Monday, December 29, 2014

The Week Between Christmas and New Year's

This just may be one of my favorite weeks of the year.  The slow, recharge the batteries week in between Christmas and New Year's.  The gifts have been opened, there are leftovers in the fridge and the kids can sleep in.

Which means I can sleep in.

Christmas was a blessed day.  We stayed home, cleaned some mess and left some mess.  We ate, rested and opened toys.  I watched A Christmas Story at least ten times.  Maybe more.  I can't say enough about how much I enjoy our stay-at-home Christmas Day.  This is the second year we've stayed home all day on Christmas and it's marvelous.

This week, it's much of the same.  I've cleaned out closets, made bags for the Salvation Army and ate fifteen tons of chocolate.  My big kids are decked out in new clothes and trying new video games.  My youngest was in her pajamas all day.  She even wore them to drop my oldest off at basketball.  Her jacket was her Doc McStuffins robe.

All part of the magic of the week between Christmas and New Year's.  It's all about rest and enjoying family and friends.  There is no better way to end a year.  

And next week?  I'll be focusing on getting my schedule back on track.  But for now?  It's all about having no schedule and no where to be.

Heaven.  Wishing you much of the same.

Happy almost New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

This Christmas, I wish you all noting but happiness.  Take time to be grateful for the gifts money cannot buy...because that is the true measure of wealth.  Once you grasp how precious the little things are, you realize they are the big things.

Don't sweat the small stuff.  Have faith, lean on the right people and don't get caught up in drama that isn't yours. 

Life is too short.

Love every minute.

And most importantly, have a very, merry Christmas!  Make it magical!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

Christmas is approaching. I’m in the middle of all my Christmas prep, and every night I get into bed thinking, “I really need to get in the basement and wrap some presents…or bake some cookies...I need to stay up and accomplish something! Definitely tomorrow…”
We’re under two weeks out, and while my main shopping is done my shopping isn’t done. This is because I put so much focus on my kids and family, that the week before Christmas I panic and remember the teachers, neighbors, friends who have helped me throughout the year and co-workers.
Yes, I said it. Co-workers. I’m still getting used to this working thing. I’ve balanced work and home very well since I’m home within an hour of when my kids get home from school. But still it’s an adjustment. I miss the the extra time to do laundry and make dinner. The extra time to shop in peace (at 10am) and the time to sweep and run the dishwasher.
I get it all done and then realize I’ve ignored my blog for too long. My sweet baby. My blog that I started four years ago and poured my heart into. I taught myself everything that is on these pages, and unfortunately most days the blog has to wait.
But that’s okay. It’s mine and I get to make the rules. With less time on my hands, I have to make every minute count with my kids. I have to get underwear clean and lunches made. And by the time I power on the laptop? Sometimes my creative energies are about zip.
This Christmas, I may be around a tad less. I’m relishing the wrapping and the movies. The baking and the music. I’m snuggling with babies and laughing with friends. I’m thinking of all of you too, wishing you are all doing the same.
We’re less than two weeks out, and the days will fly by in the blink of an eye.
Did you eat some rye?
I love your new tie!
Sorry I couldn’t help myself. Anyone else ever see Happy Gilmore?
Anywho, drink it up. Breathe it in. It’s a wonderful time of year and it’s time to eat, drink and be merry. Shut down the computer and put on It’s a Wonderful Life. Power down the phone and make some cookies with the kids.
Less screen time, more family time. Now that would be the best gift of all.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Time. Precious Time.

Before I worked Monday through Friday, I was a time waster.  I'm admitting it.  I blogged and cleaned and did my errands, but I sat on Facebook.  I went to the mall just to see what was there.  I sat on my deck when it was sunny and I sat inside in a chair by the window when it was cold.

I got a lot done, but I had so much free time once my kids were in school I didn't appreciate all the time I had to waste.  It was glorious.

I work now, and I budget my time so efficiently I can tell you exactly what I am doing from 6:35am until I leave the house at 7:25am.  It's the same story when I leave work at 4pm.  Give me any day of the week and I'll give you a rundown of exactly what is going on.  Every. single. hour.

I'm not complaining.  Working just means prioritizing.  It means being organized.  It means occasional dirty floors and laundry piling up.  

This morning I awoke to the blissful 2 hour delay call.  Even more blissful?  The call at 7:45am that the school I work for was closing for the day.  I spent the morning snuggled in with my babies, all of us in my bed.  There was no hurry.  No rush.  

When I dropped my kids off at school I went straight to the mall.  I returned, I shopped and I grabbed groceries on the way home.  I stacked my gifts, counted and made lists.  I swept, vacuumed, did four loads of laundry and framed pictures.

I topped off my productive afternoon with mailing my Christmas cards.  

All of this wonderfulness had me realizing that I wouldn't even know how wonderful the day was if I wasn't working.  I wouldn't appreciate the free time.  I wouldn't relish every minute of driving my kids to school and picking them up.  

There was so much magic in today because I appreciated it.  I appreciated the opportunity to spend more time with my kids, more time preparing for Christmas and more time with myself.

