Monday, July 28, 2014

The Lunch Guide Tool for even the Picky Eating Toddlers

“This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group™ and Wet-Nap but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #showusyourmess

Do you ever sit and think about what you love most about being a parent? I think about the way that they squeeze me with excitement when I'm gone for a mere five minutes. I think about the adventures and the fun that we get to have all because our children allow us to relive some of our favorite memories growing up.

When I lay them to bed and read their favorite night time stories, I think about what they will be like when they grow up. When they learn how to do something new, say a new word, or walk with those two little feet of theirs, I think about how grateful I am to be able to witness these firsts in their lives. And when I'm standing in my kitchen chopping vegetables and fruit and getting their lunch sacks ready, I think about these favorite moments and why I love what I do.

Nourishing our children is at the top of that favorite list.

Our journey started out with breastfeeding, then we introduced them to first foods by making baby food in our home, and then slowly we began to introduce solids and allowing them to explore and figure out their likes and dislikes in all the different food categories. Interestingly enough, although we did things the exact same way at the exact same time, my kids both have different taste palettes and preferences. Which means that I am more challenged on my end when it comes to meal preps. Now, we certainly don't cook different meals for each child, however, aside from the main dish, I like to provide sides that I know they will like. For instance, my daughter hates blueberries, Graham on the other hand loves them. Elliana loves peppers, Graham wants nothing to do with them. One prefers clementines over peaches, and the other will eat an entire apple down to the core and be completely content. Just different. But if they don't particularly like something does it mean that it doesn't go on their plate? Nope. It just means that it's there and my hopes is that they will continue to try things and explore with food as they grow.

That being said, lunches are one of our favorite meals of the day and one that I struggled with for a long time. And then throw in school in the mix, and it eliminates all the of '"warm" items out there.

So what do I do? How do I make lunch different, fun, and full of important nutrients at the same time? Do you ever feel like all you do is make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches—and if you have a child in the classroom with a severe peanut allergy, then that is eliminated as well for you.


Here's the solution for you, that I like to call the 7 Tot Meal. I have a cheat sheet that I use at home to remind me of good options for lunches for the kids to take to school or if we go out somewhere on the weekend. These of course don't include soups and warm items that we would make during lunch at home, but of course you can always add that to the list when the kids aren't out of the house.

While I'm at it, I have to rave small product that makes the biggest difference. Wet-Nap has been our life saver for not only when we are out and about and I need a quick clean up solution, but also when I send my kids to school. I've shown my daughter how to open them, and she can do it all on her own.  It's stronger, softer, and moisturizes their skin with aloe leaving that smooth and refreshed clean feel.

Most of the Wet-Nap are in the napkin aisle at Walmart, but we found these life-saver size ones in the beauty section. And if you're going to be shopping soon at Walmart for their everyday low prices, be sure to snatch this coupon to take with you and get 0.55 off any Wet-Nap product!

Fill those lunch boxes with yummy food, a sweet note to brighten their day, and a Wet-Nap to seal the deal, and then we can feel rest assured that our children are well taken care of while they are away from us. Watching them grow and move along through life is both exciting and challenging all at the same time, but knowing that we play such a major role in this is rewarding to say the least.

Motherhood has many benefits, and nourishing our children is most definitely one of the major ones.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dear 28 year old me....

Dear Zulily,

I'm not going to lie, I'm kind of loving the fact that you are in Christmas mode already. I mean, you have a stocking stuffer gift ideas, Christmas jammies for the entire family, and winter gear that is essential to purchase at the end of July. Me, a holiday lover myself, cannot even bring myself to make any purchases. Yet, I have been shopping all year for gifts.

Dear Hiccups,

You have been around for 20 minutes now and have over-stayed your welcome. Please hurry on your way away from me. Please.

Dear Eyes,

You are heavy. The body that you are attached to says that it's tired. You worked last night {and the night before} and then spent all day running errands to 4 different stores with 2 little ones. I give you permission to close them and completely botch this post.

Andrew is almost done mowing the lawn. Must.Stay.Awake.

Dear Bedtime,

It is so glorious when you happen at 7:30 for the kids. It's still bright out. I get to enjoy my bud light lime in peace and quiet, and most importantly, I have this time to reflect. Late bedtimes always seem to just leave me flustered, annoyed, and missing the message. So early, as often as possible, it is.

I like it that way.

Dear Tomatoes,

Will you turn red already? There are about 30 of you and you are taking your sweet time. I've had about 10 of your cucumber friends, and none of you. Knowing our luck you will turn color all while we are gone and then the neighbors will devour you.

