Love, Sleep & Play With Pampers {Giveaway}

(Disclosure: I received a set of coupons for posting this but all thoughts are my own.)

Pampers’ new Love, Sleep & Play campaign pays tribute to the millions of ways babies uniquely experience love, sleep and play.  Starting today through August 6, parents across North America can visit the Pampers Facebook page to submit photos of their babies experiencing love, sleep or play for the opportunity to be part of a massive celebration event this August.

Here is the picture I’d submit of the boys:

This picture is full of brotherly love. Big brother is playing while little brother is trying to sleep which is funny because that is still the situation today at the ages of 5 and 4.

GIVEAWAY:

One reader will win 2 coupons. One good for a pack of Pampers diapers and the other good for a container of Pampers wipes ($18 value)

HOW TO ENTER:

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Leave a comment telling me what special moment you’d submit to Pampers

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Comment on another one of my posts

4) Follow Pampers on Twitter

5) Follow me on Twitter

Giveaway ends August 1, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be a US resident, 18 years of age or older to enter.

Birthday Celebration 2013 {Pictures}

Both of my boys have birthdays in June and my brother has two kids with birthdays in May and July. This year, instead of two or three different parties, we decided to do one family celebration. We wanted to find somewhere that wasn’t too expensive, fun for the 3-6 age range, and that had room for the adults to sit and chat. We decided on Chuck E. Cheese’s. Here are some of my favorite pictures from their party.

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(Disclosure: This is not a compensated post. My mom and dad ended up paying for the kid’s party this year. We are so blessed!)

4th of July 2013

We spent the morning at a McDonald’s play place so the boys could play while I caught up on some work.  After a nap {for everyone!}, the late afternoon was spent outside in our backyard. It was a little chilly but the boys had fun on the slip n’ slide. Once Sinisa got home he grilled some steak for fajitas and after a delicious dinner we headed over to our Church for their 4th of July event. They had music playing, food, and glow in the dark fun for the kids. At 9:30 we watched the fireworks set to music. It was a nice evening. Here are a few of my favorite pictures :)

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How did your family celebrate the 4th of July? I’d love to hear from you :)

Wordless Wednesday: Jacob Turns 5

Jacob’s birthday was June 4th. Can’t believe my little boy is 5 years old already! Here are a few pictures :)

Jacob’s birthday treats

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Jacob with one of his gifts. These Imaginext toys are kind of expensive but I found a bunch of used ones cheap and Jacob doesn’t know the difference :)

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Jake is really into cars lately. This was one of his gifts from his Nana. He’d been wanting this set for months.

Summer Is Here!

First day of Summer School & Camp 2013

After a busy Spring it’s an even busier Summer here. The boys are in our school’s extended school year program and in summer camp in the afternoons which all just started yesterday. It was so weird to sit in silence for my entire workday. I missed the giggles of my boys and even their whiny “mommy he did….” moments but I know they are going to have a ton of fun. They would have spent much of the day inside while I worked and this way they can be at the pool, playing with friends at the playground, and going on field trips to exciting places. They are also playing some sports this Summer like they did during Spring.

I have committed to spending weekends completely with them and not working or blogging during that time. As a work at home mom it’s hard for me to pull away since my work is always sitting there and in the online world there is always more I could be doing but my kids come first. They need me and I want to spend this time with them while they still want to spend it with me.

To prepare for summer I made a list of all the free places we can go (including those we have memberships to), put fun community events in my calendar, and made a list of everything the boys and I thought would be fun to do together or places we want to visit. This way I can look at the list and decide what we want to do in the evenings and on the weekends. We also picked up the backyard and pulled out the summer items so we have the slip-n-slide, kiddie pool, sandbox, and sports gear all ready to go for lazy afternoons outside.

What are your plans for the summer? How will you be spending time with your kids? If you need some ideas I have a fun list from last summer of 100 things you can do to enjoy the time with your family :) Find the list here.

Comfort Foods {Recipe & Giveaway}

(Disclosure: I received products for review but all thoughts are my own.)

If it were up to me I’d probably eat pasta every day. It’s one of the foods that brings back the most food related memories from childhood. I loved when my mom made lasagna (cheese only, no meat!) and Beef Stroganoff. My dad used egg noodles to make his homemade chicken noodle soup in winter. My favorite food using Creamette® Pasta though is homemade mac & cheese. I remember my grandma making it when I went to visit her years ago and thought it was odd that she added tomatoes to this cheesy pasta dish. It’s my favorite way to eat macaroni & cheese now and I can’t imagine it without tomatoes.

