December 30, 2013

Mothering 101: The Importance of Maintaining a Healthy Body Image of Yourself

As women, most of us worry about our weight and the current state of our figure. As the Trace Adkins song goes, “You want that body back you had a 17…” – I know that is true for me. I mean, really….what woman doesn’t want to look like she did in high school? Back when our skin was tight, gravity hadn’t affected us yet and we had no idea what a “muffin top” was.

While most of us worry about our appearance and work to get it back into shape (or the shape we used to have, anyways), for those of us with children, it is incredibly important that we keep a healthy perspective about ourselves and our bodies. Why? Those little people are studying us.

In fact, our children are better than spies. They watch everything. They pay attention to the things we say to people, about people and especially how we talk about ourselves. They learn what is right and wrong with the world by the things we say. Therefore, if we are constantly saying, “I need to lose weight,” or “I wish I looked like that,” then our kids are going to believe that we’re right and there really is something wrong with us because we don’t look like the models on the magazine covers.

For those of you with young girls, I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to make peace with your body. When mothers are so focused on the way they look, or appear to be to their daughters, this attitude will pass on to their girls. As the girls grow, they will begin to critique their own bodies and, if they aren’t happy with what they see, they could develop an eating disorder, low self-esteem or some other unhealthy habit.

While those are all bad, the worst is probably the fact that these girls will hold their self-value in their appearances. It won’t matter how smart they are or that they have a large group of friends who like them for their personality, all that they will focus on is their looks. I’m fairly certain that this is not something any mother wants for her daughter. Therefore, she needs to change the way she talks about herself in front of her daughter. Sure, we all have imperfections and it’s okay to work on those imperfections, but we shouldn’t focus on them to the point that we don’t see the beauty in anything else.

For those of us with young boys, it’s still important that we maintain a healthy body image of ourselves. Our little boys are looking to us, their mothers, to show them what qualities are desirable in women. I know that I don’t want my boys to grow up to be so shallow as to believe that the only beautiful women are those who are “skinny.” True beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and is much deeper than skin deep. That is what I want my boys to know as they get older and begin to date.

I don’t want them to date girls only because they believe them to be pretty on the outside. I want them to date the girls who they believe are pretty inside and out. And, believe it or not, it starts with me.

December 27, 2013

How to Save on a New Year’s Eve Dress

Although we often focus on Christmas at the holidays, Christmas isn’t the only holiday during this time of year. For most Americans, there are three holidays they celebrate within a 2 month period: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. The reason we are so focused on Christmas is because that is the busiest of the three holidays. It’s also the most expensive, which causes many people to look for ways to cut costs at this time of year and I’m one of them!

By the time we reach the day after Christmas, most of us are a bit relieved, but still feeling the financial strain the holiday placed on us. However, we have to press on in order to make it through New Year’s Eve. After all, what is New Year’s Eve without the customary celebration? It’s boring!

Okay, so you can’t cut a lot of costs of New Year’s Eve by eliminating the party, but you can save money when shopping for the New Year’s Eve dress with the tips below.

1. Wear an “Old” Dress - Gasp! know, I just suggested you reuse one of your holiday dresses for the New Year’s Eve party. Before you freak out about it, think about it rationally. Choosing a dress you already own for the party will save you a ton of money. And, when you accessorize it differently that you have before, most people won’t even realize that you are wearing the same dress! For example, wearing different jewelry, adding a bolero jacket and/or adding an accent belt at the waist are all simple ways to create a new look with an old dress.

2. Swap with a Friend – Another great way to save money on a New Year’s Eve dress is to exchange dresses with a friend who is close to the same size as you. Basically, you and your friend should take turns shopping for a dress in the other’s closet. Although the dress belongs to someone else, it is still new to you and everyone at the party!

3. Hit the sale Racks - I'm not sure why, but some women have a phobia about purchasing dresses from sales racks. Don’t be one of these people. If you have to have a new dress for this event, then shop the clearance rack at the stores. Most likely you will find the perfect dress for a fraction of what it would have cost brand new!

Remember that the amount of money spent on a piece of clothing is not what really makes a dress “great!” What makes a dress great is the woman wearing it. If she is confident about what she is wearing, then she will naturally be in a good mood. Therefore, don’t focus so much on money when it comes to the perfect New Year’sEve dress. Instead, look for one that makes you feel beautiful without breaking the bank!

December 19, 2013

Holiday Treats for Kids

We are right in the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle as Christmas is less than a week away! What does this mean, aside from the shopping and wrapping? It means that the kids are about to go on Christmas break for a couple of weeks!

I have to admit that sometimes I get a little apprehensive about the school breaks as it is hard to keep little minds busy and out of trouble. However, at the holidays, I do look forward to spending extra time with my school-age son and his little brother, together. One of the things that I make a point to do with my little “big” man is to get him in the kitchen with me so we can bake some of our favorite holiday treats.

These moments are precious to me because I know that my boys are going to outgrow the age where they enjoy cooking with their mom soon. Plus, we never know when our last breath will come so it’s important to make the most of the time we have with our children.  Anyways, if you are looking for some holiday treats that the kids will enjoy making and the whole family will love, here are a few recipes!

Pistachio “Christmas” Cookies

1 Pkg. Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix

1 Box Pistachio Pudding/Pie Filling Mix

1.4 C. Flour

½ C. Melted Butter

2 Eggs

1 C. Shelled & Chopped Pistachio Nuts

½ C. Dried Cranberries

1.      Preheat oven to 350°.

2.      Stir cookie mix, pudding and flour together in a large bow.. Then, add the eggs and butter. Stir until mixed well.

