Family Advent Activities

The holiday season is upon us and I’m sure you’re busy prepping to make it special for your loved ones.  This year our family will be utilizing a beautiful Advent calendar that was gifted to us two years ago from my husband’s parents. So, I took to Pinterest and utilized my early childhood background and came up with some fun family traditions to implement this year.

Having a toddler and an infant means that we have to be strategic with our activities.  Doing bigger activities such as bake cookies or watch a Christmas movie have to be planned for the weekend.  Since I am a full time working mom and my wonderful husband works quite a far distance from home, I will be leaving some activities for my mom to do with the kids.

So, here goes.  These are the memories we will be making this year.

Dec. 1- Decorate the Christmas tree.  This will become an annual kick off to the advent season. Such a fun way to go through ornaments and remember the stories behind them.

Dec. 2- Felt Christmas tree (like this one). I’ve done this with my classroom and the kids love it!

Dec. 3- See Santa Claus at the Bountiful Gifts Pancake breakfast to support the Christmas program.

Dec. 4- Color Christmas cards for the troops

Dec. 5- Color melt ornaments with crayons.  Found here. Instead of fish, I am going to cut out stars.

Dec. 6- Snow dough

Dec. 7- Read 3 books at bedtime.  Our daughter LOVES to read and the only time we have to limit books is at bedtime.  Otherwise, we would be reading for hours.  Normally we only read 2 books, so this will be a little treat.

Dec. 8- Make a bird feeder.  We will put this outside the playroom so the kids can watch the birds!

Dec. 9- Watch a Christmas movie

Dec. 10- Special donut breakfast.  My husband and I both have fond memories of visiting a local bakery that makes amazing donuts.  However, our local store closed.  But, alas, I found the original location when I was pregnant.  I stopped once and quickly fell in love again.

Dec. 11- Have hot chocolate

Dec. 12- Applesauce Cinnamon Ornaments. Recipe here

Dec. 13- Ribbon and Bow painting

Dec. 14- Have a special snack after nap

Dec. 15- Do a Christmas puzzle.  This could be hard to find.  So, my plan is to print off Christmas pictures or use book jackets and glue them onto cardboard.  Then use scissors to cut into puzzle pieces.

Dec. 16- Drive around and see Christmas lights

Dec. 17- Make Christmas cookies and deliver them to friends

Dec. 18- Make Christmas pancakes

Dec. 19- Snow paint. I got this idea from our SPARK program, but here is the recipe.

Dec. 20- Make bead candy canes (Awesome fine motor activity)

Dec. 21-Read a book about the birth of Jesus

Dec. 22- Make ice cream cone Christmas trees

Dec. 23- Read The Night Before Christmas

Dec. 24- Attend Christmas Eve mass

I’m looking forward to beginning this tradition and teaching our children to be giving and kind.  I will say that it is important to provide opportunities for children to help others or show love to others throughout the year and not just at Christmas time.  What plans do you have for your family this holiday season?  Or, what is your favorite pastime?





Postpartum Release

It is official! I have been released, well almost two weeks ago, to return back to my fitness journey.  I am 10 lbs. from my pre-pregnancy weight (which was around 35lbs weight gain).  However, I would like to lose 15lbs because I had added a few extra pounds prior to getting pregnant that I was trying to lose, but alas those holiday cakes won’t eat themselves.

Now that I have had the go ahead to return to my normal activity, I am struggling to find time.  Our toddler does not sleep well and of course I am the sole provider of food for the newborn that I am up constantly in the middle of the night.  This makes waking up at the crack of dawn completely unrealistic.  So, what about nap time? Well, this time is used to catch up on cleaning the house, nursing the little one, or quite honestly napping myself.

I don’t want to seem like I am full of excuses, but I’m still trying to figure out life.  I will be returning to work and balancing that as well.  I know I can handle everything, but I give props to every single parent that is doing it alone.  I would be in complete shambles if it weren’t for my husband and both sets of parents.  I love that our families are so involved in our kids lives and that we are able to do lots of things with all of them together.

This means, that I will have support and help from family in my fitness journey.  I know my mom would sign up for any race I would ask her to.  My husband will watch the kids while I head to our basement gym or out in the elements for a workout.  It is nice to have constant support from friends and family on social media as well.  The small validation that what you are working so hard on is paying off really helps to keep one motivated.  I personally believe that is why all the beach body coaches are so successful in their journey!

