Tag Archives: toddlers

How to Deal With Picky Eaters - SmartMom

How To Deal With Picky Eaters  

It all started with an innocent looking jar of green beans, a six-month-old, and a white oxford shirt.  With the first spoonful, my crisp work shirt was covered in green, like a paint-splattered canvas, and my baby girl had her lips puckered, her mouth locked, and refused to eat another bite. I had a picky eater on my hands. The problem? I didn’t yet know how to deal with picky eaters.

Baby girl did not like anything green, anything orange, anything with an odd texture, basically anything that was healthy for her.  As a parent, having picky eaters can be very frustrating and worrisome.  Are they eating enoughAre they getting the nutrition they need?  Are their bad habits going to be a problem in the future?

The good news is that child development research says not to worry too much about how to deal with picky eaters. Selective eating often occurs during ages one to three.  While significant growth occurs in the first year of a baby’s life, growing slows down during the second year.  On top of that, toddlers are learning so many other fun new skills, like walking, running, and climbing, which are much more interesting than eating.  Plus, with a stomach the size of her clenched fist, your toddler isn’t capable of eating large amounts at a time.

However, don’t make the mistake of becoming a short-order cook for the picky eaters in your family.  You’ll exhaust your time, energy, and patience trying to appease everyone.  Instead, here are a few tips you can use to help your family deal with picky eaters:

Don’t Force the Issue  

Avoid bribery or force to get your child to clean his plate or eat certain foods.  You don’t want your child to associate eating with frustration, anxiety, or a power struggle.  Minimize distractions, like the television or toys at the table, so that your child can focus on eating.  Even if he doesn’t eat, encourage your toddler to stay at the table until the family is done eating.

Let Kids Help

Letting children pick out healthy items at the grocery store and help to prepare a meal gives them ownership and familiarity with all types of foods.  When toddlers lend a hand with the measuring, pouring, and stirring, they will most likely try to taste the final product as well.

Offer Healthy Options

Stock your fridge with items like yogurt, cheese, fruits, and vegetables.  Make sure there are more healthy options in your pantry than unhealthy ones, like whole grain crackers, pretzels, and dried fruits.  Try to eat healthy foods yourself, and make sure your child sees you eating healthy foods.

Drink Fruits and Vegetables

Sometimes, drinking essential vitamins and nutrients can be much easier than eating them.  Smoothies are fast, easy, and packed with nutrition vital to your child’s health.  Try some of these yummy smoothie recipes to get picky eaters to drink their fruits and veggies (psst…you can’t even taste the spinach!),

Serve Food on a Stick

When trying to get my daughter to eat, I discovered something brilliant that was right under my nose: toothpicks!  It’s amazing what kids will eat when it is skewered on a stick.  A favorite in our house is apple and cheese cube kabobs.  You can also try other fruits, vegetables, lunch meat, chicken, small meatballs, pasta noodles, or some of these variations here.

Be Sneaky

As parents, we’re entitled to a little subterfuge and when it comes to getting kids to eat things like cauliflower and kale, sometimes we have to be downright sneaky.  Ever heard of black bean brownies?  How about carrot mac and cheese?   These popular books are sure to get your picky eater eating all kinds of nutritious foods, without even knowing it. 

Never Give Up

Don’t give up trying to introduce new foods.  Stick to a routine of breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the same times every day.  Make sure that at each meal, there is something your toddler likes and recognizes, plus a few new, healthy foods on the same plate.  She may not try them, but children need to be offered a new food as many as 15 times before they will eat them.  Make sure to give your toddler small portions of whatever you are eating as well—a good example goes a long way.

Baby girl is now five years old and heading to Kindergarten.  Although she is still a little more selective than her younger siblings, the good news is that her eating habits have gotten much better.  Every meal gets easier and she is trying new things and discovering that she actually likes them.  Green beans, however…we’re still working on.

 

Holidays can present some of the hardest times for picky eaters. Here’s some help.

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Introducing Solids to Babies: A Complete Guide - SmartMom

Introducing Solids to Babies: A Complete Guide

There is no subject that divides parents more significantly than introducing solids to babies.   Whether it’s the time (4 months vs. 1 year?), the method (purees vs. food in its original form?), the food (organic and homemade vs. jarred?), the location (in a high chair vs. on the floor?), controversy looms around every corner of the solid food terrain.  

