. To my surprise Nikki didn’t even turn back to say good-bye and I can feel the tears welt up in my eyes. I sat down to watch the class in session and she was a real pro looking like she was in her element. I couldn’t help feel really emotional and proud at the same time. The first swim class was a wrap and Nikki fell in love with swimming!
We started our swim classes in July and are still continuing once a week. We have changed the format of her swim classes from group to semi-private classes and even the day of the week that we wanted to have it on. So we love the flexibility that they have been able to offer for families. Nikki has improved her confidence in the water and has really picked up on the skills quickly. But we know with time, she will be swimming to her hearts content soon.
For this #MelandNikkiReview, we give Aqua-Tots Swim School 5 LeapFrogs out of 5. Here is why we love them:
Great programs that are tailored to toddlers and children to help them gain the skills needed to swim.
Flexible schedules available for families which is so great for working families.
Clean and safe environment. They are extremely clean and have safety in mind. As a parent, it is important to learn about your swim schools safety procedure.
Caring instructors and staff members who make you feel like part of the family.
It’s fun! Your child learns and has fun at the same time.
If you are looking for a swim class for your child then we suggest looking at Aqua-Tots Swim School. Enrolment is on-going, season-neutral and takes less than 5 minutes to complete. Visit Aqua-Tot’s website to read about the different levels of swimming lessons https://www.aqua-tots.com/swim-lessons/swim-levels/. If you are in the Mississauga area you can call the Aqua-Tots Swim School at 905-848-2782 which is located at 1970 Dundas Street East, Unit 6. Also make sure to follow them on Facebook to see what’s new. For Aqua-Tots main office, follow them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
Special thank you to Natalia from Aqua-Tots Swimming School Mississauga for taking the time to contribute some background information to this article and to the staff at Aqua-Tots for making swimming so much fun for my daughter.
Until next time…Happy Parenting!
*Please note that this not a paid or sponsored post. This article is an honest review of services that we have used and are currently using.