3.      Fold in pistachios and cranberries.

4.      On parchment lined cookie sheet, place rounded spoonful about 1 inch apart and bake for 8-10 minutes.  (Makes about 2 dozen cookies)

Not Your Ordinary Peppermint Bark

Starburst or Jolly Rancher Candy Canes, Crushed (I use the strawberry, cherry and mixed berry flavors. Will need 1 cup of candy)

2 lbs. White Chocolate

2-3 t. Peppermint Extract

1.      Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or, if in a hurry, the microwave.

2.      Add peppermint extract and then fold in the crushed candy canes.

3.      Evenly pour/spread mixture on a wax-paper lined cookie sheet and freeze for 20-30 minutes.

4.      Break apart into pieces and enjoy!

Famous Kiss Cookies

1 C. Creamy Peanut Butter

1 C. Sugar

1 Egg

1 t. Vanilla

Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Cookies

1.      Preheat oven to 350°.

2.      Stir the peanut butter and sugar together until well mixed. It may appear to be “fluffy.” Next, blend in the egg and vanilla.

3.      On a greased cookie sheet, place cookie dough balls about 2 inches apart and bake for 10-12 minutes. (The tops should be slightly cracked.)

4.      Once the cookies are out of the oven, set cookie sheet on a wire rack and immediately press one Hershey’s kiss into the center of each cookie.

5.      Let cool. Enjoy! (Makes about 2 dozen cookies)

If you haven’t ever taken the time to bake with your kiddos at the holidays, try to carve out a small block of time this year. You and your kids will both make memories that will last a lifetime…and yummy treats that’ll last about 2 days (if you’re lucky!).

3 Cool Christmas Gift Ideas for Young Boys

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? Last night, I finally got on the ball and did a little shopping via the internet (my favorite way to shop!) and “knocked off” three people from my holiday shopping list. They were all little boys…as the mom of two boys myself, it makes shopping for other boys much easier and they are usually the first ones to get scratched off the list.

However, just because I am able to get the little boys gifts before all the adults on my list, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a hard time coming up with ideas for them. This is why I start shopping early for them. As a result of my online shopping trip last night, I actually found three cool Christmas gift ideas for young boys and I wanted to share them with you because I know that some of you are at a loss for what to get your little men this year for Christmas…and possibly even their birthdays?

1.      Heavy Duty Metal Trucks – It’s common knowledge that little boys enjoy playing with trucks. For the last 5 years, my son has continuously asked his grandparents, aunts and uncles for trucks for birthday and Christmas gifts. However, boys are ROUGH on those trucks and sadly, not many of them have withstood his rough playing habits. This year, my husband and I are going to get him a big truck for Christmas, but it will be a heavy duty metal truck that he shouldn’t be able to break. These trucks are more expensive (usually starting at $50 or so), but when you figure how much you (and relatives) will spend on cheaper trucks that break, the extra money is well worth it…and, at Christmastime, you can’t go wrong with the big trucks!

2.      Magformers – If you have a little man who enjoys building, then check out the Magformers. I just discovered these last night, but it is my understanding that they have been around for years. Magformers are building sets that consist of different shaped pieces (hexagons, triangles, pentagons, rectangles, squares, etc.) that are all magnetized so that they can easily connect together to construct three-dimensional items. While you may be concerned when you see the price for these sets, based on the reviews I have read, Magformers are great quality and keep kids entertained from as low as age two (2) to age fifteen (15). Plus, there are a wide variety of sets available at all different prices ranges and each set can be combined with other sets so they sound like a pretty good investment. I ended up purchasing three sets, one for my son and one for each of his two cousins.

3.      Etch A Sketch – I know, this is definitely a throwback for most of us, but do you remember how cool it was to draw something with an Etch A Sketch? For parents who are looking for creative gifts to help keep their boys entertained while using their imaginations (and not bouncing off the wall), an Etch A Sketch is a great option. Not only will it help boys concentrate, but it will also help young boys work on their fine motor skills and hand/eye coordination. 

December 16, 2013

Winter Safety Tips

I know the winter season brings a lot of anticipation and excitement for kids and adults alike. However, even though there are so many fun things associated with this season, we do need to remember that winter can also bring a lot of hardships to those who aren’t prepared. Frozen pipes, loss of electricity and hazardous driving conditions are just a few of the many problems that are often associated with winter. The good news is that these problems and those occurring as a result of these issues, can often be prevented with a little preparation. Below are some winter safety tips to ensure you and your family aren’t caught off guard when “Old Man Winter” comes knocking.

1.      Thoroughly Inspect the Heater and Its Components: If you haven’t already done so, now is an excellent time to go and check over your heater and all of its components to make sure everything is in good working order. Many people find that their heater malfunctions at the beginning of winter due to the fact that it hasn’t been ran in nine months or more. You can prevent any hardship resulting from this issue, by checking it out ahead of time. If it looks like a potential problem may occur, call in a professional to inspect it and fix any issues it has.

2.      Check Gasoline Levels in the Generator: It’s important that you keep your generator full of gasoline at all time because you never know when a serious winter storm is going to hit. Sometimes storms that don’t look bad turn serious very quickly and there may not be time for you to fill up the generator if the electricity goes out. It’s also a good idea to fire up the generator every so often to ensure that it is still in good working order.

3.      Replace Bad Tires: If the tread on your tires look like they are close to being dubbed “bald” then you need to get them replaced before the heart of winter arrives. When snow and ice get stuck to the road, you really need all the traction you can get from your tires to help keep you out of the ditch. If you live in an area where chains are used to help maneuver through these hazardous conditions, get them out and have them ready to go before any bad weather arrives.

