Our little family

Our little family
Our little family

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Love With Food January Box Review

I recently started researching those subscription boxes online to see what they were all about and if they were worth it. I was mainly looking for one for me and maybe one for my son. (still haven't settled on one for the little guy yet) While doing the research I found some snack boxes. I really liked the idea of getting snacks every month to try, not to mention healthy snacks. I hate wasting money, and I really hate wasting money on new snacks and not liking them. This box (Love With Food) is perfect for that. You receive 6-9 sample snacks each month to try and If you like the item you can go on the Love With Food website and purchase full sizes of them. Win! January was our first box so here is what was inside and our review of the snacks! The other nice thing about this company is for every box purchased a meal is donated to the less fortunate in America (2 meals are donated per deluxe box purchase). I will say the only downside I have to this box is that they charge you on the 1st of every month but do not ship the box until the 10th. Seems a little off to me (my other box charges me the day it ships, as I feel it should be) but so far that is the only downside to me.

*We signed up for the Regular size box. There is a deluxe box that has several more snacks in it for $20 a month. The regular size box seen here runs $12 a month. ($10 if you sign up for long term and not month to month, but you have to pay upfront).

What's in the box: 

*Banana Spilt Baby Mama Drama From Mama's Magic Mix: This is a dry fruit trail mix type snack.  It also has milk chocolate covered graham crackers, peanuts and caramel puffs. SO GOOD! I am not a dried fruit person so at first I wasn't too thrilled about this one..then I opened it and tried it! I'm sold! and at only 210 calories for the whole pack...I can't complain.

*Pretzo Change-O & Original Milk Chocolate Squares from Jer's Chocolates: There were 2 of these in the box and I so wish there were more! These were very tasty. One had pretzels in it with milk chocolate and the other was just milk chocolate. Both very good! I plan to purchase more of these for sure! added plus, its a nice small snack that satisfies that chocolate craving. (i'm snacking on this one as I type this post!)

*Chocolate Chip cookies from Home Free: These were also very good! Not to forget to mention they are gluten free as well as free of peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and dairy...perfect cookies for the kids who have allergies!

*Superfood chews from Loverly candies: These little square chews were good! I believe 3 came in the box. Fruit flavored and about the size of a starburst. Nice alternative to the starbursts candy as well with the real fruit in them they tasted much better!

*Columbia Supremo from Caffe Borsa: This is more of an instant coffee. The packaging is pretty neat, you pop the sides and it sits right over your coffee cup and you pour hot water over it. However, when I went to open the coffee filter to pour the water in, It ripped all the way down the side and the grounds spilled out....made for a good laugh, but not a cup of coffee...smelled great but couldn't taste it based on the ripped packaging..oh well!

*Orange Fruit Bar from Oskri: This was the one thing in the box I just knew I wouldn't like. I was right, but only because i'm not a fan of any of the ingredients...dried oranges, figs, dates and raisins. It is a very dense bar but if you like those things you will probably love the bar. It smelled great, just not my taste.

*Organic Berry Berry Granola Bar from Annie's Homegrown: I really like this company's products but hadn't tried the granola bars yet. This was quite tasty. Only complaint it is was quite chewy as well. Overall good but gets stuck in your teeth easily! It wouldn't be something I would eat on the go, having granola stuck in my teeth while running errands is not my thing ;)

*Lightly Salted Almonds from Blue Diamond Almonds: Love almonds! I have had these before but it was awesome to get a little pack perfect to toss in my purse for while im out and need a snack!

*Multi-Grain Sea Salt Sticks from Hi I'm Skinny: These were very tasty and one of the snacks I plan to purchase off the site. Crispy light "chips" without the bad for you guilt!

Here  is the website I used to research these and several other subscription boxes. This site provides a lot of good information about the boxes and customer reviews to help you decide if they are worth it or not. I also signed up for Julep Maven boxes and will be reviewing them soon as well. (Julep is a beauty/nail polish/nail care box).

Until Next Time...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Must Haves for Baby and Items to Skip

Let me just start by saying the guy behind Babies R Us is a genius! I mean who knew I needed a million baby items for my one child to survive past a year old. News flash, you don't! I know quite a few friends who are expecting this year and are first time moms so I hope that this post is helpful in saving some money and cutting down that "baby goodies list". Here is a list I have put together of the top things I have found most important that I used almost everyday and the items I wish I would have laughed at in the store and walked right past.