I wish everyone a day full of things they truly appreciate.  Even with all the Christmas chaos, we can all find time to look around and count our blessings.  Wrap, bake, see friends and decorate, but in between it all step back and drink it in.

Whether you work or stay home, slow it down and hug those babies.  There is nothing in the world like it.

Cheers and happy Friday!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My Winter Self vs. My Summer Self

Lately I've realized my winter self and my summer self are two totally different animals.  I'm going to break it down below:

Summer self: Tees and breezy light clothes.
Winter self:  Parkas, jeans and wondering how many layers I can fit under a sweater.  I try for three.

Summer self: Fresh air and sunshine.  As much as possible.
Winter self:  Sunshine through glass windows. Do I really have to go somewhere?

Summer self:  Fresh fruits and vegetables.
Winter self:  Carbs.  All. Day Long.

Summer self: Running and exercise.
Winter self:  Shivering is all the calorie burn I need.

Summer self:  Tanned, freckled skin.
Winter self:  Is that a mirror? Bleck.

Summer self: Barbecues and eating out.
Winter self:  Take out.  Delivery.  Anything other than getting back into my frozen car.

Summer self:  Showered, dressed and wondering how much I can squeeze into a day.
Winter self: Pajamas and squeezing into jeans.

I'm thankful I have two seasons to transition into my two totally different entities because my family probably couldn't keep up if the switch was made overnight.  

As I write this, I'm actually hoping for a little snow.  At dawn.  Just enough to get that golden two hour delay. Mama could use the Zzzzz's.

Happy almost hump day!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Uncommon Gift Ideas

I struggle finding unique gifts for certain people in my life.  Most often these people are men.  Many men I know don't seem to need anything or they buy what they like when they want it.  It's not like moms who go years with the same underwear and grease splattered sweatshirts.

Other moms do go years with that stuff, right?  

UncommonGoods ( is a site I recently found that has some different, affordable and fun gifts for those hard to shop for people on your list.  I spent an entire evening browsing their site, and I found several possibilities I would have never thought of for quite a few people I still need to shop for.  Not only does the site have unique gifts, many of the items are handcrafted and made from recycled materials.  The company operates in the USA and supports artists and designers.  

My favorite gift idea for men is the Aurora Borealis Sand Art.  The sand shifts into a different landscape with every turn of the frame.  You never have the same design twice, and after we opened the box we spent a good hour just staring as the sand created views of what appeared to be midnight skies.  I love this gift for an office or a modern living space.  

Click here  to view the item and see more information.  Isn't it gorgeous?  And simply breathtaking?

If you have newly driving teens to shop for, Uncommongoods has a "you got your license" kit ( that is perfect for the holidays.  The kit has practical items like a tire gauge and an emergency flashlight as well as fun stuff for the car.  I love this idea because it's something useful but has cute items that make the gift whimsical as well. 

If you have hard to shop for men (like I do with four brothers and my dad) visit the gifts for men page ( the gifts for husband page ( and the gifts for dad page (  There are stone drink dispensers, hygiene kits and gorgeous sets of handcrafted drinking glasses.  

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy Shopping!  Check out Uncommongoods - I love good companies and I found several items I'm excited to give this holiday season!  


Monday, December 1, 2014

It's a Wonderful Life. Celebrate the Good Every Day.

While every family has ups and downs, and no childhood is perfect, I do remember my parents always giving.  They gave their time, their money and their energy to countless causes and organizations.  My dad ran the football program, my mom ran the concession stand.  They coached, volunteered and donated.  With six kids, they certainly had every excuse to politely say no, but, they never did.

My parents not only gave to others, they gave to us.  I remember Christmas mornings with gifts scattered all around the family room.  Most times we couldn’t even get near the tree cause there were so many gifts.  Our holidays were plentiful.  My parents dressed us in similar clothes and took photos and we spent many nights combing through the giant Sears wish book.  While we were extremely blessed, my parents made sure we knew not everyone was quite as fortunate.  We were aware that our small pocket of the world was not the norm.

One of the many memories I have is my dad and his charity, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  I can’t remember how old I was when it started, but I remember how it started.  My dad had read a local newspaper article about an inner city post office and all the Santa letters that went undelivered to the North Pole.  These kids asked for simple necessities like coats and shoes, and many times they asked for them for their parents and siblings.  The article detailed a few of the most heartwarming letters, with a few children asking Santa for simple things like new socks because “mine have holes in them.”

My dad read this article and decided to go to the post office and retrieve the letters.  It tugged at his heartstrings that these letters would go unread and be discarded.   My parents have always felt children deserve to believe in miracles.  Kids need to know there is good in the world, and they have a right to believe in magic.  The innocence of childhood is often robbed from these kids who grow up without the basic necessities most of us take for granted.

The next year my dad’s charity, “It’s a Wonderful Life” was born.

