Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pregnancy Mind Games (Realizing that the baby is actually going to come out at some point)

My recent post on having mixed feelings the first time you find out your pregnant was so well received that I have decided to share another pregnancy freak-out with you that I had - realizing that at some point the baby was actually going to come out and become part of our family.

My first pregnancy was a dream - I didn't have any morning sickness or other annoying symptoms besides fatigue, and generally I was feeling great. I credit a lot of this feeling great to my prenatal yoga classes, which I highly suggest any first time mom take full advantage of, because you're not going to have very much time for it the second time around!

We had just moved from our little apartment in New York City to a quiet townhouse in the suburbs of Richmond, Virginia, and because I was planning on being a stay-at-home-mom I didn't bother looking for a new job at the time. I was still doing some work for my previous employer online, but for the most part I had the last 6 months of my pregnancy to just focus on myself and getting ready for the baby (a blessing that I will never forget or take for granted - I'm well aware that it was a rare opportunity for me).

For the most part, I spent my days picking out non-VOC paint samples and outfitting our daughter's nursery with beautiful white furniture and pink accessories. Her closet was stocked with adorable little dresses and outfits that I knew she'd only get to wear once or twice. Everything I did was already for her. I would read out loud to her so that she could hear my voice. I would blast classical music throughout the house as I ironed in hopes that Mozart and Beethoven would somehow rub off on her in-utero.

To say it bluntly, I was blissfully smitten (and ignorant).

People would ask me if I was ready and I'd delight in saying, "Oh yes, I can't wait to be a mom!" I kept getting compliments on what a great mom I was going to be, with so many years of daycare experience under my belt. My confidence was high and my heart was ready.

It wasn't until I was about 35 weeks pregnant (which I am right now with number 2) that it dawned on me that at some point this little girl was going to have to come out of my body one way or another. That there would be a hospital, and doctors, and most likely a lot of pain. That there would be labor. Yes, I'd been to all the classes and read all the books, but for some reason the moment that I realized what a personal experience this would be, I went a little bit batty.

What if we don't get to the hospital in time?

What if I don't even realize I'm in labor?

What does a contraction feel like? I don't think I've even had Braxton Hicks contractions.

What if I'm just not good at it?

Do epidurals always work? What if something goes terribly wrong and I'm allergic to the epidural and it kills me and the baby?
Am I even brave enough to get an epidural?

How do you "push"? What if I poop instead? (I was relieved to learn later that this is a very common concern.)

What if I have to have a C-Section? I don't know anything about C-Sections! What if they can't "put me back together again?"

What if I forget my hospital bag?

Would they really CUT OFF my wedding ring if my hands were too swollen???

What if I pass out in the middle of it all?

Luckily this exchange in my head only went on for about a day before I slapped myself back to reality and told myself that I was just going to have to deal with the cards that God gave me, and that He would be there with me while I went through all of this.

Me with our precious daughter in 2009, just moments old.
And things didn't turn out so bad. I ended up being induced three days past my due date, so I was at the hospital in plenty of time. In fact, once my water broke my doctor noted that I was already having contractions and that I would have been in later that day anyways (not that I could feel the contractions at the time).

The epidural didn't hurt (except afterwards when they ripped the tape holding it on off my back), it worked really well, and I highly recommend it (though after almost passing out at the sight of the needle, my husband has informed me that he will not be in the room next time I receive one).

The rest came pretty naturally. After about 11 hours of labor, I only had to push for 20 minutes to get out precious little AJ out into the world (including a brief two minute scare in which she was literally stuck and there was fear that her shoulder would break or be dislocated).

Now only 4-5 weeks until I meet my little man! (AJ was a whopping 8 lbs 9 oz, so we find out this Friday during an ultrasound if little man will be joining us a week early via induction). It's funny how nostalgic pregnancy makes me. :)  Now if I could only get these stories down in her baby book!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Your Elf on the Shelf

                                                                                              Source: rshcatalog.com via Gigi on Pinterest
I know that I have mentioned it several times this holiday season, but we are having such a great time starting this Elf on the Shelf Tradition with our two year old daughter. There is nothing quite like watching here face light up each morning as she searches and finds our elf, Sam, up to new adventures in our house. The memories we are making are so precious to me!
There are still a few days left to get creative with your Elf on the Shelf (check out my post on hilarious Elf on the Shelf ideas) but this Saturday is already Christmas Eve, meaning that elves all over the world will be making their trip back to the North Pole, only to return after Thanksgiving next year.
Throughout my search for fun ideas, I have come across a lot of stories about sad partings with the Elf on the Shelf. Stories of sobs from little ones who measure the time between Christmases with vast enormity, and stories of children who just don't understand why their elf can't just stay all year round.
In this thinking, I've also seen a few ideas for making goodbyes special with your elf. I thought I'd share with you my own that we'll be putting into place on December 24th!
On the 24th, Sam will be perched in an obvious place with a letter written in his own cute elfish handwriting, that will go something like this:
It's Christmas Eve, and Santa is coming! You've been such a good girl this year and I have had so much fun coming to your house and seeing you every day.
I've got a special surprise for you, too. Santa said that I won't need my magic tonight to get home because he is picking me up himself with his sleigh, and that if you want to, you can give me a goodbye hug. Just one big hug though - I still need a good dose of magic because as soon as Christmas is over I'm going to be back to work making toys in Santa's workshop!
I can't wait to see you next year and how much you've grown!
To keep in touch our kids in touch with Sam throughout the year, my husband and I have also come up with the idea to take Sam along with us throughout the year (ie business trips with my husband, our family beach trip, etc) and to snap a quick picture when the kids aren't looking. We'll then use the pictures to send the kids a postcard from time to time letting them know that Sam is looking forward to coming back after Thanksgiving, and what he's been up to in the meantime.
Does your family have a special way to say goodbye to your elf?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Funny & Creative Elf on the Shelf Ideas

Wow! In the last year the Elf on the Shelf's popularity has sky-rocketed across the US. Santa is sending out elves left and right to keep an eye after all the little boys and girls and make sure they are good this holiday season.

