Meet the Sullivans: July 2014

July 31, 2014

One Year & Beyond - Dealing with Separation Anxiety

Hello, I'm still here. Just taking a little time to get back into the swing of things after being at the BlogHer conference, camping and being sick in the last week. I hope you're still out there!

Today is the fourth week of our One Year & Beyond series and I have been really enjoying all the advise and tips and experiences everyone has to share! This week we're discussing one of the hardest parts of being a mom, separation anxiety and the guilt that goes along with it.

At 2 1/2 O rarely struggles with separation anxiety anymore. Every once in a while he'll be extra attached to me, like after I was away at BlogHer for a couple days (more on BlogHer tomorrow!), but he is usually pretty happy to get some play time in with someone other than me, since I'm who he spends 98% of his time with. But he wasn't always this easy.

There is nothing easy about leaving a baby that will freakout upon your departure. It makes everything difficult. No date nights, doctor / hair / nail appointments, no solo-grocery shopping, no going to the gym. You're pretty much in what a friend and I like to call Baby Jail.

As moms, some of us assume the role of martyr and tell ourselves that we're fine being physically attached to our baby 100% of the time, but there is no doubting the value in the recharge you get from having a little time to yourself! I know I have needed a recharge everyonce in a while. I go weeks without being more than a few loving heartbeats away from O. Even a short trip to Safeway can be refreshing, but a trip to Target + a pedicure is rejuvinating! Life giving, even.

That's why I think it's so important to talk about separation anxiety, so we can all get a little "me time" every once in a while, feel okay about it and return home recharged!

These are the 5 steps I take when I'm leaving O so that he feels okay with my departure and I feel fine leaving him.

Timing is Everything - When I have to leave O I usually try to leave while he and whoever he is staying with are doing something he enjoys i.e., watching his favorite movie / show, playing outside (but never where he can see me drive away), eating something he likes. This way he feels happy where he is and is less likely to want to come with me or be sad that I'm leaving him.

Emphasize That Mommy Is Coming Back - Toddlers don't have a great concept of time. A few hours without mommy can feel like forever. Luckily, O knows his own schedule, so I can tell him "I will be back when you wake up from your nap" and he understands and accepts that I'm leaving. When I leave him at the gym child care I tell him the same thing, emphasizing that I'm going to do a "quick" workout and be right back for him.

Say Goodbye - Never sneak out behind your child's back. It seems like the easiest option to slip out the front door when they are occupied with an activity, but they will feel abandoned when they realize you left without saying goodbye. Say goodbye, but don't make a big deal out of it. Even just a quick "I love you" and a kiss on the head is enough, especially when your child is upset. The longer you draw it out, the harder it will be for them to transition when you leave -- they will only get more worked up.

Once You're Out The Take a Deep Breath and Relax - There is no sense in leaving for some "me time" just to worry about your child the whole time you're gone. I know this is easier said that done, but try to relax and enjoy yourself! I try to remember that whoever is caring for O will call me if there is an emergency. No news is usually good news!

Leave a surprise - When leaving for more than a few hours I usually prepare a schedule, a list of emergency information (including our address, home phone number and the number for Poison Control), a list of foods O likes and a "bag of tricks". The bag usually includes things like a craft from the dollar section, a new 99 cent hot wheels car, something to do outside or glow sticks, a fun healthy snack and a treat. This is also a great time to re-corporate toys I've taken out of rotation.

So those are the steps I take to make leaving O a bit easier. Getting used to leaving him at the child care at our gym was a bit different and involves much less preparation.

What do you do to prepare your child and yourself for being apart? Link up with us below and share your invaluable tips with us and be sure to check out the other mamas in our series for their helpful posts.

July 10:  Keeping your marriage alive with a toddler
July 17:  Favorite summer toddler activities
July 24:  Helping Your Toddler to Communicate (Words, emotions, etc.)
July 31:  Dealing with Separation Anxiety
Aug 7:    Car Trip Necessities
Aug 14:  Deciding when the time is right for baby #2 (and/or how to handle these questions)
Aug 21:  Tricks for eating out with your toddler
Aug 28:  Feeling confident as a mom (How to feel this way, Your struggle with, etc.)

