Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Amy's Review ~ NEW Gluten-Free Shortbread Cookies

by Carrie Wells, Ed.D.

Working with children who have disabilities for over 10 years now, I am familiar with many different types of diets. The most commonly prescribed dietary recommendation for children with autism is gluten-free. Gluten is a protein found in wheat products, and many individuals have a gluten allergy or sensitivity. Even just five years ago, gluten-free options were very limited and parents had to make most of their children's snacks from scratch.

Now that people are beginning to recognize the benefits of cutting back on the gluten in their diets, high-quality, gluten-free snacks are becoming more available. We are already familiar with Amy's delicious vegetarian and vegan frozen items. The same quality and flavor can now be found in their tasty new gluten-free shortbread cookies, made with all-natural ingredients, including almond flour. These cookies are also egg-free and peanut-free, but do contain dairy.

At just $4.99 per box, they are much less expensive than baking from scratch and equally as delicious. The only hard part is eating just one serving at a time! I was given the opportunity to sample all three varieties: Classic Shortbread, Almond, and Chocolate Chip. My favorite were the Chocolate Chip cookies. These cookies make a great snack for children or adults, individuals with a gluten allergy or those of us who just love yummy cookies! The texture of all three varieties is light and somewhat crumbly, so be sure to place them in lidded containers not zipper bags if they are going into lunch bags.  

BUY IT! Visit the Amy's website and Facebook page to learn all about Amy's delicious products, including the new gluten-free cookies. 

* I received the aforementioned product for free to review. The opinions expressed are honest and provided without monetary compensation.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Loves

by Carrie Wells, Ed.D.

Bryce Cody Wells born 9/17/2011 @1:24 pm. He weighed 8 lbs 15 oz, 21.5 inches long.

Lydia loves her new baby brother

Friday, September 16, 2011

I'm the tortoise

by Carrie Wells, Ed.D.

Slow and steady wins the race? Slowly laboring at home all day....

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Song Memories

by Carrie Wells, Ed.D.

As I am attempting to wait patiently for baby Bryce's arrival, I have been thinking a lot about other times in my life that led me to new and exciting adventures. I thought about how I identify with these times, besides just reflecting back or maybe looking at photos. I was in the car a week or two ago with my sister, and the Dave Matthews Band song "Crash Into Me" came on. This is not one of my favorite songs, as I have never been a huge Dave Matthews fan, but it is probably one of my most vivid, amazing song memories.

I moved to Gainesville and started at UF fall 1997. The University suggests that freshman move into dorms a week before classes start to adjust to campus life, learn where everything is located, and participate in silly social events. Coming from a household with parents who were somewhat over-protective, I definitely lived a life where I was used to having to ask permission for everything and frequently being denied that permission. But this was a new life, where I was free to come and go as I pleased, stay out as late as I wanted, leave my "home" for any reason. I remember leaving my dorm one day and just roaming around campus. I recall wearing black corduroy pants, a grey tank top, and this necklace I had with a metal nut on it. Oh, and my Converse One Stars. So 1997. As I was returning to my dorm, I saw two guys sitting on the steps to the entrance of a neighboring dorm. They were playing acoustic guitar together. I sat in front of them just to listen, and they played "Crash Into Me." They played a bunch of songs, but this is the one that stands out in my mind. That memory is just beautiful. It embodies all that I felt at that time - freedom, responsibility, promise, hope...knowing that the world was mine. I just had to find my place in it.


Richard and I got married April 30, 2005 in the Keys. The day before our wedding, a bunch of us headed down to our hotel (Lime Tree Bay in Islamorada) and hung out for the day. That night, we ate at this horrid seafood restaurant ("Got a bad clam") and went to Holiday Isle afterwards. They have an outdoor tiki bar area with some live music and a DJ. It was so nice to have all of our friends, new and old, together in one place to celebrate our marriage. Richard and I bought special outfits just for the night. Mine was an aqua tube top and white denim capris. I remember Richard and our friend Josh dancing to The Killers "Mr. Brightside" like a bunch of idiots, but it had me and my friend Mindy cracking up! This song always makes me smile for that reason.

So what are your song memories? I hope everyone has really special memories like these, and when you hear the songs, they just make you smile!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Reading Kingdom blogger

by Carrie Wells, Ed.D.

I was just offered a new opportunity to blog about special education at The Reading Kingdom blog. Here's my first post. I wanted to provide my new readers with some background information and an introduction to my career. Please tell me what you think. I would love some feedback!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Natural Teething Necklace for Mom & Baby Review/Giveaway #2 ~ Ends 9/13

by Carrie Wells, Ed.D.

