Mom Life

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Minimalistic Diaper Bag Essentials | Mom of 3

My Minimalistic Diaper Bag Journey

If you want to skip out on my journey and just get the minimalism scroll down towards the end.😉 

I have a mom friend who is always pouring words of love and kindness into my life. She is a fellow mom of three (under three) and has always been nothing but kind to me. (Love you, Jen!) One of the things she always encourages me with is my ability to get everything I need for my girls into one backpack.

Today I am going to share a little bit about my journey to a more minimalistic approach to diaper bags, and give love and encouragement to all you amazing mommy’s out there just trying to figure out what you should take with you!

DIAPER BAG| First Baby

With my first baby, I carried a large diaper bag. It was always full and pretty heavy. My oldest daughter had severe acid reflux, so I definitely have no regrets with the number of clothes, burp cloths, and blankets that I would bring. However, if I had to pack the bag over again as a new mom, I’d probably leave out the full and complete first aid kit complete with thermometer, tylonal and other baby medications – unless I was going to be out when she needed her reflux medication.

DIAPER BAG | Second Baby

When my second daughter was born; and I had a 14 month old toddler to chase I began the journey towards a “hands free” diaper bag. I never quite found the perfect diaper backpack, because at the time they were fairly new on the market and didn’t seem to be comfortable. So, I settled for my husbands college Puma backpack. We literally used this bag until it fell into pieces.

DIAPER BAG | 3 YOUNG CHILDREN

Now that I’ve taken you down a little journey; here are my essentials for on the go with my girls. First things first, you simply MUST have a comfortable bag. I bag of choice is a backpack. I prefer a backpack because I am working really hard on my posture and I find that I tend to slouch more when I use a shoulder bag or cross-body. However, if backpacks aren’t your thing, grab an awesome bag that YOU love!

*This post does contain affiliate links. If you decide to purchase anything from my link, it will cost nothing extra for you but my family will receive a small commission. Thanks a million for your support of this blog. *

My Essentials

Not included in the bag, but always with us would be our water bottles. My favorite bottles are these camelbak water bottles; and I am usually able to find great deals on them at places like Burlington Coat Factory, Marshalls and TJMaxx.

What are your essentials?

Let’s chat about your diaper bag journey? Did you start a minimalist or are you also a recovering over-packer? I’d love to connect with you!

Watch the Video

Which Beach Body Program is Right for me? | Autumn Calabrese Edition

Okay, Autumn… you win. I didn’t want to believe that the Beach Body Programs would really be as amazing as seen on Instagram – but they are. They really are… Congrats. ⭐️

**Disclaimer** I am not a Beach Body Coach. I’m just a mom sharing her personal thoughts on these three programs. 😉 If you are interested in finding a Beach Body Coach, leave a comment and I can direct you to a couple of amazing ones!

Programs I’ve Completed

I’ve officially completed 2 programs and I got almost 70 days into 80 Day Obsession before leaving on a cruise,…

21 Day Fix | The Original

I first complete the original 21 Day Fix back in January of 2017. The first time through the program, I found myself completely motivated and on track with everything for the first two weeks. By week 3 I was struggling – but I finished it!

 READ ABOUT MY RESULTS HERE. 

I tried many times to complete the program again, and never made it beyond week 1. I believe this is because in the original 21 day fix, you complete the same workout videos on the same days for 3 weeks in a row. It became really boring, and I literally couldn’t do it… #21dayfixfail

80 Day Obsession

In September of 2018, my youngest daughter turned 2 and I was still carrying the extra weight (perhaps plus some😉) from my pregnancy. (Welcome Baby # 3) I decided to give the 80 Obsession a try. I made it through about 70 days and then I went on a cruise.

September 2018 | Start of 80 Day Obsession

21 Day Fix Real Time

Right after finishing Transform 20  I decided to give the 21 Day Fix Real Time a try! I’d heard great things about the program so I went for it! I LOVED the program.

Materials Needed for Each Program

If you are on a budget but want to try one of the programs you will probably want to start with the original 21-day fix.

21 Day Fix

Materials Needed*:

  • Yoga Mat
  • Weights

21 Day Fix | Real Time

  • Yoga Mat
  • Weights
  • Exercise Bands

80 Day Obsession

  • Yoga Mat
  • Weights
  • Excise Bands
  • Discs

Program Recommendations

The easiest of the programs is going to be the original 21-day fix. You get into a routine with the meal plans and the same workouts each week. If you are really structured or are trying to get into a fitness routine, this might be the best one for you.

After completing 80 Day Obsession and 21 Day Fix Real time, I have to say 80 Day Obsession might be easier than 21 ay fix Real Time… Crazy to say it – but with 80 Day obsession you complete weights in reps and the workouts will take you about an hour. 21 Day Fix Real Time you are doing many of the same moves but for an entire minute. I was much sorer after completing the 21DF Real Time workouts than 80 Day obsession.😱

If time is an concern, stick with the 21 day fix program. Each workout is only 30 minutes and you are going to get results (if you stick to the program).

I loved 21 Day Fix Real Time and am excited to move onto 21 Day Fix Extreme! Be sure to keep up with my workouts in my Instastories and let me know in the comments below, when do you work out?

Stay Connected

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*Storybook Erin is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Our Summer Routine | 3 Kids 5 and Under

Summer is here! For many people, it means a more relaxed routine. Your kids can sleep in a little longer stay up a little later. Travel, and lots of other fun things. However, there is another group and that is those like me. Those who have spent the last 4 or 5 years living the dream… ☺️#stayathomemom #momlife

We’ve set our own schedules, schedules that fit our needs as a stay at home mom and now we are approaching August and we’ve got to start getting ourselves and our kids ready for the transition into a full day of school.

Why I Created a Summer Routine

Since I find myself preparing for life with my two oldest in school for the majority of each day, and I am a creature who prefers consistency (as does my middle child) I decided to be very intentional with our time and scheduling this summer.

I began this journey on June 1st and have seen so many positive results with my children’s eating habits, sleeping and even behavior (read: less fighting, more playing together)

A little about me…

If you are new to my little corner of the internet, Hello! I’m Erin. I’m a stay-at-home mom to three amazing kiddos! After years of being kid-free, we were blessed with three girls. We’ve made it through the baby years, and are moving up to school-aged kids. Prayers accepted. 😉

A day in my life…

In September of 2018, I started teaching with VIPKID and I absolutely love it. Since I teach part-time with VIPKID, I get up at 5:22 each morning and prepare for classes. I teach from 6-7:30 on a full teaching day or 6:30-7:30 on a more typical weekday.

At 7:15 a.m. my children start waking up. My AMAZING husband will greet them, help them brush their teeth and play with them while he gets ready for work and I finish teaching.

From 7:30 – 8:30 in the morning, the girls are going through their morning routine, of getting dressed and eating breakfast. I typically drink 20 ounces of water and then around 8:30 a.m. the girls can have their first screen time of the day.

From 8:30 – 9:30 I allow the girls to have a little bit of screen time while I get a workout in. I do my workouts at home and have been loving the beach body programs. I’m not a Beach Body Coach and I don’t drink their shakes, I just truly enjoy the programs.

 Check out my results from Transform 20 

Around 9:30 a.m. the girls are typically hungry again so I feed them a snack and I also keep myself some brunch.

10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. No more screen time. The girls can play dress up, read stories, play games or play with toys. They can do anything that want, except watch Television. Between 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. the girls will eat lunch and have some more time with their toys.

Afternoon our afternoons are usually pretty much the same as our morning with the exception of an afternoon movie and snack. My girls have really been into watching movies as a family, so in the afternoon I usually snuggle up on the couch and watch a movie with the girls before starting dinner.

One thing we’ve started enforcing this summer is pre-dinner clean up. Since the girls are spending a significant amount of time playing with toys my house can get pretty messy with toys. Each evening while I cook dinner the girls will have to clean everything up.

Dinner is served around 6:00 p.m. and then we finish cleaning up their room, clean the kitchen, sweep and mop the floors (every single night) and jump in bed for story time around 7:30 p.m.

It’s not perfect I’m sure but it’s what has been working for us. Our girls are waking up happier, I’m not feeding them snacks all day long and I absolutely love hearing them play (together).

My house is a mess, and my kids are happy. What more could a mom ask for?

Erin | StorybookErin.com

What’s your Summer Routine like?

I’d love to hear what your summer routine is like. What types of food your kids are loving, any fun trips you have coming up! Let’s chat!

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Let’s Stay Connected!

Find me on Instagram , Twitter and Pinterest!

TRANSFORM 20 | Review & My Results

Full disclosure, I am not a Beach Body Coach. These are my genuine thoughts and results from the Transform 20 program. If you are interested in purchasing the program, I can direct you to some friends who are affiliated with Beach Body.

About TRANSFORM 20

Transform 20 was developed by Fitness Trainer Shaun T. One thing I’ve noticed about Shaun T’s programs, is that he works hard to create programs that are efficient. He does a variety of types of programs, but the Transform 20 is the shortest time commitment per day and the results are great!

Transform 20 has three levels

  1. Commit (2 weeks)
  2. Climb (2 weeks)
  3. Conquer (2 weeks)

Each day you will have a 20 minute workout, with a warm up three “transformers” and a cool down. Each day you track your transformers and at the end of the program you will be amazed at how far you can succeed.

My Personal Results

I’ve decided to break this down into two parts. The first being visual and scale victories and the second being non-scale victories.

Scale and Measurements

The bad news is, the scale went up. During this program, I did my best to stick with the eating plan but the fact is I could have done better and the scale showed that. So, I went up by 2 lbs.

Even though I gained 2 lbs throughout this program, I lost 1.5 inches.

So, I call it a win.

Non-Scale Measurements

My non-scale victories for this program far outweighed the disappointment of gaining 2 pounds. At the end of this program, I felt so strong. I felt physically strong as well as mentally strong.

5 Reasons I loved it (from a Mom’s perspective)

  1. Only 20 minutes
  2. QUICK transitions
  3. No equipment needed for beginners
  4. Built in rest day
  5. FUN

Since the program is only 20 minutes, you can put on an episode of Paw Patrol and get to work. Before the episode is done, you are already cooling off. This is PERFECT for mom’s with little ones.

I also loved that I didn’t need any equipment. No equipment means no set up and no clean up.

If Paw Patrol isn’t capturing the attention of your kids, let them join you! My girls fell in love with the high-energy of the program and we truly had fun doing it together.

When do you workout?

When do you like to workout? I like to workout in the morning. After my workouts I always like to check in on Instagram – are we friends?

Getting Started with Bi-Weekly Grocery Shopping

GROCERY SHOPPING

Grocery Shopping can be such a chore. It doesn’t matter if you are a single person shopping for one or shopping for a family. Grocery shopping is something that connects us all. For many years, grocery shopping was that once a week chore that I simply dreaded – even before kids.

I’m not exactly a master chef and let’s face it – I’d rather be doing other things with my time. (Sound like you?)

In November of 2018, my husband and I were chatting about our grocery routine. It’s hard for me to go by myself, it’s hard for us to take all three girls, and it was just such a stressful situation.

When all three girls contracted the flu, it had been days of zero sleep, take out and no groceries… That’s when I said to my husband we have to try this Walmart Grocery everyone talks about.

So, we did.

I’ve been using it ever since. In January of 2019, we started our bi-weekly grocery shopping journey and haven’t looked back. I am still fairly new on this journey, but it’s a journey nonetheless and after many requests on my instagram account, I am sharing my tips and lessons learned so far!

WHY I SHOP BI-WEEKLY

Anytime we are making a significant life change, and let’s be honest grocery shopping is a big part of our lives we should know WHY. Why am I switching the way I shop?  

I find when I can attach purpose to something, I am more committed. Here are a few of our families reasons for bi-weekly grocery shopping.

  1. TIME SAVING
  2. MONEY SAVING
  3. SANITY SAVING

Time Saving

For our family, grocery shopping for the week took about 2 hours out of our weekend. Between the driving to the store, shopping and coming home it was about 2 hours. It meant that on either Saturday or Sunday I we would have to plan that time to be at the grocery store.

Since moving to bi-weekly grocery shopping, I am only spending time in the grocery store 2x a month instead of 4x.

A word of caution; the first couple of times you shop this way you might find you miscalculated your needs. We used to run out of essential items ALL.THE.TIME!

Money Saving

Initially, you might not see how this will save you money. However, if you stick with it you will find that the less you are in the grocery store the less often you throw additional items into your cart.

I used to get trapped by the “stock up and save” technique. Truly, all that ended up happening was me having an abundance of items I didn’t really want or need.

Sanity Saving

I promise you, I’m a much happier person know I don’t have to shop for groceries every weekend.

Perfect for Pinning 😉

TIPS FOR GETTING STARTED

Now that I have established my why I challenge you to take some time to establish your why. If you’ve made it this far, you’ve clearly considered it. So, think about your personal schedule and family needs, perhaps this will work out well for you!

  1. USE A CALENDAR
  2. MEAL PLAN EVERYTHING
  3. BUY A LITTLE EXTRA

Use a Calendar

It does not matter what planner you use, just use a system that you know you will keep up with. My husband does literally EVERYTHING digitally, I am more of a paper and pencil type of gal. My favorite planner is the *Erin Condren but I’ve also used free ones printed from the internet and this one from *Amazon. At less than $7.00 it’s a great pocket-size option.

Once you’ve selected your calendar, use the month view to plan out your meals. Make sure you plan every single meal. This includes any snacks for your family or snacks you might need to take to a child’s sporting event or school function. Plan everything out. Visually seeing your two weeks can help you get a realistic idea of the amount of food you need. Trust me, it’s more than you realized.

Meal Plan

I really enjoy following Amanda from The Fundamental Home. I’ve gained so many good tips and tricks for stretching my budget from her. One of the things I learned from her was making a list of everything you know how to cook. I have a very simple list on google docs. Every time I try a new recipe that works out, I just add it. Then, when I’m planning our menu, I have a list of ideas readily available. When I heard her say that on a video, my mind was literally blown. Such a simple idea and a helpful tip!

If you want to be successful with bi-weekly grocery shopping, you need to make a meal plan and stick to it. Discipline is essential to your success with this.

Buy a Little Extra

Even if you are meticulously planning out your meals, there is always room for error. The first couple of times we did our grocery shopping this way we ran out of essential ingredients such as milk, bread, and eggs. This would cause us to go to the store, see a deal and fill our carts with random things we didn’t exactly need. Buying a little extra will help your budget in the long run.

WHAT ABOUT FRUIT AND VEGETABLES?

A common question I get on my Instagram is what I do about fresh fruit and vegetables. I haven’t found a way to keep my strawberries and bananas fresh for two weeks, but I have found that there are certain items that will definitely last.

Items like; apples, carrots, and cabbage will typically last two weeks.

Items like; lettuce, berries, and bananas typically won’t last.

To decrease the amount of waste, I only purchase those types of items for one week and then for the second week we eat many frozen vegetables, frozen fruit and apples.

Walmart Grocery

In November of 2018, I switched to Walmart Grocery. I was previously shopping at Aldi and found amazing deals. However, I just can’t beat the convenience of Walmart Grocery. I can take my time at home picking out my groceries, creating a meal plan and then order the groceries online. The groceries are loaded into my car and the whole process takes less than an hour. I cannot say enough good things about Walmart Grocery. Anytime I have been given an item that was poor quality, I have been refunded for the purchase (without going back into the store) and if an item I ordered is out of stock, it is substituted with an equal or better item.

I truly love Walmart Grocery! If you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend it. With this affiliate link, we both get $10.00 off our groceries.

STORYBOOKERIN ON YOUTUBE

If you are interested in more of what types of items I buy plus the meals I typically make, head over to this short video.

THANK YOU

Thanks for stopping by my little piece of the internet. I’d love to hear from you. What are your favorite meals to make for your family?

With Kindness, Storybook Erin

UPDATED | 10 Stroller Recommendations for Walt Disney World

UPDATED | Stroller Policy Announcement

The internet is buzzing this morning with the latest from Walt Disney World! As of May 1st, 2019 there are three major changes to the Walt Disney World Parks. One of which is the size of strollers. You can read about other two changes here.

What does the Policy Say?

[This post contains affiliate links]

Thoughts from a Mom of 3 Stroller-Age Children

As a mom of three children ages 5 and under, I must admit I had an initial panic when I heard there were new guidelines for stroller size. Strollers are important for a successful (full day) at Disney. I’ve been known to ditch the stroller a time or two, ultimately I beleive that strollers are an important piece of equipement at Walt Disney World.

Does My Stroller Fit?

My friend Keri did a post not too long ago asking our group of Disney Mom’s what stroller they recommend for Walt Disney World. In that post, I recommended the City Select I love my City Select, It’s absolutely perfect for a family with mulitple children. However, when I saw the dimensions, I knew it was likely not going to be suitable for the new guidelines. The guidelines state that the stroller must not be longer than 52 inches and wider than 31 inches.   So, does my favorite stroller fit with the new guidelines? Yes – but barely.

I measured my stroller the old fashion way (with a tape measurer) and my favorite stroller is almost too big for Walt Disney World. It measured at exactly 52 inches long.

Double Stroller Recommendations

Since my City Select is a little on the large side, and if I’m being honest it can be tricky to maneuver with large crowds, here are some options for strollers that fit the new WDW Stroller Guidelines.

BOB Revolution Flex Duallie 2.0 

If I had to pick an absolutely favorite double stroller for maneuverability, it’d be the BOB brand. I trained for my first Marathon with a BOB stroller and the quality of this stroller is absolutely worth the investment.

SOURCE

phil&teds Dot Compact Inline City Stroller with Double Kit

I found this stroller while search “slim double stroller” on Amazon. It fits well under the new stroller guidelines but has very limited storage space. I think it would be perfect if you have smaller children, but I’m not sure an older child would fit comfortably in this stroller. It’s worth a look – the reviews are mixed. |UPDATE: Jennifer from https://lovedwellshere.com/ has this stroller and says it surprisingly has more storage than you’d think and recommends it to other moms!

The MacLaren Twin Triumph 

If you are looking for a more simple umbrella type stroller for two, you might check out this one. I love that the canopy has a UPF50+ sun canopy. As we all know, protection from the sun in the Florida heat is so important. Especially for our little ones.

Chicco BravoFor2 Standing/Sitting Double Stroller

This stroller was released just after I had my third baby. I didn’t purchase it because it didn’t have enough reviews. Would you believe I still think about this stroller?  I don’t regret purchasing my City Select for a minute but I do seem to have a silly fascination with this stroller. It just looks so amazing! Perfect for families with older and younger children who still need a stroller for little rests. This stroller would not work if two of your children needed to nap at the same time.

This post focused a lot on double strollers. Simply because the new policy has really affected those of us who still require a double stroller for the parks. If you double stroller is too large for the parks. I might also recommend a single stroller and a great baby carrier.

When we traveled to the parks with an infant and 2 year old we typically only took one stroller and our favorite baby carrier. The Lillibaby is amazingly comfortable and even has a zipper pocked large enough for your phone, a snack and a small wallet. It’s perfect for being hands free!

Mom’s Favorite Single Strollers

Here are several options for single strollers!

The City Mini is one of the top recommendations among my mom friends. It’s even the stroller my sister purchased when she was expecting her first. It’s lightweight, easy to steer and comes in adorable colors!

BOB Revolution Flex 3.0 Jogging Stroller

Graco Strollers in general are great because of their amazing storage.

Baby Trend Falcon Jogger Stroller  

Baby Trend is known for their affordable options. At less than 200 dollars, this is a great alternative to some of the more expensive jogging style strollers.

I certainly couldn’t do a stroller recommendations list without mentioning the UPPAbaby CRUZ  these strollers are so sleek and beautiful. It’s a little on the pricy side, but a stroller is an investment for many years. You want to purchase one that lasts.

Umbrella strollers are perfect for families who don’t need a lot of space for diapers and supplies. But, do require a place for an older child to sit and rest for a bit during a long fun day at the parks!

Thank You

Thank you for reading, I do hope you found this post helpful as you plan your trip to Walt Disney World! W

Join my Disney Fans Group (It’s FREE)

If you love Disney and are planning a trip, I’d love to have you in my group! Looking for when the best time to visit WDW would be? Check this post by my friend (and co-admin of the group) Keri! Disney World Weather and Crowds By Month: When To Plan Your Visit

JOIN HERE!

More Great Content!

Oconauftee Visitor Center | Great Smoky Mountains

Hands-On Learning in Cherokee!

The Oconauftee Visitor Center

If you are traveling through The Great Smoky Mountains, do yourself a favor and stop by the Oconauftee Visitor Center. This cute little visitor center is full service, and “green”. (Read all about the “green” features here!)

The beautiful visitor center, and clean restrooms aren’t the only perks of stopping here on your way through the Great Smoky Mountains. This visitor center for also be a destination for an educational experience. In my opinion, meaningful learning experiences are crucial for children to thrive in school. The Oconauftee visitor center was such a highlight of our North Carolina vacation, because of the face-to-face experience with history.

Things to Do at the Visitor Center

Outside of the visitor center, you can take a short walk to an open-air museum featuring a barn and other buildings that have been taken from the mountains and preserved for guests to see. The museam is set up to give guests an idea of how people would have lived 100 years ago in the mountains.