We were so pleased to give away an Elf on the Shelf to a lucky Holly at Nap Time reader earlier this holiday season. I really wish that I had 400+ elves to give away to all those who entered, but if you don't already have an elf, I can assure you that the $30 is a great investment. To learn more about Elf on the Shelf, click here.

My daughter is only two years old, and this is our first year with our Elf, Sam, so his hiding spots and antics are pretty obvious and don't really tell much of a story. My friends with older kids, however, are getting pretty creative, and moms all over are sharing their ideas on Pinterest, which begs the question: Is Elf on the Shelf more fun for children or parents?

I'll leave that up for you to decide. Some of these ideas have given me such a chuckle that I have no choice but to share.

Elf cutting a mattress tag! Oh no!!!

Sneaking items from Mom's purse.

Going on a candy binge!
Source: flickr.com via Lacey on Pinterest

Loading up on syrup - one of the elves four main food groups.

Candlelit date with Barbie... and I'm pretty sure there is alcohol involved!?

Building a snowman in the freezer!
Source: facebook.com via Erin on Pinterest

Being held hostage by Lego men!
Source: google.com via Erin on Pinterest

Elf replaces all family photos with pictures of himself!

Have your Elf leave the kids a note asking them to plant his magic seeds (Tic Tacs) into a bowl of sugar for a sweet surprise. When they wake up the next morning the seeds will have grown into cookies! ;)

Elf  gets locked outside!!

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pregnancy Mind Games (Mixed feelings about finding out you're pregnant)

As if the physical toll of carrying a child isn't enough, the mental toll that pregnancy takes on a woman is almost downright hysterical when you think about it. At 34 weeks pregnant now, today I'm feeling (or at least for this moment) level-headed enough to share some of my chaotic with you.

When I got pregnant with our daughter in 2009 it pretty much came as a total shock. My husband and I had decided that we were open to having a child but that we weren't going to necessarily try to have a child - yet. I don't know what literature we had been reading, but it was clear to us that even the healthiest, normal couples could have to wait up to two years to conceive. We decided to give it six months and see where that took us. Three weeks later, I was pregnant.

My first symptom was complete lack of energy. It was a Friday in New York City, and happened to be my last day at a job that I loved and was leaving for life in the South with my husband. My brother-in-law was to be arriving that night at around 10:30pm to spend the weekend with us, taking in some of the sights before we left the Big Apple. But for some reason, the night owl in me just could not stay awake to welcome my brother-in-law. My husband also thought this was very strange, because we were the types to stay up to at least 11pm on weeknights and often well into the wee hours of the morning on the weekend. I took it as a sign that I had just had an emotionally draining day, and went to bed.

The whole weekend I was just as tired, but somehow I powered through. It was actually when I was sitting on the couch Monday morning waiting for Joe to make his way to the airport and Ken make his way to work that I had that thought - Could it be? No... well how can I be sure? I guess it's possible. But seriously, no.

Arguing with myself is always a sure sign that I'm being mental, so as soon as the boys had left I quickly threw on some clothes and half-jogged my way to the Duane-Reade two blocks away, where I promptly purchased a pregnancy test (and a few other items, because as any girl knows it's much less awkward when you're checking out and a pregnancy test is just part of your transaction and not THE transaction) and ran back home, where five minutes later I was greeted with a big, fat, clear as day + sign.

The next few hours went something like this:

I've wanted nothing more than to be a mom in this life, and now I'm getting the opportunity!

This is such exciting news! But seriously, you're not supposed to tell anyone for how many weeks?

Wait a minute. This is for real. Really?

It could be wrong.. these tests are wrong all the time.

Or are they only wrong when they say negative and you really are pregnant. Is a false positive even possible? ... the box says there is a chance. Hmm.

Well this is weird. Now what?

Crap. I am pregnant. We are going to have a baby.

So it just happened a little sooner than we thought it would, what a blessing.

NO! How could God possibly think that I'm ready to be a parent. I can't be someones parent - I have no idea what I'm doing!!

We're going to have a BABY!

Also in this time I was plotting on how to tell my husband our news. Do I tell him today? Do I wait awhile - what's the protocol? I didn't have any cutesy ideas for sharing the news... was that a requirement? I had been carrying the test stick around with me the majority of the day (as proof, I suppose... it's not like I was going to forget) and when I heard my husband wiggling his key into the lock I swiftly jammed it between the couch cushions.

To be honest, I don't know what happened next. There was nervous, giggly chatter from me and somehow I ended up pulling it out in a ta-dah fashion. We sat there shocked for a few moments, at which point my husband left to go to Duane-Reade for a back-up test.

He came home with a 4 pack of pregnancy tests and a pint of Ben & Jerry's. :)

I took two more tests that night (both of which were positive) and just to be certain, one test for each the following two days. I'm not going to lie- it took a few weeks to wrap my head around things, but that ice cream was the starting of our celebration. Life (almost three years later) has never been the same as it was before that day, but it's also never been better.

The second time around was much less shocking and more celebratory from the very beginning, and now we are less than a month and a half away from welcoming a baby boy to our family!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why Internet Marketing is the Best Way to Reach Moms

It's no secret - today's moms are busier than ever. Mostly by our own doing (ahem - signing our kids up for countless activities and groups, volunteering over and over again and somehow always forgetting how to use the word "no" somewhere along the ways). That's why if you're looking to market to today's mom, Internet marketing is the only way to go.

"But why?" you might ask.

Mail advertising just doesn't work. Who has time to read their mail these days? We receive so much junk mail that I inevitably let it pile up on my kitchen counter until the stack is falling over, at which point I dig out the bills that need to be paid and throw the rest into the recycling bin.

Commercials are becoming nonexistent. Every once in awhile my mom will ask me if I've seen a commercial that she thought was interesting or funny, but my answer is always the same: nope. Any television I get to watch these days (not including the many hours of Nick Jr. that go on at our house) is prerecorded onto my DVR. If and when I get to watch my shows, I don't waste anytime watching commercials. Fast forward. How did we ever live without this feature?

Billboards? I barely have time to look at the road! When I first learned how to drive I told myself that I was going to tune-out billboards. They were a huge distraction, and 99% of the time didn't apply to me anyways. Now that I'm a mom I've got more distractions that I can't quite tune out, with the constant dropping of sippy cup or "mommy look! it's a snowman!" or the 5 Little Monkeys song blaring for the 8th time in a row. It takes every ounce of focus I have to keep my mind on the road.

