March 26, 2015

Keeping my Kids Close with Merci Maman (& a GIVEAWAY!!)

                

As a working mom, I am always looking for ways to keep my kids close, even when we aren't together. I try to make sure they know I am thinking of them even though I am not waiting for them at home when they get back from school. Small gestures make a big difference, especially with children.

I leave a note in my son's lunch bag almost every day and then he tells me what the note said later that night or on the way to school in the morning. It makes me happy to know he gets that small reminder during lunch from me.


If I am working late, I always make time to FaceTime with the kids to make sure I hear about their day and see their sweet faces. Technology is so cool these days. (I know I sound very old when I say that.. but sorry.. FaceTime is cool)


The time I do get with them during the week, I try to really cherish. Breakfast, bath time, and books are important moments that I savor each night. (well.. most of the time!)

Ever since my kids have been born I have always worn some type of personalized jewelry with their names on it. I know it doesn't change the fact that I am away from them during the day, but it makes me feel good having that little part of them close to me. I have been looking for a new necklace since my current one is a cheapie that tarnished, but I was having a hard time finding something I really loved. When Merci Maman contacted me, I have to be honest here, I had never heard of them. So I checked out their website and got so excited! This is exactly what I had been looking for! They have the most beautiful personalized gifts I have ever seen.


Merci Maman is French for,"Thank You Mummy" making it the perfect gift for all moms! (but the have stuff for everyone, even cuff links for guys) Every single piece is hand crafted in their London studio. All the personalization is HAND ETCHED in cursive.

After looking on their website, I finally decided on the Sterling Silver Valentines Necklace. I got the round disc as my larger charm to put Hudson & Mila's name on it. For the smaller charm, I chose the heart with my sweet husband's first initial. I loved everything about it, especially the little arrow detail on the chain.
As I was looking online, I saw that they also had a style called the Duchess, since Kate Middleton  was spotted wearing one of their necklaces after she had her little prince! How cool is that? (So I'm basically like royalty now, in case you were wondering...)


My necklace arrived not too long after I ordered it, beautifully packaged in a bright orange box. I was beyond excited to finally see it. The necklace is amazing! It is not too big or too small, and the engraving is perfect. Not only that, they hand engrave BOTH sides of the charms... so no matter which way it twists or turns, you can always see my loved ones names & initials!
Love it!!
I have received so many compliments since I got it. Hudson noticed it right away and was pleased to see that his name was first. ;) Now he always comments about it, "Oh you are wearing my necklace! Now you are going to think about me all day!" I know he feels special that I am wearing something with his name on it.

If you want a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry, you need to check out Merci Maman. They have a huge variety of items. You can start dropping hints to friends and family... or you can WIN your own personalized Merci Maman right now! They are giving my awesome readers a chance to win the exact necklace I have, with your own personalization! ($120 value!) Good luck! (you will love it!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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March 17, 2015

5 Small Healthy Changes That Make a Big Difference


                
I have recently made a few small changes to my lifestyle that have made a majorly huge difference in the way I feel. So I figured I would share them with you!

1. Only ONE cup of coffee per day: This was a MAJOR change for me. I got the stomach flu about a month ago. I couldn't keep anything down. So for about 5 days I didn't drink ANY coffee. On top of being sick, I had the WORST headache, and my husband attributed it to my lack of caffeine. Before getting sick, I drank A LOT of coffee. Like 6 or 8 cups a day, easily. I had to drink a cup the second I woke up or I would get a dull headache. I knew it was bad that I was so dependent on something but I was freaking tired. (and I used a lot of coffee creamer, the bad for you but delicious kind) When I was finally better I told myself I would only allow myself one cup a day. That's it. And I have stuck to it. Trust me when I tell you that I am the last person I thought would ever say this but... I feel SO much better. It is so nice to wake up and not need a cup of coffee right away. I don't want to cut it out entirely since I really do love that cup of coffee, but it is so nice to have it as a bonus... not a necessity.
2. ACV drink: When I decided to drop all my coffee, I also decided to start my day with a apple cider vinegar drink. I had heard so much about it, but just never got around to trying it. So I googled a few recipes and I ended up liking this one the best. It is supposed to be all sorts of healthy.

