Friday, August 28, 2009

What happens in Vegas...

I don't like to fly.

All of the security hoopla make me nervous, the smell in airplanes stays in my nose for too long and I get motion sickness. On a flight to Europe years ago, I actually blacked out. Flying is just not fun for me.

But when it 's important, I can suck it up and do it. A long weekend with just my husband and I in Las Vegas? That counts as important.

The view from my window as we descend into Las Vegas. (Ever used the internet while on an airplane? Convenient, but not much room for the computer on the tray table.)

Is it pathetic that I miss my kids already?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Well, really. Are you sure you mean me?


I have recipes all over the place. I copy them online, I rip them out of magazines, I photocopy them from library books... and then they sit nicely in my cupboard. Therefore, when I read blogs where talented people take the time to actually cook, I am very impressed. And jealous. Everything always looks so tasty!

Yonca @ Yonca is cooking is one of those moms that not only does fun things with her son, but then follows up by making him banana pancakes. Yum! I love seeing pictures of food (they just make me want to be less lazy and do something about bringing the picture to life on my own plate) and I thought it was hilarious when Yonca went to take a picture of banana bread that she had made and, upon finding her husband had eaten all of it, posted a picture of him instead!

It was very sweet of Yonca to pass along this wonderful Loyalty Award to me, I definitely appreciate it! This award is given to loyal followers and friends of your blog who really spread the love, so I am passing it to...

Sophia's Mom @ the wannabe wahm
Alexandra @ My Take on Mommyhood
Molly @ I'm a Sleeper Baker
Jackie @ 3 Little Ones

These ladies have left me some very sweet and thoughtful comments and I thank them for being so Loyal!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mail Delivery: On The Fly


You know all the things you THINK you know about babies before you have them? And then you know how once you actually have a child, you find out you really didn't have a clue about much of ANYTHING?

I thought that breastfeeding was going to be easy, it's just what babies do, right? It turned out that both Big Sister E and Little Sister B had different ideas and, even after spending countless, AND I MEAN COUNTLESS, visits with lactation consultants and hours and hours of crying (them and me), it turned out that nursing wasn't in the cards for me. However, I still wanted to do the best thing possible for both of them, so, thanks to my Medela and I being pretty cozy, both girls still solely received breastmilk and all of its nutrients. I found lots of information and groups to join online of other EP (Exclusive Pumping) Moms and tried not to dwell on the images in my mind of all the serene nursing women that made it look so easy.

Aside from all of the time spent with the pump (and, let me tell you, it was A LOT), having the girls drink from bottles had its conveniences. It was never a problem for me to go somewhere and have to worry about someone else being able to feed my baby and, before the girls were sleeping well through the night, it was easy for my husband and I to take turns getting up so that the other person could get a good long stretch of sleep.

The cons, however, were big. As well as the pumping (did I mention that there was A LOT of pumping? Oh, yes, I did. Now I remember), breastmilk isn't very convenient to bring with you because it can't be left unrefrigerated. Little Sister B is on a fairly consistent schedule now so I can plan on when and how much she is going to eat and can have it ready for her before we leave the house. However, when it comes to heating a bottle that I've brought along in the cooler, the options aren't all that many. Running the bottle under hot water in a restroom works, but very s - l - o - w - l - y, and who wants to stand there in a public restroom trying to get the automatic faucet to keep running? Back when Big Sister E was a baby, I tried one of those bottle warmers that plug into the lighter in the car, but it never seemed to work. It always seems like stressing over trying to warm a bottle is like a disaster waiting to happen.

Enter On The Fly, a new chic on-the-go bottle warmer that was created to make life easier.

On The Fly Starter Kit

The On The Fly is one of those products that I should have invented because it is so simple, yet so ingenious. It is a stretchy "bottle sock" that has a double layer of fabric into which you tuck in an air-activated warmer. That's pretty much all there is to it and yes, it's just that easy. On The Fly is designed to fit wide bottles and it even comes in two sizes, small (for 4 oz bottles) and large (for 8 - 11 oz bottles). Perfectly convenient and no electricity needed.

Our playgroup was heading to the park last week and I was glad to have my On The Fly to bring with us. When it was nearing time for Little Sister B to eat, I pulled it out and had no problem getting things prepared. After sliding the bottle into the inner sock and pulling the outer sock up around the top, I opened the warmer and wrapped it around the bottle. Using the self-adhesive, the warmer stuck to itself and stayed snug around the bottle. I pulled the outer sock back down over the whole thing and voila! Ready to go.

According to the package, it might take 30 minutes to reach maximum temperature and, for me, that seemed to be about right. Later in the day, I was wishing that we had elsewhere to go because the warmer stayed heated for a LONG time. The directions for On The Fly say that the "warmer is intended to provide constant heat for up to 8 hours" but I think mine lasted much longer than that. I opened it around 12:30 in the afternoon and the last time I remembered to check it was somewhere around 10:00 that night and it was still nice and toasty.

This would be the perfect thing to take traveling, because one warmer would be able to heat almost a full day's worth of bottles. Figuring out how to warm bottles on an airplane, during a road trip or while camping? Fairly difficult unless you have an On The Fly with you.

No problem Mom, I've got this feeding thing covered.

