12 Things I Want To Do More Of With My Kids In 2018

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of On-Cor. The opinions and text are all mine.

You may have noticed that I didn’t make a New Year’s Resolution post this year. Usually I have a long list of goals that I want to work on throughout the year but this year I decided to keep it simple and really focus on what was important. In years past I had a laundry list of things like “read 10 books” and “save money” and that was great and all (and still things I’d love to do) but this year I have only two things I’m going to focus on- self-care and more family time. For the later, I brainstormed things I wanted to do more of with my kids in 2018 so I thought I’d share them. Obviously, “more family time” is really broad but I figured I’d come up with 12 ideas- one for each month of the year- of what I want to do more of with my boys.

I want to eat dinner together more often. 

We used to eat dinner together every night but it doesn’t happen as often as I’d like it to anymore between sports schedules and work schedules. I’ve found that making easy meals, like On-Cor Frozen meals, is the best way to make this happen because they are ready in just minutes. I’ve stocked up on some of our microwave favorites and hearty entrées, like the Macaroni & Cheese, Penne Pasta & Meatballs with Tomato Sauce and the “Selects” Lasagna with Meat Sauce, so I’m always ready for “one of those” nights I’m too busy to cook.

I want to travel more as a family.

This past year we didn’t go nearly as many places as I would have liked to so I hope to travel more in 2018. Traveling with my family and introducing them to new places is one of my favorite things to do! Hopefully we will visit a handful of places here in the Midwest and take at least one or two longer vacations.

I want to have more family game nights.

We used to have game night pretty much every Friday so I’d love to get back to that now that the holidays are over. We got a number of new games as well so there are plenty to play. Whether we sit in front of the cozy fireplace or play on our back porch in the warmer months, game time is a great way to start the weekend off right.

I want to bake more with my kids.

Lucas baked cookies with Daddy on New Year’s Eve and it made him so happy! Though baking can be very messy I think that it’s something that is worth the mess. (Plus warm cookies out of the oven are one of the best things ever.) I have a new cookbook with kid-friendly recipes that I can’t wait to make with my kids.

I want to spend time together exploring local towns.

When the boys were younger we’d visit a new local place weekly and it was so fun to discover all the things there were to do that were just a short drive away. From going on paddleboats to visiting the zoo to hiking to a hidden waterfall, spending the day together exploring local towns is a fun way to spend the day together (and it’s much more enjoyable than spending the day cleaning!)

I want to spend more time doing puzzles together.

I love puzzles and the boys do as well. We have a big table in our tv room now that’s perfect for puzzles so I hope to always have a puzzle out that we can work on here and there.

I want to go on more family walks.

Walking around with no destination in mind is a nice way to spend an afternoon. Whether we are walking slowly down a bike path on a warm, sunny afternoon or exploring the streets of a little Michigan town on a cold, snowy day, it’s nice to just spend time together walking around and seeing what we find.

I want to spend more time crafting together.

In 2018 I hope to make a lot more crafts together. From decorations to gifts, there is so much that we can make ourselves and I think it would be fun to create things with them.

I want to spend more time playing with my boys, especially when they are playing outside.

Whether it’s playing tag or tossing around a football, I hope to participate in whatever my boys are playing instead of just sitting and watching them play.

I want to spend more time camping.

I’ve camped since I was a little girl and last summer I really came to realize all the amazing benefits of camping. There’s just something about being in nature, away from most of our technology, that creates the perfect atmosphere for quality family time making great memories together.

I want to read more books together.

When the boys were little we read books every day but now that they are older we don’t read together as much. I want to find some good chapter books and read them together, a chapter at a time.

I want to spend more time together talking (and truly listening).

My boys are getting older and I’m realizing that soon enough they are going to prefer talking to friends over their mom. I really want to practice being a better listener, even when they are telling me hour long stories about stuff they’ve watched on YouTube.

There are so many ways to connect as a family and I’m looking forward to a year of rediscovering all of the fun things we have done in the past. What is your favorite thing to do with your family?

If you are busy, but still want to make meal time together a priority this year like I do, you’ll want to check out On-Cor’s line of entrées. On-Cor is just a freezer away for an always easy, always satisfying and always ready solution for “one of those nights.” Their frozen, fully-cooked meals are conveniently packaged and ready to heat and serve so you can spend more time making memories and less time in the kitchen. The multi-serve entrée products feature popular flavors and varieties including Macaroni & Cheese, made with 100% real cheese, which is one of our favorites.

For your next family meal, head to the freezer aisle of Jewel (or check out the store locator at www.on-cor.com) to pick up one of On-Cor’s entrées. You’ll also want to enter the giveaway because it includes a coupon for a free On-Cor entrée!

I’d love to hear what things you love to do with your family and what New Year’s Resolutions you have in the comments below.

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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of On-Cor. The opinions and text are all mine.