                   

3. I stopped washing my face in morning: So apparently this is a known thing, since about half the people I tell this to respond with, "Oh, I know... I NEVER wash my face in the morning." Well.. thanks a lot you a-holes for never telling me. I forget where I saw this, but some celebrity said one of their secrets to great skin was to never wash their face in morning, just rinse it with water. (don't use soap) I never thought this would work for me, since I occasionally use retin-A or a nighttime moisturizer. I thought it would be bad to leave all that stuff on my face before applying my sunscreen and makeup. Well, I was wrong. My skin looks so much better since I started the no soap morning routine. It is less dry, I have had fewer breakouts, and it just looks better to me.
4. No alcohol during the week: This was another big one. My boss was horrified when we were talking about drinking and I said that I drank every night. His response, "You don't drink every night.. you are just saying that." I was like, "Nope, I drink every single night." Everyone just stared at me. Then when he walked away a few people were like, "Yeah.. we drink every night too, but we didn't want to say that." (again.. thanks a-holes) Well, the whole conversation got me thinking... I mean, it can't be healthy to drink every night. I was telling my husband the story and he agreed, so we both decided to stop drinking during the week. I am a little embarrassed to say that it was really hard at first. I would look forward to my glass (or two) of wine when the kids went to bed. But now, I don't even think about it and I am definitely saving some cash on wine.
5. I eat more salads for lunch: This was kind of an accidental change. I have been so busy at work that I started slacking on making my lunch and prepping my snacks. So I was eating crappy and bringing microwave meals or buying lunch. I decided that on Sunday (or on Monday on my way into work) I would stop at Trader Joe's and buy a bunch of those pre-made salads and healthy snacks. (usually cottage cheese and a bean salad from the cold section) I buy ahead for three days of salads, then get a soup and one healthy microwave meal to make it through the workweek. (I can't eat a salad more than 3 days after I bought it, I don't care what the expiration date says) I feel so much better, it was a reminder for me just how important fresh, healthy foods are.
                   

I made most these changes a few weeks ago, and I have noticed such a difference. I have even lost a few pounds since I cut out all those empty calories. (all that extra coffee creamer and alcohol) Also, I feel like I have so much energy, even though I drink less coffee. So there you go, maybe some of these changes will work for you. Or maybe you are a normal person who doesn't drink exorbitant amounts of coffee and wine to begin with. In that case, I'm sorry you read this whole thing.

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March 15, 2015

20 Ways to Step into Spring

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Carter’s. I received a complimentary gift card to facilitate my review and thank me for my participation. #SpringIntoCarters #IC

Spring kicks off this week and I couldn't be more excited! Daylight savings may be a pain at first, but the longer days and warmer weather make up for it! We spent this past weekend cleaning all the pool toys, getting out the Easter decorations and we even took our first dip in the pool!

So since I am feeling all springy... I thought it would be fun to list 20 fun ways to step into spring!

1. Go on a family bike ride
2. Have a relay race
3. Organize a scavenger hunt
4. Have a picnic
5. Try to find a flower that matches each color of the rainbow
6. Fill up the water table so your toddler can go to town!
7. Go fishing
8. Make popsicles
9. Ice Break ("Trap" some small toys by freezing them in ice then break them out!)
10. Head to the playground
11. Fly a kite
12. Create a homemade slip & slide using a blue tarp
13. Blow bubbles
14. Plant flowers
15. Try to make your own pool boat (toss some items in the pool and see what floats! We tried a tupperware bin and a ball pit!)
17. Play mini-golf
18. Create a driveway house using chalk (create different rooms and the kids can draw furniture, pets and whatever else they come up with!)
19. Eat dinner outside
20. Have a water balloon fight

Don't forget the sunscreen and you want to be sure the kids are always comfortably dressed! This weekend I went to Carter's to stock up on spring essentials. Mila had a major growth spurt and most of her warm weather outfits no longer fit. Hudson recently grew a bit himself, as I have been noticing just how short his shirts and shorts look on him! (whoops!)
Carter's is one of my go-to store for the kids. (ALL the clothes in this post is from Carter's!! So cute right?!) I love the brand since the items are always true-to-size, they wash well, the prices are great and their stuff is so freaking CUTE! My son really loves their shorts since most of them have a "fake" button with an adjustable waistband and he says those are the most comfortable.
You can't beat Carter's play wear. Right now they have a great deal on matching tee's and shorts. Everything is coordinated and the spring designs are awesome! They have tons of Easter looks for both boys and girls and the swim shop was beyond adorable. I picked up a ton of stuff, thanks to a 25% off coupon I had. Click here (or click the coupon below) to get your very own!

So much cute stuff! We are ready for spring!