July 25, 2014

I'm OFF!

I'm off to Blog Her '14 this morning (and tomorrow too)! Looking forward to recapping all the fun next week, but in the meantime please feel free to follow along with all the fun on Instagram! I'll be sharing pictures all weekend :)
There are so many great speakers and breakout sessions scheduled, but I have to say I am most excited to hear what Arianna Huffington has to share!

Went down to San Jose yesterday and registered! I'm all set!

July 24, 2014

One Year & Beyond - Helping Your Toddler Communicate

Today is the third week of the One Year & Beyond series and today we're talking about how we can help our toddlers be better communicators!

Communicating with a toddler can be a huge challenge. At two and a half Owen is still just beginning to understand how to express his feelings, wants and needs verbally. Toddlers are notorious for their tantrums, and most times I'd like to think the cause of said tantrums is a failure to communicate. While we're obviously still working on language development, we still feel very lucky that Owen is a pretty great communicator and seems to express his feelings easily.

Here are a handful of ways we try to help him be a good communicator:

We read a lot of books, and engage him in the stories - We usually read a book at least twice before moving on to another (the first time we just read and the second time we engage more), and while we read it the second time we talk together and notice what is happening in the book. We discuss how people are feeling in the book (sad, happy, hungry, tired, etc) and I like to ask him questions about what is happening on the page, i.e. "if you were The Very Hungry Caterpillar what would YOU want to eat next?".

We give him verbal tools - When he becomes frustrated or angry because he doesn't have the words to describe what's upsetting him we try to teach him phrases he can use to get his point across. We've taught him to say "Please stop doing that to me" when he doesn't like something another child is doing and so far it works really well. I taught him to introduce himself and say "Hi, I'm Owen!" when meeting a new child at the park, because he would get sad or upset when other children would ignore him.

We patiently listen to what Owen has to say - About a month ago I noticed Owen had developed a serious stutter. He had never had too much struggle getting words out before, but all of a sudden I noticed e was getting stuck on certain sounds he had never had difficulty with before. I immediately called his doctor, who said it is normal for children this age to develop one, but that it should lessen over the next month after we noticed it. Luckily it did. I guess it happens mostly when a child mind / communication develops faster than their tongue and mouth can catch up. For the few weeks that he struggled to get his point across he would get really frustrated. We tried to make it all easier on him by just being really patient and allowing him lots of extra time to say what he needed to say. Thankfully, his speech is totally back to normal!

We have conversations - One of our favorite things to do is have a chat -- these chats usually consist of me asking questions and Owen answering them. We talk all the time, but we have most of our chats when we're playing pretend with his Star Wars figures or his cars. I ask him what he's thinking, what he sees, what he wants to do etc. I love encouraging him to share his ideas, and playing pretend is a safe place for him to play with conversational language. 

We treat him equally at the dinner table - We don't allow him to interrupt us, but we make sure to give him even turns to talk too. I think it's important that he feels like what he has to say about his day is just as important as what we have to say about ours. I also think it's great for him to sit with adults and have a dinner conversation.

We socialize, a lot - He is around a lot of older children a lot of the time between our friends kids, and all of his awesome cousins. All of his cousins are way older than him, so he has a lot of great role models and tons of people around him speaking like grown ups.

Next week we'll be discussing dealing with separation anxiety!

July 10:  Keeping your marriage alive with a toddler
July 17:  Favorite summer toddler activities
July 24:  Helping Your Toddler to Communicate (Words, emotions, etc.)
July 31:  Dealing with Separation Anxiety
Aug 7:    Car Trip Necessities
Aug 14:  Deciding when the time is right for baby #2 (and/or how to handle these questions)
Aug 21:  Tricks for eating out with your toddler
Aug 28:  Feeling confident as a mom (How to feel this way, Your struggle with, etc.)