 

How Busy Families Can Make Dinner Time Count

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #KidfreshFavorites #CollectiveBias

One of my favorite traditions from my childhood was sitting down to a family dinner every evening. We’d talk about our day as we ate a meal together. This was always a tradition that I knew I wanted to continue when I grew up but I’ve discovered as a parent that it’s a hard tradition to keep. Between sports, school commitments, work schedules and everything else, finding the time to make dinner and sit down as a family every evening is tough!

The best way I’ve discovered to make this tradition happen for our busy family is to stick to simple meals. With easy meals I spend less time in the kitchen and more time with my kids. My favorite meals are ones that I can just heat up and that’s why I love Kidfresh frozen meals for the boys. They are so convenient and perfect for our busy evenings because they are ready in just minutes! It’s a relief to know that I can still provide my family with quality meals, even when I’m short on time.

Not only are they quick to make, but they are meals that I feel good about giving my boys because they are from a credible brand I trust. Created with the help of a top chef and a pediatric nutritionist, Kidfresh meals are consistent with USDA dietary guidelines for all children and they offer the best in kids nutrition. Kidfresh meals contain no artificial flavors or ingredients and are full of nutrients that growing kids need. They also are full of veggies. Each Kidfresh meal is made with up to ½ cup of hidden vegetables so even the pickiest of kids (like my youngest!) will eat their veggies.

Kidfresh at Kroger

We found our Kidfresh meals and sides at Kroger in the freezer cases near the other single serve dinners. For a limited time at Kroger and Kroger family of stores you can save at least 15% off the everyday retail price at Kroger!

There were a variety of Kidfresh choices available including: Wagon Wheels Mac + Cheese, Spaghetti Loops + Meat Sauce, Muy Cheesy Quesadillas, Super Duper Chicken Nuggets, Mighty Meaty Chicken Meatballs, Fun-Tastic Fish Sticks, Totally Rockin’ Tots and SuperBlastin’ Bites. My boys love all of the Kidfresh meals they’ve tasted so far, especially the Wagon Wheels Mac + Cheese and Mighty Meaty Chicken Meatballs.

To keep the conversation going while the boys are enjoying their Kidfresh meals, and to avoid the typical answers of “fine” and “okay” when asked about their day, I created a conversation starters bucket to keep on the kitchen table. I wrote down about 50 questions on craft sticks that would require more than a “yes” or “no” answer and would hopefully start a conversation.

The questions ranged from silly (“if you could stay up all night, what would you do?) to personal (“what is something you like about yourself?”) and from simple (“what is your favorite book?”) to complicated (“describe your dream home”). The best part is that, as the boys get older, the questions can be changed and new questions can be added so they remain relevant to our family.

I then put them all in a small bucket that I decorated with washi tape and letter stickers that spelled out “family”.

I love how it turned out and am excited to use it for years to come.

How do you make your family dinners count?

Our Family Christmas Pictures

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

Holiday photos of my family, both of me as a child growing up with my siblings and now of my own children, are some of my most cherished possessions. Looking at holiday photos makes me happy and I love being able to look back at how my family has changed and grown over the years.

While I get the kids pictures taken a couple times a year, we haven’t had a family portrait taken since Lucas was a baby. This year we decided it was time for another family photo so we headed to our local Portrait Innovations to get Christmas pictures taken. I wanted some of our family, some of Sinisa and I as a couple, some of the boys together and some of each of the kids individually. I loved that our photographer took into consideration what I wanted and made sure to get shots in different poses, and on a number of different backgrounds, so I’d have many choices to choose from. (As you can tell, I really loved their holiday background.)

Portrait Innovations specializes in giving customers a customized portrait studio experience with creative options for beautiful, professional portraits. Our photographer ended up taking close to 100 images during our photo shoot and I got to go through all of the images and pick my favorites. I loved that I didn’t feel rushed to go through the images and make my selections in a hurry as I have in the past at other studios. Another great thing about Portrait Innovations is that the packages are completely customizable so you aren’t stuck with a bunch of prints in random sizes that you’ll never use. You can also request edits, like cropping, on images to make sure all your images are perfect.

Want personalized gifts and keepsakes? Portrait Innovations makes it easy to create them while you are looking over your images in store or from the photo CD if you choose to purchase one. Photo gifts are perfect for holiday gift giving. I chose to create some ornaments and a canvas. I also got some photo Christmas cards to give out to my family.

Best of all, the prints were ready within 15 minutes of the order being placed. I like that I didn’t have to wait weeks for my prints. I am excited to get frames for our portraits and put all of our beautiful pictures up in our home! I also got the picture CD so I could share the images online and make more prints in the future if I want.

Do you still need to get your family’s holiday photos taken? This holiday season, preserve memorable moments in the best way with Portrait Innovations! They currently have a great deal going on now through December 11th. You can get a package with 42 holiday portraits for only $19.99 (Regularly $24.99), plus a free gift of your choice- either a mug or holiday ornament- (Regularly $25).  The Portrait Package includes 1-10×13 Wall Portrait, 2-8x10s, 4-5x7s, 4- 3x5s, 16-2x3s, plus, 5-5×7 Greeting Cards and 10 Gift Tags. There are never any sitting fees so this is a great deal! Find your closest Portrait Innovations here.