4.      Keep a First Aid Kit in the Car: Even though you may have a newer car, new tires and are experiencing no car trouble, that doesn’t mean something unexpected can’t happen and leave you stranded somewhere in a snowstorm. Make sure that you have a first aid kit in the vehicle as well as a thick/heavy blanket and some non-perishable food items that you can get to in case of an emergency. It’s always better to be over-prepared than to not be prepared at all.

I am hoping that no one has to go through any winter hardships this year, but just in case something unexpected happens, it’s best to be prepared to soften the blow. The above list should help you with that. Are there any other winter safety tips that I have forgotten?

December 11, 2013

Bedtime Routines and the Holidays

What are your thoughts about bedtime routines for the kids? Before I became a parent, I didn’t really think a lot about them. I honestly don’t remember whether I was for or against them. However, now that I am the parent of two kiddos, one of whom is in Kindergarten this year, I can assure you that I am a huge fan of the predictable bedtime routine.

Why support regular bedtime routines? I believe that children need routines. Routines give children a sense of security in the crazy, fast-paced world that we live in. Why? They are routines, therefore, they are predictable. In other words, they’re safe and our kids feel happier when they feel safe.

While routines give our kids the security “blanket” they need in order to help ensure they have better, less stressful days, routines also help parents too. This is especially true around the holidays! How exactly do bedtime routines for the kids help parents during the holiday season.

1.      Provide extra time to catch up. I’m not sure about you, but I tend to be a bit of a procrastinator and it shows every year when the holidays run around. It’s literally all I can do to get all of the Christmas gifts bought, goodies made for the neighbors and parties, and the house decorated, let alone get the gifts wrapped before our Christmas celebration. This is why I love continuing the bedtime routines throughout Christmas Break…it gives me the time I need to get the kids’ Christmas presents wrapped.

2.      Happy kids make for happy adults. If there’s one thing that gets on my nerves faster than a fly buzzing around, it’s listening to whiney children. Not really so much other people’s kids, but when my kids are whiney, it really gets on my nerves…fast. I have found that keeping the bedtime routine throughout the long days of Christmas break actually keeps my kids in better moods because they are continuing to get the same amount of sleep (if not a hair more) than they were when they were in school. And, when they are happy and a pleasure to be around, I’m happier.

3.      Much needed “down” time. Another reason it’s important (at least for me) to keep the bedtime routines going during the holidays is because when the kids have a set bedtime, that means we have a set “down” time. You may not think that it’s important to give yourself a little “me” time, but during the holidays when the kids are home all day, every day for a couple of weeks, just knowing that there is a scheduled for when the questions and sibling fighting will stop, is enough to make me stay relaxed.

So, what are your thoughts about holiday bedtime routines? Do you keep them, lighten up a little about them but still try to stick to a “roundabout” time or just throw them out the window? Why?

December 10, 2013

Miscellaneous Holiday Tips

As we aren’t that far away from the holidays, I thought some of you may find the following miscellaneous tips helpful. These are just a collection of some of the random things I’ve found helpful that always seem to happen to me around this time of year, when I’m least expecting it. Hopefully, they will help you out too!
  1. Grocery Shop Early – It never fails, my holiday grocery shopping usually gets put off until the last minute and I wind up shopping with all the other crazy procrastinators out there. However, there have been a few times when I’ve actually ventured out of the house super early to do my holiday grocery shopping. I have to tell you, that is absolutely, without-a-doubt the best time to go grocery shopping right before the holidays. It will take will power as you will need to be up and out the door by 6 a.m., but I promise it will totally be worth it when you are back home, with the groceries put away before 8 a.m. – after experiencing hardly any wait to check out!
  2. Use this Homemade Recipe for Unexpected Spills, Stains and Smells – This is one I discovered a few years ago the day before Christmas dinner with my my house. My dog for whatever reason decided to jump up on my bed and relieve herself on it at the precise time when the sheets and mattress protector were both in the wash! As if that wasn’t bad enough, the mattress was only a week old and I was going to have a house full of guests the next day – some of whom were staying at my house. A quick search on google saved the day! So, if you ever have something similar happen like this, all you need to do is soak up the spill as best you can (however, this also works on dried spills) and spray a 75/25 mixture of vinegar and Listerine on the area. Make sure it’s saturated, then sprinkle baking soda all over the wet area and rub it in. Next, place a towel over it and let it dry. Once dry, vacuum it up and check it out! The vinegar helps remove the stain while the Listerine and baking soda work together to lift the offensive smell. It works on anything from carpet to mattresses to couches!
  3. Atomatic Timers are Awesome! For years, my husband and I put up Christmas lights and manually turned them on and off. Not that that’s a bad thing, but there would honestly be days when we would forget to turn them off. Talk about wasting energy! Then, my dad introduced us to automatic timers for the Christmas lights. Simply amazing! If you haven’t tried using holiday timers for your Christmas lights (indoors and outdoors) give it a try. I predict you will love them. They will make your life so much easier. You won’t have to worry about turning on the lights or when to turn them off – they will manage it all for you, giving you time to worry about the more important things surrounding the holidays.
Okay, so those are my top miscellaneous tips for the holidays. I hope that you have found them to be helpful as I know how crazy the holidays can get sometimes, especially when the kids get involved. Please share any additional tips that you feel we would benefit from during this time of year!

November 29, 2013

Holiday Traveling with Children

One of the things that the holidays bring for many of us is the opportunity to travel with our children. Isn’t it such a wonderful “opportunity?” As a mother with very young children, traveling long distances with them isn’t the most fun thing I can imagine doing with them during this time of year. However, it’s precisely one of the things we are going to be doing this year.

My husband and I decided to do something a little different this year. We decided to take our. family vacation right in the midst of the holidays. We normally go during the summer, but this year for some odd reason we thought it would be fun to go at the end of November/first of December. We elected to take the kiddos on a 7-night Disney cruise – a first for all of us! One of the delightful things about our family vacation is that my parents decided to join us, so it truly is a family vacation.

