Celebrating 4 Years of Blogging

Today marks 4 years of blogging. While this doesn’t seem like much of a feat, it is. Do you all know how much time blogging takes up? ūüėČ I only wish I had more time — I have SO many ideas to share!

With that said, I maintain starting this blog has been¬†the best decision I ever could have made for myself and my family. While I don’t make a ton of money with it, I have so much fun, and it has proven to be an amazing outlet for me to connect with awesome people¬†and¬†companies, and to practice my writing and photography skills.

I am a people person through and through. I love learning new things¬†and¬†exploring with my kids. I enjoy trying to help businesses achieve their goal, whether it’s bringing people through the doors or selling tickets. I am very passionate about¬†social media. But most of all, I just¬†love sharing and learning great info from my readers.

I have had many great memories of blogging through the years. A few of my favorites:

~ Taking a ride around Detroit in the Oscar Meyer Weinermobilewienermobile

~ Touring Hudsonville Ice Cream

~ Tossing the first pitch at a Tigers game {at 33 weeks pregnant!}

~ Attending the grand opening for the SEA LIFE Aquarium

Kids Checking out SEA LIFE Michigan

~ Visiting Crooked River Lodge in Alanson, Michigan and Castaway Bay in Sandusky, Ohio

~ Having this post of Christmas events go viral {very cool experience, but also very scary!}

~ Writing dozens of letters to my children for their major age milestones

~ Getting countless messages of appreciation for sharing about my daughter’s speech delays

~ Emails from readers sharing how I have helped their family with free/discounted tickets or ideas for things to do

On a professional level, I‚Äôve been contacted for jobs and worked with many of my ‘dream’ brands,¬†proving you can do anything you set your mind to just by being who you are and doing what you love.

From a family perspective, I have been able to bring SO many experiences¬†to my children — things¬†we never could have afforded otherwise. For that, I am eternally grateful for each and every opportunity I’ve been granted {and for my wonderfully patient husband and eager children for always coming along on adventures}.

Thank you for listening, commenting and sharing my posts during the past 4 years. You fill my heart with joy daily and I feel so blessed to have you along on my journey!

I have a fun giveaway coming up to celebrate, so stay tuned!

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My Childhood Country Home {Personal Post}

I drove by my childhood home yesterday. With content kids and a rarely sleeping baby packed in the back, it just seemed like the logical thing to do…To let¬†the old country roads where I spent 11 years of my life, take me home.

When I arrived, all I kept thinking about was how crazy something that seems so small and rundown could house so many big moments — from my first steps to my first sleepover. I couldn’t help but reflect on all the happiness I experienced living there.

Country Roads

The woods in the back made me a nature seeker.¬†I made many mud pies on the beach of our man-made pond and swam in the cool water until my toes couldn’t touch and the fish nibbled them.

I climbed the giant maples and oaks lining the road, playing for hours in our homemade tree fort. I named the stones lining the hill of our rock garden adjacent to our house.

I listened to bullfrogs bellow through a cracked window during hot summer nights and learned how to whistle just like the Northern Bobwhites. I climbed out my bedroom window onto our covered deck and looked at the stars, making a wish with every falling one I could spot.

I shrieked at the sight of snakes and mice, but tried my best not to step on a Daddy-Longlegs or caterpillar. We often took in stray cats, dropped off by city dwellers.

My feet were hard and calloused from being barefoot all the time. I walked on rocks and hot pavement like a champ during summer.

I crouched low to pick strawberries from our tilled garden and wild blackberries from our secret spot, carefully peeling away the vines from the fruit so my fingers wouldn’t get pricked by thorns. I cut lilacs from our bush, and craved the sweet scent filling our kitchen each May. [Read more…]

20 Things I’ve Realized As A Third Time Mom

Things I've Realized as a Third Time Mom

I could shout it from the rooftops: Being a third time mom rocks. It’s amazing how adding a baby to the mix can make you feel much more fulfilled despite absolute¬†chaos happening daily. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on this, and believe I know why: 1. Having three means one kid always has a playmate when you can’t tend to their needs. 2. You are much.more.relaxed. I felt somewhat¬†relaxed the second time around, but the third time? It truly has been a charm.*

Just for fun I decided to write out all the things I’ve realized as a third time mom:

1. You finally realize buying Christmas presents for a child under the age of one is ridiculous. College money? Thank you. Another noisy toy? Please return it. 