Since having a family of my own, quick pasta dishes have become my new comfort food. I still have the memories of pasta without the time consuming task of making the dishes. One of our favorite ways to have noodles now is to add a red spaghetti sauce to them. I make mine with just veggies but Sinisa likes his with a meat sauce. Here is one of his favorite sauces to make called a Bolognese Sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground pork or ground beef
  • 1 can of mushrooms (pieces)
  • 1 white onion (diced)
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • Italian seasonings

Directions:

  • Saute the ground meat and use a spatula to break it in tiny pieces
  • In a separate pan use a small amount of oil and saute your onion and mushrooms.
  • Add meat to the onions and mushrooms
  • Simmer for a few minutes over low heat
  • Add a can of diced tomatoes (don’t drain them)
  • Add seasonings to taste (Sinisa uses garlic, basil, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper)
  • Simmer for a few minutes over low heat
  • Put a generous spoonful over noodles
  • Sprinkle with shredded cheese (optional)

When it comes to sharing good food and good times with family and friends, nothing makes us feel more at home than comfort food. Creamette® Pasta is proud to have been a part of creating comforting family meals for 100 years and – to honor ten decades of warm memories and mealtime moments – the brand is launching its Comfort Food Recipe and Essay contest.

Through May 30th, Creamette Pasta invites families from the Midwest region to share their favorite comfort food recipe made with Creamette Pasta along with an original essay of 100 words or less explaining their family mealtime memory as it relates to the recipe and what makes it so comforting for a chance to win $10,000. In June 2013, ten semifinalists will be chosen to participate in a nationwide online vote.

You can submit your recipe here: Creamette.NewWorldPasta.Com/100thAnniversary

GIVEAWAY:

One winner will win a delicious prize pack including two boxes of Creamette® Pasta, two Creamette® Pasta recipe cards, one colander and one casserole baking dish.

HOW TO ENTER:

Tell me what your favorite comfort dish made with Creamette Pasta is

Additional Entry:

Share this giveaway on a social network

Giveaway ends June 3, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be a United States resident 18 years of age or older to enter.

Silly Glasses {Wordless Wednesday}

Bunkbeds! {Wordless Wednesday}

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Look how tiny Lucas looks in his new bed! The boys were so excited to pick out their bedding at the store. Jake chose Avengers and Luke chose Spiderman.

Touchable Skin With NIVEA Lotion

When I was a new mom I remember how close I held my children as I rocked them to sleep. I remember putting my finger in their palms and having their little hands close around it. I remember stroking their soft cheeks while I gazed at them, overcome with love for these little humans I had just met.

Touch is important, but not just in infancy. That need for human connection continues throughout our lives. Those hugs that express love. Those pats on the back after a job well done. Walking hand in hand across a street. As humans we all need to feel loved and touch continues to be a main way that this need is fulfilled.

Since I’m not lucky enough to have skin as soft as my children do, I have to rely on lotion to make my hands smooth and touchable. I heard that Sam’s Club had double packs of NIVEA lotion that was specially formulated for very dry skin. I headed to the store with my mom for a little mother-daughter time to wander around Sam’s Club and pick up the lotion. {See my shopping story here}

The 2-pack was perfect for sharing with a loved one. I could use one bottle myself and give one bottle of lotion to my mom.

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Upon rubbing the NIVEA lotion into my hands I noticed that it quickly soaked into my skin and made it feel smoother. I think everyone in my family will notice my softer skin. Sinisa will notice it when I put my hand in his and my children will notice it when I rub their backs as they rest on the couch. Everyone benefits when momma has softer skin!

(Disclosure: I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community.  This content has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Beiersdorf for NIVEA.  #NIVEAmoments #cbias #SocialFabric

Little One In Overalls {Wordless Wednesday}

Lucas in overalls as a baby

 

Messy Faces {Wordless Wednesday}

These pictures are from 3 years ago. Love their little messy faces!

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Thanksgiving {Wordless Wednesday}

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Brothers in their matching outfits

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Cousin Sandwich!!

Creative Opportunities for Reading with Children During the Busy Holiday Season

The holidays are fast approaching. Families and friends will come together for food, fun, and festivities. The kids will be excited to have time off from school, and parents will hopefully be able to spend a little more quality time with their children. Somewhere in between all the shopping, sledding, cookie baking, and house preparation for the incoming friends and family, the bookshelf calls.

Reading can be a positive and relaxing outlet, especially in these busy times. You can help create special times with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other relatives whom they may not see often. One great way is by suggesting that the relatives read with the children (either reading to them, have the child read to them, or taking turns). Books can help open up dialogue and sharing that straight questioning never can. New books for this time can be very special. Or have the relative or friend bring along THEIR favorite book.
Setting up a reading corner for quiet time may also be a good idea when the holidays become hectic. Kids can escape all the noise and chaos, and so can the adults. After a while BOTH might grow weary of adult conversation.
Also during the holidays, we seem to become more thankful and aware of the things we have and the people who are in our lives. Just ten minutes of reading a book or two with your child in front of the fireplace or any other cozy spot can become a memory that lasts a lifetime. It could also become a tradition to read a book in that same spot each night.