July 23, 2014

Butterscotch Blankees

When I was pregnant with Owen I remember someone saying that you could never have enough baby blankets. I really took that advise to heart! We registered for and purchase so many different kinds of blankets. We had fleece ones, swaddling blankets, handmade one made with love by talents friends and family, simple cotton ones. The only kind of blanket I never purchased were the adorable personalized the time I had Owen we had more blankets than one baby would need, so sadly, he never got an adorable personalized blanket... until NOW!

Let me introduce you to Butterscotch Blankees! Butterscotch Blankees was founded by Jodie Roth when she was designing her first son's nursery. She was looking for the perfect accent piece to complete the look. After scavenging magazines, artwork, furniture and bedding companies for something just right, Jodie finally realized she should simply design her own. The blanket she created was just what the room needed and with that, Butterscotch Blankees was born! Jodie's company now offers a variety of custom blanket and pillow designs for the entire home. But the initial spark of inspiration was straight from a mother's heart.

"As a mother, I was looking to give my two sons bedrooms something special where they could feel the warmth and love when they snuggled into bed each night," says Jodie.

When giving this snuggly-soft baby blanket as a gift, the whimsical packaging alone will capture their hearts -- Butterscotch Blankees are wrapped up to look like a piece of butterscotch candy when you ask for gift wrapping! Custom designed and handcrafted, Butterscotch Blankees can be personalized with initials, names, or monograms. These blankets are decorative and practical, making the perfect gift for infants and older children alike!

Butterscotch Blankees are available in acrylic or cashmere, and they are incredibly soft, generously sized, and make a beautiful addition to beds, cribs, gliders and strollers or serve as a unique wall hanging in the nursery. I was so happy to find that Butterscotch Blankees are machine washable and made in the USA!

We are so happy with our beautiful, soft, fluffy blanket! Owen loves reading his name off it and I love that it's the perfect size to be used in the car or in the stroller. There are so many designs and colors to chose from, as well as sizes!

They make a great gift (Christmas is in 154 days!),
 and you can use the code OWEN for 10% off your order!  

I was not compensated for this review, but we did receive Owen's personalized stroller blanket in exchange for sharing our honest review.

July 22, 2014

That Time We Ran Out of TP

Being a Stay-at-home-mom means I have certain never ending jobs around the house. There are tasks that never end, like laundry (I've always got a load in the wash, one in the dryer, at least one that needs folding and tons to put away), dishes, cooking meals and restocking the toilet paper. I feel like the stocking of the toilet paper is possibly the most frustrating. Maybe because I'm usually the one replacing an empty roll or the one running into the garage to grab more rolls to refill the bathrooms? I wish they could stock themselves! Ha!

Now, I know we all have a story of a time that we were caught without toilet paper in a time of need. There is nothing worse than having company, or to be at someone's house for a big party and to realize you're stuck in the bathroom without toilet paper. What exactly are you supposed to do in that situation?

Owen is really into the potty right now, even though we aren't officially potty training, he still asks to use the potty when he sees older kids using it or needing to go, which brings us to my / our #SheetOutOfLuck story:

A few weeks ago we were at a friend's party at their home with lots of people. It was nearing the end of the party when Owen asked to use the bathroom. He's still in diapers, so it wasn't a necessary trip, but whenever he asks to go on the potty I obliged because I want to encourage good potty using behavior. Well, I brough him into the bathroom and sat him on the toilet and low and behold he actually went! I was so proud of him and even kind of surprised! But I was even more suprised / shocked to find the bathroom was out of TP! The horror! Stuck in the bathroom at a crowded party with a toddler who you are so proud of for going on the potty, but stuck without any TP to clean him up with. Cue major PANIC!

The party was still going strong, music playing loudly and kids playing even louder, that no one would really hear me if I shouted for help. Luckily, I knew I could depend on Keith to help. I pulled my phone out of my back pocket (luckily I was taking pictures with my camera, because otherwise I would have left it in the diaper bag) and sent him a text message to please ask the hostess for a roll of toilet paper . It took Keith a little while to notice the text, and then a little while longer for him to get to us with the toilet paper. Owen happily played games on my phone while we waited for the TP. Moral of the story is, stock your bathroom up with toilet paper before you have a big party or maybe just buy bigger rolls so you don't have to restock as often!!