Today's mom averages about 10 minutes to herself per day, if that. I'm talking 10 completely uninterrupted moments to exhale and do as she pleases. Any mom who has ever tried to use the restroom with little fingers reaching under the door and the constant chanting of "mommy, mommy, mommy" knows what I mean. Even as I type this now my two year old (who did not take a nap today) is clinging to my leg and whimpering.

So what does mom do in those 10 minutes? Most likely she jumps on the Internet to check her email and catch up with friends through various social networks. These activities help her to relax, and thus be more open to ads and new ideas. Thus, Internet marketing reaches today's mom! Internet ads seamlessly sew their way into the pages mom views, and this is your best shot at capturing her attention.

Disclaimer: I am participating in a blogger campaign by Bucks2Blog  for an internet marketing company and was compensated. However, the views and opinions are 100% my own.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

ECommerce Solutions Make the Holidays a Breeze

'Tis the season for shopping, shopping, and more shopping for holiday gifts! I will admit that before having children I was all about the draw of Black Friday deals and being among the bustle of the eager crowds. I almost don't believe it myself, but one year I insisted on taking my sister-in-law to Macy's in Herald Square (yes, the Macy's smack dab in the middle of Manhattan) on Black Friday. I guess I was pretty young and crazy back then.

This holiday season I am eight months pregnant, and the stories of pushing and pepper spraying are plenty enough to keep me out of the crowds even in the slowest of shopping hours. Here's an easy equation for you:

8 months pregnant + concerned about the safety of my future son + Black Friday = BAD IDEA!

This year, I'm all about shopping online for the holidays. Nerdy people like my husband call this using ecommerce solutions - I call it "making my life a heck of a lot simpler."

Now it's easier than ever for businesses large and small to create their own secure space in the web and to sell products to people like me, who prefer shopping in their pajamas, at home, with a big cup of cocoa and a Christmas movie playing in the background. And trust me, I've taken full advantage.

Our Christmas tree is now decorated and surrounded by wrapped packages both big and small, with at least 90% of them having been purchased online. Super easy for me, and beneficial to the online retailers as well. Many companies offer special free shipping promotions this time of year, and even though the electronic-shopping-cart-to-door process seems instantaneous and magical to me, I also have to remind myself that I'm doing my part to keep others employed during the holiday season. The whole idea of shopping online, having an item packaged up, flown or driven to a specific destination and hand-delivered to your home is a pretty incredible chain of events.

This holiday season, be part of something big - shop online to save your sanity! (Which often does make me wonder... how did we ever survive without this amazing feature of the Internet?)

Disclaimer: I am participating in a blog campaign for Bucks2Blog for an ecommerce solution company and was compensated. However, the views and opinions are 100% my own.

Image: Microsoft Office Clip Art

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Kiki's Fashions Maternity Review and $25 Giveaway!

Kiki's Fashions is an online retailer of cheap maternity clothes that are trendy and fun. According to their website,
"We pride ourselves on having a wide selection of unique maternity styles at prices mostly under $20. By selling exclusively on the Internet, Kiki's Fashions is able to maintain very low operating costs and we pass those savings on to our customers by offering prices 15%- 30% off many of our competitors. We also change our inventory often, so our customers always have access to today's hottest fashions and trends."
31 weeks pregnant
I LOVE this purple maternity sweater that Kiki's Fashions sent me to review! Head on over to What Mama Wants for my full review and for your chance to win a $25 credit to Kiki's Fashions!

Disclaimer: I received a free product in return for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and may differ from yours!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Evolution of a Cold (as experienced at our house)

If you need a chuckle today.

Tis the season for the common cold virus. These days, it seems like if there is a virus going around that it will make sure to stop by our house on its way through town (probably because we're just such great hosts). This usually happens one of two ways:

  1. My daughter brings something home from one of the germ infested places she frequents: preschool, the children's museum, etc.
  2. My husband brings home some crud that is going around his office. In which case my husband never receives the illness, but just acts as the transportation to our home. Yes, my lucky duck husband who swears that he cannot ever remember a time that he ever had a cold before we were living together. Ha. I have yet to ask his mom about that one.
I'm not sure where our current cold originated from, probably because I wasn't being as careful as I should have been. Having just recovered from the croup in time to celebrate her second birthday, I assumed that we were in the clear for awhile. Wrong.

This is the chronicles of the evolution of our current cold and the deterioration of my sanity. Or, if you prefer, why our house looks like we've been robbed and our refrigerator is empty.

It begins in the wee hours on Monday morning, November 14th. Around 12:30am AJ wakes up crying and immediately informs me that she is "all done" sleeping. This doesn't exactly mesh with my schedule. My husband and I take turns rocking her, reading to her and trying to get her to go back to sleep. She keeps saying something about "no puppy" and we wonder if she's had a nightmare. We hide said stuffed puppy at the bottom of her stuffed animal bin with no luck.

Crap, I think to myself. Tomorrow is a triple whammy of a day, AJ - we need some rest! Normally our stay-at-home schedule allows for nights like this once in awhile. My daughter will always be a priority over laundry and dishes. But it just so happens that the day we have ahead of us includes preschool, my 30 week OB appointment, and AJ's 2 year well visit. Around 3am, my husband lays down with her in the guest room so that I can get some sleep. 

Monday morning rolls around and AJ cries the entire way to preschool, which is really not common. Usually this is the highlight of her week and she cannot wait to get away from me for a few hours. I leave her clinging to her teacher, telling myself that she is tired from our long night. Upon my return, her teacher informs me that after she had a big poop (this is a family blog, I can talk about toddler poop) she felt much better and was back to her normal self. Thank goodness.

We arrive home, and two hours before her well visit as I'm putting her down for a quick nap, I notice that she has spiked a fever. 101.3 F. [Insert parental guilt here... were there signs that I missed in the night? How could I have sent her to school?] I give her Tylenol and remind myself that at least we are going to the doctor in a couple hours already.

