December 16, 2014

More Skees Please in 2015

People said going from 3 kids to 4 was going to be a breeze...

...People were wrong.

Having Nolan in February was no doubt a huge blessing. After our trouble getting pregnant with Hudson, I truly didn't think #4 was even a possibility.

Until it was.

This surprise little guy has completed our loud, energetic, silly (and often smelly) family full of boys. So if the title of this post made you wonder if we were going to add another baby in the coming year, I assure you that is NOT the case. What I am referring to is the direction of this here blog in 2015 (not literally adding "more" Skees to the mix)...

Now that that has been cleared up, I think it's safe to say that clearly my blogging has been affected by the major life changes we've gone through this year. A move from Texas back to KY mid-2013, living with my parents while Ricky remained in Austin trying to sell the house, pregnant and hospital bed-rest last fall, convincing Ricky to buy a house in Louisville sight unseen (attempted to show him via FaceTime but kept losing signal), and finally moving in to said house in the middle of winter just 2 weeks after having a baby. Just writing all of that gives me anxiety. Until I remember that I don't have to deal with any of that ever again...then I relax. And laugh about it all.

Anywho, in the spirit of keeping things complicated, I decided to add "start a nonprofit organization" to my list of goals for 2014. I've always been the type who needs to stay busy, but perhaps I should have anticipated that having a newborn and raising 3 other boys was all the busy I needed.

Nevertheless, I did it.

I sketched ideas and mission statements on scraps of paper with a baby on my hip. I stayed up long after the kids went to bed and did research. I had help from family while I met with nonprofit attorney's and CPAs to ensure I had all my ducks in a row. And I'm super proud to say that as of October 30, 2014, apertOWL is officially a 501c3 organization. {Be sure to check out our website: www.apertOWL.org to learn more about it!}

While managing apertOWL is going to be quite an undertaking this coming year, I am building a team of awesome board members who will help carry out our mission and ensure our success. I'm truly excited about the future of this organization and all the many ways we hope to help and inspire others affected by Apert syndrome.

With that said, I have missed writing. It is therapeutic for me and has been an amazing means of connecting with people world-wide. It has also led to many writing opportunities for various publications or blogs, representing brands (on tv!) and the ability to partner with companies to review their products and/or events. I don't ever intend on making More Skees Please solely a "review" based blog, the sponsored posts that I've written this year were just too good to pass up and I look forward to doing more in the future if and when they make sense.

Most importantly, I plan on carving out time every week to put pen to paper (or, well, hand to keyboard) and finally write each of the post ideas I have saved on my Notes app on my phone. I have literally woken up at 2 in the morning just to jot down my thoughts for a new blog post. Carrying around all those ideas in my head is getting heavy...I need to get them out!

Finally, I will be sprucing up the blog design and content in the coming weeks. I'd love to add more advertising on the site - so if you have a blog, business or product you want to promote, be on the look out for a more streamlined sponsor/advertiser page to get all the details. I will also be adding a "Public Speaking" page so that those who are interested in having me come speak to their schools, groups, etc. have a place to find the information they need. And of course I will be adding a direct link to apertOWL as I continue to work on expanding my efforts there.

In the meantime I want to thank everyone who continues to follow this crazy life of mine. I am humbled by the support and hope to keep some semblance of sanity in my role as "the coordinator of chaos" in the New Year!

May you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! CHEERS!

PHOTO CREDIT: Bellissimo Photography






November 26, 2014

A Very "Minted" Christmas

I have made it my goal to take time out to update my blog more frequently. I have a long list (and I'm checking it twice!) of posts that I have swirling around in my head. But with all the craziness that is the holiday season, I am going to be honest, the deep, thoughtful writing will probably have to wait until the new year.

In the meantime, I am keeping it light and talking holiday cards. In my quest to find the cutest, most unique designs, I searched all the main sites: Shutterfly, Tiny Prints, etc. And then I went to Minted.com and knew I had to look no further.

Last year I was pregnant and on bed rest and feeling not so "in the spirit" so I sent a basic old boring card just to get it done. This year we have so much to celebrate...new house, new baby...I wanted to find that certain special greeting. I had ordered my apertOWL business cards from Minted last year, and in all honesty, had kind of forgotten to check them out for holiday cards but I'm glad I did!

Check out the cuteness:






I LOVE all the different options. Once you choose your design (submitted by artists from across the globe), you can customize the color, shape, photos, and text. You can search by theme, holiday, number of pictures to include and more! And I just love the "highlight" styles that allow you to add a ton of details about your year in review.

