I have a confession to make... I still wear my maternity underwear and my kids are 4 and 7! I'm sure your reaction is the same as my husbands, "throw those damn things away!" For some reason I just can't seem to find replacements that I like. I've ordered probably 4 different types from Victoria's Secret (I'm trying to get my sexy back - failing miserably though!) but I only wear them when my maternity ones are in the wash. I hate spending the money on these things when my drawer is already overflowing with uncomfortable, always "up my ass" underwear. I'm THAT person that you always see trying to slyly pick their underwear out of their butt hoping no one is watching, ha!
Over the weekend my husband said I needed an intervention, an "underwear intervention" and he threw away ALL my "ugly" underwear! I'm embarrassed to admit that this was not my first underwear intervention. When I was in high school my girl friends did the same thing because all I wore were Hanes - you know the ones that come in a package of 5? yeah, those. I had never thought anything of it and thought everyone else wore those too. That's when I was introduced to Victoria's Secret. I had a good run of sexy underwear until.... I had kids!
So, now that I can't fall back on my trusted, oh-so-comfy maternities, I'm going on the quest to find replacements. Please share your recommendations because clearly I need the help :) Surely I'm not the only person that struggles with this, or am I?
I just finished the book, Savannah Breeze by Mary Kay Andrews and I loved it. The story unfolds in ways you anticipate but also with unexpected twists. It takes place in Savannah, Georgia (and Tybee Island - which I had never heard of before!) and makes me want to go visit and buy a boat! The main character is a hard working woman who faces a very difficult situation but learns something new about herself along the way.
She's a woman that has dreams she doesn't give up on and is empowered by calling something "her own". This feeling of knowing you were born to be your own boss is something I can relate to.
And a story wouldn't be good without a love story... this one has a good one! I don't want to give any of it away but I highly recommend you add this to your list of must reads.
Next on my list is Return to the Beach House, by Georgia Bockoven. Can you tell I don't want summer to end :)
Every summer we go to Michigan at least twice to relax and spend some time on the white, sandy beaches. We changed things up a bit this year and went to St. Joseph, Michigan instead of New Buffalo. I'm telling you now so you can book your trip for next summer - it was that great! It took us about 3.5 hours to get there (there was some major traffic on I-80, otherwise you could probably make it in 3 hours).
We stayed at The Boulevard Inn & Bistro in a King suite. At first glance I was worried it wouldn't be kid friendly because it looks "fancy" (as my kids called it). We stayed during the week and it was only $200 a night, parking was free, we were right downtown overlooking the lake and they had a FREE breakfast (with belgian waffles - my oldest's favorite!). The room was perfect because there was a King bed in one room and then the sofa pulled out for the kids to sleep on. And there was a refrigerator and microwave in the room (always handy when you have little ones that have bottomless pits for stomachs!)
Silver Beach is an amazing place for kids... not only is there the beach and Lake Michigan, but there's a full concession stand and a playground. Then about 50 yards away (definitely walkable) there's a splash park, a carousel, a Children's Discovery Zone and Silver Beach Pizza. We spent 3 days here and never once did the kids get bored or ask to go somewhere else.
Spend your day at the beach (it does cost $8 to park down by the beach) and then have dinner at any of the downtown restaurants (all walkable from the hotel we stayed in) and there are plenty of places for a nice cold treat (ICE CREAM!) I highly recommend a family vacation to this spot!!
P.S. I was not paid, nor did I receive a discount on any of the locations mentioned in this write up. I'm sharing because I think more families in Central Illinois need to experience Michigan summers - they are priceless!!
My son has been begging me to make orange muffins all summer. Since school started and he has to take a snack everyday, I thought it would be a good opportunity to try to make something a little healthier than the recipes I've seen. To my surprise, the experiment turned out a complete success and everyone in the household gave it 2 thumbs up. I even hid protein powder and greek yogurt in these :)
1 cup of flour (I used 1/2 cup of whole wheat and 1/2 cup of white flour)
2 scoops of UMP vanilla protein powder
1/3 cup sugar
2 tps baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 TBS canola oil
1/4 cup plain 0% fat greek yogurt (I used the Fage brand)
3/4 cup of thawed orange juice concentrate (I'm sure you could use real juice from an orange and orange zest, but I didn't have any oranges on hand)
Preheat over to 325 degrees. Mix all the dry ingredients together, then put in everything else. Mix until well combined and pour into prepared muffin tins. Bake for 13-18 minutes. This batch made 15 (on the small size) cupcakes.