My plan is to work out 3 days a week for at least 30 minutes.  After all, this seems to be the most recommended practice anyway.  I may have to break my workouts into 2-15 minute sessions, but that is ok with me.  I have to cut back on the sugar and refocus my diet as well.  Although abs can be worked on by doing certain exercises, our food intake is the primary reason we maintain weight in our midsection.   I just have to remind myself that it took 9 months to put on the weight, I can’t expect it to come off in 9 weeks.

In the meantime, be confident, be fit, be you!

Pittsburgh Zoo

A few weeks back, as the weather started to decline, I decided to venture out of the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium.  I had a free pass for 2 adults and 2 children and it expired at the end of the year, so I had to make good use of the tickets.  I twisted my mom’s arm to come with me, seeing how 3 car seats would not fit in my car.  So, we checked the weather and there was going to be a nice 56* day later in the week.

This zoo is not exactly close in proximity to home when venturing with 2- two year olds and a 6 week old.  But we managed.  I hadn’t been to this zoo in probably 10 years (the last time was with two friends from high school).  I remember it being pretty hilly and that the weather was complete crap on the day we were there so we rushed through because most of the animals weren’t out anyway.

Well, my memory should have steered me clear and maybe offered the tickets to someone else.  We had 2 strollers (one with deflated tires) to get together and three kids that needed diaper changes.  We stroll into the zoo and it looks like nothing is open.  Yes, we are visiting out of prime zoo season, but the animals don’t go anywhere and you’re still open, so you should look like it.  I failed to pack an actual lunch and only packed car snacks and the kids were hungry, after all it was almost noon.

We ventured to the little kid area, praying their would be food available close to their play grounds.  No such luck and barely any employees available to ask.  I finally just asked another mom and she pointed me to the complete opposite side of the park for our only food option.  So, off we went as we quickly looked at the animals on our way- these hill were too much to conquer twice when pushing a deflated stroller.

We passed the area where the shark was supposed to be, but apparently they are getting new ones and therefore cleaning the tanks- so nothing to see there.  The polar bear was in his habitat swimming around, but the middle school kids were busy playing on their phones and just sitting right in front of the glass.  It seemed like a good portion of the animals were gone and the habitats were closed for the season.

But alas, we made it to our lunch destination and finally had a good animal experience!  You can sit outside and basically eat with the giraffes!  They are pretty close and quite exciting.  The zebras had zero interest in the humans walking and eating by them.  The giraffes, on the other hand, were hoping to stretch their necks just far enough to snag some little kids lunch.  The tots really enjoyed the dining experience and so we stuck around there for a little while.  Besides, we didn’t know what the rest of the zoo would entail and the daunting drive back didn’t seem as appealing either.

As we continued our animal safari through the zoo, we encountered elephants, ostrich, and a jaguar that was playing with a rather large foam block.  At this point it was getting to be late in the afternoon and we still had a 2.5 hour drive ahead of us.  So, we piled in the car and headed home.  This whole trip took 2.5 hours to drive there, 4 hours to drive home (accident and stopping to change and feed kids), and only 3 hours at the zoo.  Although I love zoo adventures, I think I’ll wait another 10 years before I consider going back to Pittsburgh.

Baby is HERE!

Well, I’ve been out of the blogging world for a little over a month, but I feel like I have a decent reason.  I do not make any money to write this blog, so I am able to take time off to really adjust to becoming a family of four.  The newest addition joined our family on Oct. 4, 2016.  He was born perfect at albs 3oz and 19in. long.  The biggest surprise was the hair, oh the hair.  Our daughter was born bald and really didn’t have any hair until she was 18 months and it came in blonde and tight curls.  Our son was born with straight dark brown hair and lots of it.

As we adjust, I have a lot more respect for parents of toddlers.  The newest addition sleeps well and I’ve only managed to be peed on a handful of times in this first month! Totally feel like I’m winning! On the other hand, there have been a ton of changes for our toddler. We transitioned her to a full size bed, she’s showing signs of wanting to potty train, and her sleeping is absolutely TERRIBLE.  I’m more exhausted from her getting up at insane hours of the morning. Due to her lack of sleep, she whines all-the-time.  Seriously makes me want to pull my hair out.  I can handle normal toddler behavior, the whining I CAN NOT stand.  I’ve really had to learn how to mentally remain calm and try to talk through the emotions with her.  She is a wonderful and insanely polite kid, so I think we can get through this phase of toddler emotions.

