Sunday, December 27, 2015

Bits of Our Christmas

Took all her presents into her new teepee 
new pumped up kicks
first pair of Sorel boots courtesy of Mimi & pampa
The infamous Lego train that will take all my days and nights to complete
We had such a great, relaxing, love-filled holiday. Still trying to clean the house and organize as the kids run around playing with all their new beloved toys.... Wishing everyone had a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sponsor Feature & Giveaway! LyfeLine Milestones App

During the worst month of the year on our wallets, I am so excited to tell you guys about an amazing new app as well as offer an amazing GIVEAWAY to one of you!
The app is called LyfeLine Milestones and helps you track your baby's developmental progress along the first 2 years of their life. Through this app, you can track your baby's development with the same exact assessment used by pediatricians and the American Academy of Pediatrics, and learn how to promote your child's growth with activities designed by developmental experts. In this day and age, I think most parents gauge their child's development based on what their friends' babies are doing, by what their parents, in-laws, or other relatives tell them their child should or shouldn't be doing, and through their own research on the internet - oftentimes from uncredited sources. Because of this, many mothers are uninformed, end up comparing their child to others, and simply don't accurately understand and measure their child's development, and they think maybe they are not doing it right (enter our dear friend once again, 'mommy guilt').
I know that as a first time mom with my son, I certainly felt this way when I saw Facebook videos of my friends' two year olds singing and reciting animal noises when my son was not speaking more than two words at all. At that point, we discovered that Landon did in fact have a speech delay and we worked intensely with him for the next 2.5 years with speech pathologists. That is only one of the reasons why I believe in this app so much - because it gives oftentimes completely clueless parents a tool to help them truly understand their child's nature and development based on accredited pediatricians and gives parents thoughtful activities designed by experts to work with them on areas of need. Had this app been around 3 years ago I know I would have benefited a lot from it, and I think it could have helped me see Landon was behind in his speech earlier on, it could have given me tips and ways to work with him on his speech in helpful hands-on ways, and ultimately could have saved a lot of time and money down the road with speech therapy that we only started at age 2.
I still love this app even for my daughter who is actually 'advanced' for her age, because it gives me insightful tips to help with her challenging behavior and tantrums, and also gives age appropriate activities to do with during these winter months indoors. For example, Blair is a very defiant, oftentimes unruly little girl when she doesn't get her way, over some of the most irrational things. When I answered questions about her behavior in this manner, LyfeLine gave me some great feedback, tips, and ideas on how to manage this behavior and show me ways to help her grow out of it.

It also gives us lots of activities to work on together. For example, Blair loves table top activities like coloring and stickers and all things artistic, so I thought it would be fun to work with her on an area she already shows a lot of interest in. LyfeLine suggested she work on drawing in a circular motion instead of scribbling lines to work on developing her fine motor skills even more. That is just one example of the many activities from a range of categories, including fine motor, gross motor, language, physical, social, and self help. It's really like a personalized Pinterest for your baby with educational and developmental activities for them - none of which require you to go out and spend any money - they only require you and your child and your time, and sometimes household items that you would already have in your home.
We absolutely love this app for so many reasons and are so thrilled to offer one of you your own full year premium subscription -- an $85 value!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway **Giveaway will run for 1 week from today and will officially close at 12:00am cst on 12/20/15.
**Disclosure: I have received a one year premium membership to LyfeLine Milestones to facilitate my review but the review and all opinions contained herein are 100% my own.

