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30 Jul 2015

Three Years-How Far You Have Come

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You can say the alphabet, count to 20 and spell your name.

  
You can wear flippy flops.

  
You are our first official beach baby. No one else has loved the beach this much.

  
You are a very happy baby. All the time.  You run every chance you get. You laugh. You smile.

  
You have a brother and sisters who adore you.

  
You let me take one million pictures of you.

In short three years, you have become a huge part of this family that would not be complete without you here. The baby of the house forever you’ll be, but you’re the queen of our hearts too. 

26 Jul 2015

What it feels like to be Little

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“One more time!”
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22 Jul 2015

An Experiment: Two Kids vs. Four Kids

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It’s 7:45 and I’m still in bed. The house is quiet. Too quiet. I’m down a few kidstoday because my Bigs- the oldest two- flew to Grandma’s house for a few weeks.

  
 I’m not gonna lie. I feel like I’m on vacation too. 

  
I have good kids, but I just don’t realize how much work they are until someone else steps into help, which isn’t often because of the distance (physical) we have between family. Of course I can pay my VERY qualified sitters to help, but sometimes I NEED the help to save my sanity. It’s work. No joke.
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21 Jun 2015

You Didn’t Have To. But You Did.

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You didn’t have show me how to play baseball. You didn’t have to show me how to work a protractor that first day we met. You didn’t have to help my Mom with us. But you did.

Someone knew that we should probably meet you before things got tough.  You stepped in. You stepped up. But you didn’t have to. 

You didn’t have to help our Mom through what I can only imagine was the toughest time she’ll ever remember. But you stayed. You didn’t have to promise to love not only her but the two little girls who she’d never abandon. They came as a package and you promised to love and cherish them all. 

  
You didn’t have to raise me to work hard. You didn’t have to teach me to be polite. You didn’t have to help buy me a car. You didn’t have to throw me birthday parties, take us on vacations and be at every major milestone that I can ever remember. You didn’t have to make my childhood as normal (and awesome) as I remember it. But you did (and it was.)

  
You didn’t have to pay for my Catholic school. You didn’t have to give us a house with a pool. You didn’t have to help my Mom parent a stubborn teenager. You didn’t have to help me with college. But you did.

  
You didn’t have to let your family become my family. I didn’t have to call you Dad. But I did because that’s who you are. Biological or not. A Dad is that person who raises you and loves you to the ends of the Earth.  They would lay down their life for their child and they do it because they love their children. We are your girls. And you are our Dad. And we make a family.

  
My Dad walked me down the isle. My Dad came to the hospital four times to meet his grandchildren. My Dad comes to play with his grandchildren. He adores those children to the ends of the Earth. And they do the same. 

My Dad raised me into the person I am today. If it wasn’t for you, my life would not be the same. You didn’t have stick around. But I’m so glad you did.

Love you Dad.

This post is dedicated to all the parents raising kids. You make their memories and they will remember.

19 Jun 2015

Gun Safety on Dateline NBC My Kid Would Never Do That

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Watch the show preview here! 

Back in March, I had the opportunity to educate Shelby, my 5 year old, with some gun safety training done at the University of South Florida. 

The kids received a form of training and then were put to the test. So what do you think your kid would do? Have they had training? Do you have guns in the home? Do you talk with your kids about what they should do if they ever come across a gun?

See what the Today Show had to say before the episode airs. 

The opportunity presented itself for me and Shelby to learn about what to do if she was ever in a situation. As a parent, I wanted to learn what we should do and how we could teach our other kids too. Would she know what to do after the training? Would I as a parent, have done everything in my power to educate my daughter (or children) to do the right thing? 

  
She is my child and my job as a parent is to protect and educate. Giving her all the tools and knowledge she can be armed with to know how to handle the situation herself…when I’m not there.

The Sunday night episodes in June are all filmed with Natalie Morales and are about finding out how we can educate our children to do the right thing. My kid would never do that… Right….

Education is key. In every situation. These segments will give you the tools to talk with your kids about hot button topics that should be discussed. Before it’s too late. Watch the shows. Talk about the topics. It’s really as simple as a conversation.
I can’t tell you what happened. But I will comment about it after the show, so stay tuned. So tune in to watch on Sunday, June 21 on NBC. 