For the next several Novembers, I remember reading through hundreds of letters from kids living in poverty.  My father reached out to a few select elementary schools in the most poverty stricken areas and the teachers gave their students an assignment:  Write a letter to Santa.  Those letters came to our home, and we sorted through them.  Every year the local Kmart opened its doors at 3am and a group of volunteers, myself included, walked the store with a stack of letters each.  We read the letters and chose jackets, socks, pants and sweaters.  We bought new backpacks and blankets.  Every child, whether they wished for one or not, received a toy.  I remember one year going to my mother with all the items I chose for a little boy and his letter.  She checked through them but sent me back for a toy.  While I didn’t see how important it was then, as a parent I can now see where my parents were coming from.  While some kids asked for expensive items, most wished for only necessities for their families.

Kmart discounted our bulk purchase by 10% and the gifts were loaded into a truck.  A few days later the same group of volunteers gathered to wrap the hundreds of gifts.  And one week in December, my dad dressed as Santa and delivered the presents to each classroom.

Over the years the charity evolved, as all things do.  Some years my dad worked with the Department of Public Welfare, receiving addresses of the neediest families.  Other years he gave a monetary donation to a school.  One year when we were delivering to actual houses, our last stop was the Green family. There were seven children.  They lived on the 8th floor of an old apartment building in a rundown area of the city.  We pulled up in our van, and all seven children walked down eight flights of stairs and helped us unload their gifts.  When we got into their apartment, with a Christmas tree and a turkey for them to enjoy on Christmas, my dad saw they had no electricity.

All they had was a kitchen table, a few other pieces of furniture and mattresses on the floors.  The mother was a single mom.  But what I remember the most was how helpful the kids were.  How politely they spoke.  How excited they were to have an actual Christmas tree.  The floors were sparkling clean.  This family was an example of how even in the hardest of circumstances you can still take pride in what you DO have, even when it isn’t much.  You can still expect your kids to hold themselves with dignity, and to be grateful.

My dad immediately contacted the Department of Welfare and paid to have the Green’s heat and electricity back on.  He did this for the next several years until there was no longer contact information on the Greens.
My memories of working with my dad’s charity remain vivid, and the lessons I learned are priceless.  I can say with certainty I have not gone a Christmas season without sponsoring a child or grabbing a name from a tree in the mall since getting married and starting my own family.   My children have packed shoeboxes of goodies for kids in other countries, and donated jackets, toys and food to local organizations.  There is always a way to help a family in need, even if you don’t have much yourself.

At the end of the day we all belong to each other.  This is a lesson I want my kids to learn.


This holiday season let’s celebrate the good in others and all around us.   New York Life is encouraging people to go to their site and share photos of themselves or friends celebrating the good moments in life.  New York Life (@NewYorkLife) is donating 25 meals to Feeding America for every tweet that includes #KeepGoodGoing and the charity specific hashtag.

Very cool.

*Through 1/9/15, New York Life will donate $2.50 for each approved post, with a minimum of $25K & a maximum of $100K.
See full terms and conditions at Find info about Feeding America at

To be entered to win a $50 VISA Gift Card and have a $50 donation given on behalf of BlogHer in your name to Feeding America...comment and tell me:

What are you thankful for?

Sweepstakes Rules:

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This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 72 hours to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 12/1/2014 – 12/31/2014.

Be sure to visit the New York Life brand page on where you can read other bloggers’ posts!


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Family Craft: Christmas Tree Ornaments

I love this craft.  It requires little supplies, isn't a huge time sucker and the kids love them.  We made these two years now, the first go a few years ago and the second this past weekend.  The end result is always adorable and perfect for the tree.

You'll need:

Large "Popsicle" craft sticks
One bag regular size Popsicle craft sticks, broken into assorted sizes
Green paint
Ribbon or small wood stars painted yellow for tops of trees
Craft gems
Green glitter
Craft wire (if you don't have craft wire I recommend using the wire ties that come on most loaves of bread.  They are the perfect size and free!)
Wood glue or glue gun (glue gun is fast which is my preference)
paint brushes, paper plates and newspaper for clean craft areas!

Prepare your craft area.  Have kids assemble a "tree" using largest sticks on bottom and working smaller as they go up.

Use a glue gun if you have one to glue sticks to large popsicle stick.  Have the kids paint the tree green.

While the paint is still wet, sprinkle green glitter.

When the tree dries, add gems.

Use glue gun to add star or ribbon to top of tree and add wire to back for hanging.

Love it?  Pin it below!

Happy Almost December 1st!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


After a year of ups and downs and many surprises, I remain thankful.  It’s very easy to sink into self-pity.  With Facebook and Instagram constantly rolling everyone else’s highlight reels, it’s only natural to feel like you’re the only one on Earth who is going through hard times.

But that isn’t the case.

With this year winding down, I'm thankful I've learned to be open and to let people in.  When times get tough, it takes too much energy to keep everything inside and just smile.  It’s so much easier to TALK about our problems.  Most struggles are more of a passing phase than a permanent place, and the more you hear other people’s stories the more you will realize that “this too shall pass.”  No one is immune to struggles.  Not one single person.  Family struggles, financial struggles, weight struggles, confidence struggles, friendship struggles, health struggles…

The list is endless, and not one person on this Earth will dodge all of those bullets.  And when a bullet hits us, it’s okay to share the bad stuff too.  It’s all a part of living.

