happy marriage

Connecting with your spouse after kids

Whether you have one child or more, you may have noticed that once you become a parent, it’s difficult to find time to spend with your husband.  Your lives are filled with everything from crying kids and dirty diapers to a houseful of teenagers looking for something to eat.  And when we do have time once the kids are in bed, we are too exhausted to connect!  If you’re like me, I consider myself lucky to have these crazy moments with the kids.  However, it’s easy to lose ourselves as a couple, when we have so many constant distractions.

As we look for ways to connect with our spouse, we should consider that these connects are going to look and feel much different than they did before kids.  Before kids, we were spontaneous and carefree. We could come and go as we please without having to worry about who was (or wasn’t) going to be at our house when we get home. After kids, everything has to be planned out and coordinated and that can take some of fun out of it.  The point is, we need to go with the flow, and take advantage of every opportunity.

No Talking about the Kids!

One of the things that we quickly realized is that when there are moments that we do get alone, what do we talk about?  THE KIDS!  As a young parent, there were so many times that I spent planning a romantic night out (or in) with my husband.  I would look forward to it for weeks, arrange for the kids to have a sitter or go to grandmas.  I would get all dressed up like I did when we were dating and at dinner all we did was talk about is the kids!

After a while, we started to get frustrated with ourselves. During our moments that were intended to be about us, the kids still seemed to be there!   We finally got so tired of it, we implemented a ‘no talking about kid’s policy’ on dates.  Yes, we literally came to agreement that on date nights or planned activities together, we were not allowed to talk about the kids at all!  In the beginning, work-talk was allowed. Eventually we also put a limit on the amount of conversations we have about work.  Honestly, at first, it was extremely difficult; which was really upsetting for me.  But it challenged me to prepare for our dates, and think about what we could talk about outside of those two subjects.

happy marriage

Growing as a Couple

Implementing our rule about not talking about the kids and work on dates forced us to talk about ourselves.  This is important because as we grow as individuals and as parents, it’s important to grow as a couple as well.  I have heard many stories of parents who get divorced once all the kids have left the house, because they no longer know each other.  They spent so much time investing in their kids that they forgot to invest in each other and grow together.

My husband and I have been married for 15 years.  During that 15-year period we have never lived alone, as we were an instant family with my step-daughter who was 6 when we got married.   Having this experience showed us, even as a young married couple, the importance of taking time for each other.  Over our 15-year period there have been times where I feel like I know my husband so well.  Other times, as we both evolve as individuals, I felt as if I didn’t know him at all.  This is completely normal when you are in a relationship for such a long period of time.  The important part is that we take the time to reconnect and get to know each other again.

How we Stay Connected

Staying connected isn’t always easy, especially with kids!  My husband and I have had to get creative about how we spend time together. Through this we have found new ways to have fun together that never would have crossed our minds 5 or 10 years ago.  Creating new experiences together, instead of just doing that same things over and over, help us build new bonds and create new trust in our relationship. Since being married we started hiking, skiing, golfing, learned how to paddle board, etc.

Relationships

We also have started walking to dinner when we have the chance, instead of just driving.  Not only do we get exercise, we get some time to talk.  And, yes, we still have the ‘no talking about kids’ rule.  It’s not strictly enforced these days, however, it’s easy for us to recognize when the kid talk needs to stop and the us talk needs to start!

If you aren’t sure what you can do to spark the connection, think of something you have always wanted to do, but never had the chance. Now, plan to do it with your husband!  Dinners are nice, of course, and you should have those as well.  However, experiencing a new activity together is fun, and it makes you feel like you did when you were dating, and just learning about each other! So if you aren’t doing it now, make sure you are taking the time to spend with your husband.  Try implementing the ‘no talking about kids rule’ during your time together and see how it goes!

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playing sports

How to choose what sports and activities your kids should participate in

Making sure that our kids are active is important to us as a family.  One of the lessons that I have learned through the years is that we should support our kids to be active in what interests them.  Whether that is a ‘main’ stream sport, or an activity that is less common, it’s important that they are able to participate in what makes them happy.

Young children do not know what they are interested in unless you give them the opportunity to try it.  Sometimes, as parents, we tend to lean towards the main stream sports and activities, like soccer, baseball/softball, and basketball.   Or we tend to enroll our kids in activities that we used to participate in because we figure that if we loved it, our kids will too.  While some times this is the case, other times it’s not. It’s important for us to get out of our comfort zone and expose our children to more than just those activities that we are familiar with.

