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Team Us [review]

Many of us likely question marriage and what the heck we were thinking when we have disagreements with our spouses. Many of us probably do not take into consideration on a regular basis the literal meaning of our vows. Are you there for your significant other in sickness? When I considered this one, I knew my husband was an ace but I was a bit of a dud. In richer? Well, we never really experienced that one, so we'll have to see... Poorer? For sure. Health? Yes. Honor? Yes. Obey? (Not in our vows.) Protect - most of the time....

You see where this is headed? Are you mindful of your vows? Are you both in all the way? Are you a TEAM?! Well, in the book "Team Us" -- which ironically is NOT authored by a famous athlete or even an extremely sports-minded person -- is about being your partners' teammate. (As you might have guessed from the title.)

I loved reading the book because it put things in perspective for me and like all the marital books I've been exploring lately, it made me re-evaluate my own marriage and improve upon it. Reading books like this makes me question, reflect, and strive to better my relationship with my husband.

Have you ever considered your marriage a team contract? Are you an MVP? Well, if you enjoy marital exploration, faith, and hilarious anecdotes from someone else's take on their own relationship, this book will likely be one you like. Team Us is entertaining but like I said, can really help you frame your own marriage in a better way. Ashleigh Slater authors a beautifully humble and honest text while what truly drew me in initially was the fact that the foreward was by Gary Chapman (author of Five Love Languages - which I adored) and so if I'm being honest, the foreward was what interested me but after those first few pages I knew I had to read more from the author and was glad I did!

I believe every bit of text one reads can teach even a tiny lesson and have a "take home point" that is applicable to you. Marriage is an arena where there is ALWAYS room for improvement!

Check out the book trailer HERE & hear from Ashleigh Slater HERE.

Check out Ashleigh’s blog HERE

Check out the official website HERE (you can read an excerpt here to see if you’d like it!)

Disclosure: I wrote this piece in partnership with Flyby Promotions. I received a complimentary copy of the book but was not compensated in any other way.

Healthy Family un-Resolutions

I am not a bandwagon person when it comes to New Year's resolutions. I don't like going to the gym in January at all -- so I generally take my cardio to the local school fitness center where they allow public to use equipment or run the halls after hours. I think it's great and energizing and revitalizing, all of the optimistic voices out there, swearing to lose 50 pounds and run a marathon. I am just not one of them. Not anymore.

I like to take a more realistic approach. I don't even think announcing your intentions on Facebook on January 1st helps with accountability. I like to make a chart. I use check marks to look back on the month (no matter what month it is) and consistently see if I'm doing enough. Sure, January 1st is a great time to reflect and strive for better, but in this house we want to keep healthy habits going year-around, not let them fizzle like a sparkler after great fanfare, once the New Year hangover sets in.

So what are we doing? We constantly look for ways to spice up our activities. Just recently at the high school (I was stone serious about going there to workout to avoid the resolution crowds at the gym in January) I decided to bring my almost four-year-old son. Boy did that amp up the cardio! The loops are in 1/3 mile lengths and we must have ran then until there was a small trough in the tile from our pounding sneakers. The janitors were rolling on the freshly swept floors with laughter each time my son would sail by with new antics, ever the clown. We played tag. We pretended to be Dusty Crophopper and "flew" around. We were members of the Paw Patrol and boy were we on a roll. You want to know something? I've never been so sore after a TWENTY MINUTE session! Truly, I think I packed in an hour or more of my usual cardio into just twenty minutes with my kiddo and we both had fun. And he slept like an angel that night.

In the mental health realm we've committed (way back in October) to reading books every night, without fail. We read around five books, sharing the job of being reader or enjoying being listener. I bring the newborn into the bed to maximize the reading goodness. We reflect on our day and talk about our favorite part, all four of us. The babies favorite part is always milk break--which I iterate for him! Then we snuggle. And though we have a family bed and I usually leave with the baby and then return after hours of feeding and burping and cuddling and cooing, one of us is always there for our son to cuddle. These changes happen all the time, not just in the New Year. It works for us.

In the food arena, after nine months of swearing off sweets in the name of a healthy baby and combating Gestational Diabetes, I have sort of been binging on sugar. Instead of saying "January 1st I'm done!" I have simply realized that I don't feel good when I eat an entire box of Sugar Smacks in a sitting. I still like a taste of the cookie dough or a small piece of candy after supper. I know that my cravings for sugar are dying out now that I do not have to eliminate it entirely (at least the super refined crap food kind) so I just let it continue to be a fading stage. However, to balance things out, I still keep our "health food" largely encompassing the bulk of our eating. I also hide my candy stash in my office. :)

One thing that is a recent change, but nothing to do with the New Year, is the replacement of a not-so-good food in my son's lunchbox with a better option: Stonyfield YoKids Squeezers. My son loves the sweet strawberry taste and it is much more satisfying as a mama to send him with some yogurt than a fruit roll-up. He still gets the tangy fruit flavor, just in a much better way! (They are even similarly shaped packages, so though he's a smart boy, I think this subtle similarity made the transition way easier!)