My apologies for not being connected this summer. We've had a lot going on around here! For starters, my mother-in-law moved in for the summer. Yes, you read that correctly, I had to live with my mother-in-law for 6 LONG weeks. I won't bore you with the specifics, but let's just say I was drinking a lot more often this summer, ha!
As you can probably imagine, it's not easy adjusting to an added house guest. We had issues with food, wine, dishes, laundry, yard work, etc. And the worst part about it was that I felt like I didn't have a voice because every time something bothered me, I'd tell my husband and he'd address it with her when I wasn't around which just made things so awkward! I'm sure I just needed to speak up, but I'm a nice person and I hate bitching at people - it's NOT my style!
Nonetheless, I'd like to think there's something to learn from every experience. So what did I learn from this? No one should have to live with their MIL, ha! Just kidding, well... actually, not really. Aside from learning to really appreciate having the house to myself....
Thankfully, the said MIL has returned to her teaching job and we can enjoy life as we did before. Although I might have to change the locks just to be safe :)
During the school year the kids bring home project after project, papers and more papers. Most of the time, I just throw it away (I feel bad admitting that, but there's no way I can keep everything!) but the ones that make me smile or show their progress in school, I hold on to. Up until now, I've been stuffing all these into the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet, with the intention of doing something with them at some point. Well, I ran out of room and the projects were overflowing in to my work space, so it was time for a new system. I ran over to an office supply store and got two plastic filing boxes and hanging folders. (And the filing boxes were buy one, get one 50% off - love when you get a deal on something you NEED!)
Just as I was in the middle of organizing, I was contacted by a woman that owns a organizing company, Clarity Co., and I wish I would have read this article before hand because she has some great tips. I originally thought it would be easier to not involve the kids, but after reading this, I wish I would have. I like the idea of keeping what was special to them. I don't know why I didn't think of that, but I didn't. I just wanted it organized in a timely manner.
It may have taken all summer to get this accomplished, but at least it's done and there's plenty of room for the upcoming years to store all those art projects that come home.
I love the 4th of July... because of the extra day we get to spend with family and friends, grilling out, playing and watching fireworks. It's probably one of my favorite days of the summer (when the weather cooperates)!
Now that the kids are older and can understand the meaning of the 4th of July, I feel like it's my duty to make sure they learn a little something about it too. So as usual, we hit up the library. They have lots of book options about America and celebrating it's birthday (the signing of the Declaration of Independence). Did you know there wasn't any kind of celebration when it was signed? It was very top secret - there are no records of the happenings behind the closed doors. There's your history lesson for the day, ha!
We thought of all sorts of crafts to do, so we ventured out to our local craft store and the boys filled their baskets with everything glitter. Do you know how much I despise glitter? I hate it! It gets everywhere and on everything and before you know it you leave the house with glitter all over your face! I even had to pick it off my husband's eye lids before work one day, ha!
At any rate, the boys were excited about it and were very persuasive, so I bought all the darn glitter paper, tulle, pom poms and stars. Our 4th of July projects were tie-dye shirts, a wreath, and wind socks.
Of course, I couldn't find a "kit" with just blue and red dye, so I opted to buy the actual, old-fashioned dye that you have to mix with salt and hot water. I haven't tie dyed anything since girl scout camp, so I was a little rusty on how to actually do it. Thank goodness for the internet and www.ilovetocreate.com for their video instructions.
We tried 2 different techniques to see how they'd each turn out. I used 4-5 rubber bands on each shirt (a couple broke because my youngest thought it'd be fun to wrap the rubber bands around his arms and legs - he learned quickly that was NOT A GOOD IDEA!)
After this step, the boys wanted nothing to do with actual dying of the shirts. I'm not going to lie, I didn't really mind because the clean up process what much easier since there was no mess :) The first shirt that is in a circle I had to use a spoon and pour the die on each of the triangles, doing a red/blue/red/blue pattern. The other shirt I just dunked each bunch in the dye.