While they are kind of pricey, they are comparable to the other sites I've looked at before. And in my opinion, these designs are so much better...so if it ends up being a bit more expensive, it's probably worth it for that oooh and aaaah from your friends and family :) 

My holiday card tip: choose a design that the greeting/message can easily be snipped off to make a photo that is able to be displayed on a fridge or in a frame "year round". 

You can check out Minted's Christmas Cards here. And do it soon so you can take advantage of their current Black Friday deal: 20% off holiday orders $150+, 15% off $100+. Use BF14 at checkout, expires Fri 11/28!

You're welcome :)

DISCLAIMER: I was offered a credit to Minted.com in exchange for writing a post about their holiday cards. As always, opinions are 100% honest and my own.






October 16, 2014

LEGO KidsFest 2014

Do your kids love LEGOS(R) like mine do? Then if you are within driving distance to Indianapolis, you won't want to miss this...



I haven't told the boys yet but we are going to load up and drive to Indy for this giant traveling LEGO(R) expo at the Indianapolis Convention Center. It features MILLIONS of LEGO(R) bricks with construction zones, life-sized models and displays. Some of the sets featured include the popular Friends, Chima and Star Wars collections. There will even be live Master Builders. The entire event spans 3 ACRES of space!


They are going to be as excited as when I told them we were going to Disney and I can't wait to spill the beans!!!

Tickets are just $20 for kids and $22 for adults. They sell out quickly for all sessions so don't delay! For more information and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.legokidsfest.com/indianapolis/indes.html.

FUN FACTS
  • More than 400 billion LEGO bricks have been produced since 1949.
  • The LEGO minifigure represents the world's largest population of people! More than four billion minifigures have been produced in the last 30 years. This is almost 12 times the population of the United States!
  • LEGO minifigures are out of this world, literally. The two Mars Rovers have an image of the LEGO minifigure etched into their front grill.
  • Approximately seven LEGO sets are sold each second.
  • There are about 62 LEGO bricks for every one of the world's six billion inhabitants.
  • Laid end to end, the number of LEGO bricks sold in a year would reach more than five times around the world.
  • There are 915 million ways to combine six eight-stud LEGO bricks.
  • Children around the world spend five billion hours a year playing with LEGO bricks.
  • With a production of about 306 million tires produced a year, the LEGO group is the largest producer of tires in the world.
  • LEGO is the contraction of two Danish words, "leg godt" which means "play well".
  • There are about 62 LEGO bricks for every one of the world's six billion inhabitants.
  • 19 billion LEGO elements are produced every year. 2.16 million LEGO elements are molded every hour, or 36,000 per minute.

I AM GIVING AWAY 2 TICKETS FOR THE OPENING SESSION ON FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 7th (4:00-8:30pm)! TO ENTER, COMPLETE THE FORM HERE.


I encourage you to LIKE and Follow LEGOKidsFest on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram for all the latest ticketing updates as this event has been selling out in prior cities.    Must be 18 to enter, 1 entry per day allowed, random drawing by USFG!

*DISCLOSURE: USFamilyGuide.com will be providing me with 4 complimentary tickets for my family to attend this event and 2 tickets for a giveaway. I will be posting more info during our trip so be sure to follow @MoreSkeesPlease on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.






October 01, 2014

SlowCooker Recipes with Red Gold Tomatoes #RGrecipes

So the other day someone asked me to represent their brand by using their products to make a crockpot recipe and then share the recipe and review on my blog and then also on my local news stations Sunday morning show. I had to laugh because, well, if you know me, you know that would be...ridiculous. I hate to cook. I do it, but do I enjoy it? Not usually.

I get various requests like these from time to time and I tend to only choose ones that make sense and would be valuable to my particular audience. Before I committed, I double checked that they had indeed sent their request to the right person. They assured me they had visited More Skees Please and thought that as a busy mom of 4 kids, I would be a good fit for using Red Gold products to make quick and easy crock-pot meals.

Ahhh - yes, that does make sense. I do use my crock-pot quite a bit. Especially this time of year. Since I no longer felt like a fraud...I said yes!

When I received my package, I was pleased (and surprised) with the variety they included. I don't think I had ever noticed that you could buy Petite Diced Tomatoes flavored with Lime Juice & Cilantro or Garlic & Olive Oil. Yum! And while the recipe I chose didn't call for either one of those, I'm definitely going to find a way to try those out in one of my old standby's (tacos and/or baked chicken).