I borrowed this picture from Stonyfield to show you what to look for in the grocery store!

So while we don't have hard and fast resolutions that reset each winter with the start of a new calendar year, we DO have some health-minded habits that we like to keep in practice. New Year's Day reminds us to check in and see how we're doing. This year we just made things a little tastier!

How do you keep healthy as a family?

I partnered with Stonyfield to make this post possible. All opinions are my own. 

How My Fussy Newborn Baby Saved Our Lives

I don't feel like I'm being dramatic. Our 2nd son is one month and two days old. He has been what we'd call "a little fussy" since his 7th day on this Earth. He's an easy baby really, but occasionally he gets bouts of what I now know is GERD. It took me until this very evening to figure it out.

You see, in the first weeks while my husband was off work and we considered our little guy "brand new" we took turns being up with him, though I still needed to be up every two hours to feed him, I could feed and then bed down again if hubby helped out. After a while we started to transition so that when he went back to work I'd be used to the schedule. I sometimes felt as if I could fall asleep standing. I sometimes did fall asleep sitting up, often holding out boy.

I am afraid of all the things most mothers are: SIDS, milk supply issues, sibling jealousy and regression... The one thing I wasn't afraid of was a house fire. Especially since we moved from our tinderbox 1930s farmhouse with shoddy wiring and a malfunctioning wood furnace into a nice, 1980s rambler with electric heat. I felt safe at least in the soundness of our home and its' infrastructure, comparatively anyway.

I'm always telling my son not to let his things touch the baseboards. How much is a three year old going to pay attention to this intangible threat though? I am constantly moving things away from heaters. On this night, I laid down my poor, hurting baby after a long conversation with my Le Leche League leader on Facebook, having discovered reflux and more specifically GERD was likely the problem we were having. I was thinking it was a milk intolerance issue, and I struggle with limiting dairy. I'm addicted. Beer and cigarettes? No problem. I don't even think about it. I haven't smoked since college (years) and I do like a good craft beer, but I don't miss it. Milk and cheese on the other hand? Those are staples. Coming off of 39 weeks and 3 days of Gestational Diabetes and I've been a milk guzzling machine! So, finding out that I could help my baby and still drink milk? It was a total epiphany and I was excited to venture out to Walgreens and get some probiotics the next morning.

Consistent to how things have been when he has an "episode," my little guy woke up just minutes after I put him down and climbed into my own bed. I hadn't even nestled in to the covers to drift off yet. Feelings of resentment no longer cropped up at all, knowing that I'd solve this problem and feeling only empathy for my kiddo - since I also had extreme heartburn issues during both of my pregnancies too. It's not fun. I can only imagine gagging up sour milk is 100 times worse than heartburn alone.

I picked up my poor suffering boy and walked down the hall to our family room. Immediately my crazy mom nose smelled something "off." Like burning something. Actually more like hot, ready to burn something. I snooped around. The smell was actually coming about 25 feet from where the real problem lay. Our humidifier was blowing the smell into another area near our foyer. In the family room, a pillow lay smouldering on top of the baseboard. Now I don't know that we'd actually have had a fire, but on this night, I thank our month old baby for keeping me awake. For his time in my womb that made my nose ultra-sensitive as a result of all the bodily changes we go through during pregnancy.

We didn't have a fire. Maybe that pillow would never have gotten hot enough to start on fire. Maybe it would have. I am glad that I'll never know. Thank you little one, you are truly an angel.

Flippin' for Fall: It's my NEW Favorite, Mom!

Well, since winter is on our door step and we're pretty well settled in, I can say that we are officially done "Flipping for Fall!" And honestly, I'm about to flip. When #2 finally came in for a landing, I knew my days of having the luxury of time and the frivolity to enjoy things like decorating were nearly over. I'd soon be in full-scale baby prepping mode (again) -- washing and prepping the cloth diapers, dusting and laundering and trying to remain patient with my preschooler, tearing up at the every turn, having lost forever my "mommy and ONLY me" relationship with him. Bittersweet.

