Family Technology Guidelines

No comments :
A few years ago, Ethan asked us if he could create an Instagram account. I believe he was 9 at the time and in an effort to put the subject matter off in the moment, I may have said "when you're 10". It didn't get brought up again.

Well, wouldn't you know that within minutes of us showering him with "Happy Birthday"s and a special 10 year old breakfast request, Ethan reminded me that I said he could get Instagram when he was 10. And here we were.

As someone who uses social media regularly in my every day life, I felt like I needed to address the topic with him in a fair and balanced way. I stayed true to my word and allowed him to download Instagram to his iPod, but spent quite a bit of time helping him understand the benefits and risks of sharing online, whether in a private or public way.

We talked about general rules, things not to do, photos not to publish, etc. and I felt comfortable granting him that privilege. After all, Ethan was (and still is) quite mature for his age.

Once Aiden caught wind, his eyes got big. "So I can get Instagram when I'm 10?" Now Aiden is not quite as mature for his age as Ethan, but how can I say no to one and not the other? I left my response much more vague this time "We'll see," I said. we are. On the eve of Aiden's big double-digit birthday and guess what he's been talking about all day? Instagram.

Our family is very "connected". My kids have televisions in their bedrooms, iPads, Kindles, iPods. Basically as Ricky and I have upgraded our devices, we've either passed our old ones down or at the very least kept them to give to the kids at some point down the line. My kids all know how to find their way around passwords and YouTube searches - and were pretty good at it even at the young age of 3! 

While we have always made it clear that having this access to technology is a privilege, it started to become overwhelming setting and sticking to consistent rules surrounding time limits, parental controls and ensuring privacy. I did a little research last year and came across a device called Circle by Disney. It is a small box that we connect to our home wifi that allows me to take care of all of that in one place. I created a profile for each child, linked their individual devices to their account, and from there I have set bed-times, usage times, restricted websites, games and apps, and am also able to access how they spend their time online. It has been a LIFE SAVER for my sanity - and has wreaked havoc on theirs ;) 

(By the way, this is NOT a sponsored post in any way. Simply sharing what has worked for us!)

Tonight, with Aiden anxiously awaiting access to Instagram tomorrow, I knew I had to come up with a clear-cut way to communicate the rules for our household. I finally went back through all my saved posts on Pinterest on this very subject. There are so many great resources, examples of contracts, and suggestions for explaining the risks of being online to kids of all ages. 

I pieced ours together with what works for our family and thought I would share for anyone who may also be feeling the pressure of kids using technology and social media at younger and younger ages. 

Click on the image to make it larger and/or zoom.
Or you can download the PDF file HERE.

MomLife Louisville || House of Boom!

No comments :
This post is looooong overdue and I could list eleventy-billion excuses for why it hasn't been written yet, but the short and long of it is that I simply haven't gotten around to it. But today, as Aiden is getting ready to turn 10 (on Sunday), I was reminiscing about this past year and everything he has been through. One of the very biggest highlights from before his major surgery was being able to throw an awesome "Super Aiden" going away party of sorts before we left for Texas.

Back in May (yes, May 2017), we invited all of our nearest and dearest neighborhood friends to celebrate with us at House of Boom. We booked their "Boom 10" party package that included the below:

  • 1 hour flight ticket for each guest
  • exclusive use of party room for 45 minutes after jumping
  • party hostess to assist with setup and cleanup
  • table cover, plates, utensils, cups and napkins
  • t-shirt for the party guest of honor
  • grip socks for each jumper

This wasn't anyone's first visit to House of Boom and as usual, everyone had an awesome time. It is the PERFECT place for active kids to get their energy out while having fun! Because House of Boom is pretty much a wide-open space, parents can find a spot on one of their benches or a comfy couch in the upper observation deck and have a full view of each area. But usually, you'll find parents tagging along with their kids and joining in on the fun! 

If you want to visit House of Boom on your own outside of a party, they offer 60, 90 and 120 minute flight passes every day of the week. Peak times do sell out so it is recommended that you book your tickets online in advance and arrive 15 minutes before your flight time. They also offer a $3-4 discount for jumpers under the age of 7. Each jumper needs to have a waiver on file and kids 13 and under have to have a parent on the premises at all times.

I recommend booking a party outside of peak times simply because when it gets crowded it can be a little overwhelming for little ones and the wait times for some of the activities gets kind of long. There is a trapeze where kids can swing and fall into a pit, a ropes-type ninja course, a tight-rope across a pit and an area to bounce and flip into a foam pit as well. Aiden's party was on a Sunday evening at 7pm and we pretty much had the place to ourselves!

As a busy family with 4 boys, going to House of Boom is always suggested when we have some downtime in our schedule. And I have to say, it is usually a win-win because not only do they have fun, but they are thoroughly worn out when all is said and done so bedtime is a lot easier :)

* I received a complimentary House of Boom party package through a partnership with We were so grateful for the opportunity to use the party for this purpose before Aiden's surgery. As always, all opinions are honest and my own.

MomLife Louisville || Bear Paddle Swim School

No comments :
I know we just got through Christmas, and spring break may not be the next thing on your mind, but the only thing that is going to get me through this cold weather is counting down the days until we are on the beach again.

As the boys get older and more active, I am beginning to purge some of the toys they no longer use. So for Christmas, I asked my mom to buy less "stuff" and give more "experiences". Nolan had a few trial classes at Bear Paddle Swim School here in town and after the first class I was so impressed that I suggested my mom consider gifting the boys lessons to prepare them for all our time by the pool and in the ocean in a few months. Can't beat the practicality!

Aiden, Hudson and Nolan were THRILLED when they opened their swim package at Nana's. My mom recruited my niece to make super cute certificates which she included inside along with a skill-patch towel, a Bear Paddle teddy bear and a hooded beach towel. They are so excited for their sessions to begin in January.