In addition to the village, there are indoor exhibits featuring images, artifacts and other information life in the Great Smoky Mountains. My girls enjoyed seeing how butter was churned. There is also a 20-minute informational video and a paved walking trail to enjoy.

The visitor center is open every day (except Christmas) at 8:00 a.m., and the closing time varies between 4:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. depending on the time of year. You can find hours and contact information on this website.

In addition to the educational component this particular visitor provides, there are stunning views of the mountains and if you are driving through early in the morning you might catch a glimpse at some Elk grazing in the field.

We loved all the stunning mountain views and couldn’t resist a family photo or two. Before you leave, make sure you pop into the visitor center and get a stamp for your national parks passport.

The Street Address

1194 Newfound Gap Rd, Cherokee, NC 28719

Sharing is Caring

If you found this post helpful for planning your trip, I hope you’d do me the honor of sharing.

More Fun Things Nearby

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HVcVeD7QEM

*This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for you support of StorybookErin.com

5 Thanksgiving Books to Read with your Preschooler

The Importance of Reading

Around the age of 5 years old, children will begin to read. It’s an exciting time in the life of a child. One of pride and accomplishment, another step in the direction of independence. The road to reading begins LONG before your child reads or even says their first words. Research even recently proved that reading aloud to children actually changes their brains. – Read about the study here. 

When should I start Reading aloud to my children?

Now. Right Now.

I believe that no time is too soon to start reading aloud to your children.

Even when your baby is still in the womb, reading to your children will create such a special bond. Your baby will start to become familiar with your voice. I remember when my first daughter was born. Even in her earliest days she knew our voices and would love to listen to her dad read stories to her.

Preparing Our Hearts for Thanksgiving

Happy First Week of Fall!

It doesn’t feel like Fall here in South, Florida with temperatures still in the 90’s. However, since Pumpkin Spiced lattes have arrived, it must be time to start preparing our hearts for Thanksgiving. Last year during the month of November we worked on memorizing a bible verse together and created a little bucket list of things to do together.

This year we have been reading through several books to help prepare our hearts for the season. Also, since the girls are a little bit older (4,3 & 2) they are able to understand more about the first Thanksgiving.

Top 5 Thanksgiving Themed Books for Preschoolers

These books are not ranked in any particular order. These are just five of the many Thanksgiving themed books we have been enjoying this season. This post does contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase it won’t cost anything extra for you, but our family will receive a small commission. I thank you for your consideration and support.

‘Twas the Night Before THANKSGIVING

Written and Illustrated by Dav Pilkey.

This story is about eight students who ventured off onto a field trip to see Farmer Mack Nuggett and his 8 tiny turkeys. During the field trip, the students learn about the farm and befriend the turkeys and you won’t believe how the story ends…

My girls loved the rhyming and adorable watercolor styled images in this story.

Balloons over Broadway

Written by Melissa Sweet, A Caldecott Honor Winner

A Thanksgiving tradition for our family is to participate in a turkey trot.  However, for many families, it might be to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Balloons over Broadway is a whimsically written story based on the history of the Macy’s Day Parade.

In this book, you will learn all about how Tony Sarg began his work for Macy’s by designing the window decor, and eventually started the famous balloons we watch each year on Thanksgiving morning. This book was also awarded The Robert F. Sibert Medal.

 

The Thanksgiving Story

Written by Alice Dalgliesh and Illustrated by Helen Sewell

This book is a great way to introduce your preschoolers to chapter books. There are limited images in this book, but with 5 short chapters (2-3 pages) this book is a great tool for 1) teaching your child about Thanksgiving and 2) reading comprehension and recall. This book also received the Caldecott Honor.

 

Turkey Trouble

Written by Wendi Silvano and Illustrated by Lee Harper. 

Follow along as one turkey discovers he’s in trouble. This cute little story is a quick and easy read for your family. One that’s sure to make you laugh.

Bear Says Thanks

Written by Karma Wilson and Illustrated by Jane Chapman 

The “Bear Books” are a popular series of stories written by Karma Wilson. Each story teaches an important lesson for toddlers and preschoolers. Bear Says Thanks is no different.

This story recreates the first Thanksgiving, and Bear learns to be grateful. With large beautiful images and limited text per page. this Story is perfect for your toddlers and preschoolers. It is also an option for beginning readers.

These are just five of the books we’ve been reading to our family. There are so many more available. Comment below, what are your favorite stories to read to your family during Thanksgiving?


Looking for more fun things to do with your Preschooler for Thanksgiving? Check out this Pinterest board

The Umbrella Sky Project, Coral Gables FL

About the Umbrella Sky

Located in the heart of downtown Gables, Florida the Umbrella sky is certain to delight visitors of all ages. Created by the Sextafiera company in Portugal, the Umbrella Sky project began in 2012 and has been installed all over the world.  Coral Gables, Florida is one of only three cities in the United States to host this project.  (The exhibit was in Pensacola, FL in January of 2018).

According to the Facebook Page, the mission of this project is “Coloring Life and Making People Smile”. Mission Accomplished, this exhibit is adorable. You can’t help but see the connection with Mary Poppins in this exhibit, which brings such a fun Disney-inspired experience to South Florida.

One you won’t want to miss – and you better hurry. This exhibit leaves Coral Gables in September of 2018.

If you are interested in finding out about similar projects, check out their website. My favorite was the all pink umbrellas!

Where to Find The Umbrella Sky Project

Address

2349-2301 Salzedo St, Coral Gables, FL 33134

Parking

There is plenty of metered parking and garages throughout downtown Coral Gables. Just make sure to bring some change. We parked around the corner from the exhibit and parking was about 2.50 per hour.

How long did you stay? 

I went to the exhibit with my sister-in-law and a friend and we stayed about 1 hour inside the exhibit. We took our time taking tons of photos and really enjoying the atmosphere. You could definitely make this into a half-day or longer trip if you opted to eat in one of the many cafe’s under the umbrella sky.

My Philosophy on Encouraging Art Appreciation

As a mom of three young children with completely different personalities. I make every effort to expose my children to multiple experiences. I want my children to be well-rounded adults with an appreciation for the arts, nature and academics. Opportunities to get outside and experience beautiful art exhibits are the perfect way to show the beauty of art in a way that’s exciting for young children and toddlers.

So, if you want to encourage your children to love art, expose them to age-appropriate art exhibits from a young age. Encourage and foster the love for creativity!

Comment below: What are some art exhibits in your area, we love to travel!

Whimsical Photo Opportunities

The Umbrella Sky makes for some of the most beautiful and whimsical photos. Perfect for couples, families and children. We brought a blanket with us and snapped lots of fun photos with the girls. If you want to capture photos without too many people in the background, I recommend going around 9:30 or 10:00 in the morning. This is before the cafe’s open so there will be less traffic in the area.

What to Bring to the Umbrella Sky

If traveling with young toddlers or babies. Bring a snack and water. Under the umbrellas it does get a little warm, especially with the summer heat. I forgot our water bottles in the car, and my girls were quite thirsty.

You might also want to bring a blanket or any props you might want for your photos. We saw lots of people with brightly colored umbrellas. I went with the Mary Poppins inspired Disney Bound with my dress (found on Amazon).

Hurry, this exhibit leaves South Florida Soon!

This exhibit is set to leave Coral Gables in September. So don’t delay! Make plans to visit soon!

This is perfect for a Mom’s Day Out, Girls Brunch, Family Day, Date… Perfect for a fun outing! A Must-See in Coral Gables, Florida! Be sure to tag your photos with #umbrellaSky on social media and join the conversation!

Three BEST Breakfast Dishes (according to my 3-year-old)

The Importance of Breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast helps wake you up and get your body ready for the day. From my own experience, when I start my day with a glass of water and something small to eat I tend to make better choices throughout the day. My children also tend to eat better throughout the day when they’ve started their day with a meal.

Additionally, when I first started my weight loss journey in 2012 one of the first things I did was to make time for breakfast in the morning. I firmly believe that eating a healthy breakfast in the morning was key to kick-starting my weight loss journey.

Here is a photo of me when I first started my weight loss journey with a photo of me last fall. – The biggest thing I remind myself is that I am worth it. This August I am getting back on track with my weight loss goals and reminding myself that I am worth it  and You are too!

3 Best Breakfast Dishes (according to my 3-year-old)

If you didn’t know, my daughter has requested to start making “cooking movies”.  This particular video is one that she asked to do, and I thought it was actually a really great thing to share. She gives her top 3 favorite things to eat for breakfast. So, I do hope you’ll take a moment to go watch her video and give her a big thumbs up!👍🏼

Breakfast One

The number one thing my children request for breakfast is scrambled eggs with cheese. We recently purchased some round plates at our local Target, and they were perfect for making the eggs into a happy face.

Eggs kind of get a bad reputation sometimes. However, they aren’t as awful for you as you might think. Did you know that just 1 large eff has 6 grams of protein? They are also packed with lots of nutrients that help boost your brain power, vision and keep you feeling full longer. – Go ahead, google it! Eggs are a great breakfast for your kids!

Breakfast Two

Muffins! or, Breakfast Cupcakes. Muffins also have a bit of a reputation for being an unhealthy breakfast. Yes, there are a lot of muffin recipes out there that fill you up with empty calories. However, with this recipe, you are loading your kids up with Kale (and they might not even realize it!) 😱

Kale is such a great vegetable to include in your diet. It is rich in so many vitamins and nutrients, including Fiber, Protein and Folate. Do your brain a favor and have some Kale.😊

Breakfast Three

Mickey Waffles.

Mickey Waffles are a Saturday tradition in our home. Everyone in our family loves waffles, and who doesn’t want to eat a Mickey Waffle? If you want to make this option a little healthier, I recommend the recipe for the 21-day fix cookbook. It is made with whole-wheat flour and other quality ingredients. My children have been eating their waffles this way for so long they prefer whole-wheat waffles to any other.

*This post contains affiliate links. I appreciate your consideration of supporting this website with your purchase.

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How I save money on our family hair cuts.

Money.

Money. Yep, you need it for everything. Truth be told, I am naturally more of a spender than a saver. Let me insert a clip of me…😅

via GIPHY

Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But, the sentiment is the same. I am not a naturally frugal person. I am getting better though, and one of the ways I’ve become more of a DIY girl is with my haircuts.

Saving Money with Shark Tank

I was up late one night binge watching Shark Tank, and I saw a product that allowed you to cut your own hair.😱 I was so impressed by this product and inspired to try it out that I ordered one from Amazon. I figured if I could cut my own hair, and the hair of our three children with this product for at least one time it would be worth it to try.

A haircut for my hair typically costs around 25-30 dollars and a child’s haircut is very similar in price. A creaclip retails on Amazon for $30.00 and is available on PRIME. – Yes. Please!

See how Easy!

In order to use the product, just follow a few easy steps.

  1. Brush out all the tangles in your hair.
  2. Put the creaclip on towards the top of your hair.
  3. Make sure it’s level.
  4. pull down to where you want to start cutting.
  5. Cut.

Benefits of cutting my own hair

As a mom of three very young children, I just don’t have the extra time to head out to the salon. I also don’t really change my hairstyle that often. For this season of life, I prefer my hair to have enough length to put into a braid or a bun and be on the go with my family. The Creaclip saves me TIME. 

The creaclip also saves me money. Even if I only use it 2 or 3 times, I have more than broken even on the cost of the product.

Favorite Hair Cair Products

This post contains affiliate links. My family and I appreciate your kindness and support.

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Frugal Meal: Recipe for Taco Chicken Rice Casserole

Recipe for Taco Chicken Rice Casserole

When I welcomed our third daughter into the world, our dear friends brought over this most amazing casserole. It was Taco Seasoned chicken with rice, black beans, and some other ingredients. I’m pretty sure I ate most of the pan by myself!  Since I loved the recipe so much, I decided to re-create a similar casserole. In my version of this recipe, we use fewer ingredients in the casserole and serve more things on the side.

Recipe Ingredients

The ingredients for this casserole are simple, and can most often be found in my kitchen.

  1. Boneless Chicken*
  2. Taco Seasoning
  3. Rice (we like Brown Rice)
  4. Olive Oil
  5. 1 Can Black Beans
  6. Cheddar Cheese

* You can also use ground chicken, turkey or beef for this recipe. The only difference is, instead of using a slow cooker you will want to cook it in a pan as you would if preparing tacos.

Recipe Instructions

  1. First Cook the Rice. We like to use a rice cooker but it isn’t necessary. You can cook it on the stovetop if you prefer.
  2. Add Taco Seasoning, onions and water to Chicken. Cook in the slow cooker on high for about 4 hours.
  3. Once the Rice is done, add 1 cup cheddar cheese and black beans. 
  4. After the Chicken is done, shred and add to the bowl of rice.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees until done.

WATCH THE VIDEO

This recipe is so easy my 3-year old is able to help me put it together! – Be sure to subscribe to our Youtube Channel! 

This recipe pairs great with Corn, Tortillas and all the ingredients you’d find on a taco bar.  My favorite way to eat this meal is with tortillas and sour cream with a few tomatoes. What items do you like to include on your Tacos?

 

Favorite Kitchen Products

I will be the first to tell you that I am not really into kitchen gadgets. In fact, I prefer to have as little as possible. I guess the kitchen is the one area I’ve mastered Minimalism?

These next few products are affiliate links. It costs nothing extra for you if you decide to make a purchase, but it does help our family and we appreciate your support.

This is an upgrade from the slow-cooker that I have. It doesn’t have anything fancy, but it gets the job done. I’ve had mine for a few years and I really like it.

Rice Cooker! This is the one product that I didn’t know I needed until I had one. Mine was given to me by my mother in law when she got a larger one. I love it and use it almost every day.

Glass Baking Dishes

I love glass baking dishes so much. I think they are perfect for all occasions and are easy to clean.

The Question of the Day:

What are your must-have products for the kitchen?

 

PIN FOR LATER

 

I let my Toddler do my Makeup Challenge!

Makeup Challenge

I’ve seen the challenge where you allow your children to do your makeup floating around Youtube for a while now. Since my three-year-old is really into makeup I thought it’d be the ideal challenge to do with her. As a mom of multiple children who are close in age, I really try my best to find ways to connect with each of the girls. This challenge was an absolute blast, and I literally had tears in my eyes as I watched her excitement.

Makeup Challenge Video

I was inspired by my friend Bethany from The Pintastic Girls to do this challenge, and I’m so glad that I did! Watch the video here, be here to leave a thumbs up or comment! If you like following our family, we’d l love it if you’d hit that subscribe button!

Makeup Products Used

Here are a couple of the products used. I allowed her to use my actual makeup products and felt she did a great job being careful with them. As much as I love these products, I am always curious to find new great and affordable products. Leave me a comment with some of your favorite products below!

These links are affiliate links. If you decide to buy, it costs nothing extra for you but my family does receive a small commision off of the sale.

Milani Conceal and Perfect

I was introduced to this product by my friend Julie – Follow her on Instagram for hilarious makeup tutorials, and encouragement! I do love this product, but it feels a little thick going on so just be sure to have some really good brushes or a damp beauty blender for the application. It wears really nice throughout the day and I have found that I don’t use concealer when I use this product.

 

Wet and Wild Mega Glow Highlight

This product is amazing. It has become my favorite product for doing my makeup in a hurry because I can use darker pink shade for an eyeshadow, and also the highlight for that Instagram worthy glow!

Real Techniques Brushes

Several years ago Real Techniques sent me some brushes to test, and I’ve been in love ever since.

Mascara

I usually stick with wet n wild mascara, I find it to be easy to apply and long wearing.

As mentioned before, I am in the market for some more makeup so be sure to leave me a comment below on your favorite makeup products!

StorybookErin.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

What’s in my (Disney) Bag: First Aid Essentials

Walt Disney World is equipped with incredible First Aid Stations. I’ve personally visited them and directed guests to them on a few occasions. – They are AWESOME! Although Disney does provide this (free) resource for their guests, it isn’t always in a convenient location. That is why I like to pack a few essentials in my backpack!

If you do end up visiting First Aid, you will get an adorable little Nurse Mickey or Nurse Minnie sticker. My kids thought this was so adorable. They would wear them with pride!

What’s in my First Aid Kit

First Aid Kits are important for mom’s to have. No matter the ages of your family, I think it’s important to have a few essential items with you. As a mom with three young children (4,3&1), I tend to keep mostly infant and toddler-friendly items with a few essentials for my husband and me.

This post contains Affiliate Links

First Aid Essentials: Mom and Dad

The few items I like to keep in my backpack for a day at a Disney park for my husband and I include:

  • Tylonal or Ibuprofen
  • Eyeglass cleaner
  • Bandaids

 

First Aid Essentials: Infant and Toddler

  • Tylonal or Ibuprofen (with the proper dosage information)
  • Travel Size Diaper Rash Cream
  • Tums

First Aid Essentials: Other Items

There are a couple of other items that I like to keep with me when in the parks.

  • Small notebook with a pen
  • Thermometer
  • Hair ties
  • Comb

Here is a video I made to show you have I pack everything inside a small cosmetic pouch. I hope this was helpful for you as you plan a trip to Walt Disney World with your family!

What items do you keep in your first aid kit? Leave me a comment with what you recommend! If you are looking for more tips for planning an epic Disney Vacation, be sure to check out this post! 

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My 2018 Mother’s Day Wishlist!

This Post Contains Affiliate Links.

Mother’s Day can be a little tricky, what do you purchase the woman who gave you life? Admittedly, I am not the best at remembering to actually send a card. (Mom is still waiting for her Birthday Card from earlier this month). So, if you are a little stumped on what to get the mom in your life, here are a couple of my top picks!

Mom’s Who Like Cleaning

There are mom’s out there who actually enjoy cleaning. If I had to pick between cleaning and cooking, I think I’d fall into the cleaning category, so here are a couple of cleaning products that are on my list! – Anything that will make cleaning a little easier.

Spin Mop

I saw this on the Do it On a Dime Youtube channel and have wanted one ever since! Anything that makes my mopping process go faster, is on my list!

Method Cleaning Products

As a mom of young children, I am extra cautious with my cleaning products. I love the brand Method, because it is non-toxic. I’ve switched most of my cleaning products over to this brand. I love the way it cleans and smells!


Cleaning Towels

Another item on my list is this microfiber cleaning towel set. I love cleaning with microfiber because it doesn’t scratch or leave any lint. I’d be pretty excited to open this up on Mother’s Day!

Mom’s Who Like Customized Pieces

Let’s face it, sometimes we just like to have those cute little pieces of jewelry to showcase our family! I found Cajun Keepsakes on Instagram and have fallen in love with her work. She hand-stamps all her pieces and has a pretty quick turn-around time. She was kind enough to give me a discount code. Make sure you use STORYBOOKERIN on www.cajunkeepsakes.com for 10% off your purchase.

Here are a couple of my favorite mother’s day pieces! 

Mother’s Necklace

This necklace is adorable and can be customized for either a mom or a grandparent. I love that you can put the birthstones on the item as a subtle way to showcase your children. This appeals to me because I am very guarded with my kid’s names, I don’t like to display it too often.

Purchase it here! 

Mama Bear Necklace

I love the way this piece is so customizable.  If you aren’t into the style with the name on a long-bar that’s totally cool! Keli is so flexible and easy to work with. She can customize it however you wish!

If I were to order this piece, I think I’d just put the Mama Bear plate with the birthstones of my girls. – What would you do?

Order the piece here.

Mom’s Who Love Fitness!

We all want to stay healthy and be the best version of ourselves. – Right? So let’s treat the moms in our lives to some brand new fitness gear! If you saw my instastories the other day, you saw I had to throw away my sneakers. It was pretty sad, those shoes carried me through the zoo, half marathons, and life during my third pregnancy. If my shoes were worn out, I’m sure the mom in your life could use another pair.

New Shoes!

Fitness Watch

Another item I’d love to have is a new Fitbit. One that would be more useful for all types of fitness. I’ve got my eye on this one, but haven’t seen enough reviews to commit to purchasing it.

Fitness Clothing

Here are a couple of my favorite fitness clothing items.

This visor is so comfortable, and I have used it for all my outdoor running. Trips to the park, the beach, and zoo. I find it to be a staple in my wardrobe.

These shorts by under armor are awesome! I’ve worn them for years, and they are the most comfortable pair of shorts I have ever run in. They are great for running while pregnant, or with your new postpartum belly.

Mom’s who love Disney

The Disney Store has been releasing some ADORABLE things and I am totally geeking out!

What are you going to buy for your mom?

Toddler Activities Featuring Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is one of my favorite stories. I first discovered it when I was doing my student teaching internship, and fell in love! There are so many activities to do with this book and can be modified to encourage learning at any age. I’ve been using this book for the last couple of months, and today I wanted to share some of the fun activities we have been doing.

About Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

The book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom was written by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault, and is a number one best seller on Amazon.com This simple story helps children identify all 26 letters of the alphabet in a fun and rhythmic way. The beginning starts with a challenge from the Letter A to the Letter B, claiming that they will beat them to the top of the coconut tree, as you can imagine, the dare trickles down the alphabet and to find out what happens, you’ll have to read the story.