28 May 2015

Let Summer Reading Begin!

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Read. Read. Read.

Get kids reading by engaging their interest! What do they like?

Get a jump on next year with Battle of the Book books!

Battle of the Books

27 May 2015

5 Baby Phases That I’m So Glad Are Finally Over

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I might not have the fancy title I once dreamed of in my younger years, but I am relishing in the sweet success that I have found in my small slice of life. Finally realizing that success does not always come in the forms of money or fame, I realize that it’s in finally reaching those milestones I never thought I’d see. The ones that at some point, seemed so unattainable and so far out of my reach. But tonight I’m going to sleep with a smile on my face because finally, I am here. And oh what a journey it has been.

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1. We are finally out of diapers. Officially. We finally can start saving money because someone finally decided to use the toilet like a civilized human being. Finally. You all must know how good this feels. She was a stubborn one to break, but it finally has happened.

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2. I can finally leave the room and no one cares. I can finally leave the house and no one cares. The baby, in particular, was usually the only one who NEVER wanted me to leave, which was flattering and annoying all at the same time. But we are turning the corner on three and she’s finally realizing that I come back. And that she usually will have more fun with someone else. Finally.

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3. She finally just plays. She doesn’t need me to entertain her. She’s content where being around the big kids. She’s just happy to be playing. I can finally sit and watch. Finally.

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4. She finally eats real food. She’s slightly picky, but some adults are too. But I’m finally not packing an entire refrigerator hoping that she’ll eat something I brought. She’ll finally just eat what we have or what we order for her. Finally, she’s turning into one of “the kids.”

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5. She’s finally not a baby. It’s hard for me to swallow this last finally. My baby is finally not a baby anymore. It’s a punch to the gut that I’m just not ready to take. All the things that make her a baby: diapers, naps, bottles, binkies , blankets and all those wretched big baby toys … Gone. Done. Over. Finished. And for so long, that was all I wanted. She blends right in with the rest if the crew. But now that’s it’s finally happening, I’m finally starting to realize that it’s really over. And as per usual, when most things finally come to an end, you want them to start all over. Because you realize you really didn’t want it to end.

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16 May 2015

Kids on Vacation: Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse (Daytona Beach Florida)

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The tallest lighthouse in Florida and built in 1887 hold 203 steps to the top and is just as majestic as it looks in person.

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Just a short drive South from Daytona Beach, this was a highlight of our trip to this coast.

We climbed, yes everyone, to the top and here’s what we saw:

And it was so worth the climb, as most things are. The big kids learned a little about Florida history and my 5 year old learned to never give up. I would say it was a good day.

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We were hosted by Visit Florida and Visit Daytona Beach to explore with kids. All opinions are my own. More about what we did when we visited can be found on Trekaroo.com.

09 May 2015

Right Where I Belong

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What an amazing night at the CARES Foundation Gala. I have never been so moved, so connected and so touched by this community of people that, honestly, many of whom I’ve never met but I feel like we’ve been down the same roads together and know that they understand what I’ve been through.

I met Mothers and Fathers who know what I we have been through. Kids who know what my kids have gone through and doctors who know what I do everyday to keep my kids healthy.

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My husband introduced me tonight on stage. When your husband introduces you in front of 200 people and you are left with no words before you go on stage to give your speech, you thank the universe for him and know that you are right where you belong.

I gave my speech which was taken directly from this blog. I added in a part about being a chosen parent. We are chosen parents who give everything of ourselves so our children will live the very best lives. We were chosen to be their parents because He knew that we were the best ones for this job.

Tonight my kids got to meet kids that share so much of what they go through with other kids that know the road too. I introduced Shelby to a little boy and said that he takes medicine too. She said she had just got her blood drawn and he said he had too. They need to know that as rare as this condition is, they are not alone and that they have us, family, friends, and the ENTIRE CARES community behind them.

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There is no place else I’d rather be than with these people. They make me know that I am right where I belong,

Thank you to the CARES Foundation and to the entire community of people who gave, came or supported this foundation that has done so much for our family and the lives of others with CAH. It means more than you will ever know. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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07 May 2015

How to Save Money With Kids During the Summer

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There are approximately 75 days during the summer that the kids will be looking for things to do. While it would be great to visit Disney everyday during the summer and stay at fancy hotels, you might have to watch your wallet a little to get thorough the summer. For me, 4 kids in one week of summer camp could run me well over $1,000.