Dear Game of Thrones,

I'm really tempted to start watching you before Andrew is done mowing. I am on the edge of my seat {not really, I'm plopped on the couch with one foot up resting on the side and as cozy as cozy gets} just waiting to find out what comes next. I cannot believe we are still on season one.

Dear Fifty Shades of Grey,

First, I totally wrote out thirty shades of grey initially.
Second, that's because I forgot you existed until it started popping up on my instagram.

No really, how are you?

Dear Self,

Happy 28th birthday to you tomorrow. Let's face it, you are getting old. But just think, the best years of your life have been just in these past 5 years.... can you imagine how sweet it will only be as the years go on? Always remember to feel blessed and look around you to those that mean the most. That is what life is all about, and if it wasn't for your birth, none of this would be here.

So twenty eight it is.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Something you may not know about me

I am always cold. At home, at work, and especially at other peoples' homes where I feel embarrassed to ask them to turn the heat up {unless it's at my parent's house, where I just walk over and change myself}. I could never work in the OR simply because of this reason alone. At my house? I keep the temperature set at 75. I like to call that bra and underwear temperature.
I never drive with a license when I go to work. The problem is that people break in cars overnight and this has happened to quite a few employees. Should I bring it inside? A purse, maybe, but again, could get stolen. Then I fear of losing it as well. I need to think of a better solution to this problem.
My first job was at 14 as a bagger at Meijer. I have since doubled in age {on Friday}. That's weird when I think about it that way.
Used to peel the banana the opposite way that 90% of the people do. That is until Andrew kindly informed me of the correct way.
Obsessed with saving money, yet equally as obsessed with spending it on a deal. Mind boggling.
My eyes dart to veins. Big ones make me wish I had an IV on hand to stick in a person. I know, strange, don't ask. It's the nurse in me.
I sleep in my contacts. I wear them for months at a time. And before someone leaves me a link of the lady that had bugs eat her eyes, let me just tell you I have already read it. One person out of how many? I'll take my odds.
I don't particularly like manicures and pedicures. Actually, I really just don't like spending the money on them. See 3 points above.
I'm a country music lover through and through. I rarely listen to anything else, and I am in need of a good country concert. Soon.
I used to write poems. A lot. The rhyming kind: the sky is blue and I love you and yes this is true. But a little better than that. I would submit them to some poetry website and then read what people would say. Darn it, I wish I knew what the website was—if it even exists still.
When I was in nursing school, I was certain I would work in pediatrics. By senior year, I knew for certain I would never step foot on a peds or neonatal floor as an employee. That decision has not changed since, and never will. I wouldn't be strong enough.
I want so bad to be the person that writes thank you notes, congratulations for every little event, and never forgets a single birthday card. I always say that and yet I fall short. I need to make a list, but something else you need to know about me:
I make lists and then never look at them again. To do lists, grocery lists, lesson lists, etc. I don't know what it is but something about seeing all these things I have left to do just gives me a tinge of anxiety.
 I don't save phone numbers to my phone. The important numbers I can just remember, and the not so important ones, I just try to guess based off of our last conversation via text. Now, when I go and delete all my conversations and then someone texts me something like..."Want to have a play date?" Then I know I'm in trouble.
I have approximately 20 gray hairs {that I can see}, all of which are on the sides of my head. Soon enough, I will have to do something about them. In the meantime, I have this crazy urge to pull them out— and I do.
And although, I can go on forever, I will leave it at that. Who really wants to read about me all day? I hope my children and future grandchildren.
They'll be like--- that mom of ours was pretty darn cool.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Be positive.

Do you ever get into a situation where you are asking yourself, "why me, and why now?" You have a day where it seems as though everything and everyone is against you. Your week has been terrible. You're getting bad news left and right. And you just feel as though you can't catch a break.
I think we have all had those days. Some perhaps have been worse than others, but I don't think there are many people out there that can say they don't know that feeling.
Yesterday, I had one of those busy nights at work, got little sleep the day before, was so excited about getting off a little early, and headed home with the anticipation of seeing my babies. My gas light came on, and I thought that I'd better fill up my tank now rather than wait before my next shift that night. I filled up my tank, put the pump back, hopped in my car, and turned on my car. Tried to turn on my car. Turned it again. And again. Click, click, click, off. Click, click, click, off. It wanted to turn on, I could feel it, but it just couldn't.
My battery. It's my battery.
The ironic part of this is that just the day before my husband was telling me that he needed to take the car in before we left for vacation to get a new battery.
"Oh Andrew, don't be silly, the battery is just fine! Why do you always jump the gun on things? It will be just fine, stop worrying about it."
He got upset with me because he said he knew what he was talking about and he was frustrated that I didn't believe him. I laughed it off thinking I was right. Well, here I was, sitting at the gas station after working a 13 hour shift, wanting more than anything to go home, and yet I was stuck with no real idea of when exactly I would be reaching my bed and kissing my kids.
So I had to make that inevitable phone call to Andrew, who was out of town, to tell him the bad news. "Honey, you were right. The battery died on me at the gas station, 15 minutes from home."