Do you get holiday photos taken every year?

Three Resources To Help Manage Your Family’s Health

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

As a busy mom I feel like I have a million things to do every day. Keeping track of my family’s health is just one of those things, but probably the most important one on my to-do list. I wanted to share a few resources that will help you manage your health and your family’s health.

Pregnancy & Baby Tracker from BabyCenter

This is a great resource for moms who are pregnant or have babies. I was on BabyCenter when my kids were younger and now they have an app so moms can use it on the go. The app will guide you through your pregnancy – week-by-week and day-by-day – with tips, insights, and fetal development videos timed for your exact stage of pregnancy. The app has a kick counter, contraction timer, birth plan checklist, and more. There are also thousands of medically reviewed articles to help you through your pregnancy journey and through your first year as a new parent.

LiveHealth Online

Ever have that middle of the night medical question where you wonder if you should wait until the morning or call the doctor’s answering service? If you decide that you are desperate enough to call the answering service you then have to wait to hear back from the doctor, which could take hours. Luckily, there is LiveHealth Online, a mobile app and website that provides consumers with a convenient way to have live video visits with doctors for non­emergency health conditions.

According to a recent survey of the EmpowHER community, 71% of moms surveyed reported losing two or more hours of work/school each day they had to visit the doctor. With doctors available 24 hours a day, seven days a week on LiveHealth Online, moms won’t have this problem any more. The service is perfect for busy moms who can’t take time off work to go to the doctor or who find themselves needing a doctor’s opinion in the middle of the night.

CareZone

When I was ill last fall I was looking for something to keep track of symptoms I was experiencing and I came across CareZone. This app became vital in helping me remember what medications I was on, what symptoms I had each day and when prescriptions needed to be refilled. I loved having all of my important medical information in one place along with a place to journal and keep notes and contact information. My “mommy brain” makes remembering all this information difficult so having it in an app to bring with to doctor appointments is fantastic.

I’d love to hear what websites and apps you use to manage your family’s health.

 

We Love Family Time Around The Campfire

Thanks to CustomInk for sponsoring our camping trip and providing us fun shirts to wear as we made great memories!

 

One of the best parts about summer is all of the quality family time that it brings. Every time we have a day or two without anything scheduled I try to schedule a road trip to somewhere within two to three hours. A few weekends ago we spent a couple days camping as a family.

Camping, to me, is the ultimate family trip because there are no tvs and lots of time spent telling stories around the campfire, talking in sleeping bags as we fall asleep and playing games at the picnic table.

We ended up picking a rainy weekend to enjoy nature but we were in a cabin so we just relaxed on the porch and under our tent as we talked and enjoyed an early lunch.

Thankfully the rain tapered off and there was some sunshine for us to get out and enjoy the day. The boys clamored to get in the pool and had fun jumping in and playing games in the water.

After the pool they wanted to check out the playground. They immediately found other kids to play with and started playing tag, one of their favorite games. There was also a tetherball pole so Sinisa and I took turns playing with the kids. It was a fun game I remembered from my childhood but neither of the kids had played before.

After exploring the campgrounds we headed back to our cabin for dinner. While the burgers were on the grill we played a game of Uno and some of the fun toys we had brought.

After dinner it was time for a camping favorite- smores! The boys laughed as daddy accidentally caught the marshmallows on fire. When they were nice and crisp we’d squish them between graham crackers and chocolate to make the best dessert!

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I’ll have the memories of our amazing camping trip for years to come. I’d like to thank CustomInk for sponsoring our family trip and also sending us some fun shirts to wear. I created them myself online in less than 5 minutes and each was personalized with our name on the back of them.

CustomInk is the leading online provider of custom apparel and accessories for groups and occasions. CustomInk believes that t-shirts and other custom products have the power to bring people together and strengthen their sense of community. CustomInk combines an easy online Design Lab with personal customer care to help its customers create the perfect design for any club, school, business, team, or charity.

Let CustomInk help you make your next family reunion or family outing even more special! What would you create shirts for?

Worry Free Outdoor Fun

This is a product-sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ Wound & Skin Cleanser. The opinions and text are all mine.

Today the temperature outside reached 64 in our Chicago suburb. This is very exciting for everyone, especially for active families that will be thrilled to go hiking and biking and play sports outside in the fresh air. For my family this means it is time for baseball, soccer and the playground. This also means it will be a time full of scrapes, cuts and bug bites. As a parent I know this is unavoidable and I hate to see my boys suffer.