AJ already hates the doctor's office. We belong to a pediatric associates practice with about 12 physicians, and in the first two years of her life we came close to seeing them all. Not because we couldn't find one we liked, but because she would scream bloody murder the second she saw a familiar face coming at her for more. In preparation I had spent the last week and a half reading Dora Goes to the Doctor with her at least 1-2 times per day.

The book worked. AJ knew exactly what to expect, and the Tylenol had kicked in so she was bouncing off the walls and full of glee. Then the doctor told me that her throat was inflamed. Yep, she's probably getting a cold virus... will have a fever for 48 hours on and off with scratchy throat and then your typical cold. But I want to do a strep test just to be sure anyways.

Great. A throat culture was definitely not in the book. AJ knew it too. After screaming and gagging on the culture wand, she looked at me like I was the most evil parent on earth. (Of course, don't blame Dora for not covering this important material... it's all your mom's fault!)

Strep test negative. At least I had that. As we were walking to the car I swallowed and realized that my throat was killing me too. Ugh. Thank goodness for Burt's Bees Throat Drops for during my pregnancy, and an endless supply of popsicles for AJ.

I got clearance to send her back to preschool on Wednesday as long as she hadn't had a fever for 24 hours. As of Wednesday morning we were in the clear with sore throats gone and no fevers, so we went about our way. Then Wednesday night the sniffling, sneezing and coughing began to set in. After having sent her back to school that day, I was giving myself the stellar mom of the year award at about this point.

The next few days were pretty lazy. Call me a bad parent, but I'm a firm believer in snuggle times and lots of cartoons and movies being a key to any healing a body needs. We both began barking like dogs - that really annoying, lingers forever, gasping for air type cough that makes people wonder if you're choking to death and they should call 911. The cough still lingers a week later.

I was so over this cold when on Saturday AJ turned into Mr. Hyde. Temper tantrums followed by moments of "needs a hug" followed by not eating followed by crying and crying and fussing and fussing.

cute even when sick
I told my husband that if she was still acting like this on Monday that I was going to take her back to the doctor, but after keeping us up again almost all Saturday night we decided to take her to KidMed (our after hours pediatric care place) on Sunday morning and confirm my suspicions - that like every other cold she'd ever had, this one had brought on an ear infection.

Fast forward a few hours later - we are told by a nurse practitioner that AJ's ears look beautiful and that she is just cranky because she has a cold and is two years old. (Oh yea, this news comes after another throat culture. Fantastic.)

With the weekend gone, my house a terrible mess and not a crumb of food to be found, I was just about at my wits end with this cold virus, when AJ came up to me and said, "watch mommy, I cough" and proceeded to fake cough into her elbow. At least we've learned something this past week, I thought to myself, as a real cough came on and she coughed openly all over my dinner.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Stocking Stuffer Alert! Bridesmaids DVD only $5.99

Amazon Black Friday Deals Week is here!! Fabulous deals on hot holiday items, plus "lightning deals" being announced nearly every hour!

Last year my husband and I did nearly all of our holiday shopping through these awesome deals!

Here's a stocking stuffer that's on many wishlists this year - Bridesmaids on DVD for only $5.00 (Save 80%). You can also snag this deal on Blu-Ray for just $9.99!


FREE Personalized Birthday Card from Tiny Prints - TODAY ONLY!

Tiny Prints knows that sometimes our friends with birthdays around the holidays don't receive all the celebration they deserve. Don't forget these special birthdays (and definitely don't gift with a holiday gift item... that's just tacky).

For TODAY ONLY, Tiny Prints is offering a FREE, personalized birthday greeting card to all their customers. Simply create your birthday greeting here, and choose the option to "mail it to me first" so that you aren't charged the price of a stamp. During checkout, enter code: FREEBD. As with all of their other offers, you will need a valid credit card for your order to be processed. However, you will not be charged for your free card unless you choose additional mailing services.

Enjoy this offer! Who will you be getting a card for?

Disclaimer: I was in no way compensated for this post. Just sharing a great deal!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

FREE Carseat Canopy with 100% Minky Interior. Perfect for the Cold Months!

Affliliated with Udder Covers and Seven Slings (of which I use both), Carseat Canopy products "are made for "year-round" use - fabrics not too heavy for summer and not too thin for winter. Each one of our canopies has bold, fresh, cutting-edge prints on 100% cotton outers with soft, snuggly, lovable 100% polyester minky interiors. We've got your baby covered!"*

Retailing at $49.95, these canopies are made to adjust to any make or model of carseat with adjustable straps, are machine washable, and have an interior of the softest 100% polyester minky.

Right now you can snag a Carseat Canopy for FREE with the code SEVENSLINGS - simply pay shipping and handling and your order will be processed in 2-8 business days!!

For even more savings, you can buy the "Whole Caboodle" sets (a $135 value) with the SEVENSLINGS code for just $29.95. It doesn't get much better than that!

I just got the Maddox Carseat Canopy for our baby boy who will be arriving in January. I'm not sure when this deal expires, so make sure you grab yours before it's gone!!!

*from their website.

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Carseat Canopies other than a satisfied customer sharing the deal with others!

Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland Review

Having grown up in Michigan, I certainly knew what Bronner's was. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who didn't know about this amazing CHRISTmas Wonderland within the great mitten state. For those visiting Frankenmuth, it's a Christmas festival that never ends and joyously celebrates the birth of Christ all throughout the year. For the rest of us it is the perfect one stop holiday shop for all our Christmas needs (and then some).

As an adult now who lives in Virginia, I'm so happy that I can keep up the Bronner's holiday traditions by shopping online. From personalized Christmas ornaments and gifts to professional level Santa suits, they have it all. Even our cats have their own hand-painted personalized tree ornaments.

Their selection is huge and the quality of their work is unbeatable. Instead of shopping for Christmas decorations at chain retail stores this year, simply visit Bronners.com or request a catalogue to do some shopping that shopping from a place full of heart.

I recently placed an order for some personalized gifts, and when the package arrived I couldn't believe how much love was tucked into that little box. The staff at Bronner's carefully placed all my items in a cloud of biodegradeable packaging while including a Thanksgiving prayer card as well as a candy cane (my first of the season) just to say thanks.

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Bronner's and was not in any way compensated for this post. The opinions posted are mine alone and may differ from yours.