With all that being said, I’m aware that no matter what I say, someone will disagree with something in this article.  So, let’s acknowledge that and move on.

Here are some tips for introducing solids to babies that have worked for my family.

Timing

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that’s babies be breastfed exclusively for at least six months.  This is obviously something that varies from family to family, but if you use the APA as your guide, you can begin introducing solids around the six month mark.

Holding fast to a date on the calendar is not necessarily as effective as watching your baby’s cues for readiness.  These cues are: your baby can sit up relatively well and hold his/her head up, he/she no longer thrusts their tongue when something is placed in their mouth, your child is doing some sort of motion that looks like chewing (even though there isn’t a tooth in sight), and  your child takes an interest in what you are eating.   These are all signals that it might be time to start introducing solids to babies.

With that being said, it’s also acceptable to delay introducing solids beyond 6 months if you do not think your child is ready.  For the majority of the first year, your child is getting most of his/her nutrients from milk, so they won’t go hungry. We always tried to feed our son after I had nursed him just so we would not be replacing a meal.   This ensured that my supply didn’t decrease at all.

Method

We started off with purees.   I relied heavily on the book “The Wholesome Baby Food Guide: Over 150 Easy, Delicious, and Healthy Recipes from Purees to Solids” by Maggie Meade.   Not only did this book have great recipes, but it also had information about the entire process of introducing solids.   Offering a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables was important to me, and this book helped me plan and prepare for something way outside of my realm of understanding.

We used a regular old food processor to make the purees which was just fine, oftentimes thinning out the puree with breastmilk or water.   We also gave our son soft finger foods to experiment with.  He loved bananas and puffs since they were easy to grasp and he could gum them down.

Food

I tried to stick to organic fruits and vegetables as much as possible, but the cost and effort often got in the way.  We always tried to make sure we bought organic for the “dirty dozen” (fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticides).

We bought a lot of frozen fruits and vegetables since they are quite nutritious as they are flash frozen at their peak ripeness.   This also allowed for us to stock up and cook when we could rather than feel the rush to prepare the purees before the food spoiled.  We froze the purees in ice cube trays or silicone baby food containers that created individual servings that we would defrost and serve.   This worked swimmingly.

Location

We always had our son sit in the high chair, even if he only played with cheerios.  The act of sitting down and eating together was something we wanted him to get comfortable with (mostly because we did not want to give up going out to dinner on the weekends!).   He now knows to expect food when he sits in his high chair and can communicate to us that he’s hungry just by going to the chair.

Overall, introducing solids to babies is not very complicated. Your child will let you know when they’re ready and what they’re ready to eat.  Watch for their cues and resist the urge to rush.  Once you have introduced solids, you’ve opened your floor up to a whole new level of filth that you will be scrubbing at until your child goes off to college.

RELATED QUESTIONS

My 6 1/2 month is eating some solids and is BF. I know I’m supposed to BF first then feed solids but after he nurses, he is full and not wanting the solids. What am I doing wrong? Also since he’s BF, I have no clue how much milk he’s getting each day. Especially since he’s on the breast every 2-3 hours still, is that normal?

I’m just trying to understand: why is there such a rush to introduce solids? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until 6 months, with a few exceptions, of course…

Any moms start their LO’s on “solids” (rice, oatmeal, baby food) sooner than the recommended 5-6 months? DD is just not satisfied with milk anymore, the amount she drinks to get full is ridiculous.

Hi moms! How do you guys feel about giving a 7month old Cheerios? He doesn’t have any teeth yet but he shows so much interest in solids besides his baby food that I feel bad…he even eats beans…

When did all you mommies start your babies on solids? Jar food, cereal, oatmeal, fruit? How often and what age? Also any suggestions on what’s most healthy for them and what they liked best? I have a 4 month old. Is it too early?

When did you stop breastfeeding? LO is 6 1/2 months and has never had formula or anything but after starting solids breastfeeding has become so difficult….

I started feeding my 8 month old solids and so far she’s had applesauce, sweet potato, zucchini, carrots, banana, green beans, pear, tortillas (corn and flour), avocado, and baby cereal. Of all that, she did not like carrots, banana, baby cereal, pear, applesauce, and green beans. What else can I add to her diet? She’s EBF.