My older daughter was diagnosed with scoliosis when she was eight.  She needed (and still needs) a back brace.  She’s monitored every six months and we still don’t know if she’ll ever need surgery.  When my daughter first saw the back brace she decided to own it.  She named it and we bought clothes that worked around it.  Attitude is everything, and to this day I strap my daughter in a stiff, extremely uncomfortable brace every day.  I told her from the get-go to share her story.  Don't try to hide the brace because kids are much more understanding when you explain what it is and why you have it. 

No one is perfect, and I wanted my daughter to feel empowered, not ashamed or embarrassed.  Her struggle may be scoliosis, but another kid may struggle with something else.  

Three years later scoliosis has proven to be just one of the mountains my family has needed to climb.  This thing they call life really knows how to challenge us.  But with love around me I've learned nothing is impossible and if there is a will, there is a way.  There may not always be a solution, but there is a way to make life continue to work.

So this Thanksgiving?  I’m so very grateful for my family.  I wake up to four little faces that make my heart sing and give me a reason to be the best person I can be every. single. day.  I have friends who lend a hand and a community my kids are blessed to grow up in.  My struggles are small potatoes in the grand scheme of things, and every day I wake up thankful for what I do have.  Low bank accounts, family struggles, back braces and all.  I have so many more blessings than I do troubles.  If you look around I'll bet the farm you do too.

Head up.  Keep marching.  Find the good in everything.

My glass will always remain half full.  Always. And I'm wishing yours will as well.

Cheers and have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thanksgiving Turkey Pins

In this month's Family Fun Magazine there are several great crafts.  My favorite was the homemade Turkey Pins.  The Mommyhood version is a tad more simple, a few less steps.

Sometimes I am guilty of cutting corners.  I tend to remove any step that isn't 100% necessary.  I am all about the bare minimum.

This approach doesn't work with everything, but it worked like magic while crafting Turkey Pins.

Here is the modified, "Mommyhood" Turkey Pin:

Unless you stockpile craft supplies, you will need to purchase two items for this craft:

Googly eyes and adhesive pins.

Along with your googly eyes and adhesive pins, gather:

Empty cereal boxes
Two different sized caps (I used a cap from an Iced Tea Jug and one from a beer.  Classy.)
Pen for tracing
Trace caps onto cereal box.  There was no method to my madness other than to vary the colors for each circle.  I was aiming for colorful pins.

Have your munchkin cut out the circles.  Separate large and smaller circles.
If you are anything like me, you will take over circle cutting after about five minutes.  I then assigned my munchkin feather snipping duty on LARGER circles.  Snip lines 1/2 way around circle to make feathers.
While munchkin is feather snipping, find a yellow part of cereal box and snip out triangular beaks.

Paste smaller circle on top of larger one, towards bottom (away from feathers).  Hand turkey to munchkin to glue on nose.
While glue is setting, trace several more smaller circles, and cut them in half for wings.  Set aside pairs of googly eyes.

Paste wings in place on sides, underneath smaller circle (away from feathers).  Slightly tuck edges under smaller circle to help hold them in place.

Hand almost finished turkey to your munchkin for googly eye placement.

Making certain turkey is right side up and that pin is going directly across back, peel adhesive off pin and stick to back of turkeys.
Voila!  Turkey pins for your munchkin to bring to Thanksgiving.
These are great to add to each place setting, or have your munchkin proudly hand them out to each Thanksgiving guest.

Happy crafting!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm constantly printing Pinterest recipes and stashing them in my cookbook (anyone else?).  I have stacks of cookies, cakes, frostings and meals waiting to be made.  This past weekend, I actually made one.  I usually tread lightly when trying a new recipe, because I've had many epic fails that make me furious I used up my unsalted butter sticks.

Those things are not cheap.

These cookies do not waste butter sticks, I promise.  I tweak every recipe to work for my kitchen, but this recipe was adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction.

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 and 1/2 tsp cornstarch
dash salt
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup dark brown sugar (light works too)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla
1.5 cups chocolate chunks

Mix first four ingredients in a bowl and set aside.  

In medium bowl, whisk the butter and sugars until smooth.  Add egg then yolk.  Whisk in vanilla.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix with large spoon.  The dough will be thick.  Fold in the chocolate chunks (or chips).  Scoop (I use an ice cream scoop) dough onto cookie trays.  Chill in freezer 10 - 15 minutes before baking.  

Bake at 325 for approximately 11 minutes.  You want to remove them from oven when the centers look a tad raw, and edges are beginning to lightly brown.  Leave cookies on sheet for 3-5 minutes after baking and they will cook through.

If you can resist allow them to cool.  These cookies did not last the day in our house.  The perfect addition to football on Sunday.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Family Meeting

Every few months we hold a "Family Meeting."  I usually announce this meeting after a particularly few days of chaos. This past Family Meeting was announced after two children forgot to study or do an assignment until 9pm, but they had time to play on game consoles or dilly dally in the shower.  Rooms were being left in various levels of disarray.  When I find myself feeling more frustrated with my kids than I'm comfortable, I call "The Meeting."