Now, onto the workout front.  I basically stopped working out during this pregnancy and ate whatever I wanted.  I gained right around 35lbs and came home from the hospital already down 12.  As I approach 4 weeks postpartum, I have roughly 10lbs. remaining and I have a long way to go to gain my strength and stamina back.  I have started walking and I jogged a nice slow pace for 6 straight minutes.  My goal for this week is to jog 4x this week for 10 minutes straight (or more if I’m feeling enthusiastic).  I will also need to get my food under control.  I am breastfeeding and have a ravenous appetite for anything and everything in my sight.  However, I am going to start with just one piece of this health puzzle at a time.

How is everyone else doing with their goals? What is one thing you want to work on this week to make a happier and healthier you?

Be confident! Be fit! Be you!

PS: I plan to take a progress photo and I may become brave enough to post it on the

Cooking with a toddler

If you’ve ever attempted cooking/baking with a toddler in the kitchen, you know how fun this experience can be! As previously mentioned in the chores post, my toddler loves to help in the kitchen. This past weekend, we explored an even more exciting task, cooking!  I’ve let her explore mixing ingredients like flour and water when she was about 14 months old.  It was, as to be expected, extremely messy and I was cleaning flour out of the grout for months it seemed.  But, she was learning to mix slowly to keep the ingredients in the bowl, she learned you have to keep the bowl on the table so it doesn’t fall over, and she learned that once the ingredients are on the floor you have to clean up the mess.

But, on Friday night she saw daddy take out the mixing bowl and immediately she went to the drawer and pulled out her own whisk.  She wasn’t able to vocalize that she wanted to help mix the ingredients and daddy wasn’t catching her clues.  He hasn’t been in the kitchen when she’s helped “cook” in the past.  After I entered the room again (I’ve hit the part in pregnancy when you go to the bathroom every 10 minutes), I quickly figured out what she was upset about.  I was able to bring in a chair from the dining room, wash up her hands and help her mix the ingredients to make french toast.  This suddenly became a meal made by the entire family!

We were able to count the eggs as daddy cracked them open and dumped them one-by-one into the mixing bowl.  We added in the cinnamon, vanilla, sugar, and dash of milk as she slowly mixed all of the ingredients together.
DSC_0053 - Version 2.jpgAfter she mixed everything together, we let daddy take over and cook the french toast while we put the chair back, washed our hands again, and set the table.  First we counted out 3 forks and she carried those over to the table.  Then, I handed her one plate at a time and she carried that over to the table.  She put a plate at each spot and then put each fork on top of the plate.  I was impressed because I just asked her to carry it to the table.  We enjoyed a wonderful family dinner that we all had a hand in making!

Getting your children into the kitchen at a young age can really teach some valuable skills. Although some cooking tasks can become quite extensive with a toddler in the kitchen, the reality is they want to be there helping.  Find ways that you can bond and extend learning opportunities with tasks you are already doing.  The more we guide them, the more self-relient they will become!  Happy cooking!  I’ll make another post about our experience making banana bread from this weekend as well!

Read to your child!

There have been numerous studies that say if you read to your child, they will do better in school.  However, I have found plenty of other benefits to read to my toddler. The added educational incentive is just icing on the cake.  There are times when I struggle to understand a word she is saying.  She is 2 and can say plenty of words, but as a parent it is hard to compare your child to other children.  So, when I struggle to understand her, but can clearly understand a child the same age repeating everything I say, well it can be discouraging.

But, the point of this post isn’t about my toddler’s speech.  It is about the awesome books we read together.  When I say we read together, she is starting to pick up the words in the story.  Can she read at the age of 2, gosh no.  I am not crazy.  She is remembering the story from the million times we have read it to her over the last 2 years of her life.  But, she will be able to pick up the words faster because of this repetition.

So, here are some of our absolute favorite stories to read throughout the day (because books aren’t just for bedtime).

This story is from Usborne books and you can get a teddy bear to cuddle!

Cuddle bear is a great story about why hugs are important to give.  It shows love and affection in appropriate ways and helps children learn that everyone needs love.  PS. I may be a little bias, but I feel my toddler gives the best hugs!

Absolutely stunning pictures!
Seriously, you need to check out Nancy Tillman’s work

Nancy Tillman is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.  Her stories are extremely powerful for any child or adult.  The key theme for everyone of her books is that you are a valued and loved person on this planet.  You can do amazing things and that no one is exactly like you.  At the end of all of her books she states, “You are loved.”  She is such a powerful author and the pictures are just majestic.  I may be buying this series of books for every child I know and ones that have yet to be born.

