Friday, July 29, 2016

Rewind Friday -- Our Favorite Learning Activity Posts

Happy Friday! I am really excited about today's post. Not only does Rewind Friday series giving me the chance to share my favorite Wife Mommy Me posts but it also provides me with the opportunity to read some of your best work too. Be sure to link up your Rewind Friday posts below. We will be promoting the most clicked link in our party so make sure you mingle and join our party.

With back to school just right around the corner, I thought today would be the perfect time to share 4 of my favorite learning posts. Connor and I try to have "school" a day or two a week along with his normal school schedule (3 hours a day, 3 times a week). I try not to have too strict of a schedule so we do a lot of play and games. Here are our favorite learning activities and tools, all of which you can do in the comfort of your own home.


We first started playing board games when Connor received The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game for this 3rd birthday. I soon discovered how many other games are available with the same teachable lessons but with unique themes. While we play, Connor is learning letters, shapes, colors, numbers and fine motor skills thanks to the adorable squeezers. We love these games and you and your little ones will too!

As Moms we all know the value of the quiet time and finding something that keeps our little ones entertained. Water beads is my answer to mess-free fun that can take place indoors or out. We've been playing with water beads for nearly 2 years. At the bottom of my linked post, I share a handful of pins that give you additional ideas of what possibilities there are for using water beads to snag yourself some quiet play time. 

We had 3 goals for Connor this Summer - learn to verbally spell basic words, write his name and use scissors - I want to keep the Summer fun and not too school-ish. With that in mind, I put together and shared with readers one activity that would help your preschooler learn to spell 9 new words plus their name and improve their letter recognition skills along the way. 

Even thought Connor was in preschool last year one area that I've notice he still struggles with is the ability to tell me what lower cases letters are which. He has the easy ones down, you know the ones that look the same "big" or "little"? So while he knows a good chunk of them, I wanted to see if we could focus on learning all 26. With that in mind, I put together a fun fishing game to help teach Connor both upper and lower case letters.

I would love for you to share with me your toddler approved learning tools, activities and any other ways you making learning fun. 

Now it's your turn. The link up is a chance for you to share your favorite overlooked content. Fresh eyes and new love on posts that you've poured your heart out on. Link up a collection of posts like mine or add a single post. It's up to you, no rules. Be sure to use hashtag #RewindFridayParty when sharing your posts so we can check it out. Grab my Rewind Friday image below and join the party.


Happy Friday, friends! 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Chicago -- Food, Music and Friendship

This past weekend, I headed out of town with 2 of my girlfriends, Kristin and Tracy, for a girls only trip to Chicago. Tracy wanted to see Dave Matthews, Kris wanted to see Coldplay and I wanted to eat. Seriously. My main objective was to stuff myself with Chicago-style pizza. Spoiler alert: everyone left happy! Our trip was exactly what I needed. As a Mom, it's nice to just have adult time and that's exactly what I got for 3 solid days. It was pure heaven. I have so many photos to recap our weekend so I'll sum each day up and then share some of my favorite photos from our weekend.


SATURDAY
We drove from Dayton to Noblesville, IN to stay at the Prairie Guest House. Our Saturday night plans were to see Dave Matthews Band. The drive from my house to the bed and breakfast was just under 2.5 hours so it was a really easy drive and we had plenty of time to unpack, grab dinner (healthy Mexican ... yes it's a thing. My Mexican rice had lima beans and green beans in it!), get ready for the concert and head over to the venue, Klipsch Music Center. Our bed and breakfast was adorable and I think everyone should experience staying at a B&B at sometime or another. This was my second time and it was so delightful. It was so hot Saturday evening with a heat wave and storm front moving in but Tracy and Kristin loved the show and I enjoyed the people watching. In case you were curious, I am not a fan of DMB and seeing him in concert didn't change that. #TeamJohnMayerforLIFE






