Dec 17, 2014

Favorite Christmas Memories

Christmas is only  days away which makes me panic a little bit. I have everything purchased and shipped but not one single present is wrapped. I also haven't even thought about what I'm going to cook for Christmas dinner or made any cookies. 

Instead of wrapping some presents today while my kids were at school and napping, I spent the afternoon looking at Christmas pictures from years past. These are some of my favorite Christmas memories. 

Isabella's first Christmas was so fun for us. She was too little to understand what was going on, but she loved tearing the wrapping paper off her gifts. There is something magical about your first Christmas as a parent. 

Best Santa Picture EVER! I just love this picture! I can hear Isabella's laugh. 

This picture reminds me that even when it seems like things aren't going right and Christmas is a disaster, at least I don't have a child on life support this year. I took this picture moments after the doctor told me to prepare myself for Molly going into surgery. I don't care what our financial situation may be or what family member is being a jerk, it will never be as bad as that year.

Perspective friends.

Ah there is nothing like a crying Santa picture, I love it and I have many others just like it. 

Last year we went to Christmas Eve service in a barn. There was something so magical about hearing the Christmas story in a barn full of animals. Unless of course you're Mark who thought someone was trying to torture him based on his expression. This picture cracks me up every time I look at it.

Every year we drive around and look at Christmas lights while drinking hot chocolate. This was the first year we did it as a family of 5. I forgot how crammed the backseat of my car was back then. 

My brother and I both have Christmas week birthdays which means we have been celebrating together ever since our parents divorced 20 years ago. Neither of us are very thrilled with it but we have a few traditions between us. We've exchanged a gift bag for the last 8 years. I give him his gift in the bag and 5 days later I get my gift in the bag. This is actually our second birthday bag, the first one fell apart but the tradition had to go on. A few years ago he bought me Middle Sister wine as a gag gift, I smile every time I see it in the store, it's hard not living near him anymore especially this time of year.

Isabella and I went to a Christmas ballet performance last year. It was fun watching her take in the ballet for the first time and getting dressed up for a night out. Plus it was just the two of us which is a rare thing when you have 3 kids.

What are your favorite Christmas traditions or memories that make you happy this time of year?

Dec 15, 2014

25% off Purex with Cartwheel

I love Purex detergent! The price can't be beat and your clothes come out clean and fresh. There is nothing that I like more than saving money on the things I normally buy.

Now through December 27th, Cartwheel is offering a 25% off the purchase of Purex. Talk about perfect timing since this is the time of year when laundry doubles, at least it does in my house. After a few months of washing the multiple layers my kids wear in the winter, I miss sundresses and shorts.

Head over to Cartwheel and download your coupon today!

Dec 11, 2014

Hope for Picky Eaters

If you're parenting a child who is a picky eater, I feel your pain. There is nothing worse than having a child who won't eat what the rest of the family eats. In our family, it's Isabella who is beyond picky.

Once upon a time the child ate everything but chicken. Then slowly but surely between the ages of 2 and 3 she dropped almost every food she once devoured. Meal wise nothing changed except now we had a stubborn child at our table who no longer liked red sauce on pasta or broccoli.

Frustrating doesn't even being to describe the food journey we've been on with this kid.

I am a busy mama, and I am NOT about to become a short order cook. The rule in our house is
1. you have to try one bite
2. there is no more food. You can choose to eat or choose to be hungry, either was it's your choice.

I always made sure there was something on the table that Isabella would eat, even if that was just salad.

Around her sixth birthday we started to see some vegetables go down her throat again without fuss. We make a huge deal out of every food she decides to like again. But meat is a battle of wills in this house and so far, Isabella is winning. Of course she eats sausage and bacon but anything else is yucky.

Meat is bad but cranberry sauce on chips is delicious. I don't get it. 

Last night my picky eater ate not one. not two, but three meatballs for dinner!  It's a Christmas miracle!

No I don't have a have a picture of this success, I was afraid she would realize that she was eating meat and stop. After dinner she asked to have meatballs for lunch.

I'm scoring this parenting moment the win of the year!

So maybe there is hope for our picky eaters, we just can't give up on them!

Dec 7, 2014

5 Tips for Keeping Kids Comfortable When They Have a Cold

It's that fabulous time of year again, cold and flu season. For my household it's a losing battle keeping everyone healthy during the winter months. With three kids in school and one kid who will not stop sucking his thumb we get several colds a year. I always keep over the counter medications stocked in my house. I was sent a bottle of Children's Mucinex Multi-Symptom Cold to facilitate this review as a member of the Smiley360, all opinions are mine.

When my kids are sick, I just want them to feel better. I know when I'm sick I feel miserable and I wish someone was around to take care of me. Here are some of the things I do for my kids when they are sick so they feel better.

1. Set up a bed on the couch. My kids love watching their favorite movies and TV shows when they're sick. I tuck in the blankets and make a little bed for them so they are cozy and comfortable. Plus I think my kids like still being part of the family instead of tucked away in their room.