I need to stop here and stipulate that on a day to day basis things usually run smoothly.  I expect my kids to be independent.  I don't check homework every night and I don't follow them to the bathroom and check their tooth brushing.  My five year old, yes. My other three? No. If they need help, I see grades slip or I notice anything out of the ordinary I'm on it like flies on sh*t.  But every day?  Four kids?  You best be doing your assignments and cleaning at least 70% of your mess.

I'll take the other 30% of the mess because it's more work to follow kids around and get them to clean it than it is to just pick it up.  It's also a giant mystery who left the mess because everyone always claims they didn't eat it, didn't touch it, weren't in the room or they don't even KNOW what I'm talking about.

Another blog. 

Our Family Meetings are more of a re-group and remind than anything else.  There is no yelling and no blaming.  We all sit over a dinner everyone loves.  This time we went to Burger King and did it Heck style (anyone watch The Middle?).  Once we're seated I talk about why we're having the meeting, completely and totally calling out all events that frustrated me.  Kids are not allowed to interrupt.  I discuss how generally we don't expect much; we don't have hard and fast rules on television time and game consoles.   Chores are easily handled.  They can be done in ten minutes every day.  This is also the time I explain life from a different point of view:


This past meeting, after requesting that the kids be more aware of picking up juice pouches or returning bowls and cups to the sink, I heard groans.  

"What if it isn't mine?"

That very comment sent me into an explaining tailspin.  All day I pick up mess that isn't mine.  And if you walk by any cup, plate, juice box, jacket, pair or single sock you are essentially leaving the mess for the next person.  Which is always me.  If you know whose mess it is, either get them or clean it and tell them you did.  Be kind, because next mess just may be yours.  And they're more likely to clean it.  

I stress to my kids that we are a big family, and we are a TEAM.  The house is clean because we all chip in.  We can't slack and start expecting other people to handle our mess.  That isn't how life works.

After all the general areas of why I called the meeting are discussed, I go around the table and tell each child what they are doing well.  I praise them for anything they do that makes my life easier.  I then insert two areas they need growth and a chore.  Everyone has to go around and repeat back to me what they need to work on and what their chore is so I know they understand completely.

This is where I stop and discuss respecting each other's privacy.  I have four kids, all of them are in school.  They all know the same kids.  I make it clear that inside our walls everyone deserves to feel to safe and comfortable.  Not everything is meant to be shared.  Kids at school don't need to know who had the smelliest farts or who clogged the toilet.  Those gems are for family only.

Last, I go over the rules we set for television and all electronics.  Those rules are always:

DO NOT TURN IT ON IF EVERYTHING ELSE ISN'T DONE.  This includes homework, lunch sacks unpacked, STUDYING done, chores done and mess cleaned up.  Before you hit that "power button" pause and think hard.  If there is anything left undone you are going to lose that electronic for whatever time period I feel is necessary.

And this will always depend on what kind of mood I'm in.  

When everything I wanted to discuss is discussed, the kids can take turns sharing their two cents.  Everyone has the opportunity to be heard.  

Usually Family Meetings get everyone back in line quick.  About 50% of what was discussed sticks with them, and I see more effort and less groans when it comes to helping or handling their own things.  Kids need structure, and they like to know exactly what is expected of them.  Tell them what TO DO and what they are doing well.  Tell them what they need to work on next.  No one wants to hear someone rattle off all the things they shouldn't do every day.  It makes ears bleed.  Saying "eat more fruit and try this new yogurt" sounds much more pleasant than "STOP EATING JUNK!  PUT DOWN THAT CANDY!"  

It's all in the delivery.

Have a fabulous Sunday!  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It's All About Balance (and enter to win $100 Visa GiftCard!)

I'm a fan of moderation.  I've tried drastic diets and exercise and I'm here to announce I prefer a little bit of everything.  My "I'm never eating that again" kicks never last very long.  With my first baby, I tried making all my own baby food and using all natural everything.  I had dreams of raising kids on an all organic diet and my house being chemical free.

Wishful thinking.  Not only did this require a tremendous amount of work, it also required a tremendous amount of money.
Every time I left the house with my baby I was encountering foods and drinks I thought about banning forever. We went to houses with Oreo cookies and my mom spoiled us with donuts and treats every time she came to visit.  I realized early on that if my family was going to be out and about, I couldn't restrict everything.  
Over the years, moderation has become the key to raising my kids. We want to have fun and be with friends. I want them to enjoy birthday treats. We love dessert after dinner. One can of soda a day is allowed, so is Halloween candy. The trick is to send fruit with the lunch, play outside as a family and encourage participation in clubs and sports.  My kids thrive when they get sleep, get fresh air, and eat a balanced diet.

Everyone does.

