Shopping and lunch...the perfect "me time"

I've signed up for several deal sites over the past few years: Groupon, Juice in the City, etc. and while I've "unsubscribed" from a few because I just have not seen any offers that appeal to me, I have purchased quite a few deals as well. Including the below!

Considering how much I shop at Target (I swear that place sucks you in...go in for toothpaste, come out with a cart-full of stuff I never knew I needed!), this deal from Saveology was a total no-brainer. I mean $25 for a $25 gift card to Target AND $50 to Sign me up!

Click here to take advantage of this deal - you're going to spend $25 at Target in the next few weeks anyway, so why not get a nice lunch or dinner for free? Or, you could get $75 worth of Christmas gifts for just $25 (it's okay, I won't tell!)
  • you must sign up for a Saveology account if you do not already have one (it's free and you can cancel it at any time)
  • this deal must be purchased by December 3rd, but the gift cards do not expire
Disclosure - this deal is available to More Skees Please through an affiliate. While I will receive a percentage of each product purchased using the above link, I was not compensated for sharing the deal through the above blog post and all opinions are my own. To see my full disclosure, click here.

This (sentimental) time of year...

FIVE years ago...
Ricky and I were expecting our first child, a little boy we would name Ethan. The holidays were such a special time filled with nervous anticipation and excitement at the thought of becoming parents for the first time.
Holiday picture 2006

FOUR years ago...
we were a family of three, about to be a family of four. I was 6 months pregnant with Aiden and blissfully unaware of how much he would change our lives.
Holiday picture 2007

THREE years ago...
instead of fully enjoying the excitement of the season with two small kids, we were wheeling a 9 month old Aiden into his first surgery - one that would start the process of giving him 10 fingers and 10 toes. On December 3, 2008 we got our first glimpse of his new hands.
Holiday picture 2008

TWO years ago...
things had finally started to settle down. Aiden had undergone 3 more major surgeries all with great results. And although it had been a rough few years emotionally, I was beginning to accept the many challenges in our life as blessings. We once again looked forward the holidays.
Holiday picture 2009

Last year...
we celebrated our first Christmas in Texas. It was everything we hoped it would be.
Holiday picture 20010

This year, as I look back on the past several Christmases - from a newly married couple to a family of four - I can't help but get sentimental. We've been through a lot, there's no denying that, but we've always had love. And that's what matters most.

My Christmas Angel

After a very relaxing and stress-free trip back to visit family for Thanksgiving, we couldn't wait to pull out all the Christmas decorations to make our home sparkle with magic. The older the boys get, the more fun this time of year becomes. We put on holiday tunes and began decorating the tree - this is one of my favorite things to do.

While I do have two sets of matching Christopher Radkos, most of our ornaments are a hodgepodge of family heirlooms, handmade pieces and keepsakes so we talk about each one as we hang it on the tree - who made it, where it came from, how old it is. 

Angel on top of Christmas tree
And finally, we top the tree with an angel. For some reason we've never found a star that could stand upright on the top, so we began using the angel, a decoration that my grandmother gave to me years ago. Little did I know how this piece that I've had for so long would become such an important part of our family's tradition. This year, it holds special meaning.

Although we didn't see each other as often as I would have liked, she stayed connected in other ways - not many people can say that their grandma had a Facebook page and sent emails better than some adults in younger generations! She loved to read my blog, and often responded with the most encouraging, heartfelt advice just when I needed it the most.

As I reached to place the angel on the tree, I remembered the note that she had wrapped around the cardboard base underneath the skirt:

Grandma's Christmas letter

Here I am, many years later and all grown-up with my own home. I couldn't help but get choked up reading her letter this year. I remember those Christmases, grandma. And I'll share those memories with my kids for years to come.

Let's call this one "I don't get out much anymore."

First of all I want to send a huge congratulations to our friends Mark and Jennifer who tied the knot last weekend.

We also want to thank them for planning it the weekend before Thanksgiving so as to provide an excuse to drive up from Texas a little early and hang out with friends we haven't seen since we moved. It was like a reunion and we had so much fun!

Next, I want to share with you how attending a wedding goes for a married mother of 2 small children...with pictures no less!

I've always LOVED to get dressed up. I loved homecoming, prom and all those other cliche reasons for snagging a "free" makeover at the nearest department store makeup counter. As an adult, weddings are pretty much the only reason I put on a dress anymore.