To be truly prepared we always have a bag of a few essentials in our vehicles that can help in an emergency. Some of the best things to have in an emergency kit are an instant ice compress, bandages and band aids, extra mouth guards (for football), snacks and Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™

To keep your team from getting sidelined new Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ Wound and Skin Cleanser, the easy first step in first aid that gently and effectively cleans and hydrates minor wounds, wants you to enter the Play to Win with #TeamPuracynPlus Giveaway for the chance to win a  Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ Emergency Kit, including a $50 gift card to a sporting goods store of your choice and  Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ product. One winner announced each Friday on March 13, 20, and 27. #TeamPuarcynPlus (3 winners total).  It will be the best way to kick start the outdoors activities season.

My kids both play soccer and baseball during which they both get scrapes and usually the scrapes are messy from the field. The easy to use, hands free spray application of  Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ thoroughly cleans minor cuts and wounds, eliminating the need for running water in the critical first moments of cleaning a wound.

I also like Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ because it is doctor tested and recommended for quick wound treatments and is free of alcohol and steroids. It is so safe that it will not bother them even if it accidentally gets in their eyes or ears. A 4oz bottle can be purchased at Rite Aid and Walgreens for $14.00. It is convenient to carry in your car kit so you will always have  Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ in stock for when you really need it.

To learn more about the brand visit www.puracynplus.com and follow the brand on facebook (facebook.com/puracyn) and Pinterest. Another product they have is the Puracyn Plus Foot Wash and Skin Cleanser, a highly effective cleansing solution for healthier feet and wound care. If you or a loved one have diabetes Puracyn Plus Foot wash is essential to help make foot care part of your daily health routine and self care.

We are ready for the warm weather and the outdoors and especially the fun that comes with it. Thanks to Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™  we will be ready for anything that comes our way. So join in the fun and discover fearless life with Puracyn.

To learn more about the Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ , LIKE the brand on Facebook and follow the brand on Pinterest.

This is a product-sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Puracyn® Plus Duo-Care™ Wound & Skin Cleanser. The opinions and text are all mine.


Making Breakfast A Habit

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

Today I jumped out of bed at 4:30am. Most of my mornings don’t start that early but even on the days I get an hour or two more of sleep, mornings are too hectic to sit down and eat breakfast. Luckily I have discovered belVita Bites. A delicious healthy and fulfilling breakfast for someone on the go like me.

A study by NPD Group Inc. found that Americans have an average of just 12 minutes a day for consuming breakfast. That is about half the time we spend on lunch (28 minutes) or dinner (24 minutes). This is the most important meal of the day and so many people don’t eat a quality breakfast like they should.

Eating breakfast sets the tone for the day because it gets our blood sugar up which makes our brain function better the rest of the day. It gets our metabolism going. It reduces cravings later in the day. And it puts us in a better mood.

belVita Bites, paired with fresh fruit and yogurt, are a great way to enjoy a quick breakfast on the go. Each pouch provides: 230 calories, 4g of fiber* and 20g of whole grain. Did you know that dietary fiber from whole grains, as part of an overall healthy diet, helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease? That is a great reason to try them.

To encourage breakfast fans to trade in their spoons in favor of a balanced breakfast, belVita is taking over National Cereal Day (March 7). They have teamed up with Registered Dietitian Keri Gans, Life Coach Christine Hassler, and author of Eat It to Beat It David Zinczenko to provide a few tips for a healthy breakfast and a smooth morning routine. Last Wednesday belVita Breakfast Influencers had a breakfast panel to discuss the changing American breakfast and how nutritious, convenient solutions like belVita can help on-the-go families stay energized all morning long.

For someone like me who is always on the go at early hours of the day this is the obvious better choice of breakfast. It was simpler and tastier and healthier. Here are some of the great tips that they shared:

“Being that people today have no time to cook, they are looking for options with nutrition’s latest buzzwords – protein and fiber. belVita paired with a serving of non-fat yogurt and fruit hits on protein, fiber AND whole grains.”-David Zinczenko, New York Times best-selling author of Eat It to Beat It! and the Nutrition and Wellness Editor at ABC News

“Doing something 40 days in a row moves it from a change to a habit. Making a complete breakfast a habit starts today.” -Christine Hassler, life coach and Author

So lets make better choices and form great habits. Let Belvita be a start to a balanced breakfast and join me tomorrow as I trade in my spoon.

10 Things New Parents Learn

I always knew I would be a dad someday. The plan was I would amass a great amount of wisdom and coolness first in order to be ready. Honestly nothing really prepares anyone for parenthood completely. I personally read books and asked around and truth be told when my first son was born I had tons of questions. I found myself living the dream and somewhere along the lines I learned great things about being a Dad.