Enter the Tiny Prints Talent Search! Huge Prizes!

Tiny Prints is having a talent search!! How would you like to win $1,000, a $500 Tiny Prints Gift Card, and to be featured in the 2012 Tiny Prints Marketing Campaign!? Sounds good to me!

Prizes will be awarded for the following categories:Cutest Baby (0-2 years old)
Cutest Kid (3-10 years old)
Cutest Family
Cutest Couple
Cutest Pet

To enter, Like Tiny Prints on Facebook and go to the Talent Search Tab in the left-hand column.

Hurry! You only have until November 21st to enter.

Click here for a copy of the full official rules.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

2 Chix Maternity Tees for Comfort and Fun {Review}

2 Chix offers expectant moms a new way to show off their bumps by being stylish, trendy and quirky. With a boutique in Santa Monica, 2 Chix tees have been seen around Hollywood on expectant celebs including Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts and Melissa Joan Hart....

Have you heard? I'm the new contributing maternity writer for the What Mama Wants Blog. Head on over to say hi to Robyn and to read my full review on this adorable with bump, not plump tee.


29 weeks pregnant

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary maternity tee from 2 Chix in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own and may differ from yours.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thanksgiving Fun with Food - Ideas for the Kiddos!

I was recently featured on Nap Time is My Time as a guest writer, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving (and kids!) I decided to write about Thanksgiving Fun with Food. Check out the complete post here! (My favorites are the SUPER EASY Pilgrim Hats!)

47% Off Piggy Paint Set from 8moms - Perfect Stocking Stuffer!

Head on over to 8moms to get this exlusive group buy on Piggy Paint! For $9 (+s&h) you'll get a Two Polish Accessory Box including One Bottle of Neon Magenta Polish (LOL), One Bottle of Neon Green Polish (Eat Your Peace), One Nail Brush & One Foot File (a 47% savings).

These sets make a fantastic stocking stuffer, and if you're not already familiar with Piggy Paint you're missing out! We're talking about a water-based polish made from natural ingredients that is SAFE SAFE SAFE for your children to use!

I already snagged two for myself, so you're going to want to jump on this deal before you miss out. Click here for the full details of this deal.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Stride-Rite Sale! Buy One Get One 50% Off Online, In Stores & Outlets! Thru 11/14

When kids go through shoes SO quickly, it's important to get the ones will last and last until their feet reach the next size. Right now you can Stride-Rite (one of our favorite kids brands!) is offering Buy One Get One 50% Off ALL FOOTWEAR.

This deal is good online, in-stores and at the outlets. When shopping online enter code SRBOGO. This deal is good through November 14th only, so if you're in need of shoes before the holidays don't miss out!

Shipping is FREE on orders of $75+. Standard shipping on all other orders is $4.99.

100 Things that I'm Thankful For

Microsoft Clip Art
I can't believe that Thanksgiving is almost upon us. That means that the year is winding down (and I just got used to writing 2011!) and that our baby boy is getting closer and closer to arriving. Life seems to move so much faster since having kids. I thought I'd take a few moments and share with you all the things (or at least 100 of them) that I'm thankful for today. I'm not going to lie... writing this list was a little more difficult than I anticipated. It took me a few hours, but it was a deep refreshing look into my soul! If you're up for a challenge than write your own 100 (I'm sure a few of mine will help you get started) and leave the link in the comments section.