Reading with your child means so much more to them than the book itself. They see their parent/grandparent/aunt/uncle/cousin taking the time to sit down with them, showing them that they care and want to be there. As each page is turned, a stronger bond forms and memories are made as giggles, jokes, and discussions transpire. Who knows? You may even come up with your own stories to share. So, this holiday season, make sure to take the time to read with the youngest members of the family and build that bond and tradition. Both you and your children/grandchildren will be glad you did.
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Thomas Weck is the author/creator of the Lima Bear Stories. Originally made-up bedtime stories he told his four children, the Lima Bear tales resurfaced when Weck’s son Peter had children. Peter remembered the stories and wanted to have his father write them down so that he could share them with his children. Father and son took it one step further and created Lima Bear Press to produce the stories as books that children (and parents) everywhere can enjoy. The first 4 titles in the planned 12-book series are currently available: The Megasaurus, How Back-Back Got His Name, The Cave Monster, and The Labyrinth. The 5th title, Bully Bean, will be released in April 2013. The books are not only fun and funny with great illustrations; they also have an underlying message such as such as tolerance, honesty, courage, etc.

Pumpkin Patch {Wordless Wednesday}

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Beautiful Fall Weather {Wordless Wednesday}

{These pictures are from Fall 2009}

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Happy 4th Birthday, Jacob!

Cousins {Wordless Wednesday}

Jacob and Lucas with their cousin, Camden, enjoying time together

My Little Pie Makers {Wordless Wednesday}

Jacob and Lucas sharing a chair after helping daddy make a pie. They are both covered in flour. I know the lighting is horrible and it's kind of blurry but I had to share this picture because I love the sweetness of it :)

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day {Pictures}

Hope everyone is having a fun weekend celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. We’ve been sick here but we tried to get in some fun so we didn’t totally miss the holiday.

Lucas had a photo shoot for Stories Of Autism in the morning and right at the corner was a St. Patrick’s Day parade so we sat to watch some of it.

Sitting with Nana waiting for the St. Patrick's Day parade to start. {Don't you love their matching green shirts?}

The afternoon was spent sleeping {I’m so sick I napped on the boys floor while they napped in their beds} and then relaxing on the couch while watching some of their favorite shows. When daddy came home they went outside and played in their water table. We ended the day with a special trip to McDonald’s to get a Shamrock Shake.

Lucas

Jacob

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How did you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

Sisters {Wordless Wednesday}

I decided to go back in time for this Wordless Wed. I went to the earliest digital pictures I have and found this one from 2005 of my little sister and I. It makes me giggle :)

Sweet 16 {Wordless Wednesday}

My little sister is 16!

 

Preschool Sweetheart Event {Wordless Wednesday}

Lucas

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My family

Firetruck Themed Birthday Party

My boys’ birthdays are in June. It’s February and I am just now sharing pictures of the great firetruck themed birthday party we had to celebrate Luke’s 2nd and Jake’s 3rd birthdays. What can I say? I’ve been busy. lol. Enjoy these pictures that show the fun of the day :)

Jacob before the party. He was really excited to see everything that had been set up while he napped. He is wearing his “big brother” firetruck shirt and Lucas had a matching one that said “little brother”.

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The cake table

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The cake (made by Renee of Caketastic)

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Appetizers- “fire” colored fruits and veggies

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The little firefighters loved playing in the water

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For a craft they decorated firetrucks

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Firetruck vehicles and firefighters were available for the kids to play with

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I got this board (from Oriental Trading) for the kids to get their pictures taken

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This firefighter themed Brio set kept the kids busy (and Grandpa too)

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I got a firetruck bubble blower and some games for outdoor fun

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Time to blow out the candles!

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The boys thought the cake was delicious!

To eat we grilled HOT dogs and enjoyed WATERmelon to keep with the “fire” theme. We also had a firetruck pinata and other firetruck themed decorations. For party favors we gave each child a firefighter hat and a bag of treats and firetruck themed items.

It was a great party and everyone had a lot of fun! :)

Christmas Fun In The Chicago Suburbs {8 Places To Take Your Family}

Do you live in a Chicago suburb and are looking for places to take your kids to do some fun Christmas things? I have some ideas:

BASS PRO SHOPS (Bolingbrook and Gurnee)

BOLINGBROOK PROMENADE (Bolingbrook)

Symphony in light shows every evening from 5-9pm until December 31st. Find more information on the Bolingbrook Promenade here.

BROOKFIELD ZOO (Brookfield)

Chicagoland’s largest light festival takes place at Brookfield Zoo. There are lots of lights, animated light displays, a laser light show, music and entertainment. Find out more information here.

CHICAGO BOTANIC GARDENS (Glencoe)

Take a magical adventure to a winter wonderland of twinkling lights and holiday beauty at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Outside, 750,000 lights sparkle and welcome you and your family to the Garden’s wonderland. Inside the Regenstein Center, a 10,000-square-foot exhibition of miniature trains winds through more than 80 miniature Chicago-area landmarks. In addition to the Wonderland Express exhibition there will be decorated trees, a gingerbread village display, and a wreath display and sale. Find out more information here.