Here are a couple of my favorite ways to use this story to encourage higher learning with my toddlers and preschooler.

Music: Chicka-Chicka Boom Boom

Did you know this book has also been translated into a song? This adorable song has helped my 2 and 1-year-old learn their alphabet. It is absolutely adorable to hear the voice of my sweet little 1 year old try to sing her alphabet to the tune of the song.

You can find the song by searching Chicka Chicka Boom Boom on Youtube or purchase it from Amazon Music*.

 

Art: Draw the Coconut Tree

An activity for all ages is to actually draw the coconut tree. I purchased some large drawing paper and crayons from my local Dollar Tree.

Reading: Letter Recognition

Since the entire story is about the alphabet, this story is great for helping children identify their letters. To help me understand exactly what my girls are understanding and how much they know about the letters, I developed a quick little Letter Quiz.

The front cover of our book as the enter alphabet, both upper and lower case letters. Before reading the story to my girls we would open the book and I’d point to a letter and quiz the girls on them. This is especially important because it’s easy to memorize the letters and what comes next, but are they really understanding the shapes of the letters? When you quiz them in this fun and casual environment, you can really see what they are understanding!

Reading: Book Knowlege

Perhaps it is the teacher in me or the fact that my husband is a librarian – who knows. But, we always take our time to go over the parts of the book with our girls before reading. This simple task will increase your child’s vocabulary, and assist in school readiness.

Build Vocabulary with your Children

Math: Counting

Confession time, Math is not my strongest skill. I’m actually a little terrified for when my kids start school because I’m pretty sure their math homework is going to intimidate me a bit. Even though I am terrible at Math, I try very hard to incorporate math into daily routines, even with simple things like reading a story.

Ways to encourage Math with Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

  • How many pages?
  • Count the Letters of the Alphabet.
  • Can you count the letters on the coconut tree?

As you can see, this book can be used in so many ways to encourage learning with your toddler and preschooler.

The question of the Day: What is your favorite children’s book? 

 

Storybook Erin is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

 

 

Why every Toddler Needs Kinetic Sand!

I was first introduced to Kinetic Sand while studying for my undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education. I remember a professor talking about how she’d used in a classroom with students to have them practice their letters in a way that children who are more tactile or hands-on learners – now that I have three toddlers of my own, I have a new appreciation for just how incredible this product is and why I think every mom needs to have some of this stuff in their closet of toddler friendly activities!

Before I get into my favorite benefits of Kinetic Sand, let me answer the question you are all asking.

What is Kinetic Sand?

Kinetic Sand is a product that can be molded without easily losing its shape. It has the texture of wet sand but is not messy and is non-toxic.  Since it is non-toxic it is great for children, but adult supervision is strongly recommended.

What’s so AMAZING about Kinetic Sand? 

Relaxing Texture 

Imagine you are playing with a sand-filled stress ball. This same sense of calm you receive while playing with the stress ball applies when playing with kinetic sand. This semi-mess-free activity will give your toddlers hours of quiet playtime. Just be sure to supervise your children while playing in the sand, because it definitely can get messy if you are not actively playing with your children.

Imaginative Play

Due to its moldability, Kinetic Sand is the perfect product for multiple role-playing experiences.

Does your child love trucks? Create a big sand pit for him or her to drive the trucks through.

Does your child love water? Check out this floating kinetic sand, it’s perfect for the water-loving toddler in your life.

Learning Letters? Practice writing your name in the sand.

Truly the possibilities are endless!

Fine Motor Skill Development

One of the things I love about Kinetic Sand is that your children will be learning and also strengthen skills without even knowing it. As your children mold and shape the sand they will be developing hand strength. You can also have your children create shapes, or practice scooping and pouring the sand, all these activities help them develop!

What are you waiting for? Go get some Kinetic Sand!

 

FAT-SHAMED at Davids Bridal!

Fat-Shamed

I have the great honor of standing up next to my future sister in law as she and my brother in law exchange their wedding vows this Spring. I didn’t imagine the struggle finding the perfect bridesmaid dress would be nor did I anticipate being fat-shamed at one of the most known bridal shops around.
 
David’s Bridal, this is for you…
on behalf of every other curvy girl who has to deal with your store and employees.
 

An Open Letter, My Story

Dear Davids Bridal,

Have you ever tried to make an appointment on your own site? 5 redundant steps with the last one being a second confirmation of the appointment?  I arrived at my local Davids Bridal and was greeted by two girls who seemed quite annoyed at my existence. When they couldn’t find my appointment, I was told I’d have to wait – the two girls then proceeded to talk about their personal plans and lives while still trying to gather information from me – After a few moments one girl says to me…
“do you have the brides phone number of not?!” 
I responded with
 “I was waiting for your personal conversation to end so I could give it to you” 

After a few minutes, I was greeted by a third (annoyed) employee. Every other word out of her mouth was how she wasn’t working the next day, and she’d had a rough day. She brought me the dresses I’d requested and then disappeared. Thankfully, I had my husband there to help me try everything on so I could make a decision and leave. The appointment was quite tense and the employee made no effort to assist in helping me find a dress.

Every time she came to me, her words were negative
“your back doesn’t look good in that dress”
 
 “are you sure you like that?”
 

 it just didn’t end, and I was feeling overwhelmed with her negativity.

To make the situation worse, I wasn’t able to get into one of the dresses that was the exact same size and material as all the previous dresses (that had been loose), so I asked her to verify that the dress was labeled correctly. 

Her response was quite sharp, and she says
“Yes, that’s the size. I didn’t bring you the wrong one”. 
 
 her sharp response frustrated me because she just wasn’t listening.
So when she brought a larger size of the dress, I showed her how the one she originally brought me was 4+ inches smaller than the other dresses of the same material, and it HAD to be mismarked.
 
That’s when she said it… words that hurt me so deeply and have rung in my ears for over a week. Words that put me in tears for hours, words that no one should ever have to hear. 
“You don’t know how big you are” 
I took a deep breath and responded with,
“WE ARE DONE TALKING!” 
Once in the dress that was now about 3 sizes too large, I asked her why the size she originally bought was $129.00 and the one I was wearing was 189.00.
She grabbed the tag from the dress I’d questioned and says…
“Oh, this is a Junior Bridesmaids dress. 
That’s why it’s cheaper”
(EXCUSE ME????)
She THEN proceeded to tell me that someone ELSE must have put it in the wrong place.
She Never took responsibility for bringing me the wrong dress
and she never apologized for her words.
I got dressed, grabbed my husband and left in tears.
Davids Bridal, you are the worst of the worst.
I hope I never have to set foot in your store again.
– – –
 PIN FOR LATER 

Family Goals for 2018

Happy New Year!

Back in October, I started thinking about all the things I wanted to accomplish in 2018, I started making an amazing worksheet and had big plans. Sadly, the worksheet never came together and I decided I’d just think about all the things that will happen because let’s face it – who has time for goals? Let’s LIVE in the MOMENT for  2018!

Our Family 

New Years 2018 Camping Trip

In 2018 our family will give each other countless hugs, explore new parks, try new foods, have a meltdown or two, take a really BIG trip to Walt Disney World and go to sleep every night knowing how loved we are.

Chris and Erin 
Everglades National Park 

In 2018 we will celebrate 10 years of marriage, we will stay up way too late soaking in the silence once all three girls finally go to sleep for the night. We will dream big, make mistakes, kiss each other goodnight, and thank God every day for the gifts of our sweet girls. 
Little Lady
Little Lady will continue to grow, and experience new things. She will find her way as she transitions from being home with mom and sisters to a big PRESCHOOLER. She will make me cry when she puts on her backpack for her first day of school, and she will probably continue to ask for far too many glasses of Chocolate Milk per day. 
Love Bug 
In 2018, the love bug will continue to be the most passionate of my three girls. She will test me as we practice using the toilet, and probably cause me to lose a little bit of my hair. She will continue to make me laugh so hard I snort with her sense of humor, and continue to blaze a new trail in fashion. 
Lady Bug 
In 2018 this sweet girl will continue to flourish and find her voice as the third of three sisters. She will keep us on the edge of our seat, and probably give me a few grey hairs with her fearless style of living. She will transition from a crib to a big girl bed, and from a bottle to a sippy cup. She will begin to have meaningful conversations with us and be a constant reminder to me of how God can work in a life.  God has used her mightily in my life, and I am forever thankful for my littlest love. 
What will happen in your life for 2018? 

Christmas with Toddlers, How we are doing things a little differently this year.

Christmas is such a loved season, by so many people – myself included. I love it so much, I had a Christmas themed wedding and got married on the Saturday before Christmas 9 years ago.

Now that we have children, it’s a whole new level of excitement.  Everything from the candy canes, Christmas Stories, Meeting Santa, and Decorating Gingerbread houses is exciting for them, and because of their excitement, I am also more excited for Christmas this year!

But even more than the fun of the season, I wanted my girls to see Jesus in the season. I wanted them to know the reason why we celebrate Christmas, and I wanted them to love Jesus. 

So, how do I foster of love for Jesus in an over-commercialized holiday? We talk about him, and the reason every, single, day. We read about the nativity story, act out the Christmas Story, and play with the nativity scene.  We also decided that this year, my husband and I would not purchase gifts for our two older girls (3 and 2). Instead, we have decided to let the girls pick our gifts for each other. 
It’s been such a treat to listen to them talk about it, and honestly, there is nothing I could buy that would excite these sweet girls as much as the much-anticipated trip to Target.  
Additionally, we have been counting down to Christmas using an approach inspired by Esther over at Story of this Life, She wraps a gift for her girls each day in December and has them open it and they read the scripture verse together. Our family started on Tuesday, December 12th, by reading the passage and playing with the piece of the nativity scene. So far the girls are really into it, and I am so thankful that Story of This Life made a printable so I could easily do this with my family and so can you! – Get yours on their Blog! 

SOURCE: STORY OF THIS LIFE
  

Raising Kind Girls in a “Mean Girls” World

When I was pregnant with my second daughter, and quickly approaching the season of life known as “2 under 2” I was given plenty of “advice”. I was told things like…

“all they will do is fight, from birth to adulthood”
and 

“it’s really too bad you aren’t having a boy, 

girls are too competitive with each other” 

Um… Thank you?? 
I’d often be in tears while talking with my husband about the things people would say to me and then, I gave up listening to the “advice” of the people who seemed feel as though the relationship of my two children would be strained from birth.  
Why am I going to let other people’s opinions shape my expectations of how my two children would treat each other?

Didn’t God give these girls to MY husband and I to raise? 
So, when our Zuzu-bug was born I made a conscious effort to guide their friendship, and help them to learn from a young age to work things out together and no matter what, to always love and support one another!

Do I have two perfect daughters who never fight or disagree? 
No, I don’t. 
Do I have two girls who love each other fiercely? 
Yes. 

So how did I encourage kindness with my girls? 
1. Model.

Our children are like sponges. Literally, EVERYthing we do, they see. For example, my husband has a cough and is in the practice of coughing into his elbow. What did our 1-year-old start doing when she developed a cough?
Yep. She’s coughing into her elbow like a little grown up. 
If we want our children to be kind and respectful, we need to check ourselves and be sure WE are being kind and respectful to our spouse, our children, and those we come into contact with. 
2. Define it. 
Children look to adults to learn the meaning of words, it’s so important that we help them understand the meaning. If I want my children to “show kindness” I better be willing to give them concrete examples in their daily life. 
For instance, we can say things like thank you for helping your sister clean up the toys, that was very kind of you. 
Any time you catch your child doing something nice or kind for someone else, TELL them!  

Let praise and compliments fall off your tongue and

 watch their confidence grow! 

There is always a Reason to BE KIND. 


Let’s get real for a moment, shall we? 
Do my children constantly show kindness? No, again. They are young toddlers. However, there are moments when they surprise you. Like the time at Disney when my oldest who was two at the time ran ahead as she saw two employees emptying a garbage can. She stopped, sang the cleanup song (from Barney) and said “thank you for cleaning” The smile on the cast-members face melted my heart and in that moment I knew we were on the right track! 


How can you show kindness to someone today? 


Gift Ideas for the BIG SISTER or BIG BROTHER to be!

Being a Big Sister (or Brother) is a pretty exciting new chapter in a person’s life. I remember when we welcomed my little sister into the world, it was a big deal. Of course, I was 5 years old so I have more memories of the time than I think my 2 and 1 year old will have, but nevertheless, I think it’s important to honor them as their place in the family shifts.

Since I was induced for all of my pregnancies, I made sure to pack lots of items to keep the big sisters occupied while they waited for their baby sister to arrive!

Coloring Books! 

I packed the girls gifts in a small backpack, I used one found at the Target Dollar Spot, but something like this would probably be better quality. 
Inside the backpack we had the following:
  • New Pajama’s 
  • Books
  • A new outfit
  • Bubbles
  • Coloring Books and Crayons!
  • Big Sister Button 

My girls were so excited to receive their gifts and absolutely adore their baby sister!

Question of the day: What would you include in a gift bag for a big sister or brother?

Quick, Easy, Frugal Friendly Sugar Scrub Recipe

Frugal Friendly Sugar Scrub

Disney Springs: Must Do

One of my favorite places to go to in Disney Springs is Basin.  Today I am going to share with you how I make my DIY scrub with just a few ingredients.  Visiting Basin is such a fun experience. I just love all the unique fragrances, hydrating scrubs, and Magical soaps!  One of my favorite products is the body scrub. I love the way it makes my skin feel. Since adding a couple of princesses to our family, we don’t get to shop in Disney Springs or visit Basin very often anymore. When I realized that I could make my own at home with only a few ingredients, I was thrilled.

Basin sells a jar of their body scrub for around $35.00, but you can make your own with just three ingredients that you might already have in your home!

Uses for the Sugar Scrub

I recently used to create party favors for my sister in law’s baby shower. This recipe was so easy that my three-year-old was able to mix the scrub and help assemble the jars for gifting. This scrub is great for gifts, or to use personally in your home.

DIY Body Scrub

Some of my favorite essential oil scents to try. 

  • Lavender
  • Lavender and Lemon
  • Peppermint
  • Peppermint and Lavender
  • DoTerra Serenity

Why Fractionated Coconut Oil?

Fractionated coconut oil has been processed to remove the coconut scent, and also will not harden in cooler temperatures.

 


Can I use regular olive oil or coconut oil for the scrub? 

Yes. You can certainly use olive oil or the coconut oil for the scrub, I have. However, please be aware that the scent of the oil can be overpowering.

Where I buy DoTerra Essential Oils

I purchase my DoTerra essential oils directly from my mom who is a DoTerra Wellness Advocate. She has used EO’s for many years and has a lot of information on improving health and well-being through the use of EO’s. I’d encourage you to connect with her to purchase some oils of your own.


Purchase Oils Here! 

Instructions

  1. In a mixing bowl add a 50/50 mix of sugar and coconut oil.
  2. Add 10-15 drops of essential oils
  3. Stir until you have created the consistency you prefer
    1. If the mix is too wet, add Sugar
    2. In the mix is too dry, add oil
  4. Store in a glass container and enjoy!

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Disney Tip: 

Basin can be found in two places on the Disney World Property.
1. In Disney Springs
2. The Grand Floridian Resort
I love to go to the one inside the Grand Floridian as it is a much smaller store, and never as crowded as the one in Disney Springs. You’ll also get a chance to check out the beautiful Disney resort! *Pay attention to the floor in the Grand Floridian Lobby, you might spot some Disney Pals in the tile designs.

Feed FIVE people a Thanksgiving Inspired Meal for 15 Bucks!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here in the Jimenez Family, we believe that Thanksgiving deserves plenty of attention and recognition. We do not feel it appropriate to put our Christmas tree or decorations out until after Thanksgiving!

Does anyone else feel this way? – Just us? 


This year is a magical season of life for us. Our girls, ages 3,2 and 1, have simply fallen in love with holidays and love to celebrate them. I mean, it took at least a week for our three-year-old to understand that we couldn’t just go trick-or-treating every day.  Since our girls are really into the holidays, we wanted to make them last and create many positive experiences for them. So I got the idea of hosting a Thanksgiving meal, just our family!

Traditionally we spend Thanksgiving Day in Miami with my husbands family, and then Friday – Sunday in Orlando with my family (2015 Thanksgiving Vlog). We have a wonderful time, but this year, as I said, I wanted to extend the Thanksgiving Celebration and being a family of five on a single income, I knew I had to do it for as inexpensively as possible!

So, when I found a great deal on Chicken at the grocery store, I knew it could be a reality! Here is how I put together a beautiful Thanksgiving inspired meal for my family for under 15.00!

I purchased the chicken at my local *Winn-Dixie, but all other supplies were purchased at Aldi. I’m a new convert to the Aldi obsession and plan to do a full blog post about shopping at Aldi and what I love to buy, so stay tuned!

Menu (with Aldi Pricing)

  • Sweet Potatoes (.89 3lb bag)
  • Marshmallows (.89 1lb bag)
  • Frozen Corn (.99)
  • Frozen Green Beans (.99)
  • Carrots (.69)
  • Stuffing (.89 a box)
  • Apples (3.99)
  • *Boneless Chicken (4.71 4lbs)
TOTAL: 13.15

Putting it all together! 
In general, we keep our meals pretty simple, so adding a few extra side dishes to our dinner was no problem. 
Vegetables
  • Steamed with a little salt, pepper, and butter
Sweet Potatoes
  • I used my slow-cooker technique to make the sweetest, sweet potatoes ever
  • Topped with Marshmallows and melted for a bit in the oven after the chicken was resting. 
Chicken
  • Baked until done with seasonings I had on hand (salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic) 
Stuffing
  • I purchased it but didn’t make it. When I do make it, I like to add apples, onions, and some celery for flavor and crunch. 
Dessert
  • Apple Crisp! 
My husband looked up a recipe, I halfway listened, and improvised on the recipe to create something new, the end result was delicious so I thought I’d share! 
Instructions:
In a bowl mix:
  • 5 Peeled Apples (3 granny smith, 2 Fugi)
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Cinnamon
  • 1 tbs sugar 
Once combined, add to a square baking dish
In a separate bowl, mix:
  • 1 stick of butter 
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup oats 
  • a splash of vanilla
  • cinnamon 
Once it has reached a chunky consistency, add it to the top of the apples and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. 
Serve with Coffee and enjoy!

Over dinner, we read some books from the local library and spoke about gratitude. It was a fun little evening for our family, and I think one we will add to our family traditions! 
I hope this post inspired you to create beautiful memories with your family!  If you decide to take on the challenge of serving a Thanksgiving-inspired meal for under 15.00  I’d love to see photos and hear stories so be sure to reach out on Instagram or leave some comments below! 
Happy Thanksgiving!

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*This post contains affiliate links.

My Breastfeeding Story + Tips for meeting your Breastfeeding Goal

This post has been whirling around in my mind for quite a while, in fact, I wanted to write this post about two years ago when I weaned my first daughter. However, after a complete FAIL at breastfeeding my second daughter, I just felt inadequate.

So, before I get to my tips I thought I’d briefly share my journey with you. When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I was determined to breastfeed for a year. It was going to be so easy – I mean, everyone I knew that breastfed their children made it look so easy, and I took a class so obviously, I’d be a professional right after delivery… right?

I wish I could tell you that it was easy, I really do but the reality is, that it isn’t. My firstborn had severe reflux, and so most of what she ate was projectile vomited back up (super gross, I know!).  As a result, my daughter was breastfed about 50 percent of the time and then 50 percent bottle fed.

She was fulled weaned by 10 months.

My breastfeeding journey with baby number 2 was very brief. We were in the middle of a major life change, and as hard as I tried to breastfeed, I just couldn’t. My milk never came in, and I was so stressed out with our recent move across the state, that I made the decision to bottle feed and it was literally the best decision ever! 
Yes, I said it. The BEST decision ever, one I do not regret for a moment. 
Bottle feeding gave me such a sense of freedom, I was able to allow my husband to help out with the feedings, and get some sleep or go for a run a few times a week.  
In August of 2016, I was fully intending to bottle feed baby number 3. When my second born weaned at 6 weeks old, I was devastated – I spent months feeling like a complete failure. So, as we were approaching the arrival of our third baby I knew I didn’t want to go through that emotional rollercoaster ever again – so I was going to bottle-feed. 
Funny thing about my plans, they almost NEVER work out. So, when we arrived home from the hospital with our darling little girl in September of 2016, I also arrived home with a clogged-duct. Knowing that I could get develop mastitis, I got to work pumping, and feeding. It took about a week, but everything cleared up and as a result, I had established a pretty solid milk supply and my little one had figured out how to latch! 
After 13 months of mostly exclusively breastfeeding, my girl has weaned me and I can honestly say, I am so thankful for the experience. Breastfeeding wasn’t easy, but we made it 13 months, a full 13 months longer than I thought and as she becomes more and more independent I can’t help but reflect on the times I got to hold her close and provide everything she needed. 
 Now that I’ve shared my story from feeling like a failure to breastfeeding a toddler I thought id share a few things that helped me overcome my breastfeeding anxiety and grow to love the experience. 
  1. Find a Tribe
    • Supportive Family Members 
    • Supportive Friends
    • Online Groups
  2. Be Confident in Public
    • Have a good cover, and know how to use it
    • Learn to feed and walk
      • I mastered feeding and walking in two different baby carriers – LIFE CHANGING!
    • Know the law for your state, here in Florida a woman has the right to breastfeed her baby anywhere she is allowed to be (More information here).
  3. Stay Hydrated 
    • Keep a bottle of water near you at all times
      • I prefer one with a straw, it’s much easier to drink out of when your hands are full. 
  4. Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
    • When you are establishing your milk supply, you don’t want to be cutting calories. In my experience, if I didn’t eat plenty of nourishing fruits and vegetables my supply would start to go away. 
  5. Master the Latch and Positions
    • A bad latch can cause serious pain, make sure the latch is deep and comfortable. 
    • I watched several youtube videos from La Leche League to help me understand how to find a comfortable latch 
    • I also spent some time mastering different feeding positions until I found ones that worked for both of us
      • In the evening I would do side-laying position because it was the easiest to get my daughter back to sleep and transferred into her crib. 
What is your breastfeeding goal, how can I help support you in your journey – Let’s connect! 
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Creating Positive Thanksgiving Memories with your Family!

Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away, and here in our home, we have a whole month of fun activities planned! My goal during the baby and toddler years is to create magical memories and build an atmosphere of love and support. I believe it is my responsibility to create real tangible experiences that help my children develop a love of learning and help keep their imagination and their dreams growing.

During the month of November, our family will be memorizing Psalm 107:1. Each morning in November I will practice this portion of scripture with the girls, and then in the evening around the dinner table, we will be discussing and documenting the things we are thankful for. Even though my girls are only 3, 2 and 1, I feel it’s important to encourage an attitude of gratitude. I’d like to make this a family tradition where we can pull the journal out each November and see how things change, or maybe some things stay the same?

Want to join us? Get the conversation going during your next family gathering. 


I’ve also created a Thanksgiving Pinterest board where I’ve been collecting lots of age-appropriate activities to do with the girls!

I’d love to have you be part of my little community on Pinterest, so be sure to give me a follow!

MOTHERHOOD DIARIES: When your last baby turns 1.

It seems as quickly as we entered into the season of life that includes parenting babies, it has vanished. I’ve never exactly shared the struggles we faced when trying to conceive, but it was a struggle and on May 21st, 2013 when we FINALLY saw the words “pregnant” we were over the moon excited! (Baby Number One) 15 months after baby number 1, we welcomed our Love Bug. Life was hard, we welcomed our sweet and spunky second born into the world and then moved away from our support system a few days later.

February 2016
I remember going to the grocery store and purchasing a box of cereal, coming home, standing in the kitchen and eating it – The.Whole.BOX!
“That was strange” I thought to myself, I don’t even like cereal.
Let me go buy a pregnancy test…
Negative.
“Are you feeling okay?” – someone randomly asks me
Yes, I think so…
“Are you still running?” – another person inquires
…Yeah,… I mean…when I can… am I getting pudgy? I wonder silently to myself.
Let me go buy a pregnancy test….

5 Pregnancy tests, all negative.

Then, on February 11, 2016 I took 2 more tests.

Both positive.

It was you, my sweet little Belle.
Our last baby. 

This week is your last week as a baby, and my last week to snuggle you as a baby. Soon you’ll be a toddler.  You will become more and more independent, and although I want to hold onto these sweet baby memories I am excited watch my three toddlers grow.

MOM HACKS: Postpartum Hair Loss & Regrowth!

Remember when you were pregnant, and everything seemed to glow? 
If you, like me, find yourself sweeping up enormous amounts of hair from you floor, or constantly cleaning your shower drains and vacuum cleaners, fear not. 
You are NOT alone. 

Our hair goes through different cycles. There will be times when your hair is in a state of rest, and then will shed. According to what I’ve read, when you are not expecting, you loose about 100 hairs a day. However, once you become pregnant, your body slows down the cycles. Thus, keeping those 100 hairs nicely on your head.

Once your beautiful baby is born, and your hormones start to go back to normal… the cycle returns and your hair begins to fall. With all three of my pregnancies, this happened between 3-5 months postpartum. It’s quite unfortunate that just about the time I was feeling like a human, and getting the hang of motherhood my hair started falling out.


Now that I’ve gone through this process three times, I thought I’d share my tips and tricks for handling the postpartum hair loss chapter in your journey through motherhood. 
1. Embrace it. 
  • My mantra for this season of motherhood, is you are not alone. As with many of the unfortunate side effects and experiences with giving birth, this is just for a season. You are not the only one to deal with it, and even though when you look in the mirror you feel like you are going totally bald, just think of the precious child you brought into this world and know you are amazing and to that little one, you are the most perfect and beautiful woman they’ve ever seen. 
2. Brush Gently. 
  • Treat your hair very gently. Yes, the hair is going to fall – it’s part of the cycle. In my experience, my scalp was very sensitive and using a brush just seemed to make the hair fall worse and it didn’t grow back any faster! So, I used a wide tooth comb and only brushed it when it was completely dry. 
3. Soft hair styles. 
  • You may find that putting your hair up in a pony tale or bun with elastic or bobby pins pulls on your hair and causes discomfort. So, my go-to hair style in the midst of my hair loss was very loosely clipped into a bun, or loose braids.  This seemed to help me not feel like I was going bald, and that I made an effort on my appearance. 
4. Stimulate your Scalp 
  • After my first daughter was born, I used a shampoo infused with tea-tree oil and other oils that are great for stimulating new hair growth. It was one recommended to me at the Salon and I did find that I noticed a tingly sensation, and my hair began to grow back pretty swiftly.  After baby three, I turned to essential oils once again and have been seeing success with them.  I’ve been using what I refer to as my “Rapunzel Blend” and have been seeing lots of new hair growth! 
Recipe for the Rapunzel Blend
20 Drops Rosemary Essential Oils
20 Drops Lavender Essential Oils
10 Drops Peppermint Essential Oils
The Rosemary and Peppermint are excellent for stimulating the scalp for new growth, and the lavender is a nice calming gentle oil that helps keep your scalp healthy. 
How to Apply the Rapunzel Blend
  • Add a few drops to your shampoo and massage into the scalp
Pro-Tip: I like to wash my hair in the evening and find that the aroma of peppermint and lavender assist with relaxation and tension. 


MOMHACKS: Styling New Hair Growth 

Let’s face is, new hair growth can be awful to try and style. Here are my favorite tips for feeling put together when you have crazy baby hairs! 
  1. Wear a hat – This is my GO-TO option for play dates and going out doors.
  2.  Coconut Oil – just a TINY little bit smoothed onto the new baby hairs will give them some moisture, and help put them into place without use of product
  3.  Gel and Water
    1. After baby number two the regrowth was CRAZY, I would put a a tiny little bit of gel in my hands, rub it together then add some water and plaster those baby hairs to my head. 


Help your Baby FALL in LOVE with GREENS!

In the fall of 2013 I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes during my first pregnancy I became very interested in healthy eating and pregnancy. Just what exactly do the babies get, can they taste?

I’m not sure if they can actually taste like we do outside the womb, but tastes are being developed from inside the womb, and eating a healthy diet while you are pregnant is a gift to you AND your baby.

Once you start introducing solids to baby, I like to start giving greens as soon as possible. My pediatrician chuckled when I told him I wanted to start my first born on Kale as soon as he thought it would be okay.  Around 7-9 months is when I introduced greens to my girls, but be sure to talk it over with your pediatrician when starting any new foods.

I am thankful to report that my girls all LOVE Spinach and will even have Kale in smoothies from time to time without an argument, and it’s all thanks to this quick and easy recipe.

Greens Recipe for Baby


Ingredients: 

  • Spinach (or Kale)
  • Apples 
Instructions:
  1. Wash and Peel Apples
    • I like to use a variety of green and red apples to make the flavor more interesting 
  2.  Steam Apples until soft
  3. Steam Spinach for about 2 minutes 
  4. Blend 
  5. Enjoy! 
It’s THAT easy friends!! 
Why I LOVE Spinach? 
Spinach LOADED with essential vitamins such as iron, vitamin A, C and so many more.  Just like leafy greens are recommended for healthy digestion in adults, this fiber rich meal can help keep things moving with your baby. 
I remember with my oldest daughter she would often get constipated when we started introducing solids, every since introducing spinach as a regular part of our children’s diets this has not been a problem. 😉 
Question of the day: Do you prefer Spinach raw or cooked? 
I prefer steamed spinach, but my husband prefers raw spinach to be eaten in a salad. 

(Affiliate Links) My Favorite baby food making products! 

Ninja Blender: http://amzn.to/2qDsTXO
Baby food Storage: http://amzn.to/2r1YfZ2
Space Saver High Chair: http://amzn.to/2rWCeLr
*This post contains affiliate links, it costs nothing extra to you but does help support our family. 


PIN FOR LATER 



Sweet Potato Lentils

Do you LOVE Lentils? 

Growing up, I’m sure I never finished a bowl of lentils or requested them like my kids do (sorry mom).  To be honest, if it weren’t for the recommendation of my pediatrician and mother in law I probably would have never considered making them for myself OR my children! 

With its low in fat, high in protein, iron and fiber properties, this little legume packs a serious health punch for you and your little one. Not only is it super healthy for you, a small bag at the grocery store costs about $1.50, and will last your family for several meals! 

*When did/do I introduce Lentils to my Children? 
Around 7-9 months, I begin introducing Beans and other proteins to my children. I follow the recommendation of my pediatrician and do it very slowly.  So far, all three of my children have been EXCELLENT eaters (as babies…)

*always talk with your personal pediatrician about when and 
how to best introduce new foods to your little ones*


MOM HACK:
Lentils are one of the few legumes that you don’t have to soak overnight before making – so not only is this a great budget friendly meal it’s also quick! 


Sweet Potato Lentils
Ingredients: 
  1. Lentils
  2. Sweet Potato
  3. Carrots
If you are making this for your family and not only  for baby food add some seasonings like Salt, Pepper and Onions. 

Cooking Instructions:
  1. Rinse Lentils
  2. Fill Pot with plenty of water to cover the lentils
  3. Add Sliced / Peeled Sweet Potato
  4. Add Sliced / Peeled Carrots  
  5. Bring to a Boil and let Simmer for about 45 minutes
  6. Enjoy

When making this dish for my baby, I like to blend it in my food processor. It gives a nice smooth consistency and the sweet potato gives it a nice creamy texture. The color isn’t all that pretty, but the flavor is amazing!


This dish is also great for the whole family, you can either serve with some of your favorite rice as a meatless meal, or cook up some pork chops to serve. 

Lentils have become a family favorite in our home, and I hope they will become a family favorite in yours too! 

(Affiliate Links) My Favorite baby food making products! 

Ninja Blender: http://amzn.to/2qDsTXO
Baby food Storage: http://amzn.to/2r1YfZ2
Space Saver High Chair: http://amzn.to/2rWCeLr
*This post contains affiliate links, it costs nothing extra to you but does help support our family. 

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The SECRET to a SWEETER Sweet Potato!

As a mom of three children, three and under I’ve had to develop systems and find ways to make the healthiest and tastiest recipes for my children. I’m no chef, in fact, I personally believe i’d benefit from being on one of the worst chef type shows you see on T.V. However, I have mastered the art of making healthy, and delicious baby food recipes, and I’ll be sharing some of my favorites with you during the month of June!

My tried and tested way of making the BEST and SWEETEST Sweet Potatoes EVER! Before I give you my secret, I wanted to give a little background on how I used to prepare them for my first born.

Before I discovered this amazing hack for cooking sweet potatoes, I would spend hours chopping sweet potatoes and squash to either boil or roast and then blend. Making baby food often felt overwhelming because it took SO long. Then, one day read a little secret, and it completely changed my world!

The longer you roast a sweet potato, the more the natural sugars begin to release and the potato becomes this creamy, yummy dessert WITHOUT adding ANY sugar, or sweeteners.

So, how does a Mom of three accomplish roasting such amazing sweet potatoes?

Hello Slow Cooker. 

Yes, wash those sweet potatoes and throw them in the slow cooker and let them roast for a few hours. It is the PERFECT way to make baby food for your infant, and a side dish for your family.  I use this hack for making sweet potatoes for our family, baby food and even sweet potato casserole.  This hack also works for different types of squash as well.

In order to make this into baby food, just let it cool for a little while then add to your blender with a little bit of water and blend, it makes the perfect first food for your baby.

If you are starting to introduce meat to your baby, these sweet potatoes make the perfect addition to
the meat.

Instructions for Sweet Potato & Chicken Baby Food

  • Roast Sweet Potato
  • Bake Chicken in Oven 
  • Let Cool
  • In your food processor, blend the chicken
  • Add Sweet Potato & Water and blend until smooth
We like to mix all our meats with sweet potato or other squashes, and now that I know I can cook them in the crock pot, no more chopping, peeling or spending additional time in the kitchen prepping the food. Making baby food is easier than you think! 
_ _ _
My Favorite Products for making Baby Food*
Ninja Blender: http://amzn.to/2qDsTXO
Baby food Storage: http://amzn.to/2r1YfZ2
*This post contains affiliate links, it costs nothing extra to you but does help support our family. 

Plan with Me: Erin Condren vs. …

From as long as I can remember I have looked forward to getting a NEW Planner in June, and filling it up with plans, class schedules, due dates, reminders, check lists and all sorts of nerdy things. I kind of felt alone in my love of planning until I ran across some “Plan with Me” videos on Youtube and found that there are whole online communities dedicated to PLANNING!

These are MY kind of people…

It didn’t take me long to find the Erin Condren Life Planner and fall literally in love with the versatility of this planner.  After a solid year of using my Life Planner, I have a big decision to make.

Do I order the new one? 
Do I keep using this one for the remaining months of 2018?
Do I ditch EC all together and try something new?

What’s a girl to do?

Things I LOVE about EC Life Planners

  • Customer Service
    • The Customer Service is amazing, if you have a question or an issue you can contact them on ANY social Media platform or by calling and they will respond. 
  • The General Line of Products
    • EC has so many adorable products, all customizable and I’m obsessed! 

  • The Layout of the Planner
    • I love how you can decide on Hourly, Vertical or Horizontal to fit your needs. 
  • The Personalization
    • I LOVE seeing my initials on my planner, it’s just so adorable! 
  • Coupons and Discounts
    • EC has a great referral program, where the person who uses your link gets 10.00 and YOU get 10.00 off too.
Things I don’t LOVE about EC Life Planners
  • The Price. 
    • At over 50.00 per planner, it’s so hard for my to justify the purchase every year. There are great referral programs, but it’s hard to justify for me right now. 
If I don’t order an EC Life Planner, which will I purchase? 

One of my favorite planners was this Pocket Planner from Orange Circle Studios.

   
Things I like about this Planner
  • Small size, perfect for the diaper bag, purse or backpack
  • Economical – At less than 15.00 you can have an adorable planner without breaking a budget
  • Bright Colors and Quotes – Similar to the Erin Condren, it is filled with bright colors and quotes. 
  • The Layout – This planner has a full month view to jot down big plans or appointments, and also has weekly spreads
  • Extra’s – In the back you will find notes pages and pre-made lists such as “books to read” “movies to see” “vacations to take” 
Another Planner I love and have used in the past is the Lily Pulitzer Planner
This planner also has lots of fun prints, quotes and even includes Stickers it’s a great choice for the student or mom who loves to have a paper planner.  
The Final Planner I’ve been looking into and thinking about purchasing for 2018 is The Happy Planner
I’ve seen this planner all over Youtube and Instagram lately and seems to be very close to by beloved Erin Condren Life Planner. It seems to have plenty of space for me to write my daily to do lists, blog ideas, meal plans and other mom life items. 
What about you? Do you still use a paper planner to keep it all together? 
What planner would you purchase? 

*This post contains affiliate links*

Cleaning Checklist: After the Common Cold

As a mom of three, I am always on guard against the runny nose. When you have toddlers sharing touching and sharing everything, and a mobile teething baby crawling around putting EVERYTHING in their mouth, you need to work quickly and efficiently! 


At the first sign of a cold, I begin this routine and each night once the children are in bed I will wipe the surfaces and toys again.
Bedroom:
  • Open Windows, let the Sunshine in!
  • Remove and Launder All Bedding
    • Sheets
    • Blankets
    • Stuffed Animals and Comfort Items
  • Disinfect Bed
    • Wipe or Spray with a Disinfectant Agent
  • Dust the Room
  • Clean the Floors
Bathrooms:
  • Clean as per usual
    • Pay Special Attention to:
      • Disinfect light switches
      • Door knobs
General:
  • Open the Windows, Let the Sunshine in!
  • Disinfect All Surfaces
  • Disinfect Door Knobs and Handles
  • Change Air Filters
  • Disinfect All Toys
  • Clean the floors


For additional support, I like to diffuse some DoTerra essential oils in the air.
Some of my favorite blends include:

  • (2 drops) Lavender, (2 drops) Orange (2 drops) Lemon
  • (5 Drops) Wild Orange
  • (3 Drops) Lavender (3 Drops) Purify  

If you are looking for an EXCELLENT cold fighting soup, check out my friend Meg’s blog for a recipe.
I used her recipe as a base and added some carrots and calabaza squash for some additional flavor and vitamin C and A.

Remember to stay hydrated, and rest!
<3
StorybookErin

Motherhood Diaries: Empowering Words

I recently read an article that claimed, “your voice becomes your child’s inner voice”. As a stay at home mom (SAHM) where my children hear my voice almost all day long, this thought inspired me to rethink how I speak to my girls.

If my words become the words that motivate them, and stick with them throughout their lives, what am I saying?

Am I showing kindness, and respect? 
Am I modeling the behavior I so desire them to have?
I fail. 
I have found myself pulling my toddlers onto my lap sometimes more than once a day asking for forgiveness.  I want my girls to know that their mom is not perfect, and their mom is learning new things every day just like they are. 
So, how do I guide their inner voice? 
Empowering Words. 
I’ve made a conscious effort to share empowering words to my girls daily. For example, each night before my girls fall asleep, I whisper empowering words to them. 
You are Brave
You are Strong
You are Kind
You are Loved 
You are Treasured
You are Enough
You are Powerful
You are Wonderful
You are Wanted
I Believe in You
I am Proud of You
    The other night my second daughter sits up, grabs my cheeks softly, looks at me straight in the eyes and softly says…
    “You are crazy, momma”


    How can you empower someone in your life today? 


    What’s in My Diffuser: Morning Routine

    Anyone still hanging in with me on the 30 day shred? I must confess, I am slacking… I’ve had a hard time getting it into my routine, but I am trying my best!

    In an ongoing effort to remove heavy perfumes and candles from our home, I have turned to the diffuser. My parents have been using a diffuser for years, and I just recently received my first one as a gift and have been hooked ever since. My recent morning blend has been 2 drops of lemon and 2 drops of wild orange essential oils.


    Why Lemon and Wild Orange?
    Wild Orange
    • Uplifting Aroma
    • Powerful cleaning agent
    Lemon
    • Promotes positive mood
    • Powerful cleaning agent
    I find using this blend of citrus helps uplift my groggy-mood, and is a pleasant start to my day! 

    DIY Disney: Tangled Tower

    Walt Disney World Wednesday

    This week I did a really simple and quick tangled inspired craft with my toddlers.  Here are 3 things to love about this craft!

    1. Hardly ANY supplies required
    2. Hardly ANY setup
    3. Great for developing those FINE MOTOR Skills!

    Here’s what you need for your Tangled inspired craft!

    Supplies:

    The Process:

    Put a bunch of holes in a piece of paper and have your children practice threading the yarn through the holes. This can be tricky for your toddlers, it’s important to guide them through the process so they have fun with it without getting frustrated.
    Once they’ve gotten the hang of threading the yarn through the holes, you can move on to the actual craft. Cut a tower out of construction paper and hole punch a few holes throughout the tower.
    Have your child thread the yarn around the tower to look much like Rapunzel’s hair when she lets it down for her mother to climb.
    Once the yarn has been threaded throughout the tower, glue or tape the tower onto a piece on green construction paper.
    My daughter then added some flowers with crayons and stickers for a little extra decoration.

    Teachable Moments:

    • Vocabulary
      •  talk with your toddler share new words with them such as and help them to say them clearly
    • Color identification
      • The colors of the flowers
      • The Hair
    • Fine Motor Skills
      • To make it a little easier, put some tape around the end of the yarn to help it thread through a little easier
    As a bonus, we watched Tangled together while we finished decorating our tower.  We hope you will give this quick and easy Tangled DIY a try and love it as much as we did!
    *this post contains affiliate links, it costs nothing extra for you but a small percentage of your purchase comes to us. 
    We appreciate your support! 

    Love this craft? Would you consider sharing it?

    Love Disney?

    Consider joining my facebook group for Disney Fans to network and share Disney Magic.

    CLICK HERE TO JOIN!

     

    2 Ingredient Carpet Refresher (Budget Friendly)

    Over the last two years I have been diving into the world of essential oils.  It was around the time I had given birth to our second daughter, and I wanted to reduce my use of cleaners with heavy fumes or toxins.