Whether your baby is exclusively bottle-fed or only occasionally, breastmilk or formula, having an On The Fly is a hassle-free, easy solution to heating bottles or maintaining warmth. Available now at www.ontheflybottle.com. My one criticism? That On The Fly wasn't invented three years ago so that I could have used it with Big Sister E's bottles.

Thanks, Lauren at Free To Be Me Baby Products, LLC, for allowing me to test and review the On The Fly. It's a great product. And, although the On The Fly comes in a cute little package, it was still too large to fit in the mailbox. So, for bringing it up to my door and asking how my day was going, thanks, Mail Carrier.

(Other than the On The Fly Starter Kit that I was sent, I was not provided with anything or enticed to do this review in any way. This review is solely my opinion of this innovative and handy product.)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

We have a winner!

As I am a big fan of giveaways, it was pretty exciting for me to get to pick the winner of my first giveaway. My results from random.org for a Yoplait Whips! Summer Cool Down prize package are...

Meaning that CC is my lucky winner! I love getting emails that have Congratulations in the subject line, so you should be expecting one from me shortly. Thank you to everyone who visiting my blog and entered, I hope you'll keep coming back for more!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

GIVEAWAY: Solavie Hair and Skin Care

{This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to those who entered!}


Recently, my husband and I brought our girls to my in-laws' house for the weekend for the first night away from them I've ever had. I find it hard to believe that Big Sister E is nearly 3 and I had never been away from her for a night, but I really can't think of a time when it happened before. We've all gone places and slept elsewhere and there have been times when other people put her to bed, but I have always returned at some point and been under the same roof with her.

Hmmm. Maybe I need to get out more.

Anyway, my in-laws had a wonderful weekend plan that included all of us having fun at a hotel nearby with an indoor water park. Big Sister E is all about the water and loves splashing and playing and going down water slides. It was Little Sister B's first time in a swimming pool and she wasn't so sure about the whole thing (apparently it is a little confusing as to why one can't actually hold onto water), but did have a good time.

At the end of the day, we packed the kids up, kissed them goodbye, and sent them off to go sleep at Grandma and Grandpa's. I really didn't need to be concerned that they would miss us, particularly because when I was giving Big Sister E one last hug, she gestured towards the hotel and said, "You stay here, Mommy." Well, fine then.

My husband and I marveled at our new-found freedom all the way back to the room, where I went to get the case for my contacts out of my toiletry bag... and found that something had leaked. All over the bag and into the suitcase. Of course I had just thrown this and that off of the counter at home into the bag and it had been a little full and... well, I should have thought better. Maybe that way I wouldn't have spent my first child-free hour washing off my deodorant and scrubbing out the inside of the bag.

What I really should have done, was brought a Solavie Hair Care duo-pack and then pretty much the only things I would have had to add to it would have been my toothbrush and contacts.


Haven't heard of Solavie? I hadn't. It is an amazing company that has introduced a radical new skin and hair care system harmonious with Nature and centered on your body's reactions to environmental conditions in six different enviro-types: Mountains, Urban, Tropics, Shore, Plains, Desert. Their products were developed at the Solavie Spa Retreat in Sun Valley, Idaho when they realized that clients from around the world found the items they had brought with them weren't working in the intensely sunny, dry climate.

It makes sense that the environmental conditions that you're in affect your hair and skin differently, so the shampoo that I use probably isn't going to be the same thing that someone living in the tropics would need (although they're LIVING in the TROPICS, so I'm not really all that sympathetic for them). Same goes for what I would use to nourish my face. Along the same lines, when I get to be lucky enough to visit the tropics (yeah, THAT happens all the time), why would I assume that the products I use to style my hair at home would work the same in the new environment? I should use something that is formulated for those conditions, right?

Solavie's One With Nature system is a simple two-step process - wash and nourish. Each of the six enviro-type lines includes a face wash and nourish, body nourish, a hair/body wash and a hair nourish/style. Did you catch that part? One product does multiple things. Now that's just pure genius. You don't have to pack your toiletry bag with a million different bulky, leaky containers (these are even structured to prevent bursting during flights). You just go to the store and choose the few that you need for the enviro-type to which you are traveling and you're ready to go with products that are natural and nourishing.

But wait, there's more. Solavie uses a unique "yin/yang" design with their bottles, allowing any two products to be joined together in one
compact unit for easy packing. There is a distinct clicking noise when you snap the bottles together, which I like. Plus, they're not just sort of leaning against each other, they're holding tight.

Not only are Solavie's products great for you, they are unbelievably eco-friendly. There is no outer packaging, meaning zero paper wasted. Those unique bottles and caps are 100% recyclable, and all of the ingredients are bio-degradable.
Solavie even strives to be the most socially responsible, innovative personal care company serving the global marketplace. Nearly 100% of Solavie net profits are invested in Solavie Second Nature Foundation, whose mission is to fund projects that promote sustainable business practices and the cultivation of talent in children around the world. I love companies that care about the world, don't you?