Things I've Realized as a Third Time Mom - Baby with wrapping paper

For the record, the wrapping paper was the only thing that interested this little fella on Christmas.

2. You don’t run to replace the batteries on a swing or jumperoo. In fact, maybe you just never replace them. #guilty

3. You know that a diaper bag full of stuff isn’t needed for a short outing. Throw a few things in the car like an extra outfit and one small chew toy, and stick a few diapers and wipes in your purse and go. If a blowout diaper happens, there’s always a baby wipe bath.

4. You could care less about brand new things. You take all the hand-me-downs you can get knowing that they grow out of everything within minutes of wearing it.

5. You’re not as adamant about a schedule. Sure, they need to nap at some point and go to bed at a decent time, but they will have to learn to sleep while you’re on-the-go with¬†the other two.

6. You aren’t even remotely brand loyal. Diapers on sale? Yes, please. And believe me — I have my favorites, but I’ve tried every.single.brand. and they all have¬†their pros and cons. At the end of the day, it’s a place to poop. No need to spend extra moula. [Read more…]

Getting Back on a Healthy Track in 2015 {+ New Unilever Dry Sprays Available at Meijer!}

Running Pic

My husband and I at The Color Run a few years back. Love having a partner in crime to keep me motivated!

The post below is sponsored by Meijer. All opinion expressed are my own.

Almost two years ago, I was privileged to be a part of the Shaklee 180 team of blogging women from across the country. Together, we lost weight, encouraged each other, and gave each other tips for working out and eating healthy.

Now that the partnership is over, and I’ve had my third child, I am finding it’s a bit of a struggle to find time to work out. Not because I don’t know how…It has just been a major challenge to find an hour to myself¬†with three small children and a job where I work in the morning and at night.

I refuse to fall victim to excuses though.

I have slowly been trying a new routine of walking and running. I bought myself a Fitbit Flex for Christmas, and try to challenge myself to get 10,000 steps in at least three times per week. It isn’t always possible, especially during the holiday travel season, but I am trying. This works because I can do it while the baby naps, and just have the girls play in the basement while I am on the treadmill. It’s not ideal, but it’s what I need to do until the baby isn’t as needy.

Even when I walk, I tend to work up a sweat, so I am thankful for the new Dry Sprays from Axe, Dove and Degree, found in the deodorant aisle at Meijer.

Dry Spray

These new 48-hour antiperspirant sprays are unlike anything available and go on instantly dry for a cleaner feel. Unlike with ordinary sticks or gels, dry sprays leave no visible residue on skin or clothing. My preference has been for the Dove one, and my husband likes the Axe one {and so do I…It smells SO good}. [Read more…]

When Your Child is “Behind” {Part II. Experience With Early On Michigan}

Awhile back, I stepped out on a limb and shared my parental concerns with my toddler, Karina. I¬†discussed my frustrations with her language development and then spoke about the FREE statewide program I turned to — Early On Michigan.

In that post, I also mentioned how we would have the choice on whether we should re-screen her at age two¬†if we weren’t seeing a lot of improvement.

Well, the time came. She turned two in July, and I was still feeling hesitant. Was she speaking enough? Were her words as clear as other 2-year-olds? She has a hot temper — was it because of her lack of expressive language? Or was hearing the issue?

Early On Michigan

This photo sums up Karina’s goofy personality pretty well!

First, I needed to tackle¬†a¬†hearing test. With hearing issues in our family tree, I was nervous that could be the case. Our health department was backed up so it took two¬†flippin’ months to get an appointment. So, at 35¬†weeks pregnant with baby #3, I waddled in with the toddler and my 3-year-old in tow. It was a total disaster. They didn’t have the training to work with a toddler — she kept pulling out the ear buds — and she didn’t have the ability to sit still enough so they could perform the test. My eyes started to well up with tears as they explained how I would need to wait until she was older to perform the test. I was so frustrated when I was hoping to walk away with an answer.

