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.






September 23, 2014

Spreading the #Choose Kind message

I spent years and years trying to figure out just exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I went to college, majored in Communications, got a job in Marketing after graduation and figured my "career" would be working in a job that I liked just fine but wasn't passionate about.

Then I became a mom and after many trials and tribulations, it all became clear. Through motherhood, I received the greatest gift of all: the answer to the "What do I want to be when I grow up" question.

A few Sundays ago, I stood before more than 100 people and shared my family's story for the first time in a crowd of that size. I put together a presentation that discussed Aiden's birth, the shock of learning he had Apert syndrome, everything he's been through including surgeries, challenges and teasing. Then I shared ways to address differences with our children -- based on situations I've encountered first-hand when out in public with Aiden.

At first, I was unsure that a group of my peers would find my story - and my advice - inspiring. But I trusted that what I had to say was valuable. That my family wasn't the only one who wanted to convey this very important message. That others might actually wish to tell people the same thing: talk to your kids about differences, encourage them to ask questions, set a good example for them...and just simply...to Choose Kind.


When all was said and done, I felt amazing. Person after person approached me afterwards letting me know how touched they were. They asked questions. They shared situations they've been in when they didn't know how to handle something their child had said about someone with a disability and thanked me, saying that now they knew what to do. I gave out my blog cards to some who wanted to share my contact info with this school or that group to have me come speak. To say that I left feeling extremely confident in my mission to educate others is an understatement. I can't wait to do more!

And do more I will...

In the next 2 months I have several different speaking engagements scheduled. Everything from addressing the topic of family centered care with a group of nursing students to talking with elementary-aged kids about the book Wonder and "Choosing Kind".

Perhaps the project I am most excited about is one that will be hitting the ground running starting today. This morning, I met with the principal and some staff members at my boys' school to discuss an idea I presented to develop a "Choose Kind" library. A dear friend of mine helped bring this project to life at her kids' school in Texas and I couldn't wait to share it with mine. As a member of the PTA, I shared the idea and in a few short weeks, not only has the school embraced it, but they have breathed life into it and jumped on board to make it a success on a level higher than I could have even imagined.

What is a "Choose Kind" library? Basically, it is a nook of the library that will house books with specific subject matter. Titles dealing with acceptance, differences, social challenges, etc. At my boys school, they've decided to hand this project over to a very special group of 5th graders. It will be their job to plan, organize fundraising for, and manage the creation of the "Choose Kind" library from start to finish. It has been designated as their annual "legacy gift" -- the item they leave behind for future students to enjoy. And what a legacy it will be!

I will be overseeing the project and helping them along the way and I cannot wait to see it come to life. It all starts to take shape in a few weeks when I present our story and talk about kindness at a school assembly with the 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students. Then the selected 5th grade students will kick off the project, sharing the library initiative with their peers for the first time. At the end of the year, we are planning a big celebration where we will invite students, their families and the community to attend a ribbon cutting ceremony for the completed "Choose Kind" library. It gives me chills just thinking about the potential impact this project can have at our school.

But it doesn't stop there! The school has decided to match every book donated to the library as part of this project and give them to an underprivileged school in our area in hopes that they too will start their own "Choose Kind" library. We have a huge opportunity here to touch the lives of students beyond just those at our own school. I mean, how amazing is that?!?!

I can't wait to share our progress along the way.

Stay tuned!

*If you are interested in hearing more about the Choose Kind initiative and would like to have me come present at your school or community group, I would love to hear from you! Please email me at tarynskees@gmail.com.






July 29, 2014

No More Accidental Sharpie Tattoos (thanks to Label Daddy)

I know it's still technically July, but somehow doesn't it already feel like school is going to start any day now? Not trying to rush summer - I'm truly going to miss the lazy mornings where there's no hustle and bustle to get out the door - BUT I'm a planner so my school prep is starting to gear up.


On my list of priorities is to get and STAY organized this school year. I made the cutest, most nutritious school lunches for the first couple weeks of school (well, the first couple weeks at their new school...before then I was pregnant and on bed-rest so I didn't do much). It kind of waned as the year progressed and our schedules got busier. I hope to avoid sliding into the routine of dumping money into their school lunch account for them to "just buy lunch today". Especially since I had to lecture Ethan several times on the number of "extras" (ie. ice cream) he would purchase in a single week.

Another way to get things organized is to ditch the permanent marker when it comes to labeling my kids' stuff. I've written "Skees" on many a backpack, sweatshirt and jacket. It looks awful and the marker bleeds through the fabric (once Aiden had his name semi-tattooed on his neck after I labeled his sweatshirt and he immediately put it on...oops).


That's why labels from Label Daddy will come in handy. These labels are super durable peel-and-stick washable labels -- they're washer/dryer safe, microwave safe, dishwasher safe and UV resistant! Label Daddy labels are also fun and attractive. You design your own labels and can pick from tons of colors, sizes and logos, including Disney and Marvel characters, MLB, NBA, and NHL team logos, other sport and fun logos, and more. The exclusive laminated coating gives labels an extra layer of protection and is a must for camp! These labels are made in the USA and shipped directly to you worldwide.


Want some of your own? You're in luck! Check out this offer for More Skees Please readers:
If you aren't sold just yet, give me a few weeks - when I get mine in I will share my thoughts in a review post.


*Disclosure: As a blogger offer through USFamilyGuide.com, Label Daddy will be providing me labels for the purpose of this review. As always, my opinions will be 100% honest. Stay tuned for the review!







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