SUNDAY
We slept in, had the most amazing breakfast cooked for us at the B&B and then got ready to drive the second leg of our trip to Chicago. We drove about 3 more hours into downtown Chicago to check-in at our hotel, Mile North Hotel. The Coldplay concert was Sunday night so we had made plans to have dinner at RPM Italian (owned by Giuliana & Bill Rancic) beforehand. This is were my heart was made happy because #food. I devoured chicken parmesan and chocolate and almond cannoli. The moment we stepped into our Uber (my first experience; so much more enjoyable than a taxi), the skies opened up and we were "treated" to one heck of a thunderstorm. We were able to make it to Solider Field but had to take shelter in an underpass because the storm was so bad. The concert started late and only Coldplay performed. I have no clue who the opening acts were. Again, I'm not a huge fan of Coldplay but Chris Martin puts on such an awesome show that I sort of decided I'd give him a chance.








MONDAY
Sunday was my day. The girls got their concerts and all I wanted was a) to see Chicago and b) eat pizza before heading back home. Easy enough, right? We took an Uber to Millennial Park from our hotel and walked around a bit before stopping at The Bean and then heading to Navy Pier. At the Pier, we had lunch at Giordano's, home of the most amazing, belly filling stuffed pizza. The pizza was beyond tasty and is totally worth the 45-minute cook time. I will admit that both sights, the Bean and Pier, are very touristy but I liked seeing both as they are Windy City landmarks. We ended up walking up the Magnificent Mile back to our hotel and did a bit of window shopping. We hit the road around 4 and got home late Monday evening.







We filled our weekend and I loved every moment, well I could have done without the heat and the storm but wasn't really something we could have control anyway. Kristin and Tracy have been friends of mine for 16 and 11 years, respectively, and this was the perfect way for us to spend time together doing what we love. Road trips are so much fun to me so being able to chat and visit with friends while doing so is an added bonus.

Both Trace and Kris got a kick out of the amount of photos I would take and how I would stage certain things #bloggerproblems but I have to share with my selfies I snapped. I feel in the love with an old barn at the B&B and took a selfie in front of it and my selfie game just snowball from there. I'm not one to take many but I did this week anytime I found a new background that I liked. Here are my Chicago selfies (I promise I'm not vain!).


I'm home now, back to wearing my Momma hat. Hope y'all had a great weekend and that your week has been just as enjoyable. Happy Friday Eve!


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Reading Wednesday -- July 2016

Happy Hump Day friends! This morning I am sharing with you this month's book review. I was able to read a ton this month thanks to swim lessons each morning. 30 minutes for 2 weeks adds up when you can read uninterrupted! As of today, I've read 14 of my 25 book goal. I'm hoping to read 3 additional books in August and get a bit ahead of my goal in preparation of our busy season, Fall. For July, I read The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews and The Assistants from Camille Perri



The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews
Some people stay all summer long on the idyllic island of Belle Isle, North Carolina. Others come only for the weekends-and the mix between the regulars and “the weekenders” can sometimes make the sparks fly. Riley Griggs has a season of good times with friends and family ahead of her on Belle Isle when things take an unexpected turn. While waiting for her husband to arrive on the ferry one Friday afternoon, Riley is confronted by a process server who thrusts papers into her hand. And her husband is nowhere to be found.

So she turns to her island friends for help and support, but it turns out that each of them has their own secrets, and the clock is ticking as the mystery deepens...in a murderous way. Cocktail parties aside, Riley must find a way to investigate the secrets of Belle Island, the husband she might not really know, and the summer that could change everything.


My Thoughts
I was really looking for a summer read and this one fit that bill perfectly. I've never read anything by Mary Kay Andrews but she has a ton of novels so I was really eager to see if she could be a new author for me to binge on. This summer murder mystery book was exactly what I was looking for for a warm weather read. Andrews has these unique ability to hook her readers into the story from the get-go; I couldn't put this book down! It has quite a bit of drama, mystery, and intrigue, but all of this is mixed together gives you a story that will keep you interested all the way through. For example, Riley is a modern woman whose world has centered around her family and an island her entire life. When her life is turned upside down, it's very interesting to read how she handles it. The same is true for her brother and her mother and her daughter -- on and on. The plot is multi-faceted and while, not complex, is a little twisted.