2. Juice, juice, and more juice! My kids never want to eat very much when they're sick but they are willing to drink juice. I buy a few different flavors so they get plenty of fluids.

3. Pajama Day! Reduce your laundry for a few days and let your kids stay in their pajamas. Cozy pajamas are much more comfortable than clothes. Plus being in your pajamas might make your kids think it's OK to take a nap.

4. Extra Snuggles - There is nothing better than getting some extra love and attention from mommy and daddy. It's also how I know my kids are really sick. When all they want is to snuggle on the couch with me, I know they are sick. Normally they bounce off the walls.

Or when Mark slept on me for hours, I know it's bad. 

5. Short Order Cook - When my kids are sick it's the only time I turn myself into a short order cook. I know they aren't very hungry so they won't eat much. When they get to pick their meal they tend to eat more.

I know that getting to lay on the couch watching movies cheers my kids up, but they need some medicine to help them feel better too. Personally I like to use a multi-symptom medicine to cover all the bases One thing that I really like about Children's Mucinex is that it's safe for kids ages four and up. Most cold medications cannot be used until your child is six. As a mom of 5 year old twins, this is huge for me.

Before receiving this product to review I hadn't tried the Children's version before. But my husband and I have been using Mucinex for years and we prefer it to other brands. After my son got a bad cold this November, I tried the Children's Mucinex for the first time and I think it works far better than the other brands we've tried in the past. My son doesn't like to blow his nose and the Mucinex seemed to dry him up faster. I recommend this product for your kids when they have a cold.

Want to try Children's Mucinex for yourself and save a little money? Of course you do, who doesn't like saving a little money? Click here for a $2 off coupon. Be sure to follow Mucinex on Facebook and Twitter for more information and offers.

Dec 3, 2014

Keeping Christmas Simple

We've all had that one Christmas that was stressful, expensive, exhausting, and left us needed a vacation. For me it happened when I had kids and tried to be super mom. I was going to do everything to give my kids these amazing memories that would last a lifetime.

Ha! What a joke! All that happened was me losing sleep and running around like a crazy person.

Last year I decided that something had to change for my sanity. I knew all my kids were going to remember was a mom who was stressed out and didn't enjoy Christmas if I kept it up. Instead of trying to do it all, we needed to stick to doing the most important things instead. But to make the changes my husband and I wanted to make required us to use the N word and stick to our guns.

No. It's a powerful word and sometimes it's hard to say.

Like when the children's director decides that she thinks it would be fun to have homemade cookies for the kids tomorrow morning at church and could you whip up 3 dozen cookies tonight?


Or when your child's teacher calls and needs someone to help with the party the same day you have plans to shop with a friend.


And when you get pressure to come home for Christmas regardless of the $2500.00 plane tickets.


Saying no is hard, especially when part of you wants to do these things. Last year Brett and I were determined to have a calm Christmas without all the running around and last minute stress. We wanted to continue our traditions and knew we had to be intentional with out time. To do that we started with building a calendar of activities.

We wrote down all the Christmas activities we wanted to do and planed them out. We even included family game night and watching our favorite Christmas movies. I put something on the calendar everyday for us to spend time together, even if it was a simple as eating out lunch after church.

Seeing Santa is a must for our family!

The point of the calendar wasn't to keep us busy, it's purpose was to keep us connected and not miss anything we wanted to do.

Something magically happened after we made the calendar, we got really good at saying no. When we were invited to a party we didn't want to attend I easily said we already had plans. I didn't feel guilty at all, even though our plans were to watch Charlie Brown and have a family sleepover in the living room.

Christmas tree lighting - it was unseasonably hot last year

When Christmas arrived we didn't feel stressed out and Brett and I loved spending so much time with our kids during the month of December. I think as mothers we want to do everything but that is an impossible task. Life was much better once we simplified things and did the things that matter the most.

Christmas Eve service in a barn. Pretty sure Mark thinks we're trying to slaughter him.

Tips on making your own calendar

1. Put work and school obligations on there first. You know you're not missing your kid's recital so block out that time.
2. Plan fun things away from the house that are special to Christmas. Attend a tree lighting for your town or go ice skating.
3. Plans simple things to do at home like making s'mores or movie night.
4. Be flexible - if something new pops up make room for it IF it's something you actually want to do not something you think you should do.
5. Write down the things that were horrible the year before. I actually did this in January so I wouldn't forget just how awful it was.

Like the horrible Santa train - never again! Never! 

How do you keep Christmas simple in your family and stay connected?

Nov 24, 2014

Thanksgiving Traditions

Growing up my mom would put the turkey in the oven super early in the morning and then we would head into downtown Houston for the Thanksgiving parade. Now that I'm a parent I'm pretty sure my mom was insane to take on an outing like a parade when she was cooking the meal. But I'm glad she did since it's a great childhood memory.