*Here is a blog I wrote a while back with a list of some of our favorite items that are not on this list but worth reading and looking into (didn't want to retype or overload anyone on one post).

Must Haves: 

1. Bouncy seat: My kid sat in his swing all of maybe an hour (thank goodness I bought that thing second hand!) but his bouncy seat was an entirely different story. He sat in that thing all the time. While I showered, cooked dinner, ate dinner, whatever I was doing where I couldn't hold him at the moment, or just needed to give my poor arms a break. He slept in it during the day and even for 3 months slept in it at night. He hated laying flat so for a while we let him sleep in the bouncy seat at night until he got on the bigger side for it then bit the bullet and made the transition to his bed/crib. Worth every penny. There are several out there and honestly they are all about the same. We got one that bounced instead of vibrating, he liked that a lot because (I guess) it felt more like us bouncing him. Who knows, but it was worth it to have!

2. Plenty of onesies and burp cloths: again, brand isn't really a big deal but having several of these on hand is a must! For the first few weeks you probably will not go out very often so those "cute" outfits will not be worn, trust me. A onesie and shorts, or pants, or even just the onesie will be the major wardrobe for a while. Babies spit up A LOT so again, have a lot on hand. This goes for burp cloths too. Having several of those around the house are a must. We used the longer Gerber brand and they seemed to hold up well after several washes. Here even 10 months later we still have them and use them as face cloths for Jackson after mealtimes.

3. Breast pump: Even if you are planning on being a stay at home mom and strictly breast feeding, you still want to either purchase one or rent one from your hospital. My personal breast feeding story (another day, another post) was rough and that breast pump came in handy from almost day one. You never know what is going to happen down this road so be prepared just in case pumping is something you need to do.

4. Formula: With that being said about the breast pump I highly suggest having a small can of formula on hand. I know, I know...that goes against EVERYTHING lactation consultants tell you..."if you have it, it will be easier to use", yada yada. Uhm, well I am sure glad I didn't listen....again, its an entirely different blog post (I will share, I promise) but take it from me, don't be up at 2am with nothing but a crying baby, a crying and exhausted you and a confused husband not knowing what to do. Get a can of formula and put it in the pantry...if you never use it then donate it to a women's shelter...if you wind up needed it, well then you're welcome!

5. Diaper Genie: This is a topic of debate for many. For us though we love our diaper genie! Having the bed rooms upstairs made having the genie perfect for night time changes and nap time changes. We still use it now in our new one floor house. Many say it isn't worth it and some think its amazing! We love it and I recommend it, especially if you have 2 floors. The last thing you want is to walk downstairs half asleep or leave a stinky diaper out until morning.

6. Swaddle me or swaddle blankets: The swaddle me brand ones work awesome because if you have a good kicker like we do they can get out of a normal blanket with ease and these have velcro to stay closed. Actually after a while (3-4 months) Jackson worked up the strength to get out of the swaddle me, but at that point it was time to end swaddling. We used the lightweight ones so he wasn't too hot with pj's and the swaddle on. The fleece ones seemed too thick to be comfortable all night long.

Skip items: 

1. Bassinet: Biggest waste of money to date I have seen for a baby! if you can't fit the crib in your room (we couldn't) get a pack n play. Many pack n plays now come with bassinet attachments on them plus you have the pack n play for travel. Best of both for the price of one!

2. Crib bedding: Wait I think I found a runner up for biggest waste of money. Do you know how many items in the crib bedding kit you can use? ONE! yup, the sheet and that is it. So unless you just love to waste money I strongly suggest going to your local superstore and buying about 3-4 sets of crib sheets (trust me you will need several sets) and skip the fancy quilt all together. Bumpers are not even suggested anymore to use so that is out as well. Once Jackson started moving around the crib at night we got one of the mesh bumpers that are suggested to use in the crib. It works great and I have zero worry of his up against it.

3. Changing Table: All you need is the changing pad that goes on those changing tables. You can use the pad on the floor, bed, table, couch...should I go on? Save some money and skip the bulky changing table and just get the pad that slips under the bed when not in use or upright next to the dresser.

