Healthy, Organic Sleep

Note: I was provided a sample of Naturepedic’s organic waterproof crib sheet for review as part of its #NPBigKid and #healthysleep campaign. All opinions expressed are 100 percent my own. 

I buy organic produce. Well, most of the time. Ok…sometimes I really try to buy organic, but I just can’t pay $4.99+ for blueberries when conventional are on sale for $2.

I am a “Dirty Dozen” gal in that I buy natural and organic where I believe it truly matters, and look to save money in other areas. Daycare bills are no joke you guys!

Organic clothing and housewares are an area I rarely splurge. Of course when Rylan was still “Sprout” in my belly I envisioned organic everything–sheets, clothes, lotions and soaps. And then real life happened.

So when the amazing Stroller Traffic Scouts team approached me to test an organic crib bedding product from Naturepedic I was hesitant but also intrigued. Rylan, a ridiculously amazing sleeper, spends a LOT of time in his crib. Could I make it cozier? Healthier?


When I received the organic waterproof crib pad I was immediately intrigued with the accompanying booklet. Naturepedic’s mission is to source certified organic cotton and latex according to strict environmental and labor standards. This statement alone reminded me that choosing organic is not just about my body or Rylan’s body, but about the long term health of the planet I hope he thrives on for a very long time. A commitment that every single parent today needs to seriously think about, within reason, given chilling headlines like this.

The organic cotton flannel pad itself is soft with a natural beige hue – no bleach used here. And because Rylan has been known to wet through even the most “leak proof” 12 hour+ diapers, I appreciate that it can be machine washed. At $69 it is an investment, but Rylan has been in his crib for two years and isn’t getting moved anytime soon. It will surely get much more use than many of his adorable outfits.


Rylan loves having a pillow so I do want to invest in the Naturepedic organic toddler pillow next. At $49 it is again an investment, but given his sweet head will sleep on it every night I love that it’s made from organic cotton and a washable plant-based PLA batting (made from non-GMO potatoes!!).


Over the course of the next few weeks I’ll be continuing to help raise awareness for the Naturepedic brand by sharing our favorite “wow, he’s a big kid” moments on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #NPBigKid and #healthysleep. I hope you’ll spend some time learning about the brand and thinking about it for your family or for thoughtful, healthy gifts for little ones on the way!

Birthday Week Emotions


Two years ago tonight I was just a few days away from the most incredible day of my life. The day we met Rylan. This week is full of emotions.

For all the things that signal the era of parenting we’re about to begin, the terrible two’s, I do already have a favorite. Conversing.

When Mike and I went to Mexico for five nights in June we left a little boy with a growing vocabulary. When we returned we were greeted by a little boy stringing together two, three and four word phrases, working so hard to tell us what he is seeing in the world around him and how he wants to be a part of it. My favorites…

  • Oh, hi mama!
  • Ry see it
  • Ry push it
  • I try it
  • I do it
  • Woah. Muscles
  • More milk please
  • Tona (i.e., Kona) outside
  • No Tona (again, how he says Kona’s name right now)
  • Tona barking
  • Tona no barking
  • No raining. Sunny out
  • Ry needs (insert a myriad of requests)
  • Oopsie
  • Daddy plays the drums
  • Mike guitar
  • Daddy/mommy made it
  • I see outside

There are so many more new phrases and every day he surprises us with a new word that I can’t even imagine how he learned it. Tonight it was frisbee and porcupine when we were reading one of his favorite Words picture book.

We also had a hilarious and all-boy conversation on Monday about who poops. He said “sorry mama” when I was rushing to re-change a fresh diaper before daycare drop off. I told him not to be sorry because everyone poops. He sat there for a minute, processing the information, and promptly asked, “Mickey Mouse poop?” We then had to go through every character of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to talk about who poops. I am the mom of a boy, no doubt.

Ry will be two on Friday, and this birthday week is full of reflections for me. It feels like a really big birthday.