    I’d spent a lot of time on Pinterest searching for DIY cleaning recipes and today I thought i’d take a moment to share two ways I’ve used essential oils on my carpets.

    Both ways are simple, budget friendly and have been tested by me.

    This first only requires a cotton ball, and a few drops of your favorite essential oils.

    Supplies: 

    • Cotton Ball
    • Essential Oils 
      • I’ve used both lavender and orange 

    Instructions: 

    • Put the EO’s on a cotton ball
    • Vacuum the cotton ball 
    • Vacuum as per usual 
    What to expect: 
    As you vacuum, the essential oils leave a nice subtle hint. I liked to use the Orange when I would vacuum in the day time because it seemed to lift my spirits, and feel clean. I’ve also used the lavender when vacuuming bedrooms,  to give a calming fragrance. 
    Now for the second method.

    Supplies: 

    • Baking Soda 
    • Essential Oils
    • Empty Parmesan Cheese container
    Instructions:
    • Fill empty container with baking soda
    • drop 8-10 drops of essential oils
      • give it a good shake to combine
    • sprinkle the mixture all over the carpets and let sit for a few minutes
    • vacuum as per usual
    What to expect:
    The baking soda and essential oils work together to eliminate and remove odors from your carpets. I like to use this method when potty training. I just sprinkle the mixture over the accident, place a towel over top and once the baking soda has soaked in all the urine, vacuum it away! 
    These are just two quick, easy and kid friendly ways I use essential oils in my home. 
    If you are looking to purchase high quality essential oils or learn more, please pass by my moms Doterra website

    Motherhood Diary: Tummy Time

    When you marry the son of a physical therapist, expect to be given more information that you ever knew you needed on the importance of tummy time. On top of my MIL’s (Mother in Law) advice and information on tummy time, I read far too many articles on the importance of allowing your babies time on their tummy.

    Just a few benefits…

    • Increases neck strength and stability
    • helps with core strength
    • helps relieve reflux and gas 
    • gives them opportunity to explore their world 
    Well, we are at 5 months with our youngest and thanks to lots and lots of tummy time, she can officially roll both ways and belly crawl / scoot to wherever she wants to be. 
    INDEPENDENCE. 
    She’s reaching a point in her life where she can start to show her independence a little bit and make decisions for herself. She can decide if she wants to go for the toys her sister is playing with or hang out with her Nemo toy for a bit. 
    I’m so proud of her.
    She’s proving to be just as determined and strong willed as both her sisters, and although it can be difficult to parent a strong willed toddler (or three), I am thankful for the opportunity. These girls will change the world, and it’s a big responsibility to guide them. 
    Question of the day: Who can you show kindess to today?
     

    Motherhood Diary: Starting Solids

    I’ve had a lot on my mind lately,  a lot.  When we were praying diligently for the Lord to grant us the gift of a baby, I knew He heard us and I knew He would give us what was best for our family.

    I didn’t know the Lord had 3 babies and that He would give them to us over the span of 32 months. That’s right, in 32 months my husband and I welcomed our three beautiful girls into the world.

    This week our baby girl will turn 5 months. My sweet little Belle is growing up faster than I can believe, and I’m struggling to cope.

    There, I said it.

    At four months my pediatrician gave the green light to start solids. I must have made a face, because he quickly said “if you want”.

    If I want? 

    Nope.

    Although she is ready, I was not. I was not ready to start the journey of independence with my last baby, yet.

    But, it’s time.

    It’s time to pull out the food processor and embrace the baby food stage.

    It’s time to soak in her sweet yummy infant smell and embrace the new smells that come with starting food.

    Professional Newborn Photos, Yes or No?

    Yes. So much yes!

    We’ve had the opportunity to work with Vinny from LXA with all three of our girls and the results are always priceless. 
    Here are three reasons I believe newborn professional photos are a good idea.

    1. Throwback Thursday. 
    Because who doesn’t want to throw it back to when you were just a few days old? Your child will thank you for these awesome pictures some day- trust me!!
    Not only that, but YOU will thank you for the photos. The first few weeks of motherhood are a blur, between 24 feedings and sleeping in stretches of 45 min to an hour you somehow lose track of just how small your precious baby is. 
    2. Road Trip!  
    Chances are the only place you are going these days is the pediatrician and maybe the grocery store. 
    It’s a fun memory to get all dressed up, put together some meaningful trinkets and outfits to bring to your baby’s first photo shoot. 
    A good photographer will make the whole experience fun, and it will be fun. 
    3.  Instagram will eventually be a memory, Professional photos are forever! 
    Anyone remember MySpace? Barely…right? Just as the season of MySpace came and ended social media will fade as well. Those cute photos you snapped on your phone and edited with an app will be lost or too small of quality to print out and display. Professional photos are high quality, edited to make your baby shine and can be printed clearly to display for years to come!

    Question of the day: Did you, or do you plan on taking newborn photos?

    Fitness After Baby – The “Bounce Back” isn’t my jam.

    It took me three pregnancies and three years to come to the realization that the “bounce back” just isn’t for me. I follow some incredible mommies on instagram, women who practically give birth then go run a 5k to celebrate. These women are beautiful, inspiring and give me a hope that some day I’ll be able to run without feeling like my who body is going to fall apart.

    After baby # 1, I needed to get right have into running because I was training for the Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney, and I needed to get ready. I never imagined I’d end up running 39.3 miles through WDW at 5 months pregnant, but I did.

    Then, right after baby # 2, and a move across the state… I tried to “bounce back” into running again.

    So, here we are. 6.5 weeks after baby # 3 and I’ve decided not to lace up my sneakers and run. For the first time, I was not back comfortably in my jeans and under my pre-pregnancy at my 6 week appointment, and for the first time I’m totally okay with that. I’m still rockin’ my maternity clothes, eating like a teenage boy and figuring out life with 3 girls under the age of 3 years old.

    This does not mean I’m going to just continue to sit on the couch all day, unfortunately those lazy days need to start coming to a close and I need to start getting back into a fitness routine. So, that’s why I am excited to join my dear friend Meagan with her 7 day to a flatter belly challenge. (Join the fun, here).

    2 out of three of my girls were sleeping this morning, so I took advantage of the “free” time and did 1 rep. My goal is to do at least 1 rep 2x a day for the 7 days. I’ll be posting proof pictures over on Instagram, so be sure to join in on the fun! 
    Let’s work on our tummies together, thanks MegForIt.com for the challenge! 

    Happy Due Date, Baby # 3!

    I can hardly believe we’ve been snuggling our third baby for three weeks already! Our pint-size Princess has captured our hearts and we are so thankful that she is here and healthy.

    (Birth Story Part 1 & Part 2)

    It’s hard to describe life at home with all three girls. It takes some time to get into a routine, and with my husband being home for paternity leave, and then having a couple days off for Hurricane Matthew, it’s been a little hard to find a rhythm.  I am exclusive-ishly breastfeeding (she gets 1 supplement per day as per Doctors orders), and we have been going through a growth spurt – So,… that makes sleep a little rough right now. One little peep, and the whole house is woken up to check on the baby… :-/

    My biggest challenge has been making sure I spend individual time with each of my girls every day. It’s hard, and exhausting because I’m breastfeeding, so sometimes I have to stop and feed the baby and I deal with some pretty strong mommy guilt, but I’m working on it. Now that we are supplementing with 1 bottle a day, I am able to use that time to pump and then read some stories, sing songs or play with the older girls.

    We are so blessed and so thankful for our family of 5!

    Top 3 Must Haves for the Hospital!

    I fully intended to do a “what’s in my bag” YouTube video. I really felt I had a lot to share with the world,  especially since this is my third baby in three years.

    However, the Lord had other plans and instead of making a YouTube video during week 36, I spent every moment prepping myself, my home and my toddlers to welcome baby! 
    So, instead of a video, I’m going to share my top 3 items to bring to the hospital  for mom,dad, and baby!
    For Mom. 

    Headphones & phone (or iPod).
    If you are induced, or have a long labor you will most likely be hooked up to a lot of monitors with beeping and heart beats. For a while, this can be very soothing. However, it can also be a little unnerving after a while. You also may be able to hear nurses and doctors and other movement in the hallways. Grab your headphones and put on a playlist to either help you relax, or get you in the zone! 
    Tervis Cup with a Straw. 
    If you are breastfeeding, or took any medication during the delivery you will want to drink a lot of water. 
    The benefit of a tervis cup is that it won’t sweat on the tray next to your hospital bed. The benefit of the straw is that your partner can hold your cup for you to get a drink if needed. 
    After my third baby I had to drink a whole bunch of water to flush my system. I started to have a reaction to the epidural and was itchy from head to toe! It was awful!! My baby girl was also very small and needed to eat every 60-90 minutes. 
    Since my hands were full, having a large cup with a straw was a huge help to me! 
    Jacket with a full zipper. 
    Hospitals are cold, your hormones are all crazy after delivery and if you are breastfeeding and having skin-to-skin you will basically be topless for your stay at the hospital. 
    A full zippered jacket gives you the ability to keep warm but still be able to easily breastfeed and have skin-to-skin. 

    For Dad 

    Snacks and a Water bottle.
    It’s hard for dad to leave mom and baby, at least my experience. Bring some snacks so daddy is fed!
    His Pillow!
    Poor dad, he has to sleep on crazy chairs that pull out into a narrow “bed” or couch. Bring his pillow, it’s bulky, but it’s likely the most comfortable thing he will have for a few days. 

    Something he needs but won’t remember to bring…
    This could be his camera, or a charger or… Favorite shirt, … Just something you know he’d want but wouldn’t think about. 
    For my husband it is his Miami Heat Beanie. The love of my life is 100% Miami boy! He can wear a sweat shirt in the middle of summer, if it’s 70 degrees, it’s freezing. So, I made sure to bring his warm hat, because the man freezes inside the hospital! 
    I’m thankful we had the hat because I used it too! 
    For Baby. 

    Snap Pajamas 
    After birth your baby will have his or her blood pressure, temperature and possibly his or her blood sugar tested. 
    You will also be checking and changing diapers, your baby will be able to stay mostly dressed for all of those things if they are in pajamas that snap.
    Blanket
    Yes, they have them in the hospital but there is something special about wrapping them in a blanket that was made for them, or purchased for them by someone who loves them! 
    Cute going home outfit!
    It’s a big and exciting day, you will likely take 10,000 photos of your bundle ready to go home, pick out a cute outfit! My husband found this outfit on clearance for 90% off over the summer AND we used a coupon so final price was less than 5.00. She’s swimming in it, but it is a newborn size!

    What’s on your list of must have items for your hospital stay?!

    Baby # 3, An Early Welcome to the World. Part 2.

    In case you missed it, here is Part 1

    In part one, I talk about why we induced at 37 weeks, so if you start reading and question why we would welcome our baby girl into the world at only 37 weeks, please take a quick look at part 1.

    Thursday arrived, it was the day we would check into the hospital to welcome our third baby girl. My husband decided to stay home from work. We had a list of last minute things to do, and then drop the girls off with their grandparents.

    After we dropped the girls off, I tried really hard to take a nap. Unfortunately, all I could do was count baby kicks and pray we would be able to deliver her without use of a c-section. My only fear with a cesarean is that I wouldn’t be able to hold my toddlers during the recovery, and I just couldn’t bear the thought. I expressed that concern to my obstetrician and he assured me that he felt confident we would not need a c-section, but if at any point the baby was showing she wouldn’t be able to handle the delivery we would have to.

    Around 7:30 my husband and I curled up on the couch with a big bowl of pasta and watched some of The Voice on Hulu. We slowly gathered our things, and headed out the door around 8:15 p.m. It was the first day of Fall, so we made a quick stop at Starbucks on the way to the hospital so my husband could have his first Pumpkin Spiced Latte of the season. #PSL

    #starbucksfail we asked for them to write “daddy” on the cup, but… um? yeah.

    9:00 p.m. we arrived to the hospital and checked in and settled in for a long night of waiting on a baby.

    by 10 p.m. we were on the monitors without any medication. I let my nurses know that I wanted an epidural as soon as we started the pitocin, so they started me on fluids by 10:30ish p.m.  I decided to take advantage of no medications by taking a nap. By 10:30 I was completely exhausted, I just couldn’t keep my eyes open and I went to sleep. My husband settled into the couch and watched a few episodes of Seinfeld.

    12:00 p.m. we started with the first dose of medication, and I was instructed to stay still in one position for two hours. So, I rolled onto my side, put on some George Winston and took a nap.

    2:00 a.m., hooray! I can move again. My nurse came in and let me walk around for a few minutes, it was so lovely to get out of bed.

    4:00 a.m., dose number 2 of the medication, and more staying still. So, another George Winston classical piano playlist and another nap.

    6:00 a.m., hooray, I get to take another short walk around the room! Shift change was coming, and I knew my OB would be in first thing to check on me, so I brushed my teeth before going back onto the monitors.

    7:00 a.m., started to feel cramping and light contractions [was way too excited about this…]
    7:30 a.m., met the day shift nurse, said thank you and farewell to the evening nurse (who was amazing!)

    8:40 a.m., sent daddy over to the cafe so he could have some breakfast.

    9:00 a.m.,  Dr. is here!

    9:03 a.m., 2 cm and my water is broken.

    9:10 a.m., “WOW, We’re going to have this baby by lunch!” – C. Jimenez

    I have a history of going from 2 cm to baby in a short amount of time. 

    9:12 a.m., Pitocin starts.

    9:17 a.m. “Can I have my epidural now?”

    10:00 a.m., 5 cm and I’m getting my epidural!

    #epiduralfail well, the epidural only worked on half my body. So, you guessed it… I felt ALL the contractions, I felt the catheter and I felt that exam. If you have an epidural,… you don’t really feel those things.

    We spent the next hour and 20 minutes with anesthesia and the nurses trying to get the epidural to work. Meanwhile, my contractions are so strong I really can’t talk. I basically just told the anesthesiologist that I didn’t want to try any more medications because I was going to need to push soon.  She of course told me that they had plenty of time to re-do the epidural, but I knew otherwise.

    10:57 a.m., one last medication to try and get some relief.

    11:03 a.m., I told the anesthesiologist that I felt like I needed to push and she rushed out of the room looking for my nurse.

    11:10 a.m, I called the nurse and told her I needed to push.

    11:14 a.m., Okay, you are 9.5 cm the doctor is on the way!

    11:20 a.m., Doctor arrives “wow, you don’t waste any time do you?”  I think I might had tried to chuckle, but I was in so much pain because the epidural had JUST started working and hadn’t made it all the way through my body yet.

    11:25 a.m., After pushing through 1 contraction, Risa Belle was born.

    After the birth we had a lovely time of skin-to-skin, attempted (and fail) at breastfeeding, and just a very relaxing experience. The moments right after birth are always so precious, its like… an unreal feeling of pride. The anticipation of Risa had my emotions on super high, so when I was still pushing and I heard the nurse ask “is she trying to cry already” I was instantly relieved.

    She was placed on my chest, and the neonatologist did a quick check and agreed to let her have an extended time with me before weighing her.  During this time the doctors confirmed that both the umbilical cord and placenta looked healthy, and the only note that was made was the placenta was small. Praise the Lord, for a healthy baby and delivery!

    Her official stats:
    Time of birth: 11:25 a.m.
    Weight: 5lbs 5 oz
    Length: 18 3/4 inches long

    After she was weighed, they placed her in the warmer and both my husband and I curled up and took a nap. It had been such a fast and emotional day that once she was here, and healthy I just fell asleep.

    When we were wheeled into our room for the hospital stay our day shift nurse ran over to my husband and I, gave us a kiss (very Miami!) and said “I KNEW YOU’D BE BACK!” It was the very first nurse I had after I delivered my first born daughter. The nurse who helped build my confidence as a new mom and one I think of often.

    In a way, we’ve come full circle with our season of pregnancy and birth. Baby Number 1 and 3 were both born in delivery room 6, and were both snuggled and taken care of by the same nurse that welcomed us warmly after the delivery of baby Risa.

    Farewell to the season of pregnancy, we are looking forward to many adventures as a family of five.

    Baby # 3, An Early Welcome to the World! Part 1.

    If you follow me on social media, you were flooded with pictures of our tiny sweet princess last weekend, and I even did a quick post about her name. Now, that she’s here and we’ve had our first pediatrician appointment, I thought i’d take a moment and share the story of her arrival.

    I guess you could say the story of her earlier than expected birthday started at our anatomy ultrasound. During the ultrasound it was noted that our baby was measuring in the 25 percentile for gestational age. Even though I have a history of small babies, the doctor at the ultrasound place was concerned about her size so I was scheduled for monthly ultrasounds to check growth.

    Pregnancy continued, baby was still measuring small but we were both growing. The weekend of September 17, we dropped the girls off with family and had a little #disneyside baby moon.  We stayed up late, watched movies, slept in, ate whenever and whatever we wanted… It was really a relaxing time. We also decided to go to a local park and snap some Disney inspired maternity photos.

    On Monday, I went in for a routine ultrasound.

    I was greeted with the ultrasound technician, and a medical student. I gave my consent to allow the medical student to stay for my ultrasound and meeting with the doctor, never thinking it could possibly be anything but a routine exam.

    After she took what I had expected to be the final measurements, she started over again. This time she rechecked my placenta, took an extremely long time reviewing the umbilical cord and even measured the flow. Since this was something i’d never seen before, I started to have questions. I never claim to be an expert on anything, but after three pregnancies in three years, you start to know what to expect for a routine growth check.

    I casually asked what she was measuring, and what it tells us about the health of the baby. She smiled, and calmly told me how it was just a way to see how the umbilical cord is working.

    … (insert totally confused look here)…

    Next she checked the brain. The Heart. The Kidneys…

    “Don’t wipe all the gel off yet, we might need more pictures when the doctor arrives” is what she told me. Those few minutes waiting for the doctor felt like an eternity, my only comfort was feeling our little girl kick and stretch.

    The doctor, medical student and technician came back in the room and without any hesitation, the doctor exclaims “we are going to go ahead and diagnose your baby now”

    I’m not exactly sure what she may have said next because I instantly burst into ugly tears and said “DIAGNOSE?!!” “WHAT’S IS WRONG WITH MY CHILD!?!”

    She backed down, got some tissues, gave me a minute and explained.

    Our baby had dropped from the 25 percentile down to the 10 percentile, which is an automatic diagnoses of IUGR (Intrauterine Growth Restriction).  Even though I have a history of small babies, this baby had dropped below the comfortable growth rate and it was recommended that we induce.

    I sat in a private waiting room for a few minutes so I could gain my composure to call my husband and obstetrician to set up another ultrasound and a consultation prior to making the final decision to induce.

    Everything was set up for an ultrasound and appointment, on Thursday, but my Obstetrician wanted to see me and my reports on Wednesday instead.

    Tuesday I spent the day on google (BIG MISTAKE), repacking my bag, researching the NICU at my hospital, researching how to prepare for a potential stay in the NICU, and cleaning. I also called my pediatrician to talk about IUGR, and get his opinion on the induction.

    Wednesday morning, my husband and I got up bright and early and headed over to the ultrasound. Thankfully the doctor wasn’t in yet, so I was able to just have them send the report over to my doctor and head over to appointment number 2 for the day.

    During the appointment, my obstetrician agreed with me that the baby was probably measuring small due to genetics, but just in case there was an issue with my placenta or umbilical cord he recommended we induce the next day.

    It is difficult to describe the range of motions, when deep down you know your baby is perfectly fine and healthy but there are these numbers that say we should prepare in case… I’m so thankful for our families. The support of our families both blood relatives, and those in our church family was amazing, and I am forever grateful to be part of the family of God.

    Birth Story.

    Welcome Baby # 3!

    Just a short post to welcome Baby Risa to our family! 

    I will give a more detailed update on the days leading up to her birth, how we prepared and her birth story once we are home and settled. 
    But for now, I thought I’d share her name and the meaning behind it. 

     

    Risa Belle
    Risa is pronounced like Lisa only with an R and Belle. 
    Risa is the Spanish word for “smile” or “laughter” and for all you Disney fans out there, you know it’s no wonder that her name means beauty…

    So, Laughter Beautiful or Beautiful Laughter. 
    We are so excited to have her here with us, safe and sound and look forward to sharing more of her story soon. 
    For now, we appreciate all the kind words, texts, hugs and prayers for our family. 
    Little lady, obsessed with “Dede Risa” and her tiny feet. (Also, she thinks my dress is so pretty!)

    Love bug is not impressed with mommys dress, or hospital room… Looking forward to being home and bonding there. 

    Preparing for Baby # 3 – Week 37 Update

    Today marks week 37 of my pregnancy, and let me tell you… last week was a whirlwind of appointments, cleaning, packing, snuggling and long chats with my toddlers about becoming a BIG SISTER!!!

    For this weeks appointments (Biophysical Profile Ultrasound) and obstetrician appointment, I had my husband go with me. Between our ultrasound appointment and OB appointment we made a quick trip to Jamba Juice. It was almost like when we were anticipating our first daughter, we used to treat ourselves to Jamba quite often after those appointments!