The Assistants by Camille Perri
Tina Fontana is the hapless but brazen thirty-year-old executive assistant to Robert Barlow, the all-powerful and commanding CEO of Titan Corp., a multinational media conglomerate. She’s excellent at her job and beloved by her famous boss—but after six years of making his reservations for restaurants she’d never get into on her own and pouring his drinks from bottles that cost more than her rent, she’s bored, broke, and just a bit over it all.
 
When a technical error with Robert’s travel-and-expenses report presents Tina with the opportunity to pay off the entire balance of her student loan debt with what would essentially be pocket change for her boss, she struggles with the decision: She’s always played by the rules. But it’s such a relatively small amount of money for the Titan Corporation—and for her it would be a life-changer.
 
The Assistants speaks directly to a new generation of women who feel stuck and unable to get ahead playing by the rules. It will appeal to all of those who have ever asked themselves, “How is it that after all these years, we are still assistants?”


My Thoughts
I really enjoyed this book. I hadn't planned on reading it but a book lovin' girlfriend of mine suggested it so I picked it up. It was a quick read -- I finished it in just 4 days -- and would completely recommend it. While obviously the plot of The Assistants is far-fetched, it's a really enjoyable read. We know inherently Tina and her crew are committing crimes, and we know their good fortune can't last forever, but we want it to. Perri does a great job unfurling Tina's ethical and emotional dilemmas, but she's careful not to paint Robert as too much of an ogre either. This book definitely taps into some very relevant themes in today's world, including gender inequity and student loan debt.


For August, I will be reading First Comes Love by Emily Griffin and Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult.  Now it's your turn to share what you've been reading. Add our button to your book themed post and linkup your book reviews and lists. You have until August 5 to add your July reading list.

And this will be the last month that I host this link-up. I'll still be sharing my reading list but plan to move to more of a what's been going on type of post. I plan to join others in the "What's Up Wednesday" link-up party, You can visit Justine's post from today to see what I'll be sharing and even join us! 




Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Christmas in July Goodies

If you've been around for a while, you know my love of Christmas runs deep. Every year, I start celebrating on November 1, as a birthday gift to myself. We decorate, we listen to Christmas music, we bake cookies for friends, we go all out. So when I discovered some of my favorite bloggers had put together a Christmas in July box swap, you know I jumped on board!

We were lucky enough to have Liz from Chasin' Mason, one of the co-hosts, shopping for us and it's safe to say we were given such amazing goodies. Liz and I are bloggers turned real life friends so she knows Connor personally and you can tell she put so much thought into the items she sent him.



Connor squealed when he say the gifts from Liz. We instantly put the movie and Blaze truck to use during quiet time. Once we had enough batteries for our bubble machine, we shared the fun with some friends at a play date. The water balloons didn't last as nearly long as I had thought they would. Connor and his best gal, Macie had the time of their life with their first ever water balloon fight together.


Liz and Mason, THANK YOU for gifting us such fun summertime toys and activities. Connor has had a blast with the bubble machine and we've watched the Blaze movie more times than I can count!


Monday, July 25, 2016

July's Must Make Meal -- Taco Soup

Who else has a weekly taco night? Our menu usually includes taco night at least once a week. But because I was getting tired of the same old same old, I looked for a way to spice Taco Tuesday up a bit. That's when I discovered the tasty dish that is taco soup. While it might not be a taco or burrito, it still gives you the flavor of such, just in a bowl. It's so simple, feeds a crowd and tastes amazing. In the beginning of July, I put together 5 freezer meals and this is the only one that I plan to make again; it's that good (and the others were that bad!). But enough raving about how good it, let me show you.


The prep for this is easy and can be down the night before. The "work" part of this meal is chopping the onion and browning the ground turkey. But that's still simple enough, right? Here is the full recipe.

SLOW COOKER TACO SOUP 

INGREDIENTS
1 pound turkey, browned and drained of fat
1 can of crushed tomatoes with chilies
8 ounces of sweet corn
1 can of black beans
1 can of kidney beans
1 medium onion
1 taco seasoning packet

INSTRUCTIONS
Combine all the ingredients in your crock pot, add a cup of water and let cook for 6-8 hours on low, the longer the better. 