Monday, December 7, 2015

CalmFULL Holidays

Well Thanksgiving has come & past and we are somehow already into the second week of December and I'm not quite sure how that happened. I've been seeing constant posts on my newsfeed of adorably dressed families in their professional photos, cutting down their trees, getting their pictures taken with Santa, attending all sorts of zoo lights, Christmas markets, & meeting Santa's reindeer.
So I decided that this past weekend I was going to amp up my holiday game and be the best Christmas Mom yet. I was going to bake Christmas cookies with the kids, situate our Elf on the Shelf into something super clever, and sign us up for the Polar Express train ride Landon's been dying to go on since 2012. We even had a lunch with Santa scheduled on Saturday afternoon, and an adults Christmas party to go to Saturday night - my Christmas ante up & on fire and we were going to get ALL the Christmas things done - heck, I even thought we could go to a Christmas tree farm and get our Christmas card photo done and done.
And then. Thursday I tried to book our Polar Express ride and (of course) it has been booked full SINCE AUGUST. (Who are these parents that even think of such things in August??) But I put it behind me and moved onto my Christmas cookie baking extravaganza. Which turned into me staying up until 11 at night making them by myself. It turns out my kids only want to eat the cookies, not actually help me make them from scratch. Then I drank too much at the Bastille concert on Friday night, and spent my entire Saturday at the doctor's office with a sick crying son instead of meeting Santa like we were supposed to. And then I was still not feeling half alive to make it to our Christmas party that night. Landon ended up with a throat and ear infection, and I'm diffusing my essential oils and blasting my humidifier around Blair 24/7 and crossing my fingers she doesn't turn infectious too.
And then on top of feeling like a Christmas Mom failure, I've been feeling more overwhelmed than ever with holiday shopping for the baby boom that occurred now that all our friends are in our thirties, and a 5 year old of my own who knows the difference between name brands and imposters. To top that all off, we just learned about several necessary repairs on a new sump pump, water system, & dishwasher.
SO my game plan has changed. I decided that maybe we just need to take it easy. I mean, physically...I can't take my kids out to public places when they are hacking up their lungs. And I had a thought that they can still learn about the meaning of Christmas and I can show them the feelings I want to inspire in their hearts all the same. So the next day we cleaned out the basement together and made a pile of old toys and clothes that we no longer need to donate to other children in need this winter. And last night we had my diffuser running with a festive oil, and had a family hot tub night with Christmas music playing in the background. We talked about God and how He sent His only son down to be with us and save us and that is why we celebrate Christmas Day. We talked about how much that means He loves us and wants more than anything to be in a relationship with us and be with us through our lives.
The next morning I woke up to my little boy feeling so much better. He gave me a big hug around my neck and a big kiss on my hand and said, "Mom, you're the bestetst mom ever. I really really love you."
And I realized that even in my failures, at the core of my being, I am enough. And my love is enough for these kids.
And what I want to actually experience this holiday season is not the errands and not the shopping and not the stress of feeling like I have to go to all these Christmas events. & all that craziness is not really even what my kids want to experience either.
When I stop and think about what I care about, all those feelings of being overwhelmed over all those things seem to cease. When I stop and ask myself what I want my kids to experience, what feelings I want to stir up in their hearts when the holiday season is upon us, is to know intimately the love that God has for them. I want them to know and feel the spirit of love and of thoughtful giving to loved ones and complete strangers. And no amount of Christmas-y events we check off a list can achieve that. Especially if it's going to drive me batty and make me sin. So, I'm okay with the fact that we still don't have our perfect Christmas card photo. And I'm okay with not wasting time every night to plot the next Elf on the Shelf prank. I'm okay with giving less extravagant and handmade gifts this year and the kids thoughtful handmade cards to go along with them. I'm okay with laying low with my children and actually spending real time with them to teach them myself about the importance of things, and I feel my own heart get bigger and softer as we do. And I have a feeling that by opting for a more low-key Christmas season this year, I'll end up giving them real, heart-filled memories about this holiday season that they will take with them as they grow older and when they are away at school or maybe living far away from me someday -- that they will always have this feeling of wanting to come home for Christmas, because of the actual loving, joyful, peaceful, calm, & cozy feelings and memories it brings them -- and not because of all the things we have to do tooth and nail to show a Facebook world that we're not atheist and that we do all the damn things, and makes sure to take pictures of it too so you think Amazing Christmas Mom is everything it's hyped up to be.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Bits of Life Lately

The first snow in our new home.
Dying to go out and play
Although they really didn't get too far.
A couple smiling pics before they realized they hate the cold.
Thanksgiving table settings for our first Thanksgiving in our new home...realizing it was exactly one year ago when we found out our offer on our house was accepted and feeling so grateful for the past year here.
And of course the morning after, all the fall decor came down and up went the holiday and tree..... Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are cozying up with their loved ones ❤️

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Sponsor Feature:!