So here is my list of 10 things new parents (specifically dads) learn:

1. Children change your life (for the better): All of a sudden staying in is way more important than hanging out with the guys at a bar on Friday night.
2. You learn the importance of sleep: Napping while they nap is awesome and sleeping in while the grandparents take the kids is a must.
3. Changing diapers like a pro: This is repetition meets survival because no one wants pee in their face or a big mess.
4. Your newborn knows who you are: Nothing is sweeter than when you realize your kid knows you and recognizes you and they are excited to be held by you.
5. 3 am feedings are the best bonding time: I worked 2 jobs as a restaurant manger and the hours were crazy but spending time with my kids in the middle of the night to feed them and comfort them was priceless
6. It is never too soon to start a 529 (college savings plan): This one is important. The economy is not what it used to be and no matter your income, college savings plans are best started early.
7. Men get baby fever too: My second son is the result of this but also in seriousness I do have moments when I think our family should be bigger and I wish to have a daughter.
8. It gets easier after the first year: Trust me, things fall into place and routines happen, kids get bigger and life gets easier.
9. Kids are resilient and they truly just need your love : All kids get scrapes and cuts but in the end they heal. Your love and attention is what helps them the most.
10. Kids absorb your every word: Kid’s little brains are like thirsty sponges and they are very aware of everything being said around them and to them.

What did you learn as a new parent?

Dads Love Minivans Too

A big part of becoming a Dad for me was accepting ideas that were not my own to be successful at raising kids and leading a great family. One big rule I always stuck to though was “happy wife, happy life”. A big challenge to that rule came with a decision to buy a minivan. As a guy I felt like minivans were fine vehicles but my car should be macho all the way. I had a collision earlier in the year and at some point I was in need of a new vehicle and I looked at trucks and sport cars, but everything in my heart kept saying happy wife, happy life, so I got a minivan. Alicia’s dream car has been a Chrysler Town and Country ever since she was in junior high school so while she was out of town I set out to get one and surprise her.

Obviously she was thrilled when she came home and the boys were psyched but my opinions on minivans started to change for the better. Soon I was in love with her minivan, but do not tell her that. Driving it home from the lot I noticed the driver sits pretty high up but also it sort of drove like a truck a little bit. I drive an  SUV so I was used to having room but there was extra room between the seats and in the back and there were magical storage spaces under the seats. This just made life easier when shopping and traveling.

My favorite thing about our minivan quickly became the side auto-sliding doors. One day I was leaving Sam’s Club with our youngest child and it started to rain. I carried him, but the real hero of the story were the doors. A simple touch of the button and they were opened and he was inside. The doors make a world of difference when picking up kids from school and dropping them off and at all their other activities.

Sometimes I think the kids love the minivan more than their mom. They have the DVD player and between their seats they have books and car friendly toys. Strangely enough their favorite part is the 3rd row where they can just jump around and pretend they are hiding.

My wife truly loves the car and was happy that was her gift. She was very happy that we had it for our family vacation last April. We drove all the way to Florida from the Midwest. It was a blast for the whole family. The car was comfortable and it completely made every mile wonderful.

It is funny to think a car has such a huge impact on our family but it did wonders to bring us closer together and make life easier for our family. This is one time I am happy I followed the old “Happy Wife, Happy Life” rule and bought her a minivan as a surprise.

What Matters Most During The Holidays

I have received information about the TYLENOL® For What Matters Most™ campaign from McNeil Consumer Healthcare Division of McNEIL-PPC, Inc., the makers of TYLENOL®. The opinions stated are my own. This is a sponsored post.

The best part about the holidays is all the quality family time and traditions it brings. I can still remember Christmas mornings growing up. As a kid I loved the gifts but I loved our family Christmas morning ritual even more.

We’d start by waiting at the top of the steps for everyone to wake. Once we woke our parents up we’d race downstairs (in our pajamas) to dump out our stockings to see what Santa brought. This was followed by a big homemade breakfast that my dad made. We’d get dressed while he cooked and then enjoy eating together while we talked.

After breakfast we’d sort the presents into piles by the number written on them, since my mom never labeled them by name, all the while guessing which number we were and which numbers our siblings were. When all presents were sorted we’d open our cards that revealed what number we were that year and those are the presents we’d open. After everything was unwrapped we’d spend the rest of the morning opening packages, eating popcorn, listening to Christmas music and spending time together.

Since my {step}mom has passed away, keeping those traditions are even more important to me now and I try to keep my favorite ones going with my boys. When it comes to Christmas morning I want to give them those same magical memories my parents gave me. This means special Christmas pajamas, no opening presents until after breakfast and a tin of popcorn to share. I’ve also started incorporating new traditions such as the Christmas Pickle, the one gift from Santa being unwrapped, and appetizers to snack on the whole day (or two!) we spend at home with nowhere to go.

I hope my children will look back on Christmas mornings with joy and happiness. I like to think how they will continue our traditions when they get older and have their own kids. While I enjoy our traditions, and plan to continue them, the best part is really just spending time together.

I think no matter the dynamic or makeup of a person’s family we can all agree that family matters most. To celebrate the holidays this year, the makers of TYLENOL® created the ‘For What Matters Most™’ campaign and decided to put a modern spin on Norman Rockwell’s classic holiday painting Freedom From Want, to help illustrate how modern families come together to celebrate what matters most during the holidays.

I encourage you to visit the TYLENOL® website and also to pin the below picture or another picture that depicts your family spending time together during the holidays.

My family values time together, traditions and Faith. What special things does your family value?