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March 12, 2015

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award


I was recently nominated for the sisterhood of the world bloggers award from the amazing Bev, over at Linkouture. She is not only a fabulous blogger, but also an amazing jewelry designer. I bought a pair of heart earrings from her and they are now one of my favorites. The point of this is to help spread the blogger love and learn a little bit more about the people behind the blog! So here we go!

Here are the rules:
1. Link to the person who nominated you.
2. Add the award logo.
3. Answer the questions your nominator has asked.
4. Nominate a few other blogs and let them know.
5. Ask your nominees 10 questions.

Here's what Bev asked me:
1. What are you looking forward to now that we have an extra hour of sunlight at the end of the day?  It makes all the difference in the world for me, since I get home from work around 6:30. It means I get to join the kids and play outside while my sweet husband cooks dinner. (I can't cook and he gets home earlier than me) It also means we can go on family bike rides after dinner, it's one of my favorite weeknight activities when we can fit it in.

2. If you could go anywhere in the world, where you go? I really want to go back to Europe and travel around. I went for a summer in college but I don't feel like I really appreciated the experience the same way I would now. Who would you go with? My husband! We always say when the kids go away to college we are going to go on a long trip through Europe. I can't wait!

3. Share the most recent picture on your phone and tell the story behind it.

This is from Thursday, when I watched my sweet girl do her trike-a-thon at school to raise money for St. Jude's Research Hospital. It was super cute. :)
4. Now I want to know what your spirit animal is! Take the quiz and share it with us. Were you surprised by the results? I got bear.. it says people come to me with relationship issues, which is very true. I also agree that the best thing in the world to me is my husband. However, it also says I never do anything alone, which couldn't be further from the truth.

5. When did you start blogging? I started consistently blogging a year ago. What is one thing you have learned from it? I have learned so so much, but the one big thing I learned is to have confidence in myself and not worry about what other people are doing.

6. Will you be going to any blogging conferences this year? nope

7. Describe your workspace. Is it messy or tidy? My desktop is clean, but my drawers are a mess! I don't put up pictures of my kids or family... I don't know why but I never have.  Bonus if you share a picture of it!
This is just ONE of the drawers in my filing cabinet. I have a bit of a tea obsession.
8. What’s something people might not know about you? That I planned my wedding in 8 weeks and bought the first dress I tried on.
9. First word that pops in your head…go! Strength.
10. What’s your favorite think to drink while you’re blogging? WINE.



I nominate the following bloggers: (and if anyone doesn't want to take part, don't sweat it.. I understand!)
Rachael at Three Boys and a Mom
Christina at Mascara Maven
Kristen at Mommy in Sports
Katie at Mom to Mom Nutrition
Tarynn at Mama by Fire

Here my 10 questions for you to answer:
1. Describe yourself in three words.
2. How did you choose the name of your blog?
3. Who do you go to for advice?
4. What is your favorite food or meal?
5. If you could furnish your entire house, for free, from one catalog/store/website, which would it be?
6. What is your favorite blog post to date? (& post a link!)
7. What was your favorite toy as a child?
8. Tell me the last really good book your read.
9. Post the last thing you put on Instagram.
10. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

 
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March 10, 2015

Things I Took For Granted Before I Had Kids

I love being a mom, there's no denying that. However, every once in awhile I am reminded of things I routinely did before having them... that I TOTALLY took for granted. My friends who don't have kids yet are often surprised by the things I tell them to savor now.

Here are 12 things I took for granted before having kids: 

1. Naps (and sleep in general): I think most moms are with me on this one. Sleep is kind of obvious, moms don't sleep. (at least with my kids, I don't.) But I used to LOVE taking naps. Naps on the couch in the middle of the day for no reason at all. I mean, I probably wasn't even TIRED.

2. Date Night: Strangely enough we never called it date night before we had kids. We just called it a normal weekend. We would go out to dinner whenever we wanted, I totally took that for granted!

3. Watching TV: I love reality TV. I have hours and hours of all my favorite trashy reality TV shows stuck on my TiVo since I never get to watch it. Once the kids are in bed, my hubby and I watch the news (yes, we DVR the news since I don't have that stuff on when the kids are awake) and then I usually don't feel like watching anything else.

4. Going to the Mall: I NEVER go to the mall. EVER. I do all my clothes shopping online or at Target, since they also happen to sell diapers, food and wine. I know a lot of people hate going to the mall, but I always loved it. It was the best just walking around and eating lunch by myself.