MORTON ARBORETUM (Lisle)

A holiday favorite returns! The “Enchanted Railroad” rolls through with model trains of different colors and styles. One train even has a tiny camera on board so visitors can see what it would be like to ride along! Nine trains operate via remote-controlled interlocked signals, allowing them to cross tracks safely, and two trolleys that reverse direction automatically. Bring the kids and spend 30 minutes or more “ooo-ing” and “ahh-ing” at the toy trains. Find out more details here.

LEGOLAND DISCOVERY CENTER (Schaumburg)

LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago invites you to celebrate the season during Holly Jolly Holidays. Festive decorations will deck the halls of the Center throughout the month of December. Guests will also enjoy special seasonal games, group builds and plenty or LEGO-tastic holiday fun! Find out more information here.

CUNEO MANSION & GARDENS (Vernon Hills)

The Drive Thru Holiday Light Show presented by the Village of Vernon Hills in cooperation with the Cuneo Mansion and Gardens is held annually on the magnificent grounds of the Cuneo Mansion and Gardens.  The event opens Friday November 25, 2011 and runs thru December 31, 2011. Find out more information here.  

COSLEY ZOO (Wheaton)

20,000 twinkling lights and spectacular displays transform Cosley Zoo into a fairy tale winter wonderland from Thanksgiving Friday through the end of December. The lights come on at 3p.m. and the zoo closes at 9p.m. Visit the animals and purchase your Christmas tree, wreath, and holiday gifts! FREE to the public! Find out more information here.

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Make sure to visit Kidgrade to get more ideas of where to head for family fun in the Chicago area!

Our Christmas Season “To-Do” List

The Christmas season is here and I want to make sure that my family has a wonderful season of fun and making memories. The past years I have had many things I wanted to do but just didn’t get around to so this year I have made our family a Christmas “to-do” list. I figure if it’s written down there is more of a chance we will do the things instead of just thinking about them.

Here are the things I’d like to do this Christmas season:

*Throw a birthday party for Jesus

*Go to the zoo to see their lights display

*Visit Santa

*Make our Advent ornaments daily

*Put together a Gingerbread Train

*Give the boys new Christmas pajamas

*Drive around town looking at Christmas lights

*Donate money to Salvation Army bell ringers

*Bake (and decorate) cookies together

*Make some Christmas crafts to hang on the walls

*Wrap gifts for others

*As a family choose a gift from World Vision’s gift catalog to give

*Make Christmas cards for our loved ones

*Send a letter to Santa

*Mail a Christmas card to a soldier

*Get together with family to celebrate the Holidays

*Paint wooden ornaments for our tree

*Get family Christmas pictures taken.

*Have a Christmas movie marathon in our pjs

*Read a Christmas themed book every night before bed

*Make “reindeer food”

*Leave cookies and milk out for Santa

*Get a family dough ornament made

*Go downtown Chicago to look at decorated window displays

*Go to the light show at our local outdoor mall

*Play in the snow and then come inside to drink hot chocolate

*Donate food to a local food pantry

*Go sledding

*Make paper chain garland for the tree

*Make a snowman

*Move the Elf On A Shelf to a new place everyday and find him as a family

*Eat chocolate from our Advent calendars

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What’s on your family’s Christmas to-do list?

Thanksgiving Pictures

Here are 10 of my favorite pictures from our two Thanksgiving celebrations yesterday:

Lucas eating like a big boy at Papa's house

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Lucas in a turkey-induced sleep after that meal :)

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Jacob showing Cousin Camden one of his trains

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Daddy helping Lucas set up the train track

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Jacob and Lucas and their cousins looking out the window at the neighbors

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Lucas dancing around the room

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Lucas and Cousin Maddie playing together

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Jacob and Cousin Camden sitting waiting to eat dinner at Nana's house

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Mommy trying to get a picture for our Christmas cards (this wasn't the shot I chose)

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Lucas opening one of the fake presents

Remembering My Unborn Child

Avery 11/2007

Above is one of the only pictures I have of my child, Avery.

In 2007 I went in for an ultrasound and discovered I was carrying twins. At the same time the Doctor shared that most likely, baby “A” wouldn’t survive.

I was devastated. I had always thought that I didn’t want twins but once I found out I was carrying two children I couldn’t imagine life as anything but a mother of twins. I spent the whole next month hoping for the best but worrying that the baby would not make it.

In December of 2007, my fears were confirmed when only one heartbeat was heard. Though I still had one child growing inside of me I was filled with grief. I wondered what kind of mother I was that I could mourn when I still had life inside of me. That was one of my most difficult and confusing times as a mother.

June 4, 2008, I gave birth to Jacob who was baby “b”. He was healthy and I was thankful that God had given me a son.

In June 2009, I gave birth to Lucas. I had a hard time calling him my second son, since in my mind he was my third child, but I knew that calling him such would confuse people so I say that Lucas is my second child.