After taking the rubber bands off and showing the boys, they were elated with the results. I, on the other hand, was not impressed at all. It looks like I just threw paint balls at the kids! Apparently, I need a lesson on how to master this art - or maybe next time, I'll just go buy the tie-dye shirts!!
The boys loved making wind socks and they have enjoyed hanging them in their bedrooms. I wouldn't recommend using this glitter paper though because it's very hard to work with - I had to use a stapler to keep everything together (you can see the staples if you look closely). Not to mention, glitter paper is 10 times more expensive than regular construction paper. But the end result is actually pretty cute.
4th of July Wreath
To make this wreath, I bought a styrofoam wreath and 5 rolls of tulle, glitter tulle of course. All I did was cut the tulle in strips, about 15 inches long and just tied them around the styrofoam. My oldest was able to do most of it, but it took awhile! After about 2 hours of cutting and tying we were finally done and the amount glitter that was on the table and floor was INSANE! But... it does looks awesome!
We were proud to hang it by our front door and show it off to the neighbors. Well, about an hour later, the wind blew it off and it broke into 2 pieces :( I put it back together with paperclips and then tied it to the nail outside. Another hour later, it blew off and broke again - UGH!! Every time I fixed it, that just meant more glitter everywhere and I was officially over this darn wreath.
So now, it hangs INSIDE the house in our front window. And the boys know it is VERY fragile and not to touch it, ha!
Let's hope that my 4th of July recipes turn out much better than my crafting attempts!!
Our first theme of the summer was the ocean. So, I went straight to pinterest to find everything ocean themed. I found some great ideas that I'll link to below. First thing was first, we needed to hit the library to get books about the ocean. And boy did we get a lot of books - ones about the largest creatures, the scariest, sea shells... you name it, we probably had a book about it!
One thing I've learned already is that this theme of the ocean can't just be covered in one week. Not only did I want the kids to enjoy their first week of summer, I also didn't want to disturb any free play where the kids weren't fighting. So, we didn't get done nearly as many "ocean" projects as I had originally planned.
We actually already had this ocean floor puzzle, so this worked out perfectly. Not only did it get the boys working together to assemble it, but then they had to find and count each of the listed animals at the bottom. You can find this on Amazon for less than $13 or check your local library, they usually have a great variety of puzzles!
I found this next activity on Pinterest and the first time I tried to get the boys to help, they weren't in to it at all. So I waited a couple of days and tried again. This time around, they really got in to it. We researched how big some of the ocean animals we were reading about were, then we drew out a measuring tape on the driveway. The person who posted it on Pinterest started with a whale that was 100 feet! Our driveway isn't 100 feet long, so we stuck with smaller animals. Once we got the measurements chalked out, I had the boys lay down to mark how big they were. Then we drew a 6 ft sea turtle, 9 ft dolphin, and a 20 ft great white shark. They loved seeing how their size compared to the sea creatures.
I had gone to hobby lobby to buy the supplies to make "handprint lobsters" but once I got the paint out they were no longer interested in making hand lobsters. They wanted to make their own ocean landscape, so who was I to tell them to do differently! So, if your kids want to make the cute little handprint lobsters, click here for a visual (there are also some other great ocean crafts listed too!) Sometimes you gotta let go over your controlling side and just go with the flow :)
The boys sifted through my Pinterest crafts and they liked the idea of doing an "ocean in a bottle". I would not recommend this craft unless you actually have all the necessary ingredients to make it on hand. I went to 3 different stores just to get all the supplies. I went to Hobby Lobby to find sea creatures small enough to fit in a bottle and they were $10! Next time, I'll just cut out foam fish and call it a day! I went to Target to get the baby oil, and then to Lowe's to get the sand. After 3 stops, I was over this craft!! We waited another 2 days before actually assembling the darn things. Although it was a chore getting everything, the boys have enjoyed looking at them, shaking them up and then watching how everything settles back into the layers.