What was your baby’s favorite new food once you started introducing solids?

How long did you continue breast feeding once solids were introduced? There is so much literature but what do moms actually do?

When introducing solids, (I have 5.5 months old son), I hear you’re supposed to introduce one type of food at a time and wait for three days. I guess that means only formula or breast milk for those 3 days?
 

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Natural Cures for Diaper Rash - SmartMom

Seven Simple and Natural Cures for Diaper Rash

There is a common misconception that babies’ bottoms are supposed to be smooth skin and rash free. However, most babies have sensitive skin on their behinds and add to that the fact that they sit in a diaper all day long, it’s practically a recipe for diaper rash.

Diaper rash is very common for babies and toddlers of all ages and though it is harmless, it can be uncomfortable, and if not treated, can cause yeast or bacterial infections. Luckily there are natural cures for diaper rash, which are perfect for your baby’s sensitive skin.

Change the Diaper

One of the easiest natural cures for diaper rash is to make sure that you change your baby’s diaper as soon as they go to the bathroom. The longer the baby sits in the dampness of the diaper, the more likely it is that bacteria or yeast can grow in the moist environment. When putting a diaper back on a baby, make sure that their bottom is as dry as possible. After wiping, use tissues to blot the wetness off the baby and then diaper.

Check the Wipes

When changing the baby, especially if changing the baby’s diaper often, make sure to use very sensitive diaper wipes, or simply use plain water to wash their behind. Often baby wipes have chemicals or harsh ingredients in them, which can perpetuate irritation on the baby’s sensitive skin.

Go Diaper Free

If changing the diaper often or using sensitive baby wipes fails to help prevent diaper rash in your little one, try going without a diaper completely. The diaper provides a moist environment of urine or feces, pressed up against the baby’s sensitive skin. This can make the skin raw, irritated, and breed yeast or bacteria. Let your baby go diaper free for as much time as possible.

This will allow the skin to air out and breath. Worried about the baby messing up the house? Try letting them run around sans diaper outside, or use rubber mats, towels, or plastic tablecloths under them inside the house.

Breast Milk

Yes, breast milk is one of the most unsung natural cures for diaper rash. Apply a few drops of breast milk to your baby’s bottom and rub in gently. Breast milk is not just a great way to heal diaper rash, but a completely safe way to prevent diaper rash, as well. After application, let air dry, and then diaper.

Coconut Oil

Another cure-all for babies is coconut oil. It’s one of the most perfect natural cures for diaper rash, as it’s safe for baby skin, contains antibacterial properties and above all, smells delicious. Apply a thin coat of organic coconut oil either to heal diaper rash or prevent it. Coconut oil is a fantastic wetness barrier for a baby’s behind, so it is wonderful at preventing too much moisture from accumulating on the baby’s skin.

Oatmeal

Oats have long been a cure for skin ailments, as it has soothing properties that can heal irritation and itching, one of the best natural cures for diaper rash. Place some oats in a blender until they form a fine powder; mix into a warm bath until the bath looks milky. Let the baby soak in the bath for 15-20 minutes, and then pat dry. This will help ease and diaper rash redness and irritation, and thus allow the skin to start the healing process.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Another kitchen staple that has natural antibacterial and anti-fungal properties is apple cider vinegar. Mix a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar with half a cup of warm water; dip a clean washcloth in the mixture and dab on baby’s bottom. Let dry thoroughly before diapering. This will help prevent any yeast or bacteria from growing, as well as helping the raw skin heal.

RELATED QUESTIONS

HELP! Diaper rash is the pits! My poor red bottom, 8 month old little girl! I’ve tried everything I can think of and then some. Any mommy’s out there know something I don’t? I hate seeing her in pain.

Hi Moms! My 9 month old little girl is continuously getting diaper rash & heat boils on her bottom. I consulted with her doctor and he prescribed ointments which help but don’t eliminate it all together. Do you have ladies know of any other ways I could be helping her?

I know I can google this and trust me I have but I need real moms responses, what is the best thing to do for diaper rash?