And makeup.

So I'm guessing my husband appreciates each opportunity to witness friends getting hitched.

Friends, I'm going to be honest...even though we so enjoy being a part of your special day, please know that when I'm not getting teary eyed at the thought of my boys growing up and walking down the aisle, I'm probably counting down the minutes until I can make a bee-line to the bar and shake it on the dance floor.

Because your night is so about us having a night out sans the kiddos. The evidence can be found with a quick scan of my Cyber-Shot the next morning.

The night starts out like this...
We're all 'ooohhh look at us all dressed up nice...we look soooo good'

Then, when the wedding is said and done and the lights come on at the reception, we continue the night out with friends at a local bar. It starts to go down hill from there...
A few drinks and...this is my 'I'm tipsy' face. 

A half normal photo op with the bride and groom (yes, they came to the bar afterwards!)

And then...'Oooohh baby let's get a kissy face shot. Because we're married.
And we love each other soooo much. And we're totally cool like that.'

By the end of the hair ends up in a pony tail and I'm a hot (not-so-hot) mess
taking pictures with all of Ricky's friends.

I must have said "I'm a mom you know" about a trillion times that night - partly to remind my friends that I can still be cool and have a good time...but mostly as a reminder to myself to tone it down and not do anything a mom would be embarrassed about doing :)

The night ended with a late night cab ride to a burger joint (just like the good old days) only now I was glad I still had my Spanx on. I was counting down the minutes until I could climb out of those bad boys into my usual, more comfortable attire...sweatpants and a t-shirt.

Nothing like a night on the town to make a mom feel old!

How often do you and yours get a night out?

Understand your baby before they can talk!

Ethan was an early talker. Once he said his first word (ball) it was as if something *clicked* in his mind and his vocabulary took off. And he hasn't stopped talking since (as in the kid is NEVER quiet)!

Aiden on the other hand...we wondered if he was ever going to talk. He babbled and cooed all the time, but the language development came at a much slower pace. It was hard not to compare him to his brother - and then we had Aiden's Apert Syndrome diagnosis that made things even more confusing. Was he developmentally delayed because something was wrong with his brain? Or was he simply developing at a different, but normal, pace?

When Aiden was an infant, he qualified for physical, developmental and occupational therapy. As he got older, I pushed for speech therapy as well, even though his delays were not significant for his age, and I'm so glad that I did. That is when we were introduced to baby sign language. Both Aiden and Ethan caught on to it very quickly, signing the basic words like "more", "thirsty", "hungry". It was so refreshing to finally be able to understand their grunts and whines when they didn't yet have the skills to verbalize appropriately - and they too seemed less frustrated.

Eventually, Aiden's speech took off as well (YAY) and the signing slowly faded. But I know that many of my friends have little ones that are at the perfect age to start learning these very useful communication skills, so I had to share this AWESOME deal:

Click the link below to take advantage of this deal!

This set typically retails from Baby Signs for $99.99, so this is one really great deal. Babies often become frustrated by the communication barrier between them and adults. It's frustrating for parents and care givers as well when there's confusion about what baby wants. The solution? The sign language for babies program from Baby Signs! With this program babies ages 6 months to 36 months are able to learn to communicate using simple signs and gestures. This set makes the perfect gift for first time parents, seasoned parents, and anyone who works with small children. The Baby Signs Complete DVD Series is included in this deal price which means you will get all 7 DVDs for half off! A deal like this doesn't come around too often, so get it before it's gone! 

The Baby Signs Complete DVD Series is a complete set of 7 DVDs:
  • My Mealtime Signs (Teaches the signs for Eat, Drink, More, Milk, Cereal, Bib and All Done.)
  • My Bedtime Signs (Teaches the signs for Stars, Moon, Book, Light, Sleep and Love.)
  • My Bath Time Signs (Teaches the signs for Bath, Bubbles, Water, Toothbrush, Frog and Duck.)
  • My Pets Signs (Teaches the signs for Cat, Dog, Bird, Bunny, Fish and Turtle.)
  • My Park Signs (Teaches the signs for Ball, Butterfly, Slide, Flower, Tree and Swing.)
  • My Getting Dressed Signs (Teaches the signs for Hat, Coat, Shoes, Socks, Comb and Diaper.)
  • Bonus DVD: Welcome to the Baby Signs Program Parent DVD with 100-sign Video Dictionary
*Click here to take advantage of this offer
*Deal ends on Thursday, 11/24/11 at 11:59pm MST 
*Orders open to US mailing addresses only
*Orders will be postmarked for shipping within 72 hours (working business days) of the conclusion of the deal

* Disclosure * This deal is available to More Skees Please through an affiliate relationship with Broadcast Broadcast BloggersWhile I will receive a percentage of each product purchased using the above link, I was not compensated for sharing the deal through the above blog post and all opinions are my own.