I want to encourage you to come back early next week to enter the sweepstakes I will be hosting where one reader will win a YEAR supply of Angel Soft®!! Because we all know no one wants to be the poor girl in this video and  with 60% MORE sheets than Charmin Ultra, Angel Soft is on your side!

You can check out more of these cute videos HERE that show more funny, sad, moments when people realize they're #SheetOutOfLuck! Now it's YOUR turn! I would love to hear some of your #SheetHappens moments! Follow the hashtags #SheetOutOfLuck and #SheetHappens on Facebook and Twitter and join in on the conversation!

Are you attending BlogHer '14 this week? Angel Soft® will be at BlogHer ’14 and I'd like to encourage you to visit the Angel Soft® booth (booth #201) in hope that we'll run into each other there -- I'll be popping by there often! I'm so excited for the conference (in less than 48 hours!) and I hope to see you there!

I was compensated for sharing our #SheetOutOfLuck story with you today, but the mortification and panic described were truly my own, as is our love for Angel Soft®!

July 18, 2014

Oh Hey, Friday!

Good Morning and Happy Friday! I feel like it has been forever since I've blogged about what we're up to around here, so today I'm just rambling on about this and that just like I would to a friend at the park and I hope you don't mind all my yammering!

Owen and I spent Thursday morning at the TOMS Warehouse Sale! I hadn't really planned on going, but we were up and out at the park when I remembered it was starting that morning, so we headed over. The line was long outside and there was a 20 minute wait to get in, but luckily for me Owen was really patient. The warehouse was filled with shoes! Everything was sorted into Women's, Children's and Men's sections and then from there by size. Each size had about two groupings of 7 boxes filled with shoes. From there you had to dig through to find the material / color / style you were looking for. The Classic style was only $22 each! And the children's were $17! It took me forever to make a decision about what to get, but in the end I left with the TOMS Classic in Ash and TOMS Classic in Dark Green, and a pair of TOMS Tiny Classics in Ash for Owen. We might be going back again this morning in hopes of finding a pair of ballet flats since they didn't have any out yesterday.


I never got around to recapping our little 4th of July last week, and I'm okay with that, but I just want to make sure I record the cute thing Owen said when we were watching fireworks.

I had been talking up the fireworks, America and singing him God Bless America (don't worry, I'm not going to make you listen to that) for weeks, so on the 4th he was really excited the time had finally come to see the fireworks! What's really funny is that he kept requesting that I sing "God Bless America" to him all the time, every where we went: in Target, driving in the car, while I rocked him to sleep. Anyway we're sitting out on the field at the elementary school in our neighborhood with a bunch of our family and Owen is just loving the firework show. He was "oooing" and "ahhhing" along with everyone and we were so glad he wasn't scared of the dark or the loud booms.

Well, the finale starts and he's totally blown away and says "That's God Bless America, right there!!!" Like in that moment he was just really feeling the patriotism and the song and it was coming to life right in front of him. Keith and I just looked at each other in surprise and died from the cuteness.

My new Life Planner came this week! I went with the scales design in seafoam, and I spent a good chunk of Owen's nap Tuesday filling in all the important dates. I really lucked out that it came so quickly -- I was just weeks away from running out of space! This year I also added a picture to the back, which I really like. There's nothing like a nice new, fresh planner to make me feel extra organized!

I finally finished reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green a couple weeks ago. It was a great book, and I loved the story. It was well written, an easy read and I came to really like and care for the characters by the end of the book. And now I can't wait to see the movie! After finishing the book I was really in the mood for another good read, so I dove right into Orphan Train by Christina Baker Klin. I finished this book in three days! It was that good, in my opinion. I liked that it bounced back and forth between two different stories and time periods, although I really enjoyed reading Viviana's story a lot more.

The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale opened to the public today! I have been eying this Moon & Lola Personalized Script Monogram Pendant Necklace the whole time the card holder pre-sale was going on. I was so excited to see this morning that the it's under $60! It was promptly added to my shopping cart and purchased. Can't wait for it to arrive!