Initially, he had hopes of me asking some random guy to jump start my battery, but after much convincing that I was not going to be doing that, we decided to go ahead and give triple A a call. Thankfully they only took 30 minutes to get there, but that was 30 extra minutes of sitting around people watching. Let me tell you, you see some interesting things at gas stations.
I am sure people thought the same thing about me.
When the triple A guy did finally arrive, he asked if I needed a battery. Why, yes sir, I do. Unfortunately, I told him, there is no way I was going to be driving anywhere to get one after working all night and having to work again that night. Then he threw some numbers at me and looked at me like, so you want it? It took him repeating himself I think about 5 times before I finally understood what he was saying. 

He had a battery and he could change it right then and there.
Heck yes, do it! 
Truthfully, I thought it was going to be a 5 minute process. But once again, I turned out to be wrong and it took about 40 minutes. I sat at a little table outside the gas station watching the guy and thinking.
At first, I thought, why me?
Why now.
Why here.
Why after working all night.
Why when the one weekend my husband was out of town.
Just why.
But I quickly thought about it in a different way:

Thankfully my kids weren't with us.
Thankfully this happened before vacation and not while we were driving 12 hours.
Thankfully it's not anything worse.
Thankfully it's only $130.
Yes, I didn't get home until 10:30. Yes, it was an unfortunate thing with unfortunate timing. But on the other hand, I'm grateful it did happen when it did because it could have been worse.
I know it's just a battery, I know it's just a "car story" but it taught me a big lesson that although I already knew, it was still one that I needed reminding from time to time.
Be positive.

Monday, July 21, 2014

A mom on the run looking for the healthy snack option: it's right here.

“This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Slimfast, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #14daystoslim

Summer is officially here and between park dates, pool dates, soccer games, and swim lessons, we are busy busy busy. That means that I'm snacking on what the kids are snacking--cereal bars, pretzels, cookies, animal crackers, and anything and everything else. As good as those things taste, and as easy as it may seem for our lifestyle, at the end of the day my body is tired and worn out. Treating it right, and putting the right stuff in it is more important than ever before. Especially when you have little ones to run after.

The solution? A Slimfast snack bar on the go.

I've been taking it everywhere with me, and my new challenge is keeping two little grubby hands away from it. When they hear the crinkle of the red package, and look my direction, I officially have two seconds to devour it. They drop everything they are doing, bat their little eyes at me, and the begging begins—ppppppeeeeeease.

My go-to snack while getting ready for work.

My go-to snack when heading out the door to soccer practice.  Back pocket to hide from the kids.

And the front pocket when out and about without the kids

Always waiting for me after my workouts.

I've never been a big dieter or believer in strict programs, so when you find something that helps, that tastes good, and that isn't something that you have to give up your life for, then you get that little light bulb that goes off in your head—ding ding ding, this is it!

Slimfast also offers a program called Slim Coaching which is easy to sign up for and the perks are even better—from funny videos, to daily motivational texts and tips from experts who can inspire and push you that extra mile. No fee is involved for the program, and it's as simple as putting your name and phone number in, and being connected from there.

If you're in need of a change, if you're up for something new, if you're like me— a mom with little time and hands constantly full, then check out the Slimfast 14 days to slim. You replace two of your meals with the shake or bar, your third meal is to be 500 calories, eat 3 healthy snacks throughout the day, minimize your calorie intake to 1200 calories, and exercise 30 minutes a day. Not only a convenient, but also a tasty way to lose up to 6 pounds in the first 2 weeks.

And for some great 500 calorie meal ideas, low-calorie beverages, not so guilty desserts and more, check out the Slimfast pinterest board and get inspired!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Letters, some crazy good deals, and pictures. Who doesn't love pictures.

Dear Hair,

I need you to do something with yourself. Change your color. Change your style. Grow out those ridiculous baby hairs from post-partum. Something. You're looking in a rut, and a change is needed.

Dear Husband,

I like your new car. I love your new car. I'd like to call it my new car and you just driving it to work because I'm so nice. But really? I love your new car.

Dear Vacation,

You are so close I can almost taste you. So close until we get to drive long distance, sing songs in the car, and reach a destination of actual warm weather, palm trees, and the smell of the beach. Something better than this winter we are having back home.