The "weighting" game

While not having any clue when/if I'll get pregnant is obviously difficult, there are several layers to this "weighting game" that make it even more frustrating beyond just the emotional aspects.

For instance - I want to get my pre-pregnancy body back. But I'll admit that I'm not gung-ho about it because, really, what's the point if I'm just going to get pregnant again? Each month I set goals, healthy eating goals, etc...but then there's the "I might be pregnant" question mark in the air that provides just enough irrational thinking (and excuses) for me to "take it easy" and curl up on the couch rather than lace up my tennis shoes.

Not knowing when I can take back control of my body is extremely annoying. Believe me, I want to have another baby more than I want to look like I did in high school, but I'd also like to have all the baby-making behind me so I can focus more intently on getting back in shape.

For all of you who are at that stage in your life - or, with the holidays around the corner, maybe you want to get a jump-start on your New Years resolutions - then you won't want to miss this great deal:

With this deal you get a 2 year subscription (12 issues) to Weight Watchers Magazine for only $14.99. Why pay $160.20 when you don't have to? Quantities are limited so click here to get this before it's gone!

Disclosure - this deal is available to More Skees Please through an affiliate relationship with Broadcast Bloggers. While I will receive a percentage of each product purchased using the above link, I was not compensated for sharing the deal through the above blog post and all opinions are my own.

The season of believing

I was embarrassingly old when I found out Santa Claus wasn't real. I think it was like 4th grade. Yeah...I know. I remember standing in the kitchen after school telling my mom what I wanted for Christmas and my brother blurted out "Taryn you do know Santa Claus doesn't exist, right?" I guess I can't say I "believed" in the truest sense of the word. But I was happy living with my naivety so I never acknowledged what I knew was probably true. Until that moment.

Although I can't remember exactly how it happened, I'm pretty sure that I pretended to know (as in, "like duh Jeff, I totally know") then went to my room and cried.

The other day Ethan and I were talking about the Tooth Fairy as he came across a "My First Tooth" pillow he got as a baby gift. He asked what it was for and I explained how when he's bigger (hopefully before 4th, 4th grade was a big year for me) his baby teeth will get wiggly and fall out to make room for his big teeth.

"Then what happens to them?" he said, confused.

"You put them in the pillow, hang it on your bedroom door, and the tooth fairy leaves a special treat in it's place."

You could see the wheels turning in his head. "Mommy, I don't believe in fairies. They are only in movies."

What? He's 4! A wave of panic went through my body. So I pried a little more to assess the situation.

"Well then Ethan, who puts the treat in the pillow?" I asked hopefully.

Without skipping a beat, he put my nerves at ease. "Um, I don't know. Santa or the Easter Bunny."


I know that the holidays are about so much more than eating excessive amounts of turkey at Thanksgiving or putting on coordinating outfits for the keepsake photo with Santa at the mall - and we go to great lengths to make sure our kids are aware of why we celebrate these important dates. We talk to them about being grateful and giving thanks. We read them stories about Jesus' birth and collect gently used toys to donate to the less fortunate. But is it wrong to say that the twinkling lights, Christmas carols and flannel pjs are what make the last few months of the year so magical?

Oh, and the look in the eye of your kids that tells you 'they believe'.

There is nothing like it.

Christmas Eve 2010
Christmas morning 2010

How old were your kids when they stopped believing?

Travel with kids...keeping 'em busy in the car

I mentioned before how we are making the long drive back to Indiana and Kentucky for the upcoming holiday. To help make this trip an enjoyable one (fingers crossed) I've been scouring the internet for creative ideas to keep the kids busy in the car.

So, are you ready for 2nd crafty post in a row!?!?! Now that's just crazy talk! I'm not quite sure what I would do with out Pinterest!