While I am positive that everyone is going to have a splendid time once aboard the ship, I’m just a little nervous about the actual traveling part. The day that we fly out is going to be an all-day event as we leave at 10:05 in the morning, fly for 1.5 hours and then have a 1.5 hour layover, before flying for another 3 hours. I am not concerned about the 6 year old as I think he will have fun on this adventure, but I’m not so sure about the 1 year old – who will be flying on our laps.

Now, I know I am not the only one with young children who will be traveling long distances with their kiddos for the holidays. Therefore, I thought it might be beneficial to share a few tips for traveling with children.

  1. Bring Engaging Activities – Take a little time to think about how boring long trips were for you when you were a child. I, myself, absolutely loathed them. So, don’t be surprised when your kids feel the same way. So, try to do what you can to prevent this by bringing activities along to help make the trip more enjoyable for the kiddos. While many kids have hand-held gaming devices that will literally keep them busy for hours, why not pack a few additional items just in case? For instance, coloring books, new books to encourage reading (especially if you have a child who is just learning how to read), mini/travel-sized games, and other similar items are great. 
  2. Pack Snacks – Not only do I have a 6 year old accompanying us on this trip, but I’ve also got a 1 year old…who is pretty active. In order to help keep his little hands busy, I am packing plenty of snacks for him in my carry on. Of course, my 6 year old has his own snacks too.
  3. Find New Toys – A day or two before you leave make a trip to the Dollar Store or somewhere similar and buy several new toys that your children don’t have at home. It always makes long trips more interesting when they have new things to play with and hold their attention. For babies, look for things that you know will capture their attention. For example, my little guy has a fascination with Tupperware cups and their lids. I have no idea what that is about, but he loves flipping the lids over and stacking the bowls. Therefore, for this trip, I am buying a few new (small) pieces to help pass the time on the plane.
  4. Have a Plan – The trip before the trip is honestly what I have spent the majority of my time planning…and I honestly think that it’s necessary. As I previously mentioned, we have a layover in between flights. Therefore, I have a plan for exactly how that layover time is to be spent. I am not going to feed the kids a lot during the flight before the layover, that way they will be hungry when we arrive at the next airport. We will hustle to the next gate and snag lunch from somewhere nearby. That way once we arrive at the correct gate, we can pass a good chunk of the time eating while we wait for our next flight. Having a plan can and should make the day of travel go more smoothly for everyone.
  5. Have as Much Fun as Possible – As adults, we tend to take things just a little to seriously sometimes and can get stressed fast. This is especially true when traveling at the holidays with our children. However, our kids can sense when we are stressed and it passes on to them, which has a major effect on their day. Therefore, try to have fun during the trip and don’t get too stressed out along the way.

So, there you have it…my list for easier traveling with the kids during the holidays. What are some of the tricks that you have found successful during your holiday travels with the kiddos?

November 1, 2013

Tips for Using Up that Halloween Candy

While I enjoy taking my kids from door to door as they partake in the Halloween tradition of trick-or-treating, I dread the basket full of Halloween candy that accompanies us home. One year, my son ate on that bucket of candy from Halloween night up until Christmas Eve, with the help of his father and I, and no, I’m not exaggerating.

I’m not sure about you, but for me, I’m ready to dump the basket of Halloween candy after about a week. I mean, the holidays are coming up and most of us are trying to watch our weight anyways, right? Plus, what child really needs that much candy? Can you imagine what all the dentists, dental assistants and other similar professionals think about this holiday? (My mother was an oral surgeon’s assistant for years, so I have an idea of what they think about this time of the year.)

Over the last 5 years, I’ve gotten creative about making that Halloween candy dissipate a little faster than it used to. Here are a few of the things I do with it:

1.      Trash all the hard stuff. The first thing I do is trash all of the hard candy, unless it’s a sucker or something like that. When I was 9 or 10, I choked on a jawbreaker and my dad had to do the Heimlich on me in order to get it out. Ever since then, I have had a fear of hard candies like that. Naturally, now that I have children, that fear has only gotten worse. I know I can’t control everything they put in their mouths, but at Halloween, I can. While it sounds harsh, to me, it’s a safety precaution…but it’s also one that helps whittle down that pile of Halloween candy too.

2.      Use it in the lunch box. Halloween candy makes a great “treat” for my son at school. I don’t usually buy candy to put in his lunchbox, but after Halloween, he gets at least one or two pieces a day for his “dessert.” When my husband worked a job where he took his lunch every day, I would do the same for him.

3.      Donate it. I’m not sure about your school, but at my son’s school, the teachers reward the kids for various things with little pieces of candy. Most of the time, the teachers have to pay for these rewards out of their pockets, which is why I like to donate part of excess candy we have after Halloween to the teachers in my son’s class.

4.      Make Christmas gifts with it. Sounds a little weird, right? I only do this for a few of the people on my Christmas list…you know, the ones that you want to give something small too so they know you’re thinking of them. I go to the craft store and pick up some of the small decorative glass jars, buy some holiday ribbon to tie around the jars and then fill the jars with some of the Halloween candy that doesn’t have any Halloween themed wrapping on it. It makes for some easy, inexpensive Christmas gifts!

Above are my suggestions for how to use up all of the extra Halloween candy your kids come home with. Do you have any unique ways of filtering the candy out of your house? If so, please share!

October 15, 2013

Kids Formal Review and Giveaway

When the UPS truck pulled up to my house yesterday, I hurried outside to greet the delivery man because I knew exactly what he was bringing me. It was this beautiful Charcoal Suit from the Kids Formal warehouse. While, I admit that my son has worn a suit from Kids Formal before, that was a couple years ago when he was in a friend’s wedding (he was 3). So, there’s a good chance that my opinion could have changed regarding the Kids Formal boys suits over the last two years. Therefore, when Kids Formal offered me the chance to review this charcoal suit, I jumped on it!