So, on to the recipe. I chose to make their Spicy Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese (although since I was having my kids try it, I omitted the "spice" of the diced tomatoes with green chilies and substituted the regular diced tomatoes instead).

Have you ever had Outback's mac and cheese? You guys, this was better. Nevermind the fact that it probably has a zillion calories, this is comfort food at its finest...and with a twist. Adding the tomatoes gave it great flavor and Aiden loved it! Ethan on the other hand? Well, lets just focus on the the positive: the Red Gold diced tomatoes are large enough to pick out if you have a picky eater like I do!

Here is the recipe:

SPICY SLOW COOKER MACARONI AND CHEESE

Ingredients:
2 cups pasta of choice, uncooked
3 tbsp butter
8 oz American processed cheese, cubed
8 oz cream cheese, cubed
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 cup low fat milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
1 (14.5 oz) can RED GOLD PETITE DICED TOMATOES with GREEN CHILIES

Directions:
1. Place the uncooked pasta in the bottom of a 3.5-qt. crock pot that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Add the remaining ingredients, except RED GOLD PETITE DICED TOMATOES with GREEN CHILIES, to the slow cooker and stir until well combined. Cook on LOW for 4 hours.
2. Just before serving add RED GOLD PETITE DICED TOMATOES with GREEN CHILIES; stir to combine.

I am going to throw out there that while it didn't end up looking that great, it tasted phenomenal!

Now, the television segment. I had a blast but it was quite a bit of work. Not to mention that it was for their 6:00 AM show, so I had to be up by 4:30 to shower and get to the studio on time. Not exactly what a sleep-deprived mom of an 8-month old who JUST STARTED SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT (ugh) wants to do. But...if you know me, you also know I won't pass up an opportunity to be on TV :) And because I truly believed in the quality of the recipe and products, again, I felt it was a good fit.


Remember how I said it didn't end up looking that great? Well, reheated leftovers look even worse. In fact, one of the show's producers came in, looked at my "presentation" dish and said "What'd you make? Scrambled eggs?"

UH-OH

I laughed nervously and said, well, no, actually it is mac n cheese. Tasting is believing! He complimented my setup for the segment and also said: "Hey, you managed to make mac n cheese look nothing like mac n cheese. Congratulations!"

Well, what can I say. This is in typical Taryn fashion when it comes to all things cooking. We all had a good laugh which got out any lingering nerves before the live segment began.

Overall I think it went really well. I was able to talk about the fact that Red Gold products are made from tomatoes grown right here in the midwest in the Ohio, Indiana and Michigan regions. If you want to learn more about how the company seeks to accomplish their mission of "producing the freshest, best-tasting products in the world", visit their website at: http://redgold.com.

Also, Red Gold is giving away two slow cookers a day on its Facebook page. The promotion runs until October 8th! Just go to https://www.facebook.com/RedGold to enter.

Finally, I have a super cute red apron and a brand new wooden spoon that I would love to giveaway to one luck reader. All you have to do is comment below and tell me which of the following recipes (which can be found on Red Gold's website) sound the tastiest:

1. Slow Cooker Spicy Macaroni and Cheese
2. Black Bean & Pumpkin Chili
3. Rustic Italian Chicken
4. Homestyle Beef Stew
5. Sausage & Sweet Potato Chili
6. Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

I will randomly choose one person to win on Wednesday, October 8th.

Good luck!









September 30, 2014

More Than A Mom: How My Kids Helped Me Figure Out 'What I Wanted to be When I Grew Up'

To help me prepare for some of my upcoming speaking gigs (and to finally satisfy my dad's unrelenting request to join), I recently became a member of Toastmasters. Basically it is your dreaded college Public Speaking course but more formal...and more terrifying. I thought getting up in front of a small group of complete strangers and speaking would be easier. I was wrong. However once I got through my first big assignment - the ice breaker speech - I started to feel a little more at ease.

I decided to share my ice breaker speech from Toastmasters below. If you've been a long time reader of More Skees Please (thank you!) then you already know most of the story. If you are just landing here, welcome! This is a good "in a nutshell" piece to get you up to speed. Either way, I hope you enjoy! Thanks for visiting!

When you hear stay-at-home mom – what comes to mind? A working mom might think: Lucky. A career-driven, childless friend might think: Worthless. A family man might think: Traditional. A corporate ladder-climber might think: Incompetent.