What makes Bear Paddle so great? 

I had never heard of Bear Paddle until just a few months ago when they reached out to me about their new location in Louisville off Hurstbourne Ln. When we went for our first visit I was impressed with the facility. It was clean, bright, welcoming and warm. We were greeted by their friendly staff and given a tour. Afterwards we headed to the family changing area to get Nolan ready for his class. There were numerous private stalls for changing, a large grouping of lockers to keep belongings and a few swim suit dryers for after class so you don't have to toss dripping trunks into your bag to bring home. And because I'm a moderate germophobe, I'll mention again that it was very clean, which is always a huge plus in my book.

Before getting in the saltwater pool, kids are supposed to walk through a "Kiddie Car Wash" - a water shower area - but Nolan refused, so I wasn't sure he would even step foot in the pool for the lesson. Luckily, he warmed up to his instructor pretty quickly and got right in.

The gentle and fun approach that Bear Paddle uses to teach basic swim skills was perfect for Nolan. They sing songs, splash, and have the kids pretend to push the instructor in the water which always got a lot of laughs. The small lanes have a platform at the other end so the kids can stand up and catch their breath when they turn around. Genius! They worked on putting their faces in the water, getting their heads wet, floating on their back, kicking and paddling, and even getting out of the pool on the side by themselves, something I never really even thought of needing to teach!

At the end of the first class Nolan was sad and couldn't wait to come back. And once the other boys heard Nolan got to go swimming, they wanted to get in on the fun. Ethan, my oldest, swims independently, but if he ever wanted to participate, Bear Paddle also offers classes beyond the fundamentals, helping them learn and master swim strokes, flip turns and other competitive skills.

Bear Paddle also offers swim camps and pool parties. Nolan turns 4 February 1st and he has already decided he wants to celebrate with friends at Bear Paddle.

I highly recommend you check them out! For more information, visit Bear Paddle's website or give them a call and ask for your free trial class today. Only 3 months left before spring break, so get those little ones ready by helping them become confident swimmers, and helping give you peace of mind!

**I was given complimentary Bear Paddle swim lessons in exchange for social media sharing. As always, my reviews are 100% honest. 

2017: Facing Many Changes

No comments :
I clearly remember the anxiety that overcame me the minute the ball dropped last New Year's Eve. Once we said goodbye to 2016, it meant we were entering "the year that Aiden would have his midface surgery". It became real. We had to start saying "this year" rather than "in the future" when discussions on the subject would come up. The anticipation for this part of his journey had lingered for so long that the build up almost broke me.

In February we got a date confirmed for the mid-face advancement procedure and an official countdown began. My emotions were strapped in tight on the scariest roller coaster you could ever imagine. Most of the time I would be okay to function normally, participate socially, smile freely. But underneath the surface my nerves were shot. 

My health suffered. I felt like a failure as a mom because there were so many moments I had to lock myself in my room to cry. The stress took a toll on my body and I bounced around from doctor to doctor begging someone to figure out why I felt like a 36 year old woman trapped in an 85 year old's body. 

And yet time didn't stop, May 19th still steadily approached.

As someone with a type-A personality, always wanting to plan things and control the outcomes, the unknowns that surrounded the major procedure my 9 year old son was going to undergo left me feeling completely out of sorts. I found a wonderful therapist who was worth every penny, but even that was no match for the craziness that swirled about my head on a daily basis. I used to be someone who kept a clean house, stayed on top of the laundry, meal-planned and cooked healthy dinners several nights a week. Someone who loved to write. Someone who felt pretty confident in her abilities to be a decent mom and manage the chaos that is mothering 4 boys under 10. 

In April, we went on spring break with a group of friends. For the second year in a row we had 14+ kids and 12 adults sharing a large beach house. It was totally crazy and definitely fun, but every second felt like I was watching it happen through the lens of "what-ifs". Every photo I took of the boys playing carefree in the sand was snapped with a lump in my throat and the gruesome thought "what if this is the last time we are on the beach together as a family of 6". 

My friend Cara happens to be an amazing photographer so when I asked if she would take our family photos that year in Destin, she happily obliged. I remember applying makeup to my sunburned face and having to put my mascara on last because of the tears I cried thinking that these would be the last professional pictures we would have as a family before Aiden's surgery. The last photos we would have of Aiden the way he was then. My mind raced, "What if these were the last family pictures with Aiden we had...ever?" 

Photo Credit: Caroline Couture Photography

May began and we tied up loose ends. Everyone rallied around our son with Super Aiden t-shirts, care packages and lots and lots of visits with friends and family. And then, on a sunny morning in mid-May, we said our good-byes, kissed the other boys and piled in the car careening towards the biggest unknown of all. "What if Aiden doesn't come home?"

Handing him over was still just as difficult as it always is. Ricky and I sat silently in the family waiting room but our hearts spoke through the worry on our faces. "Please let him come back to us."

In just 4 short hours the surgery was complete and although we still had several weeks of enduring the RED device, my biggest fear subsided. I started to breathe again. He was okay. We were going to be okay. The first few weeks were the hardest. He was sad, not himself. Who could blame him. When he began doing cannonballs into the pool we knew we would make it through this too. The days were slow but the weeks flew by and before we knew it we were heading back to Dallas for the removal of the device. The final weight to be lifted off our shoulders.

Adjusting to Aiden's new look was slow at first. We had so many mixed emotions as we stared at a boy who looked one way 8 weeks earlier and totally different now. He bounced back quickly and had a new sense of confidence which made it easier for us to accept the change.

It wasn't long after things settled down that I finally took time to care for myself. I was eventually diagnosed with Hashimotos thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease that affects the function of your thyroid. I had been on medication for hypothyrodism for years but the underlying issue was (and may have always been) Hashimotos. With a clearer diagnosis, a new endocrinologist, some new medication and significant diet changes, I started on the right path to feeling better. 