Ready to head off on your summer vacation? Put a few Solavie products in your bag and your packing is halfway done. Fresh off of the success of our night away, my husband and I are getting ready to go to Las V
egas for a long weekend to ourselves. There is no chance of me repeating my sticky mess of a toiletry bag experience though, because this time I am bringing my Solavie Desert Hair Care duo-pack. And because Solavie products are unisex, I just finished half of my husband's packing, too. The desert scent ("spicy, natural aroma of desert plants and flowers reminiscent of hot desert nights") is perfect for both of us.

The Solavie desert scent has also received the Big Sister E sniff-sniff seal of approval.

Available at natural products stores, pharmacies, and natural beauty counters nationwide; and may be purchased online at www.solavie.com.

One lucky person will win their own Solavie Desert Hair Care duo-pack!


To Enter to win a Solavie Desert Hair Care duo-pack: Visit Solavie and tell me the destination of your dream vacation and which product (enviro-type and name) you would most like to take with you. Please do me the favor of leaving an email address or making absolutely sure it is visible in your profile. I have to have a way to contact the winner.

Extra Entries:
1 Extra Entry - What enviro-type do you live in? Do you think that hair and skin products work differently depending on the environment that you are in?
3 Extra Entries (leave 3 separate comments) if you follow me on blogger! You know you want to!
4 Extra Entries (leave 4 separate comments) if you blog about this giveaway. Please leave an address where it can be found.

Giveaway will end on August 31st at 11:59pm CST. The winner will be chosen by random.org and announced here as well as emailed. The winner will have 48 hours to contact me or respond to notification or a new winner will be chosen. Giveaway open to US residents.

A big thank you to Solavie for providing me with information about their products and a Desert Hair Care duo-pack to review as well as one for one lucky giveaway winner.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Spotlight on PR!

Spotlight

Well, hi there. Thanks for stopping by.

I started this blog not so long ago and have been overwhelmed at all of the wonderful people that I have met and the friendships that I have already made. It's like there's this whole world of bloggers out there that had been hidden away from me and now that I have my own blog, I have gained immediate access to the club. You pushed the Publish Post button? Then let's teach you the secret handshake.

However, the group of people that I haven't had a great deal of contact with are PR Professionals. They don't seem to just be hanging around reading about my trips to the zoo or Little Sister B eating yogurt. Or, if they are, it hasn't made too many of them want to have me review their products (how they can resist Little Sister B's chunky cheeks, I'll never know). How do I meet the elusive PR? Fortunately for me, Tara @ Feels Like Home and Adrienne @ Adrienne’s House have opened up a wonderful opportunity to help make these connections. They are running a special Spotlight on PR during the entire month of August allowing bloggers like me to get involved and create and foster some new PR relationships. To do so, I start here and introduce myself.

As the title of my blog implies, the mail carrier is a very important person around here. I love reading reviews and entering giveaways, so every day it's exciting to see what the mail carrier will bring us. It's fairly common in my house to hear my almost-3-year-old say, "The mailman bring this?" when she sees something new on the table. What can I say? I've taught her well.

So what better way to spread the joy that I feel at reading a well-written review or winning a great giveaway than by passing it along to my readers? I write honestly, using humor and cute pictures of my daughters and when I like a product, I rave! See a sample of my past reviews and giveaways here:

Baby Things by Jessica (review)
Yoplait Whips! Summer Cool Down Prize Package (review & giveaway)
YoBaby yogurt (review)
Purex 3-in-1 Laundry Sheets (review)
Solavie Desert Hair Care (review & giveaway)

I am interested in products from almost any category because I think there are so many great things out there, how could I exclude something until I, or my family, have tried it? As well as myself (a SAHM), I am married and have two daughters, Big Sister E (the all-knowing almost-3-year-old) and Little Sister B (an adorable, happy 8-month-old). Big Sister E loves books, toys (both for girls and boys), dress-up, coloring... pretty much anything and everything that entertains a toddler and gives a good indication of a product's worth just in her facial expressions. Little Sister B is into pulling herself up on her crib rails, speedy crawling, pulling my hair when I carry her in a backpack and is a great tester of all things baby. As much as my husband might tease me for always going on about new items that I have found or tried or won, he would enjoy being able to try out and review products directed at men (even if he wouldn't admit it).

If you are interested in having Thanks, Mail Carrier review and/or host a giveaway of one of your products, you can rest assured that my family spends time with each item and I take writing my review seriously and would never do a cut-and-paste type of write-up or just throw something together in order to get it done. You deserve more than that, as do my readers. Look at these faces, they mean business!

Thanks for visiting and reading my Spotlight on PR. If you would like to contact me, I'd love to hear from you at xpsundell {at} gmail {dot} com. Thanks to Tara and Adrienne for this opportunity. And thanks, Mail Carrier, for making this blog possible by bringing your little truck down my street and making my day with each new delivery.

Well, honestly. Me?

With all that has been going on around here lately, I've been feeling a little low.

Then Sophia's Mom over at The Wannabe WAHM left me a wonderfully heartfelt comment that made me feel better. But to top it off, she also gave me an award! Who wouldn't be cheered up by receiving the One Lovely Blog Award?


However, I have to admit that I have two issues with accepting this award.