Linking this post up with Karli & Amy for "Oh Hey, Friday"!

July 17, 2014

One year and Beyond - Favorite Summer Toddler Activities

Today is the second week in the One Year and Beyond Series! Thank you so much to everyone who linked up last week and for all of your sweet comments on my post. I loved reading all of the great advice and ideas everyone had to share on keeping your marriage alive with a toddler, and I can't wait to hear all of the great ideas you have this week!

Today's topic of discussion is Favorite Summer Toddler Activities. Summer is my favorite time of year because it usually means we can spend a ton of time OUTSIDE and thus, our list of fun activities is endless. Unlike Winter, Summer weather lends itself to more simple pleasures (hello, donut + park dates, or sticky after nap popsicles!) and spontaneity. Fun activities in the Summer don't have to be brilliant and Pinterest-worthy, or require a lot of preparation. Even basic chores can be fun in the Summer! Here are a few of our favorite things to do in the Summer that you can go do right now!!

Try a New Park - There are so many parks in our area, we love trying a new one every once in a while! I like to ask Facebook friends for suggestions for their favorite park, search yelp or just get in the car and see where we end up. We often drive by random parks while we're out running errands, so I keep a list in the notes section of my phone so I don't forget to visit the park someday.

Go Exploring! - We love parks, but we also really really love exploring! We like to set out to a location (the local community college football field, a huge grassy park with no actual play structure, etc.) and just see what we can see. This isn't brilliant, I know, but Owen loves doing it and it's an "Activity" that can last us hours. For local people here are our favorite open spots for exploring: Hallmark Park, Laurelwood Park trails and creek, San Mateo Central Park Koi Pond and Rose Garden and Water Dog Lake Park.

Water Play - We play with the hose, we go to the splash pad, play with the sprinklers, fill up the kiddie pool, the water table or we go swimming with friends-- the fun and possibilities with water are endless! We haven't broken out the water balloons yet, but I think that would be a ton of fun too! 

Trucks in the Dirt - Almost everyday after he wakes up from his nap Owen asks to go outside and play with his trucks in the dirt. We sit in the sun, with the trucks and pretend to be "workers". I'm pretty sure I will be bringing a big storage container of dirt into the garage for this activity in the winter. He especially likes the CAT Mini Machines, and so do we, because all of the other ones we've had have broken.

Yard Work Together - Cleaning the barbeque, blowing the pine needles in the yard, watering plants, pulling weeds, sweeping... these are a few of Owen's favorite chores to help with in the yard. It's lots of fun for him, he gets to explore his skills and we clean up the yard while we're at it! We do this a few times a week, so Owen has a variety of favorite yard tools to use, his favorites are: leaf blower, sweeping set and watering can.

Wash the Car - Sometimes ours, but usually HIS! Keith and Owen love to wash the cars together, and Owen actually does a great job scrubbing the tires with a big soapy sponge. When Keith isn't home and Owen gets the urge to wash the car I take him out in the backyard with his Cozy Coupe and we wash his little car together. It is so sweet watching him take the same pride in cleaning the tires of his own little car as he does our big one.

Thanks so much for stopping by to see how we like to keep busy during the warm days of Summer! Please check out my Summer Fun! Pinterest board for more ideas for ways to make this summer memorable! Next week we'll be talking about Helping Your Toddler to Communicate!

July 10:  Keeping your marriage alive with a toddler
July 17:  Favorite summer toddler activities
July 24:  Helping Your Toddler to Communicate (Words, emotions, etc.)
July 31:  Dealing with Separation Anxiety
Aug 7:    Car Trip Necessities
Aug 14:  Deciding when the time is right for baby #2 (and/or how to handle these questions)
Aug 21:  Tricks for eating out with your toddler
Aug 28:  Feeling confident as a mom (How to feel this way, Your struggle with, etc.)
An InLinkz Link-up

July 15, 2014

Thirsty Tuesday? | Classic Mint Moscow Mule

As you may know, for the next seven weeks I'll be posting on Thursday for the One Year and Beyond series! I loved reading all of the stories from the people who linked up last week and I'm looking forward to getting some great ideas this week when we talk about our favorite summer toddler activities!