Next, we had our 2-year-old well check with Karina’s pediatrician and I explained my concerns again. She graciously wrote me a referral to¬†Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor for the hearing test. I breathed a sigh of relief — these people would know what they are doing, right? Thankfully, they did. They knew exactly what to do to keep her entertained and check her hearing in the process. I was in amazement seeing them work with her. I walked away with tears again — but this time from joy. My daughter didn’t have a hearing loss. In fact, they reassured me she was very bright.

[Read more…]

My Hair Donation To Wigs 4 Kids

There is no denying it — each of us has had cancer impact our lives in some way or another. This week I had a new reason to say screw cancer, because two family members were diagnosed with it.

Like most of the world, I loathe cancer. I hate that it hurts so many people, and I really hate that even children endure it. My heart goes out to all dealing with this terrible disease.

When I learned about hair donation to help cancer patients a few years ago, I knew it was something I wanted to put on my bucket list. In the past, I always grew impatient and cut my hair before it met the required lengths {most organizations require between 8 and 12 inches}, but when I learned I was pregnant, I knew I could make it happen since prenatal vitamins help with hair growth and I knew I wouldn’t be dying my hair.

I was thrilled when a friend mentioned Wigs 4 Kids, a St. Clair Shores, Michigan-based organization. Something that struck me about them was that they give wigs to children free of cost. I also love that they provide hair to children with other hair loss issues such as alopecia, trichotillomania, lupus, hydrocephalus, burns and more.

To me, it’s just hair…But to a child who has lost her hair? It could mean the world.  

So when I cut off 11″ of my hair today, I didn’t mourn my loss. Instead, I celebrated the fact that I am lucky enough to give it to someone who needs it more than I do.

My amazing stylist Jill at Maki J’s Salon in downtown Howell reassured me that I could pull off short hair, so I put my trust in her and let her go with her vision. Since I have really thick, wavy/curly hair, she made sure to give me a mom-friendly ‘do that I can wear both curly and straight. While it is going to take some getting used to, I couldn’t be happier with her work. Here are the results:

My Hair Donation to Wigs 4 Kids

I can’t wait to ship off my hair this week and help a local child in need!
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Our Newborn Photo Session with Deanna Spivey Photography, Metro Detroit Photographer

Deanna Spivey Photography

I often like to stand on my soapbox and tell moms-to-be a few things they should consider getting with a new baby. Skip¬†the $500 strollers and the heaps of things you may never use — get a great camera, a great rocking chair, and a photo package for the baby’s first year of life, or at the very least — professional newborn photos.

Deanna Spivey Photography Newborn 1

Why? A baby changes before your eyes during the first year of their life…and there is nothing quite so heartwarming than looking back at your nugget when they are just days fresh. {Their skin, hair, eyes and more change just a couple of weeks after birth, so it’s really neat to look back and see the changes.}

I was beyond ecstatic to work with Deanna Spivey Photography again, this time for Miles’ newborn shots.

I can take decent photos, and for that, I feel lucky. But I can in no way manipulate a baby quite like a professional can {nor do I have the energy in those first postpartum days}, and watching Deanna work was like watching a sculptor with clay. It was nothing short of amazing!

I mean…LOOK. Babies in baskets for the win!

Deanna Spivey Photography Newborn 2

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Miles’ Birth Story: Third Child Charm

Last Wednesday I went in for my midwife appointment at 40 weeks, 5 days. She swept my membranes for the third time. THIRD time’s a charm, right? I was dilated to 4cm and 80 percent effaced. But where was my baby?! After she reassured me it would be literally a day or two, I went on my merry way and that was that. I was just thrilled to hear an induction had a slim chance of happening and I had made my peace of going all the way to 42 weeks if it meant he would come on his own terms.