I have four kids, one is a teen and one is a preteen. They understand the difference between processed foods and foods that help them grow and stay healthy. All my kids are athletes, and while sports drinks are popular, I encourage water for most of the day. I know water keeps them hydrated, but I tell them it also keeps breath fresh and lips from cracking. I've explained that protein will build muscle and processed, sugary snacks won't give them the energy they need for practice. When I speak in a language my kids understand, they make better choices.

My kids hate winter lips. And no teenager wants bad breath. More importantly, I've explained how many calories can be hidden in certain beverages. This doesn't mean my munchkins can't have them, it just means they know to limit them.  

I'm an advocate for balance. A scale isn't meant to tip in only one direction. My kids play sports, watch television, and play on iPads. I set rules that require them to read and help with chores, and as long as grades are good and the kids are healthy, I'm okay with snacks and video games.
I'm just not okay with them all day.  
I remember being a preteen and the weight was piling on. I felt awkward and ugly and I was willing to try anything to look like I did pre-puberty. My mother quickly stepped in and explained that one chip wasn't the problem. One cookie wasn't tipping the scale; it was half the package that caused trouble. I needed to learn to eat less junk, not ban anything all together.
I'm glad I did. And I'm teaching my family the same. Moderation has made my life easier because I'm not constantly saying no to myself and my kids. I'm saying yes, and teaching them about good choices. Life is much easier when I don't have to fight with little people about eating candy or drinking a soda. I'd rather say yes, educate them about why one or two is enough, and keep living.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

(3 Step) Pull Apart Garlic Bread Biscuits

Brace yourselves.  I'm about to share the easiest, most delightful garlic bread biscuits ever created. 

I've always had a small love affair with those flaky biscuits that come in those cans that "pop" after you peel the paper away.  Never in my life have those been on a table and I've eaten less than three.  Possibly four.  Truthfully I only buy them a few times a year because my waistband would never ever be the same if they were in my life on a weekly basis.

These garlic bread biscuits begin with those biscuits in a can.  They end in your stomach.  It's that's simple.

This recipe is perfect to make with dinner, bring to a dinner or even for Thanksgiving.  The possibilities are endless.

You will need:

2 (12 oz) biscuit cans
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon either oregano or Italian seasoning
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Pop biscuit cans. 

1.  Mix melted butter with seasonings and cheese. 
2.  Halve the biscuits and dip half of each biscuit into mixture. 
3.  Layer biscuits on pan with dipped half facing up.  You'll need to try and layer the biscuits until you hit the end of the pan.  I made 2 rows with 2 biscuit cans.

Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. 


Enjoy your week!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Ten "To Do's" Before December 1st

Being the mom of four, I have to plan ahead if I want anything to run smoothly. It's imperative.  At least for the big stuff like Christmas.

I admit that for anything not completely necessary or of vital importance I fly by the seat of my pants.

Before December 1st, there are a few things I try to accomplish in order to enjoy my holiday season without undo stress.  This is how I avoid waking up in a cold sweat because I have a thousand things to do with just a few days to do them.  

I love my sleep too much to let that happen.

1.  Take down the Halloween decor.  Do this today.

2.  The first mild, sunny day you have get out the holiday lights.  This sounds crazy, but if you hang them now you won't have to worry about it when its 20 degrees outside.  Set the timers, have everything up and ready.  Thanksgiving night plug them in and watch the kids get super excited at the official start of the Christmas season.

And you can super excited the lights are up.

3.  Make "the list."  This includes every single person who you plan on buying for, even if it's just a small token of appreciation.  I can't even begin to admit how many times I rummaged through the house for an unused candle or uneaten box of candies five minutes before the bus driver pulled up.

It happens.

4.  Start grabbing small items like giftcards.  It stinks to buy three or four (or more) gift cards at once.  You spend $100 and all you have are small four envelopes to show for it.  I prefer to buy one every few weeks, starting now.

5.  Make a Thanksgiving plan.  Decide what you're bringing or making, and purchase all necessary supplies.

6.  Start stockpiling magazines for kids to make holiday wishes.  Sit the kids down at the end of November, near Thanksgiving time, and make wish lists.  Make this an event, and have discussions with the kids regarding their wishes.  If you just hand them five magazines and tell them to circle what they want you'll have five magazines full of circles.
Explain Santa has MANY kids to make presents for, and they need to prioritize what they want the most.  More on list making here.

7.  Buy an elf.  They are fabulous fun and useful in many, many ways.  There is no better friend than one who flies to the North Pole every night to report to Santa himself.
8.  If you aren't a Black Friday fan, remember the same deals are often found online with FREE SHIPPING.  Start browsing Thanksgiving night, and get a few purchases taken care of at deep discounts.

9.  On Thanksgiving, make "Thankful Lists."  Everyone makes one, and stipulate how many blessings must be listed.  You'll be amazed what kids write down, and it keeps everyone in a thankful mindset instead of a "I want, I want" mindset.

Perfect way to celebrate Thanksgiving, and even better way to start December.