Thursday also happens to be the day I sometimes share a Thirsty Thursday recipe post, so in the mean time I'll be referring to them as Thirsty Tuesday. Doesn't sound as catchy, but the cocktails will still be just as delicious!! Like the one I have for you today.

It's not too often that I give a new drink a try. When we're out to dinner, and I actually order something other than beer or wine, I usually stick to my tried-and-true favorites, like a Lemon Drop or Margarita. A few months ago though, I was out with some friends and my friend Jackie suggested her favorite cocktail, the Moscow Mule, so I gave it a try thinking that Jackie usually has pretty great taste.

I was in love!

So for a while I've been dying to make one at home, but haven't, because you have to have the right cups! I've seen the drink served in so many different kinds of glasses, but I really think the special copper mugs help keep it extra cool and fun! So over the weekend I bought our Moscow Mule Mugs at World Market and then I got down to some cocktail mixing business!

Ingredients   serves one, but can easily be multiplied
3oz Smirnoff No. 21 unflavored vodka , chilled (preferably)
6 oz ginger beer
1 locally grown lime, juiced
a few mint leaves
a splash of agave
lime and mint, for garnish

1. Put Smirnoff No. 21 unflavored vodka, lime juice, agave and two mint leaves in the cup with a few cubes of ice, muddle together a bit to help the mint leaves release their flavor.
2. Pour in the ginger beer, fill glass the rest of the way with ice, top with lime slice and a few mint leaves.

This cocktail has quickly become my go to favorite to make or order when we're out somewhere. I love that it's not to sweet, and also very refreshing, with just a hint of spice from the ginger beer!

You can check out the rest of the Thirsty Thursday recipes I've shared HERE!

July 14, 2014

Quick Trip: Monterrey & Carmel

Last weekend after all the fourth of July fun, we were feeling a little spontaneous, so we decided to take off to Monterrey on Sunday morning to visit the Monterrey Bay Aquarium and then spend the night in Carmel! Here's a quick little recap, for memory's sake.

First stop, the candy store that's conveniently located inside the parking garage. Happy as a kid in a salty water taffy candy shop! Luckily he was easily convinced when I told him that this candy wasn't for us -- whatever that's supposed to mean, I do not know, but it worked!

The volunteers at the aquarium are so nice (I suspect this is because the intern spots at the aquarium are a hot job to get for all the college kids in town, so they get top pick!), and one of the spotted him fumbling with my camera to get a shot of Owen in front of the sign and offered to take out picture! I hate asking for the favor, so I really appreciated it being offered.

We had a nice time letting Owen lead us around the aquarium without trying to force him to any exhibits in particular. My favorite are the jelly fish! They're so graceful and beautiful, and the light in there is really interesting. Owen wanted to (of couse!) touch them!

There is a puffin (that's what's in the picture to the left) in one of Owen's books, and he likes to be silly and always tells us the bird is called an Owen. He's got a silly sense of humor! He loved getting to touch the starfish, and was pretty good at remembering to use "two finger touch". He did NOT want to leave the area when it was time to move on.

Possibly the neatest part of our visit was getting to see the new Tentacles exhibit. The promise of a real live octopus was actually how we got Owen in the car that morning. All of the octopuses, squid and cuttlefishes were neat, but the Giant Pacific Octopus really stole the show! This one seemed huge to me, but is actually just average in size (6ft across if you extended it's arms). The largest one on record weighted 600lbs and was 30ft tentacle to tentacle.

We had a nice lunch at The Fish Hopper after finishing up at the aquarium -- it's just beyond Bubba Gump's. The view of the bay is beautiful from the restaurant, which provided us all with some lunch time entertainment. We had clam chowders, Owen had a hot dog, Keith liked the IPA they had and I had the harvest mule (like a moscow mule) and it was fantastic. Overall a good spot for lunch!

After lunch we played on the beach in the little cove outside the restaurant. There was live music being played and the weather was gorgeous!