Two children later and I still think of baby “a” (who I have since named Avery). Would I be the mother of three rambunctious boys or two wild boys and one sweet, calm girl? Would Avery have had blonde hair like Jacob or brown hair like Lucas or maybe even red like grandpa’s? What would life have been like raising twins?

I will never know.

My prayer today, on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, is that no other parents would have to wonder these things, that every mom would give birth to the child they carried and that no parent would have to bury their son or daughter.

If you are raising children I hope that this serves as a reminder of just how blessed you are and that you hug them a little tighter today.

Apple Picking

Have you gone apple picking with your children? Check out some apple recipes!

Wordless Wednesday: My Little Soccer Player

I have linked this post to: Wordless Wednesday Home

5 Minutes for Mom ~ Go Graham Go! ~ Jolly Mom

Mom of 3 Girls ~MomStart ~ Two of a Kind…

Momma Findings ~ Mom Knows It All

A Daily Dose of Toni

The Divine Miss Mommy

Grammy Mouse Tails

Fall Brings….

So I know it’s not technically Fall yet but I just sprayed my house with a “falling leaves and spices” air freshener and it’s got me in the mood to talk about Fall. I love fall scents!

Ten other things I like about Fall are:

1) Pumpkin Spiced Coffee Drinks

2) Football (Go Bears!)

3) Boots

4) A break for mommy (aka school)

5) Hoodie weather

6) Colorful leaves on trees

7) Apple picking (check out 10 recipes to try here)

8) Cute kids crafts

9) Baking (admit it…you kept that oven off as much as possible this summer…)

10) Fall TV! A whole new set of shows to discover and FALL in love with ;)

What about you? What are your favorite things about Fall?

Fun With Hasbro Games


Courtesy of Hasbro Games:

We’re kicking off the month of September with some exciting news! To help you and your family prepare for National Family Game Night on Wednesday, September 28, we’re launching the first-ever GREAT GAMES TRADE-IN! And to make room for brand spankin’ new games, we’ve teamed up with Recyclebank to help families across the country responsibly dispose of their old, worn-out!

GREAT GAMES TRADE-IN

Is your game of Sorry! looking, well, a little sorry? Or maybe the Cavity Sam in your game of Operation looks like he needs to take a trip to the ER. Whether you’re missing some money in your Monopoly game or letter tiles from the Scrabble game, it may be time to replace that worn and well-loved game with a brand new one. Luckily for you and your family, the Great Games Trade-In is here to make recycling and upgrading games as easy as can be! Throughout the month of September, visit FamilyGameNight.com to print up to $83 in coupons, as well as prepaid shipping labels to easily recycle your old games. You’ll learn how to recycle your old, worn-out games with Recyclebank to make plenty of room in your freshly cleaned game closet for brand spankin’ new games! The 22 Great Games Trade-In coupon offers can be redeemed at mass merchandise retailers nationwide through October 9. And with all of these savings, you’ll even have extra spending money for treats and decorations for your big National Family Game Night celebration!

NATIONAL FAMILY GAME NIGHT

Want to put those brand new games from the Great Games Trade-In to use? National Family Game Night is the perfect occasion! On September 28, we invite you to join families across the nation to unplug and unwind as you spend quality time together playing a new game. Between the pressures and demands of work, school and activities, it can be hard to find time to reconnect as a family. Hasbro wants to help everyone in America create this special and important time, and is supplying great savings on new games to ensure this year’s National Family Game Night is a success in every home!

GAME CLOSET ORGANIZATION TIPS

All you really need for a successful Family Game Night are good friends and family and your favorite games! But if getting to your games or finding the one everyone is dying to play is derailing the fun in your house, it might be time for a game closet makeover. Alison Deyette, a lifestyle expert and author of the blog “Ali on the Go,” shares a few tips to ensure you’re prepared for Family Game Night fun time and time again.

1.     Store Games in an Easily Accessible Location: Keep all your games in one place, such as a closet or storage ottoman. If you don’t have the closet space for a designated area for family games, consider storing your games near the TV in an ottoman with a lift-off top, or in a large trunk or storage bin. That way, it’s easy to get to a game when the family is looking for something to do together, or when your favorite show is over.

2.     Assign Shelves in the Game Closet: Designate each shelf in the family game closet for a particular game category. With separate shelves for word games, party games and active games without a box, everyone knows where each game goes and clean up is quick and easy! Consider keeping games for the little ones on lower shelves so they can grab them on their own for spontaneous play at any time.

3.     Store Games Side by Side: To ensure games are easy to see and grab from the shelf, store board game boxes side by side vertically, similarly to books on a bookshelf. This way, every game is easily accessible and you don’t have to worry about trying to pry one game from the middle or bottom of a stack.

4.     Find a Place for Small Game Pieces: Want to ensure you never lose those Scrabble tiles or Monopoly houses again? Use plastic tote boxes to store smaller playing items like these, as well as dice, timers and pawns. You can also use a fishing tackle box to keep all the tiny pieces separated and safe between Family Game Nights.