The first is that by posting how much I enjoy reading The Wannabe WAHM I have a sinking feeling that as soon as people follow her link and head over there, I'm not going to get them back. That's the problem with liking really great blogs. You recommend then, people read them and then they realize they rock more than yours. So, Sophia's Mom, can you just not have such a funny-but-not-too-funny-but-just-the-right-amount-of-humor-in-that-perfectly-sarcastic-sort-of-way-on-a-really-eye-catching-and-fun-to-read-blog type of blog? For a little while at least?

Second, even though this award isn't technically about the actual look of a blog, it is called the One Lovely Blog Award, so therefore the recipients' blogs should be lovely, right? The more blogs that I read, the more that I return to my own handmade template, tilt my head to the side and think, boy, I wish I knew more than ZILCH about design or html so that I could have a cute blog, too. At the moment, I'm keeping my fingers tightly crossed that I'll be lucky enough to win a giveaway over on Eighty MPH Mom for a blog makeover by Subjective Beauty. If I don't win, well, maybe I need Google Blogger for Dummies or something. Oh, that really exists? Well, of course it does, those people think of EVERYTHING.

Now that I've dealt with my issues, let's move on to the award. I began to go through all of the wonderful blogs that I read and have discovered that this award has been floating around for a while (or else everyone else likes all the same blogs I do!) because I see it posted pretty much everywhere. Therefore, I will just say congratulations to all of the other wonderful Mommy Bloggers out there for taking the time out of your days to keep up with posting heartfelt, humorous, serious or informative posts on your blogs. And thank you for the support and kind comments that you've passed to me and to each other. Your blogs and your words are truly Lovely.

Monday, August 17, 2009

An ode to a best friend.

Disclaimer: If you're visiting my blog for the first time, I'm really not a depressing person and I actually normally write fairly humorous posts (at least I think so and that's all that matters). They're also not usually quite this long, but I couldn't bear to cut this one down.


I am a dog person. Always have been.

After my husband and I got married and we began to look for our first house, I knew that as soon as we moved in I would go right out and get a dog. Almost as soon as the mortgage papers were signed, I began scouring the website of the Humane Society nearby looking for the perfect dog that would meet all the criteria I had laid out.

Our dog needed to be medium-sized (my husband said our dog had to be small enough that I could lift it into the car in an emergency but big enough that he wouldn't kill it if he stepped on it getting out of bed. Yes, that's my husband for you), trainable, likes to play (the dog I had as a kid never learned to fetch, something I ALWAYS wanted to do) and, most importantly, good with kids.

When I first laid eyes on Luke, a happy yellow lab, I knew he was the one. He was big and goofy and his tail never stopped wagging and his tongue was hanging out ready to give you a lick, especially when you weren't expecting it. He bounded into my life and I was smitten.

Once at home, we soon found out that although on paper Luke looked as though he had met all of the items on my list of must-haves for a dog, he was lacking a little in a few categories. We tried to bring him to dog training classes so that he could learn better manners (why our friends and family didn't ENJOY a sloppy dog jumping up on them as they came in the door is beyond me) but at the end of our second lesson, the instructors politely asked us not to return.

Apparently due to Luke's, ahem, enthusiasm, he wasn't a "good fit" for the class. Did they realize that his not-so-perfect behavior was the EXACT REASON we were in the class in the first place? We decided that we loved our dog the way he was, poor etiquette and all, and didn't try any more training.

Luke's boundless energy seemed like it would lead itself to hours of leisurely games of fetch... but alas, that was also not to be. I would throw the stick and he would watch it. I would show him where it was and he would look at me. I would put it in his mouth and bring him back to where we started and he would turn away. Still happy, just not interested.

No amount of demonstrations or treats got the idea of the game through his head. In pretty much everything, Luke just wasn't proving to be the smartest dog in the bunch. Or even as smart as an average dog. Or smarter than much of anything, really. We still loved him.

My husband's job involves some traveling. Not too much anymore, but back when we first brought Luke home, my husband traveled much more often and, being alone in our empty house frightened me at times, particularly at night, especially when it was raining or windy. I know, it's not like I'm in a horror film so I don't know what I was thinking was going to happen, but having Luke next to me made me feel a million times better. He was also there for me to take long walks with and, back in the day, we did a fair amount of jogging, too. His pure love and devotion couldn't be matched and Luke easily became my first baby.

Then I became pregnant and people warned me that my feelings for the dog would change and I even probably wouldn't want him around any more. I was shocked. What sort of horrible pet-owners were these people? My own father even asked me on the phone one day what I was going to "do with the dog." DO with him? What was he suggesting? GIVE HIM AWAY? Absurd. I said we would be just fine, thank you very much.

Big Sister E and Luke meet for the first time.

Then my first child arrived. When Big Sister E was born, not only was my entire life turned upside down, but Luke's as well. He went from being pampered and doted upon to... well, let's just say his position on the totem pole of importance around here dropped down quite a few notches. WE were barely eating and sleeping while taking care of a newborn, how could we be expected to take care of a dog, too? As life calmed down a little bit, it became easier to meet Luke's basic needs, but my heart now belonged to someone else and I couldn't seem to find the drive to care for him as much as I used to.