10.  Take time to smell the pumpkin pie.  Or apple pie.  This season is all about friends, family and remembering all of our blessings, big and small.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Homemade Reese's Peanut Butter Trees

November.  The time of year wishbooks arrive in the mail, Christmas commercials run on the television and Reese's Peanut Butter Trees arrive at the grocery store.

The holidays are here.

With no running around to do this evening, I indulged myself and made homemade Reese's Peanut Butter Trees.  They were easy.  I promise.  I was waiting for a giant experimental disaster, and instead I found myself with smooth, creamy Christmas Trees made of peanut butter and chocolate.

Heaven on Earth.  These can be made in just over an hour, and they are the perfect holiday treat for friends, teachers or your family.  I highly recommend hiding a few in the crisper drawer for yourself.

We all know no one is looking for anything good in there.

3 cups powdered sugar (may need a little more to achieve desired molding consistency)
1 15oz jar creamy peanut butter
1 Tablespoon soft butter
1 tsp vanilla
2-3 Tablespoons milk 
3 cups milk chocolate chips
1 tsp oil
Christmas Tree Cookie Cutter

In mixer, blend powdered sugar, peanut butter and butter on medium speed.  Mixture will be crumbly.  Add milk, one tablespoon at a time until dough is sticky but mold-able.

Line baking sheet with wax paper.  Using a spoon, scoop heaping tablespoons onto wax paper.  Flatten with your hands, and use tree cookie cutter to make trees.  Continue to mold and cut.

Freeze 1 hour.

Melt chocolate on medium-high heat in microwave in a heavy glass bowl.  Stir every 30 seconds until smooth.  Add oil and stir.

Using a fork, dip trees one at a time, tapping fork on edge of bowl to smooth chocolate.  Place back on chilled pan lined with wax paper (this helps chocolate set quick).


Sunday, November 2, 2014


1. Today is our last football game.  While it's my favorite season, and I love watching my kids play, the snow flurries and wind gusts will make it much easier to bring on basketball season.

2.  I neglected to post for Halloween this year.  This is 90% because I went to upload my Halloween pictures and there was no CF card in the camera and 10% because I was exhausted.

Courtesy of my bestie, I have a picture of my youngest walking in the school's Halloween parade.  Hubby did get pictures of this, but that CF card I have yet to upload.  

I'm only human.

3.  Halloween Eve was spent at my older son's last football game, which in our town was also Trick-or-Treat.  My youngest waited patiently as Sleeping Beauty until my son walked off the field at 7pm.  We busted home and hit about 12 houses before gathering my two middle children from good friends.  

Last babies seriously get the shaft.  This is why mom's baby them.  We're compensating for all the crap they don't get to do and we know one day they'll realize it all and call us on it.

We better have something good to explain it all, such as "Yes but we bought you waaaaaayyyyy more toys and tied your shoes until you were ten!"  

Halloween day I worked and our town hosted the last varsity football game of the season.

I stayed home in my pajamas.

4.  My Halloween post was going to be about handling all the Halloween Candy and what candy is the worst as far as chemicals and sugar.  Here is the condensed version:

Every child gets a sandwich sized zip lock baggie.  Write their name on it.  They can fill it with as much candy that will fit.  This is now their candy to eat and have as they wish.  Whether they want a piece a day for the next fifteen days or fifteen pieces in the next twenty four hours the choice is theirs.  This gives them ownership over their candy and freedom to enjoy it.  The rest of the candy disappears.  Gone.  

And don't eat skittles.   

5. Working full time is kind of cramping my blogging style, my baking style and my anything other than homework, lunch packing, child snuggling, laundry and vacuuming style.  

Only the necessities.  I'm holding out hope I will fall into a routine and my creative juices will start to flow again once my body is over the shock of Monday-Friday, 8-4.

Happy Sunday all!  Stay warm!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Special Person Lunch

Every year the elementary school holds a "Special Person" lunch.  The students are allowed to invite one to two guests to have lunch with them in the cafeteria.  Last year was our first year in the school, and I scurried from lunch to lunch.  Three different lunches, two on one day and one on another day.

I was thrilled to see my kids interacting with classmates and to meet a few friends I hadn't met before.  The "Special Person" lunch was a great insight into the lives of my kids at school.

This year the paper came home and I had concerns.  I'm working now. I wondered how I would get to each lunch when I only get a half hour for lunch every day. As I was asking my kindergartner about the lunch, my "too cool" third grader chimed in that I didn't need to go to his lunch.  While my sixth grader told me the same, her comment was more to ease my pain of getting out of work than to push me away.  But my little guy?  Lately he's just been very wrapped up in being independent and a "big" kid.

I spend many days trying to get him to snuggle in just a little bit.  Most days he doesn't budge.  After some thought I decided to arrange to get to my kindergartener's lunch and abide by the wishes of my third grader.  He was very clear he was good without anyone coming into school.  Truthfully I was convinced and I didn't give it too much thought after our discussion that evening.

This week is "Special Person Lunch" at the school.  Monday Hubby was working local and was willing to get to our little girl's lunch.  I was relieved he was able to join her and that I wouldn't have to rush to the school.  They had a wonderful time, sending me selfies and sharing food.  I was able to stay at work and I was overjoyed Hubby was able to experience something special at the school.