We topped ours with cheese and Fritos because both make everything better. This dish was a hit with the whole family. It's full of flavor, is simple to prepare and clean-up is a breeze. If you wanted to make this a freezer meal, omit the seasoning and water and add that in once you've thawed your frozen ingredients and placed them in the cooker.

Since my other meals were a bust, I'm on the lookout for soups and chowders to make in the crock pot. I've looked on Pinterest and here are a few that I've found and plan to try over the next month or so.


Don't those sound amazing? I think I'm going to to aim to make one a week, with the option to have leftover for lunch for the Mister and I. Be sure to visit Whitney at Polka-Dotty Place, Kate from Cup of Tea and Whitney at Come Home for Comfort to see what new meals they discovered this month. 



Friday, July 22, 2016

Friday Favs: Parks, Swim Lessons and Networking

Hey, Friday... long time, no see! Is it me is the week leading up to a trip or vacation the longest? With my girls trip just hours away, I am really getting excited to have some me time with my best gals. But I still have a bit of time before we hit the road so here are this week's highlights.


ONE
Here are these week's post in case you missed any of them...

TWO

We've started a new family tradition .. GAME NIGHT. Connor has some really fun educational games that are really fun for us too and we've pulled those suckers out and have game night twice this week. We are keeping score and whoever gets to 5 wins first will be our family game night winner. Connor is in the lead with 2 games. And he really has earned those wins, no freebies here :) This has been the best way to wind down after bath and before books and bedtime.

THREE




I am so excited to share that I am now a contributor to Dayton Moms Blog. DMB is a sister site to City Moms Blog. As a writer, I'll share 2 articles each month on the Dayton site, allowing me to share more of my writing with local readers to the Dayton, Ohio area. I'm really looking forward to meeting and mingling with more moms and the writers of our site. I think it's awesome that there is a site dedicated to our city (maybe yours, too! Just visit City Moms Blog to find your branch) sharing advice, local fun, food for thought and so much more with the local residents. I'll be sure to share my articles with you as they go live.

FOUR

The local children's hospital recently built a park in our neighborhood (we live really close to the hospital) and we checked it out this week and it was a hit with the whole family. It's so close, we could walk, so I see us taking many a trips to it this year. I love some of the unique parts of it, like this stairway along with a sundial they have at one end. They also have a small flower garden. It will be so nice to take Connor over when we need to burn off a bit more of his extra energy. 

FIVE

We just wrapped up 2 weeks of swim lessons and while Connor will be repeating level 1, I am so proud of his effort and progress. Before lessons, he would NEVER lay on his back, especially in water, including the bathtub and a changing table (talk about pain in the rear!). But each night we've been doing some bath time swim lessons as I call them and he has finally mastered laying all way down without issue and will kick his legs and push off the tub wall. Overall, he is just really timid around water and physically, he is just so stiff; loosen up buddy! Next, we are going to work on jumping in and putting his face underwater completely. He has another 2 weeks scheduled starting Monday. I am really hoping he is moved from level 1 to level 2 by the end of this series. Wish us luck! 

I hope y'all had a great week and that your weekend is just as fun. It's supposed to be a hot one here in the Midwest but I'm not going to complain because I have a weekend full of girlfriends and memories ahead of me. 

Happy weekend, friends! 
 




Thursday, July 21, 2016

Count to Nine: 9 Liberating Steps for Mommy Anger and Frustration

This morning I have a special guest blogging for me. Ruthie from Rear. Release. Regroup. is taking over for the day. I have to admit that when I Ruthie's post, I felt myself nodding over and over again. While motherhood is glorious and amazing in so many ways, it also brings with it moments that are downright unpleasant. Because I am know I am not alone, that we all have less than stellar days, I am eager to share with you Ruthie's e-book "Count to Nine: 9 Liberating Steps for Mommy Anger and Frustration".

Do you have a "Kid X"?