A Write-and-Wipe Activity Book

This was super easy and very cheap. I made it in about 15 minutes while the kids were at school and I just know they are going to think this is the coolest thing ever. Plus, it is an opportunity for them to learn and practice all the skills they are learning at school.

What you'll need:

- a durable 3-ring binder
- heavyweight sheet protectors with 3-hole-punch side tab
- your computer
- dry erase markers/crayons (I bought Crayola dry erase crayons - they come with a sleeve for wiping)

And here's what to do:

1. Go online and search for age-appropriate *free* printables.
   I found mine at Kids Learning Station and Kidsparkz.

2. Print the worksheets you want to include in your customized activity book. I included number,        shape,  alphabet and picture tracing, rhyming word matching, and mazes.

3. Put the printables in the sheet protectors and add them to the binder.

4. Create a custom binder cover using my *free template* :)

5. Give your kids dry erase markers or crayons and let their imaginations run wild!

How do you keep your kids busy on long trips?

Sometimes I'm crafty...

I have good intentions when it comes to doing crafty things with my kids. I do. I've got a ton of inspiring ideas pinned on Pinterest, magazine pages ripped out of Family Fun, websites bookmarked. It's the buying the appropriate supplies and getting over the fact that there will probably be a huge mess to clean up that usually holds me back.

But today I bit the bullet and busted out the blue vinyl tablecloth to do an art project with the boys. A long time ago I had bought 2 16x16 blank canvases on sale not really knowing what I was going to do with them. Then, thanks to Pinterest, I found a great way to use painter's tape on canvas. It got me thinking about the name art that I had wanted to hang above the boys beds. So I decided to combine the ideas and came up with these:

All I did was spell out their names with the painter's tape (I drew the letters with pencil first), then let them paint away! After a few hours, the paint was totally dry and I removed the tape.

It was pretty cheap, only took about 10 minutes to tape off the letters, and kept them busy for much longer than that which I consider a big success! The boys loved it and I think they turned out great. I can't wait to hang them above their beds.

A Very Messy Moment

I was pregnant with my first child - about 33 weeks along - and an appointment to my ob/gyn revealed the possibility of pre-eclampsia. So, I was given the lovely jug to collect my urine for a period of 24 hours.

Already on bed-rest for preterm labor, I was given clear instructions only to get out of bed to use the restroom. I claimed the master bathroom as my own, sat the "potty hat" in the toilet (the little plastic tub that helps you collect your specimen), and politely asked my husband to use the half bath down the hall.

As pregnant women usually do, I awoke several times to pee throughout the night, each time inching me closer to the morning and to the end of my urine collecting duties. I curled into bed just as the sun was beginning to peek over the horizon. I had hoped to get another hour or so of sleep.

Instead, I felt the bed shift as my husband got up. He made his way through the still dark bedroom and into the bathroom where he flicked the toilet seat up instinctively...flinging the contents of my bladder into the air. Up the walls. On the floor. EVERYWHERE. There was pee in places even a careless toddler learning to potty-train couldn't get pee if he tried.

Simultaneously, curse words came out of our mouths. Being pregnant and emotional, I cried first out of sheer frustration - my hard work of collecting my own pee for 24 hours had just been botched. Then the tears streamed down my face knowing that the bathroom was a disaster and one of us would have to clean it up. Sure, I was on bedrest, but could I really expect my dear husband to wipe his wife's urine from all surfaces in the bathroom? And do it well?

And finally, when we woke up enough to see the humor in it all, we started to laugh uncontrollably, the two of us alone in our bedroom, one of whom smelled of pee. It is definitely a messy moment neither one of us will ever forget!

I received information about Clorox’s Bleach It Away campaign and am sharing my messy moment for the chance to win prizes from The SITS Girls. To learn more about the messy moment program, check out  Sharing your story on the Clorox fan page gets you entered for the chance to win $25,000 and daily prizes, and you can grab a coupon for Clorox® Regular Bleach.

Home for the Holidays

Photo credit:
This year, we have decided to make the long trek back "home" for the Thanksgiving holiday. When I say long, I mean 16-hours-in-a-car-with-a-3-and-4-year-old-long. With the outrageous cost of flying we are forgoing the airports and hitting the road (however we did save enough to fly back in December...just couldn't do it twice...the drive or the flight).