Nighttime hit and I went into nutso nesting mode and cleaned the house. By the time I hit the hay, I was exhausted and so afraid of baby coming and me not having the energy. Someone was looking out for me because I got the best pregnant sleep I had gotten in a month. I woke up at 6:30 a.m. with minor cramping and just knew it would be the day.

I made some lists, had some bonding time with Karina while Kinley slept, responded to emails all while feeling a bit off. Then 9 a.m. hit and I had a hard contraction. All of the sudden I was getting contractions 10 minutes apart and then every five minutes. Though they were bearable, I called my mom and told her to come over figuring even if I labored for a bit, it would be nice to have her there just in case. After a few more contractions, I called the husband as well so he could make the 35 minute commute from work home.

I stayed busy with the kids while the contractions came, and they didn’t even notice anything was wrong, which was my goal. I didn’t want to scare them or see me wince too hard in pain.

When the hubby got home, I told him to grab the suitcase and food and we’d better get going. The contractions were getting closer together and stronger and I did not want to feel uncomfortable on the 25 minute drive to the hospital.

Before the hospital

Before leaving for the hospital. As you can tell, Karina didn’t want us to go…Ha!

On the drive, I shed a few happy tears: So far, my labor was going exactly how I had hoped — it was happening during the day, the sun was shining, I was in a great mood, and beautiful music played {Enya Pandora is amazing for relaxing}. Also? One of my best friends had delivered a healthy baby boy {her first after two girls as well} that morning. The thought of our little boys sharing a day gave me desire to press on and let my body just open up and birth.
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Letter To My Daughter On Her Second Birthday: My Dear Karina

Karina, Age 2

My Dearest Karina,

It’s hard to even write Karina, because to me you are Kar, Kar-Boo, Karina-Bo-Bina, Kar Bars, sugar booger, and more. Seriously, your list of nicknames may be slightly out of control. But truly, they seem to sum you up well: You are a little spark plug, and I can’t believe you are already TWO years old!

This past year has been C-R-A-Z-Y. Crazy busy. Crazy wild. Crazy beautiful.

First, it’s hard to remember, but I nursed you until you were more than 18 months old…and even then, you weren’t ready to give up. I have major guilt for weaning you, but I think you *finally* have forgiven me. I’m so sorry. The fact is, you are a happy child now and that’s what matters, right? Right. {sensitive subject for mama!}

On that note, I know the whole “breastfeeding makes kids healthier” notion can be controversial and not always true, but I have to say — you’ve held up your end of the deal! You’ve only had one ear infection your entire life. Pretty incredible how healthy you are considering you are my child who has licked a window at a bar in town, licked a sign at Lowe’s, ate various food off the ground, and more I probably didn’t even see. When doctors say those kinds of things build up immunities, I believe it. Disgusting at times, but I am SO happy you’re so healthy ūüėČ

Health aside, one of my favorite parts of our day is when you and I are alone for a few minutes while I put you down for a nap. You pick out a few books, I read them to you, and then we rock a bit. For awhile, you would scream when I sang to you…and honestly, that stung since I love to sing. But the past few months, you have requested I sing, and you often say “again,” the moment I stop. Your current favorite is “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” but also love a German lullaby I sing. You sing along in your little babble and it tugs at my heartstrings.

If we’re not confined to rocking, you LOVE dancing and start moving the second you hear music. I’ll never forget the time we went to a tractor show and you went nuts on the dance floor to a band playing 60’s music — completely alone. I adored your moves and your confidence. I hope it stays with you for the rest of your life.

You are such a lover, and so far, don’t have a shy bone in your body. You crack me up when you find the creepiest looking man at the store and wave and say “Hi!” to him. You are not afraid of much {with the exception of loud things like 4-wheelers and boats}, and can often be found getting into trouble, whether it’s wandering off somewhere or climbing to the top of a play structure that is way too big for you. Also, let’s not forget that time you fell into a river. Ugh. Everyone warns me that boys are crazy, but I think you have prepared us very well for the transition!
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To My Son Before You Are Born

To My Son {Before You Are Born},

In a few weeks {perhaps even days}, we’re going to meet for the very first time. You’re likely going to cause me an incredible amount of pain and then you’re going to make your grand entrance into the world and fill a section in my heart where I didn’t even realize there was a void.