I am thankful for:
  1. My beautiful daughter AJ (who is two years old TODAY!)
  2. The baby boy that is growing inside of me. We can't wait to be a family of 4 and meet you in January!
  3. My husband Ken. He is everything I could have hoped for in a husband, and much more. He's hard-working, a loving and gentle father, a hilarious friend, a Christian, and the love of my life. I am so lucky that he picked me.
  4. The ability to stay home with our daughter. I have always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, and thanks for my husband I am able to.
  5. Not only do I have a roof over my head, but to live in a beautiful house that truly feels like home.
  6. My two cats, Nessie & Genevieve, who will always be my "first babies."
  7. Our church, and the amazing community of people there who have become our Virginia family.
  8. That I am able to send our 2 year old daughter to preschool at our church two times a week, where she gets to play her heart out with kids her age.
  9. That we have an amazing HOA that takes care of all our yard maintenance so that as new parents we haven't had to worry about a thing in almost three years.
  10. The ability to web-chat with our families who live over 700 miles away.
  11. The Master's program at VCU that has allowed my husband to earn his entire MBA through evening classes (with only 5 weeks to go!)
  12. The amazing women in my life who have given me an entire winter wardrobe of maternity clothes as well as all their gently used boy clothes! You've saved us hundreds of dollars.
  13. The opportunity to read and review books and stories that take me away to far away places.
  14. The awesome network of moms I've met during our time in Virginia.
  15. The strength and patience that God has given us to remain a one car family for almost three years now (5 if you include our years in NYC).
  16. Our brand new 2011 Ford Flex. It is such a great car that we know we will have for many years!
  17. My blog! It has been such a wonderful outlet for me in the last year and a half. I am thankful for each and every person who reads and all the great comments you leave me day after day.
  18. The trips we were able to take this year as a family, including Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, Disney World, Virginia Beach, Ohio and Michigan.
  19. Little family traditions, like a balloon and a lotto ticket on your birthday.
  20. Parking spaces that are specifically designated for expectant mothers.
  21. A seemingly endless supply of clean drinking water right from my own faucet. I know it is a luxury and it really humbles me.
  22. The ability to deliver my children at a hospital that is ranked within the top 1% of all hospitals in the United States.
  23. Modern medicine and my wonderful endocrinologist who helps me regulate my Hashimoto's Hypothyroidism, a disease that I will have to take medicine for for the rest of my life.
  24. Comedy television that takes me away from the stresses of "real life" : The Office, Up All Night & Modern Family.
  25. My large extended family. I was lucky enough to grow up with a mom, dad, brother, two sets of grandparents, 13 aunts and uncles, and 13 first cousins. Now that I am grown and married, I am also blessed to have great in-laws, as well as an even more extensive list of cousins and aunt and uncles.
  26. Quiet moments while my daughter is napping and I can just reflect on all that God has given me.
  27. Two amazing "pen pals" that I've had for over a decade! It's so awesome to catch up with old fashioned letters. These two girls know me better than most of my "in-person everyday" friends.
  28. The Internet and its abundance of ways to communicate with friends and family through email, facebook, twitter, etc.
  29. Our good friends the Shermans, who we were fortunate enough to meet in Virginia after a series of coincidences. They are also from Michigan, our husbands both went to Michigan State (and VCU - where they met) and we had our baby girls on the same day. Only God can arrange a friendship like that!!!
  30. Heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. I realize that I am very high maintenance when it comes to temperature control and this is such a luxury that I often take for granted.
  31. Leftover Halloween candy just waiting to be eaten when I need a pick-me-up.
  32. Wine (when I'm not pregnant) and movie nights with my husband throughout the year. I enjoy these more than any fancy restaurant or outing.
  33. All of the business knowledge I acquired during my years of working for Kidville in NY. I still can't believe how lucky I am to have had some of the opportunities I have had, and had it not been for Kidville I would not be the confident, persistant, go-getting person that I am today.
  34. The ability to wash and dry our clothes in the comfort of our own home. (Not that I didn't love dragging our laundry down six flights of stairs and walking 4 blocks with it to a laundromat full of crazies in NY.)
  35. The comfort that a simple hug can bring my daughter, and the feeling of being needed by her.
  36. The ability to order everyday necessities like diapers, toilet paper and dishwasher detergent online and have it delivered right to my front door.
  37. All things chocolate.
  38. That I live in a free country and very rarely do I have any real worries.
  39. That I have health insurance to help me cover the costs of doctors visits and medicines.
  40. That I can pray comfortably and openly, and that I can believe what I believe and you can believe what you believe.
  41. Gatherings with friends over a home-made meal.
  42. Dora the Explorer. I know she's only a cartoon, but she has saved my sanity many times in the last year.
  43. Girl's Night Out get togethers with my circle of mommy friends.
  44. The abundance of recipe blogs and websites out there on the web these days. I very rarely pick up a cookbook these days.
  45. Family portraits that create lasting memories.
  46. That I live in a quiet suburb but it's still only a 5 minute drive to the nearest Target.
  47. That my husband doesn't have to travel too often for his job. It's hard with him away, and I really feel for the families with a mom or dad who constantly travels, or one that only has one parent.
  48. Music. Do you ever wonder what the world would be like without any music?
  49. Local service men & women who do their best to take care of our community.
  50. A grocery store within minutes that always has plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and dairy products for the citizens of our communtiy who shop there.
  51. A world that is truly trying to be more eco-conscious, especially with baby and toddler products.
  52. That Disney World is still as magical as an adult, and that my husband has promised that we can visit there at least every six years for the rest of our lives. ;)
  53. That thanks to modern vaccinations, my daughter will never have to experience what it's like to have the chicken pox like I did when I was a kid, and what nearly took the life of my little brother.
  54. Getting packages in the mail.
  55. That the seasons change, to remind us that God still has a huge role in His ever-changing world.
  56. For every "Come on mama, snuggle" that comes out of AJ's mouth.
  57. For amazing locales around town that are constantly hosting family friendly (and cheap) events, especially the Children's Museum of Richmond and Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens.
  58. My college education and degree. If I could, I would continue taking college courses for the rest of my life. I'm so thankful for the opportunity!
  59. Having my college loans be PAID OFF!!! Woohoo!! (Now we've got Ken's MBA loans to pay-off!)
  60. Portable DVD players for 12 hour car drives to Michigan to see the grandparents and aunts and uncles.
  61. Indoor Plumbing.
  62. The ability to give (somewhat) generously to deserving organizations even though we are far from wealthy.
  63. Receiving good news!
  64. That my husband and I still share an interest in Super Mario Brother videos games, after over two decades of playing them.
  65. That my daughter still takes a solid nap so that I have a little time to myself to clean, blog, or sleep.
  66. Having a healthy pregnancy and being able to keep up with my toddler throughout the day.
  67. My anxiety over having a perfectly clean house has dissipated since having children, and now I can comfortably live in a "kind of" clean house.
  68. A warm meal for dinner every evening.
  69. Having access to first aid and medical supplies within minutes (if not seconds) of any situation.
  70. My book club group! I haven't been able to attend too many times this year, but I don't know what I would do without those girls!
  71. The ability to get out of bed each day and function without any assistance from others. I can walk, talk, and fend for myself and it is such a blessing.
  72. Grandparents that spoil my daughter rotten so that her daddy and I don't have to!
  73. That pretty much all celebrations are celebrated with cake. ;) I don't know if I can tell that the last time I went more than three weeks without cake!
  74. That my husband is super savvy in the financial sense so that I don't have to worry about our money at all (even though I know he'd like me to be more involved with the planning and less involved with the spending).
  75. Organic products like California Baby Calendula Cream to help with my daughter's sensitive skin!
  76. That the most fun traditions only come around once a year, to keep them more special. Birthdays, visiting the pumpkin patch, seeing Santa, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade...
  77. Our Keurig Coffee Maker. I swear that I am the worst at making coffee, and if I can use the Keurig to make premium coffee, than anyone can! (In fact, our two year old makes her daddy coffee - with supervision - all the time.)
  78. That my daughter still loves to be read to at least 30 minutes every day.
  79. Bookstores. I love bookstores - they are the perfect place to kill time. I know that someday I will have a Kindle to carry around with me, but I'm still a huge fan of the actual book. The smell, the turning of each page, the wondering where this book has traveled before me.
  80. That I'm able to call me mom long-distance nearly everyday for just pennies, whereas 10-15 years ago it would have cost us both an arm and a leg.
  81. My Crock-Pot, and the many delicious meals that it has fed our family!
  82. Rainy days spent indoors building towers and watching movies.
  83. Living within two hours of both the ocean and the mountains, in which there are endless "one-tank" trips our family can take.
  84. That our two year old daughter still loves her crib and that I can keep that little part of her a "baby" for just a little bit longer.
  85. That there are so many puzzles and teaching toys on the market today. I'm so astounded at our daughter every day, who at two years old (today!) knows all of her letters and can count to 10.
  86. Reliable, responsible babysitters that give me a break every so often!!
  87. That I have the right to vote, and that what I say counts.
  88. That my husband and I have some exciting opportunities to look ahead to.
  89. Hot showers at the end of a long day.
  90. Having had the opportunity to live in a few different places, especially New York City, where my husband and I really learned "how to" be adults. We didn't have our parents to run to with every little problem, and somehow (cardboard furniture included in the beginning) we made it all work out by ourselves.
  91. All the wonderful people out there who have dedicated their lives to teaching. They are under-appreciated and under-paid, but they certainly have some of the biggest hearts. I'm so thankful for these people that give their time and energy so that our children can better themselves.
  92. Our GPS system. Sometimes I wonder how on earth I got around to places when I was driving all over in college with printed out instructions from MapQuest and actual maps. I feel like I couldn't live without our Garmen these days.
  93. That my husband and I have had the will-power to say "no" to adopting all the amazing dogs we have met and fallen in love with over the last few years. We really really want a dog, but with our busy schedules and lack of disposable income it would be really hard right now. I'm glad we've made a solid decision to wait until it's the right time for us.
  94. That my faith seems unwaivering even in bad times, and that like a rock it keeps me steady.
  95. That I've come to realize that I don't have to agree with someone and that we can still be friends! This was a huge problem I had up until college.
  96. Ultrasounds, and the amazing technology that let's me see my baby before he even arrives!
  97. Laughter, especially that of my daughter.
  98. Waking up in the morning realizing that my toddler did not disturb me at all in the night.
  99. That I am the only me there is, and that I am special and unique!
  100. Today. I'm thankful for yesterday, today and tomorrow - each an opportunity to showcase who I am and what I'm all about.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Elf on the Shelf Book + Plush Set Review & Giveaway {Ends 11/23}