When Lydia was about 8 months old, I hosted a review/giveaway for a Creative Addiction natural stone teething necklace. Andrea of Creative Addiction has since created some great new designs and has asked me to host a new review/giveaway ~ Of course I said YES!

Natural stone teething necklace
The new style I am reviewing features small turquoise-like natural stones. Instead of one large stone, this necklace contains 13 small stones. Andrea at Creative Addiction said that she created this design because her 7-month old loves teething on the individual beads. Because it is made of natural stone, it is safe for babies (not a choking hazard). This is a great alternative to all of those store-bought plastic teethers. Because the beads are on a nylon-type cord, you can tie the top part tighter for a shorter necklace or leave it as is for a longer necklace to pair with all different types of outfits. Fashionable for mommy and functional for baby! Lydia enjoys wearing it to play dress up, but I definitely look forward to my son using it as a teething necklace when he is ready.

Lydia "modeling" the necklace with her Dora bracelet (and very goofy 'cheese' smile). 
BUY IT! You can purchase a teething necklace or many other beautiful jewelry pieces at Andrea's etsy shop, Creative Addiction. Followers of my blog receive 15% off their orders for the next week.

WIN IT! You can win your own natural stone teething necklace just like the one above.

Mandatory entry: VISIT the Creative Addiction etsy page and let me know one item you would love to have!

For additional entries - leave one comment per entry:
1. 'Like' Huppie Mama on Facebook.
2. Follow Huppie Mama on Twitter.
3. Become a public follower of Momma Maven.
4. Become a public follower of Huppie Mama.

(*If you are already a follower of my blog, twitter, or Facebook, leave a comment telling me that - one for each.)

Be sure to include your email address with each entry so that I know how to find you. This giveaway ends on 9/13 at 10:00 pm. Winner will be chosen using If you are the winner, you will have 48 hours to respond before I choose another winner. Good luck!

Congratulations to our winner, Tina!

* I received the aforementioned products for free to review. The opinions expressed are honest and provided without monetary compensation.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Guidecraft Review ~ Moon & Stars See, Store, & Take-Along

by Carrie Wells, Ed.D.

As you may have seen in previous posts, instead of creating a baby nursery for our new one on the way, I decided to make it more like a toddler classroom. We never used a crib with Lydia, so why get one for baby #2? I like bold, primary colors, so we decided to go with an outer space themed room. We painted the room a beautiful bright blue and looked for coordinating pieces that captured the space theme. Fortunately, Guidecraft makes some beautiful bold-colored, outer space themed furniture.
Guidecraft sent me the Moon & Stars See, Store, & Take-Along to review for free!

We purchased the Moon & Stars Stack Shelves on Amazon for just $72 + Free Shipping. 
This is how the room looks with the two shelving units and other themed items.
The Moon & Stars See, Store, and Take-Along is very simple to assemble. It took less than 30 minutes. It is on wheels, so it can easily be moved to different locations throughout the house. It comes with 6 large, lidded bins that are clear so you can see the contents easily, but are highlighted by the three bold, primary colors to coordinate with the shelves. Each bin can hold toys containing multiple pieces, like a set of blocks, a tea set, small vehicles, etc. The bins have handles so they can be moved to different areas of the house or taken on road trips. The top shelf does not contain bins, so you can stack larger items. I placed our puzzle rack on that shelf along with a large drum filled with instruments and two other toys.

In order to organize our toys even further, I photographed the contents of each bin, cropped the photos, named each photo, and printed a label to place on the front of each bin. The bottom row of bins contains our Mega Bloks, Guidecraft Sand Blocks, Crystal Bead Blocks, & Rainbow Blocks (all three fit in one bin), and a Birthday Cake Play Set. 

BUY IT! Along with the Moon & Stars See, Store, & Take-Along, Guidecraft makes several other colorful, coordinating Moon & Star items, such as a Table & Chair Set, Toybox, and Media Carousel. Each piece is well-crafted and great for a child's bedroom, playroom, or classroom.

* I received the aforementioned product for free to review. The opinions expressed are honest and provided without monetary compensation.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Guidecraft Educator Review #2 ~ Eco-friendly Manipulatives

Imagine my surprise and amazement when all of these beautiful eco-friendly Guidecraft manipulatives arrived at my front door! These toys represent all that my blog is about - "green" products for young children. Some of the most notable features are: minimal packaging used to contain the toys, they are made from eco-friendly rubberwood, colored with low VOC aniline dyes, and contain distinct shapes and colors. Each toy comes with an activity guide with multiple activities. At just $25 - $30 each, these toys are a great investment for parents who want their children to learn through fun, colorful, and engaging activities. All seven toys state Ages 2+ because the pieces are large (not choking hazards), but the skill sets required to appropriately manipulate the toys and understand the cognitive concepts vary greatly. This also makes them great "green" toys - they can be used for years, not just one particular stage of development.