Big Sister E, however, loved Luke right from the start. Even though he couldn't fetch, still jumped up on everyone that came over, dragged us down the block when we walked and barked at passing leaves, he proved that he indeed is wonderful with children. It took him a little while to understand what the odd squeaky thing that we brought home from the hospital actually was, but he always showed a kindness and caring towards her that was incredible.

When Little Sister B came along, Luke wasn't really fazed. By then he was used to having a toddler climb on him and follow him around and, in general, just sometimes pay a little TOO much attention to him. He accepted our new little bundle easily and didn't even need a second sniff to know what she was. His eyes spoke volumes, however, something along the lines of ANOTHER ONE? What are you people trying to DO TO ME?

Little Sister B adores Luke and the squeaks of excitement she gives when she sees him are unparalleled.

The feeling might not be completely mutual, but he is beyond patient with her and her lack of understanding normal boundaries of personal space. I have never once not trusted Luke or worried about what he might do around either of my children.

Two weeks ago, we noticed that Luke wasn't eating his food like he usually did. By usual, I mean that sometimes you barely had the bowl put down before he was chowing down. And if you happened to ever put more in there, it would be gone in an instant. So, when we noticed that the food that was put out in the morning was still there in the afternoon, we began to be concerned. We thought (and hoped) that maybe something had happened to the bag of dog food and it was stale or had gone bad and just didn't taste right to him. We tried new food, as well as a different flavor or two of the same brand, but nothing seemed to be working.

This past Friday afternoon I brought him to the vet.

Even though deep down I knew that it wasn't going to be good news, when the vet told me it was cancer, it was like the world started to close in a little bit.

And when she brought me over to show me the x-ray of his lungs and I saw how they are completely covered in it, the rest of the world crashed down around me. The vet was very understanding as I stood there in shock and tried, unsuccessfully, to wipe the tears away.

The sadness over knowing that we are already in our last weeks together hits me at various times throughout the day and I have to try to push it out of my mind. So far we have said a little bit to Big Sister E about how Luke will be gone soon and she seems fine with it but is showing she knows that something is up by randomly saying, "Lukey okay? Lukey feel okay?"

It's all I can do to not sink down into a puddle on the floor when she does that.

Along with the sadness, I'm having a hard time overcoming massive amounts of guilt. Guilt from all of the times that Luke's needs were made to wait, or ignored completely, because I was too busy taking care of the girls. Guilt from the things that I said to him that weren't so nice when really I was just frustrated with myself or life or WHATEVER and he was there.

It's not his fault that he just isn't a smart dog, why wasn't I more understanding when he just wanted to be let outside to enjoy sitting in the sun or that he didn't mean to get his leash wrapped around the tree when we were walking or that the desire to sample a freshly-made muffin cooling on the stove is just TOO strong and he HAS TO jump up there?

My family is going to lose a member soon, the one that actually turned us from a couple into a family.

To keep my heart from fully breaking, I am already hard at work spoiling Luke to the fullest, giving him anything he wants to eat and spending a lot of time giving him extra petting and hugs. I can only hope that he understands me when I hold him close and whisper to him how much I love him and that he forgives me for all of the misgivings I made in the past. When I tell him that he's a good boy, a good dog, I want him to know that I really mean it. I really do. I love you, Luke.

Now, who wants another muffin?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

GIVEAWAY: Yoplait Whips! prize package

{This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to those who entered!}

It's no secret that Little Sister B loves her yogurt, as seen here. However, Big Sister E is just as big of a fan of yogurt and she would eat it at every meal, multiple times a day, pretty much any flavor. Now that she has gotten better with her spoon control, she even doesn't end up wearing as much of it as she used to.

When I found out that MyBlogSpark was offering me the opportunity to review a Summer Cool Down gift pack from Yoplait Whips! I knew that it would be a big hit around here.

Yoplait Whips! is enjoyable right out of the container because of its light and fluffy texture, as well as all of the great flavors - chocolate raspberry anyone? How about some key lime pie? The new chocolate mousse style? Yum. But have you ever tried it frozen? I'm not sure why I never thought of doing that, it seems logical: yogurt + freezer = yummy frozen yogurt. Plus, if you put your favorite Whips! yogurt cup in the freezer the night before, you'll have the perfect chilled dessert to pack and bring with you for a picnic in the park or a cool snack at the beach.

On hot days we like to play and picnic at the splash park near our house and, knowing that we were heading there soon, I went right out and got a Whips! to freeze for Big Sister E and each of her friends. When it came time to pack our lunch, all I had to do was toss them in the cooler with a spoon and I knew the kids would love them.

The result?
Big Sister E and her friends were excited about having something new and different to have at our picnic and it helped that along with being delicious, it was nice and cold in the hot weather. No one stopped eating long enough to answer if they thought it was yummy but there were short pauses in which, "mmmm, good ice cream" was muttered. In the end each cup was scraped clean and there were smiles all around. I'd say that's two thumbs up.

One lucky person will win their own Summer Cool Down prize package including two coupons for FREE Yoplait Whips!, a cooler tote, popsicle molds and 12 color changing spoons.

Even if you don't win, if you sign up for the Betty Crocker email newsletter you'll receive a coupon for a FREE Yoplait Whips! so that you can put it in the freezer and try it as a delicious frozen treat for yourself. Or you can print out a coupon to save $.60 when you purchase three cups of any Yoplait Whips!