Last year I was an emotional wreck about stopping breastfeeding after 12 long but proud months. Ry’s walking was on the horizon but he was still taking his sweet time. Today he is running circles around us, daily, and tests our conviction as he learns how to press buttons and explore boundaries.

From birth to 12 months we made sure he survived. From 12 to 24 months the shift from survival parenting to ACTUAL parenting has been incredibly real…and fun, scary, exhausting, rewarding, confusing, and the list goes on. It’s hard not to obsess about every teachable moment and remember that he’s just two, and his “up please mama” requests are ever-fleeting. I am proud of Mike and I for stumbling through the transition and making the time to talk daily about what’s working, what’s not working and how to remain on the same page. Communication, listening and forgiveness is everything right now. Everything.

I’m going to be the mama of a two year old. It’s hard to comprehend. I am happy. I am tired. I worry to a fault. And, I am in love. I am head-over-heels in love with my family.

Camping with a Toddler


First Anderson family camping picture.

We did it. Camping with a toddler, check!

Albeit car camping without limits on what we could pack “just in case,” I am pretty proud of myself for rolling with it even though I was crazy nervous about the insane weather we’ve been having in Colorado. Let’s just say, thank goodness one of us (Mike) kept their head on straight in the days and hours leading up to the adventure.

I searched the Internet like a crazy person leading up to the trip to make sure I was packing all the right things. Again, we got to pack in a station wagon with a pod on top…for 2 nights. We looked a bit neurotic I’m sure.


Rylan, almost 23 months, was all grins for his first full day of camping.

If your summer plans include a toddler and a campground, here are my car camping suggestions. If (and that’s a big IF) we get brave enough to do a backpack trek with Rylan I may need a Xanax before trying to pack. Just sayin’…

Toddler Car Camping Checklist

  • Board the dog (if yours barks non stop and is scared of thunderstorms/would keep the entire tent awake)
  • Load up the pack n’ play – just do it and thank me later
  • Stash more diapers than you think you’ll need
  • Bring (but hide) a special treat to keep him/her quiet at 6:45 a.m. when everyone else you are camping with is still asleep (i.e., charged iPad with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. I dare you to judge)
  • Tons of snacks
  • Hand sanitizers – yes, plural
  • A good natural bug spray or one you make at home. And of course, I had all of my essential oils with me, and mainly used Purification for a few bug bites, DiGize for post-s’mores stomach aches and Peace & Calming to help me fall asleep
  • Only a few toys – which will get ignored for sticks and rocks
  • Numerous blankets if there is any chance of it getting cold at night + a warm sleep sack if they still use one. We absolutely love the Baby Deedee Sleep Nest and bought it a size larger just so he could have it for this trip
  • Tight layers for under warm PJs, gloves, warm boots and a warm hat – unless you are confident it will not get cold at night
  • Wine – for mama
  • A modified schedule – nap was a must but we were flexible on timing. Same for bedtime – he stretched much later than normal but had such a blast watching the fire
  • Friends – but only if they have a sense of humor

Now, go forth a book a campground! Toddler squeals and grins (and yes, meltdowns) in the great outdoors await.

Hitting Toddlerhood, Literally


Rylan…99% smiles, but with a growing slice of attitude.

Parenting a budding toddler is marked by extreme highs and maddening lows. I am grateful to be surrounded by friends and family who don’t mind my endless texts with questions and venting sessions about eating strikes and teething mayhem. Molars suck! But lately there is one behavior that is coming out more and more, and we will not tolerate it.


“Hands are not for hitting.” It is a book we read and, unfortunately, a phrase we’re using more and more with Rylan.

At 20 months Rylan is expressing frustrating and seeking attention through hitting. His teachers reassure me it is normal and so far he is responding well to discipline at school. There has only been one day where a teacher said he had more “calm your body” time outs than normal, and the next day he was much more gentle and cooperative. Currently, Rylan hits me more than he hits Mike, which drives me nuts. I also probably say no more often than Mike does and have a very low tolerance for tantrum-like outbursts.