Great story to sing and dance!

Pete the Cat was a gift from our toddler’s Godparents.  Being a teacher, she chose a book that her kids were really interested in reading.  Let me tell you, it has been a huge hit at our house as well!  We started reading this book right away and singing our song!  At the time, we were learning how to put our shoes on and take them off.  This book was perfect to sing while we were putting shoes on or picking out shoes to wear for the day.  She now sings and dances while we read and really gets into the “Oh NO!”

No matter what books you enjoy reading with your child, the point is to read.  Spend that quality one on one time with them and allow them to pick out the books.  I should mention the little one has two bookshelves completely full of books and she will always find these books.  So, this week, enjoy a few extra books.  Read while you’re waiting at a restaurant, read as you’re making dinner, read outside (looks like the weather is finally breaking!) under a tree.  Just read!

Home Organization

Some may call it Nesting, others a turning 30 this year need to get my life in order crisis, but I simply call it reality.  It dawned on me a few months back that if my toddler operates best on schedules and routines, then by george, I need to as well.  Those schedules and routines seem to help her remain calm during transitions, realize that play time will come again and that when she helps mommy and daddy things go much smoother.

Like all people attempting to make life changes, I took to the internet.  I scoured Pinterest and YouTube for ideas and tips to better organize my life and schedule.  I found a few people that really make the task of organizing and clean simple and enjoyable.  For those that knew me when I was a preteen, my parents referred to my room as an archeological dig.  You would never find food or plates and cups in my room, but I held onto EVERYTHING. My mom loves to tell the story of the memory holding envelop that simply had my name on it, but I couldn’t tell you anything else about that white letter holder.

After watching and pinning numerous ideas for organization binders, car organizers, and daily household tips, I got to work.  I will make subsequent posts, with pictures, of what I have found to work for me.  My biggest tips (at the current moment):

  • Make your bed as soon as you get out of it in the morning.  I never did this as a kid because I was just going to get back in it and sleep again the next night.  However, having the bed made when I walk into the room makes it seem cleaner and tidier.
  • Never leave dishes in the sink.  If the dishwasher is empty, put them right in.  When it is full, run it.  I unload before I leave for work so that I can reload anything used that day.  I absolutely HATE dishes (there is another fun story my mom would tell) and keeping them out of my sink has really helped my sanity.  For some reason, dirty dishes really stress me out.
  • Keep the car clean.  I’m sure my husband would laugh if he saw I wrote this as a tip.  However, after cleaning out my car a month ago, I don’t think I can go back to having it be a mess.  When I’m at a gas station or when I get home, I take any trash out immediately and throw it away.  Then, I have a bag of supplies for Hailey when we are at restaurants or other places she may need some entertainment.  That stays right under her car seat.  I have a second bag for work materials.  I feel like I live out of my car during the week, just rotating materials for the family programming.  My trunk contains just the essential emergency kit and window scraper for the pesky winter months.

Start with one task at a time and slowly, your life will become more organized and therefore seemingly less stressful!  If you wish to get started on the journey to organization or are looking for more tips, check out these people on YouTube.  They’ve really encouraged me to change my habits!

Clean My Space

Home Organizing

Happy organizing!!!


Yes, my toddler does chores!

First off, my disclaimer.  She does not do things that would be inappropriate and there is no chore chart for her to follow and earn stickers or rewards.  She simply showed a lot of interest in helping out around the house, so we are teaching her ways she can feel important.

At the ripe age of 18 months, the little lady wanted to help with the laundry and dishes.  I knew I should capitalize on this learning experience and teach her the importance of cleaning up after herself.  So, I started by having her help me load the clothes into the washing machine.  She loved being able to close the door, but she wasn’t quite tall enough to turn on the machine (which I was thankful for because, well, buttons).  As for the dishes, I was able to designate her as the tupperware lady.  She would put all of our tupperware away.  This was all plastic pieces that I barely use anymore because I had switched to glass and that is kept higher up out of reach.

As she continued to grow and want to help more, Mimi (or grandma) got a step stool for little lady to use to unload their dishwasher.  Since she is over there while I am at work, they are also teaching her the importance of cleaning up after yourself. She simply puts the dishes on the counter for Mimi to put in the cupboard.  All knives have been removed from the washer before she can accidentally cut herself.