Last night, my third grader was unpacking his lunch pack and he nonchalantly mentioned that I needed to remember that tomorrow is his "Special Person" lunch.  I was shocked.  I responded with a "Hey!  You told me not to come!"

He smiled.

I asked him if he wanted me to go and he told me I couldn't because I'm working.  I told him I would do anything for him.  He smiled again.  Then he told me it didn't matter I could do what I wanted.

I knew right then and there I was hitting up that lunch.  I realized that he is still just nine.  It's easy to forget because he's my third and life gets very chaotic.  But he's not even double digits. He needs mommy hugs and for me to be there at events. 

This morning I got an email from his teacher.  She told me that my little guy was extremely concerned that I didn't know what time lunch was...and that he was worried I'd be standing out by the front desk and no one would help me.

This email made my week.  Mama still mattered after all.

I signed into the school and waited in the hall for my son's class to bring us into the cafeteria.  Out of nowhere my little guy was right with me, smiling ear to ear.  He saw me first and there was no hesitation or annoyance, just happiness radiating from his little body.  My "too cool" kid wasn't too cool at all.  I couldn't believe I almost let him tell me he didn't need me there.

Kids don't know what is best, and I almost let my nine year old tell me he doesn't need anyone to show up.  Every kid needs someone to show up.  Whether it's for games, assemblies, concerts or special person lunches.

Don't let them tell you otherwise.

And always, always make them stop hugging first.  You never know how long they'll need a good squeeze.  It's a scary world out there.

Have a great week! 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Easy Halloween Party Ideas (great for all ages!)

My kids LOVE Halloween.  Costumes, candy, scary movies, decorations...they can't get enough.  I love all holidays, and I've always felt creating traditions and memories for my kids was important.  One of my favorite ways to celebrate any holiday is small and simple "parties" with close friends.

This post is going to focus on Halloween.

Start with a few good friends.  You can go a few routes.  Have one child host and invite a few nearest and dearest (stick to five or less) or have each child invite one and incorporate the whole family.

We went with option A.

This "party" is perfect for Halloween night, or the weekend before or right after.  Keep the party to two hours and have it after lunch or dinner so guests come fed. 

Choose two to three activities.  If you play games have Halloween prizes like slime, candy or a cheap Halloween DVD (you can find these at Target in the Halloween aisles). You can make Haunted Houses (think Gingerbread houses but use gummy worms and Halloween candies and frostings), decorate your own cookies, make masks, play Witches Brew (my favorite Halloween Party game) or bob for apples.

Before the party, make a playlist with Halloween classics like Thriller, Monster Mash and Ghostbusters.

For our party we made Halloween cupcakes and Eyeball Cake Pops. 

For our party you'll need:

PATIENCE.  And now the other important stuff...

Cupcake supplies (liners, mix, two containers of frosting, Halloween candies/sprinkles for decorating)
Plastic knives and black plastic forks.
Napkins and wipes for sticky hands
Halloween Plates
Small paper craft cups (I found mine at Walmart in cake baking aisle)
Bright Halloween stickers
Halloween Cellophane Baggies
Cake Pop supplies (either a kit or cake mix, frosting)
White Candy Melts or white chocolate (2 bags)
Container white frosting
Red food coloring
Festive decorations and tablecloth
Plastic bowls
Candy eye balls (small sugar candies can be found at craft stores)

I set a Halloween table with a tablecloth. I baked cupcakes and had them cool and ready for icing when the guests arrived.  Make cake balls and stick a black plastic fork in each one.  I bought a kit but you can use any cake pop recipe.  Chill in freezer. 

Set a place for every guest at the table with what they will need for cupcake decorating.  Place a plastic bowl with candies and another plastic bowl with frosting and a plastic knife at every station.  This makes all finger licking a non-issue.  Set a small paper cup at every chair and markers and stickers in the middle of the table.

Each guest should decorate 2 cupcakes.

When the guests arrive explain that one cupcake will go home in the paper cup and one can be eaten at the end of the party.  Have them decorate the paper cup and them start on their cupcakes.

After the cupcake decorating, melt white candy melts or white chocolate (candy melts work best) and have each guest dip 2-3 pops, covering cake ball completely. Set on tinfoil lined platter and press candy eyeball on.  After the chocolate sets, heat a cup of white frosting in the microwave for about twenty seconds, and stir in red food coloring.  Drizzle the icing over the "eyeballs"  to make them look bloody.  These are pre-bloody eyeballs.

Individually package goodies in Halloween cellophane baggies to take home.

My best tips are:

BE PREPARED.  Set the stations for each guest if doing crafts, have games ready.
Play great music.
Keep guests to less than 6.
Keep the timeline to 2 hours.

This is just a general guideline of how we do our parties.  I like to leave everything general because there are so many possibilities.  The trick is to keep it simple!  No need for huge costume parties that cause stress and require days on Pinterest to plan.  

Happy Halloween Week!  Get festive!