I can usually anticipate what will trigger a hitting tantrum. Transitions from something Rylan likes to the next activity, even if he likes what is coming, triggers hitting at home and as of this weekend, in public. The worst! For example, if we need to end playing in the backyard for a bath, he will raise his arm and go to hit me when I pick him up. On Saturday he came with me to the car wash. He loved watching the cars and was happily eating snacks as my car was dried. When it was time for us to leave, he first threw his body onto the ground screaming. Then when I picked him up he proceeded to try and hit me. He was still swinging as I fastened him into his car seat! I was mortified and sad. Mainly, I wanted to turn around and tell everyone around me that he’s an incredibly well-behaved and happy dude.

My mom says I remind her a lot of herself as a mother of a toddler. She expected a great deal out of me, and I feel the same about Rylan. When he hits I am simply blown away. I can’t believe the same toddler who smiles 99% of the time can turn so quickly into those screaming kids I used to stare at in Target or a restaurant. I too find myself sometimes being the mother who is trying desperately to squeeze more applesauce out of the pouch before Ry’s world falls apart in the beauty aisle.

While hitting is a “normal” phase of toddlerhood, we’re unwilling to look the other way. I am about halfway through the book 1,2,3 Magic and need to get serious about trying the counting method it outlines. Hitting is an automatic “3” according to this philosophy…so multiple times on Saturday when Rylan hit I firmly told him “that’s a three” and we went into his room to calm down. His teachers also have us act very dramatic and say, “ouch!! That hurt mommy when you hit me. Is that a safe choice?” Depending on his mood, this reaction can make him very sad or he laughs at our antics. Ugh!!!!

But the biggest problem for me is consistency in public. He hit me in church on Easter and I just tried to have him keep it together since mass was almost over. I didn’t give him a “three count” and he wasn’t reprimanded. It was the same scenario at the carwash since we needed to get into the car and move out of the lane.

I am reassured by the fact that we are very mindful of his hitting already and that we’re being proactive now instead of in preschool or later when it can become a serious issue.

But my heart hurts every single time he hits.

Please let me know if you have any advice, tips or insights to share from the trenches. I appreciate it.

When Did…

When did Rylan become much more boy than baby?


When did he learn to grab a hand and lead a person to exactly where he wants them to go? 

When did running replace walking? 

When did he start to sit in a regular chair and have a snack with me at coffee shops?


When did he start truly enjoying the company of having his littlest pals over to play? 


Of course I know the answers. It has happened little by little every day. But days and weeks are busy and this mama knows so much goes unseen when we are away at work five days a week. Let’s also be brutally honest. No matter how much I try to be 100% present at night after work or on the weekends, there are emails to be answered, dishwashers to be emptied and laundry to be folded. There are errands to run and the Instagram and Pinterest itches to be scratched. There are workouts to do and cleaning that never ends. I try to save all of these things (and so much more) for after he goes to bed. I try, I really do. And sometimes I succeed while many other days and nights I fail.

I also know he’s my first and I baby him way too much. “Can he eat that?” “Cut it smaller.” “Mama will carry you.” “He’s too little for that.” “Be careful, Ry!” I may give the poor little dude a safety complex.

But in March we had a tremendous amount of together time in Vail and then Florida, so these tiny changes that had built up over time became extremely evident to both Mike and me. In Florida I began to observe Rylan through a new lens. A lens with a little, unbelievably adorable toddler boy on the other side.

Sure, he needs help up and down stairs. And yes, I can still carry him everywhere and zip him into a sleep sack for bedtime.

But at times he prefers to walk or take the stairs “alone” with no help from mama/dada. I can ask him if he wants a cheese stick for a snack and he’ll answer yes or no. His vocabulary is popping like crazy and he tells me he wants to “dance dance” when he sees his CD player on the bookshelf.