To Enter to win a Summer Cool Down prize package:
Visit Yoplait and tell me which flavor of Yoplait Whips! would be (or is) your favorite frozen treat. Please do me the favor of leaving an email address or making absolutely sure it is visible in your profile. I have to have a way to contact the winner.

Extra Entries:
1 Extra Entry - If you have tried Yoplait Whips! frozen before, what stories or tips do you have? If you haven't yet, tell me who would love it this way and why.
2 Extra Entries (leave 2 comments) if you follow me on blogger! You know you want to!
3 Extra Entries (leave 3 comments) if you blog about this giveaway. Please leave an address where it can be found.

Giveaway will end on August 21st at 11:59pm CST. The winner will be chosen by random.org and announced here as well as emailed. The winner will have 48 hours to contact me or respond to notification or a new winner will be chosen. Giveaway open to US residents.

A big thank you to MyBlogSpark and Yoplait for providing me with information about the products, coupons and samples to review as well as a prize pack for one lucky giveaway winner.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mail Delivery: Baby Things by Jessica

It's very difficult for me to not buy Big Sister E and Little Sister B more clothes or shoes. They really don't need any, but it's hard to hold back sometimes. So when Mommies with Cents notified me that I won a pair of baby shoes from Baby Things by Jessica, I was really excited because Little Sister B would get to have something that wasn't a hand-me-down and I wouldn't even have to explain why I bought them to my husband.

With no further ado, I present to you the cutest baby shoes EVER.

The Eve style.
Look no further, they are indeed the cutest things ever.

There are so many of those soft-soled shoes out there that all look pretty much the same (sort of cute but sort of ugly and cost way more than these) that never really seem to fit right, even after I work for five minutes to cram a chunky little foot in there. These? Right out of their beautifully wrapped package (perfect for gift-giving) and onto Little Sister B's feet without a single problem or bent toe.

Everything at Baby Things by Jessica is hand-crafted and the workmanship is impeccable. These shoes are the softest corduroy on the outside with a creamy pink flannel on the inside that made me want to stick my own piggies in there. The bottoms are even beautiful, done in a flowered faux leather that that is seen as Little Sister B crawls by. And the hand-crocheted roses? I think I just passed out from the cuteness. Help me up?

Baby Things by Jessica has shoes for boys and girls in a variety of styles and colors and I think I'd like one of each design. I even found myself going back through past orders to what styles were snatched up by lucky customers in the past. I was impressed not only at the other adorable shoes that had been listed, but by the fact that out of well over 400 comments in the shop's feedback, every single one was positive. You can't beat 100%, that definitely says something not only about the products but about Jessica as well.

How fun is the Metro style?

Or the Monica?


Prior to The Eve, I hadn't found anything that stayed on Little Sister B's foot. It seemed like socks were never going to stay put on their own and the only shoes that didn't fall off right away were mini tennis shoes, which look fine but are not practical, good for her feet or comfortable for her to crawl around in. Once I put these on though, they didn't budge and also didn't leave a mark from the elastic being too tight. I'm thinking they must just be her Cinderella shoes and fit her pudgy princess feet just right.
Cinderella didn't have much hair and drooled a lot too, right?

Thanks, Mommies with Cents, for having such a great giveaway. And thanks, Baby Things by Jessica, for making such adorable shoes. The box they came in could have possibly fit into the mailbox, but the mailman must have been in a good mood because instead of cramming them in, he brought it up to my door. Thanks, Mail Carrier.

(Other than the pair of shoes that I was lucky enough to win, I was not provided with anything or enticed to do this review in any way but instead just really thought they were positively too cute to not share my opinion)

No, seriously. Me?

It just doesn't ever get old to be told that someone likes your blog... and it sure doesn't hurt if they give you an award, too! Thanks so much to Natalee at Raising Normal Kids for giving me my second recognition, the Your Blog is Fabulous award.

This one is simple, with only two rules:

List five current obsessions and pass the award on to five more fabulous blogs.

My obsessions:

1. Keeping up with this blog! Now whenever we're doing things during the day I'll find that I'm thinking, hmmm, would this make a good post? and mentally trying to remember it for later. Although really, most of the things that we do are pretty boring and don't end up being posts. You're welcome.

2. Chocolate. It's a lose-lose situation around here with it because when we have some I just can't stop myself from eating it, resulting in the guilt I feel when the brownie pan is magically empty. And when we don't have any, I find myself scouring the house and every cupboard looking for something to end the craving. I need help! Or else I just need a patch that can dispense the chocolate straight into my bloodstream...

3. Taking pictures! As I mentioned in my picture tag post, I have millions of photos of my girls because I love to take pictures of them. Now, actually DOING something with them is another story. For now, at least I keep them somewhat organized and can usually find the one I'm looking for when I need it. Plus, I'm doing a pretty good job of not letting Little Sister B fall too far into the "second child syndrome" where they end up with no pictures or records of them as a child. I'll admit that I've probably slacked a tad bit, but I'm doing fairly well.