Dear Weather,

Okay, maybe I am exaggerating about the winter part, but I would be more than happy if you decided to warm up a little bit. As much as I love the cool weather, I really do love my hot summers as well, and who is going to get into the pool in this kind of weather? I need sunshine in my life. Please come back. I promise we will be good to you.

Dear Workout clothes,

I am so happy to be buying you now that I am on this "Working out" adventure. You're cute, and I can probably just be fine with wearing you all day long {pre-work out}. It helps that I found some great deals on zulily going on now, so I don't have to break the bank.
Link to deals

Dear Nursing Friends,

I couldn't help and pass up sharing this deal with all my fellow nursing cap sisters. We all know how important these big honkers are for our feet.

dansko sale

Dear Boy that will be 2 before we know it,

I refuse to admit it, and I refuse to even say your name next to that number, but I am already planning ahead because that's just what I do, and I have to decide what your theme will be for your birthday. Between cars, trucks, and pirates, I am sure something will come together and you will love it. As long as you get milk....out of  cup, right? Ha.

Party Deals
Dear Pillows,

If you could figure out a way to get from my computer screen to my couch, today, I would appreciate it. Make it happen.
pillow site

Dear Vegetable Garden,

You survived! You survived our ways and somehow you grew and flourished, and now we have eaten 4 large cucumbers from you and watching more grow. There are about 25 tomatoes that we are just waiting for to turn red! We aren't too bad at this after all, I guess.

Dear Work,

I only have 4 more shifts to deal with you and then I don't have to see you for 2 weeks. Two weeks away from crazies, more crazies, and more crazies. Good thing I love my crazy at times, but a break is also nice.

Dear House,

In the meantime, if you can figure out a way to clean yourself before we leave, I would greatly appreciate it.

Because let's face it.....

I'm too busy celebrating my birthday next week. You know, me turning 21 and all. Kind of a big deal.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

$100 Kohl's Gift Card Giveaway

Thank you Kohl's for #Sponsoring this post. All opinions stated are that of my own.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to share with your our back to school haul. As hard as it may be to believe that August is rapidly approaching, the truth of the matter is that it is. And as crazy as school preparations may be, one way to help relieve some of that stress is by shopping at Kohl's for all your back to school fashion trends, school supplies, and more.

But what is even better is that today you have the chance to win a $100 Kohl's gift card for all your shopping needs.

And those kids? They sure do have a lot of needs.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

An Update On the Family

 Big sister was not nearly as excited about the self-timer as little brother. Hence why there are more pictures of him with mama than her. And we know Mr. Mama doesn't like pictures period.

I do random updates, confessional sessions, and share a bunch of blah that is on my mind. However, when it comes to actual updates on life and us, I feel as though it has been a long while. As I like to say, a hot minute.

It's been a while since I updated this little space with what has been going on in our lives.
Let us start with me.
I'm doing great. Work is going well, still working full time at night 3 twelve hour shifts a week, and then being at home with the kiddos during the day. ICU is just as crazy as the day I started and there is never a time where you know what will come next. Kind of fun and exciting and crazy all at the same time, but surprisingly I'm still loving it. Not exactly loving all the changes that the hospitals are going through, the cutbacks, and the crazy demands and requests out of their staff, but still loving what I do and who I work with. My goal though is to eventually {one day, hopefully in the next couple of years} go part-time which would eliminate 1 night shift a week.
Overall, I have found myself just getting busier and busier with time and I know that it means that things get kind of put on the backburner. Like this blog for instance. I need to also update our family books, and I need to keep working on the journals for the kids. I even started reading a new book {yay for reading}, The Book Thief, but after a couple of chapters and still not really into it, I had to put it down. I'm one of those people that if I cannot get into the book right away, if it doesn't grasp my interest, then there is a very low liklihood of me contiuing on with it. Sad, because I heard great things about it. Don't even get me started on house projects. The other day, I finally hung up canvases that I have had in my home sitting in the closet for two years. TWO years. That's a shame.
I started the 30 day shred with Jillian Michaels. Me. The person that hasn't worked out in 5 years is now actually moving my butt and maybe, just maybe, getting this motivational kick to get fit. I won't write further into this until I have actually been committed for a while. Because we all know getting your foot off the ground is the hardest part.
I like to keep the thermostat set at 75. Just in case you were wondering. Random, totally off topic, but definitely very relevant to this topic of conversation.
Andrew is well. He's still in his HR role with the state and liking the experience he is getting this far. The commute is still hard on him as it can vary from 1-1.5 hours one way. Our goal is to hopefully find jobs that are closer to home and cut back on all the driving time that the both of us are doing. Also, Andrew got his beloved XBOX. Now, for those of you {if there are any}, that remember my blogging back in the day, you may remember a post, or two, on his little obsession with this gaming device and my {not-so-much} obsession with it. It was gone for a couple of years, and now it's back. It's back and he even TALKS to it. And it does things for him. Like turn on/off, etc. I mean, this is like Siri for the XBOX. Who's making these things and how do I call them to tell them to stop?!
Miss E.
She's getting big. Big and bright and beautiful and just so smart. We are always learning and she never fails to amaze me with the way she picks up on things. So far she has mastered half of the states of the United States, she knows how to write most of her letters, reading first level books on her own, and can tell you all the different body parts in Russian as well as count to ten in both Russian and Spanish. There is no goal or reasoning behind our learning, I'm just kind of going with her and figuring out what she likes/doesn't like. My desire for our children is not for them to have straight A's, be advanced or above others, or get a full ride to college {although that would be nice}, most important for us is that they just love to learn and have a good foundation to fall on. 