It’s an incredible transformation. I am addicted to his curiosity, smile and even his moments of tantrums–because when he’s crying he is expressing his independence and trying so hard to make me understand why he wants/needs something. I cannot get enough of him.

When did it become possible for him to start growing up even faster than before?

Selfish Sanity


Parenting strips away overall selfishness. From the moment your tiny human joins the world it’s never “all about you” ever again. However, I am 19 months into this parenting gig and have realized that I still carve out ways to be selfish. Why? Because it is these me-centric choices that some people try to make you feel guilty about that keep me sane, balanced and happy.

I think every mom (stay-at-home, working outside the home or some combination of the two) needs to feverishly protect her selfish sanity time…whether it is a few hours each month or a couple weekends per year. For me, that means:

  • Daily (or as close to it as possible) workouts
  • Skiing on weekends (Mike goes in the morning and I take the afternoon). This, I know, isn’t a forever reality once Rylan has weekend commitments like sports and friends that keep us in Denver most weekends
  • Not talking on the phone after Rylan goes to bed in order to spend time with Mike, watch trashy TV, catch up on work or just zone out on Pinterest. I cannot handle phone conversations after 7:30 p.m.
  • Tacking on a pedicure or quick mall trip to family errands, especially if Rylan is napping. I have a lot of guilt about not being home anytime during the weekend when Rylan is awake. But if he is napping, all bets are off.
  • At least one girls trip per year – be it overnight and close to home or somewhere that requires plane travel

I love Rylan and Mike more than anything, but to be the best mom and wife I know how to be, I have to wave the white flag from time to time. I still have and want to be Alexis. I feel recharged and recommitted to my family and work every time to steal away for a few moments of me time.

And to be fair, I have to remember to let Mike do the same. He still plays in his band and practices weekly. He snowboards most Saturday and Sunday mornings. He is going on a guys trip the first weekend of April from a Thursday to a Sunday. He golfs in the summer. These things make him a better dad and husband too.

Call me selfish. I don’t really care. It’s how we do things right now.

Celebrating Stella


On Friday evening Mike, Rylan and I will travel home to California to celebrate the life of Grandma Stella, my dad’s mother. She passed away on Saturday surrounded, most importantly, by her son and four daughters.

Her 92 years were rich. Not with great material wealth, but with family, friends and one forever soulmate. I cannot even begin to imagine the happiness and joy that surrounded them when they were finally reunited in a world beyond ours.

grandma black and white

Grandma, her beloved Joe and all five kids!

Grandma Stella had a smile that shined across a room and stories that could go on for hours. Her ability to exude pure joy was effortless, and came in the form of hugs, pride in everything her family did and food–so many of my memories are wrapped up in her in the kitchen prepping our favorite Italian fare and eventually, her overseeing operations in the kitchen when her son, daughters and grandkids took over the heavy lifting.

Saying goodbye is never easy. I am thankful every day that I have not endured the loss of a parent, so I know our dad and aunts are feeling something completely different–and each grandchild and great grandchild is as well.

dad and grandma

Dad perfecting the secrets of her sauce

I am grateful she did not suffer for weeks after her fall. I feel blessed that my memories of her ravioli are so fresh that I can almost taste the ricotta. I will cherish the way she held Rylan as a baby as she told me how wonderful it is to be a mother and how no one will ever love your children more than you do. I feel lucky that Mike was a part of my life when she was and that he’ll understand why I’ll want to hold onto as many of our Anzalone family traditions that she helped shape while we can. I am grateful to have been one of her grandchildren.

grandma and rylan

Meeting Rylan

While a funeral is never a reason anyone wants to travel, I know we will celebrate and honor her memory fully this weekend. Her grandchildren and great grandchildren will come from near and far–a gathering that she would have bragged about for weeks and weeks to anyone who would listen. We’ll look at pictures from black and white memories of her childhood in Massachusetts to just a few months ago during the holidays. There will be many tears but, I’m hopeful, double the laughs, smiles and tight hugs that she was famous for giving.