After we were done in Monterrey we drove the short drive to Carmel and checked into our hotel. There are so many nice places to stay in Carmel, and we actually had a few to chose from even though out reservations were last minute. We decided to stay at The Normandy Inn, right on Ocean Avenue, since it was the shortest walk to the beach. Overall we liked the hotel, and it served it's purpose for us, even though it wasn't the most up to date room.

We had a really hard time deciding where to go to dinner that night. I was really set on wanting Italian and we both just wanted to kind somewhere that was appropriate for toddlers. The last time Keith and I spent the night in Carmel was when I was pregnant with Owen and we remember thinking that it wasn't exactly a vacation spot for children since there aren't a lot of restaurants that are meant for them. Anyway, we ended up at La Bicyclette, which wasn't really a place for kids, but they said they'd take us, and it was getting late so we took what we could get! It was a nice place and would be great for a quiet little dinner. Next time we'll do more restaurant research before going.

It was a lovely little getaway, and just enough time down there to make us happy to head home in the afternoon! In the morning we got coffee and a quick breakfast, and walked down to the beach. It was the perfect morning!

July 11, 2014

National French Fry Day!

Our son loves french fries! Honestly, what toddler or adult doesn't? I know I've never met a fry I didn't like, our devour. Problem is, fried food is so bad for you and your waistline, so I try to stay away from buying them or cooking them at home. I usually chop potatoes and bake my own and I would happily serve them to my family at home more often if I didn't have to do so much of the prep work myself. Well, that day may have finally arrived, my friends!

Let me introduce you to CravON!'s Never Fried French Fries! These fries aren't like any other frozen french fry though, they are never fried and have only 5 ingredients, so there’s no funny business — just the pure potato taste that comes through when you use real ingredients — the kind you can pronounce.

CravOn! fries taste amazing. Crispy. Delicious. Hot. Potato-y. Perfect to enjoy alone or as part of a meal.

That's why I was so excited when the nice people at CravON! asked me to create some french fry art with Owen in honor of National French Fry Day (Sunday, July 13th)! He definitely didn't need too much encouragement to eat the fries, but it was still so much fun building little scenes with his snack and lunch foods, and it got him to eat some broccoli and blueberries too!

Let me show you some of what we created:

Dinosaur Island
Fries as the ground, Dino Bites as the dinosaurs, broccoli for trees and an orange slice for the sun.

American Flag
Blueberries, fried and ketchup made up this little snack.

Turkey lunch meat cut with a biscuit cutter for the face, sliced bell pepper for the nose, blueberries for his eyes, cucumber for the mouth, cashews for ears, peanut butter sandwich for the body, fries for arms and hair.

I had so much fun putting together these snacks for Owen and he had a great time eating them! It was fun to try a new product that I can feel good about serving my family.

If you'd like to pick up a bag or two of these delicious fries for yourself you can get print a coupon off their website for $2 OFF any variety of CravON! fries! I found ours in the frozen section at Lucky's, but you can use there store locator to find where their products are sold.

Now onto something YOU may be a little more interested in eating! I made my own version of loaded fries using what I had on hand to make Greek style french fry nachos (not sure that makes complete sense, but that's what I'll call them!)

1/4 bag of CravON! ripple cut fries
1/3 cup of taziki dipping sauce
diced tomatoes
diced cucumbers
diced bell peppers
kalamata olives
1/3 cup feta, crumbled

Bake fries according to package directions, cool for a minute or two before piling on all of your tasty ingredients! 

Have a great weekend, and on Sunday I hope you'll participate in #nationalfrenchfryday with some Never Fried French Fries!

July 10, 2014

One Year and Beyond - Keeping Your Marriage Alive With a Toddler

Hello! Welcome to the first installment of the One Year and Beyond series, round two!

We all know motherhood can be difficult, especially with a toddler at home. So we're here to talk toddler issues, mom to mom! For the next eight weeks a group of 10 moms and I will be hosting this series on toddler issues ranging from the joys of summer fun to dealing with separation anxiety, and so much else in between. Each week we will discuss a different subject -- you can find the schedule of topics below.