At 5, this is my son’s first big boy suit and he’s pretty excited about it because now he can look like his daddy and grandpa for special occasions. And now, the exciting part for you! Kids Formal is giving you all the opportunity to win this suit for free! All you have to do is follow the instructions below to get yourself entered in our giveaway.

Before we get to the details of the giveaway, I want to take a minute to describe the suit in detail for you as the picture online does not do it justice. This 5-piece suit comes with the 3-button jacket, matching vest, dress pants, a white dress shirt and a matching clip-on tie. So, here’s how the suit “stacked up” in my book:
The first thing I noticed was the fabric of the suit. The color is just beautiful as it is darker than a normal grey but not quite black – it’s a very solid “charcoal” just like the online description says. Secondly, the material feels exquisite and very high quality. I can tell that my son will not have any problems with the quality of this suit as it is obviously well made. All of this was determined while the suit was hanging on the hanger before my son arrived home from school!

Once my son got home, the fun began as he couldn’t wait to try the suit on when he saw it!
The suit fits true to size, if you take the time to read the sizing chart information before you order. My son is comfortably wearing size 4/5 clothing in boys, so I chose to order the size 5 suit and it fit him perfectly. The white dress shirt was just right as it didn’t hug his body but wasn’t big on him either and the sleeves were the perfect length. It’s the same story with the vest. The vest gave him plenty of room to breathe without being “bulky” and the jacket was absolutely perfect. Not one thing I can complain about, even the sleeves fit great!
I was the most nervous about the pants on this suit because my son is quite skinny and we have a hard time finding pants that fit around the waist and are the right length. This is why I’m such a huge fan of the brands that have built-in elastic “belts” for the kids around the waist.

While the dress pants don’t have built-in “belts,” I didn’t need to worry about it because they also fit perfectly around the waist. The length of the pants was just a hair too long. I think I will probably have them hemmed for holiday events, but in a way where they can easily be let out and worn “as is” once he has another growth spurt. Therefore, the pant length really isn’t an issue for me because I feel like it’s a good thing for them to be just a hair too big so they will last longer.

Finally, the tough part of the review was finding out what my son thought about the suit. After all, you know how picky little boys can be when it comes to formalwear. I’ve heard it all from, “it’s too hot,” “the top button is too tight,” to “I can’t move in it!” So, I was a little nervous to find out what my little guy thought about this (gorgeous) suit.

He loved it! He didn’t complain about one thing on the suit and would have been happy wearing it for the rest of the evening if I would have let him. So, there you go – this Charcoal suit from Kids Formal is a big hit at my house!

So, now for the fun part – getting you entered to win this suit for your little man! All you need to do is follow the following instructions and you may welcome this beauty into your home free of charge this fall!

To enter, simply type your email address and name in the entry form below then click Begin.  To increase your chance of winning, you can enter a comment or share it with your friends.  For each of the optional click, you can earn an additional entry to the final drawing.  Thank you for sharing and good luck!

October 14, 2013

3 Things I’ve Learned from My Son’s First Day of Kindergarten

Well, it finally arrived. Yesterday was my son’s first day of Kindergarten. While a lot of my fellow mommy-friends have posted on Facebook, Twitter and their blogs about saying a tearful farewell as their little one’s headed off to school for the first time, I have to admit that I didn’t have this same experience. In fact, I think I was just as excited about my little guy heading off to school as he was!
I know, I sound like a horrible mother don’t I? Before you judge, consider this: my son has been going to all-day school since he attended the 3-year old program at a nearby school…and he LOVES school. My son is pretty outgoing and makes friends easily, and he was excited to get to go back to school and see all his friends again. How can I be sad about that?

I did discover a few things about myself on my son’s first day of Kindergarten though. Here they are:
Quiet time is good. I have to admit, it was a little weird coming back home and only having to care for the 1-year old. The house felt too quiet. However, as the day went on, I realized that I actually like my quiet time. While I love the heck out of my rambunctious 5-year old, it is nice to have a quiet house, giving me the ability to think. Over the summer, I put off most of my work until after the kids had went to bed because it was nearly impossible for me to get it done when they were awake. Now, with a (mostly) quiet house, I’m able get busy as I have the quiet time I desperately need.

Time is precious. I have a tendency to rush through my days. I’m always trying to get through one task in order to move on to the next, and I am often looking days ahead when I should be focusing on the here and now. Walking my son into his classroom on his first day of Kindergarten made me realize just how precious time is…and how much I take it for granted. It seems like just yesterday, my husband and I were taking him home from the hospital and now we’re sending him off to Kindergarten. The truth is that time flies by when you have kids and if we aren’t careful, we’re going to take it for granted and miss all of the important stuff. So, I’m determined that this year, I’m going to take one day at a time and appreciate all of the little gifts each day brings to myself and my family.

I’m spoiled. Yep, yesterday I realized that I’m pretty spoiled. For some reason, I found it a little odd that there weren’t more parents dropping their kids off for the first day of school. I grew up with a mom who always took us to school  on the first day and was able to be at all of our events, so I guess I just assumed this is how it is for every family. Yesterday I realized that not everyone has a job where they can take their kids to school and/or pick them up afterwards. I’m not quite sure why this didn’t dawn on me before, but it did make me feel pretty spoiled. While there are a lot of things I love about my job, the ability to be there for my kids on “big” days is definitely the best perk working from home has.

Above are the three things I learned on my son’s first day of school. What has the first day of school taught you?