4. Preparing for potty training. Big Sister E is going to be 3 in October and we've been talking about using the potty for quite a while now. We've had some ups and downs with her sitting on it (with or without clothes) but she's the kind of kid that needs a little push to get her going, so I've been reading up and we've been watching videos and I'm planning a Potty Party this week. We'll see how it goes!

5. Practicing with Little Sister B and our new Ergo. I bought a Baby Bj├Ârn before Big Sister E was born and used it some, but she was always happy to sit in the stroller. I used it again with Little Sister B and as much as she likes being carried up where she can see everything, she's so HEAVY! She was nearly 19 1/2 pounds at her 6-month checkup almost 2 months ago, so I know she's well over 20 pounds now. My back just can't take having her strapped on the front of me and I've heard and read so many great things about the Ergo that when I saw one posted on Craigslist, I jumped at the chance. I've managed to get her into the Back Carry Position once by myself but it wasn't pretty and definitely not something that I'd do out in public (and without a soft bed behind us, just in case). I'm dying to practice some more!

Now to pass the award on. Here are my choices:

Clueless_Mama @ Guessing all the Way
Kristin @ One Day at a Time
Rebecca & Maggie @ Homemade Mamas
Cindy @ Cin's Out Numbered and Loving It
Alexis AKA MOM @ Running away? I'll help you pack.

Yes, Your Blog is Fabulous.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Picture tag!

I was out of town this weekend and came home to find that I have been picture tagged!

Natalee over at Raising Normal Kids put up a picture of the fat squirrel that apparently likes Italian food over at her house, so I'm not sure if I can top that, but here's my photo:I try to keep my millions of pictures somewhat organized by putting them into folders by months, so when I opened my photos it was set to August 2009 and this was the 10th one. It's from a recent walk to the park near our house and I was sitting in the shade with Little Sister B while Big Sister E went up and down on the playground and enjoyed the nice day. I'm not sure why Little Sister B was sticking her tongue out (I didn't take it personally) but I had pulled out the camera and managed to catch the picture before she stopped. She's a pretty happy baby and I actually have quite a few photos like this one where she's grinning or laughing or just in general being smiley.

Now on to the rules of picture tag:
  • Open your first photo folder.
  • Scroll down to the 10th photo.
  • Post that photo and story on your blog.
  • Tag three others (or more) friends to do the same.
So,

Heather @ Theta Mom
Lauren @ Mud Mama
Daisy @ Lil Hiccups

you're it!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

An award? Me?

Thursdays are a slow day around here, which is actually pretty nice. We usually have plans to see friends the first half of the week, so by the time Thursday rolls around it's just nice to not be rushing around in the morning to get somewhere on time. The girls and I either stay around the house and play or go for a walk to the park or, like today, hit up a few garage sales and go pick out new picture books at the library.

This afternoon was already going quite well due to the fact that I'm the only one awake in the house. Both Big Sister E and Little Sister B went right to sleep for their naps and even the dog is snoozing in his favorite spot on the couch. However, upon checking my email, today just got even better when I saw that I was given my first blog award! I'm still so new to the blogging world but have already met so many wonderful people and read a ton of fantastic stories. However, receiving this has really made my day because it means that there really is someone out there reading this... In the first few days of blogging, I wasn't sure that was ever going to happen!

If you haven't ever read Raising My 4 Sons, you've got to head there immediately. If you have... well, still go over for a visit because the stories about these four boys are priceless. Having only girls, I follow this blog with a combination of awe and, well, something along the lines of horror - mustard in the chocolate milk? Gross! Thanks so much, Mama Such, I'm so honored that you gave me this award!

Now for passing some love back into the blogosphere. Here are the rules of this award:
  • This award is bestowed on to blogs that are exceedingly charming.
  • These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends.
  • They are not interested in self-aggrandizement.
  • Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated.
  • Please give more attention to these writers.
  • Deliver this award to six bloggers who must choose six more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.
  • I will pass this award to some of my bloggy friends that I find exceedingly charming...
I have chosen to pass this award to:

Lilith @ Crunchy Green Mom
Nanny Dee @ New England Nanny
Melissa @ Outnumbered 3-to-1
Shelley @ I'm Still Standing
Jackie @ 3 Little Ones
Sarah @ Brea's Mommy

What a hard decision! Thank you to everyone who is following me and for all of your wonderful comments. I wasn't sure if starting a blog was the right thing for me to do but I definitely haven't regretted the decision once.

Now, back to putting my feet up and enjoying the silence around here...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A picnic blast from the past

Back in the spring of 2006, I was pregnant with Big Sister E and went in for my 20-week ultrasound only days before my husband and I left for a vacation with family and friends to San Francisco and Maui. We found out she was going to be a girl and I was overjoyed, ready to shop for little Hawaiian print dresses to bring home in preparation for her arrival. However, when my cell phone rang during the trip and I found my OB on the other end, I knew it couldn't be good news.

One of the hardest things to hear when you're pregnant with your first child is that there might be something wrong with them. It turned out the ultrasound showed one kidney was measuring much larger than the other one and Big Sister E was diagnosed with hydronephrosis, a fancy word for dilation of the kidneys. We were told to wait it out, as most cases end up resolving themselves, so wait we did. In the end, she was one of the unfortunate cases that didn't clear up on its own, so she had to have surgery. Let me tell you, getting your 4-month-old all drugged up and ready with her IV and then handing her over to a med student and watching him walk away towards the OR is completely heart-wrenching.