    Kale + Apple without the Banana! (SO MUCH YUM!)

    Weekly Stats

    • Weight Gain: 1 lb 
    • Pregnancy Total: 16 lb
    • Blood Pressure: 90/60
    • Baby’s HR – 140’s 
    Cravings
    • Granola Bars 
    • Ice-ICE-ICE cold water (so.much.ice!)
    Big Sister Update
    My oldest (2.5) never ceases to amaze me. She is so kind, and so loving, and I can’t wait to see how to does with another little sister. This week she’s spent a lot of time talking to her baby sister, and rubbing my belly. It’s very sweet to feel the baby respond to her voice with a gentle kick and then see my little lady giggle with excitement! 
    She takes her role as big sister very seriously, and is always looking out for our love-bug. In fact, something I was not expecting, was her attachment to the infant carseat. Ever since we washed, and installed the infant carseat she has cried and cried about it being for Zuzu, and not the new baby. I totally didn’t see that one coming, so we are working with her on those emotions. 
    Making “Happy Birthday” cards for baby sister!
    Then there is my love-bug, she’s 17 months today. I simply adore her spirit, she is curious about everything and loves to keep me on my toes. Much like her sister, she is very sweet and loving. However, she is also nothing like her sister so I’m a little excited  nervous to see how she reacts to the new baby.

    “Happy Birthday” cards for sister! 

    This week we also made some Happy Birthday cards for baby sister. My hope and prayer is that when the baby arrives, she will have become such a household name that the transition is pretty smooth. 

    My thoughts on transitioning from 2 to 3
    This might sound a bit naive, but… I am far less nervous about adding baby # 3, than I was about adding a second… When we welcomed our love-bug into the world it was a crazy time for us. My husband was offered a job 3 hours away from any support systems, and we moved to a town where I literally knew ONE person. It was hard, I was “home” in a new city with a 15 month old and a newborn, my husband worked hard all day with his new job and came home to help me with the girls all night. I’m not sure we ever slept, … it took us some time to build our little community in Fort Myers, but once we settled into a church and had some consistency things got easier. 
    Now, as we prepare to welcome baby number 3, we are back in Miami! My husband again just started a new job and will have very limited paternity leave BUT we have a much bigger support system. There are so many people who love and care for us, and more people than we even know praying for us in this new transition. 
    When my husband and I were preparing to get married, we came across a verse in Psalm 126. It was true in 2008 and it’s still true today, The LORD has done great things for US, and we are glad (Psalm 126:3). 
    We appreciate your thoughts and prayers as we welcome our baby into the world very soon. 

    Disney Inspired Baby Moon – At Home

    Since our plans to travel to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival were totally thrown out the window, we spent the weekend at home. My doctor didn’t feel comfortable with me traveling from Miami to Orlando at 35 weeks pregnant.

    I had every intention of just going to Disney for the day, even though my OB didn’t fully support the trip. However, on Thursday evening I started having some pretty strong contractions. It was enough to make me second guess our trip. So, we opted to have a #disneyside babymoon at home.

    On Friday afternoon we dropped our girls off with their grandparents, and I went and got my eyebrows waxed. After a little bit of pampering, we had to go to the store and return an item. It’s in the same shopping plaza as our FAVORITE Pizza place in Miami, so obviously, we had to treat ourselves to dinner.

    Looking for great Italian food in Miami? Go to Marinos!

    After dinner, the baby decided she wanted a Coke Slurpee. Since the Slurpee’s are buy-one-get-one at 7-11 right now, we journeyed to 3 different 7-11’s called 2 and ended up at Burger King for our frozen coke (the craving was legit!).

    When we returned home, we put on our jammie’s and watched a Disney Movie! I’d heard poor reviews about the movie Tomorrow Land, but I still wanted to see it. Without giving any spoilers, I’ll just say it was “okay”. Not my favorite Disney movie ever, but also didn’t hate it completely. It’s worth a watch if you are a Disney movie buff.

    On Saturday morning, my husband got up and went for a run while I started cleaning the house.
    Clean and ready for playtime!
     After cleaning and his run, we enjoyed a home-made pancake breakfast (complete with beverages in Disney cups) and set off for a haircut and a little bit of retail therapy! 
    Farewell, long hair. 
    I’d had my eye on a specific doll for Baby Jimenez at Hollywood Studios. However, since we didn’t get to GO to Disney, we went to explore the Disney store. 
    After shopping, we came home and watched some college football (#FIUPANTHERS!) then headed out in search of pedicure supplies. We ended up having dinner at Taco Bell, and then headed back home so I could soak my feet, and watch another Disney Movie in our pajamas! 
    Does Spicey food really work to induce labor?
    On Saturday evening we decided to watch Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad, Day!  
    I loved it!
    Sunday morning, my husband went for another run while I did absolutely nothing…  (I’m a little impressed with myself over that one!) When he got home, we got ready to go to the park and have a #disneyside Maternity shoot. The shoot was SO.MUCH.FUN. It’s going to get its own post, so check back to see more of the photos later in the week. 
    After our #disneyside Maternity shoot, we decided to do our groceries for the week, come home and watch some football! (#MIAMIDOLPHINS) and of course, catch up on the Amazing Race via Hulu. 
    In the evening we ate some Salsa Chicken and watched Soul Surfer.  We watched Bethany on the Amazing Race, and since then we had Soul Surfer on our list of movies to watch. It was pretty inspiring to see her story. 
    Even though I didn’t get to watch the Electrical light parade from start to finish one more time, or eat a Mickey ice cream bar all alone, or see the star wars fireworks without a toddler cleaning to me, it was a great weekend and I am so ready to have this baby! 

    Crafting with Toddlers: DIY Onesies and Week 36 Update

    Hello friends!

    We are approaching the finish line, and thankfully our name reveal outfit has arrived! I will be doing a dedicated post on what’s in my hospital bag very soon, so stay tuned! One of the things my husband and I feel very strongly about is making sure our girls (even at 2.5 and 16 months) are aware of the baby, and that the baby is coming to live with us very soon.  When we welcomed baby Zuzu, our older daughter was SO excited! She had spent the last 6 months or so reading to the baby, giving kisses to my stomach and just bonding with her. I’ll never forget the moment she first saw her, I sat on my bed in amazement at the instant love they had for one another.

    We’ve worked really hard to allow our girls opportunity to bond with their new sister, and one of the ways we decided to help them get excited for baby was to make a special gift for their sister.

    Our girls are really into coloring right now, they just enjoy coloring so much. Since I had a 3 pack of white onesies, I decided to grab some iron-on letters and fabric markers for the girls to create a special outfit for their sister.

    The girls were really into it, and even enjoyed Facetime with dad to show off their projects. It’s so much fun but if you plan to do something like this, here are my top two tips.

    1) PREPARE.

    • Well fed toddlers are happier during craft time
    • Make sure your supplies are ready 
      • If using paint, be sure you have plenty of wipes ready or direct access to the sink for cleaning those little hands
    • Have your camera ready 
    • Make sure they are dressed in an outfit that can also get messy
    • Enlist another adult to help if you have more than 1 toddler you are crafting with
    2) EMBRACE THE MESS.
    We didn’t use paint this time, I opted for some fabric markers. I have painted many times with my girls before, and it was much more fun when I stopped thinking about the mess we were making and embraced the idea of making memories! 

    Pregnancy Update – Week 36
    Total Weight Gain: 15 lbs
    Blood Pressure: 105/65
    Baby’s Heart Rate: 150’s 
    Cravings:
    • Ice Cream
    Question of the day: What’s your favorite type of ice cream? 

    Top 3 Olympic Moments: Rio 2016

    Welcome Friends to my top 3 moments during the Olympic Games!

    Raise your hand if you stayed up way too late watching the Olympic games at some point in the last 2 weeks?

    *raises hand*

    I must admit, we didn’t watch too much of the games this year, but I when we did it was important to me that our children (2.5 and 15 months) be involved in learning about the sport that was on.

    So, without further ado, here are my top three favorite moments for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

    Number 3: During the opening ceremony. 
    During the opening ceremony my two year old sat on the couch mesmerized by the flags, the dancing, and the colors. I loved having the opportunity to talk to her about the many countries represented, and have her genuinely be interested!

    Number 2: While watching Cycling. 
    “That’s my daddy!”

    Yes, that really happened and I never want to forget the pride in my daughters voice as she thought my husband was actually IN the Olympics.

    My husband has been cycling to work, and as a result he spends some time working on his bike to keep it in tip top shape, and my two year old loves to help him.

    Number 1: The USA Chant.
    During the Olympics we taught our two year old to recognize the American flag, and how we can cheer for our team from home. It’s so special to hear her chant “USA, USA, USA” whenever she see’s the American flag now.

    I am thankful for our country and those who have given their lives in service to protect it.

    USA, USA, USA!

    What about you? What are your top moments from the Olympic games in Rio?

    Morning Routine: Two Toddlers and the Third Trimester

    We have been loving our little condo so much, and now that we are mostly settled I thought I’d share my morning routine. 
    This is the current routine that’s been working for this momma of a 1 and 2 year old who is also in her third trimester. 
    My 1 year old wakes up first, I typically sleep until she gets up, this is usually anywhere from 6:30-7:30. 
    We wake up and snuggle on the couch drinking milk for a few minutes while listening to classical piano music on Spotify. After some relaxing I will feed her some breakfast, have some coffee and water before starting on some cleaning. 

    I will either wipe down the bathroom, or start some laundry. It really just depends on what I feel like doing…
    While I’m cleaning my one year old is typically following me around helping, and dancing with her plush toys. 
    My two year old sleeps a little later (thank you black out curtains) and once she wakes up we all three snuggle on the couch while drinking some milk and then continue on with our day. 
    I haven’t figured out a consistent afternoon routine, but so far most mornings are much like described above. 
    What are your mornings like, do you include classical music in your day?

    Trimester Two: Fitness Recap

    Hello my friends, 

    Can you believe we are in the last trimester for this pregnancy? I’m not sure where the time went, but it went! 
    So, let’s recap my trimester 2 fitness! 
    In trimester 1 I was much more scheduled with my workouts. However, when trimester 2 rolled around we were in the midst of working towards finalizing the purchase of our condo and the final preparations for our week volunteering at a children’s camp for a week. So, my fitness routine slipped away. 

    I did keep up with exercise a few times a week and did activities such as:
    – walking 
    – squats 
    – swimming 
    – chasing my two girls ( 2 & 1)
    – going to the zoo 
    – going to Disney
    Although I have gained the most during this pregnancy, I’ve still only gained 8 pounds total and am well within the weight gain goals my doctor and I discussed at the beginning of this pregnancy. 
    It’s hard for me to see the scale numbers rise, mostly because from 2012 – 2013 (pre-pregnancy with baby number 1) I worked so hard to get my health in order and lost around 70 pounds! 
    Each pregnancy is a journey, and I’m thankful for the gift of life growing inside my belly and little girl, YOU are worth every ounce of weight, every swollen ankle, every discomfort because YOU are a treasure! 
    Question of the day: what are your favorite ways to sneak exercise into a busy day? 

    Excited are we, Announcing Baby number 3

    On Friday morning around 5:00 a.m. we texted our family to let them know we were expecting baby number 3. Of course everyone was super excited but they had no idea I was actually pretty far along and would be announcing to Facebook on the same day that we told them!

    If you are interested, here are some of the details of pregnancy number 3.

    Cravings:

    • Cereal – can’t get enough… 
    • Salsa (if you have chips and salsa even better)
    Aversions:
    • Cream Cheese – just keep it away, please. 
    Feeling:
    • Joint pain 
    • Lazy – no energy (at all)
    • no nausea (hooray!)
    • Always hungry (just feed me and tell me I’m pretty)
    Weight / Blood Pressure / Gestational Diabetes:
    • down 4 lbs
    • BP higher than my other two, but still healthy
    • Failed my 1 hour GTT, taking the 3 hour soon
    Estimated Due Date: October 14, 2016

    Our Storybook Life – 2015 Review

    The year 2015 had a lot of big, exciting and scary changes for our family. I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on the year, for each challenge I am thankful as it brought new things into our lives, and made us a better family.

    We are looking forward to the year 2016 ready for what God has planned for us.

    January. 

    February. 
    • Diagnosed with gestational diabetes (again)
    • Celebrated the marriage of my sister in law
    March.
    • Pulled everything out for the new baby and got it washed and ready! 
    • Husband interviewed in Southwest Florida
    • Started prepping the condo to sell 

    April.

    • Welcomed Baby Girl! 
    • My husband started a new job in Southwest Florida
    • Sold our condo! 

    May. 

    • Moved to Southwest Florida (Mother’s Day weekend…)
    • Started attending a new church 
    • Celebrated my husbands birthday! 


    June. 

    • Surprise visit from my husband’s family! 
    • Visit from our besties (who live way too far away); double date to the movies and dinner! 
    • Attempted to start running again. 
    • All clear results from blood work (no more gestational diabetes!)
    • Sold our car
    • Bought a new car

    July.  

    • Fourth of July in Miami
    • Visits to Central Florida to see family and friends

    August. 

    • Family visits us in Southwest Florida
    • Beach Days
    • Lots of visits to the park on Friday afternoons
    • Settling into life in Southwest Florida


    September. 

    • New Orleans Trip
    October. 
    • Pumpkin Patch
    • Babies First Halloween


    November.

    • Fort Myers Half Marathon 
    • Baby’s First Thanksgiving
    December. 
    • Celebrating my birthday!
    • New York
    • Celebrating our 7th Anniversary
    • Disney Annual Passholders!
    • Baby’s first Christmas 
    • Happy New Year!
    Thank you for being a part of our year, we look forward to 2016 and all the adventure it will bring! 

    Little Lady at 23 Months.


    My Dearest Little Lady,

    Someone once told me “the calendar always flips”; that is to say today will end and tomorrow will come. Over the last two years you have taught me more about myself than I can ever express. I thought people were crazy when they told me that I’d want to bottle up your scent and keep it. I thought people were crazy when they told me I’d miss the days of being drenched in your acid reflux vomit. … okay I don’t miss that.

    but I do miss your sweet baby self.

    We’ve had some pretty exciting days mixed with some days that bedtime could’t come soon enough.

    As much as you challenge me, you inspire me to be a better person. I am so thankful for you and all you bring into our lives.

    Right after the holidays you are going to turn two years old, and here are a couple of my favorite things about you right now.

    What you like…

    • Your family – You LOVE your mom and dad and baby sister most of all. But I love that you love all your Tio’s, Tita’s, aunties, uncle Brian,  Abuelo’s and grandparents and cousin.
    • Playing – You are SO active, you are non-stop from the time you wake up until you fall asleep. 
    • Water – bath time, swim time, shower time, sprinklers, and even DRINKING water you love it all
    • Chocolate Che-Che (Chocolate Milk) – You are obsessed with it. 
    • Animals – live animals, animals in books, toy animals, you love them ALL
    • Mickey Mouse – All Disney really… you just love it. 
    • Exploring – you LOVE to see new places and experience new things
    • Cooking – you LOVE helping me cook in the kitchen and I love watching you love it
    What you don’t  like…
    • naps
    • sleeping
    • going to sleep
    • bed time
    • the thought of bed time 

    Family walk – 2 Months Old 

    When mom was training for goofy challenge (7 months)

    First Christmas 

    1st Birthday!

    13 Months

    I’m soaking in the last days of having a “1 year old”… and look forward to the excitement life with a two year old will bring.

    Our 7th Anniversary!

    Today we celebrate 7 years of Marriage.

    I thought i’d share 7 of our crazy adventures from the last year with you!

    1. Goofy Challenge 2015 – I could NEVER have run 39.3 miles 6 months pregnant without the support of my husband. He stuck right beside me and completed 1:00/1:00 run-walk intervals for every single mile.

    2. Celebrating Little Lady’s 1st Birthday!

    3. Resigning from my full time employment to stay home – thanks for (hardly) ever commenting on my terrible cooking babe!

    4. The move to Southwest, Florida. – It’s not ideal to accept a new job, sell your condo and move while your wife is 9 months pregnant, but the Lord was with us and we are surviving.

    5. The Birth of our Love Bug – She’s truly a gift.

    6. New Orleans Adventure

    7. New York Adventure

    I can’t wait to see what adventures await us in our next year of marriage! 

    MESS FREE Infant and Toddler Thank You Notes

    Christmas is right around the corner and if you have young children you know all to well that they will soon be showered with gifts from loved ones. One of the values we want to instill into our children is gratitude.

    How do you instill an attitude of gratitude when your children are 8 and 23 months old? Well,… the short answer is you live it. Our daughter is approaching two years old faster than I care to admit. I swear I just found out I was expecting… how do I have a two year old?  ANYWAY… I’ve been having a lot of conversations with my little lady about saying please and thank you, and we have had many talks about the Season and why we celebrate Christmas.

    One of our conversations was about how on Christmas we give gifts to those we love; and how it is important to always take the time to acknowledge that someone thought of you. Since my girls aren’t able to form beautiful sentences and write lovely letters of thanks to all who have given them gifts I decided to let them make their own note cards.

    This is not an original idea of mine, I have seen it on various social media sites. In fact, a quick search of “zip lock bag finger painting” on pinterest will yield lots of cute ideas!

    Tools.

    • Heavy Paper or Cardstock
    • Finger Paint
    • Markers
    • Gallon Size Zip Lock Bag 
    • Scissors (to cut the cards out, when dry)
    Instructions. 
    1. make dots or designs onto paper with various colors of paint
    2. put paint in gallon size zip lock bag
    3. seal bag
    4. allow children to play with the paint and create designs
    5. pull paper out of bag and let dry
    6. cut out note card shapes
    7. (optional) write a message on front with a marker 
    Notes. 
    This was SO much fun. My youngest (7 months when we did the craft) LOVED to feel the paint and watch the colors mix. I loved that this was a painting craft that didn’t end in me giving baths in the middle of the day or cleaning paint out of my carpet. 
    If you are doing this craft with more than one child, I would recommend getting a couple of bags set up in advance. My oldest daughter loved this a lot more than I anticipated and so it was a little hard for her to wait for me to make more bags with paint and paper for her to play with. 
    Over all I am extremely happy with the results. I think they are so cute, and will be a fun little way to include the girls in the Thank you note writing fun.  When it is time, I will allow my oldest daughter to help me “write” the notes with a crayon. She loves to send letters, and it will be another opportunity to talk with her about gratitude, and why we are writing letters to our family and friends. 

    Question of the day: Do you hand write thank you notes? 

    Baby’s First Thanksgiving!

    As I look around and see so many hurting I am reminded that we have much to be thankful for and that life is a gift. It was an honor and a blessing to be able to celebrate another Baby’s FIRST Thanksgiving this year.

    My husband had to work today (Friday) so our Holiday has been a little different, but we are still having a wonderful time celebrating Thanksgiving!

    Here is a short video of our time in Miami with my husbands side of the family.

    Question of the day: What are you Thankful for today?

    Who is StorybookErin?

    Today on the blog, I’m answer that question. Who is this Storybook Erin girl and what’s she all about?

    I started blogging in 2011 as a hobby, I blogged about movies and just general daily adventures. At the time health wasn’t a priority in my life. It’s scary (and sad) to admit, but it wasn’t. I was in graduate school, working full time and dreaming of starting a family. Through all of that, I went from overweight to obese.

    From the time I got married in 2008 until the end of 2011 I had gained a good 50-60 pounds and was completely uncomfortable in my own skin. I asked my husband if he would start walking with me to help me lose some weight and he agreed.

    In January of 2012 we started walking a few miles a couple days a week, and limiting our junk food intake. It was around this time my blog started to shift focus and become more of a weight loss journey.

    By April of 2013 I had fallen in love with running, ran two half marathons, countless 5k’s, lost about 60 pounds and was finally pregnant with baby number one.

    Baby # 1 Pregnancy

    My blog took a little shift again, and now was all about my pregnancy and running. After baby number one (Little Lady) was born, I continued to blog about running, being a mom and training for the Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World.  In September of 2014 we found out that I was expecting again, so the blog went back to pregnancy posts, mom life and training for the Goofy Challenge.

    Baby # 2 Pregnancy

    Now here we are.

    I’m a stay at home mom to two beautiful girls and on the blog you will find a combination of mom life, training, weight loss and all our adventures as a family of four living in Florida.

    If you’re interested in following our story, please check out my social media channels linked below!

    Question of the day: What’s your favorite fall activity?

    Facebook
    Twitter
    Instagram

    Please leave the link to your blog in the comment section so I can stop by and say hello!  

    Packing Tips: Two under Two

    Our family recently went on a weekend trip to New Orleans. We loaded into the car at 2:00 a.m. and drove to New Orleans. We had a great trip, but a lot of planning went into the packing for that trip. There is a fine balance between being prepared and taking too much!

    One way I stay organized now that we are a family of 4 is with packing cubes. I first learned about packing cubes on Jen’s Youtube channel (Pretty Neat Living).  On her blog she has a whole section about travel and packing, you should check it out – I always get lots of inspiration from her! Upon first glance, packing cubes can be quite expensive. However, I use a site called ebates and buy from the ebags website.  if you use the referral link included you can get a 10.00 gift card and start earning money just for shopping online! The ebags website typically gives back 8-12% cash back for purchases!