Chicago’s Favorite Chocolates

(Disclosure: I received a box of chocolates for review but all thoughts are my own.)

You all know I love chocolate. As a Chicagoan, I am lucky to have one of the very best chocolate companies based right here in my area- Fannie May! I can’t remember a Christmas without a box of Fannie May chocolates. My favorites include their pixies and their mint meltaways. I also enjoy their boxes of assorted chocolates.

I’ll tell you a funny story that I am extremely embarrassed to share…. when I was younger (a long time ago) we had a box of assorted chocolates in the fridge. I don’t remember how old I was but I was young enough that I couldn’t just eat as many chocolates as I wanted because they were limited to a dessert item. Well I had my favorites and then flavors I had never tried. I was in the fridge one day when I decided that I wanted to try the other flavors but didn’t want to be selfish and eat the whole piece of chocolate so I took a bite of a few of them and left the other halves in the fridge.

At the time it made sense in my head to share the other half with someone else but, as you can imagine, my dad was not very happy that I had left half-eaten chocolate in the fridge. He probably would have preferred that I just ate the whole piece. Looking back I realize now that a knife would have been a better cutting choice than my teeth. I think about that story every time I have a box of chocolates from Fannie May and it brings back memories of my childhood every time I bite into a piece of chocolate. 

Along with the special memories I have of Fannie May chocolates, I think the chocolate is delicious. I took a look at their website and chose some of the gifts I think *someone* would like if you haven’t bought me them a gift yet ;)

Sea Salt Caramels

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Milk Chocolate Pixies

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Artisan Holiday Bark

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Mint Meltaways

I checked and it’s not too late to place your order for Christmas. There is a 20% off sale and free 2nd day shipping promotion as well. Head on over to their website for full details!

Amusement Park Fun {Wordless Wednesday}

These pictures are a couple months old but I was going through my online albums and realized I never shared the fun we had at the amusement park so I’m sharing a couple pictures today :)

Lucas loves roller coasters!

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Jacob and Daddy

Jacob and Daddy

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.

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.

Easter 2013 {Wordless Wednesday}

I hope all of you who celebrate Easter had a wonderful one. Here are some of my favorite pictures. Finally pulled out my Christmas gift to use so I got some decent, non-cell phone pictures to share!

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Thanksgiving {Wordless Wednesday}

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Brothers in their matching outfits

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Cousin Sandwich!!

Pumpkin Patch {Wordless Wednesday}

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Christmas At Papa’s {Wordless Wednesday}

Maddie and Lucas

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Camden and Jacob

Top Ten Tuesday: Mother’s Day 2011

Camden and Jacob preparing to send their balloon to Heaven

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The boys being "boys"

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Maddie

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Uh Oh! Stay off the roads!

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Let me give you a push

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My mom helping Jacob sign the balloon

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Lucas just wanted the marker...

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They are all getting so big!

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Camden smiling for the camera

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My brother and I with our mom and our children

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This post is linked up to Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday.

Slow Down

As I sit here and think about all the things that I have to do this weekend I have been hearing “slow down”. Maybe it’s God’s voice. Maybe it’s my brain telling me that if I overload it with one more thing it will explode. Maybe it’s my body telling me it needs to relax….

Whatever it is, I’m listening and I’m obeying the voice.

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I will not hurry to go anywhere.

I will not do a load of the laundry that’s piling up.

I will not get online and work on blogging.

I will not talk with friends on twitter or facebook.

I will not notice that dust bunny under the hall table.

I will not clean up the boys room while they play.

What will I do?

I will spend all morning playing with and loving my boys.

I will spend all morning cherishing every smile and giggle.

I will spend all morning watching my oldest attempt to count his fingers and my youngest as he starts to walk.

I will spend all morning thanking God for the wonderful gifts He has given me.

What will you spend the morning doing?

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This post is linked up to Amy’s Finer Things “Finer Things Friday” because slowing down is a finer thing :)

Finer Things Friday- Our First Family Walk

Today I am joining Amy in her “Finer Things Friday” meme at her blog.

Today we took our first walk as a family of four. It was chillier than I thought it would be but it was the perfect way to spend the late afternoon. It’s a fine thing when I get to come home from a long day at the office and spend time with the ones I love in the beautiful weather that God has given us.

Jacob and Daddy

Jacob and Lucas

Wordless Wednesday- Today Would Have Been Her Birthday

Today is my mom’s birthday and I miss her.

Epilepsy took her away from us.

If you would like to donate directly to the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago you can go here

Happy 14th Birthday, Aunt Morgan!

Jacob and Aunt Morgan

Today my little sister turns 14 years old! I wanted to include part of her birth story which I wrote years ago in junior high when she was born as a preemie weighing only one pound 14 ounces.

This is the story of the miracle baby:

“Alicia! Wake up,” my dad uttered, as he shook me violently.