5. Running Errands after Work: Back in the day, I used to love stopping at random stores on my way home from work. (Marshall's and HomeGoods come to mind) Now I rush home, since I know my husband is struggling to make dinner with two crazy kids running around. I also don't want to miss our family dinners.

6. Personal Upkeep: Salon visits and pedicures are few and far between these days. I don't like being away from the kids on the weekend so I only make these appointments when they are DESPERATELY needed. That means I look like a hot mess a good majority of the time.

7. Warm Food: I rarely consume anything warm. My breakfasts, dinners and my coffee are almost always cold. There are many reasons why this happens. The second I sit down my son will ask for more milk, or my daughter will cry since I didn't give her the PURPLE spoon, so I have to get up... track down said spoon.. wash it... dry it.. reassure her that it is, in fact, her favorite purple spoon until I can finally take a bite of my own (now chilly) dinner. Sometimes I make those microwave breakfast sandwiches, and I will forget I even made it, until I randomly open the microwave to find it still sitting there.

8. Seeing my Friends Whenever I Wanted: I used to call my friends and say, "Let's go grab sushi!" or "Want to take a spin class later?" It was SO easy to see them. Now it's like, "Hey.. do you want to have dinner the 4th Tuesday of this month?" or "Let's all get babysitters and go on a double date!" It is so much harder to make it all work out, since even with our attempts to plan ahead, a kid is bound to get sick or one of our husbands has to work late therefore cancelling our big GNO plans.

9. Lying Out: Yes, I know the sun is bad for you, but used to LOVE lying out. A big hat, a great book or magazine, a cocktail and I was SET. It is impossible to lie out with children around... but maybe I will have fewer wrinkles because of it.

10. Feeling Put Together: Since having kids, I always feel like a total cluster. Before children, I would thoughtfully select my outfit and shoes before heading to work. I would have my lunch and whatever paperwork I needed ready to go the night before. Now I don't even realize what I am wearing until I get to work and take a look at myself. Some days, the first time I brush my hair is in the car before walking into the office. If I am wearing actual shoes (instead of the flip flops I wear to take the dog for a walk before leaving in the morning) then I consider it a win.

11. Money: I vaguely remember something green called money. I used to spend it on tons of clothes for myself and designer jeans. I would buy $7 smoothies and $60 bras. Now I pay 40 bucks for a box a diapers for my daughter to poop in. My kids literally s**t on my money.

12. My Parents: This is the biggest one. To this day, I still apologize to my mother for the way I acted as a teenager. I wish my dad was still alive, not only so he could meet my kids... but so I could THANK HIM for everything he did that make my childhood so amazing. Now that I am a parent, I realize all the sacrifices they made for me. One day, perhaps my kids will do the same.

What are some of the things you took for granted before having kids?



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March 8, 2015

Easter Pudding Cups

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SnackPackMixins #CollectiveBias
Snack Pack Mixin Easter Pudding Cups
Easter is right around the corner & I can't wait! We have a large family so everyone has their own holiday that they host, and Easter is ours. There are tons of young kids between us so it is a fun one! I love the Easter egg hunt, with prizes of course!

I am also obsessed with having the cutest desserts. There are so many options and I love when the kids get excited to see what kind of creative treat I have come up with. This year, since the children are a little older, I thought it would be fun to set up a dessert buffet where they can create their own tasty masterpieces!
Easter Dessert Buffet
I headed over to Wal-Mart since they always have the best stuff for holidays. I decided custom pudding cups would be perfect, since I could come up with a different decorating options to allow the kids to be really creative. My son loves Snack Pack pudding cups, so I picked up both vanilla and chocolate flavors. The display was really easy to find, in the chips and snacks aisle. I was thrilled to find Super Snack Packs, since when it comes to sweet treats, bigger is always better!
                  
I prepped all the mix-ins and set up a few 'example' cups to give the kids an idea of what they could make. I put everything out and let the kids do the rest. I love activities that allow kids to be independent and creative. Thanks to Snack Pack's easy open lids, the kids had no problem getting them open after selecting the flavor they wanted.
 
I crushed up Oreos to use as dirt and bought marshmallow bunnies and chicks. On the Snack Pack website, there was an adorable idea for carrot patch pudding cups, so I set that up for them, too. I also got mini chocolate eggs and jelly beans.
                 
My kids really went to town on these! I couldn't believe how long they took to make sure each ingredient was exactly how they wanted it. They mixed jelly beans into the pudding before adding the decorations on top, which I thought was a great idea. My kids couldn't wait to eat their pudding cup creations. They love getting a treat & I love knowing that each Snack Pack has the same amount of calcium as 8 ounces of milk!  Our run through was a huge success and I know this dessert activity will be a big hit come Easter! If you want to make your own Easter Snack Pack creations, click here to get a coupon.