She's really into cars and trains and can play with these with her brother all day long. Also loving her soft animals that she plays house with and "pretend play" for hours on end. Spends time doing puzzles and obsessed with books. Shows? Thomas and the Pirate boy show--surprise surprise.

Eating better, and overall can reason with so much better than at the beginning of the year. She's my little helper, and absolutely adores her brother. She mommies him all day long and looks after him. Even when he is rough and mean to her. 

Had her first soccer league and she loved it. Will be starting back up after vacation.

G man.

G man. What is there not to say about this little guy. He will be 19 months next week and acts like he is two. In fact, if it weren't for his little tiny size, most people think that he moves/acts like he's much older. Part of it is that he is fearless and will do/try anything about there. Especially out on the playground–he is one to watch. He's not only a rebel, but he's a hitter. For some reason he thinks that we think it is funny and so he keeps doing it. E was never a hitter, and so we are just confused as to where he could have picked this up from since we are always with him.

Picky eater at times, but overall loves food and can eat a lot of it if it's something he likes. I have a feeling that when he gets older my grocery bills will only sky rocket. Still BF as well with no hopes of stopping. I always said that I would let him wean, but I have a feeling come his 2nd birthday, I will be cutting those ties quickly. I wouldn't be as against it, if he didn't ask for it a million times a day. He is quite the persistent character.
Napping 1-2 times a day, about 2 hours in the morning and 1 in the afternoon.
Still rear-facing in the car but absolutely hates getting into the car seat. Does fine once we start driving, but boy is there a huge tantrum prior.

Love loves loves cars and trains. He will make the car and train sounds all day while riding his toys on your body, on the couches, on the ground, and anywhere else he can think of. Everything is a track or a road to him.

Loves to watch Thomas and bubble guppies. 

Says about 50+ words, and 1-2 word sentences. Very hard to understand most times though. Very good at saying: mama, papa, please, thank you, cookie, cracker, water, drink, more, all done, down, up, sissy, grandma, dasha, car, train, tractor, bubbles, balloon, night night, dirty, door, book, read. 

Learning colors and will say many of the colors but not for the exact colors that they are---except pink. He knows pink very well, ha. Knows and says circle and square, and octagon "gon". Learning all the other shapes as well. Tries to sing the ABC's.

Mama obsessed and I don't think that's going away anytime soon.

The one-stop-shop for all your back to school needs

Thank you Kohl's for #Sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions stated are that of my own. 

Elliana's Back to School Shopping List

Do you ever feel like winter lasts forever and summer goes by in a blink of an eye? I remember it was that way as a kid, and it only seems to go by faster now that I am older. Not sure if that's because I have kids of my own, but I seem to barely have time to take a breath and next thing I know I'm changing the calendar month already.

The other day, I caught myself staring at my planner and thinking out loud--- is it really the middle of July? Is August really right around the corner? It really is, I heard it say back to me. It really is. 

It took me a moment to realize that I was kind of sort of maybe talking to something that could not talk back to me, and that maybe I should perhaps start thinking about an effective way of slowing down time. In the meantime, until I find that miracle, I will just have to learn how to manage my time better.

So with July rapidly coming to an end, and August creeping around the corner, it is hard not to start planning for what the next month will bring. August, the month that sends every parent out there in a rush to get everything sorted out before their child or children start back to school. It means lunchboxes, backpacks, school supplies, new wardrobes, class schedules, textbooks, meet-the-teacher conferences, and important dates to mark off on the calendar. The more kids you have, the bigger the to-do list. Every school, specifically each classroom, has their own list of requirements and requests. Every child has their own needs and desires for wardrobes. Not to mention sports and hobbies thrown into the mix. With that being said, when running errands and doing your shopping, a one-stop-shop is always a game changer for me.

In this case, I like to say—less is more. Less stops+less time wasted=more happiness for all.