Although the surgery was behind us, I think I underestimated the time it would take for my mind and heart to heal. For many more weeks, months even, I felt like I was treading water, never able to make it to the edge for a break. I wasn't drowning anymore, but I was definitely still having trouble keeping my head above the splashes that even just a back to "normal" life surrounds you with.

My 2017 "Best Nine" photos from Instagram (the pictures with the most "likes").
Clearly indicates what our biggest event from this year was!
Visit @MoreSkeesPlease on Instagram to follow our family.

Looking back, this entire year has mostly been a blur. There were so many good moments - wonderful friends that lifted our family up in ways that I'll never quite be able to adequately express gratitude for. Family who literally put their lives on hold to help us sort ours out. And the overwhelming relief of a successful surgery and smooth transition from Aiden before the RED to the new Aiden after the RED. 

My strength and resolve was tested for sure, but with the love from those closest to us and even the support from complete strangers who prayed for a little boy they have never met, I'm happy to say I have found a renewed faith in God. My mind feels clear and my heart at ease. I am ready to take on 2018. Oh so grateful for the both the valleys and the peaks. Oh so grateful for this crazy beautiful life.

What Is the Mid-Face Advancement Surgery and the RED device?

No comments :

102 days from surgery.

A friend asked me the other night, "So what exactly will they be doing?" As many times as I've talked about this procedure, I surprised that I found myself a little stumped on how to answer. I can tell you what the device is called, how it is attached, what the purpose of it is...but anything more in depth gets a little fuzzy. So I went to Aiden's surgeon's website and pulled information that can explain it much better than I can. Below is a summary that answers some of the most common questions I receive about this procedure.

  • The LeFort III brings the entire midface forward in one piece from the upper teeth to just above the cheekbones and the monobloc brings both the midface and the forehead forward together at the same operation.
  • Although the LeFort III is a major operation, of all the different procedures done for Apert syndrome it has the greatest impact on normalizing a child’s appearance and improving breathing at night.
  • In 1998 [Dr. Fearon] developed what is called a halo-distraction technique for the LeFort III. This technique utilizes a device called the RED, which is actually not red, but purple in color. It gets its name for being a Rigid External Distraction device.
  • With the RED procedure the bones of the mid face are cut loose then the skin is closed and a halo is attached to the outside of the skull with 8-10 screws. A splint (U-shaped piece of plastic) is attached to the upper teeth and two wires extend forward from this splint to attach to the halo.
  • The forward pull of the midface comes from the dental splint. The parents, or the child, turn two screws on the device 2 to 3-times day in order to slowly (and painlessly!) bring the midface forward.
  • The children are allowed to eat soft foods, may go to school, and can even go swimming while wearing the RED. For some children wearing this device after surgery is easier than for others.
  • Seven to eight weeks later, the device is removed with a 20-30 minute anesthetic.
  • The greatest advantage of the RED device is that it enables surgeons to move the midface much further forward than is possible the traditional technique (based on a study done at our center).
  • We have treated over 125 children with this technique, and continue to make fine improvements in this procedure.

Below are some photos shared with permission from friends in the craniofacial community who's children have undergone the RED surgery already. 

If you have any questions, please know that I am always happy to answer them! I may have to look it up myself, as I'm no expert on this by any means, but I will never be offended by the opportunity to learn and share. Just be warned that I do get emotional talking about it in perhaps email would be better ;)

Feeling Blue About the RED

No comments :
105 days.

That's how long sits between now and the day that our little boys face will be changed forever. As most of you know, Aiden has something called Apert syndrome. Along with the more than 12 procedures Aiden has already had, kids with Apert syndrome more often than not require what is called a mid-face advancement because the portion of their face from their brow bone to their upper jaw does not grow at the proper rate. The goal of the mid-face advancement surgery is to pull that section forward gradually. It is medically necessary in order to expand the airway in order to prevent apnea (and thus developmental delays), to address anatomical issues with the palate (which affects speech and sometimes eating), and finally, to "improve" physical appearance.

Improve physical appearance? That one kind of hurts my heart because, you see, I don't think Aiden needs his appearance improved one bit. I think my little soon to be 9 year old boy, who has had his skull broken open and pieced back together more than once, is perfect just the way he is.

I remember sitting in Dr. Fearon's office 8 years ago listening to him tell us what the typical treatment plan is for individuals with Apert syndrome. Along with sharing about the procedures to separate their fused fingers and toes, I clearly recall him casually mentioning this mid-face advancement, done around age 8 or 9, and thinking 'thank goodness we don't have to worry about that for a long time'.

And yet here we are, 105 days away, no longer a long time.

Our last trip to Dallas was fall of 2015. It was our craniofacial clinic where we bring Aiden for a round-up of appointments to check his growth, how much space his brain has in his skull, and monitor his sleeping to see if his apnea has progressed. We spend a full day bouncing from one specialist to another before finally heading to Dr. Fearon's office for his interpretation of all the tests. Because we were approaching Aiden's 8th birthday at the time, we fully expected to start the planning process for the mid-face advancement to be in May of 2016. But, we were surprised when he said that Aiden was doing well enough to postpone for another year. Nothing can describe the wide range of emotion we felt hearing those words: relief that he was doing so well, excitement that we would get to spend another summer surgery-free, and yet, also disappointment knowing we would have to endure the anxiety of anticipating this major surgery for yet another year.