GIVEAWAY CLOSED. Congratulations to Ann P. from North Carolina!

I love Christmas traditions. Trimming the tree, listening to Christmas music, baking treats and watching ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas to name a few. This year I'm so excited for a brand new (to us) Christmas tradition - The Elf on the Shelf.

About Elf on the Shelf: Year after year, children and adults alike are baffled by the mystery of how Santa really knows who’s been naughty or nice. After much urging by the elves and Mrs. Claus, Santa has allowed his biggest secret to be revealed in The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition . Touted as “The best thing since The Night Before Christmas” this gift set includes a North Pole pixie-elf, hardbound children’s book and keepsake box. Children can register their elf online and receive a special response from Santa.

The fun part comes as a special holiday game. After the Christmas decorations go up, this magical little elf will appear somewhere that your child will notice within the house. What is he doing?? He's keeping an eye on your for Santa, of course! Each day leading up to Christmas the elf (with a little help from mom and dad) will magically appear at a new location in the house. The kids will love finding him, and will do their best to be good little boys and girls during the holiday season. The one major rule is this: you can't touch the elf, or his magic will disappear! If he doesn't have any magic left, he won't have a way to get back to Santa at the North Pole!

On Christmas Eve, the little elf will disappear entirely to report to Santa. :)

I've wanted The Elf on the Shelf since our daughter was born. This Thursday, she will be two years old, and our elf (whom we have yet to name!) is on the way to our house as we speak!

BUY IT! The Elf on the Shelf is sold for $29.95 and can be found on Amazon.com.

WIN IT! Holly at Nap Time is giving one lucky winner their very own Elf on the Shelf this holiday season. Open to US residents ONLY - please do PO boxes. Winner will have the choice between light-skinned blue-eyed elf and dark-skinned brown-eyed elf. Winner will be contacted by email and will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Proof that 99% of Maternity Photos are Awful and Creeptastic

A few days ago I wrote a post about my puzzlement over the artsy, awkward, nudey maternity photos and what the heck we're supposed to do with those photos once their taken. Hang them over the family mantle?  The reception to the post, which you can read here, was mixed. Some people said that the photos are meant to show baby a time when mommy and baby were one in the same (which personally... I don't think a child will care about and once they reach the age of 10 or so this would probably just become mortifying... or good birth control for future years. You decide.)

I don't know. Maybe I'm just not comfortable enough in my own skin to make art and memories of these revealing and awkward shots. ;)

Since writing the piece I've come across this article on Babble that you must check out for a good laugh.

Pregnancy FAILS: 25 Horrible Pregnancy Portraits and Belly Shots


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

FREE Thanksgiving Greeting Card from Tiny Prints - TODAY ONLY!

By now I'm sure you know that you can count on me for great deals and savings from Tiny Prints. ;) Here's another great offer for TODAY ONLY, so make sure you don't miss out!

Today you can get a FREE Customized Thanksgiving Greeting Card by using the promotion code FREETHX11 during checkout. Not sure who to send a Thanksgiving card to? This is a great opportunity to recognize someone in your life that might be a little under-appreciated. Maybe it's a fantastic mail carrier, or the pediatrician that you call at least once a week for advice, or a hard-working babysitter who is always there at a moments notice. We all have people in our lives that deserve a word of THANKS, and what better way to spread that cheer than with a free greeting card?

As with their other greeting card promotions, you MUST choose the option to "Send it to me first" instead of sending it directly to the recipient, or you will be charged .44 for postage. (Don't worry, if you send it to yourself it still comes with a blank envelope!) Also, you must enter a valid credit card for the order to be processed, but you WILL NOT be charged for the price of the card as noted by the promotion code.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Maternity Portraits - Yay or Nay?

Me, pregnant in 2009
Now that my bump is in full view with baby number two (tomorrow is already the beginning on my third trimester!), people are asking me the inevitable portrait question - am I going to have maternity photos taken? And again people, the answer is NO! Not unless you include our yearly family photo for the Christmas card, in which I will be pregnant... but I find that more of a coincidence rather than a showcase of my growing belly.

My husband and I did document my growing belly with bi-weekly photos when I was pregnant with our daughter who was born in 2009. This was mostly to share with our friends and family who were over 700 miles away, and I do appreciate being able to look back at the pictures and think, aw, that's when my little baby girl was growing inside of me.