    Go now, Free Money!!

    Anyway, back to how I pack for trips with two under two!

    Yes, you will be investing in the cubes, but i’ve found them to be so helpful. Especially because my oldest daughter loves to pick out her own outfits. With the packing cubes, I don’t have to worry about her picking a shirt she’s already worn, she only has the options still in the packing cubes!

    How do you pack.

    I put each persons items in a cube, all their socks and clothing must fit in a cube.
    Towels, burp cloths, blankets and *extras* go in a different cube.

    What happens when you get to your destination? 
    All clean clothing and items stay in the cube. Dirty items go in a pile (sometimes they make it into an empty bag) until it’s time to go home.

    Do you put dirty clothes in them to come home?
    I don’t. I feel like it adds extra work when I get home, so I typically ONLY put clean items into the cubes, so they are ready for our next trip when we get home.

    All the dirty clothes get stuffed into 1 bag, and the cubes, clean clothing, extra diapers and items go into the second bag.

    Don’t believe me? Here’s a list of items packed for the girls ALL in 1 bag! 

    Items for my four month old.

    • 2 pajamas
    • 5 pairs of socks
    • 2 dresses
    • 3 diaper covers
    • 2 shorts 
    • 1 pair of jeans 
    • 2 shirts
    • 1 hat
    • 1 swim shirt
    • 3 onesies

    Items for my 19 month old.

    • 1 pajama
    • 6 pairs of socks
    • 1 pair of jeans
    • 1 bathing suit
    • 1 hat
    • 2 dresses
    • 2 onesies
    • 3 shorts
    • 3 shirts
    • 3 swim diapers
    Extra’s packed
    • q-tips
    • powder
    • saline sprays
    • diaper rash cream
    • 2 bibs
    • 6 burp cloths
    • 1 sheet
    • 1 changing page
    • 100 wipes 
    • 38 Size 2 diapers
    • 32 Size 4 diapers
    All items above were packed into 1 large duffle bag, and by using the packing cube system, I felt very organized upon our arrival in New Orleans! 
    My husband and I also used packing cubes for our clothing and found it to be helpful when looking for our clothes. 
    An added benefit to using the packing cube system is that it forces you to really think about what you will need, and NOT over pack. 

    For fun I created a short video of me packing the girls items for our trip, I hope you’ll enjoy! Be sure to subscribe for more fun videos! 

    Question of the day: Have you ever used packing cubes or a similar system for travel?

    You might also enjoy…

    Scene on MY run – New Orleans Running
    Scene on HIS run – New Orleans Running
    All the (mugs) I mean Souvenirs we purchased in New Orleans

    Influenster Review: New Pampers Cruisers

    Disclaimer: Influenster sent me a sample of the new Pampers Cruisers to try, all expressed opinions are my very own.

    If you saw my unboxing video on YouTube last week, you saw that we were selected to try some of the New Pampers Cruisers. These diapers claim to turn your sag into swag. A pretty strong claim, i’d say.

    My daughter is quite active, and loves to dance and play and does NOT like to be slowed down long enough for silly things such as diaper changes… (potty training time?!) I used the three diapers during nap time or bed time, because those were the two times she would go the longest between diaper changes.

    I have to say, I was quite impressed. The newly designed pampers really do limit the sag – Good job, Pampers!

    Here’s the closest I could get to a picture of her in the diaper… (go phins)!

    Thanks again Influenster and Pampers for the opportunity to try your new product 🙂

    5 minute lunch for the picky toddler!

    My comfort food is and has always been Macaroni and Cheese. I love it SO much I even recently ordered it at a restaurant. It’s just so comforting! 

    My heart was a little broken when I realized my daughter does NOT have the same love for good ol’ fashion Kraft Mac & Cheese. I guess I should be glad since it isn’t the healthiest option available, but still I was a little saddened. 
    She does however enjoy a good bowl of noodles with cheese. So, little lady’s special Mac & cheese was invented. It takes less than 5 minutes and is always a hit with my toddler. 
    Recipe:
    Cook peas (as desired)
    Cook egg noodles 
    Mix together with shredded cheese
    Serve! 
    My daughter loves this meal and I love that I can fix it in minutes. 
    Lately she’s been helping me cook it, which is a bonus learning activity! 
    Question: what’s your favorite quick lunch?

    How I transitioned our daughter off the bottle in 3 days.

    This is the story of how our family transitioned our oldest daughter off the bottle in three days. Our method may not work for everyone, but it’s what worked for our family.

    Background Story
    Right before my daughters first birthday I resigned from my position at work and became a full-time stay at home mom. I was getting ready to welcome baby number two in a few short months, and wanted to get into some routines before the baby was born. One of the routines I wanted was a bottle free 1 year old. 
    I didn’t want my oldest to be dependent on a bottle or a pacifier, and I didn’t want to be washing bottles for two babies. 
    Well, after months of trying every sippy cup created, and dropping the bottle before naps etc. I stopped, she wasn’t ready, I was exhausted, we were approaching my due date and my husband had just accepted a new job (which would require us to move)… 
    She kept the bottle.

    18 Months.
    At her 18 month check up, the pediatrician recommended we drop the bottle as soon as possible. Since I had been trying to wean her slowly off of the bottle for 6 months with NO success, I knew we would have to drop it cold-turkey.

    The total transition took three days, and yes we have had some whiney times, broken a new leche (milk) cup, and have spent late nights reading stories and singing songs trying to get her to fall asleep without a pacifier or milk BUT, her last bottle was 10 days ago and we are moving forward!

    So, here’s what we did.

    Day 1 – Love, Love, Love.

    After her appointment, I made sure to give extra hugs and kisses. Whatever comfort she was getting from that bottle needed to now come from me (and her daddy). I held her while she slept, gave her a hug and a kiss and told her how much I loved her before each bottle – she got lots of attention!

    Day 2 – Conversation.

    In addition to extra love and comfort, on this day we added in the conversation. Before each bottle, and while she was drinking the bottle we’d hold her and talk to her about what type of big girl “cheche cup” (milk cup) she wanted to buy. We talked about how she could go to Target and pick out any two cups she wanted to drink her milk out of, and how special it was that she was able to drink her cheche (milk) from a cup!

    Day 3 – Shopping. 

    After church, lunch and nap time on Sunday it was time. I pulled out a Target gift card, and gave it to my daughter so she could go shopping for a new cup for her milk. She was so cute as she held her little gift card on the way to target. Once we got there, she walked right into the aisle and quickly began to inspect ALL the cups.

    The top choices were a Cars cup, A Princess Cup, Ninja Turtles and of course a Frozen cup. She held all four of them for quite some time but when it came down to it, Elsa and the other Disney princesses prevailed and we were on our way to the check out.

    After she paid for the cups, she carried her bag all the way to the car.

    When we got home, she and I had some milk in our big girl cups and said goodbye to the bottle.

    That night, we had story time while drinking some milk then brushed our teeth and went to sleep.

    The Week.
    She has been a little more emotional, and had several more meltdowns that I know would be resolved in a second if I’d give her a bottle of milk – BUT, we aren’t going to do that. Her meltdowns don’t last too long, she gets distracted easily with her sister and begins to laugh.

    Tips for Moms.

    1. Give yourself some GRACE.
      • I read post after post online about how important it is to drop the bottle before 18 months.
      • I almost cried when the pediatrician told me the bottle had to go.
      • I was scared we wouldn’t be able to transition, but we did and you can too!
    2. Know your child.
      • My daughter doesn’t do well with gradual change, she’s persistent and will eventually find a way to get what she wants (in this case, the bottle). This is why a coldish turkey method worked best. She knew it was coming, we talked about it and we did it!
      • Maybe your child isn’t ready, thats okay! 
    3. Coffee. 
      • Coffee (or Tea) is relaxing. Go have a cup…
    Happy bottle transitioning! 



    A day in the life – RunDisney Registration Day!

    Now that I’m a full-time stay at home mom, I thought it’d be fun to share a day in my life. Unfortunately, every time I think about writing one, or filming one, … I realize my life is pretty routine and slightly boring.

    But, if you are interested in a “normal” day, let me know. I’ll be happy to share!

    So, here we go!

    Our day, RunDisney Princess 1/2 Registration Day!!

    As you know I’ve been excited nervous about registration day for a while. My sisters and I are going to be running at the Princess weekend, and registering for these races is getting more and more competitive. So,… I had to be ready!

    If you don’t know, I have two beautiful daughters. My oldest is 18 months, and my youngest is 3 months next week.

    4:00 a.m. – Baby 2 wakes up for a snack.

    5:00 a.m. – Baby 2 wakes up for a snack again.

    6:30 a.m. – My husband gets up and gets ready for work.

    7:45 a.m. – Both babies wake up for the day.

    8:00 a.m. – My husband leaves for work.

    From 8:00 – 11:00 a.m. – My oldest will have breakfast and a snack during this time. We also spend some time with the baby on her tummy and read lots of stories.

    11:00 a.m. – Boot up the lap top to get ready for registration. Change diapers, prepare snacks and try not to freak out about registration.

    11:30 a.m. – Baby wakes up from her nap extremely fussy.

    11:35 a.m. – Start the Little Mermaid.

    12:02 – I’m registered!!!!! (oh, I was able to calm the baby down during registration)

    12:30 p.m. – FaceTime with my sisters, relieved that we MADE it into the Disney Princess weekend!!

    12:30 – 2:00 p.m. – More play time and tummy time with the girls

    2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. – Singing time and nap time for my oldest and more tummy time and play time for my youngest.

    Have you noticed that the baby only takes small cat naps? … yeah.

    4:00 – 5:30 p.m. – playtime until Daddy comes home.

    6:00 – 8:00 p.m.  – Chick Fil A Cow Appreciation Dinner. We dressed like a cow and got free meals at Chick Fil A then went to the park to play for a bit.

    8:00 – 9:00 p.m. – I went to the store and did the dishes from the day while my husband did bath time routine and played with the girls.

    9:30 p.m. – Bedtime Routine for my oldest, and one last feed for the baby.

    10:00 p.m. – both babies are asleep for the night.

    Yep. We play all day and I try to do most cleaning and housework when my husband is home to play with the girls.

    So, that was our day!

    How was yours?

    First Run After Baby # 2

    June 3, 2015

    National Running Day. 
    It was the day I’d chosen to make my way back into the running world after my little break during pregnancy. 
    It was going to be perfect, I was going to feel fast and graceful. I’d be like a beautiful gazelle running in the sunshine. 
    Yeah. 
    That didn’t happen. 
    That first run felt awkward… It was like my insides were jiggling from my throat to my my toes and then settling somewhere inbetween during walk breaks and did I mention my skin? It may have been slapping me in the face… Well maybe not – but I’m sure it was flapping. 
    I wish I’d remembered these feelings from the first run after my oldest was born, but I didn’t. 

    I put this photo as my profile picture on Facebook as a reminder that I… 
    – trained for a marathon with an infant at home 
    – trained and ran that marathon (goofy challenge) 6 months pregnant.
    – that mouse (man) next to me believes in me
    – I will get my groove back someday
    Question: how was your first run after a break?  

    Fort Myers Life with Two under Two

    Friends, we have officially been in our new city as a family of four for 3 weeks. Somewhere between unpacking the boxes, finding a rhythm and attempting to keep food on the table and lunch in my husbands lunch box every day my babies started to grow up.


    My 16 month old started a consistent nap and bed time (for the first time in her life) and my newborn packed on three pounds and two inches.

    I stand at my counter typing this post gazing at my toddler playing in the (extremely messy) living room and my newborn watching closely from the swing and ask I myself the same question I get over and over again.

    “How do you do it?”

    I no longer plan anything more than meals, naps and bedtime.  The diaper changes, snacks, story times, play times and all over daily activities are unscripted.  We simply go with the flow… if we want to read an extra story, or pull out every last toy, or have a little dance party – we do. 



    Why? 

    • Because if I stop and think about the stressful things going on,
    • my husband starting a new job
    • selling our first home – the one we worked SO hard to get…
    • our A/C dying (forcing my husband to leave me alone in the hospital with our newborn)
    • Our car randomly smoking – like CRAZY  due to a loose oil cap.. (the oil cap that just doesn’t seem to stay put)
    • resigning from my job (I did that in January, but still…)
    • moving to a new city with my husband and 15 month old as my only support for this new life
    • etc… etc.. etc.. 

      I’d miss the precious tender moments with my girls. I might have missed our newborns first social smile, I might have failed to hear my toddler exclaim “Good Job” to her sister during tummy time and I might have neglected to sit and listen to my husband when he came home from his first few weeks of work. 


      So, how am I doing it? 


      He must become greater and greater and I must become less and less.  Jn. 3:30 (The Living Bible)

      Until you realize that God is way bigger than all those little things (that build up into big things) you’re going to miss out – and I don’t want to miss a moment with the three most important people in my life. 


      As long as I remember that my God is bigger, and able to supply my needs we’re going to be okay. 

      And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:19 (New Living Translation)

      Until next time… 


      Family Announcement: We moved to Fort Myers, FL

      I can hardly believe we are creeping up on the half way point for 2015!

      What??? 
      I have so much to share, but some of it I’m not exactly sure how to share so for now… Here are some of the happenings from the first part of our year! 
      – resigned from my job to stay home with my babies. 
      – ran a Marathon (actually, the goofy challenge at Disney)
      – said bye bye to our doggies (they are “on vacation” at Abuelas) 
      – had a baby
      – got our condo ready to sell
      – moved to Ft. Myers (husband got a new job) 
      There are lots of other little things, but those are the biggest and the crazy part is… The last three all happened between March and April… 
      So, how am I doing? I’m exhausted. I miss my home, I miss having my mother in law drop by with  fresh (warm) banana bread, I miss my church, I miss so many things… 

      In fact

      I’ve cried so hard at times my chest hurt.
      But… When I see my husband walk in the door from work, and he’s happy, Genuinely happy to be working in a field he worked so hard to be a part of, and when we sit around the table as a family of four to eat dinner, I know we are right where God led us to be. 
      From the moment he scheduled the interview, I felt God telling me it would all be okay. 
      Yes, I’ve cried a fair amount of tears in the last few weeks. 
      Yes, I miss our home and life in Miami. 
      The answer is yes. 
      But when I stop and think about it, the four most important people in my life are here. 
      And it is alright! 
      So, here’s to the rest of 2015 and our new adventure in Fort Myers. 

      Photo Credit: Vincent Hogan, The League of Extraordinary Artists 

      An Earth Day Birthday and the Famous Lily

      Introducing Robyn Zuzu

      As you know from our first daughter, we spend a lot of time thinking, talking, and praying about a name for our children. Naming a child is a huge blessing and responsibility, and we are always sure to take our time.

      Once we pick the name, we save it. We pray daily for our baby by name and spend the rest of our pregnancy bonding with our baby.  Now that we have two babies it was a little harder. We’d decided after our first that we wanted to do two things with our children’s names.

      1. We want them to start with the letter “R”
      2. We want to incorporate Christmas into the middle name.

      Christmas is a very special time of year, especially for our family as we got married at Christmas time  sooooo, why not?

      Zuzu.

      I first came across the name while looking online at lists of Christmas names and when I realized that Zuzu came from It’s a Wonderful Life, I was in love.

      Literally in love.

      It’s a Wonderful Life has a special place in my husbands heart, and a growing place in mine.

      So, the research started and here is what I found out.
      1. Our Zuzu is not the only one, in fact one Zuzu was a popular Brazilian fashion designer.
      2. It is a form of the name Susan (actually Zuzu is a nickname for “Susan” in It’s a Wonderful Life)
      3. It means Lily in Slavonic

      Zuzu is not only fun to say, but it has personality and as each day passed, I couldn’t imagine our baby to be named anything different.

      She was Zuzu.

      We struggled with the “R” name for a while, but when we started looking at meanings, everything was clear and the name Robyn Zuzu was hers.

      Robyn, which means “famous” and Zuzu which means “Lily” reminds us of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

      So, when you meet our Zuzu, may not only your heart be warmed by memories of Christmas, and how wonderful life is but you think about our Lord and Savior.

      The Lily of the Valley, Charles W. Fry.

      I have found a friend in Jesus, He’s everything to me,

      He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul;
      The Lily of the Valley, in Him alone I see
      All I need to cleanse and make me fully whole.
      In sorrow He’s my comfort, in trouble He’s my stay;
      He tells me every care on Him to roll. 

      Refrain:
      He’s the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star,
      He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul. 

      2 He all my grief has taken, and all my sorrows borne;
      In temptation He’s my strong and mighty tow’r;
      I have all for Him forsaken, and all my idols torn
      From my heart and now He keeps me by His pow’r.
      Though all the world forsake me, and Satan tempt me sore,
      Through Jesus I shall safely reach the goal. [Refrain]

      3 He will never, never leave me, nor yet forsake me here,
      While I live by faith and do His blessed will;
      A wall of fire about me, I’ve nothing now to fear,
      From His manna He my hungry soul shall fill.
      Then sweeping up to glory to see His blessed face,
      Where rivers of delight shall ever roll. [Refrain]

      Four Ways To Energize Your Day and Clear Your Brain

      Good Morning Friends,

      Happy Marathon Monday!!! I’m so excited for all those running in the Boston Marathon today. It’s such an accomplishment to train for a Marathon, and the 26.2 miles is part of the celebration!
      So, congratulations to everyone who lines up at the starting line!!

      As you know, I am a Jeff Galloway Blogger. As such, I am given the opportunity to share tips and articles written by Olympian Jeff Galloway. Here is the latest article, hope you enjoy!

      Four Ways To Energize Your Day and Clear Your Brain
      by, Olympian Jeff Galloway
      runinjuryfree.com

      It’s natural to become focused on the big things in life, and worry about outside forces, building stress.  A few simple lifestyle adjustments can result in greater control over attitude and energy, while reducing stress and fatigue.  Yes, you can exert more control over your life, produce positive attitude hormones, and blend together body, mind and spirit by planning and taking action.
       

      1. Walk or run, one day and a walk (or cross train) the next.  While the exertion will wake up the muscles, you’re away from the phone, allowing the mind a little freedom.  Most who start with a blank mental state, finish their exercise session with the day planned, and a few new ways to deal with problems.  Others like to walk/run during lunch hour, while munching on an energy bar.  This can clear out morning stress and prepare mind-body for the challenges of the afternoon.  Many evening exercisers believe that the weight of the day’s stress is erased or contained with the after-work workout.  Scheduling these outings gives you control over your existence.
      2. Don’t sit–walk!.  The addition of a few extra short walks, throughout the day, will energize the body and activate the mind.  Park farther away from work, the food store, the transit station, etc.  Many of my clients use a step counter for motivation and calorie counting.  It helps to find one that is consistent and reliable (usually @ $30).  Shoot for 10,000 steps a day.  You are rewarded for  getting out of your chair (or  the couch) more often.  These short walks burn fat, which adds up (up to 30 pounds a year!).  The best reward is the head clearing effect, which can power you through the mid morning or mid afternoon energy crises.  Even a 3-4 minute “recess” walk at work, can result in clearer thinking, more energy, and greater self-confidence.   
      3. Eat more frequently.  Each time you eat, even a small snack, you’ll boost your energy level. The longer you wait to eat, the more likely your metabolism will slump into drowsiness and laziness.  This also means that you’re not burning many calories.  If you divide up your daily calorie budget into 6-9 snacks a day you’ll burn more fat (up to 10 pounds a year).  Eat a snack every 2-3 hours, and you can feel better all day.  It helps to choose foods that have (percentage of calories vs total calories) about 20% protein, about 15% fat and the rest in complex carbohydrate.  This combination will leave you satisfied longer with fewer calories consumed.  To experience a fat loss, consumption can be managed through websites or journals.  For more information, see A WOMAN’S GUIDE TO FAT BURNING by Jeff and Barbara Galloway.
      4. Help someone exercise. The psychological benefits are significant when you help someone improve the quality of their life.  Offer to walk (run, hike) with your spouse, parent, friend co-worker, child—or all of the above.  My books WALKING & GETTING STARTED have proven programs with motivation which can lead you  and your “coach-ee” through the training. 
      Question of the Day: Do you need to focus on any of these tips? Which one (or ones)?

      My First Daughter’s Birth Story

      I wrote this post a year ago, and wasn’t sure if I would post it. BUT, as we celebrate one year with our Little Lady, I felt ready to share our story of induction.  Recaps from my Marathon will begin either late this week or over the weekend, but for now.. enjoy.