Specifically, mom.

Although my kids are little now, and we have hopes of homeschooling, I still plan on doing the same thing with them that other kids do around this time of year. School for us will be year round, but it will always "restart" in August. A time for us to discuss our goals for the year, talk about the projects we want to work on and what we want to learn, as well as gather the necessary supplies, update our wardrobes, and shop for our needs and wants. At the rate that these two are growing, I am sure that we will not only be updating our classroom, but definitely our closets as well. Need I also mention her, THEIR SHOES! Boy do those feet love to grow.

So between the calendar talking to me, and me envisioning the children going from ages 3 and 1 to graduating college, the anxiety set in and the planner in me got a headstart to shopping at Kohl's. I needed to update my school supplies, grab some new learning activities for the kids, and update their tiny little wardrobes for their growing bodies.

This year is the first year that Kohl's has teamed up with Office Max to make the school transition experience for parents a little easier and smoother. While shopping in-store for the latest trends, must-have gadgets, school uniforms, dorm needs and more, you can also now pick up their supplies that will help them stay organized and on top of their school work. Here is a little nerd alert fact that many people don't know about me—I loved school supply shopping even more than I did clothes shopping. The planner. The new markers. The organized notebooks and folders. Oh man, I would just sit in my room and get excited about the idea of putting my new backpack together.

And here I am getting excited about being able to do the same for our kids.

So the verdict? She went straight to the school supplies first. Didn't even blink an eye at the haul of clothes that I brought home, or the bright new sneakers, and even the recorder that I was sure she would gravitate towards first. Nope, the flashcards, the glue, the folders and notebooks, and of course the new crayons won over everything else.

And I could not help but smile.

She is just like her mama. A little school nerd at heart.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Gift Idea for a Mama-to-Be: Bedtime Needs

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group and Playtex, but all opinions are my own. #pmedia #refreshyournursery

It's that season.

The season where those friends that you attended weddings for are now announcing their pregnancies. They're glowing with excitement, they're busy preparing for what will be the biggest life changer in their world, and reveling in the idea of becoming a first time mom. They're also curious–about babies, about labor, and about products. It seems that aside from finding out the gender of the baby, the next greatest thing to do is register for that said baby {or babies}. They're quickly bombarded with this notion that you need it all to survive babyhood, and they become overwhelmed thinking they cannot possibly have it all. And then what? Will they fail? So they turn to you, you experienced moms, to help them out.

Let me tell you a little story.

A couple of months ago, I woke up to a panicked text message from my friend, "Help! I'm going to go register for baby stuff, and pinterest tells me I need everything. Is this true?"

That was the first message. The next 20 consisted of pictures of baby stuff, and asking whether or not she needed that item, how often would she use a certain product, and which one was better than the next. I am fairly certain that she thought because I had two children that surely I must have gone through every baby item Target had ever carried.

I'm also fairly certain she had lost her mind, because the messages were time-stamped at 3:30 in the morning and they ended with—"Why aren't you responding?! This is an emergency!" 

I snickered a little bit before I decide how I am going to answer her. I even contemplated just making a spreadsheet and listing each product mentioned and making my own personal notes next to them. Instead, picking up the phone and calling seemed to be the easiest solution to this crisis.

"I've been there," Seemed to be the best way to start off.

We then went through her registry, one by one, and I suggested to her what to keep and what to get rid of. I also made note of items that had not made her list, and knew right away what I would be making her for her baby shower coming up—The bedtime needs basket. Also known as what you need to get the kids to bed fast and you downstairs even faster to enjoy the piece and quiet.

Baby Shower Gift Idea: Bedtime Needs Theme

1. Diapers: Taped to the outside of the basket so she can simply grab one at night.

2. Wipes: Because a baby needs a soft, clean, hiney to be happy for bed.

3. Pajamas: Nothing is cuter than a baby in pj's.

4. Organic baby powder: My favorite that I picked up at a local farmer's market.

5. Levana baby monitor: small, compact, and attaches right onto the diaper to monitor the baby's breathing and notify you when the baby stops breathing.

6. Goodnight Moon: one of our favorite books to read to the kids at night.

7. Diaper Genie refill: because you go through diapers quicker than you would ever believe, and these bags hold a ton! My friend already had the diaper genie purchased, so I picked up three refills from Target and even got a sweet deal out of it— a $25 Spa-Finder Wellness gift card. Check out the deal at the bottom of the post.

So if you are a first time mom, know a first time mom, or looking for ideas for a great baby shower gift, remember this: less is more. You don't have to have it all to make your life easier, you just have to know what will. The nighttime needs?

Those will.