“Huh? What?” I replied sleepily, for I had just been awakened from my quiet and peaceful slumber. As I opened my eyes slowly, adjusting to the bright light in my bedroom, I saw what seemed to be a look of concern on my father’s normally composed face.

“Wake up! Hurry! We have to leave!” my dad shouted, in a manner that was anything but calm.

“What happened?” I asked as I sat up in bed, glancing at my clock quickly, “It’s four in the morning!” A feeling of fear crept over me.  There was something terribly wrong. Why else would I have been waken up at the crack of dawn on a school day, the afternoon of which we were to leave for a ski trip? I feared the worst, someone had died. However what came next could never have been prepared for.

“Mom’s water broke. Hurry!” my dad shouted, as he rushed out of the room to wake my two younger brothers up. For a second, I sat there shocked- water broke, what!? I did not comprehend, at the time, the importance of what my dad had just informed me of. Then, all at once, the realization hit me like a bucket of ice water– the baby was coming, and three months early!

Panic overtook me like a tornado. What would happen if we didn’t arrive at the hospital in time? What would we do if my mom started giving birth in the car? And the scariest question of all– what if the baby died? What if… I had never experienced panic like this before. I didn’t know what to expect. All of the above questions that flew through my head seemed surprisingly real to me; like they could happen and there was a very slim chance that they wouldn’t. I blindly threw on the clothes I had picked out the night before; and within a minute, had slammed our family’s van door shut, enclosing five sleepy and frightened family members within.

My mom sat weeping in the front seat, fearing that the baby– the baby that had grown and formed inside of her for six months– would arrive too soon to be saved. Longing to comfort her, but not knowing how to, I sat there speechless, staring out into the dense fog of the early morning. Glancing into the rearview mirror, I noticed a tear running down my dad’s cheek. I had never seen him cry before. “Why us? She can’t come! She’ll die!” repeated itself over and over in my disarrayed mind. It seemed to take all eternity to drive to the hospital.

As soon as we had shuffled into the hospital, my mom was wheeled away in a wheelchair to the critical care ward; while my two brothers and I were led, like scared puppies, to a small, gloomy room that reeked of puke and contained nothing besides a television and a few couches. After giving us some apple juice and graham crackers the nurse left us all by ourselves. By the routine manner in which the nurse conducted herself we were obviously not the first family of children to come through those emergency room doors seeking something more from her than she could give– an answer. With nothing to do, we sat there staring at the television screen at a news program that we weren’t interested in.

My youngest brother, who was five at the time, behaved like a typical five year old. That child could not sit still for a second, and I didn’t blame him either. I, as a seventh grader, found it very hard to sit there, uncertain of what was to become of the baby. I could just imagine what was going on in my younger brother’s head. When I proposed a walk, it was greatly appreciated. Searching for a water fountain, because we had drained the last of our juice over an hour before, we ended up in the area of the hospital designated for premature babies. I looked in one of the windows and saw babies in plastic boxes (which I later learned were called incubators). They had dozens of wires sticking out of their doll-like figures. The babies were jaundice, shriveled up, and not much larger than my hand. Their ribs were protruding out of their skin, their arms and legs as fragile as sticks, and their stomachs blown up, like balloons about to burst. Doctor, nurses, and parents were huddled around the babies like guardian angels and the parents looked as if they had been deprived of sleep for days.

That was what was to become of my little sister when she arrived into the world, three days later, weighing only one pound and 14 ounces. She was so small, in fact, that she had to be put on steroids to help her grow faster. So small that the first time she wore clothes was 23 days after her birth, and even then she was wearing doll clothes. So small that she swam in diapers made for newborns. My mom visited Morgan twice every day. While my mom was at the hospital, my brother and I became regulars at the public library, going there directly from school every day and staying for a couple hours each day. My brothers and I went to the hospital often, but because we were not allowed in the premature nursery, were not allowed to hold her, feed her, change her diapers, or help with any of the other baby tasks we would have enjoyed doing; the tasks that most big brothers and sisters grudgingly do. In fact, nobody but the parents and grandparents, after they had scrubbed themselves clean and put on a hospital gown, were allowed in the nursery in which my sister lay. Family and friends had to be content with looking through a window the entire three and a half months that Morgan stayed in the hospital.

When Morgan finally did come home, on May 24th, at four and a half pounds, everyone had to be very careful around her. My brothers and I had to take showers before we could hold her, and Morgan was plugged into a monitor all the time. This monitor annoyingly beeped whenever her heart rate dropped; even an imperceptible drop could cause it to explode with noise, imitating an alarm clock that could not be switched off.

Throughout her time in the hospital everyone worried that Morgan would not pull through. We still thank God every day that she lived. She’s has grown into such a beautiful young woman and nobody would know that she was once a little, fragile one pound 14 ounce baby. You would never believe she was once fighting for her life.

Thankful Thursday- My Family

This week I am participating in ‘Thankful Thursday‘ at Grace Alone. I am most thankful for my three boys these days.