Hi guys!! I'm here today to talk about an amazing online company called Some of you may have already heard about them, but maybe don't know just how amazing they are, and some of you may not have known of them so I am so excited to tell you guys about them and hopefully make your registration events and holiday or birthday 'wish lists' a lot easier!
We actually used for Blair's Baby Sprinkle and truly truly loved this site, it is super user-friendly and provided everything I never even knew I needed in a registry. They are essentially an online registry that you can use for any occasion, and through which you can pull items from the web or from any store in the world, and keep everything all in one place. In this day and age, many of us live far away from our friends and relatives, but regardless of proximity, everyone does much of their shopping online, and makes it super easy to share with others, and convenient for gift givers to just click a few clicks on their computer or smart phone instead of having to venture into a store and spend tons of time trying to figure out which exact item(s) are actually on your registry to purchase, and additionally deal with the driving, parking, and lines, oh my!
I also love the fact that you can pull items from as many different stores or online sites as you want. They have some other wonderful features, such as the option to add gift cards to your registry or wish list, as well as give you the ability to see popular items in specific categories of need, the ability to view your registry as a guest, send e-thank you notes, as well as add in a picture of yourself or your children with a personalized message to gift-givers.
As Christmas (ahem, Thanksgiving) is approaching, I'm already getting questions from generous relatives about what my kids want. And it's confusing and hard to remember exactly which Transformer Landon wants, or exactly what types of things Blair is into, or exactly what types of things we would like to have for her. So using for a holiday wish list to share with family and friends is such a great tool. The kids get everything on their list, we don't end up with gifts we don't like or won't use, and people can see as things get purchased and crossed off their lists. I actually just started a separate wish list for myself for things we need for the house because I enjoy this site so much. Since our big move in February, we have this ever-growing list of items we need and want for the house. I'm not publicly sharing my home wish list, but using it more as a checklist for items I need and want, which keeps me in check for when I do go out, because it prevents me from wasting money on things we don't actually need, and also helps me know a good deal when I see one on an item I've had on my list. But most of all, its nice when we have a good month with work and low expenses to just click click click and check off ;)
So for those of you who are preparing for a shower, wedding, or just to keep your own personal electronic 'wish list' for yourself or your kids, please go check out, and thank me later :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

2 Years.

My dearest Blair Bear,

Today you turned 2 years old. It has been two whole years since they placed you on my chest, after 9 months of forming you in my belly, and 9 full hours of labor. The instant I held you and looked at you for the first time, I was in awe. Awe of the miracle of life. That I was chosen to participate in this miracle that I know only God could create.
You may not know this, but you were my rainbow baby. I suffered two miscarriages after Landon and your father and I were devastated for many months. Before the day you were born -- before that moment I held you in my arms, I lived in constant fear that something might happen to you. I did not take one single healthy doctor's visit for granted. Your unborn siblings taught me the fragility of life. The sanctity of it. And allowed me to fully appreciate -- to fully be in awe of your beautiful, miraculous new life. After a long, sad storm -- you were my beautiful, bright rainbow that came from it.
You were my rainbow baby because you came after a miscarriage -- but the past two years you have been my rainbow baby for other reasons as well.
Because you were my second, I thought I knew already what I was getting into, but that might have been the biggest lie I told myself.
You were nothing of what I expected or knew of before, and I felt in many regards a first time mom again learning the ropes as I went. Before you, I always heard other women describe this fantom 'bond' they experienced when breastfeeding that I was never privileged to understand with Landon. But we got to experience it together. And it truly was an indescribable feeling and relationship that we shared. Even though I faced so many challenges I never knew of before, I look back on those 18 months with a deeply nostalgic heart that only another nursing mother would understand.
From the beginning, you couldn't stand to be apart from me and cried and cried and cried and cried unless you were nuzzled in my arms, against my chest, or nursing. Your temperament naturally led to co-sleeping, and you and I co-slept together every night together for 16 months. You nursed every 2 hours through the nights, and although beyond sleep deprived for 16 months long, I experienced a different type of closeness with you that I never experienced before.
But to be honest, I mostly look back on the past two years since you came and let out a deep exhale, because somehow, we actually survived them. They weren't easy. They tested me to a whole new level of patience with having you so attached and simultaneously staying home with and parenting a toddler. It was hard having my parents thousands of miles away and it was hard not having a mother in law around at all. The past two years were hard staying at home. The past two years made me question if I was cut out to have any more kids. The past two years tested my marriage and they drove me crazy with the sibling screaming and fighting. They broke me down into many spouts of tears over lack of sleep, hormone changes, feeling overwhelmed, and generally just not having the time or energy to do anything else, for anyone else or myself.
But in as much as hard as the past two years were, my life truly grew from them, more so than any other 2 year time frame of my life. Every difficulty I faced I discovered was an opportunity to walk deeper into truth, deeper into life, deeper into my marriage, deeper into relationships with new friends, and most importantly, deeper into my relationship with Christ. There is a different level of maturity I think that mothers of more than one child go through, and I thank you for it.
I am reminded by you in every moment that God has already written my story, and even in the hard times, He is right there with me. It was only after experiencing challenging times that I able to recognize true goodness when it came. The quiet nights rocking you to sleep in my arms, your first smiles up at my face, seeing you and your brother play and talk and stick up for one another and love each other. In all these ways you continue to be my living rainbow - you remind me of the truth, you remind me of the beauty and depth to life that can only truly be seen and felt after difficulties. I always hear every mother I know pray (and curse) to one of their children, that they end up having a child just like them. That is definitely only my prayer for you. I pray you are blessed with a child as beautiful, as smart, as sweet, as playful, as fun-loving, as strong-willed, and as bright as you. I pray that someday you get to experience this side of the relationship and know that at one time I was on your end of it with you. And in your teenage years, when maybe you and I aren't as close as we once were, I hope you know that I cried so hard when you were born, and I held you against my chest and I thanked Jesus over and over and over again for giving you to me.
I love you forever, no matter how much you test and challenge me.