5.     Create a Binder to Store Game Directions: Place the directions from each game in a clear sheet protector. Alphabetize the sheets by the name of the game so directions are easy to find when you need a reminder about who goes first in The Game of Life or how much money each player starts with in Monopoly.

6.     Find Time in Your Busy Schedule for Family Game Night: Plan ahead to make sure you’re completely organized before everyone sits down at the table for Family Game Night. Make all of the treats the day before and place everything in personalized goodie bags to ensure each guest is accounted for. Also, determine which games you’re going to play ahead of time and set everything out the night before to increase everyone’s excitement for the big night!

(Disclosure: This is NOT a compensated post, I just wanted to share it.)

A Day Out With #ClearAmerican

We recently spent time as a family at Day Out With Thomas. We had a great time and it was a beautiful day to be outside. We bought food at the restaurant there but I brought Clear American flavored water for our family to drink. Read more about my shopping trip at Walmart here.

The boys enjoyed drinking it during the long car ride.

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We enjoyed it outside while we ate lunch.

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And Sinisa enjoyed it before we went on a train ride.

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Clear American flavored water traveled easily in our cooler and fizzed like pop would with a lot less calories than a can of cola (it had ZERO!) It also had less sugar than the boys’ juice drinks do. My only word of caution is: don’t fill up sippy cups all the way with the water if you have children who like to throw them! We found out it makes for one big mess and that filling them only part of the way alleviated that problem. Overall, I was happy with the choice in flavors we had chosen (strawberry, fuji apple pear, and mandarin orange) and the boys loved them, too.

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Find Clear American on Facebook

Find Clear American on Twitter

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(Disclosure: This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias #CBias, which is a vendor for Cott Beverages Inc., the manufacturer of Clear American ® brand beverages.)

Wordless Wednesday: Lucas In The Hospital

Lucas after being sedated for some hearing tests in the hospital

I have linked this post to: Wordless Wednesday Home

5 Minutes for Mom ~ Go Graham Go! ~ Jolly Mom

Mom of 3 Girls ~MomStart ~ Two of a Kind…

Momma Findings ~ Mom Knows It All

A Daily Dose of Toni

The Divine Miss Mommy

Grammy Mouse Tails

Day Out With Thomas

Jacob’s favorite thing to play with is his collection of Thomas trains so it came as no surprise that he LOVED the trip to Union, IL for Day Out With Thomas. Our family had a great time and the weather was beautiful. Want to see if the tour is headed towards you? Go here to view the 2011 Thomas Leader of The Track Tour schedule.

Activities during the Day Out With Thomas event:

  • 20-minute ride with Thomas the Tank Engine™
  • Meet Sir Topham Hatt™
  • Clowns
  • Puppet Shows
  • Magic Shows
  • Live Music
  • Thomas & Friends™ Storytelling and Video Viewing
  • Thomas & Friends Playtable
  • Balloon Animals
  • Thomas & Friends Coloring
  • Temporary Tattoos of Island of Sodor Friends
  • Thomas and Friends Store

Here are ten of my favorite pictures from the day:

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And I love the shirts we got them:

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You can find out more information and order tickets here.

Have you ever been to Day Out With Thomas? What did you think of it?

Interested in going? Have questions about the tour? I’ll try to answer them :)

(Disclosure: I received tickets as a blog reporter for Day Out With Thomas 2011 but all opinions are my own.)


Carson & Barnes Circus

Last night Jacob and I, along with my nephew and my Sister-In-Law, went to the Carson & Barnes Circus. We had a really great time! We got there early which was good because they have a small carnival area.

Jacob and Camden had fun going on a train ride and a huge inflatable slide.

They also had camels and elephants available to ride. The highlight of my evening (and probably my week) was taking a ride on an elephant!

After the fun outside we headed into the big tent. It was much smaller than I had expected it to be but a lot bigger than it looked from the outside. We found seats up high where we had a good view of everything. The seating was in bleachers which became uncomfortable after a while but they also had more comfortable seating areas for a few dollars more which I recommend investing in.

After we found our seats we took turns getting food. The food was decently priced. We got a hot dog and some cotton candy. I also got the boys light up toys to wave in the dark tent.

Once we started eating the show started. The performer called the “King of Comedy” at the circus, Alex, was pretty funny in his antics. The acts came from all around the world and we really enjoyed watching their amazing stunts. I tried to get pictures but they all came out blurry or badly lit so I grabbed some pictures from the circus website to share:

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If you would like more information on the Carson & Barnes Circus you can visit their website. A worker at the circus said that they travel the United States for 8 months out of the year. You can see a list of their stops here (though it only shows about a month at a time).

(Disclosure: I received tickets to the circus for my family to go but all thoughts are my own.)

First Day Of Preschool

Jacob had his first day of preschool on Friday so I wanted to share about it :)

We started a “night before school” tradition where the kids get to pick the restaurant they want to go to. Jacob chose pizza so we headed to a local pizza place. After dinner we came home and the boys had baths and we read some books about going to school for the first time.