Sinisa- The man that I love

Jacob- My firstborn

Lucas- My baby

Tot School- Family

This week in tot school our theme is family. I will be separating the activities by day instead of type because I think that it will be easier to implement.

*MONDAY- Family

Activity- Family Tree

Craft- Family Handprints

Song- ‘God Made Families’ Action rhyme

Book- My Family and I/Mi Familia y Yo by Gladys Rosa-Mendoza, Prayers For Family Golden Book

*TUESDAY- Mom/Dad

Activity- mom Spanish card , dad Spanish card

Craft- Draw a picture of mommy and daddy– adult writes words “mommy” and “daddy”

Song- ‘Hush Little Baby’

Book- Daddy Kisses by Anne Gutman and Georg Hallensleban, My Dad by Debbie Bailey, Mama, Do You Love Me? by Barbara M. Joosse, Picture Me as Mom’s Little Helper by Wendy Rasmussen, Back In My Arms by Dorothea DePrisco, If You Were My Bunny by Kate McMullan

*WEDNESDAY- Siblings

Activity- Help feed baby brother Lucas lunch, big brother Spanish card

Craft- Big Brother Crown

Song- ‘I Love You’ (Barney song)- teach Jacob motions and to hug and kiss baby brother

Book- I’m A Big Brother by Joanna Cole, Big Brother Bunny by Pamela Kennedy

*THURSDAY- Grandparents

Activity- Look at pictures of Grandma Jan (who passed away in June)

Craft- Grandparent Awards

Song- ‘Grandma’s House’ , A Song for Grandma and Grandpa

Book- Grandpa and Me by Karen Katz

*FRIDAY- Extended Family

Activity- Bake cupcakes for Aunt Morgan’s Birthday today

Craft- Make and decorate a card for Aunt Morgan

Song- Family Fingerplay

Book- Hugs & Kisses by Roberta Grobel Intrater

*WEEKEND- Family Traditions

Activity-Make breakfast as a family & eat together, Watch Barney movie “Families Are Special”, Play w/ Personalized Peekaboo Book

Craft- Make a photo book of family members

Song- Review songs from the week

Book- Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak

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FIND MORE TOT SCHOOL CURRICULUM THEMES HERE: 

http://www.makingtimeformommy.com/lesson-plans-for-toddlers-preschoolers/

August 11, 2008

Yesterday was a very busy day for me so I didn’t post anything. I had picked Jacob up from my mom’s after a relaxing morning spent with the man I love. My mom told me that Jacob had slept through the night. I was so proud of him and happy that we would be getting some relief from middle of the night feedings (well, his dad would since he wakes up with him- I know I’m spoiled). After I picked up Jacob we went to my Aunt’s house and spent the whole day with extended family. My cousin was in town with her two girls. They are two and four years old and this was the first time I was meeting them. They were so cute in their matching outfits- definitely something I plan on doing when I have multiple children. I was never close with my cousins like some people are but now that my oldest cousin and I both have children we have something in common. I found it easier to talk to her because of this. She gave Jacob an adorable bedding set with jungle animals on it and it will be great to use in the crib (which is currently sitting half finished in the middle of his room).

Once we got home from my Aunt’s I played with Jacob a little and put him to bed. He slept through the night again. I normally put him in his swing between 8 and 9pm and then when he was waking up between 12 and 2am we would take him out and, after feeding him, place him in his bassinet for the rest of the night. I found that at night he was so tired that he was not happy anywhere other than his swing. Tonight I decided I wanted to break him of this habit so I put him in his pack-n-play which is in his room. It took him an hour and ten minutes (and multiple times of me going in there to put the pacifier back in his mouth) before he fell asleep. I hope that he sleeps as well tonight as he has been.

Ok, enough about my son. I could go on and on and tell you everything about his day from his smiles to the toys he played with but I will spare you :) Instead I will tell you all about our stroller fitness class today. I went to the class with my sister-in-law and nephew with the idea of meeting new people and getting in some exercise. I was not prepared for the high intensity workout that was to come. I was exhausted half way into it and was amazed at the other moms who were doing the workout with ease. They assured my sil and I that we were doing great and that everyone had a hard time at first. Watching them I did not believe that they could ever have been as uncoordinated and out of shape as I was. (Though, to make myself feel better, I decided that this was because I had just given birth a couple of months before. I would not admit that I would have been just as lost pre-pregnancy as I was post.)

After we finished up with the class the instructor reminded us that this was a free trial class and asked if we had the pricing list. We of course didn’t and I assumed it was because they want to get you excited about the class before showing you how expensive it was. I assumed correctly. It was $50 a month. That is twice as much as my gym membership. I laughed when I saw it (in my head of course because I didn’t want to be rude). As soon as Jennifer (my sil) and I were out of earshot we quickly decided that there was no way in hell we were going to pay that price. We could meet on our own to push our strollers and buy $5 bands at the store to workout our muscles. Or I could just go to the gym and put my monthly membership to use.

Today’s Challenge: Call one person you haven’t talked to in a while.