Love always,
mumma bear.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


Tried to go as Game of Thrones characters this year. It pretty much failed but we had so much fun trying to pull it off and a really fun Halloween none the less.
First year I ever did face paint and had so much fun with it! I was a Nightwalker .. Should have gotten some light blue contacts for the full effect but the living all took me for your basic zombie anyway 
Princess Khaleesi: The Unburnt, Breaker of Chains, & Mother of Dragons
Landon the fearsome dragon
Chris was supposed to go as John Snow, which he turned into a last minute Lord Rob Stark, who no one really knows even if they watch the show. (But I think he looks pretty good with dark hair!)

I didn't take many photos this year, can view our pics from last year here. Hope you all had a wonderful Halloween & Happy November!!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Bits of Life Lately

A gorgeous 80 degree October day spent downtown at the Lincoln Park Zoo
Introducing the kids to college football at our old stomping grounds, Valparaiso University
Pile ups on their favorite uncle
Eeep....growing up 😁 Having friends over sans moms #soold
Christmas lights + yoga 👌🏻
Festive (healthy for once) treats
One of the most memorable experiences of my life... Celebrating the 40th anniversary of my church at the United Center last weekend can watch it here
Bonfire nights

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Advanced BioBanking with LifeBankUSA!

I blogged about cord blood banking with LifeBankUSA after Blair was born and am happy to share more today about their Advanced Biobanking service.

Advanced Biobanking includes Placental Blood Banking, Complete Placenta Banking, Cord Vessel Banking, and Cord Platelet Rich Plasma Banking. Because “placental blood contains various types of progenitor stem cells that play a role in stimulating the body’s own repair mechanisms to heal previously damaged tissues or organs,” scientists are exploring the use of progenitor stem cells in many diseases including cerebral palsy, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and spinal cord injury. Banking the entire placenta offers potential for new treatments in immune disorders, wound healing, and organ transplant and growth. Banking the arteries in the umbilical cord has potential for new surgical applications in treating heart disease. “Both adult and umbilical cord platelet rich-plasma contain cytokines and growth factors that may be useful for the repair of eye injuries, wounds, tissue tears and fractures.” Adult platelet rich-plasma has been used in treating athletes with orthopedic injuries and umbilical cord-platelet rich plasma is potentially more potent and enriched source of growth factors than adult platelet-rich plasma. On top of cord blood banking, Advanced Biobanking adds the potential to treat so many more diseases, illnesses, and injuries.
LifebankUSA is the only cord blood bank that also offers placenta blood banking and tissue banking. As I hear more and more stories about young children being diagnosed with life-threatening diseases, it gives me hope that cord blood banking as well as Advanced Biobanking can help these children and others in the future.

I absolutely loved working with LifeBank to donate Blair's cord blood last year. LifeBankUSA is the only company that offers cord blood, placenta blood, and tissue banking, and they are also the first to release placenta-derived stem cells for a successful transplant. They were absolutely wonderful to work with and they will collect cells from anywhere in the US. Another reason to bank with LifeBankUSA -- They include tissue banking (tissue from the placenta) for free. Placental tissue contains mesenchymal (MSCs) and MSC-like cells. While stem cells found in cord blood and placenta blood have been used to successfully treat patients, there are currently no approved uses for stem cells derived from the umbilical cord or placenta tissue. Possible therapeutic applications are in early research stages and LifeBankUSA's parent company is actively involved in their development. LifeBankUSA will store the placenta tissue for you as part of their banking package using their cryogenic tanks for long-term preservation. In the event your baby's tissue cells are ever needed for future therapies, the tissue may then be processed and cultured using available technology at the time. Banking with LifeBankUSA will definitely give you peace of mind, knowing that this stem cell-rich blood can be used to treat certain diseases in the future.
I really hope if you are pregnant you give cord blood banking some serious thought! And definitely keep in mind all of these added benefits that are unique to LifeBankUSA. I know when you are pregnant, you have about 1,000 things on your mind every minute, but going through LifeBankUSA for your baby's cord blood and placental banking will help give you greater peace of mind, I promise :)

Pumpkin Patchin'

Went to Dave's Pumpkin Patch and Stade's Farm and Market this month and had such a blast at both! Stade's was definitely much larger with a lot more to do, and Dave's was much smaller scale but very cheap and stresless. More pictures of Dave's last October here.

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