And the best part? She and Grandpa Joe will be watching it all. Taking it all in, bragging to anyone who will listen about their incredible family–the smartest, most successful and beautiful family there ever was.

Grandma and Rylan

Muffin Tin Magic

To be clear, this post is about muffin TINS. Not to be confused with muffin tops.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist the bad pun.

I often wonder if I had a day or more at home during the work week if my stress about meals would lessen a bit. I am fairly diligent about maximizing my time (who am I kidding, I can’t sit still) and imagine being able to squeak out a crockpot or two most days, even if Rylan was hanging from my legs begging for attention. But alas, this is not our reality.

When it comes to meal prep I have to be a weekend warrior. Yet now that ski season takes us away from home most weekends, I am even more stressed about how to keep healthier meals stocked in our fridge and freezer for lunches and dinners. Tack on the fact that Rylan and Mike both love meat and I haven’t eaten chicken, beef or pork in 2+  years and things get really complicated. Therefore, I usually have to put Rylan first, myself second and poor Mike has to eat whatever I can scrounge up for him. Sorry babe!

So lets talk about muffin tins. Muffin tins are a frantic mom’s answer to making toddler-size meals that can be frozen individually, defrosted in the fridge all day and then heated up in seconds for a mostly homemade meal moments after racing through the door at 6:15 p.m. with a hungry toddler angrily screaming for “more more.”


Muffin Tin Recipe Sanity Savers 

Breakfast – Baked Pancake Muffins 

Healthy Snack – “Sneaky” Veggie Muffins

Dinner – Mini Chicken Pot Pies and Muffin Tin Meatloaf (I add mixed frozen veggies to sneak in even more peas and carrots to Ry’s day)

Those are four SUPER basic ones to start with, and I have half a dozen more on my Pinterest board that I want to get to very soon. I mean, how will Rylan be able to resist French Toast Cups, Oatmeal Cupsor Mini Lasagnas?

Please share links to your favorite family meal prep recipes in the comments! I am always on the hunt for new ideas to broaden our plates.

Not Your Perfect Christmas Mom

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I love Christmas. The lights. The music. The times when people take an extra moment to smile or hold a door for you. Putting up the tree and turning on the twinkling house lights after a long day at work. I love it all. And when you have a child who stares at lights and decorations with pure wonder, it’s hard not to get even more swept up in the magic. I feel like I am getting another shot at my childhood as Rylan begins to grasp each holiday with more excitement and curiosity.

Yes, the holidays are also stressful. There is never enough time to accomplish all the things that the crafty Pinterest moms seem to finish. Do not even get me started on Martha Stewart Magazine’s holiday issue. The day I buy twine and create my own Christmas tags from fresh cinnamon sticks is the day you can…well…that will simply never happen. Even more, finding the perfect gift has always been a source of anxiety each year. I obsess over getting it right for each person on my list.

But not this year.

There will be no “12 days of Christmas cookies” from a gourmet food magazine baking in our oven. I will not simmer homemade hot apple cider and as of Dec. 15, not a single Christmas movie has been watched. Rylan, age 16 months, may or may not make it to Santa’s lap this year. In the past few weeks I’ve barely clung to a gym schedule and it isn’t looking any better this week as we juggle late-afternoon meetings, early-morning daycare conferences and outings with friends who we do not see much of anymore. I went from a strict cleanse to York Peppermint Patties and Malbec. A dear friend is bringing a present for me to use in a girls-night-out gift exchange because she knew I’d never make it to the store. Speaking of stores, if a gift wasn’t on Amazon Prime or found during my two hours of shopping two weekends ago, it won’t be under the tree. Rylan made no holiday crafts for his grandparents nor did I get to that personalized 2015 Shutterfly family calendar I swore we’d give as gifts this year.

We simply do not have the time or energy to let the holidays turn into a holi-daze. I refuse to “give in” to the pressure of creating the perfect Hallmark-worthy holiday. Lord knows as parents we are under enough pressure every single day of the year.