We have been blessed to spend the past few years without having to put Aiden through any major procedures. In fact, he has been doing so well that I ultimately began to question whether Aiden would need the mid-face advancement at all. I had always been told that it wasn't a matter of if, but a matter of when. We would know when he needed it if he was not sleeping well due to snoring, if he was not breathing well, especially when sick with a cold, and if he was being severely made fun of because of his appearance. Now I know more goes in to it than that, but after thinking each of those things through, it became confusing to me. Aiden slept fine and rarely snored, he was able to stave off a cold in a normal amount of time (and in fact rarely got sick anymore at all), and although he does still get his fair share of stares and comments, I wouldn't call it severe teasing by any means. I was actually convinced that Dr. Fearon would say Aiden didn't need the RED afterall. In a moment of panic, I emailed him requesting a firm explanation on exactly why this is medically necessary FOR AIDEN specifically.

I'm sure I wasn't the first concerned parent to request more reassurance - and it felt good to seek a better understanding as Aiden's advocate. Dr. Fearon replied the next day with a thorough explanation. Our hopes for Aiden to escape the need were dashed.

We have been preparing ourselves in many ways over the past few months. Aiden regularly goes to a child psychologist whom he really trusts and feels comfortable opening up to about how he's feeling. I too have sought out a therapist to help me deal with my emotions as well. We talk about it only when Aiden brings it up or we need to, which is unfortunately becoming more and more often. We lean on our close-knit support group of other craniofacial families who's children have already had this procedure before us. One of our dear friends, John, actually boxed up his removed RED device and shipped it to us across the country just so Aiden could check it out closely first-hand. He along with numerous other kiddos have offered to answer questions on what to expect or any other topic Aiden might want to ask about. And I can't tell you how many times I've sat in a parking lot conducting my own kind of therapy session chatting on the phone with another cranio mom who knows exactly how it feels to be where I am right now. My goodness how all of these things have been and will continue to be life-lines to us. So very grateful.

Surgery is confirmed for May 19th, 2017. That gives us 105 days to soak up our little boy just the way he is. To prepare our hearts for the changes that are to come. This is a hard road, but we know we will get through it because we are not alone.

Frisch's Celebrates Long-Standing Sponsorship of the Cincinnati Ballet's Nutcracker with Holiday Edition Dessert

No comments :
Nothing says the holidays like peppermint flavored desserts and watching the Nutcracker. Luckily, I got to kick off this season with exactly that!

Frisch's restaurants is celebrating their long history of community support as the Cincinnati Ballet's primary sponsor of the Nutcracker. Dating back to the very first performance in 1974, the Frisch's and Nutcracker relationship is one of the longest-lasting examples of corporate sponsorship in American arts history! Wow, that's impressive!
As part of the partnership, Frisch's worked with members of the Cincinnati Ballet to launch a Peppermint Hot Fudge Cake. This first-ever holiday edition of its best-selling dessert is only available for a limited time. The original fudge cake has never been offered in another flavor until now, but don't worry, you can also still get the classic version at all Frisch's restaurants as well.

My sister and I started off the night at the Covington Frisch's with a special tasting of some of their comfort food staples like meatloaf, carved turkey, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and dinner rolls. After cleaning our plates, we watched as Chef Greg Grisanti assembled a Peppermint Hot Fudge Cake tableside. I'm not normally a big peppermint fan, however I have to say that I enjoyed every bite of this delectable dessert. I was pleasantly surprised!

Following dinner, we headed across the river for opening night of the Cincinnati Ballet's Nutcracker. There's just something about twinkly theater lights and adults and children all dressed up that makes me feel in the holiday spirit. I cannot remember the last time I saw the Nutcracker - I'm sure I did on a school field-trip as a child - but regardless it felt like a brand new experience to me.

Everything about the show was impressive. The scenery, costumes, the music and the performers were flawless. This would be a fantastic event to add to your holiday traditions...starting the night out with dinner at Frisch's of course!

DISCLOSURE: I received complimentary food and ballet tickets and was compensated for my time. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Greater Cincinnati Holiday Market is THIS WEEKEND!!!

No comments :

Every year for the past 8 or 9 years, my mom, sister and I have gotten together for a day of shopping and fun at the Greater Cincinnati Holiday Market. I drive up to NKY in the morning and we all go together to start (or if we're doing really good, finish) our Christmas shopping. It is so much fun that not even being on bedrest while pregnant with Nolan stopped us from keeping this tradition - they wheeled me around in a wheelchair!

This is SUCH a large show, with more than 300 boutique vendors selling both locally made and other unique items. From clothing and jewelry to food and sweets, there truly is no shortage of gift ideas for every person on your list!

A few tips:

  • They offer VIP tickets for early shopping on Friday.
  • There is a no-stroller shopping time to make it a less cramped with the crowds, so be sure to check the schedule online so you don't show up with your little ones in tow during that time.
  • They sometimes offer a free shopping bag at the door to carry your purchases while shopping, but there were a few years that didn't happen, so I would bring one of your own just in case.
  • Plan to spend a couple hours for sure - bring snacks or extra cash to eat at one of the food vendors they have available. The food selection has gotten better over the years!
  • Don't wear your winter coat! No matter how cold it is outside, leave it in the car. It gets pretty won't need the layers.
  • Don't be afraid to ask vendors to take less. I have had some success negotiating in the past, especially if I'm buying multiple items from someone.

Add this event to your holiday plans every year. Make it a girls day - grab your girlfriends/sisters/grandmas/etc and shop til you drop! They even offer a bar if you want to quench your thirst with a nice glass of wine or a frosty beer. How cool is that?

Cannot wait to get my shopping on this weekend with my favorite people :)

Visit their website for all the information including admission prices, where to buy tickets (Cincinnati area Kroger offers a $3 discount) and where to park. Or follow them on Facebook for sneak peek pictures and ticket giveaways!

DISCLOSURE: I was given 3 tickets in exchange for helping them get the word out about this year's event. All opinions are, as always, truthful and my own.