October 13, 2013

Tips for Losing Weight and Toning Up After Baby

As a mother, I fully understand that joys that come with pregnancy as well as the post-baby blues. I’m not talking about postpartum depression (although the baby blues can lead to that), but rather the sadness that many new mothers feel when they look in the mirror shortly after the baby is born.
While I didn’t experience the post-baby blues with my first son, I did with my second. I had lost a substantial amount of weight before I got pregnant with my youngest and was actually within 10 pounds of my high school weight. Therefore, once I had my son, I was ready to get started on a weight loss plan. However, due to having a c-section I was limited to what I could do for six weeks. Looking in the mirror in the mornings as I got dressed was sometimes all it took to make me cry. I couldn’t help but miss my pre-pregnancy body and wonder if I would ever get it back.
If you are feeling the same way, then don’t stress because you can lose the baby weight and get your pre-pregnancy body back. By counting calories and exercising regularly, I was able to lose all my baby weight and then some within six (6) months of having my littlest guy. However, I still have just a little bit of extra cushion around my mid-section that I want to get off.
The truth is that I’m happy with my weight, but I’m just not as lean as I want to be. Therefore, I’m embarking on a new journey to help me get where I want to be (fitness-wise). Regardless of whether you are like my and just need to tone up or if you have a lot of extra weight to lose, the tips below will help both of us (if we stick to them):
·         Eat Clean – This is a really big one for me. As I said earlier, I lost all of my baby weight (plus 10 extra pounds) just by counting calories. I liked this method because I could eat what I wanted as long as I stayed under my calories for the day. So, now that I’ve dropped the weight and am working out 3-5 times a week, it’s time to get serious about toning up. The only way I’m going to tone up is to change my diet. I don’t believe in fad dieting, so I’m actually planning on making this a lifestyle change. Basically, I’m going to cut out 90% of the processed foods that I’ve been eating and focus on eating more fruits, veggies, nuts and unprocessed meats. In addition, I’m going to trade in my soda for water and other all-natural drinks. Clean eating will not only help drop weight, but it will also help lose inches and promote better digestion too.

·         Eat Healthy Snacks – I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time snacking during the day. Well, I can snack – but when I do it’s usually disastrous to my diet, so I usually just eat three meals a day with maybe one snack. This isn’t healthy. Since I will be eating a clean, non-processed diet, it is important that I eat healthy snacks all throughout the day. Healthy snacks keep energy levels up and the metabolism going.

·         Start Using Protein Shakes – Anyone looking to lose weight and get fit needs to be exercising on a regular basis. For those of us who want to tone up, it’s important that we lift weights at least 2-3 days a week and do cardio on the “off” days. I’ve been doing this for about 8 months now and have noticed results. However, I haven’t been drinking a protein shake after my workouts. This is something that I am going to start doing. Protein shakes give our body the protein it needs to better build (and tone) the muscles. Therefore, I need to be drinking protein shakes after my weightlifting workouts for maximum results.
It doesn’t matter where you are in your weight loss endeavors, the tips above will help you achieve the results that you’re after. I just hope that you don’t give up in your quest for a healthier/fitter body because you’ve had children. Be proud of the fact that you’ve carried children and know that you can get your pre-pregnancy body back with some hard work and determination!

October 11, 2013

Baby Turns One: What this Year Taught Me

Today my baby boy turned one. I’m seriously in shock that it’s already been an entire year since we welcomed him into the world. While the year has passed quickly, there have been a lot of changes this year including a job change for my husband, milestone birthday for the hubby and myself (30th) and of course, adjusting to life with a baby again. Needless to say, I have learned a lot in the past year and most of it is because of our littlest man.

·         Take Time to Smell the Roses – I don’t really remember taking the time to appreciate the small things with my oldest son and I blame part of that on the fact that he was our firstborn. With him, I was always trying to teach him something new or anxiously waiting for the next milestone achievement.

However, this time around things have been quite different. I often find myself just sitting and watching my little guy crawl around the living room floor and explore new things. Even if he is headed to the blinds, I don’t rush right over there to get him away from them. Instead, I wait and watch to see what happens. I also don’t get impatient when it’s time to give him a bottle and he wants me to hold it instead of him doing it himself. I guess I’ve learned to appreciate these moments now because it won’t be long and he’ll be heading out the door to go hang out with his friends on Saturday night.

·         Don’t Worry about the Small Stuff – One of the things that this little guy has managed to show me is that there isn’t any need to worry about the small stuff. This guy is my laid-back, everything-is-fun guy and the only time he is crying or upset is when he’s hungry, tired or has a poopy diaper. Think about it – those three things really are the most pressing issues for babies; everything else is minor.

I’ve started applying this attitude to my everyday routine. For example, I used to get pretty bent out of shape if I would catch Big Brother outside playing in his good dress pants instead of his “play” shorts. Now, when I catch him doing something like this, I take a moment to ask myself the question “Is this really a big deal?” Most of the time, the answer is “no.” Yes, I do go get him and make him change his pants (or stop whatever it is he’s doing that he’s not supposed to be), but I do it in a much calmer manner. Why? There’s no need to make a bad memory for my son over something minor like this. Let’s address the issue and move on.

·         Family Time is the Most Important – This may be something that I’ve learned as a result of turning thirty in combination with having our second (and last) child. I used to be of the mindset that we had to constantly be going (the hubby and I), especially on the weekends. Sitting at home was not something I wanted to do. However, over the last year I have really grown to appreciate the family time spent together at home – without the distractions that come from being out in public. I’ve also noticed that both of the kiddos seem happier when we spend the evenings together at home eating dinner and hanging out together in the family room before bed. On the nights when I want to do something special, I will usually just rent a movie for the hubby and myself to watch after the kids go to bed – it’s just as enjoyable as going out to the theater (and cheaper!).
I still can’t believe my little guy is already ONE, but when I look back over the last year and all that I’ve learned, I’ve got to say that I’m pretty excited about what the future holds for us. I am a firm believer that children teach their parents just as much (if not more) as parents teach them.

