Helpsters Help Your Kids Adjust to the New Normal

Helpsters Help Your Kids Adjust to the New Normal

We are nearing two months since the stay at home order began in Illinois. But just as we are beginning to adapt to being at home, we must now prepare to slowly get out there. Except we will be heading back wearing masks, armed with hand sanitizer, keeping a distance from others, and, if necessary, wearing gloves. For children, it can be scary to step into this new environment.

When I learned about the new series, Helpsters Help You, which is created by the makers of Sesame Street, I was thrilled because the concept is brilliant and it is FREE for all families! Helpsters Help You is an Apple TV+ series of shorts that focuses on helping children solve problems and make plans when facing a challenge. It provides timely messages and activities for kids to assist them in the process of adjusting to a new normal–a time when they can no longer hug people, play with kids or go to places they used to enjoy.

Helpsters Help You offers newly created content that is aimed at positively impacting your child’s life in this new environment, while entertaining your child with a friendly and familiar gang of Sesame Street-style puppets. The series is available on both Apple TV+ and Apple TV, the latter which is available FREE! You can also download the episodes to your device to watch offline. So, if you are looking for something new to do with your kids, help is on the way palsies! 

What is Helpsters Help You About?

Helpsters Help You stars a team of vibrant monsters, the Helpsters, who love to help anyone with a problem. Each week, Cody, a monster, brings positivity, ingenuity and creativity to all her friends who are at home. Cody and the Helpsters share creative ideas for what to do when life doesn’t go as expected.

The series comes with a fun, engaging, Helpsters Help You activity book that you can download to give your kids additional ways they can help at home. The activity book has 35 pages of creative and fun activities for kids of various ages. I downloaded the coloring sheets because my two-year old son loves to color.

Some of the coloring pages from the activity book that my son colored

What Are the Episodes About?

My two-year old son and I watched the four free short episodes available right now on Apple TV. The episodes range from one to three minutes each, making them easy to watch. For the younger kids, like my son, the short length–as well as the friendly and familiar Sesame Street-style puppets, helped to keep him interested the entire time.

My son watching an episode of Helpsters Help You

Below are the free episodes we watched and the messages I took from each. The last one is a new episode that was just made available!

  • When Plans Change – Cody shares that a change in plans can easily be addressed by making new plans. If you can’t see your favorite tree because the park is closed, you can see the tree by using your imagination and making it with paper!
  • How to Be a Helpster – Monsters like to help people who need help. This episode helps children learn that they can also be contributors by doing things such as putting away clothes, cheering someone up, playing by themselves when someone needs alone time, or just asking someone how they can help.
  • Scavenger Hunt – Just because you can’t physically see and play with your friends does not mean that you can’t still play with them. Cody shares that you can still play with your friends via video chat by playing a scavenger hunt with her friend.
  • New! Bright Smiles & Hand Waves – Cody shares how she loves to give high fives and handshakes, but you can’t anymore if you are close. She shares that there is a new way to do the same by instead giving bright smiles and hand waves.

Share the Fun

Try out the activities with your family and share a photo/video of the fun on social media using the hashtag #HelpstersHelpYou. Below are various ways of sharing your kids fun with Helpsters Help You.

Overview of Helpsters Fun

As a mom, I am delighted to be a Helpster myself by helping to spread the word about this timely and much-needed resource for kids during this pandemic.

Working from Home with a Toddler: A Battle for Attention

Working from Home with a Toddler: A Battle for Attention
My son scribbles on my notepad while I am on a work conference call.

If there is one positive thing that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought it’s more time with family. With the shelter in place order, everyone has to stay home–forcing more family time and home activities. For those who can work from home, like me, they are able to do so while caring for any kids they have. It is an unusual time when you can work from home while caring for your child.

I was excited to have more time with my son, as he was going to daycare before the COVID pandemic. But to say that working from home and caring for my son during the stay-at-home order has been a challenge for me is a huge understatement. I adore my son to pieces, and, actually, wanted to be a stay at home mom when he was born so that I could enjoy every part of his life. But since we need both incomes, working was the best option—even if we need to pay a hefty amount for daycare.

It is often the perception that working from home with your kids is the ideal scenario. It kind of is, but it depends how old the child is and how needy the child is as well. So how does someone manage to work a full day when there is a toddler doing everything in his power to get your attention, which impedes you from doing any work?