Lessons Learned

My kids do some ‘typical’ sports.  They both play soccer for the local competitive soccer club; my older son actually plays year round, with indoor and outdoor soccer.  They have also participated in basketball, baseball, judo, swimming, golf, bowling, and surfing, just to name a few.  We have given them instruments to play like the piano and guitar and offered to enroll them in lessons.  Some of these activities they enjoyed for a period of time, and some they instantly disliked, while others they like and still participate in.  The exposure to the various activities is an important part of the process of deciding what they truly liked.

Less Common Activities my Kids Love

Karate – At a fairly young age, my son, who is now 13, began expressing an interest in karate.  I knew nothing about karate, but decided that I would look into options in our area.  While it was completely foreign to me as I conducted my research, I found a dojo near our house that we tried. Today he is a brown belt, about 6 months away from earning his first level junior black belt!  Over the years, I have had to educate myself on the art of karate, and still look to my son to help me do that.

 

Hip Hop – It never occurred to me that my 7 year old son would be interested in dancing.  I was not even watching for that to be an opportunity for him.  It took my cousin to point out to me that he had some raw talent that should be focused on; and she isn’t even a dancer! It was that comment that opened my eyes to more possibilities for my kids.  Almost 5 years later, he is till dancing and is noted as being one of the most talented kids in the group.

As they grow…

As our kids get older, they will decide what they like and what they don’t like.  They may also be willing to try some additional sports when they get to junior high and high school.  Personally, we are trying to get our boys to participate in other sports that are not necessarily typical like golf, swimming, wrestling, water polo or tennis.  Not only do we hope that they might enjoy them, but there are also more opportunities for college scholarships because fewer people play them!

What are your thoughts on sports and activities for your kids?  Comment below….

 

Keurig

Keurig – Luxury or Necessity?

Coffee is the beginning of all civilization in my house.  I am not a morning person, so having my coffee and getting it quickly is vital to my survival.  It’s also important for my family’s survival too!  Having a Keurig at my house is not a luxury, it’s a necessity!  

Traditional coffee makers worked, but I need my coffee first thing in the morning.  Even though some traditional coffee makers have the capability to program at night to start brewing in the morning, I would always forget.  In addition, I am not a fan of coffee that has been sitting in a coffee pot, even if only for an hour or so.  It always seems to have a stale flavor.

Being able to get a fresh cup of coffee first thing in the morning, or late in the afternoon is what keeps me going.  My Keurig allows me to have this option, and is one of the many reason’s I love it.



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Slow Summer Schedule

Slow Summer Schedule

During the school year, we are usually so busy that every minute of every day has a plan.  Now that we are in full swing of summer, schedules are so light that its hard to remember what day it is, or what I need to do!  It takes a few days to adjust to the slower pace, but once we do, relaxation mode sets in!

What I have come to learn is that there are some things that just don’t really matter in the summertime!

  • Bedtime – when my kids were younger, they still had bedtimes in the summer. Now that they are older, I have no idea what time they go to bed!
  • Mealtime – Meals are happening, I think…  My kiddos are really in charge of feeding themselves through the day, but they basically eat when they get hungry.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner times are not relevant.
  • Getting dressed – While my kiddos do shower every day, it usually consists of taking off one set of pajamas and putting another set on.  And if they do get dressed, chances are they will be sleeping in them!
  • Sleeping during the day happens regularly
  • Electronics happen!  As much as I’d like to say that my kids aren’t on electronics during the summer, I would be lying!  They are always watching movies, playing games, or on You Tube!

Slow Summer Schedule

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wear the bathing suit

Mom, just wear the bathing suit!

It’s summer time, and as we prepare for 4th of July gatherings, pool parties, vacations and the beach, moms are mostly excited.  But in the back of our minds, lingering, is the thought of the dreaded BATHING SUIT.  That is right, ladies, you aren’t alone.  Statistics show that roughly 90% of women are not happy with their bodies, and I am not ashamed to admit that I am one of them.

Over the years, I have tried many diets and numerous workout systems.  What I have realized that even when I have reached my ‘perfect’ weight, I still wasn’t happy with my body.  I would still pick apart areas thinking ‘I could lose a little more here’, or ‘It would be perfect if it was a little flatter here.’  Then, I realized that it has more to do with my confidence, than my actual body.  As I look back at memories from when I was younger mom, I can vividly recall moments that I was self-conscious about being in a bathing suit.  Those negative thoughts almost drown out the wonderful memories of interacting with my children in those moments.