Easy Homemade Applesauce Recipe

No comments :
Nothing says fall like apple picking. It has always been a favorite thing for my family to do each year. It is also a great day-date option or could be a fun outing with friends. While in Michigan for fall break we visited our favorite place to stock up on a few dozen apples, Crane Orchards

Now what do I do with all the apples we pick? Well, in my household they go pretty quick so having too many apples (or any fruit really) is never a problem. In addition, we go through jars and jars of applesauce a month. I've been very label conscious lately - trying to make smarter choices and buying foods with less sugar, no preservatives, and no additives or artificial colors. When it comes to "clean eating" sometimes it is just easier (and cheaper) to make your own.

I have made this homemade applesauce for the past few years and it is a HIT at our house. I end up making a larger and larger batch each year so it lasts longer. It is SUPER easy and not only does it taste amazing, it also makes your house smell divine. 

Homemade Crockpot Applesauce, Louisville It Mom

Teal Pumpkin Project || Guest Post from Tami Pyles of Thrive On Consulting

No comments :
This post was previously published on Louisville It Mom last year. With Halloween around the corner, and dealing with Hudson's food allergy, I wanted to share this here on More Skees Please. 

Have you seen teal pumpkins popping up on porches across your neighborhood? It's not the latest decorating fad (although I do love the color), these pumpkins symbolize an important intitiative to keep kids with food allergies safe at Halloween - The Teal Pumpkin Project. 

The Teal Pumpkin Project aims to keep children with food allergies safe while trick or treating. By placing a teal pumpkin at your house you commit to offering non-food treats at Halloween – a great way to ensure a safe and fun night for those who could suffer life-threatening consequences from ingesting allergen containing candy.

As a food allergy mom, Halloween is one of the scariest holidays! It is frightening to think that consuming a piece of Halloween candy could lead to a life-threatening reaction; and it is heartbreaking at the end of Halloween to watch my daughter go through her candy and have to discard a majority of it because it is not safe for her. The Teal Pumpkin Project helps ensure safe treats make it into her bag, and the bags of the many other children with food allergies.

In fact, 1:13 children have a food allergy. With numbers this high, it is a given that some of your trick or treaters will have food allergies. Ready to make it a safe holiday for everyone? Follow these three easy steps to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project:

Step One: Get a Pumpkin and Paint it Teal
I have found that acrylic paint and white pumpkins work really well (although orange pumpkins can be painted too!). Don't have time to get and paint a pumpkin before Halloween? No problem! You can also download this flyer from FARE, a national organization that supports food allergy research and education, and display it on your door to indicate that you are participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project.

Step Two: Purchase Non-food Treats 
There are lots of great options to offer as non-food treats for the Teal Pumpkin Project, these include: bubbles, stickers, glow sticks, spider rings, temporary tattoos. Head to the dollar store or party store to stock up on great non-food loot. And, if you are participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project, it doesn’t mean that you can’t offer candy too. Just keep your candy and non-food treats in separate bowls to prevent any cross-contact.

Step Three: Display your Pumpkin and Keep it Safe on Halloween
When trick-or-treaters visit your house if they see a teal pumpkin they will know that you offer non-food treats. Non-food treats also help other children who might have medical conditions that require them to monitor sugar intake or avoid certain foods like sugar and food coloring.

Want more information on the Teal Pumpkin Project? You can find it here. Do you need more information on food allergies or assistance managing life with food allergies?  Check out my company, Thrive On Consulting. I work with individuals and families dealing with food allergies to navigate day-to-day life safely and Thrive On with food allergies. I also do training sessions for groups and organizations on food allergy awareness and creating safe and inclusive environments.

Happy Halloween and Keep it Teal!

Tami Pyles is the Founder of Thrive On Consulting- dedicated to helping those with food allergies. She lives in Prospect with her husband and two daughters, ages and 4 and 6.

Mix Up Your Boring Workout Routine!

No comments :
Let's face it, sometimes the only workout we get in on any given day is chasing our toddlers around or lugging laundry baskets. Gyms can be intimidating. Childcare can be tricky. But putting your health first is truly so important in order to have so many of the things us moms need just to make it through the day - sustained energy, strength for all the heavy lifting (kids, laundry baskets, etc.) and clarity of mind to stay focused on those we love so much.

So, Louisville friends, if you feel like you need a little motivation, or perhaps want some new ideas to keep your fitness routine from becoming too boring, below is a round-up of some unique workout opportunities around town. There's truly something for everyone! Don't live in Louisville? Some of these are chains and you might be able to find them (or something similar) where you live as well!

If you happen to give any of these local ones a shot, be sure to tell them Taryn @ More Skees Please sent you!

  • LOCATION(S): 1800 Elite Dr. Louisville, KY
  • TYPE OF WORKOUT: A performance training facility dedicated to providing an elite experience to athletes and adults of all fitness levels.
  • COST: $22/session or 16 sessions for $240
  • CLASS SUGGESTION: Power Cardio 5:30am daily

  • LOCATION(S): New Albany​, Westport Village, Summit
  • TYPE OF WORKOUT: The Pure Barre technique is a unique way to build strength, endurance and tone your muscles in a safe, low impact manner through the use of small focused movements.
  • COST: $20/class; New client package -- 1 month of unlimited classes for $100; 1 month unlimited for all others is $220; "Bride To Be" package -- $355 for 3 months
  • CLASS SUGGESTION: Breaking Down the Barre (visit website for class schedule)

  • LOCATION(S): UofL Shelbyhurst Campus, Parklands of Floyds Fork, EP Tom Sawyer, King Louie's, Louisville Zoo
  • TYPE OF WORKOUT: A stroller-based fitness program designed for moms with little ones. Each 60-minute, total body workout incorporates power walking, strength, toning, songs and activities. Certified fitness instructors offer a variety of fun class formats both indoors and outdoors.
  • COST: 1st session FREE$18/class; $65/month; $55/month for teachers!; $45/month for night/weekend classes only; $150 for 10 visits; $199 summer pass
  • CLASS SUGGESTION: Zoo Workout! June 8th 9:30-10:30 (click link for more info)

  • LOCATION(S): Chamberlain Ln, Middletown Commons, St. Matthews, and coming soon to Prospect @ TimberRidge Dr. and East End at Lime Kiln and Brownsboro Rd.
  • TYPE OF WORKOUT: 30-Minute Kickboxing Workout With No Class Times
  • COST: 1st session FREE; contact location nearest you for membership pricing
  • CLASS SUGGESTION: Every 30 minute class is different, so just try it out to see what you like!