Diaper rash question! What’s the best way to help it? My son and I both just got over the stomach bug but from pooping so much my son now has a really bad diaper rash where it’s got a little blood. I use Desitin rapid relief and the second I noticed it I started putting it on him. Any suggestions?

My LO has a horribly diaper rash. I’ve been using extra strength Desitin but it’s not working. Any tips on what I could use to help it?

My daughter has a horrible red, angry diaper rash and I don’t know what it’s from! She hasn’t changed foods or anything. Nothing has helped clear it up in 3 days. Any suggestions?

What do you mommies do for newborn diaper rash? It was so bad on my LO that he bled. We used Desitin but it really didn’t work…

Are there any other reason why babies get diaper rash? I thought they get because the diaper brand or baby wipes brand aren’t right for their skin…

Any moms out there love a specific diaper rash cream? We use Aquaphor regularly however, my son has a very bad rash right now…

HELP! My daughter has had a diaper rash for over a month I was using Desitin for about 3 weeks. It wasn’t working then I took her to her doctor…
 

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playrooms for kids

Playrooms for Kids That Inspire Learning and Creativity

Photo by Kalon Studios featuring their Caravan Conversion Kit

Everybody needs a place to call their own. It could be an office, garage, bathroom, or bedroom, but wherever it is, we need a place where we can feel safe and comfortable. Often, for our little ones, those places are playrooms for kids.

A playroom is a place for our children to learn and grow on their own, a place where they can guide themselves and learn from their environment. Playrooms for kids are important places for a child and as such, special attention should be paid to items we put in our children’s’ playroom and how we set up the environment.

When designing a playroom, there are four main factors which should be taken into account: safety, educational value, fun and appearance. If done well, these factors can work together to become a great place for child to play and grow.

Safety

Make sure that the room is well lit and all outlets are covered. Book shelves and other items that could fall over should be anchored to the wall. It is important to leave space on the floor for the child to move around and not pack the room too tightly with so many toys that the child cannot move. This creates a safe environment for the child to play, but also allows the child to exercise and progress in their muscle control. Extra space also allows room for the parent to play with the child.

Educational Value

Make sure that the playroom is well stocked with toys and games that stimulate a child’s mind in a way that appropriate to their age and developmental stage. For infants and young toddlers, make sure that soft interactive toys with bright colors are available. Play mats and stuffed animals are good at this stage. For older toddlers, puzzles and blocks should be plentiful and easy to reach. Set aside a “special” section for reading which is pleasant and comfortable and spend time in this section reading with you kid.

Fun

Don’t spend all of your time in the playroom, instead make sure that the child wants to be in the room and engaged in play. Make sure the room has bright colors and toys the child enjoys.

Try your best to make sure that the kid can’t get into too much trouble in the room so that they think of it a pleasant place to spend time. This is done by keeping out items that the child should not be playing with, or items which you limit the child’s exposure to (such as iPads or video games). That way you don’t have to take the items away from the child in the room.

Appearance

Make sure the room is pleasing to the child as well as adaptable to the child’s tastes and developmental ability. It is best not to pick a theme for the room (such as cowboy or princes). Instead, paint the walls brightly and as the child grows, adjust the room accordingly so that it remains fun and interesting for the child.

Shared Space

Finally, get in the room with the child. More and more research comes out that shows children benefit greatly from playing with their parents. Make sure the playroom is comfortable for both you and the child and get in there with them. Nothing will make the playroom a better and more inviting environment than your child knowing this is a place they will get to play with mom or dad.

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SmartMom: Open-Ended Play. Photo by Nicole Gerulat

The Art of Open-Ended Play: How to Shop for Toys

Photo by Nicole Gerulat for MerMag Blog

You’ve got a playroom.  A trunk full of toys in your living room. From the toy you trip on during your walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night to the mesh bag of plastic sea creatures that take up three quarters of your bathtub, there is proof of your motherhood in every corner of your home.

In your child’s extensive toy collection, which ones are the best for inspiring creativity and open ended play? How can you prevent your little one form getting bored with their toys?

In moments of frustration (or when you step on a lego) it can be tempting to indiscriminately purge your toddler’s extravagant toy collection. But before you pull out the garbage bags, take a look at these tips for shopping for the best toys for your little one.