Now that I'm married my husband and I have combined some of our Thanksgiving traditions. Now it's a given in my house that football will be on all afternoon. That was a Thanksgiving tradition in both of our homes. It's pretty cool thinking about how we took things from both of our childhoods to make our new family traditions.

Breakfast is Egg-A-Roll Casserole which is a cheesy egg casserole that my goofy kids renamed. The recipe is from my mother in law and I love it. I can't imagine Thanksgiving without it.

After breakfast we watch the parade on TV. It's not nearly as much fun on TV but it's the only choice here. The kids get a kick out of seeing Santa and their favorite characters. Brett is bored out of his mind and counts down the minutes until football starts.

Lunch is always a few appetizers. Both of our families did this growing up. We normally ate snacks at the parade growing up.

Dinner has changed. We both grew up eating around 2 and we both hated it. I will never understand why anyone wants to eat a huge meal at 2. I like to eat in the evening between 5 and 6. I aim for 5 and we usually eat closer to 6. Perhaps this year we will get closer to 5. Another one of my family traditions at Thanksgiving is lefse which is a Norwegian food. It's amazing and mandatory on my Thanksgiving table.

I never liked stuffing until I had my mother in law's cornbread stuffing. It's so good and I make it every year, even when I don't host the meal.

Dessert for Brett was pumpkin pie but we both hate pumpkin pie. I love all things pumpkin except pie and lattes. I grew up eating apple pie so that is our Thanksgiving dessert. I serve it with vanilla bean ice cream which is all the kids ate last year.

After two days of cooking the chef does not clean! That was a tradition in my family that Brett continues. Then we put the kids to bed, pour another glass of wine, and veg on the couch.

What are some of your Thanksgiving traditions?

Nov 19, 2014

Secret Service and My Son the Mischievous Wanderer

This past weekend I learned that Secret Service agents are very forgiving towards children and my son has zero respect for red ropes.

Allow me to explain.

We went to Washington DC this weekend and my son managed to get into three restricted access areas in the Capital, Library of Congress, and the White House.

We went on a tour of the Capital and my kids were bored out of their minds. I don't blame them, I found the tour pretty boring too. You go in a big group wearing headsets to hear your tour guide. It's pretty easy to get distracted and let your kid out of your sight for 2 seconds which is exactly long enough for Mark to slip under a red rope to see a statue up close.

Not this one but notice that he's touching one? Anyone surprised?

After the tour we went to the Library of Congress to see the Magna Carta. I knew the kids wouldn't care but my cousin and I wanted to see it. The Gutenberg Bible was on display in the lobby and my girls were fascinated with it. I needed to pick up Mark and Molly so they could see it. Unfortunately I picked up Molly first. Mark couldn't possibly wait to see it so under the rope he went and hands and face right on the glass before I could grab him.

He left a kiss mark on the glass. It's important to leave a mark everywhere you go.

When we went to the White House I wasn't taking any chances. I held his little hand or kept him within 1 arm length for the entire tour. We made it through the White House without any incidents and we were walking out the door when Molly realized she lost her hat.

Brett and Molly went looking for it while I stayed behind with Mark and Isabella. Bad move mom, bad move.

As Brett was asking a guard if there was a lost and found place a women overheard them and said that Molly left her hat in security. They couldn't go back to security and they couldn't go back around to security so wait began for Secret Service to bring Molly's hat up. Now this is not a hat that I care about. It's a hand me down hat, no big deal if it gets lost. But Brett was pretty sure he has a great White House story to tell so he waited for the hat.

It took 20 minutes.

During this time I have no clue what is going on. The kids and I looked at the piano, talked to Secret Service, sang a song, and looked at the White House guide books, and I said sit still about 100 times. Maybe more, again I wasn't taking any chances after Mark's antics the previous day.

While I was getting the adult brochure book out for Isabella to look at, Mark took that as his cue to crawl under the rope to check out the stairs. Kids know just the right moment to make their move. Now he was only a foot or so under the rope crab crawling when I turned back around.

My heart about stopped when I realized what Mark had planned, he was trying to get up the staircase! I put on my mommy don't play face and said "get back here NOW!" You know the tone, when your mouth hardly moves and you didn't raise your voice but you are yelling at your child. He knew instantly that he was in big trouble and came back to me.

The secret service agent said it was OK, but keep a closer eye on him. And then he laughed and said that kids crack him up and told me it happens more than I would think. Then he told Mark what was at the top of the stairs why no one was allowed to go up there. He was actually very nice about it. I was still dying inside.

The title of this picture is

Remember the time we went to the White House and Molly lost her hat and secret service had to find it and it took 20 minutes and while that was going on Mark went into a restricted area of the White House?

It's a working title.

Seriously, my kid has no respect for red ropes. By the way, this is the same kid who crawled into a restricted access area of the USS North Carolina and I had to coax him back when he got stuck.

Anyone else have a little mischief maker in the family? What is the craziest place your kid has gotten into?
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