And because I am a sucker for deals, I must tell you about a great deal going on at Target right now where you buy three or more diaper genie refills and get a free $25 Spa-Finder Wellness gift card. Simply save your receipt, visit this website and follow the steps to redeem! **Limited, while supplies last.

Friday, July 11, 2014

A date night for two: Teppan-yaki style with Benihana

Date nights.

Can we please start out by talking about how amazing they are, and how they do not come around often enough when one has children. I know that we vowed to make it a priority once a month, but gosh darn it, those months sure do have a funny way of sneaking up on you. Before you know it, you realize it's been too long since you actually got all dolled up, left the kids with family, and went out just the two of you. Months. Sure, there are the weekly date nights in-- a bottle of wine, some freshly cut slices of cheese and crackers to go with, and a really cozy spot on the couch where you catch the next greatest hit on netflix while cuddling up to your loved one. And if we are going to be completely honest here, one may even end up passing out halfway through the movie, meaning you are on your way upstairs at the late hour of 9:30 p.m. That one may or may not be me most times than not.

So if we are comparing the two "date nights," then I would definitely have to say I pick the former.  
On Tuesday we had that opportunity and we took full advantage of it. I had my sister come over to watch the kids, and I was able to sneak out and get a quick haircut. I had time to curl my hair, or attempt it I should say, and even looked up a  few you-tube videos for hairstyles. Unfortunately, my expertise in this department is lacking greatly, so I did some half-up bump do, and I'm pretty sure I did that completely wrong as well. I wore a sparkly little top, some black pants {some people call them fancy leggings}, and threw on my favorite pair of wedges. I waited for my handsome husband to get dressed himself, and was briefly taken aback by his good looks when he came down the stairs.
And then we were off.

Andrew opened doors for me, he held my hand, gave me sweet kisses, and we giggled like silly teenagers during the drive. We pulled into the parking lot, and immediately noticed the inviting entrance. Across the building were big bold red letters reading: Benihana, an authentic Japanese restaurant. Upon noticing the parking lot full, Andrew proceeded to look at me and said exactly what I was thinking, "Isn't it a Tuesday night?" This was a good sign for two reasons— one, the environment would be pleasantly loud {there's something soothing about a room full of laughter and chatter}, and two because they were obviously doing something right. Soon, we would find out exactly what that something right was. First timers, and we were already pleased before even stepping foot into the door.

We didn't have a reservation and were still able to get in within 10 minutes of arriving. We were placed at a table with 3 other couples, one that happened to be celebrating their 19th wedding anniversary, another that was on their first date, and one more that was probably on their third or fourth date, if we had to guess. Your first question may be, "why were you sitting at a table with strangers?" Great question. It is the set-up of the restaurant where all the tables are made to fit larger groups, and so when you come as a couple, you actually get thrown in there {in a good way} with people you may not know. It's a pleasant change, and it reminds us that we should be more open to others around us. That there really is nothing awkward about sitting next to a complete stranger. It's kind of refreshing.

Another reason why you are placed at a table with others is because the center of the table has a large stove where your chef will stand and make your food right in front of you—it's known as "Teppan-yaki" style. Ours didn't just cook a meal, he put on a performance.  Our chef made music with his tools, he threw shrimp into his hat, and he tossed things in the air— immediately grasping your attention and leaving you wondering what he will do next.

There is something to be said about the art of cooking, and we couldn't help but smile the entire time.

Every entree is served onion soup, a hibachi shrimp appetizer, hibachi vegetables, and steamed rice. Let me let you in on a little secret---I don't even eat shrimp. I haven't had shrimp since I first tried it 15+ years ago. And here I am, devouring it without leaving a bite on the table. I tried a soup that I normally wouldn't have ordered, and there was not an ounce left in my bowl. And if you thought that perhaps I didn't leave room for my main dish and dessert, you are very much mistaken. I would have licked my plate clean if it wasn't so improper, but I resisted the urge, and instead shared a cheers and a kiss with my husband.

Throughout our dining experience we heard one birthday song to the next, and even had the chance to celebrate with the couple at our table for their anniversary. Let me tell you, I'm already planning to have someone's birthday at Benihana–maybe for my kids, or my husband, or maybe even for myself {hint hint}. From the instruments they pass around to the dancing and loud singing, you cannot help but feel happy for complete strangers that you may not know or see again. It's as if the entire restaurant celebrates with them. And does so in a genuine way.

We walked out of the restaurant that night with full bellies, happy hearts, a to-go sample or sushi, and of course big smiles on our faces. A restaurant that started in 1964 with only one location in New York, is now celebrating 50 years with 78 locations. It is no surprise to us why it has grown so popular, and why people choose to go there.

A parking lot full on a late Tuesday night? Means there are a lot of happy customers out there. Us being two of them.