  • LOCATION(S): Springhurst and St. Matthews
  • TYPE OF WORKOUT: Various barre workouts including B.Barre, B.Bounce and B.Silque
  • COST: 1 week trial $20; New client special - 1st month $99; $198/month; 1 year unlimited $138/month; Mommy rate 3 months for $399; Student rate $99/month; All packages include FREE CHILDCARE, 15% off retail purchases, exclusive sales/events
  • CLASS SUGGESTION: B.Silque hour of solitude, calming music and weightlessness

  • LOCATION(S): There are 12 YMCA locations across Louisville and Southern Indiana. Visit their website to find a location near you!
  • TYPE OF WORKOUT: So many different options for members!
  • COST: Membership ranges from $52/month for a single to $89/month for a family; find detailed pricing info here
  • CLASS SUGGESTION: Cycle 30 an entry level spin class

  • LOCATION(S): 3125 River Rd. Louisville
  • TYPE OF WORKOUT: Aerial courses - physical movement, often dance-like or acrobatic in nature, performed while suspended in the air. Although challenging, working out with aerial equipment provides very measurable progress, making it a fun and exciting way to achieve your goals. Whether your goal is to get in shape for the first time, or add a new dimension to your existing workout routine, Aerial work is a fabulous fit!
  • COST: $10 first time drop in; $24/class; $120 for 6 week course; click HERE for class descriptions and pricing
  • CLASS SUGGESTION: Circus Taster...Step right up to find out what circus art makes your heart sing. 2 hour introductory workshop where you will get a taste of each apparatus.

  • LOCATION(S): New Albany, East Louisville (Westport Rd.)
  • TYPE OF WORKOUT: Total body functional workout focused on strength and conditioning
  • COST: "On Ramp" program - 1st 2 weeks are FREE, $149 for next 4 weeks (2 weeks finishes On Ramp then is followed by 2 weeks of unlimited regular classes); 3 drop-ins free for LeanX Classes (high-intensity conditioning class)
  • CLASS SUGGESTION: If you are new to Cross Fit, we recommend visiting a gym to get a good understanding of these intense workouts

  • LOCATION(S): 100 Urton Ln. Louisville
  • TYPE OF WORKOUT: Intense cardio, strength, balance, agility, and flexibility trampoline workout.
  • COST: $13/visit or $40/month
  • CLASS SUGGESTION: BoomFit is offered Wednesdays 10-11am and Thursdays 9-10pm. Preregistration online is recommended.

CHECK THIS OUT...I recently found out about 502 Fit Pass. This unique workout opportunity offers a way for you to try a variety of workouts at different locations/gyms all across the city. How does it work? You can visit the same Fit Spot up to 3x in 30 days, depending on your membership. Four Barrel Crossfit, House of Boom and 9Round are all participating locations! Check out to find out more!

Give Something Uncommon for the Holidays

No comments :
As the holidays quickly approach, I find myself scouring the internet looking for unique gifts. Whether you are looking for something for the person who has everything or simply trying to step up your gift-giving game, I highly recommend checking out what Uncommon Goods has to offer.

They have everything conveniently organized into categories which makes the shopping experience seamless. Want something with that personal touch? Check out all their personalized gift options here. Or maybe you are trying to find something for that special man in your life even though you both agreed you wouldn't be exchanging gifts (but you always end up doing it anyway). How about something unique and sophisticated for someone with an upcoming birthday? Anything you choose from Uncommon Goods is sure to impress.

A couple things on my wish list...

Uncommon Goods is a unique company that is dedicated to making a positive impact in the workplace and the world. Read more about their mission here. Even cooler? Their Better to Give program allows you to select a nonprofit organization to receive a $1 donation from them at checkout (ahem...apertOWL...hint hint...).

*Disclosure: This is a Sponsored Post brought to you by Uncommon Goods for which I received a purchase credit. As always, all opinions are my own.

Dean's Dairy Goes Pink This October

No comments :
Dean's Dairy to Donate Up to $25,000 in Support of the Fight Against Breast Cancer

Almost everyone I know has been touched by cancer in some way. Whether it is a family member, a friend, a colleague or an acquaintance, I can think of almost a dozen off the top of my head - with several of them battling breast cancer in particular. As advancements are made in technology and more and more time is put into scientific research to understand the best possible treatment options, it seems that beating cancer can be within our reach. That is why it is so important to support funding the organizations that are leading the fight.

With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, many businesses are stepping up to raise money for various cancer organizations. Locally owned Dean's Dairy is proud to do their part! Below is a press release excerpt:

For more than 75 years, Louisvillians have known that their local Dean’s Dairy products provide gallons of nutrition to their families. Now, Dean’s Dairy is also providing gallons of hope in the fight against breast cancer.

Beginning September 26 and continuing throughout the month of October, Dean’s Dairy is inviting the community to buy a gallon, and make a difference. For each sale of specially-marked gallons of Dean’s DairyPure white milk sold in the Louisville area, Dean’s Dairy will donate five-cents to the American Cancer Society.

I don't know about you, but with growing 4 kids at home, we go through 2-3 gallons of milk a week! So while you are doing your grocery shopping, look for the Dean's DairyPure white milk gallons that feature the pink ribbon and the American Cancer Society logo, and know that with every gallon purchased, you are doing a small part to help the fight against breast cancer. Let me know where YOU find your specially marked milk in the comments below!