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iRobot Roomba Review

iRobot Roomba Review

The newest craze in keeping carpets clean, of course is a robot.  The iRobot Roomba, one of the first ‘smart’ vacuums on the market, revolutionized vacuuming.  We have a Roomba, and I do not know how lived without it!  We bought it when it was still pretty new product, and I was skeptical as to whether it would work or not.  It proved, quickly, to be effective when my floors, carpet and tile, were free of dirt, and I wasn’t pushing the vacuum!

Between the adults, kids and dogs, the floor always seem to be dirty.  And I don’t have time, nor do I want to vacuum every day.  With the Roomba, you just set the time for it to run each day and it vacuums on its own.  Then is docks itself to charge for the next day!  It senses the furniture to avoid and where there is heavy dirt and stays in the area for a bit longer.  It also comes with sensors boxes that you can set out if you want to keep it in (or out) of a specific area, you can.

Some Advice from a ‘real’ Roomba Owner

I was worried that our dogs wouldn’t like it, and either bark or be scared, but they don’t pay any attention to it.  They just stay out of the way when it’s running.  It is important, however, to make sure that you pick up loose items on the floor.  Our Roomba has been known to grab socks, thin blankets, stuffed animals and cords on occasion.  And those are not fun to fix.  The only other thing you have to remember is to empty the dirt carriage.

The newer Roomba‘s can now be connected to your phone via wi-fi for scheduling. In addition, they have the Braava jet that can ‘mop’ for you.  I have not tried either of these, as my original Roomba is still running great, even after 3 years!  It’s a little beat up, as you can see in the picture, from getting stuck under the couch occasionally.  However, all in all, it was definitely a good investment and when this one stops working, I will most certainly get a new one!

Sleep Away Camp

Sleep Away Summer Camp

What do you do when one of your kids is at sleep away camp!  PARTY!!!!  No, seriously.  It can be difficult to say good bye and not see them for the week.  I always struggle with the balance of trying to spend time with them before they leave, and letting them know they will be missed, without making feel sad that they are leaving.  The reality of it is, though, is that as soon as they are at camp, they can’t wait for you to go!

Most camps send a list of things that you should send, but just in case, here are a few things that you definitely don’t want to forget about:

  1. Sunscreen
  2. Bug Spray – our son had 96 bug bites last year – yes, we counted!
    • Make sure they know how to apply the sunscreen and bug spray properly
  3. Send a note pad and pen, in case they want to write down important things that happen
  4. A fitted sheet to cover the mattress on the bunk (I always forget this one until I get there!)
  5. A book – some kids need down time away from it all
  6. Towels – I always send 2, one for the shower and one for swimming

Care Packages at Camp

The first year that our son when to camp for a week, I knew that I needed to mail him.  I even contacted the grandparents and aunts and uncles so they could send letters too.  The camp that my son goes to actually allows you to send an email that gets delivered during mail time, which is awesome!  I didn’t know, however, that you are supposed to send a care package too!  My son was so disappointed when all the other kids got a package of goodies, and all he got were letters.  This year, I planned ahead and sent his package before he even left.  A box filled with candy, crackers and cookies to share with his cabin mates!  He’s also getting an unplanned 2nd care package because he forgot to pack socks!  I realized it after we left him at camp.  So I jumped on Amazon Prime and had a six-pack sent to him overnight!

Sleep Away Camp

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Family Vacation

Planning a Family Vacation

Planning a family vacation is exhausting!  After the process of actually planning the vacation, you need the vacation!  It’s been a while since our family has been on a vacation that we actually had to research.  Our trips usually consist of visits with family and skiing in Tahoe where we usually stay at the same place.  Our other vacations don’t take much planning either.  We usually extend an existing trip for work or for our kids sports tournaments ‘since we are already there.’  This summer we decided to take an actual vacation, where we didn’t HAVE to be somewhere already.  When the choice is left open, how do you narrow down where to go, how to get there and where to stay?

Planning a vacation, really comes down to a few things:

  1. How much money are we willing to spend (usually the first decision)?
  2. What do we want to do?  Relax, be adventurous, hang out in the mountains, at a beach or an amusement park?
  3. Determine how the money needs to allocated based on where we want to go – hotel, transportation (car/plane), food, activities while we are there, etc.
  4. Then we have to research!

Travel Website Overload

There are so many travel websites, that it’s hard to know where to start.

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Dinner Delivery

Dinner Delivery Service; Helpful? Maybe.

There are so many prepared dinner delivery options these days; Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Plated, Gobble, and Home Chef to name a few.   I was intrigued by the way they worked and if they would actually be good, so I tried a few!  If you are considering enrolling in one of these programs, you may benefit from this article!