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The next morning I woke up earlier than everyone else and started getting ready for the day. Daddy had taken the morning off work too so he could watch his oldest son go to his first day of school. He helped get the kids ready. Outfits had been picked out the night before which helped save time in the morning. Sinisa made the boys a hot breakfast of scrambled eggs and nutella on toast which they enjoyed. The backpack was filled with school supplies and ready to go. Before we left the house I took a picture of Jacob standing by the front door, something I remember doing every single year growing up on the first day of school.

We drove to Jacob’s school and got there pretty early. We aren’t allowed to bring the kids in to the school which I was kind of bummed about. Teacher assistants come get them and bring them inside to sit outside of their classrooms until school starts at 8am. When the teacher came and opened his door, Jacob seemed leery about going with someone he didn’t know and he didn’t want to wear his backpack but after a minute or so he let the teacher lead him away from the car.

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When we came back two and a half hours later we waited in a long line as we watched children come out of the building and get into their parent’s cars. We spotted Jacob before he saw us and I tried to get another picture of him but couldn’t because other cars were in the way. When we finally got closer he saw our car and his face lit up.

As soon as he got in the car I was wanting to know about his day. He said he played with playdough and read books. He seems very excited to return so we shall see how drop off goes today!

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Has your child started school yet? How did the first day go?

Six Flags Great America {Fun For Young Children, Too}

Photo courtesy of: Lisa from Oh Boy, Oh Boy, Oh Boy!

For my birthday a few weeks ago my family and I headed to Six Flags Great America with some other bloggers and their families thanks to Discover and Chicagonista. I had always thought of Six Flags as a place for older children, teens, and adults but when I put on Facebook that we were going to Great America I was told that there was lots to do.

We started the day eating lunch with the other bloggers, the family from the Coaster Tour, and representatives from Discover. We listened to a family tell us about their roadtrip from Six Flags in LA to the Six Flags in Chicago and stopping at three other Six Flags on the way. It sounded like a fun trip and great bonding time for the family of four. We also learned about the perks that Discover card holders get when they go to Six Flags like early admittance to the park, a 5% discount at the park, and cashback bonuses (you can learn more about the perks and more here).

After lunch our family headed to the children’s area. The boys didn’t go on many rides but Jacob rode his first rollercoaster! I wasn’t sure how he would like it but he loved it so much he wanted to do it again. We ended our day at Hurricane Harbor which is the water park inside of Great America. My children are so young (2 and 3) that we were only able to go in one area of the water park but we could have easily spent all day in that one area. There were small slides that both boys went on and also large tube slides that Jacob and I both went on. We climbed all the way to the top and I was told only one person could ride at a time so I went first and waited at the bottom for Jacob. He was supposed to lie on his back all the way down but ended up rolling around and had a mouth full of water on the way down. I thought he would be done with the slides after that but he wanted to keep going on them!

We left in the afternoon because it was a long day in the sun for the boys and they normally nap at noon so by four they were exhausted. We didn’t even make it to the front gates before they were asleep! If you have children of any age I think they will love Six Flags Great America :)

(Disclosure: I attended this event free of charge and received Discover cards to cover my expenses but all opinions are my own.)

Wordless Wednesday: Blueberry Picking

One year ago we went blueberry picking. This is a picture of Jacob and daddy on the wagon to take us to the blueberry bushes.

This was Jacob's first time tasting a blueberry.

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I have linked this post to: Wordless Wednesday Home

5 Minutes for Mom ~ Go Graham Go! ~ Jolly Mom

Mom of 3 Girls ~MomStart ~ Two of a Kind…

Momma Findings ~ Mom Knows It All

A Daily Dose of Toni

The Divine Miss Mommy

Grammy Mouse Tails

Happy Birthday, Lucas Nathaniel!

(This isn’t a current picture but one of my favorites.)

Happy Birthday, Cousin Camden!

Happy Birthday, Little Bro!

Happy Birthday, Brock! We love you!

Happy Mother’s Day, Nana!

Sending A Balloon To Heaven

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My {step}mom passed away in 2009 so yesterday when we celebrated Mother’s Day with my brother’s family and my {birth}mom we sent up a balloon to Heaven for Grandma Jan. It’s something I plan on doing annually as a special reminder to my children that Grandma is looking down on them.

For all of the women who have lost a mom and are mourning on this Mother’s Day, my thoughts and prayers go out to you.

Jacob and Grandma Jan

Spring Celebration Announcement (And A Giveaway)

This Spring I am celebrating a lot of things but the biggest one is that my little sister, Amber, is coming into town! She lives in New York and we (my family, my brother’s family, and our mom) live in Illinois so we don’t get to see her that often. We saw her two years ago but before that it had been probably over 10 years since I had seen her. To add to the celebration she is coming into town as my nephew turns 4!