So if you and your loved one are due for a date night out, if you have a birthday party you want to celebrate with family and/or friends, or if you are just looking for a quality good meal and a fun and exciting environment, then be sure to check and see if you have a Benihana near you and give it a try.

I assure you, you will be more than pleased that you did.

I was provided gift cards to give my honest review of Benihana. No other compensation was received, and as always, all opinions stated are that of my own.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tips in traveling; Less stress, more fun.

Thank you Kohl's for #Sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions stated are that of my own.

1. Make a list. And be sure to check it twice. There is absolutely nothing worse than going on vacation and forgetting something that you bought just for vacation. Some things are okay to forget, they're replaceable—deodorant, shampoo, a toothbrush. Others not so much—the dress you bought to wear on a date out with your husband.

2. Bring lots of water. I don't know what it is about traveling, whether it is because you sit in a car for so long, or if it's because you have nothing else to do, but it sure does make one thirsty. I think maybe the amount of food consumption may also play a role, but that's neither here nor there. Be sure to get a good quality water bottle to take with you. We have been into the glass bottles lately, and my favorite so far has been the Food Network one from Kohl's.


3. Pack a cooler.  When we first started traveling, we thought that stopping through drive through would be the easiest thing for us to do. Wrong. You want to know a way to feel yucky? Eat yucky food and sit in a car all day. It was not the way I envisioned the start of a vacation–one where I was supposed to get into a bikini! So we always pack a cooler full of food, fruit, veggies, and light snacks. Don't forget trash bags!

4. Less is more. As in less bags. I remember the first year that we drove to the beach, Andrew came home to find 20 bags sitting by the door. Twenty. Now, in my defense, they were not all full, and they certainly were not all big, but I just had bags for every thing and it was too much. No wonder I had problems finding where anything was when we arrived to our condo. So? We invested in some good quality luggage and decided it was much easier to keep track when you have less.

Oh and organize it in a way where you can get to things that are important {my husband is in charge of this}. Remember--last in, first out.

5. Sleep when you can. This is obviously for those that are traveling with at least another person, but one thing that I learned is that sleep is very important when driving such long distances. Granted, with kids that makes it a little bit more difficult. It also makes the time go by faster, and you get to your destination much sooner. One tip is to definitely get a travel pillow. I take mine everywhere–from car rides to plane trips. They're small, and give you that support when you are stuck in small compact places to sleep.


6. Play games.  When twiddling your thumbs gets old, car games come in for the win. They're fun no matter what company you are in–spouse, children, friends. I also like to bring flashcards to quiz my oldest.  Some car games include:
  • the license plate game {see if you can find all 50 states while driving}
  • the number game {see who can shout the number first–fun game with my 3 year old}
  • the color car game {list a color and see who can find it first}
  • And of course the alphabet game {start with A and go to Z, trying to find signs, cars, and so forth that have the letter we are looking for}. 
  • Twenty questions game {think of an animal, and they have to ask you questions to guess what that animal is}.

7. Entertain the heart, soul, and ears. And by that, I mean, invest in some headphones. This is important when you are trying to sleep as well. If you have one set of ears on the children {in this case, my husband driving}, then no problem tuning them out for a bit until someone absolutely needs you. I assure you, it won't be long. Music, however, does have a way of making the time zip right on by.

8. Prepare for emergencies. Traveling can be a little scary because you are away from home. You are away from all the places that you know, people that are familiar to you, and just the way that things work in your neck of the woods. That being said, there are a couple things that have brought me comfort when we travel.

  1. One, download the "Hospital search" app before you go. It's an app that has all the hospitals and clinics listed in the area that you are look for. It will be there for easy access, just in case. 
  2. Two,  bring a first aid kit with you! I don't know exactly how it was possible, but my daughter somehow got a cut in her car seat while in the car and obviously strapped in. Again, don't ask how—toddlers can do anything. Also good to have when you are a staying in a place that you don't own, where they usually don't even have the basics.

9. Keep track of your trip. Pictures are great, video camera even better, but an old school style journal is definitely something that is often times overlooked and personally one that I prefer to use. I love to keep track of every day on vacation, and I will love even more when I get to look back on these days years from now. It's kind of nice to put words to the pictures and videos as well—tell a story in a way. After I get home from vacation, I do three things: a slideshow, a book, and write the trip in full.  It sure takes time, but it sure is worth it.

These moments go by fast, and before you know it, they're over–Babies turn to toddlers, toddlers turn to kids, and then teenagers one day. And then you become like my parents who are now traveling with five of their grandchildren.

That will be us one day, Andrew and I—traveling big, and I am definitely more than okay with that.

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