October 10, 2013

Gift Ideas for Infants

As many of you know, my baby boy is going to be turning the big ONE next week. Therefore, I am in full party mode right now trying to get everything done before his big birthday bash. One of the things that I had been struggling with was deciding what to get him for his birthday. After all, he isn’t really going to remember what he gets at this birthday party and he will get lots of toys from relatives and family friends, but as his parents we have to get him something.
Maybe you aren’t the parent of an infant but are going to be attending a birthday party or need to purchase a gift for an infant and don’t know what to get. Below are some of the ideas that I’ve had over the last few days as I struggled to decide what I should buy (and tell others to buy) for my little guy for his birthday.
1.      Walkers – After much deliberation, this was actually the gift my husband and I decided to go with. Basically, we didn’t want to get him another toy that was going to litter our living room floor. Instead, we wanted something that he would have fun with and use. So, we decided on the Melissa and Doug Rattle Rumble Push Toy. We chose this particular one because we like the old-fashioned look and feel of the Melissa and Doug toys, but really any walker similar to this will be a great gift for an infant just learning to walk.

2.      Bath Toys – While my little guy has lots of regular toys, he only has one bath toy and it’s one of those floating rubber ducks. He has just reached the age where loves playing in his bath water. He can honestly sit in there for 30 minutes without getting fussy. Therefore, bath toys are naturally going to make excellent gifts for my little guy – and I imagine they will make great gifts for any infant who enjoys bath time.

3.      Vibrating Teethers – I’m not sure about you, but we have been at the teething stage for a while now. However, my little guy hasn’t really taken to any teethers yet. I’m not sure what the deal is, but my oldest son fell in love with the vibrating teethers when he was about 14 months old – once his bite was strong enough to get it to vibrate. I’m guessing his little brother will be the same way, so I’ve requested a vibrating teether from grandma this birthday.

4.       Fisher-Price Infant Swing – This was actually an early birthday gift to my son from his grandparents but he loves it and I know most other infants will be the same way. There’s just something fun about getting to go out in the backyard and swing (without being in the arms of mom or dad) that infants love. Therefore, the Fisher Price Infant Swing is a great gift idea for any infant. 

5.      Money – Finally, if you just can’t decide what to get the little one for his/birthday or other special occasion, consider giving money. I know that babies don’t need money, but if the parents have set up a college fund already, then request that the money gets donated to his/her education. If a college fund hasn’t been established, savings bonds work great too.

October 9, 2013

Clutter and Kids

Last night my husband and I were able to visit with a couple that we have gotten to know pretty well over the last year. This couple is younger than we are (mid-20s), newly married (3 years) and they don’t have children yet. They have just moved to the same town that my husband and I live in and so we were bringing them our push mower to borrow until they can get one of their own. Naturally, we stayed and visited for a couple of hours while our almost 1-year old crawled around the living room and the 5 year old played Angry Birds on the iPad.

Christy, the wife, has managed to get about half of their boxes unpacked already and most of her furniture arranged in the way that she wants it. (I fondly remember the days when I was able to work uninterrupted…too bad I didn’t appreciate it when I had it!) Anyways, while we were talking we got to talking about our husbands and how they like to just shove things in places when they don’t know where to put them (instead of just asking).
Of course our husbands were both right there and contributing their thoughts and trying to defend their actions with good-natured humor. At one point Christy and her husband got in a playful argument about how everything has its “spot” and how much simpler things are when they both keep the items in their respective places. I looked at my husband during this playful argument and we both just laughed. Our friends both looked at us like “what’s so funny.”
I informed them that I remember the days when Beau and I had a place for everything. It was great…and then children came along. Now our house constantly looks like a tornado went through it and it is next to impossible to keep things in their respective places with little people in the house who think all of our possessions are their personal toys.
I love my children dearly and understand that this is just part of parenting young children. I know that it will get better, but right now (and probably for the next 10 years) this is where we are at. To be frank: I’ve accepted it. I choose not to stress myself out over the fact that my son insists on hanging his play jeans up next to his church suit. Or that I’m constantly finding his toys under the couch, on my dining room table and in other non-toy places. Yes, I do make him pick up his toys when I find them, but I’ve chosen to accept that he’s still a kid and clutter just comes with having kids. My husband, on the other hand, still hasn’t accepted this fact quite yet…but he will eventually.
I guess my post was inspired by my amusement from the conversation we had with our childfree friends last night. I remember the early years of our marriage and life without children. I wouldn’t trade my kids for anything, but I remember how easy it was to keep things in a nice, orderly state and not having to rush around like a crazy person when expecting company and there are days when I’m just a little bit envious.
What about you? Have you accepted the clutter that comes with children or are you like my husband and still fighting it?

October 8, 2013

Party Planning for the Busy Mom

Well, it is already that time for me. I’ve put it off for as long as I possibly can without anyone noticing that I’m not totally prepared. If you haven’t guessed it already, I’m currently in the middle of planning my son’s first birthday party.

When I had my first son, I planned his first birthday party out months in advance. You can bet that I was on top of my game then. However, this time around I’ve literally put it off until the last minute. I’m chalking my procrastination up to the fact that I have two children now (one who is an active 5 year old) and life is just a lot crazier for me now than it was 5 years ago. Those of you with multiple children know exactly what I’m talking about.

The good news is that it’s completely possible to plan a successful birthday party in a short amount of time. I officially started my party planning last night and am excited to say that about 70% of it is done!