Surprising anger instigators

Most moms have at least a little trouble battling the temper--I know I did! As a mom of four (now grown) children, I'm here to say I earned the "angry mom" badge many a day! Sometimes there are underlying reasons for anger that are wrong--surprising anger instigators! For example, these can emerge in the form of our own personality clones. One of my children, Kid X, was almost a carbon copy of myself. This means that when Kid X sometimes got on my nerves, Kid X didn't necessarily get on anyone else’s nerves. However, because Kid X had my personality, I recognized my mirrored faults.
 Do you have a KID X? Surprising underlying anger instigators that you may not realize are bringing you down. Learn to recognize these important signs by cultivating wisdom.

Do you have a Kid X? Since studying the subject of anger closely, I realized I snapped only because Kid X got on my nerves, not because Kid X had done something that needed corrected. This can also happen with your polar opposite Kid X. We have a tendency to let trivial characteristics of our people annoy us, and therefore control our anger. Sometimes, simply because they do something that grates on our ever-lovin’ nerves, yet not necessarily something that deserves correction, we blow. Perhaps it does need corrected, but we need to go about it without anger – or be careful not to let anger turn to wrath. Some wrong reasons for anger listed in the Word are: Jealousy Pride Fear Frustration Self-pity.
If you have been foolish in exalting yourself or if you have been devising evil, PUT YOUR HAND ON YOUR MOUTH. Proverbs 30:32 (ESV)  
Quite appropriate, yes?

Do you have a KID X? Surprising underlying anger instigators that you may not realize are bringing you down. Learn to recognize these important signs by cultivating wisdom.
 Here’s the background: In the beginning of Proverbs, Wisdom calls and raises her voice, crying out:
How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity (no knowledge or implementing of wisdom for victory), For scorners delight in their scorning (“there’s no way anyone could handle this mess without screaming!”) And fools HATE knowledge” (“I’ll just stay with my habits, thank you.” Or, “I can’t stop yelling; it’s impossible.”) (Proverbs 1:20-22, NKJV)  
HOWEVER, in the very next verse, we read HOPE! Notice this:
If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. (vs. 23, ESV)  
Mom, you have the tools to handle this. The believer possesses: God’s Spirit God’s Word Access to God God’s Power Other believer's support   So, let’s make this practical. Next time you are angry, put your hand to your mouth. Just try it. We need to produce ACTIONABLE application of God’s Word. We need to apply wisdom. It’s not a cure-all. But it does provide a positive way to react. It’s an actionable, measurable step toward correction and redirection.   Does this sound like a quick fix? Somewhat of a superficial band aid to get you through maybe one or two squabbles? It takes more than just a few tips to curb anger, doesn't it? The preceding devotional is just a snippet of a book I wrote on mommy anger. It's called, COUNT TO NINE; 9 Liberating Steps for Mommy Anger and Frustration.

Order Today - COUNT TO NINE; 9 Liberating Steps for Mom Frustration and Anger" By Ruthie Gray

I wrote this book because as a mom of four myself, I dealt with a LOT of anger down through the rearing years, and I struggled to handle it well. As I seek to mentor younger moms, I notice this same pattern emerging. A battle with anger-induced rage. And these moms want change. My new ebook, Count to Nine, 9 Liberating Steps for Mom Anger and Frustration, presents nine essential steps to overcome mishandled anger. Offering *Scripture PillarsPower-Packed Pillar Prayers, a Plan of Action for each chapter, and much more, this book will set you on the road towards recovery. The book is full of key Biblical strategies to help you parent gracefully and learn the Biblical approach to anger. How do I know? I teach this method to a group of moms who are tracking wins and overcoming their anger by daily implementing these Scriptural strategies! This book is a small investment to make toward a big difference in the dynamic of your family. Are you ready to take the necessary steps to freedom from the power of anger gone wrong? You can do this, mom. Let me show you how through COUNT TO NINE. At just $7.00, this ebook is an affordable investment toward not only developing positive reactions to anger, but patterning them for your children as well! How about it mom? Do you have a "Kid X"? Have you noticed your temper flaring simply because you dislike a trait he possesses that is similar to something you struggle with? I’m praying for you!
 BONUS JOURNAL from Order Today - COUNT TO NINE; 9 Liberating Steps for Mom Frustration and Anger" By Ruthie Gray

PS: As an extra BONUS to the book, we've included a beautiful, printable journal with Scripture cards and Thankful cards, designed by my friend Jessica through her Etsy shop! You will love this actionable, gorgeous addition to the book! Grab your copy today!