“What do you DO all day?” some wonder as they envision the stereotypical images of lounging on the couch in fluffy slippers eating bonbons.

I was a gifted student, always applied myself, made good grades and went on to earn a college degree, but I never quite had a true sense of what I wanted to be when I grew up. Except I knew one thing for certain, I wanted to be a mom. Yes, and, I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom.

My husband, Ricky, and I both attended Bellarmine, although we met on spring break in Daytona – but that’s an entirely different story for a difference crowd. After graduating, I felt compelled to do a little soul searching so I enrolled in an acting course in Burbank, CA and headed out west with stars in my eyes. I had dabbled in acting as a child – starring in dozens of commercials, print ads and even a feature film called Men Don’t Leave where I played Jessica Lange’s niece. However, I quickly learned that being a child actor where your mom drives you to all your auditions and rewards you for a job well done with dinner at McDonald’s is vastly different than attempting to make show business a career as an adult.

While I excelled at Film School, the pull of home, and my boyfriend of several months, was stronger than my desire to become famous. At the end of the 6 weeks I made the trek back to the good ol’ midwest.

Shortly after that experience I found happiness starring in my own fairy tale of sorts. I married said long-term boyfriend in 2005 and we welcomed our first baby boy, in March of 2007. I had gotten a job in marketing just before our wedding and had every intention on continuing to work full-time...until I had my son. I loved my job, and was well-respected there, but I loved my new role as a mom even more.

We couldn’t afford for me to stay home at that point, so I presented my employer with a well-written
flexible work proposal. Knowing it might have been a long-shot, I was surprised when they granted me the opportunity to work from home a few days a week, the first ever flex schedule the company had approved.

Fast forward 3 months. My husband returned from a weekend bachelor party to find me anxiously waiting for him to start making dinner. “Check the oven first to make sure there’s nothing in it” I told him from the living room. Groggy from the festivities he had partaken in, I waited, and then heard “hey babe, why is there a bun in the oven?” Waited some more. Heard him whisper “there’s a bun in the oven” confused. And finally, he flew into the living room...”Wait, there’s a bun in the oven?” We were pregnant again and due before my first son’s first birthday.

Before our second baby boy arrived, we were nervous about having 2 so close together. We knew it was going to be tough. We had no idea how tough. Aiden arrived 5.5 weeks early and shocked everyone, including the doctors, when he presented with some major anomalies. His fingers were fused together, bound up in tight little fists. His toes webbed, his face scrunched. The room had gone silent – not even the OB or nurses had seen this before. We learned later that our second boy had something called Apert syndrome. A very rare craniofacial condition that occurs only once in every 160,000 births.

After a 2 week stay in the NICU, we were attempting to make sense of our new life. Along with his condition came appointments, therapies, surgeries. Needless to say it became almost impossible for me to consider going back to work. And thus, my stay-at-home mom gig commenced. Not quite the way I had envisioned it.

We are living a very different life than we had imagined as fresh-faced newlyweds, but one that is more fulfilling than I ever could have hoped. I am a mom, just as I had wished to be. And a stay-at-home mom to now FOUR beautiful boys. But the thing that is most amazing about our journey is how motherhood has defined my life. And I don’t mean in a bad way.

I’ve always loved to write and in an effort to keep family members informed about Aiden’s medical journey, I began this blog in 2008. Since that time, it has morphed into a lifestyle, parenting and special needs blog with an audience much broader than just friends and family. It has led to outside writing opportunities and published pieces. More importantly, through my blog I have been contacted by families world-wide who have a child with Apert syndrome. Seeing our positive approach and how we advocate for Aiden has inspired countless people. In turn, it has inspired me to take it one step further and create my own nonprofit, called apertOWL, with a mission to be a beacon of hope for those affected by this condition.

In addition, this fall I’ll be making rounds speaking to elementary and middle school kids about
celebrating and accepting differences. I am also scheduled to speak to nursing students about patient
and family centered care, drawing from our experiences in medical facilities.

So think again before you jump to conclusions about stay-at-home-moms. What some might view as a traditional role that wastes a good, solid college degree in my case has been nothing of the sort. I have the best of both worlds. Becoming a mom and embarking on an unexpected journey with a child with complex medical needs has changed me. It has strengthened my heart, solidified my relationships and inspired me to find exactly what it is I was meant to do. Motherhood has given me a purpose and a passion for something I never would have known without it.

I intend on making an impact...and some days I don’t even have to get out of my pajamas.






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