Now, at the age of 2, little miss can help with almost any chore.  She picks up apples at Gamma and Popeyes, she sorts laundry by darks, brights, and whites, she helps wipe down baseboards and sweeps the floors, wipe down coffee table and end tables, and my favorite vacuuming with her own little Dyson! She also wipes her spot at the table with a *clean* wet rag after wiping her hands and her mouth.  The entire time she is helping we are thanking her and praising what a good job she is doing.  We want to continue to encourage her to clean up after herself and help around the house.  I should also mention that she will clean up her toys as we sing one of her favorite Daniel Tiger songs, “Clean up, pick up, put away. Clean up, everyday!”

dyson kids
Dyson! We found ours at Toys R Us! It is parked by mommy’s Dyson in the closet.

Toddlers naturally want to be around mommy and daddy and doing the things they are doing.  So, encourage them and praise them for their efforts no matter what!  Even if you have to go back later and re-wipe or sweep, you are building their self-help skills.  It is important to not “fix” their job until they are no longer in sight.  I’m just hoping she maintains these skills and desires to keep cleaning, because mommy and daddy sure didn’t as they were growing up!

Family Fun! – The Pittsburgh Children’s Museum

A few weeks back our little family of 3 (soon to be 4) took a day trip to the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum.  We went solely for one reason.  I heard there was a Daniel Tiger Exhibit and our toddler is OBSESSED with this show.  As soon as I heard the exhibit was coming within a close enough distance we could drive, I decided to make it a special trip for her 2nd birthday.  She was going to LOVE it!

I wasn’t sure what to expect for the museum, since I hadn’t been there in about 20+ years myself.  My mom loved taking us to museums in the area and I just don’t remember this particular one.  We packed up the toddler and lots of snacks and hit the road early in the morning.  I was hoping to get there early enough to enjoy it before she got too cranky from missing her mid-day nap.

Once we got to the museum and paid for parking, which is kind of pricey at $6 if you also have to purchase tickets; members pay $4 each visit to park.  Luckily we won tickets at a school fundraiser earlier this year. However, you can offset that cost by bringing a packed lunch!

Finally inside and I was absolutely amazed at what they had to offer! Everything was developmentally appropriate for children and encouraged exploration through hands on learning!  I kept telling my husband that if we lived closer, I would be here once a week.  I hope the families in the area use this resource as a wonderful place to play and learn!

There were so many things to do that I didn’t capture them all.  We also didn’t even make it into two rooms because she was ready for a nap.  This museum is absolutely wonderful and can encourage children to learn through numerous hands on experiences.  The staff were friendly and you barely even noticed they were there.  They came in and replaced consumable materials or tidied up certain areas, but for the most part they just let you and your child(ren) explore.

We are definitely planning to go back soon! The Daniel Tiger Exhibit runs through January from what I was told.  I would call to confirm if you want to plan a trip specifically for that! What museums do you and your family enjoy? I’d love some ideas for places to take our family on weekend trips!  Also, if you’ve been to this museum, what was your experience?  I’m going to link the museum website for more information as well!


Wow! It has been F-O-R-E-V-E-R

I can’t believe it has been 6 months since I wrote my last blog post.  I’m slightly ashamed at myself for throwing in the towel so quickly after finding out we were expecting baby #2. I could have used this blog to encourage and inspire other pregnant moms to continue on their workout journeys.  Instead, I became a statistic.  I all but plopped on the couch day in and day out after putting Hailey to bed at 7pm.  I was exhausted and I didn’t think I could do anything else at the time.

After awhile, I figured I couldn’t write a blog post under this domain name because I would be considered a hypocrite or the topic would not be about working out and staying confident.  So, I avoided this website out of embarrassment.  I’m still two months away from having baby #2, and I’m still not working out, but I’m making a change.  I’m going to change this blog just a bit to include topics regarding educational activities I do with my adorable toddler, reviews of places we visit (museums, festivals, etc), how I am changing my hoarding and piling lifestyle for organization and purging, and continue with the health and fitness to get my body back after the green light is given by the OB.

I’m excited to recreate this blog a little and include a wider variety of topics.  I will be excited to rejoin the fitness community as soon as I am cleared, but I can start with simple things that make me feel rejuvenated and refreshed in the mean-time.  Plus, you can experience the crazy world of “nesting” with me as I enter the home stretch of this pregnancy. I may even post a photo of my growing belly… for now I’m just sharing my thumb sucking baby!


Only time will tell what this blog will morph in to.  I hope you continue on this journey with me and enjoy what I have to share.