Here’s a few tips on how we will be saving money this summer!

Camps

The most popular word in the summer can also make you see lots of dollar signs if your not careful. Unfortunately, I cannot afford camps for my three older children every week this summer and then a sitter on top of that for the baby. But yes, they are fun and I do want my kids to have the experience. Here’s what we do:

If you can, plan early. Camps offer big discounts early in the season, which add up if you’ll do multiple kids camps during the summer.

Look into experience camps. These are camps that you just can’t do every week. The one off week is a treat and an experience for them at the same time.

Sports camps can be expensive too. Again, check into the “once a summer” experience camp but also look into the City of Tampa recreation camps! Great camps with great prices! The Girl Scouts of West Central Florida have great summer camps and won’t break the bank either! (Our favorite experience sports camp is the Tampa Yankees Baseball Camp).

Amusement Parks

Take advantage of special offers. Many have weekday only passes or deals throughout the summer, so plan accordingly to save money on the experience.

Museums & Aquariums

If you think you might be going one time a week, or your child might really enjoy going more often, then look into an annual pass which might be a better option and save you money in the long run.

Field Trips with Friends

Plan a field trip with friends. It’s always fun if you go with friends to some of these places and they will definitely make the park or beach (both free places) so much more fun.

Tampa Tip: Hit up Cypress Beach in Westshore for a perfect park and beach without having to drive to St.Pete or Clearwater just for the morning. But if you are spending the day, then Pass-A-Grille or Clearwater are my favorite. Don’t forget to save money by packing a lunch and snacks!

Movies

Movies are so much fun during the summer, but can be costly for families. During the summer, many movie theaters will offer cheap (no new releases) movies in the morning. Save money by having snacks before you go or having lunch right afterwards. Make the movies an experience by visiting a different kind of theatre. Visit the Funland Drive-In (Tampa) and do the movies old school under the stars in your car! The kids will get a kick out of it! Buying your tickets online via Fandango will also save you money this summer when you hit the theaters for the new summer movies that will come out by buying early and avoiding the lines!

How to Part-Time Work During The Summer

Summer child care is always an issue and is something that will add up quickly! Maybe you work part-time and can be creative with your schedule. Instead of driving all over Tampa for three different summer camps, and then paying a babysitter on top of that only to get maybe two hours of work in before I have to pick them up, I like to think smarter. I have two different approaches: I get up early (and sometimes out to Starbucks) so I can work in the morning. I have a sitter come first thing in the morning and then I’m home by 10 with four hours of work under my belt and a day to spend with the kids.

Or the Kids ‘ Swap where you take mine one day, I’ll take yours the next also is a money saver too.

Keeping Them Busy

Think up a “Summer Project” based around something that interests them! “I’m bored!” Probably the two most uttered words you’ll hear this summer from kids while your home. I like to have ideas ready for when this happens. Last summer I came up 75 free things to do in the summer and many were things we could do at home. Ideas include:

Have a yard sale will get them motivated to help you clean the house!

Start a garden will have them want to get dirty outside and help you do lawn and yard maintenance.

Wash the car and cool off.

Have a lemonade stand.

Cooking

Take the time to get the kids in the kitchen. Let them help. Make things from scratch. This is a great time to cook from the garden you planted. Visit an market and take a full day to make something they helped prepare.

Kids are ready to be entertained but that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank to do so. They might even become an entrepreneur while doing a few of these things!

Keeping Up School Skills

I know it’s the summer, but I’m always worrying about loosing momentum when the summer strikes. My Kindergardener just started reading and you can’t just stop. We will be biking up to our local library and making a morning of it! It’s fun and free to hit up the library and many will have programs all summer for the kids. And we’ll even get some exercise on the way there!

Other ideas: Start a journal Download some new educational apps or games on your Amazon Kindle. Print out some free worksheets just to get the brain going.

Plan It Out

Slow Down. We’ve been going non-stop for almost 9 months. We are going to try and slow down but slowing down doesn’t change the fact that I will have four kids looking at me for things to do everyday this summer. You just have to be one step ahead of them…most of the time.