Lydia is just 2, so I decided to open up the 3 toys that I thought would be most appropriate for her developmentally: Gradient Sorter, One to Four Sorter, and Shape and Color Sorter. She was so excited to see each toy, she completed each one multiple times, asking for "more" each time we finished.

Here's Lydia completing the One to Four Sorter independently:

Here's Lydia completing the Gradient Sorter independently:

These toys are appropriate for older children as well. Here's my 10-year old niece Kayla using the Fraction Cups to solve math problems that require her to add fractions:

Here are a few suggestions I have for teaching children to use these toys:
~Place all of the manipulatives in a small basket or surface to the left of the board/base. Because we read from left-to-right, this is a good way to prepare children to work in that direction.
~Refer to the activity guide for suggestions beyond just completing each activity independently.
~Feel free to modify activities based on your child's interests and developmental abilities.
~Toys such as these are great for incorporating language. Instead of having your child complete each activity, have your child take each activity apart. Here are some examples. For younger children, you may ask "Can you take out the green triangle and put it in the basket?" or "Can you hand me the red heart?" For older children, you may ask "Can I have a shape that has 4 sides, but is not a diamond?"
~Frustration often leads to learning. We frequently intervene as soon as our children look frustrated with a situation, but then they may not learn to manipulate each piece properly. Allow your child to explore 'wrong' answers to figure out where each piece really goes independently.
~To make things more challenging, place multiple puzzles in one bin together. Your child will have to sort the pieces and then complete each individual puzzle.

BUY IT! You can purchase any of the Eco-Friendly Guidecraft Manipulatives for just $25 - 30 each.

WIN IT! What's great about this Guidecraft Educator group is that each month, one of us will be hosting a giveaway of the product that we have all reviewed. Visit Teach Preschool for a chance to win a set of Eco-Friendly Guidecraft Manipulatives for a special child in your life! This contest is open to the US and Canada. 

* I received the aforementioned product for free to review. The opinions expressed are honest and provided without monetary compensation.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The ABCs of Teaching Preschoolers ~ L is for Library

by Carrie Wells, Ed.D.

Introduction by Deborah Stewart, M.Ed. of Teach Preschool:
This post is to celebrate the 20,000 members who have joined Teach Preschool on Facebook and the wonderful bloggers who share their amazing ideas and insights each day. As a special thank you to each of you who care for and educate our youngest learners, the bloggers and I have put together "The ABC's of Teaching Preschoolers". Be sure to visit my fellow bloggers and check out the fun and insightful tips they have prepared especially for you.

The letter I chose is 'L' for 'Library'. A library, whether in your home or classroom, is so much more than just a collection of random books thrown on a shelf. An early learning library should inspire children to want to explore stories, ask questions, manipulate items, and use their imaginations.

Here are some suggested supplies/materials to start your classroom or home library for your young learners:
A variety of books: Books can be organized by theme, a child's interests, or a certain sound you are focusing on teaching. I suggest including pop-up books, books with sounds, paperback, board books, hardcover books, books with stickers, books on tape/CD, big books, etc. I am expecting baby #2 in just 3 weeks, so all of the books in my daughter's library are about babies and big sisters.

Themed objects: If you choose books with a particular theme, put together a basket of items that go with that theme. This allows the child(ren) to explore the same topic in a variety of ways! I put a basket full of baby dolls next to the library for Lydia to play with while looking at books.

Manipulative toys: Included within a library can be felt storyboards, alphabet puzzles, magnetic letters, letter/word games, puppets, dress-up clothes, and other literacy-related items. These objects allow young children to practice early literacy skills beyond just looking at books.

Photo albums: This is a great way to personalize a library. Include pictures of your child(ren), family members, favorite toys, animals, transportation, etc. Anything that can stimulate interest and conversation. The children can also use personal photos to make their own books that can be placed in the library.

Seating options: Children should be able to sit comfortably while engaging in literacy activities. Your library may include area rugs, table/chairs, bean bags, rockers, pillows, blankets, and any other comfy seating options for little ones.

Organization: It's important to keep items within the library well-organized and easily-accessible. You want children to be able to reach everything to explore objects and books independently. It helps to label containers with pictures or words and to have a variety of colorful bins/baskets for easy clean-up.

Writing area: After reading books and looking at pictures, children may want to draw pictures and write their own stories. Place paper and age-appropriate writing utensils in an area that is accessible to the child(ren). I like the Crayola Pip-Squeaks for ages 2 to 4.

Whether you are building a library for your preschool-age child at home or your students at school, remember to personalize the books, activities, toys, and decor. Young children love seeing their favorite books in the library, their artwork posted, and their favorite toys within reach!

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