Instead, I am determined to start conversations about the many things we’re so lucky to have this season. Health being number one. If I could ask Santa for a healthy family and child every year I would do so without hesitation. Love being just as important as health, or some may argue even more so. I love my family and friends fiercely and this year has shown me first-hand that love isn’t a given. It must be nurtured and worked on every day.

It feels extremely liberating to admit a bit of failure, by Good Housekeeping standards, at the holidays. Will you join me?

Overdue Cleanse Recap and Life Lately

photo[1]I went from mindfully cleansing to the whirlwind of holiday travel and family time, and then just like that, it is December.

The Conscious Cleanse was certainly a bright spot, albeit difficult, in my fall. By the end of the 14 days I had stuck with it completely, aside from the optional transition weekends since weight loss was not my goal. Mike was a huge supporter by giving me time and space on the weekends to grocery shop and prep a significant amount of food. Certain recipes flopped (mushroom gravy) while others are now a forever staple in our kitchen (curried carrot soup). I didn’t get to the bottom of all my questions about food sensitivities but did confirm that I certainly feel much better without dairy, gluten and highly-processed foods. I have reintroduced just about everything given the holiday season but in significant moderation, especially coffee, sweet treats and generally unhealthy processed snacks.

If you need a reset, I urge you to consider the Conscious Cleanse. I won’t lie, it can feel like a lot of work so you need to be mentally prepared to shop and cook 99% of the time for the two weeks. But through this process you learn so much about yourself and the two weeks fly by quickly. You learn what triggers you to eat when you aren’t necessarily hungry, like boredom and stress. You learn that it doesn’t take up your entire weekend to prepare a few meals or pre-portion out salads and green smoothie packs for the week. You learn that a small piece of dried fruit or cup of herbal tea with honey can replace ice cream or a cookie for a sweet treat before bed. You learn that it’s worth the mental shift in how you approach food to feel lighter, more energized, less bloated and truly refreshed.

Cleanse aside, life is crazy but also fantastic. Mike and I are busy with work and I am trying to wrap my head around taking off from Denver most weekends in December and January to go skiing in Breckenridge. When will I cook, clean and do laundry at our house??!! First world problems, I know.

Rylan continues to thrive but also throw us for more loops, courtesy of general toddler craziness. Recent 16 month head-scratchers include:

  • Increased neediness being super clingy overall…especially in the morning and at night. However, his teachers have told us several times in the past month that he has been “very emotional” throughout the day, with little things sending him into a tizzy of tears
  • Crying whenever we set him down if he is not in the mood to play
  • Fake crying when we tell him to stop doing something or “no”
  • Exploring the reaction “no” gets when he says it to us or shakes his head when he doesn’t want to cooperate
  • Early wake time OR crying very hard at bedtime – these are sporadic but can quickly throw the day off track
  • Refusing to eat favorite foods, like yogurt, and a complete refusal to eat leftovers unless we space them out by at least one day in between
  • One month+ of a rash around his mouth that we’ve showed the doctor twice but can’t get to go away on our own

Mike and I spend more and more time looking at each other in disbelief. Thankfully we also chuckle, a lot, but there have been so many days when we’re simply stumped on how to handle these changes. We are on the same page on how we approach certain situations, such as meal time. Neither of us want to be short order cooks and the foods on Rylan’s plate are what stays. That said, I know much bigger battles are around the corner and I am nervous about having to make consistent discipline decisions sooner rather than later. Many friends have recommended reading Parenting With Love & Logic and I hope to find time to order and read it over the holidays.

Toddler tantrums aside, Rylan makes my heart explode with pride and love daily. He gives the sweetest hugs by leaning in his whole body without using his arms. He is so proud of himself when he learns a new word and spent most of Thanksgiving week yelling HHHAAAAMMMM for ham. He loves music and dances on demand. The way he says mama and dada is full of love and admiration. I want to bottle up his little voice forever.

I hope you have all been well and have happy holiday plans ahead!

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