Anyway, I wanted to take a moment to tell you¬†what’s on my mind before you come. Of course I’m nervous about everything that’s inevitable {giving birth, keeping you alive during those first few months, how your sisters are going to adjust, etc.}, but truthfully, I’m more nervous about the bigger things, like the man you’re going to become.

I by no means have all the answers on how to make a mentally and emotionally strong man, so I hope you don’t expect that out of me. Shoot, I don’t even have things figured out for myself most of the time. But I promise to always give you my all, and listen to your thoughts and concerns with an open¬†mind and¬†heart. I hope in my heart¬†for the type of relationship where you can talk to me and your daddy about anything and everything, even if it means seeing things differently.

In fact, here are more of my hopes for you:

  • I hope you find something in your life that gives you passion early on.
  • I hope you listen to and respect your big sisters. I already know they will be very protective of you, their baby brother.
  • I hope you always feel love from your daddy and I.
  • I hope you are never afraid to express your feelings — the good and bad.
  • I hope that you never give up. I want you to follow your dreams without fear, and never let¬†worry¬†hold you back from¬†the man you will become.
  • I hope you turn out like your father. I want you to know there is no better man out there, and you are going to be very lucky to have him in your life. Nurture your relationship forever.
Whoever you are now as my youngest baby, and whatever man you become, I promise to¬†always love you. I can’t promise to be perfect along the way, but I can promise to always do my best.
 
See you soon, sweetheart.

 
Kisses,
Mama

35 Weeks Pregnant

35 Weeks Pregnant When you’re a third time mom, it’s kind of hard to get those cute belly pics without a mini photo bomber. Related: I am too big and hot to do my hair, so waves and ponytails is likely what you will see from here on out ūüėČ

35 weeks pregnant?! Oh man. My heart just skipped a beat just typing that. How has this pregnancy gone by SO fast? Just yesterday I found out I had another little bean in my belly! It’s officially go time.

Time to finish organizing, put together the nursery, pack my hospital bag and prepare several weeks worth of content for my job. And people say to sleep and relax in the final weeks…HA!

Speaking of relaxing…Ugh. Sleeping has not been fun lately. I am constantly hot and uncomfortable. Since nighttime is rough,¬†I am exhausted by¬†afternoon and have been trying to sneak in a cat nap for 20 minutes or so when Karina naps. Once in awhile, Kinley lets me get away with it. Other days she throws a ball at my head or shouts “mommy! mama! mom!”¬†in my face until I move. This is the reality¬†of my life.¬†No rest for the weary.

When I do catch some shut-eye, I dream¬†of baby boy. I have a great, speedy birth and he’s another big baby {9 pounds, 6 ounces in every dream, actually}. He latches, I cry, and another chapter begins. I’m hoping if I keep having this dream it will come true but I am realistic in knowing that births rarely¬†go how we plan them.
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Letter To My Husband: Our Marriage, Six Years Later

Marriage, 6 Years Later

Photo by Lara Douglas Photography

My Love,

I can’t believe we have been married six years today. To many, this may not seem like much, but according to divorce statistics, I’d say it hopefully means we are in it for the long haul. {According to stats, 20 percent of marriages end in 5 years.}

Isn’t it insane to think about how much our marriage has changed in the past six years? We’ve moved several times, had two children {almost 3!}, changed careers, seen life/death happen before our eyes, and more.

What started out as hot and heavy with physical touch as our forte, scoring 100% in the sexuality category in our pre-marriage assessment, has blossomed into a more realistic view as we deal with the mundane things like a budget, housework, and of course, raising kiddos.

I have certainly learned there’s some things relationship books don’t tell you. They don’t give you a realistic expectation of what butterflies feel like six years in.

[Read more…]

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