Think quality. It’s easy to get caught up in your child’s opinions in a toy store. For this reason, I suggest toy shopping without your little toy enthusiast. After all, you know their interests and their developmental age. Companies package their toys in a way that appeals to eager children with a hold on their parents’ wallets. However, you’re the informed consumer in this equation. You know quality; you know which toys are worthwhile investments, and you know which toys are bound to end up buried in a tub of dog food.

Here are some brands I highly recommend, showcasing toys that encourage cognitive engagement and open-ended play:

  • Melissa & Doug. This is my absolute favorite brand of toys. These days you can find them almost anywhere. I’ve spotted them at Whole Foods and even at T.J.Maxx on occasion. I love their Stacking Train Toddler Toy– it’s a toy that you’ll hang onto for your grandkids. Also, their Pattern Blocks and Boards are great for encouraging geometric understanding.
  • Blabla. These toys are plush, precious, and the perfect alternative to piles of stuffed animals. These finger puppets are great for encouraging your child’s narrative and language skills. How about hosting a mini theater performance with these guys?
  • Hearthsong. These toys are developmentally appropriate and well-built. Mail is always fun, especially this time of year. The Holgate Mail Truck would be the perfect addition to your Valentine’s Day. Perhaps write some Valentines and deliver them to friends and family in this truck? This toy encourages both pre-literacy and fine motor skills.

Host a Toy Exchange.  Especially in the dead of winter, hosting a toy exchange is a great excuse to gather your mom friends while also providing them with some new toys. Here’s how to make it work.

Before the exchange, ask each mother to gather a set of toys (cleaned and sanitized), in a sturdy bag.  Reusable grocery bags from Whole Foods work wonderfully. When your friends arrive at your house, encourage each mom to label their own toys using permanent markers. Attach a tag to each bag, each one receiving a different number. Also, prepare a basket containing matching numbered slips of paper. Each mom then draws a number from the basket and takes home the corresponding bag of ‘new’ toys.

Of course, you might want to prepare some lemonade and cookies (or wine spritzers and cheese), because after that toy exchange, those mamas are going to want to chat. And those children are going to want to play! Repeat each month, returning the old toys and bringing a new bag to exchange. You’ll be surprised how ‘new’ your old toys will feel when they eventually find their way back into your bag.

Create a ‘Rainy Day’ Toy Bin. Perhaps you’re left flying solo in this venture of motherhood. For you, a toy exchange is unlikely, as your friends are either kid-free or sending theirs off to college.  For now, try this tip for making old toys ‘new’:

Collect toys from around the house that seem uninteresting to your child. Perhaps it’s a collection of blocks that your child hasn’t touched in awhile, or a doll house that has become more of clothes rack than a play piece. Place these toys in a plastic bin labeled “Rainy Day”, and store it away in a closet that’s out of sight from your child. Then, when the day warrants a new toy or activity, you won’t even need to leave the home. Your child will be delighted with their ‘new’ toy, or be thrilled to see their old toy back again. Either way, it’s a win for Mom.

When purchasing new toys (or assessing your toy inventory at home), ask yourself, “Does this toy allow my child to be in control of their play?  Or does this toy tell my child how to play?” Keep toys that engage your child and also encourage them to plan their play.  Your children should manipulate toys and materials in such a way that they can be creative. Open-ended play encourages cognitive development, language skills, and creativity. And with a bag of old ‘new’ toys, a bin for rainy days, and the wonderful mind of a toddler, you child will be engaged for days.  And don’t forget to check out the SmartMom Pinboard for more great toy ideas!

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smartmom picky toddler

7 Holiday Foods your Picky Toddler will Actually Eat

Photo by The Red Balloon Photography

You work hard on holiday meals – they take lots of preparation and your family looks forward to enjoying them together.  But when your toddler refuses to eat any of the holiday fare you’ve made, that definitely isn’t festive. 

Here are seven suggestions from myself and a few of my friends for holiday items to add to your meal offerings to help your picky toddler (and you) enjoy your holiday meal.