I'm bound and determined to make this an enjoyable trip. Organized even. So I've been carefully planning kid-friendly (and car-friendly) activities, snacks, meals, etc. I ordered a crash-test rated travel tray that will provide a great drawing surface and hopefully keep crumbs from making their way to the floor. We're strategically mapping out our route and making note of all the travel apps on our iPhone that will assist in some way (places for cheapest gas/cleanest bathrooms/kids-eat-free meals).

Photo credit: Digitalart
Growing up, I enjoyed long car trips. We used to load into the station wagon and drive up to Michigan for the summer. It was only a 6-7 hour ride, but I liked carving out my own space in the back seat and packing my best boredom busters neatly in my backpack. It's very likely those trips are where I developed my love of reading and writing. I loved that we got to eat at restaurants along the way. And run in for a snack (or two) when we'd stop for gas.

I know that 16 hours in a car with two kids (and a husband) doesn't seem like something to be excited about, but I actually kinda am. Call me crazy, I know. It may end up being chaotic and stress-inducing and annoying. Or it could actually be adventurous and enjoyable. Either way, I hope my kids will always remember this family trip. Whether it is for good or bad reasons is yet to be determined :)

Where'd you get those pearly whites?

I was a late bloomer when it came to my teeth. I didn't get to put my name up on the "Lost Tooth" board in 1st, 2nd or even 3rd grade like all my friends in elementary school. Doesn't seem like such a big deal, but trust me, it was. I even spent an entire hour trying to convince my 2nd grade teacher that one of them was "really wiggly" and needed to be pulled. Yeah, notsomuch.

In 5th grade, when most kids were already getting their braces and headgear placed, I finally lost my two front teeth. Only problem was, the adult teeth were buried too far under my gums and were not coming down as they were supposed to. So I underwent a simple operation to laser through my thick gums and help the teeth find their way. This was also my first experience with laughing gas - which, let's be honest, totally rocked my 5th grade socks off! (Good thing I never got in to drugs, because it definitely would have been traced back to my laughing gas experiences at the dentist!)

I eventually lost all my baby teeth and had no other issues with my adult teeth making their debut and I was finally ready for braces...just in time for my freshman year in high school. Seriously? As if high school wasn't awkward enough?

Oh boy...
Somehow I managed to make it through my freshman and sophomore year with lots of friends and lots of fun despite my mouth full o' metal. And when I finally got those suckers off, they looked awesome! I remember running my tongue across my teeth in awe of no longer having the braces clunking up my mouth. And then, I remember wanting to perfect my smile even more. So I got them professionally whitened. 

Over the years I have always gotten compliments on my smile. Even my new dentist here in Texas commented on how straight and white they still are. Since I whitened them in high school, I've used various products to help keep them bright - everything from whitening trays from my dentist (in college), Crest White Strips and whitening toothpastes. I haven't done anything in a while, but it seems the newest technology available for teeth whitening includes the use of LED lights which I've always found very intriguing. So...when I saw this exclusive deal from Direct White come through my inbox, I just had to share:

Everyone wants a whiter and brighter smile, but who no one wants to spend hundreds of dollars at the dentist's office for the results? Plus, who really has the time in their busy schedules for a visit to the dentist's office? With Direct White ( you can get professional results in your own home for a fantastic price! Many at home teeth whitening systems claim to be exact to that at a dentist's office, but then lack trays manufactured by a dental lab. Trays that are made to fit your teeth exactly. However, lab created trays are actually included in the Direct White system price! Only the best teeth whitening gel is used by Direct White: 22%, 35%, and 44% carbamide peroxide. 
A teeth whitening system at Direct White typically retails for $70, but through this exclusive offer you can get it for just $19.99 plus $3.99 shipping! Get this deal before it's gone, because a price like this only comes along once in a great while! 
Deal Includes: 
One 35% bleach pen 
2 trays for at home impressions 
LED Blue Light for enhanced whitening speeds
This awesome deal is only available through Monday to everyone in US - so click here if you want to take advantage of it. 

And just to redeem myself and prove that I did indeed improve with age (hopefully?) here is a more recent picture, straight white teeth and all :) 

* Disclosure - this deal is available to More Skees Please through an affiliate relationship with Broadcast Bloggers. While I will receive a percentage of each product purchased using the above link, I was not compensated for sharing the deal through the above blog post.