      January 10th, 
      This is the day that I was “supposed” to be giving birth. Due to a Policy enforcement from the Hospital, my OB was not able to induce me before 39 weeks. Since, I was 39 weeks on Sunday I had to wait. … 
      Not really a big deal except my OB was going to be out of the office during my 39th week. Therefore, the baby would be delivered by a different doctor. 
      When I got the news of this Wednesday evening, I cried. I’d spent my whole pregnancy going over EVERY detail with my OB. I was comfortable with her, and was just ready to bring Baby Jimenez into the world with her help. 
      I nervously waited to meet the new doctor, and was pleasantly surprised when I actually felt a sense of peace upon meeting him. He was nice, competent and very respectful that I wasn’t exactly thrilled about the last minute change in plans. 
      The Weekend
      The weekend was exhausting. Since we were supposed to have already given birth, we had quite a bit of inquiries as to why I was still pregnant. It was exhausting, but we survived and Monday finally came! 
      Monday, January 13th 
      My only plans for the day were to get my nails done and sleep. Of course my phone charger had broken, and we realized we had several last minute things to do – so Chris took me to the nail salon for a manicure and pedicure while he ran all over town. 
      8:30 p.m. – Time to leave. 
      We excitedly left the house and drove to the hospital. I was so giddy with excitement, even though I’d been warned that inductions take time, I was just so excited and in my mind Riley was going to be here in a matter of hours. 
      By 9:30 we were taken to our delivery room, and we began the exams, IV’s, blood pressure … etc, etc.. 
      11:00 p.m. –  First dose of medication. 
      11:20 p.m. – A visit from my parents. They visited for a while and then headed to our house to get some sleep. 
      3:00 a.m.  – 1 CM dilated. 
      8:20 a.m. – 1 CM dilated 
      10:45 a.m. – The Doctor stopped by, told me not to stress. Sometimes inductions take time, but we were going to have the baby and we were not even considering a c-section. 
      12:05 p.m. – Let the Pitocin begin. (p.s., still only 1 CM after 3 doses of the first medication) This was very frustrating for me because my contractions were getting ridiculously harder but nothing was happening! 
      2:30 p.m. – Still only 1 CM, the contractions were out of control. I had just been told that another woman was in the same boat as me (only 1 CM after 3 doses of medication and pitocin) and she just came out from a c-section. I guess that they were trying to comfort me… but all it did was freak me out. When the Doctor told me I was still only 1 CM, I broke down in tears and begged for the Epidural. 
      I’d had several conversations with the Doctor about the Epidural, and although I was nervous, he assured me that the Epidural would help me to relax and allow my body to progress.

      So, the Epidural came. I (of course) cried through the whole thing. My nurse held my hand and told me it was going to be okay, I kept asking why I couldn’t feel my legs, and if I was going to be able to walk again.  I think I might have been less stressed if the girl prepping me for the Epidural wasn’t singing “I do what I want, what I want with my body…” But, it was a memory. I also kept looking over at Chris, and thinking “why is he still in here? – I hope he doesn’t pass out”. Chris didn’t pass out and after my nurse assured me about 900 times that I would be able to walk again, I finally relaxed. 

      By 3:30 I was still only 1 CM and was in no pain, so we allowed some family to come visit. It was fun watching all our family members inspect the room. Of course the medical family members wanted to look at the print out of the babies heart rate, and the non-medical people would explore all of the stuff prepped for Baby’s arrival.
      Around 4:30, my nurse came in and I told her that “I peed on myself”. She laughed at me and said there is no way I peed on myself and I’m just feeling the effects of the epidural. Still feeling like I was sitting in a pool of water (gross, I know) I accepted it. 
      Around 5:30 I still felt like I had peed on myself so I told her again. The nurse said she’d test my glucose levels and then check, but there was no way I could have peed on myself.  
      Turns out … my water had broken! 
      What an answer to prayer! At 6:00 p.m., if I still wasn’t progressing, the doctor was going to manually break my water (something I was quite nervous about) 
      Doctor came in, the nurse explained the situation – we all got a good laugh about my description of my water breaking and I was now 4 or 5 CM dilated! 
      I was told to take a nap because baby would probably be here around 11:00 p.m. Then, the doctor went off to have dinner and the nurse went to re-chart everything from when I “peed on myself”.
      Chris came over, gave me a kiss and I started to go to sleep, while he pulled up netflix on the Kindle. 
      6:37 p.m. – The nurse RUNS in and says “I need to check you RIGHT NOW!, something strange happened” Now, I’m nervous. … all I could think was something was wrong with Baby! 
      I’d felt a strange urge to push about the time she ran in – but was now too scared to move. 
      Chris was on my left side and the nurse shouts out “Oh my God, Oh my God! – I gotta call the doctor right now!” As she takes off her gloves she manages to say “9.5 CM!, get ready baby is coming!” 
      Pause. 
      The shift changes at 7:00 p.m., it’s now about 6:40. 
      The next few minutes felt like an eternity. 
      • I can hear the the chaos outside my room as they are trying to get ahold of my doctor.
      • I can hear the chaos of them trying to see if my evening nurse was in yet. 
      • I can hear the nurses laughing. 
      • I can see Chris pacing… 
      We made the decision not to text the family that she was coming. To be honest, there wasn’t time. Chris had to clean up our stuff, put the couch back together and then it happened. 
      The doctor arrived. It was now about 7:10 p.m.. He and the day shift nurse prepped Chris to assist with the Birth of Riley while the evening nurse got herself settled.  
      The doctor had given Chris instructions, and asked him to go over to the couch if he at any time felt nauseated. The doctor then performed an exam to see how I was progressing and said “Look Daddy, she’s blonde like her Mom”.
      Now, I’m no doctor. … in fact, medical stuff grosses me out. But … doesn’t that mean that I’m crowning? 
      Yes. Riley was indeed ready to come. 
      In the room is still only Chris, 1 nurse and the Doctor. Due to the change of shift, they were still trying to get everyone in place. 
      With Chris on one side, and a nurse (who I still at this point don’t even know her name) the doctor asks 
      “Erin, Did you take a birth class” 
      “yes”

      “What do you remember, about pushing?”

      In a very frighten, shaken voice I shout “NOTHING” 

      “Don’t worry, that’s very common! We will help you through this” 

      5 sets of pushing later, at 7:30 p.m. Ms. Riley Noelle was in our arms. A 6 pound, 3 ounce healthy little girl, full of energy!
      As she was being born, the other nurses, and neonatologist arrived and began to introduce themselves to me. 
      My birth experience was not how I could have ever imagined it, but it was perfect. The Lord blessed me with a quick and safe delivery of our baby girl. 

      Family Announcement, Stay at Home Home

      2015 is here!!

      As 2015 approaches, here a couple things I am looking forward to this year. 
      Completing the Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World. That’s right, I want to complete the 39.3 mile challenge, and claim that beautiful bling and join the ranks of a select group on people who have completed a Marathon (all while being pregnant – because I’m slightly crazy GOOFY!)
      I’m looking forward to welcoming Baby 2 this April! I’ve been working on pulling out all the tiny baby girl stuff, and organizing it – anything to help get ready for baby girl, and also keep my mind busy. Every time I have a spare minute I start to panic about the Goofy Challenge… yikes! 
      I’m also looking forward too…
      • Reading more books with Little Lady
      • Sleeping less (wait? not really!)
      • More home cooked meals 
      • More Yoga pants / less heels 
      • Potty Training 
      • Weaning a baby off of a pacifier
      • More laughing

      and most of all, … I’m looking forward to transitioning into the role of Stay at HOME Mom!!!! 

      Pregnancy # 2 Announcement

      It is with great joy and excitement that I announce little lady’s promotion to BIG SISTER!  We will welcome our new little love bug home in April of 2015!! 
      Now, the details! 
      How / When did you find out?
      During the Month of August I’d been feeling quite nauseated, tired, and just over all blah. I decided that I “couldn’t be pregnant!”  and figured I was over training. I had just started doing PIYO six days a week, and was running 3 days a week. Additionally, i’d just gone back to work full time So, I thought I was just plain tired. 
      Well… There was about 3 days in Early September that I was physically unable to move. Every time I moved, I would be instantly dizzy and nauseated – thankfully it was a weekend so I was hoping I’d feel better enough for work on Monday, but when Monday rolled around and I was still vomiting and  I called in sick. By 11 a.m. I was so weak I called my husband and asked him to come take me to urgent care. 
      The nurse asked for my permission to give me a pregnancy test and I agreed.
      The doctor told me I was “dehydrated” and there is a bug going around. He said he could give me some fluids and anti-nausea medication and send me home, so we agreed that i’d go get some rest. 
      Since he didn’t say anything about the test, I figured It was just dehydration and was happy to get some medication and be on my way. 
      A few minutes later the doctor runs back in and says 
      “THE MYSTERY IS SOLVED! 
      YOU ARE PREGNANT” 
      Now, at this moment in time I had a baby who wasn’t even 7 months old. … 
      WHAT? 
      I looked at him with a blank stare and then burst into tears. 
      How close in age will they be? 

      15 months. 
      How are you feeling?

      This pregnancy is far different than my first. I have been so sick. Zero appetite, Zero desire to even hydrate, I just feel blah. 
      I’ve lost about 5 pounds, and am hoping the nausea will stop soon so that eating will stop feeling like a chore. 
      Goofy Challenge?
      After many conversations with my doctor, I have been cleared (for now) to keep running and training.   
      It’s been a struggle to run because I’ve been so sick, but when I’m running, the nausea goes away… 
      So, maybe I can just run all the time? 
      As my pregnancy progresses we will see how I feel, but I am not too proud to walk if I have to or even wait for the bus if I feel its better for our baby. 
      My doctor keeps telling me “don’t be a hero, just know your body”  So, that’s my new mantra… “don’t be a hero, don’t be a hero”… 
      Cravings??
      No. 
      I don’t want anything. 
      Except, the other day I wanted spaghetti o’s. … That was odd. 
      Question of the day: Do you have a sibling or children less than two years apart? 

      Organization Hack for when babies outgrow clothes

      Babies grow really quickly, they are in and out of sizes faster than you can blink! Here is how I am keeping things neat and tidy in my daughters room.

      I have a small basket on the shelf by her crib and if something doesn’t fit, I put it in the basket. Once the basket is full, I go ahead and box it away to either donate or keep for future babies.

      Easy and convenient. 
      Since I’m still losing weight I’ve taken this tip and incorporated it into my fitness life. 
      I have a bag next to the dryer of clothes, as I fold clothes and find things that are too big, I put it in the bag to donate! 
      Question: how do you organize clothes that don’t fit? 

      2014 – So many transitions

      2014 is a year of transition in our Storybook Life. 
      Our hearts expanded in mid January when we welcomed a beautiful princess into our family. 
      I transitioned from pregnancy to motherhood, and Prince Charming was an instant super dad. 
      On Tuesday our Princess will be 3 months old, so the next transition for us will be moving from bassinet in our room to the crib (a.k.a. Big girl bed) in her room. 
      Here are 4 things I’ve been doing to help transition baby girl to her room. 
      1. Tummy time!
      All tummy time is done in her room. I’ve moved all her toys into her room, (re-claimed my living room) and we just have a fun time exercising our muscles and playing with toys. 
      2. Diaper changes. 
      I’ve moved all of the diaper changes to her room. 
      3. Feedings. 
      I’ve started feeding her more in her room. Associating comfort with her new space. 
      4. A.m. Nap 
      I’ve been successful a few times with getting her to take a long nap (30-45 min). I stay in her room and fold clothes, or rest for a few minutes while she sleeps. I think it gives me piece of mind to be in the same space, and also I love watching her wake up from her morning nap – seriously, check out these smiles! 
      Anyway, we are still transitioning and the process isn’t fast, but we are moving in the right direction. 
      Question: when did you transition your child into the nursery? Any tips? 
      P.s. Afternoon naps (if she naps) look more like this, and I really don’t mind one bit! 

      3 ways to get fit during tummy time

      Yesterday we had a beautiful day with just the family! Little Lady had her 3 month check up, and ears pierced. She looks adorable, by the way! In order to celebrate, and spend some time outside of our condo, we bought zoo passes!

      We LOVE the zoo, and now I have a place to walk around with Little Lady. Saturday we are going to go meet the Easter Bunny at the Zoo. So fun!

      If you’ve had children in the last 20 years, you know the importance of “tummy time”. Ever since the “back to sleep” campaign, which encourages care-givers to put babies to sleep on their back, infants have needed additional time on their tummy. This helps them to build neck control, and build up the upper body strength needed to crawl and eventually walk.

      (Disclaimer, not a medical professional – just a mom)

      Anyway, since little lady and I have been spending a lot of time on our tummy I thought i’d share a few ways I’ve incorporated fitness into our tummy time.

      Note: Always monitor your baby, and keep his/her safety your number 1 priority!

      1) Planking.
      With your baby on their tummy, do a plank (or a few planks) in front of them. Talk to the baby while you plank, this will help pass the time for you and encourage them to look up at your funny face for a few seconds.

      2) Super mans.
      Baby’s on their tummy kind of look like they are doing super mans. I will mimic her action, causing her to smile and well, I’m getting some core work done.

      3) Squirms.
      Same concept as super mans.

      As your baby ages, you spend more and more time during tummy time, and you will find ways to incorporate yoga poses, or other workouts into the routine.

      My goal is to make tummy time fun for both of us, and show my daughter that living an active healthy lifestyle can be fun!

      As I said, always be sure you are watching your baby and considering his or her safety!

      What are some ways you’ve incorporated fitness into tummy time with your baby?

      THIS moment…

      As each day passes and I see Tiny Princess develop I must stop and be thankful for the moment.

      Yes, I want her to have her vaccines and for flu season to be over so we can return to church, or go to a crowded place. 
      Yes, I want her to be strong enough to hold her head up. Every mom wants that, it would make it easier for me to allow people to hold her anyway… 
      Yes, I want her to nap in her bed. But not really because she won’t want to be in my arms forever. 
      Yes, I want to eat a full meal in one sitting. 
      Yes, I’m looking forward to her first trip to Disney.
      Yes, I think about all the adventures we will have when she’s old enough to remember them. 
      Yes. The answer is probably yes, I’m looking forward to [insert milestone here].
      But for now, I will remind myself to enjoy THIS moment because all too soon it will be a memory. 
      All too soon she will be independent.
      All too soon she will no longer be my tiny princess, but a full grown princess. 
      To my readers, may you live in THIS moment, because if you stop and look around it’s probably beautiful. 
      Typed on my phone as Tiny Princess naps in my arms, please excuse any typos. 

      The Return to Fitness After Baby

      One of the best parts of being a mom is that I get to watch Tiny Princess discover new things ALL the time. Her latest discovery? …fingers! We were sitting on the couch during our afternoon “sing-song time” (where I sing basically every song I know very loudly in all different voices for about 15 minutes) and as I was counting with my fingers, she reached her hand up and pointed a finger, then quickly inspected it.  Now, I might be a little crazy – but it made my whole day. She’s been mesmerized by her fingers ever since.

      Life is one grand adventure, and on the days where it seems the laundry is piled far too high, or we don’t have a single clean dish I remind myself that someday I will remember these as “The Good ol’ Days”. So, in celebration of “The Good ol’ Days” we set out on a family adventure on Saturday.

      Last Monday I was given the okay by my OB to resume fitness, and reminded that my body has changed so I need to 1) be careful and 2) take it slow, and re-introduce myself to my body.  Soooo, this week I’ve been “taking it slow”, but yesterday I just HAD to go on a “long run”. (more than 1 mile currently equals “long run” status). So, I did. and… WOW! … my hips feel huge!

      Moving onward. 

      After a lovely run in 78 degree Miami Sunshine, our family loaded into the car to go for a walk at Matheson Hammock Park and search for a few geocaches.

      What is Geocaching? 

      Geocaching is basically a treasure hunt with a GPS. You go online, and look up coordinates to a location – plug them into your GPS and when you get there, you’ll find a little log book. Log your username, and the date then go back to the internet and log that you found the spot.

      I’ve geocached off and on for the last several years, and always enjoy it. One of the coolest things about it is that you will find little hidden trails, or beautiful spots that you never knew about RIGHT in your own city!

      More information on this –> website!

      Now that we have a Tiny Princess, we’ve started geocaching again. It’s a fun way to be active together, and build family memories.

      What adventures do you go on as a family, do you geocache?

      Introducing our first Daughter!

       “From Life’s first Cry…” Lyrics to a song I’ve always loved, but until 7:30 p.m. on January 14th, 2014 I could only dream of its beauty.

      January 14th, 2014 after 22 hours of labor Ms. Riley was born. 
      Weighing in at 6 pounds and 3 ounces, she couldn’t be any more perfect.

      Photo Credit: The League of Extraordinary Artists

      When Christopher and I found out we were expecting, we began the journey of choosing the perfect name. We knew that we wanted Baby Jimenez to have a name that had meaning, and we knew that we wanted the name to begin with the letter R. Actually we already had our “If it’s a boy” name picked out. In fact, while I was training for my half marathon’s I used to pray for my future baby by that name. So, naturally I thought it was going to be a boy – I mean, i’d been praying for peace with whatever the Lord had, and was ready to accept that maybe motherhood was not something the Lord had for me. So, on May 21st when I saw the words “Pregnant” on the screen I was so thankful for the answer to prayer and my prayers went from praying for baby by name to praying for Baby Jimenez.

      A few weeks before my mid-pregnancy ultrasound Chris and I began thinking up a name for Baby in the event that it was a girl. It was a Sunday morning during Lords Supper, our Chapel had been focusing on the theme of “Bold Faith”. One of the brothers got up to give the announcements and encouraged the saints to “Be Courageous with our faith”. I remember just sitting there, after meeting was over and saying to Chris, that’s what I want for our baby… With a look of shock Chris said “I was thinking the same thing!” So, we were on a quest to find the perfect name that would go with our verse. 
      Joshua 1:9 
      Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid nor dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with you wherever you go”
      After we identified a verse, and prayer for her it didn’t take us long to fall in love with the name Riley. Not only is Riley a cute short name, but it wasn’t on the top lists and it means “courage” (How perfect is that right?) 
      I’d like to say that her middle name was inspired by the “Code of the Elves” (Elf) where it clearly states we are to “treat every day like Christmas”… it wasn’t. I just thought it sounded really pretty together, and Chris agreed. 
      So, Riley Noelle became our “if it’s a girl” name. 
      On August 29th, when the ultrasound tech said “you guys are having a girl” I couldn’t help myself, I blurted out “Hi Riley!” and then, the journey of keeping it a secret began. 
      So my dear sweet Riley. Our prayer for you is that as you grow, you would come to an understanding of your need for Christ as your Savior at a young age and that you would courageously follow Him. 
      Photo Credit: The League of Extraordinary Artists

      Special thank you to Vinny, with The League of Extraordinary Artists for capturing so many beautiful photos of Riley.

      Inside my hospital Bag – First Baby

      While my instagram, twitter and facebook feeds are full of images of costumes and packed suitcases for Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World this weekend, my bags packed for a much different reason.

      My hospital bag is packed, the car seat is installed and I am so ready to have this baby! I procrastinated for far too long when it comes to packing my hospital bag. Most online forums will encourage you to have it packed by 36 weeks. That way, when you are full term (37 weeks) you don’t have to worry about running errands, and packing a bag should you go into labor before you estimated due date. I  didn’t finish packing mine until last Friday (just about 38 weeks). 
      What’s in the bag? 
      I spent a lot of time on google, and youtube putting together lists of items I might want. When packing, I took a few things into consideration.
      1. I don’t like clutter. Since I’m not a fan of cutter, I wanted to be sure that I didn’t over pack. 
      2. I hate to be unprepared. Since I hate to be unprepared, I spent quite a bit of time talking over the birth process, and hospital procedures with my OB. I wanted to be sure I was fully aware of what would be allowed in the hospital. 
      3. I wanted my husband to have everything he needed. I love my husband, he’s been my rock through this whole pregnancy. While working full time and completing his final semester of graduate school he has taken care of me and NEVER missed a doctors appointment. So, I wanted to be sure that while we were in the hospital HE would have everything he needed to be comfortable. 
      So, after I internalized what I thought I might need I came up with the following list of items to take. 
      For Labor:
      • Birth plan 
      • Small note book w/pen 
      • Focus cards 
      • Kindle with funny movies 
      • Ipod with calming music 
      • Paper fan 
      • Tennis Balls 
      • Chapstick (about 5 tubes in every pocket of the suitcase)
      • My Pillow 
      • Phone
      • Camera 
        • Batteries and Chargers 
      For After Birth:
      • Pj’s – two different sets 
      • Going home outfit
      • Flip flops
      • Socks
      • Make up 
      • Toiletries
      • Hair Straightener
      • Dry Shampoo 
      For My Husband:
      • Snacks
        • Meal replacement bars
        • Energy Snack mix
      • Change 
        • for vending machine
      • Gum
      • Water Bottle
      • Sweatpants
      • Socks 
      • Beanie Hat – He is always freezing! 
      • Clothing 
      For Baby:
      • Receiving blanket
      • Hats
      • Outfits 
      • Socks
      • Mittens
      For Nurses: 
      • Day 1 nursing staff gift basket 
        • Chocolate
        • Rice Krispee Treats 
      • Day 2 nursing staff gift basket
        • Chocolate 
        • Rice Krispee Treats 
      Other:
      • Baby Book – in case my husband wants to start filling it out while we are in the hospital (*hint-hint*)
      • Guest Book 
        • We are taking a guest book for any visitors in the hospital to sign
      • Empty bag in case of freebies, cards or other things to bring home
      I’m sure there are other things in our suitcase, I’m just not sure right off hand. 
      What did you pack in your suitcase, am I forgetting anything?