Blue Apron

The first program we enrolled in was Blue Apron.  Blue Apron was the cheapest of the 5 mentioned previously, at $35 a dinner for 4 people.  I love the premise of the program, in that all of the ingredients come pre-measured; you only receive the amount of meat, vegetables and spices that you need for the meal, so you aren’t buying too much and freezing it or trying to figure how to work the rest into another meal.  With Blue Apron, however, it took over an hour to prepare each meal.  Some people might find that fun; I am not one of those.  I was getting frustrated with how long I was in the kitchen.

 

In addition, while there were 4 meals to choose from that you wanted delivered during a particular week, it was difficult to find something that my kids would eat.  Either they liked the meat and not the side dish, or vice versa.  At each meal, at least one of them ended up eating cereal. Sometimes it was both of them!

Dinner Delivery

I will state that my husband and I really like the meals!  My husband would usually take the kids portions that they didn’t eat to work the next day, which worked out well for him!  Also, the dishes typically did look like the pictures.  Below you can see the comparison of the Blackened Cajun Catfish that we prepared.  It’s always nice to know that you are getting a true representation of the meal.

Dinner Delivery         Dinner Delivery

Hello Fresh

After a few months of being in the kitchen much too long with Blue Apron, we switched to Hello Fresh.  These meals were quicker to make with fewer ingredients, which I liked a lot.  There were more options to choose from with Hello Fresh, with 6 dinners each week, but again, they weren’t always meals that my kids were eating, and they were back to eating cereal for dinner on a regular basis.

Dinner Delivery

In addition, Hello Fresh does not offer an option for 2 meals a week, so we signed up for 3.  It was also more expensive than Blue Apron, at around $40 a meal.

Plated, Gobble and Home Chef

I, personally, did not try the options below yet.  I did, however, do a price and dinner option comparison based on my family’s needs.  There are additional options with each of these as well.

Plated offers 2 meals for 4 people with 11 meals to choose from.  This is the largest selection of all the services that I looked into.  It was, however, one of the more expensive ones at $48 a dinner.

Gobble offers 3 meals for 4 people with 8 meals to choose from.  These are 3-step recipes at around $48 a dinner.

Home Chef offers 2 meals for 4 people.  I am not sure how many meals you have to choose from because I had to enter shipping information to see that, and I didn’t want to go that far.  They also advertise that they are 30-minute meals. The price point is around $40 a dinner.

For the record, we do not receive any dinner delivery service at this time.  We ‘took a break’, however, I do foresee that we will sign up again.

Hopefully, my experience and research has been helpful.  I am curious to know if any readers have tried dinner delivery services and what your opinions are.  Leave comments below!

Crab Boil Recipe

Crab Boil, a favorite dish in my house

My husband is an excellent chef, and fortunately, my oldest son loves to cook as well!  This works out well for me, because I really don’t like to cook.  I do, however, LOVE to eat!  One of my favorite dishes that my husband makes is Crab Boil.

While he did not create this recipe, it’s one of our favorites that we have been using for years when we have guests.  We have made a few tweaks to adjust it to our tastes, but the basics are still the same.  Not only does it taste good, it’s fun to eat!  If you are interested in trying this yourself, click the ‘Continue Reading’ link below for the recipe.

Crab Boil Recipe

Click here to download the recipe!

To prepare the Crab Boil, you will need:

  • 1/2 cup Old Bay Seasoning
  • 2 3/4 lb. red potatoes
  • 16 oz. Kielbasa Sausage (I use the turkey one), cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 16 oz. Hot Links, cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 4 ears fresh corn, cut in 1/4th
  • 2 3/4 lbs. of whole crab, broken into pieces
  • 2 1/4 lbs. of fresh shrimp, peeled and de-veined
  • 1 can of beer
  • 4 quarts of water
  • 1 large pot – we use a stock pot because it gives you a little extra room

To cook the Crab Boil, use the following steps:

  1.  Heat a large pot with the water, add the Old Bay Seasoning and bring it to a boil
  2. Add the potatoes and sausage – cook for 10 minutes
  3. Add the corn and crab – cook for 5 minutes
  4. Add the shrimp – cook for 3-4 minutes
  5. Pull the pot off the stove and drain the water, you might want to use a strainer so you don’t lose any of your food down the sink

To serve the Crab Boil:

  1. Lay old newspaper on the table and dump the pot of food out on it
  2. Enjoy!

We usually don’t even use plates to eat it, except for the crab shells and corn cobs for trash.  We sit around the table and eat from the pile of goodness!  It’s a delicious meal and a great conversation piece especially if you are making for someone who has never had it before!

Click here to download the recipe!

Crab Boil