Learn more about Dean's Dairy and their Five-Point Purity Promise to provide the best tasting, antibiotic and growth hormone free milk online at or visit Dean's Dairy on Facebook.

*This is a sponsored post. As always, all opinions are my own.

House of Boom Savings for Louisville!

No comments :
Defy Gravity at one of the coolest facilities in America. Over 10,000 square feet of connected, world-class trampolines in a 23,000 sq. ft facility. The trampoline grid features over 60 trampolines, including the famous angled wall trampolines, launching decks and a few surprises up in the ceiling to test your vertical.

If your kids (6 and under) are ready to dominate the park without bigger kids around....YOU MUST check-out KidJump. Every day from 9-10am is exclusively for parents and children! 

My readers get to save! $2 OFF - Present this coupon to receive $2 off a flight ticket anytime! .@usfg 

Hearty Paleo stuffed pepper soup

No comments :
It's finally fall and the cool crisp air is definitely a welcomed thing! The leaves are changing, I'm pulling out my sweaters and I'm starting to use my crockpot more and more. This hearty stuffed pepper soup is delicious - the perfect way to welcome fall. And as I continue to incorporate more clean eating and paleo recipes into my lifestyle, this one does not disappoint. Enjoy!


1 lb grass-fed ground beef
1 lb mild or spicy italian sausage
3 bell peppers, any color, diced
2 (15 oz.) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
32 oz. broth (chicken, vegetable or beef)
1 cup water
1 onion, coarsely chopped
3-4 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp pepper
4 cups cauliflower rice (optional)


  1. Brown meat and drain grease
  2. Add all ingredients to crockpot and stir 
  3. Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours (if using cauliflower rice, add during last 30 mins)

MomLife: Louisville --- Interview with Cara Althaus of Caroline Couture Photography

No comments :
[I originally wrote this post for Louisville It Mom earlier this year. Because Cara is one of my dear friends and an amazing photographer, I wanted to republish it here now that Louisville It Mom is no more. Enjoy!]

We all know time goes by so quickly. One of the only ways we can actually freeze moments of time is through photography. The photos that adorn my walls or sit in frames on my bookshelves all have the ability to remind me of moments in time I will cherish forever. I always marvel at a photographer's ability to capture even one frame-worthy photo of my family as there are always so many variables (wind, melt-downs, trying to get 4 kids to sit still and LOOK AT THE CAMERA for goodness sake)! However, with a well-trained eye, a lot of patience and a steady hand, someway, somehow, a good photographer can usually make it happen.

Cara Althaus is a dear friend of mine who happens to take some of the most beautiful family photos I've ever seen. Her interest in photography was sparked during her high school years, but it wasn't until she became a mom that it turned into something more. After graduating from college with a degree in fashion merchandising, she had a few jobs, but ultimately became a stay-at-home-mom after the birth of her first daughter, Reese. As she began to take more and more photos of her own children, her love for capturing those special family moments once again began to take shape. After learning more about the art through a mentoring session, Caroline Couture Photography took shape and became a flexible way for her to fulfill the need to be creative while not missing any moments with her own family. Now, as mother of two beautiful girls (second daughter Ella just turned 2), Cara is the perfect example of how motherhood often ignites our passions.

Read below to learn one of her most memorable sessions as a photographer, and laugh along with one of her "mom fail" moments that we can all probably relate to!

LIM: What did you want to be when you grew up? How did that change through the years?

CARA: When I was really young I distinctly remember saying I wanted to be a zoo keeper, which I can not imagine doing now! I can remember always being drawn to creative type ideas of what I wanted to be when I grew up. As I got older, I thought I wanted to do something with fashion which is what I ended up majoring in in college, fashion merchandising. Once I graduated from college, I worked in retail management and quickly realized the hours were not for me. I then worked in sales but when my first daughter was born, I knew I wanted flexibility in a career to be able to spend the most time with her as possible.

LIM: When did you start getting interested in photography and when did Caroline Couture come about?

CARA: Photography is something that started to interest me in high school when I took a photography class. It was put aside for many years until my first daughter was born and I bought an entry level camera to take photos of her, having no idea what I was doing. When my oldest daughter was two, the opportunity arose to do one on one mentoring with a talented wedding photographer that had photographed my sister's wedding. I jumped on the chance and began learning my camera, posing, interacting with clients and other important things I needed to know. At that point I started shooting friends and their families and my own daughter, learning my camera as I went. 2012 is when I began taking on some clients and my business has grown from there, adding more and more families each year.      

LIM: Tell me about your most memorable moment as a photographer.

CARA: There are so many memorable moments when I'm photographing families. Little interactions between moms and their little ones always seem to be my favorite. My favorite memory in particular is when my best friend Sherah's little boy Gabe was born. I was there with her to photograph his arrival. We had known for quite some time that Gabe would be born with a heart defect. There ended up being complications with the delivery and ended in an emergency c-section. The doctors and nurses whisked Sherah and her husband away to deliver the baby as quickly as possible. On top of being scared for Sherah, her husband and their sweet boy, I was disappointed I wouldn't get the photos she was so hoping to have.  Thankfully, the nurse brought me in minutes after Gabe entered the world and I was able to photograph his initial meeting with his mom and dad, the moment when his grandparents and great-grandparents, aunts and uncles first laid eyes on him and later in the NICU. Sherah has told me many times how much she cherishes those photos because it was a long time before she got to see and hold her new baby. Gabe spent some time in the hospital including having open heart surgery but is now a happy healthy growing baby. That definitely tops my memorable moments, I can't think of a higher honor than being there as a mom welcomes her baby in to the world.

LIM: How have your children inspired you?