What are you celebrating this Spring? Shutterfly has announcements for all of life’s celebrations including birth announcements and graduation announcements. They also have ways to capture your memories with photo books.

GIVEAWAY:

One lucky reader will win a Shutterfly 8” x 8” photo book

HOW TO ENTER:

(Do any or all of the following and leave a comment for each one  you do)

1) Tell me what you want to make a photo book about

2) Like me on Facebook

3) Follow me on Twitter

4) Subscribe to my blog (button is in the upper right corner of the page)

5) Tweet: “Enter to win a @shutterfly photo book from @aliciamarie112 at www.makingtimeformommy.com”

6) Enter another one of my giveaways and tell me which one you entered

Giveaway ends May 17, 2011 at 11:59pm central time.

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Are you a blogger, too? Click here to register for a chance at 50 free announcements!

Disclosure: This post is part of a series sponsored by Shutterfly. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

Wordless Wednesday: Easter 2009

I have linked this post to: Wordless Wednesday Home

5 Minutes for Mom ~ Go Graham Go! ~ Jolly Mom

Mom of 3 Girls ~MomStart ~ Two of a Kind…

Momma Findings ~ Mom Knows It All

A Daily Dose of Toni

The Divine Miss Mommy

Grammy Mouse Tails

Rainy Day Fun {Top Ten Tuesday}

As I write this we are having another dreary, rainy day in Chicago. Today’s Top 10 Tuesday is a list of fun things to do with your family on a rainy day:

1. Head to an indoor playground. Many McDonald’s, community centers, and malls have children’s play areas where children can play for free. There are also other indoor playgrounds that cost money including: Monkey Joes, Lil Monkey Bizness, and Pump It Up.

2. Have a movie day (and don’t forget the popcorn)!

3. Bake. Kids love to help in the kitchen. Even young kids can help! My toddler likes to do the pouring and stirring.

4. Create a rainy day box that only comes out on rainy days. Fill the box w/ craft supplies or special toys and take rainy days from boring to *fun*!

5. Head to a local museum or aquarium.

6. Bring the outdoor fun inside. If you have items outside that can be played safely inside bring them in. We have a slide that can easily be brought inside for the day.

7. Have an indoor picnic. Spread out a blanket and have lunch on the floor of your living room. Make sure to choose easy finger foods for the meal.

8. Build a fort. Using pillows and blankets help your children make a fort. Make it simple or go all out adding a flag, decor, and anything else they can think of to personalize it.

9. Play a game. Board games, card games, duck-duck-goose, and make believe games all make the day seem to go by faster.

10. Cuddle on the couch with some good books.

{And as a bonus…}

11. Run “drive thru” errands. This may not be too fun at the time but doing these things on a rainy day means that you can be outside having fun on the sunny days! Consider the following errands that can be done without leaving your car: dropping off mail at the post office, picking up prescriptions, returning books and  movies, making a deposit at the bank, etc. (As a bonus, how about picking up lunch on your way home?)

What does your family do on rainy days? I’d love to hear your ideas! :)

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

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Happy Birthday, Daddy!

We love you SO much!

Love, Jacob and Lucas

Top Ten Tuesday: Valentine’s Day Celebration

Here are ten of my favorite pictures from our day long family celebration of Valentine’s Day :) See more Top Ten posts at OhAmanda.

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Jacob built a block tower with mommy and daddy. Here he is being goofy :)

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Daddy reading Valentine Day books to Jacob while Jake snacks on candy hearts

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Jacob and Lucas opening their Valentine's Day surprises

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Luke tries on his froggie sunglasses

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Jake tries putting on his sunglasses himself.

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Lucas loved the chocolates. He only had one and couldn't figure out how to get the other ones out of the box.

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Jacob helped make sugar cookies

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Lucas fingerpaints for the first time. We didn't have much red so he used yellow.

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Jacob fingerpainted foam hearts (and then the paper)

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Lucas then decided to paint his face letting us know he was done painting.

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What about you? Did you do anything fun with your family yesterday?

My New Favorite Picture

Love, love, love this picture of Jacob and Lucas!

And notice the hoodies they are wearing? Part of the Splendid Littles For Target collection that I just did a review on. (Becky H. was the winner by the way… if you didn’t win, check Target.com or your local Target. I saw a whole endcap featuring the collection while I was shopping at my local Target today!)

I Am Moving!

After months of searching for the right home we have finally found a place… the catch? After viewing it this past Saturday, getting approved on Monday, and signing the papers yesterday we are moving THIS SATURDAY! So much to do in such a short period of time means that I have to take a “break” here at the blog for the rest of this week and next week. A few posts may pop up here and there since I already have some scheduled but I will not be updating regularly. Don’t worry though, when I come back I will have more awesome gift ideas to share, more giveaways, and many cute pictures of my children (and our new home)!

What tips do you have for making the moving process easier? I would appreciate any tips you can give me! :)

Here are some specific questions I have:

1) Where do you start?

2) How do you unpack with two toddlers?

3) How long did it take you to unpack everything?