So with our home as "complete" as it will be for a while anyway, I switched gears from redecorating and flipping to mothering again. BUT, I found a way to incorporate the two! Really! I did! Since I wanted to do special things -- activities, dates, outdoor play, etc. with my preschooler, I decided to combine his love of Paw Patrol with our special time.

Remember that Dragon room? The one that is always everyone's favorite when they tour through our home, adults included? The one with the matching curtains, bed sets, and decals -- all How to Train Your Dragon? Oh and the stuffed dragon, the piggy bank, the underwear...all dragon motif. Yeah, that room......

Well, it's happened. It took all of about FOUR MONTHS for our preschooler to decide that Paw Patrol was his NEW favorite.

We planned ahead for this though, as I suggest all of you do as well. When you purchase your RoomMates decals in the chosen character compliment, look to the horizon. Yes, live in the moment, but if you see a new "favorite phase" budding, plan for it. We got our son the Paw Patrol package as well as the dragons (for less than $15 you can have Paw Patrol panache too!) Since kids love the television characters from favorite shows and new shows pop up all the time, it's a pretty reasonable investment to keep their little hearts smitten with their surroundings!

I know Christmas is over, but wall decals are a really fun idea for gifting -- birthdays, even in Easter baskets! A little room "spruce up" is fun for parents and kids alike! Everyone needs to freshen up their surroundings and this time around, we're counting on Ryder and his pups to make our child happy. I remember "calling it" -- saying that it would at least be easy to change the decor when the time comes. I really thought the time would come in a year or two. But, since we had enough change and crazy for our preschooler recently with the new baby, I'm giving in to the small request of my small, opinionated ever-changing darling boy and I am updating the decals to Paw Patrol this weekend. The good news? They ARE easy off. The bad news? He's stuck with dragon curtains and bed sets. I'm not tackling THAT until the birthday rolls around in the spring!

Disclosure: I partnered with RoomMates Decals for the purposes of writing this post. All opinions are my own. I received complimentary decals for completing a room transition. I was not compensated in any other way. 

Language Exploration as a Family ~ Spotlight on Little Pim

With our ever-changing world and commerce, it is more important than ever to speak more than one language.  The earlier we start a second (or maybe third?) language, the easier it is to grasp, so many people recommend starting with children from birth with hearing two languages to improve the integration of the language and over all comprehension.

This DVD set, intended for the 0-6 crowd not only gets your kiddo learning a NEW language but helps with their primary language vocabulary too! Win-win!  By immersing children in language while entertaining, they have fun in a ninja-learning sort of way!

We tried the complete Spanish set (and recommended it to all of you for a great Christmas idea!) and the chief detail that I was really enthusiastic about was the multi-media learning angle that they use - as opposed to something that is delivered only via computer or audio disc, etc. Having a tangible snuggle-buddy, like our Panda that my son named Po, seeing a poster on his wall, reading books and watching DVDs all tie concepts and words together and solidify the learning experience I think!

The books are the most fun for me (as a mom) -- no muss, no fuss, just grab a book and reinforce what your child has seen on the television!

My husband and I have traveled Central America extensively and ten years ago were both nearly fluent. These days we speak parent (you know - diapers, spit-up, and sleep deprivation are all vocab words we focus on) - Spanish has taken a back-burner spot in our lives. Before it's gone forever, we decided to not only foster a valuable skill and asset in our children but also to dust off our skills and try to practice up to prepare for family travel, possibly missions in the near(ish) future.

So don't think this is just a tool for kids - the whole family will benefit. We sure have! It's a riot to have our son (now almost four years old) request the DVDs by using a random Spanish word - generally, he asks if we can "watch pato" - so "watch duck" -- but unlike many children in this country, he doesn't mean he wants to see Donald Duck or even Duck Dynasty, he means his Little Pim Spanish set! Here is a look (stock photo via the Little Pim website) at what you get with a complete set (there are a dozen languages to choose from!)

If you've never tried a language learning system with your family or if you are apprehensive about spending much money on something like this, Little Pim has a great starter for whetting your appetite and it's less than $50! This complete set is about double that price, but it really is so beneficial to use several different tactics to teach, to better succeed with whatever learning style your child identifies with.

Disclosure: I was able to write this post because of a partnership with Little Pim. All opinions are my own. 

BayB Brand Bean Bags [an intro to something neat!]

If you are like me, you spend 99% of your time holding your new baby. The other 1% might be spent eating, sleeping, or showering -- or spending precious little time with their siblings. That's my life lately. It's not because I want to hold my new bambino ALL THE TIME -- I love him, he's great, snuggles rock. BUT...I'd love to eat with more than one hand. I'd like to take a shower and shave and condition well... It would be nice to even write a bit more - but frankly, it's been lame using just ONE hand to hunt and peck!