None of us are experts, but we can all share our experiences and tips, and hopefully learn something from one another!

before becoming parents: young, carefree(ish) and well rested!

Boy has our free-time changed since we had Owen! Gone are the days when we took date nights for granted, that's for sure! We would meet up with friends for dinner and drinks, go on casual dates to the movies and out for pizza, or up to the city to see a show and have a fancy dinner, sleep in, spend our time however we wanted -- we basically did what our hearts desired with little thought to planning ahead. These days, a lot more planning and scheming has to be done if we want to get some time alone together, besides the hour or two between Owen's bedtime and when we hit the sheets.It takes extra work to get our quality time in, but it's SO worth it!

since becoming parents: filled with joy, a tad tired and living our dream with our little fam.

Thing is, before Keith and I were married we had a very real idea of what our goal in marriage was. We both wanted children, and a life that revolved around family. So, while the initial change in our lives was a bit of a shock (having a newborn can be a sobering experience for newlyweds!), we have adjusted well to our new "busy" life with a child over the last 2 1/2 years.

This is the marriage we wanted, one where the hours in our days are filled by spending time with our little family -- but we still need a little time for US every once in a while, and here's how we make it work:

We try to get out for a date once a month, if not more. It's not easy making time for "us". We're lucky to have a big family, lots of great friends and tons to celebrate, but this also makes it hard to have scheduled date nights. Thankfully Keith and I both look forward to getting out on our own at least once a month, so we make sure it happens. 

It doesn't have to be a long date, or even at night, but we try to fit something in as much as we can. Even if it means we drop Owen off at my moms for an hour while we run to Target alone, or have Keith's mom watch the monitor after Owen is asleep so we can run out to a late movie. Our "alone time" doesn't have to include getting all done up and a fancy dinner. All that's required is US.

But when we can't get out, we stay IN for date night. At night, after Owen is in bed, we try to close our computers and turn our phones on silent so we can so something together. Here's a list of 15 Ideas for a Date Nights IN that I created a while back to keep our date nights at home interesting and different.
We have fun together, doing whatever we're doing. Like most parents and couples, we just try to make the best of even the most mundane tasks like folding laundry, washing the car, grocery shopping, etc.

We keep positive attitudes. Two of my favorite things about my husband are his happy-go-lucky attitude and his sense of humor, and I believe he likes the same traits in me. No, I don't think we're the funniest people you've ever met, but we get each other's sense of humor and that can make all the difference when you're stuck in traffic with a cranky toddler or are scrambling to make dinner. Even when there are bigger issues in our lives, like after my dad passed away, we know we can depend on each other to lean on and lighten the mood when needed.

We listen to each other talk about the things we don't care much about. Sounds harsh, but please hear me out. He listens to me talk about blogs or whatever, and I listen to him talk about sports or video games. We're each other's bestfriend, and bestfriends lend an ear when you have something to share. It means a lot to me when Keith listens to me talk about what's important, so I know I want to do the same for him.

We make plans. Having something to look forward to together is always uplifting. Planning for something fun to do in the future has always made us happy. We plan to see a movie we're excited about when it comes out. We plan to try a restaurant that sounds interesting to us. We plan vacations.

We dream together. Sounds cheesy, but dreams of more children, owning a home and maybe even a business someday helps us bond. Sharing your hopes and dreams with someone you love (and hearing theirs in return) strengthens your bond.

As I said earlier, we've got a great group of mamas who are offering their advice on getting through those challenging times with their child. Be sure to check out their blogs and then link up your own post on the topic with us below!

July 10: Keeping your marriage alive with a toddler
July 17: Favorite summer toddler activities
July 24: Helping Your Toddler to Communicate (Words, emotions, etc.)
July 31: Dealing with Separation Anxiety
Aug 7: Car Trip Necessities
Aug 14: Deciding when the time is right for baby #2 (and/or how to handle these questions)
Aug 21: Tricks for eating out with your toddler
Aug 28: Feeling confident as a mom (How to feel this way, Your struggle with, etc.)