One of the many activities that I engage my son in during my work time.

In my case, I spend most of my workday having to play with my son, because he is not the type of child who plays on his own. My son is very social–at daycare and everywhere we goes. I also have to prepare his food and feed him a few times throughout the day, spend time trying to convince him that I need to change his diaper, and time to put him down for his nap. Sometimes he sleeps right away, sometimes it takes an hour.

I also have to watch him like a hawk to make sure that he does not hurt himself, eat Play Doh, put a paint brush in his mouth, and the list goes on. When I have conference calls, it is usually chaotic. Sometimes the person I am talking to has no idea—other times I just can’t hide it. I get multiple interruptions–taking my pen, pulling my earplugs, asking for more food, more milk, my attention, requesting to play with me…the list goes on. You don’t fight it because you won’t win.

I end my “work day” mentally and sometimes physically exhausted from trying to juggle working and being a parent. I have to wait until my husband gets home from work so that I can get to work–pulling in a lot of late nights and waking up with very little sleep. It is a vicious cycle. I start the week looking forward to Friday so that I can get a break.

I don’t blame my son. He is just being a kid. It is just an inconvenient situation that we have to get through so that we can help flatten the curve. Truly, we are blessed to have such a happy and outgoing little boy and to be able to be home safely with him.

I am without a doubt treasuring our time together. It is just a time with very little sleep.

A Healthcare Worker Family: Our New Normal

A Healthcare Worker Family: Our New Normal
My husband heading out to work.

This is my husband, Scott. Every day when he leaves for work, I don’t like it. He works at a hospital, so he doesn’t have a choice. Although I support his job, the truth is that every day I wish he didn’t go. Because every day that he goes to work, his health—and life—is at risk. In addition, that puts me and my son’s health at risk. I’m sure he does not like that.

Every day when he comes home after work, he must remove his clothes in the garage and put them in a garbage bag before coming in the house. He won’t touch any of us until he washes himself. Our son, Jason, gets super excited when he comes home, but shortly thereafter he gets upset because my husband won’t touch or hug him. Jason doesn’t understand. But that is our new normal right now.

My husband doesn’t get to work from home and spend time with our son. He doesn’t have the luxury of complaining about how he is going crazy or getting bored staying home. He still has to go to work and potentially expose himself to COVID-19 there.

Being on social media sometimes is hard to hear people complaining about being cooped up at home so long. I’m sure my husband and the other healthcare workers wish that was their daily concern. So I want to thank him—one needle in the haystack of the many healthcare and essential workers out there—for risking their lives to save ours. My son Jason and I are so proud of him for being brave amid this very scary time in our life.

Thank you sweetie.

Cascarones Fill Easter With Confetti-Filled Fun

Cascarones Fill Easter With Confetti-Filled Fun
Easter basket filled with cascarones.

For everyone who celebrates it, Easter is a holiday that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus. For some Latinos, Easter also means it is time for cascarones! Now that my son is two years old, I am excited to finally introduce him to the fun of cascarones.

A cascaron is a hollowed-out egg filled with confetti. Cascarones are common throughout Mexico and in Mexican border towns like Laredo, where I grew up. Every year, weeks before Easter we begin preparing our Easter eggs so that we can enjoy them on Easter Day.

Cascarones are filled with confetti.

I haven’t made cascarones in recent years, I hope to enjoy making them with my son next year when he is three. Because he is too young to make them, I bought cascarones this year at Walgreens. Yes, Walgreens! I was happily surprised to find them there as I live in the suburbs of Chicago and far from the Latino neighborhoods where there would be plenty to buy.

But, I grew up making cascarones at home. That was part of the fun. My sisters and I started early collecting the egg shells after my mom cooked the eggs—carefully opening them at the top to pour the egg out and keep the egg shell in tact. We then rinsed them out and placed them back in the egg carton to dry. Then about a week before Easter we would dip them in various paint colors, then lay them out to dry and, finally, fill them with confetti and seal them with tissue paper.

On Easter Day, we put some cascarones in our Easter baskets and hide some in the yard. We then did an Easter egg hunt. Once we collected enough eggs we would start cracking them over or on top of other kids heads. No cracking a cascaron on top of little kids heads, just over. It was so much fun and there was a lot of confetti everywhere!