Okay, so how is the busy mom supposed to plan an awesome birthday party when the birthday in question is only a couple weeks away? Here’s what I did:

Get on Pinterest: I’m a bit of a Pinterest junkie. I just love how easy the site makes brainstorming. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for landscaping ideas or first birthday party ideas – it’s all right there! And, most of the ideas are DIY tips with instructions, making the planning even easier. You can get on Pinterest and quickly get hundreds of ideas for an upcoming birthday party. Pinterest helped me decide on the theme (airplanes) and a host of other party details.

Use Shutterfly: I have to admit that I have never used Shutterfly, even though I’ve heard amazing things about this unique photo site. So, yesterday afternoon, which the kiddos were napping, I set up an account with Shutterfly and quickly designed little man’s birthday invitations. I literally had the invitations designed in about half an hour (this is fast for me), complete with a picture of little man, and ordered. It was a super quick process and when I was done with the invitation, they even had matching customized Address Labels and Thank You notes that I could order too.

While this doesn’t have anything to do with my son’s birthday party, I also bought prepaid print credits through Shutterfly. I’m about 2 years behind on printing pictures and the prepaid print package allows me to pay for the prints in advance and use it when I want. They were on sale (600 prints for $54..or .09 per print) so I bought two. This is a huge convenience for me because now I can upload my pictures to shutterfly, select the ones I want printed, click “order” and have them mailed to me! So convenient for this mom of two who hates dragging the kids along for errands like this!

Befriend Amazon & Ebay: Once I decided on the theme for my little guy’s party and got the invitations ordered, I was ready to tackle the party décor. Keep in mind that this was at 6 p.m. on a Sunday night. My solution was Ebay and Amazon. I know some people don’t like ordering online, but I tell you what – sites like Ebay and Amazon really give you more variety than local stores will and they’ll also be able to help you stay within budget better. Within an hour, I had all of my party decorations ordered through the help of these two sites.

So, if you’re a busy mom like me and have a birthday party coming up quickly, the tips above will help you get it all done. The best part about ordering online is that you can often find coupons for free shipping. I was able to order my invitations on shutterfly with free shipping as well as my party décor off of Ebay with free shipping! Good luck and happy party planning!

October 7, 2013

Healthy Meal Ideas for the Entire Family

Now that school is back in session, I’ve been feeling a little more pressure as time isn’t as plentiful as it was a month ago. From the minute my son gets off the school bus the time begins ticking away. We have to do homework, shower, prepare/eat dinner, brush teeth, pick up and get in bed all before 7:30-8:00 p.m.. It may not seem like a lot, but considering I have a 1 year old in the mix, it can be overwhelming if I don’t have a plan.
Aside from homework, the most time-consuming job is preparing dinner. I love to cook, but when I’m short on time it’s hard to prepare a good, solid meal for the family…at least that’s how it feels sometimes. Sure, it would be easy to pop in a pizza (and sometimes I do) and call it good, but that really isn’t feasible for every night of the week nor is it good for my family to eat that much processed food in a week.
I’m sure many of you are in agreement that meal preparation is a time-consuming job, but one that is important. I know I’m not the only one who wants to prepare healthy, well-rounded meals for my family. Therefore, I thought I would share a couple of the meals I prepare during the school week because they are quick, easy and healthy.
Zucchini Lasagna:
Sliced Zucchini (1/4” thick – about 2 ½ cups)
1 lb. ground turkey
½ c. onion
2 large tomatoes, diced
2 cans tomato paste
¾ t. dried oregano
¾ t. dried basil
¾ t. dried thyme
½ c. water
1 egg
1 c. low-fat ricotta
¾ c. mozzarella cheese
1.5 t. flour


1.      Boil zucchini for 3-4 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside.
2.      Fry turkey and onion until the meat is done. Drain if necessary.
3.      Add the next 8 ingredients and bring to a boil.
4.      Meanwhile, beat egg in a small bowl. Add the flour, ricotta cheese and half of the mozzarella.
5.      Place half of the turkey mixture in the bottom of an 8x8 casserole dish. Top with one layer of zucchini and half of cheese mixture. Repeat one time.
6.      Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes at 375°F.
7.      Remove from oven, sprinkle remaining mozzarella and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
8.      Let cool for 10 minutes and serve.

Spinach-Herb Linguine


 4 ounces fresh baby spinach
 1/4 C. slivered almonds
 1/4 C. fresh basil leaves
 2 t. fresh oregano, chopped
 1 t. fresh thyme, chopped
 1/4 t. black pepper
  2 T. vegetable broth
  2 t. lemon juice
 1/4 t. salt
 2 tablespoons olive oil
 1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated and divided (about 1/4 cup)
 8 ounces uncooked linguine

  1. Microwave spinach in a covered, microwave-safe bowl on high for 2 minutes or until wilted. Uncover, cool slightly.
  2. Place spinach, almonds, and next 4 ingredients in a food processor and process until chopped.
  3. Add broth, juice, and salt. Pulse 4-5 times. Slowly pour oil through food chute and process until blended well. Scrape into a bowl and add half of cheese. Stir well and cover with plastic wrap.
  4. Cook pasta according to package directions, leaving out the salt and fat. Drain. Toss pasta with 1/2 cup of spinach mixture (pesto). Arrange about 1 1/2 cups of pasta mixture in each of 4 bowls; top each serving with 2-3 tablespoons of the remaining pesto and approximately 1 1/2 teaspoons of the remaining cheese.
Both of the recipes above are healthy and packed full of the nutrients my family needs to help them make it through the week. However, while they are healthy meals, I’m most excited about how easy they are to prepare. If you’re looking for a couple new healthy recipes to add to your family’s menu this week – try the two above!