I know what it's like to struggle with anger. As a mom of four and Gigi of two, I've been in your shoes. This is a plan to get you started in the right direction. Won't you join me? 
Ruthie Gray is a wife, mom of four, Gigi, and caregiver, living in the sandwich generation and blogging to keep her sanity. When she's not snacking on plastic drumsticks with her grandson (The Tiny Tornado), or snuggling his sister (Baby Cakes), you can find her coaching other moms on how to raise responsible kids and enjoy them at RearReleaseRegroup.com and Mom Time Out. You can also connect with Ruthie on Facebook.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Perfect Gift for the Uncommon Occasion

This shop has been compensated by UncommonGoods. All opinions are mine alone.

In September, I'll be celebrating my 6 year Friendiversary with my best friend, Kari. Because we are complete nerds, we usually plan a girls night out with dinner, a movie and to exchange gifts. Kari and I meet through work and have been best friends since we discovered our love of Pizza Hut and Mt. Dew. Don't worry, we both have kicked those habits. But one thing we haven't kicked is our friendship. We've been through it all together: the loss of love ones, my engagement and wedding, us both having babies and a move half-way cross the country. Our friendship as weathered it all and I can't imagine growing old with any other gal then her.

To show her how much I love and appreciate her, I've been doing some shopping, looking for the perfect gift to celebrate our 6 year milestone. I've discovered the best online shop for uncommon gifts and can't wait to present her with what I think is the perfect gift for her/our friendship. If you are looking for a gift for that special gal in your life - mother, wife, sister, aunt, friend, you name it - look no further than UncommonGoods.



I love giving gifts that have a special meaning behind the item. Be it something I know a friend would love or something that tells a bit of story, I want to give something that I would be proud to receive. I also like the idea of gifting jewelry. I wear my favorite pieces daily and think that if I picked the right gift, a new piece of jewelry could easily become a staple piece in any women's collection. Here are just 3 of the many items I have on my "wish list" for Kari.

Gift idea number ONE: Custom State Necklaces
Living in a military town, I've meet so many ladies that are from out of state. What better way for her to have a bit of home with her than with a necklace that pays homeage to her favorite zip code. This sterling silver and diamond pendant is the perfect way for Kari to wear her love of Oklahoma proudly. Minimalist jewelry is always my go to as I want it to be something my giftee can wear time and time again. Here are additional necklaces to consider as well.

Gift Idea number TWO: Friendship Inspirational Pendant

This reversible sterling necklace is a favorite of mine. The quote is what got me: "friendship the best mirror is an old friend". Kari and I met when we were in our mid-twenties and while we haven't been lifelong friends, I know that in 15-20 years from now, we will look back on so many amazing milestones that we've shared together. A beautiful piece of jewelry quickly displays such friendship.

Gift idea number THREE: Parent Nestling Necklaces 


I think I can speak for most women when I say that their roles as a wife and mother are amongst their proudest. The same can be said for Kari. She waited so long to have her daughter and through the ups and downs of life, she has her sweet girl Macie. I've spoke of her often on my blog. Kari is honored to be a wife and a momma. What better way to show that love than with a beautiful necklace, displaying her flock?

UncommondGoods has amazing pieces of work. One of a kind pieces created by artists local to Brooklyn, where the bulk of all items on their site is made by hand, meaning you are truly getting an item that was made in America. UncommondGoods always gives back. You shop, they donate. As an independently-owned business, they have the freedom to support causes they believe in. Through their Better to Give program, they have donated over $1,000,000 in just 12 years. With every purchase you make, they donate $1 to a Better to Give partner of your choice.

With September only 2 months away, I have to make a decision and pick which gift I want to give Kari this year. What do you think? Should I got with gift number 1, 2 or 3?