4. "Fancy" outfits: As hard as it is, try and limit how many "dressy" outfits you buy. Babies grow quickly! Chances are you are not going to get them in every outfit you buy, regardless of how fancy it may or may not be. A few cute church outfits, or "going out" outfits work just fine and can be cycled through to get your money's worth by wearing a few times. Other than that, those onesies are going to get some serious wear.

I know there are several other things that can be added to this list but I don't want to overwhelm anyone...walking into Babies R Us does enough of that! Please feel free to share your must haves and items you skip for your baby. To all those expecting their first baby or those expecting #2 and so on...congratulations and may your pregnancy, labor and delivery be smooth and enjoy your sweet bundles of joy...they grow up way to fast!!!

Until Next time...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Best places to buy boys clothing

As someone who shops for 7 boys (my son and 6 nephews) I can honestly say I know a thing or two about boys clothing shopping. Personally I am not a fan of the "smocked" boys clothing or that style. Not for me or the little men I shop for and I just don't like it. I am more the basic look and I am a sucker for a little guy in a polo! It is very possible to to find cute boys clothing and at a good price. As boys get older they tend to "beat" up their clothing so finding that good deal becomes very important the older they get. Here is a list of tips and stores that I shop for boys clothing at and the deals they have.

** First and for most the best way to find good deals is to shop off season and obviously shop the sale racks. I try and shop a season ahead for my son and always check the sale racks first. I know that for some it can be hard to shop a season ahead not knowing how your child will grow, and predicting growth spurts is impossible. Here are a couple tips:

*Short sleeve t shirts: In winter you can layer them with a long sleeve shirt under or a jacket over and in summer you can have just the T. That is one of the nice things about the short sleeve T, you don't have to worry about being too small or too big for the season...they can wear them whenever.

*Jeans/pants: Unless it is extremely hot then pants can be worn all year as well. We live in an area that gets VERY hot in the summer so shorts are a must most of the summer but on the cooler days jeans or pants work fine. This is also the case for activewear pants and sweatpants. On days you don't plan on going anywhere sweats are fine indoors in the summer for lounging.

*Don't forget to look online! Many of the best clothing deals can be found online. sign up for email alerts and be sure to check out their sites regularly for deals. Many stores also have apps for smartphones which I like for checking if the item is cheaper online while I am in the store. Some stores will also ship directly to your home for free if the store is out of the size you are looking for.

*Rewards memberships: If you shop the store, join the rewards program! Many of the stores have good rewards deals that send you $ off coupons as you reach higher points values. Make sure to ask if the points expire as well so you know how long you have to accumulate points and use them.  I am not suggesting opening a credit card with a clothing store, no matter how "good" the offer may sound (Never a good idea)!!!

Here are my favorite stores for finding boys clothing at great deals:

Old Navy: Old Navy can have major discounts on their sale racks which give you the best bang for your buck. I have found boy cargo shorts in the toddler section for .50 cents! uhm...YES! I suggest Old Navy for baby through, well men. I have found that Old Navy baby and toddler clothing tends to run larger but the men's clothing runs a little small. So once they reach an older age you can move them to the men's section and still find good deals and find clothing they are willing to wear and like. I have to say I am not a fan or even impressed by Old Navy's pj line. They don't seem to last very long but occasionally you can find them on sale under $5, my suggestion is only buy their pi's on sale and at a low price.

Gap: Let me say first that I am a sucker for Gap's toddler boy line...its adorable, however I only buy items from Gap on sale. Gap regular prices can be quite overpriced for children's clothing they can have some amazing deals. Just this past week they had a 50% off sale on sale items which made children's jeans $10 and some t's $5. To me that is a great deal! However I am not going to pay $35 for a pair of jeans for my 1 year old. $10 yes, but never $35! So be sure to sign up for their email alerts to know when these deals are happening, they normally only last a day or two as well so you have to jump on the deal when it is offered.