Why? I'm sure that's what you're thinking. Why is my life like this? Well, my child hates his nest, I do not want to associate the car seat with bad vibes (he NEEDS to travel well to fit into our fam), and we have older sibling that loves to "help" -- oh and pets. Anyway...when I saw the BayB Brand Bean Bags...I knew this could be a lifesaver armsaver.

Some info from the good folks that make these little ingenious baby nooks:

BayB Brand Bean Bags is the concept of two friends, two dads looking to make a better life for their families by bringing high quality products to yours! We come from different backgrounds, different parts of the country, brought together through a common goal to start our own business and be independent of the daily 9-5 grind.

All products are sourced, tested and hand assembled and filled in our facilities in Minneapolis, MN and Portland, OR. We ship direct to our customers using USPS or FedEx to guarantee a timely delivery. All orders ship out within 24 hours.

My readers Save $20 now on BayB Brand Bean Bag Chairs on Amazon! 

While I have yet to actually try this little invention, I think it looks both safe and cozy. It might be another product that my picky little person rejects, but when you're a parent to a small kiddo, you'll try anything and everything to keep them happy and get just a little more out of your production in a day!

Disclosure: This post is made possible by my partnership and participation with US Family Guide.

The BEST of 2014 - Yogurt Addition!

Well another year has come and is on the way out. We've been so spoiled eating Stonyfield constantly, all year long. I still do not love Greek Yogurt. I must confess that up front. My family sometimes feels like a yogurt overload is happening, I'm sure, because I'm always experimenting with new ways of getting more yogurt in AND replacing some of the less healthy, albeit sometimes a little tastier ingredients. Our palettes are changing. (For the better!) I'm the biggest junk-food junkie in the house honestly! So, here's a round-up of our favorite recipes of 2014 - since I can never pick just ONE favorite!

Broccoli Grape Salad (With Non-Fat Stonyfield Yogurt)

I don't have a photo of this one - it literally got gobbled up by the family before I could snap one. Serves me right for procrastinating! I've made this dish three times - a different, slightly healthier recipe each time. The last and best for you was the one that I replaced a few ingredients with Stonyfield Non-fat/Fat Free Yogurt. Here it is if anyone is interested:

1 C. Red Grapes halved
1 C. Craisins
1/2 C. pomegranate
1 C. Stonyfield Non-fat Yogurt
1 lb. bacon (cooked and chopped into small pieces)
1 head of broccoli (chopped up)
1/4 C. Red onion, chopped to desired size
1/4 C. sunflower seed meats
1/4 C. Fat Free Ranch Dressing (or other flavor that suits your taste!)

Cook bacon. Chop solid ingredients and dump into a large bowl. Mix in the yogurt and dressing to taste, coating the solids. Chill. Add sunflower seeds and a few bits of bacon to dress up the top, for crunch just before serving.

Great for holiday gatherings or potlucks!

Yo Kids Pouches

Petite Creme

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

This is another recipe that I made and did not finish writing about or photographing before they were consumed. Stonyfield makes a GREAT Lemon-flavored yogurt cup that really brings out the subtle but delightful lemon zest in this spin on the traditional breakfast favorite! Simply sub or cut the Ricotta with yogurt and enjoy! If you are scared the first time (since it's not a 'regular' recipe for pancakes, you can also follow the Ricotta recipe and TOP with lemon yogurt instead of a syrup! Enjoy a little taste of something different!

Fruit N Yogurt Cups for the Hubby

My last favorite of the year that has truthfully become a favorite of my husband is so EASY! Simply buy the Low-Fat French Vanilla tub of Stonyfield (or the non-fat if you're not a sweets kind of person) and fill 1/2 of a canning jar or other container that works well for toting yogurt on-the-go. Add in jelly (we make great home made varieties) OR some frozen fruit and top with sunflower seeds, Craisins, or granola. These little concoctions are cheaper than the individual size cups of most brands AND they have better fruit (in my opinion!) I like the Ball plastic canning containers with screw-on green or purple lids. Reusable so they are a green option, dishwasher safe, and the perfect size! Great for kids lunches too!

There you have it! Our family favorites from last year! Join us for another great year of Stonyfield recipes and goodies to keep on track with your New Year's resolutions and healthy-minded eating habits! Cheers!

Disclosure: This post was made possible by my participation in a partnership with Stonyfield as a Yo-getter member.