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March 2, 2015

Family Favorites: Disney Edition!


We just got back from the happiest place on earth, so I thought it would be fun to make my February Family Favorites a DISNEY theme! Mila and my sweet nephew, Braxton both have February birthdays, so we decided to skip the parties this year and go to Disney! The last time we all went together Mila was in my tummy, so we were due for a trip back.

Mila:
Elsa (& all the characters!) 
We hit the Magic Kingdom first thing Saturday morning. It was rainy but we still got there right when it opened, with one name in mind. ELSA!!! We tried to book Fast Passes for her before even getting to Orlando, but they were already gone. We had heard horror stories of 5 hour waits, but Donnie and I were determined that our sweet girl would meet the Ice Queen she so desperately loves. Well, I don't know if it was the rain or our early arrival... but we only had to wait about 25 minutes! The moment Mila walked into the room and saw Elsa.. she lit up! (and tried to bum rush through the velvet ropes and the 5 people in front of us to get to her) Mila was in awe... she just STARED at her. She gave her a hug... and continued to stare as Elsa spoke to her. She could barely nod her answers. She had basically the same reaction to every character. Jumping around with excitement in line.. then a hug and blank stare for the actual meeting. It was seriously the cutest thing ever.
So sweet!

Hudson:
Space Mountain
By big boy was thrilled when he found out he was 48 inches tall at his last doctors appointment, since as he put it, "Now I'm tall enough to ride all the big kid rides!" Hudson has never been the timid type, and when it comes to trying new things he is always game. He knew right away that he wanted to try & ride Space Mountain. He was asking about it before we went and I even showed him a video of it on YouTube, which was hard to see since it was basically a dark video. Donnie, his dad, Jeff (his brother), Heather (Jeff's wife), Hudson and I all went together. Hudson decided he wanted to sit in the middle, with Donnie in front and me in back. I could tell he was nervous, but he hopped on like a champ. When the ride was over he screamed, "THAT WAS AWESOME!" The rest of the trip he kept saying, "I can't wait to tell my friends I went on Space Mountain!" Love him.
Brave boy!

Lauren:
Disney at night
We left around 1pm on Saturday since the rain just got too bad. Even the kids were asking to leave. Our shoes and socks were soaked, Mila was tired and miserable in wet clothes, and the weather radar didn't look good. We went back to the room to regroup. My husband decided we would throw our shoes in the dryer.. get freshened up (AKA: drink WINE) and go back around 6pm. I hate to admit this, but I really didn't want to go. Donnie gave me a pep talk and promised Hudson and I that if the rain didn't stop soon, we could leave the park and go hang out at the Contemporary. (they have a good arcade and an indoor lounge with a great view of the fireworks) I am SO GLAD I have such a POSITIVE and MOTIVATING hubby. About 20 minutes after we got there the rain stopped. For good. And we had the BEST time. We got to meet more characters, go on TONS of rides and catch the show on the castle. (which is BEYOND awesome) Mila fell asleep right before the 9pm parade, so we took turns going on rides with Hudson. It was so slow, they would let us stay on some of the rides a few times in a row if we wanted. It reminded me how much I LOVE Disney at night. The way the whole park is lit up makes it even more magical... we had a awesome time.
Disney at night! The castle show is AMAZING!

Donnie:
Disney app
I know he had fun doing everything on the trip, but I have to say he was obsessed with the Disney app and it helped make our visit run smoothly. You can manage your Fast Passes and plan your itinerary. The best part of the app was you can see the current wait times on every ride. It helped us plan our next move. So we didn't have to walk to the ride to realize it was a one hour wait. We just scrolled through current wait times and selected from there. Very handy.
My hunk is so serious when it comes to wait times! ;)
Even though we had a few minor weather glitches, we ended up having a wonderful trip. Mila enjoyed all the rides and characters, she was never afraid. Hudson had a blast with his cousins and going on all the roller coasters. I love that we get to take trips like this with our family since it is so much fun making these memories when we are all together! Here are a bunch of pics from our trip!

Mickey Mouse!!
Family!!!
Two Goofs!
Fast Track fun!
In awe of Minnie!
Why we love Epcot.
Mickey Mouse!
Dumbo, it's a classic!
So excited to see Mickey!
See you real soon!

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