Although I did not grow up with a lot of family traditions, traditions still mean a lot to me. I love this Easter tradition, so I am excited to pass it along to my son. But I am also looking forward to creating new traditions with him and our family as well. I look forward to what we will add our Easter traditions in the years to come.

What They Don’t Tell You About Toddlers

What They Don’t Tell You About Toddlers

What does a hematoma, a busted lip, a scratched out cheek, and bruised forehead have in common? A toddler! I am not talking about an angry toddler, but rather a happy, sweet and active toddler who has no concept of what he is doing when he is playing. In this example, the victim is me and the toddler is my cute little munchkin.

When I gave birth to my son, I read a lot about raising a child. I read numerous articles about feeding, bathing, sleeping issues, learning to walk and talk—you name it. What I did not learn in all of this reading is that when those cute little babies turn into toddlers they can pose a health hazard—to you! I’m not talking about exhaustion or sleep deprivation—which I already talked about in a previous post—but rather a hazard to your physical health. Toddlers, I’ve learned, can unknowingly hurt you when they are carelessly playing with you or when they just suddenly make a jerky move. There is not a lot written out there about this common stage so I will tell you my experience with it.

In my case, I have a very happy and playful two year old. I play around with him a lot physically—tickling him, carrying him, pulling him—because that is how he likes to play. He is a boy so he is much more of a physical player. When we play like this, he tends to get super excited and carried away—all while laughing out loud. But all of this playing has at times come with some pain.

In the past year, my son has left me with a hematoma on my left eyebrow from head butting me, a bruised forehead from slamming a wooden puzzle on my face, a few swollen and busted upper lips from hitting me with a toy and a swollen cheek from digging his nails into it. Most recently, I stopped him short of hitting my neck and knocking the wind out of me. I was so stunned about what may have happened that I told my husband…in shock that I had just prevented a serious injury. Nothing happened, and I can laugh at that now, but I know that I need to keep one eye open always with my munchkin.

I recently read an article from Bored Panda that hilariously illustrates the various toddler “weapons” and how those weapons can hurt parents. Thinking back about it, it is quite funny and it is a relief to know that I am not alone!

I Would Have Never Thought

I Would Have Never Thought

Three years ago, my husband and I were vacationing in San Francisco having the most amazing time. From a day trip to Napa Valley to watching the Chinese New Year parade, we enjoyed great meals and delicious wines throughout our stay. We never imagined that a few months later we would be expecting a child—a dream for us. Up until the day I gave birth, we were worried that something may happen—that kind of worry that never leaves couples who struggle to conceive. What if I have complications during birth? What if my son has complications, or worse, what if I have a stillbirth? But everything went well, just like my pregnancy. No scares, and with the exception of nausea during my pregnancy, I never got sick. Our son was born healthy and so beautiful! I had a successful recovery and just like that, we became parents. Everything was a blur from that moment for the four months after that. Last week we celebrated our son Jason’s second birthday. Wow, two years! We have been parents for two years and I still can’t believe that I am a mom to the most amazing little boy. Every day I feel incredibly grateful and blessed that we were given the honor to be his parents.

So what is our son like? Well, Jason is a giggle fest for sure! He smiles and laughs a lot, likes saying hi to people, and loves to dance everywhere there is music. Thanks to the movie Madagascar, he currently loves to get down to I Like To Move It from Reel 2 Reel. He loves to play with balls, sharks, stickers, dinosaurs and to roar like a lion whenever he gets the chance! Jason is also a very sweet little boy who is the best welcome wagon, gives the biggest hugs, gives and blows kisses, and loves for us to read to him.

I would have never thought that today I would be a mom of a two year old who has a house with toys scattered all over the floor—literally! But I am careful to not curse the Lego pieces on the floor that are ready to hurt my feet because they also remind me that I was finally blessed with a child—the most beautiful little boy. I am very grateful.

Savvy Party Hosting

Savvy Party Hosting
My son’s “Two Wild” Birthday party theme.