February 20, 2007

Thankfully, it all turned out fine. Between then and now we've been through a million different tests and scans and appointments to continue monitoring her and they've all had very positive results. In fact, after the checkup we had a few months ago, I was told that they were "graduating" us and Big Sister E was now done being poked and prodded unless we saw reason in the future to check her out again. YEAH, as if I'm volunteering her for more of THAT.

One of the few positive aspects of the whole experience has been the children's hospital picnic that we have gone to every summer for the past three years, including this past weekend. Every child who has been a patient at the hospital is invited to come with their family and play games and eat food and win prizes and, in general, have fun. It's a very humbling experience, as we go and see so many children with so many different abilities and needs and many that have been through difficulties in their lives that I will never begin to understand. I turn and look at my little girl and know that the only lasting effect she will ever have is a 2-inch scar on her lower back. And I know that we are so lucky.
Big Sister E eying up Daddy's snow cone in 1997

How times have changed.

So, we go to have fun. I let her eat a lunch of potato chips and ice cream and snow cones and popcorn and cookies and think to myself that one day of complete junk food doesn't matter. Not when we're there to celebrate children and thank the hospital for all that they have done, not only for us but for kids from all over the state and probably beyond. It reminds me to be thankful and glad that we were able to catch the hydronephrosis early enough and that by having the procedure as a baby, Big Sister E will have no memory of any of her hospital visits or the tests or the surgery and her recovery.

As for Big Sister E at the picnic? She of course enjoyed the food, liked playing some of the games (when kids are standing there with a fake fishing pole in their hands and the line gets draped behind a sheet and then reappears with a small foam cow clothes-pinned to it, are they REALLY believing that they are fishing?) and won a few small prizes. I even managed to talk her into getting within five feet of Scoopie. It was a successful day celebrating the health and wellness of my little girl.

The prized foam cow can be seen here not leaving Big Sister E's clutches. This was taken after about a half hour of on-and-off discussion and multiple failed attempts to go anywhere near Scoopie. When she finally relented and gave him a high five and paused long enough for me to take the picture, I think he was pretty happy about it, too. That, or he was glad to stop being stalked by the crazy mom who was too excited about getting her kid to say hi to an oversize custard cone.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mail Delivery: Purex 3-in-1

While hanging around over at Metropolitan Mama, I managed to win a product that I've heard quite a bit about: Purex Complete 3-in-1 Laundry Sheets and it got me pretty excited to wash some clothes, is that lame? PROBABLY. Oh well. But let me tell you, I do my fair share of laundry. Big Sister E has a thing about changing into some sort of sweatpants for her nap, doubling the amount of pants that are worn in a day, and Little Sister B is a drooling, spitting, pooping machine. Between the two of them and my husband and I, the piles of laundry get quite threatening if I don't keep up with it during the week.

There isn't really anything difficult about using normal laundry detergent or dryer sheets... but there's so much talk about how everyone uses too much detergent (if half the recommended amount of laundry detergent is more than enough to clean clothes then why don't they just RECOMMEND LESS?) and just type "dryer sheets bad" into Google and you'll get 112,000 results as to why you shouldn't use them - they're bad for you, your clothes, your dryer, the environment. It's endless. Me? I just like convenience.

I will fully admit that I was a little skeptical that this one sheet would not only clean my clothes but then go right into the dryer with them. But if I can do anything, it's follow directions (unless they're from Ikea. Those things don't make sense to anyone. The arrows point both forwards and backwards and there aren't actually any words - made so that they can put the same directions pamphlets into boxes that are sold all over the world and just make the entirety of planet Earth equally confused). So I tossed the sheet in the washing machine and gave it a go.

So are these really just that easy?

In a word, yes. I did find that it took me the first few loads to get the hang of how easy it was to use these sheets because I found I would shut the washer door of my front-loader and then just... stand there and stare at it. What was I supposed to do now? Was there something I was forgetting? Same thing happened after I moved the clothes to the dryer. But no, that was it. I relished not only how easy it was but being able to go back to whatever I was doing before without having to wash gooey detergent off of my hands from when I inevitably spill it.

By the time I was done with this weekend's laundry, I was sold. However, the real seal of approval came from Big Sister E while she was helping me fold the clean clothes (helping, in this case, means digging through the clothes until she finds something of interest like a pair of my husband's jeans or Little Sister B's tiny pants and tries to get them on). She picked up one of my husband's grungy t-shirts and put it right up to her nose and took a deep whiff. "Smells good?" I asked. "Clean," she nodded at me.

Once she gets tall enough to reach the dials, I'm totally having her do the laundry for me.

Thanks, Metropolitan Mama, for giving me the chance to finally try these out. And, because Purex didn't want to just send me a coupon and make me have to actually go to the store to try out their products, it was a fairly large box that had to be mailed to me and brought up to my front door. Thanks, Mail Carrier.

(Other than the starter and refill pack of Laundry Sheets that I was lucky enough to win, I was not provided with anything or enticed to do this review in any way but instead just thought they were too handy of a product to not share my opinion)