What I don't understand is why people get professional maternity photos done. I'm not really talking about those photos that couples get taken in which the woman is clearly pregnant and the daddy is kissing her tummy, or they are looking lovingly at the bump in waits of their future bundle. I think those photos are very tasteful and should be shared with family and friends. If you have the money and time, of course. (This is where I still scratch my head a little bit, because pregnancy is such a short period of time and I'd much rather have photos of the baby with the family than as a growth on my front.)

What I don't really like, or "get", at all is those artsy maternity photos in which mom gracefully has a sheet or some other fabric draped over her private parts and reveals a big huge belly. What is the point? Sure, they are beautiful portraits, and I do understand the whole, 'woman is beautiful with all her curves and imperfections and growing motherly belly.' I do get that. It's artsy and meaningful to some, maybe. But what on earth does one actually do with one of these photos? After all, they are a little bit sexy, no? Do I want my parents seeing me like this? Would I want my in-laws viewing such a photo? What do you do with the photo after it's taken? Surely not hang it on your wall? (I find that a little weird and vain.) Do you expect your husband to carry a copy in his wallet?

Maybe I'm too modest? What do you think about those photos?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Crock Pot on a Budget: Black Bean & Chicken Salsa Soup - Under $10

Holly at Nap Time
As soon as the leaves start to turn, it's soup season to me. This recipe will warm your whole family up (serves 6). The best part is it's a full family meal for under $10, and it can be adjusted according to your tastes (if you like it mild or like to heat it up!)

Disclaimer: The prices shown below are what I personally paid for each product, and may differ from what you are able to find in your grocery store.

Black Bean & Chicken Salsa Soup

Half-Pound Boneless Chicken (breasts or tenderloins) - $2.69
1 Large Can of Black Beans (26.5 oz) - $1.59
1 Small Can of Whole Kernel Corn (8 3/4 oz) - $0.89
1 Jar of Salsa - however hot you prefer (16 oz) - $2.59
1/2 Green Pepper, chopped - about $0.50
1 small red onion - about $0.30
1 Jalapeno Pepper (add whqole for mild taste and take out at end, or chop for heat) - about $0.28
4 Chicken Bouillon Cubes - about $0.32
4 Cups of Water

Optional Ingredients: (NOT included in price list)
Cumin (I used about 1 teaspoon)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Tortilla Chips
Sour Cream
Shredded Cheese

1. Add all of the main ingredients to your Crock Pot slow cooker and stir. If using cumin or salt & pepper, add now.
2. Cook on LOW for 8 hours or HIGH for 4-6 hours. Before serving, carefully use forks to shred the chicken up.
3. Serve as is or add sour cream, shredded cheese or tortilla chips to your liking. ENJOY!

I've been eating this soup for two days now (it made plenty of leftovers for our little family). The first night I just added a dollop of sour cream on top, but it didn't seem to add much to the flavor for me. Tonight when I reheated it, I added a little bit of cheese and broken up tortilla chips for a little crunch. YUM! The crunch really hit the spot, and I would dare say this soup was even better on day 2 after the flavors got to soak together more overnight.

For a thicker "stew" that you can scoop up with tortilla chips instead of eating like soup, try using 2 1/2 cups of water instead of 4 (and adjust if needed).

Yummy! Let me know if you try this one!

I'm currently building a recipe page on my blog for all of my Crock Pot features. In the meantime, use the Google Search Bar in the right-side column to search for "Crock Pot" for a list of all my postings. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Toddler Thinks that Matt Lauer is her Daddy

After the last couple days we've had at our house, I think it'd be therapeutic for me to write about something light-hearted. After I get my whine out, of course.

I don't know why, but I find pregnancy to be pretty stressful. I feel like I'm always on my guard and on-edge about something. Right now there is a little boy just north of where I live who has been missing in the woods since Sunday. Four days. Over a thousand people searching. Temperatures in the low 40's overnights. Oh yea, and he is autistic and non-verbal, meaning that he is unable to call for help. This, of course, is news that I would follow as a concerned citizen. But as a mom? I'm practically obsessed. I find myself checking the news every 15 minutes or so to see if there has been an update. Have they found him yet? I'm extremely hopeful, and my family and I have been praying for his safe rescue, but the whole situation has a lot of people on pins and needles. If you're interested, you can find more on the story here: NBC12.

That and my daughter is sick with the croup. And it totally breaks my heart. Her coughing started yesterday during the day, and I am so happy that my husband (who was also home sick) and I decided to take her to the pediatrician. Had the doctors not prepared us for what the night would be like (which we learned with croup is often much worse) I think we would have been in a definitely panic in the early morning hours this morning.

My husband, knowing how stressed out I am, still snuck to the store last night and brought me home white roses and cupcakes for our anniversary (which was yesterday). When I had mentioned that our daughter was sick on our last anniversary as well, he told me that it's just God's way of reminding us that it's not the anniversaries that count the most, but all the days in between. My husband is gifted to have a way with words like that.

Alright, onto lighter things, and as to what prompted my husband to post this onto Facebook last night:

It's true. It started a few days ago when I was looking online at one of the "Where in the World is Matt Lauer" promotions from the Today Show and my daughter ran over and exclaimed, "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!!" My husband, thinking it was a fluke, pulled up another picture of Lauer yesterday while he was home and asked our daughter who it was. Again, "Daddy!!"

What makes it more hilarious is that while my husband and I were living in New York City (pre-kids) at one point I had mentioned something to the tune of how I think Matt Lauer has the coolest job in the world, which led to my husband to assume that I have a mega-crush on the guy, which I don't. (Sorry Matt, but you're old enough to be my dad.) Since then it has always been an ongoing joke in our house. Would my husband ever live up to the standards I've set for him through my adoration for Matt Lauer?

Ken- I wouldn't change a thing about you and our life together. It's perfect!

So what do you think? Must be the hair?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

FREE Chips Ahoy Cookies Coupon on Facebook at 12pm - Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday

Here's another Halloween treat for you! Head on over to Facebook to "Like" Chips Ahoy. From now through Thursday at 12pm EST Chips Ahoy will be giving away 20,000 coupons for their deliciously famous cookies. The coupons are for $1 and will be sent directly to your printer.

Make sure to stop by around noon to see if you can snag one today!

Happy Halloween! :)