We ended our ocean week with a trip to the Shedd Aquarium. It was awesome to say the least! If you haven't been up there, I highly recommend going. We've been twice in the last year (if you know you'll visit at least twice, I suggest getting the membership because it'll save you money in the long run) and every time the boys find something different that they love. This visit they were obsessed with the jelly fish - how they don't have any bones or brains - My oldest was baffled at how something can move without thinking, ha! I told him he had a younger brother that moved constantly without thinking :)
Since I did a post about my mom on mother's day, it's only fitting to do one about my dad on father's day. I've always been a daddy's girl and he's always been my biggest supporter. My dad was always willing to help make my dreams come true and I'm eternally grateful for that. Like many little girls, I had a dream of competing at the olympics as a gymnast. He spent a lot of his time at gymnastics meets and a lot of money on training, camps and equipment. For my 13th birthday he got me a trampoline for the backyard! He never batted an eye, when I asked to go on a week long gymnastics camp in Texas to train with the legendary Bela Karoli. Unfortunately, all that training and hard work couldn't make up for the fact that I kept growing and eventually got to be too tall for gymnastics. So, I switched to volleyball, ha! I think he welcomed this switch because the games weren't nearly as long as gymnastics meets and it wasn't quite as expensive :)
My dad is an accountant by trade, so he thinks about money and how to save it all the time! I probably inherited a little bit of that too - a trait my husband is thankful for! He's also a successful entrepreneur - he owns a printing company (bopi) and also a horse farm (Hunter Oaks). I've known for a long time that my career path would eventually lead to entrepreneurship. I'm always grateful to be able to call my dad and ask for advice or for references on who to call for help.
My dad is an awesome grandpa to my kids. My oldest is obsessed with his homemade waffles and asks at least once a week, "when can we go to grandpa Tom's and have waffles?" Actually, the whole family never misses an opportunity to eat his waffles - they are THAT GOOD!!
Whenever my kids are around my dad, they always have smiles on their faces. He knows how to make them laugh, how to wrestle with them, how to compete with them and most importantly how to love them. It's a joy to be able to watch your parents make that connection with your kids. It just melts your heart!
So Happy Father's day, to my one and only Dad - Life wouldn't be the same without you! Thank you for everything you've done for me, thank you for everything you've taught me and thank you for being an awesome grandpa! We love you with ALL our hearts!!
A little love for my husband - the father of these crazy boys we have!
I also need to give a little shout out to my husband because he's a great father too! Ryan always told me he'd always have boys and never any girls - well he was right. I love my 2 little boys, but Ryan definitely knows how to parent boys because sometimes I think he still is one :) What's that saying? Men are just boys with bigger toys... SO TRUE!!
Those 3 are like little cub lions - they wrestle, chase and run circles around each other and love every minute of it (well, until someone gets hurt!) Pictures say a thousand words.... and from them, you can tell that he loves being a dad to these two and they think he's the best thing to ever walk the planet!
Side note: the black and white picture of Ryan with our oldest on the soccer bench is one of my favorite photos!
Summer has finally arrived as the kids are just days from being done with school. I can't believe how fast the time has gone. Every year, I go in to summer thinking we're going to have a schedule, keep the kids doing their school work, have fun and engaging activities every week and then by mid-summer I inevitably let the boys watch 3 hours of TV so I can get stuff done. My goal for the summer is to not let this happen, ha!
I've been doing some research and have come up with a plan. We have our morning routine already mapped out.
I would like to incorporate some sort of theme every week to keep the boys engaged in learning. A great resource I've found is A Mom with a Lesson Plan blog. She has some great ideas on how to get kids involved in projects and learning new things.
So, this weekend we're going to sit down and come up with things we'd like to learn about this summer. Maybe it's different countries, animals, science projects, historic people, or art. Then every monday morning the boys will take turns drawing out one of the themes. Our goal for the day is to plan our week and go to the library to get books about the theme. Then we can come up with food we can make (if we're doing countries), art projects, outdoor activities, and so on. I've learned that the more the boys are involved in the planning the more cooperative they are in doing the activities!
Every week, I'll post our theme and what our plan is so you can follow along or incorporate the same lessons we're doing :)
In the meantime, we've already started our "bored jar" for the summer. When I've failed the plan and I hear, "what can we do, I'm bored," they can go pick an activity from this jar.
Melissa Ash - mom of 2 energetic boys, wife, and business woman. Just trying to "do it all".