This site contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Who loves going to a party? Who loves planning a party? Chances are most of you only said yes to the first question and I completely understand. It’s a lot of work! A lot of people are not a fan of all the details that involve throwing a party of any kind–such as birthday, anniversary, baby shower, new years eve, home warming, to name a few. I am one of the few people who thrives on planning a party more than going to a party. I do plan one major fundraising gala a year at my job, which has helped me learn some tips and tricks. But they are very different events. I just really enjoy the whole process of planning gatherings that bring people together and transform a place into a celebration. To see guests smile, enjoy and appreciate a party I host makes me happy. I enjoy every aspect of it—determining the theme, getting all the party planning supplies together and—the best part—putting it all together. Even if I have a ton of things to do, I would still volunteer to do it! I have even gone out and bought new stemware or dishes for a party because I wanted to make sure everything looked just right.

My son recently turned two years old and, of course, we planned a little birthday party for him at home. It was not a big birthday party as our home is unable to accommodate many people. We just invited a few family members to celebrate. Regardless, I was on a quest to make sure that it was perfect! I found a lot of great finds on Amazon to build the base of my son’s Two Wild birthday party. I saved all of the items I purchased on Amazon and others that I thought would also go well with my theme on my Amazon store.

But as I planned and put it all together, I thought of several things that helped me through the process during this party and other parties I have hosted. My “portfolio” includes various types of parties, such as Bachelorette, Baby Shower, New Year’s Eve, Oscars, Three Kings Day, Ugly Sweater, among many others. So, I thought I would share some tips of what I’ve learned along the way that have helped me host parties and save some money.

  • Use a linen tablecloth. Instead of a paper or plastic table cover, invest in a tablecloth. You can easily find a tablecloth online in the color to match the theme of your party. If you are using it over a glass table, make sure to stick double-sided tape on the table so that it does not slide around. I purchased a 70-inch round tablecloth for $11 on Amazon. The bonus part is that I get to keep the tablecloth to use again in the future! Yes…I have reused them!
  • Use a cake stand. If you are throwing a party where there is a cake involved—especially a birthday party—use a cake stand. This will make a world of a difference. There are round cake stands to accommodate cakes of all sizes. Want to stand out even more? Buy a cake stand that is not white! A cake stand that is not the traditional color will make your cake display look more interesting. If you have a sheet cake instead and want to raise it, you can purchase a cake riser. But since it is not as common as round cake stand, it may be a bit more expensive to purchase than a round one.
  • Buy pre-strung banners. Nothing is worse when setting up your party than finding out that the cute “Happy Birthday” banner you bought needs to be painstakingly strung together letter by letter. If you have plenty of time to devote to putting a banner together, that’s great. Some are not that time intensive, but you don’t know until you attempt it. If anything, at least read the instructions as soon as it arrives and try to put it together in advance to avoid the stress of putting it together the day of the party, when you will have many things to do.
  • Use twinkle lights. Nothing says festive like twinkle lights. Hang them in different areas to give your party a festive and cozy feel. If you want to take it up a notch, buy a twinkle lights curtain to accent a wall.
  • Decorations are not always at the party store. Be creative. If you can’t find decorations at the party store, look elsewhere. Some examples of where I have found decorations: the dollar store, TJ Maxx, and Target. For my son’s party, I wanted some safari animals for the table. I ended up finding them at TJMaxx in the toys section. The bonus is that my son is playing with them after the party. Actually he wanted them as soon as he saw them so they were on and off the table throughout the party! I’ll call it a win!
  • Use white napkins and plates. Napkins and plates that match your decor are a nice touch, but you can also use plain white napkins and plates to let your decorations stand out. Also, if the design on your napkins and plates does not exactly match our decor it will compete with it and result in a confused look. White napkins and plates tend to be cheaper.
  • Use clear cups and utensils. Just as with the napkins and plates, use clear cups and utensils to let your decorations stand out. For cups and utensils, clear ones look more elegant than white. They also tend to be cheaper than their colored counterparts.
  • Get the appropriate cups for what you are serving. If you are serving wine, make sure to buy clear short wine cups. If serving soda, do not use beer cups or worse, colored beer cups, to serve soda. Those cups tend to give a college party feel. For the same price, or likely less, get cups that are smaller.

There are so many other tips that I can share, but these are what have helped me with every party I plan. Throughout the years I have learned that the dollar store is my friend. You can find cups, napkins and even some very cute decorations to support your theme. Don’t limit yourself to just a party store and, remember to not make your decor compete with each other!