CARA: My girls inspire me every day to be a better person and better photographer.  I know how fast time goes and how much my girls have grown over the years and how important it is to capture not only your children as they grow but to capture their little personalities and to capture families as a whole.  It's so important to me to catch families interacting, laughing, hugging and loving on each other because those are the special things we do everyday that we want to remember later when they are grown.

LIM: Tell me about one of your worst mommy moments or funniest "mom-fail".

CARA: Oh where do I begin? One moment that sticks out in my mind is the first trip to Target that I took with both girls alone. Ella was a newborn and Reese was 4. Shortly after we got there, Ella was hungry. We snuck off to the dressing room so I could feed her. It was looking like things were going OK, Reese was going to sit and look at my phone to stay occupied. Then she announced that she had to potty and could not wait! So, I had to stop feeding the hungry newborn, who was now screaming and rush to the opposite side of the store with my 4 year old who is about to have an accident. We made it to the bathroom with Ella wailing in hunger, poor girl. We eventually made it back to the dressing room for her feeding and finished our shopping trip. Since then, we now have thousands of successful trips to Target under our belt.

LIM: Share one moment of motherhood you are most proud of.

CARA: The moments that I have been most proud as a mom are when my daughter who is 6, has spoken about her love for Jesus and our moments when we pray with her before bed and you can see her caring spirit when she wants to pray for others. There are many moments that I wonder how I'm doing as a mom or if I'm failing them in some way but then there are moments like that that I feel like my husband and I are doing something right.

LIM: What would you tell your pre-child self about motherhood?

CARA: I was never one of those people who always dreamed of being a mom or who wanted to have lots of kids but if I could go back I would tell myself how amazing and rewarding it is. That it is truly the greatest gift I could ever image and that I didn't know it was possible to love another person the way I love those two girls.

As you can see, Cara loves what she does...both her role as photographer AND as mom. Embracing the journey of motherhood and still finding ways to incorporate your own passions into your life is what we are all about here at Louisville It Mom!

Here are some of the beautiful photos Cara took of our family:


Head over to Caroline Couture's Facebook page to find out how to book your next photo session with Cara, and be sure to follow her on Instagram to check out more of her amazing work!

Paleo For Beginners + 10 Easy Recipes

No comments :
Paleo for beginnersBesides time, one thing moms usually need more of is energy. For months (okay let's be honest...years) I have tried various "diets" that promised to help me lose weight and feel amazing. Some were mildly successful in one area or the other, but it wasn't until I started really digging in to the science behind the food we eat that I decided to make a "lifestyle change" and give Paleo a try.

In a nutshell, a Paleo diet means no grains, no sugar, no processed foods. By eating "like the cavemen" once did, we allow our body to rid itself of toxins built up in our system by overprocessed, high-sugar foods. 

I started eating a Paleo diet last year (on and off) for several reasons. I needed more energy. I wanted to shed some of my baby weight (nevermind my "baby" was over a year old) and I wanted to change the way my family ate in general to help my kids understand healthy choices and nutrition. I wasn't sure I would be able to stick to it since it did mean making some pretty drastic changes (no more bagels with my morning coffee? yikes!) However after the first few days, it really was very easy.

Here are my pointers to help you succeed:

  • Plan plan plan. I am a planner by nature so this part came very naturally to me. I created a 2-week meal plan and I posted cheat sheets with healthy paleo snacks on my refrigerator so I had a visual list to help me out. Once I had my meal plan and grocery list made, I headed to Fresh Market (my favorite) for a lot of my list, but was also able to find a fair amount of organic meats and produce at my local Kroger.

  • Clean out your pantry/fridge/freezer. I assessed the items that I already had and gave myself a solid C from a "clean eating" or Paleo standpoint. I didn't want to just toss things that I knew were not Paleo friendly, so I made it a point to include those items in our meals over the next few days before I could get to the grocery and officially "start" our Paleo adventure. Other things I gave to friends so it wouldn't go to waste. You could even take all unopened items to your local food pantry if you wanted. Having a clean slate to start with is very helpful. Temptation can derail any kind of diet so removing things you shouldn't have will make things much easier.

  • Watch local ads for deals. Local health food stores often send out weekly mailers with their specials. This week it's $4.99 for grass-fed sirloin. That's $3 off! You better believe I will be stocking up on their antibiotic and hormone free meat at that price. It is especially helpful to have an extra freezer or deep freeze to maintain stock of items like this so you can take advantage of deals when you find them.

  • Experiment with recipes. Not sure what to cook? If you type in Paleo in Pinterest you will find a gazillion recipes and websites with lots of good information. In the beginning, I went with easy, low ingredient recipes so I knew I wouldn't overwhelm myself in the kitchen and lose interest. (I forgot to mention that I do NOT like to cook). After a lot of trial and error, we found a handful of recipes that we absolutely love and usually just stick to those spread out over the 2 weeks. Nothing wrong with eating the same meal every week!

  • Stick to it! It might seem difficult at first, but I promise it gets easier. Once you give up your frequent dose of caffeine - whether it be coffee. multiple iced teas, or an afternoon Diet Mountain Dew - you will realize that eating the RIGHT foods naturally fuels your body so you don't need that junk. You will start to make it through the day without a 2pm crash. You will have energy to head to the gym after work or after the kids bedtime. You will most definitely see a change in your body - most notable for me was a 12 lb weight loss, clearer skin, and NO MORE BRAIN FOG (what I often called "mommy brain"). SO worth it!

Overall I think the best part of eating a Paleo diet is the fact that you are not dieting at all. You can still eat so much amazing food - sweets included! - if you just commit to making a few simple swaps (almond flour instead of other grains for instance).

Head on over to my Pinterest page for all of my very favorite Paleo recipes including these:

Have any of your own Paleo tips for beginners? Leave a comment below!

[This blog post also appeared on Louisville It Mom]