Fruit or Veggie Platters

If you don’t already have them on the list, fruit and/or veggie platters are great snacks, and a fun way to make sure your kids get those servings for the day, when they might not eat cranberry sauce, green bean casserole or other holiday vegetables. You can even make them in the shape of a Christmas tree (broccoli for branches, cherry tomatoes or red peppers as lights/garland, yellow peppers or pineapple for a star, carrot sticks, pretzels or celery for the tree trunk and cauliflower for snow or something similar).

Sweet Potatoes

If your kids aren’t already fans, this might be a perfect opportunity to get them to love sweet potatoes, especially since many holiday recipes give you an excuse to smother them in marshmallows. You could even make them into dessert cupcakes. Many argue that sweet potatoes are much healthier than white potatoes.

Holiday-Shaped Sandwiches

One of my friends has a son that won’t have anything to do with turkey or ham and will only eat peanut butter and jelly, so she makes a few sandwiches for him each holiday (packs them in a small cooler if they go visit relatives) and to make them festive, she cuts them with holiday cookie cutters, so they become snowmen, Christmas trees and reindeer. Other friends have chimed in that this works well with deli meat, and most other types of sandwiches, too.

Zucchini or Banana Bread

My sister-in-law makes terrific zucchini bread, stuffed with not only zucchini, but carrots and other veggie goodies. Once my son called it “brownie bread” and they actually choose it over regular brownies given the choice. I don’t call it zucchini bread or mention that it is chock full of vegetables they would never otherwise touch with a ten-foot pole. Never underestimate the power of a cool name to draw kids to a food. Giving even plain jane foods cool names can up their appeal.

Party Meatballs

Although they seem more at home at a SuperBowl party, tossing some meatballs (ground beef or turkey) in a crockpot with some barbeque sauce can also be a kid pleaser.

Dips

Dips are a fun family treat for my family – we are always trying new versions with our favorite ingredients. Spinach and artichoke, ham and swiss, hummus, sausage – any ingredient your child likes, you can probably find a fun dip that incorporates it. Like the brownie bread – a cool name and a different delivery system can make protein and/or veggies go down easier.

Cheese and Crackers Platter

Although basic and no-frills, my friends still swear by the cheese and crackers platter if all else fails. Get the holiday cookie cutters back out, make some fun cheese shapes (you could add deli meat shapes too) and dress it up a bit. There is such a variety of crackers, pita bites and many other things to choose from that you can really come up with an unusual arrangement if the idea of plain old cheese and crackers seems too boring.

You know your child best, so plan ahead and make sure to incorporate some of their favorite items into your holiday meal so everyone can savor your delicious food. For more inspiration, search recipe sites like Allrecipes, Food.com or Food Network for items you can try with your child’s favorite ingredients. Even blogs like The Pioneer Woman or social sites like Pinterest can be good sources for ideas.

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what i've learned with oana befort

What I’ve Learned: Oana Befort, Illustrator

Oana Befort is a freelance graphic designer and illustrator living in Bucharest, Romania with her husband and 3-year old son Sammy.  Oana is Romanian and her husband is American; their son is a “Romerican.” Her illustrations are truly gorgeous – you can check them out on her blog here.  We asked Oana a few questions about motherhood and blogging, you can read her answers below.  

oana befort

“I have a little three year old boy named Sammy (Samuel).  He loves trains, he loves playing with them, ride them and he has to say stories about choo-choos almost on a daily basis.oana befort

 Becoming a mom definitely made me into a better person. I am learning daily to practice more patience, selflessness and responsibility while I am loving this beautiful human being that I am so blessed to call my son.

fall colors oana befort

I ask for most [parenting] advice from my mom, my mom-in-law, or close mother friends, I filter everything and also follow my own instincts.

oana befort

I think my favorite thing about being a parent is the close interaction and relationship that I am daily developing with my little one.  I love hearing what he has to say, his little stories even if not everything he says is clear yet (he’s learning two languages, and sometimes he has a language of his own, too).oana befort

I started the blog a few moths after I gave birth as a way to discipline myself in staying inspired and continuing to create.  I am documenting bits and pieces of our daily life, work and inspiration and I’ve been enjoying doing it ever since.

oana befort

My favorite  recent post that I really enjoyed writing is this one.  It’s part of my “Documenting Today” blog series.  It’s mainly because it was such a peaceful day, far away from the big world, spent with family in a very special place where I used to play when I was little.”

oana befort

 

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