The Children's Place: The children's Place does some of the best sale deals I have seen. T's as low as .50 cents and shorts just as low. It can be very hit or miss with this store so unfortunately you have to visit the store on a regular basis to find these good deals and these really low prices are normally only in store. Online has some good prices but never as low as the store. Their regular prices are not bad either and there has yet to be a time they didn't have a coupon code to use. Most codes are for 20-30% off your purchase. I will say they have some great (and cute) pi's for little ones as well. Personally I feel this store is for babies through young children, the "older" children's line doesn't seem very appealing to the age group so I avoid it for my older nephews.

Gymboree/ Crazy 8: Here is another line of clothing that I only buy on sale...very overpriced for kids clothing but they have great sales. Having said that Gymboree has the BEST pajamas I have been able to find for kids. They last quite a while and are very soft. They also have some cute designs. A few times a year Gymboree will have a "jammies" sale (as they call it) and they are $10 a pair. To me this is a perfect price for them and worth it. they run $21 reg price so getting them half off is nice. I tend to stock up on them when they go on sale for the next size up. Like The Children's Place they tend to always have 20% off coupons. Unfortunately their pi's and polo/dress shirts are all I get from there. I don't really like the "cutesy doggie face on the sweater" look and most of their clothing is like that. Crazy 8 is Gymboree's sister company and has a lot better deals on clothing but not as many locations. They do some very good online deals, once again...sign up for email alerts!

Amazon: Amazon is a great place to find dressier clothing at a discounted price. Nautica is one of my favorite boy's clothing brands and a brand that I particularly like when it comes to polos and dress clothing. You can typically find Nautica 3 piece sets (pants, polo or dress shirt, and sweater) for around $25-$30. Not a bad deal. They also have sets with t's, jeans, and a hoodie for $20-$25 (they also have summer sets). The only downside is they don't have them for long. If it is a set you really like, you don't want to wait long to get it and they don't bring the outfit back once they sell out. I have also found Izod and activewear such as Puma and Under Armour on Amazon for great deals.

Target: I use to shop at Target a lot for basic boys clothing. However having moved to a place where the closest Target is almost an hour away, well you get the picture. Target has good clearance deals but like The Children's Place you have to go frequently to find a good deal. Target is best for the basics...undershirts, underwear, socks and basic t's. I tend to find better deals at other stores for jeans, shorts and nicer shirts.

Shoes: Instead of making a store for shoes I just made it a separate subject all together. Shoes can be tricky and it comes down to personal preference. Personally I buy one "good" pair of shoes and then a cheaper second pair. For example Rack Room Shoes does a Buy one get one 50% off deal. This deal works well if you, your husband or older child needs shoes then you can get the toddler shoes for 50% off. (which can make a pair of toddler nike's around $15) plus Rack Room does a 15% off Tuesdays for military deal. Payless is a great place for baby and toddler shoes. I have found summer shoes for $5 at Payless. Considering baby's and most toddlers are not going to ruin shoes before they outgrown them, the cheaper the better. Payless also has regular 20% off deals, which are normally sent via email so be sure to sign up for their alerts.

I hope this list helps for when you are out shopping for boys clothing. I am sure these stores are just as good for girls clothing, but as i mentioned I have no girls to shop for so that's not a section I even go through. Any stores I missed that you find great deals for boys clothing at? I tried to stick to the main stores that most can shop at and have the best deals.

Until Next Time...

Friday, January 10, 2014

Going Back to College With A Baby

As many families are getting back into the swing of a schedule from the holidays my family is doing the same. Relatives have gone home, my husband has returned to work and I am getting ready to start another semester of college. It certainly isn't easy going back to college after a break or even starting college after a period of time, but it can be done, and it can be done without stressing yourself out. Last year I began my degree with Liberty university in Elementary Education. Thankfully LU (Liberty University) is one of the few colleges that has an online program for getting your masters in elementary education. Aside from 3 weeks that I will need to spend on campus, the degree is completely online. Being a military family, moving every couple years, you can't beat that. I also love LU for its Christian beliefs and standards. They also are VERY accommodating to military members and their families, providing tuition discounts, book vouchers and more to help pay for college expense. My husband is also pursuing a degree through LU's online degree programs. We both have no complaints about the college and recommend it to anyone looking for a college to attend, on campus or off.

Being a stay at home mom of an infant and going back to school is tough, no doubt! But with a little organization and planning it can be done, and can be stress free. Here are just a few tips that I have learned help me with college classes while at home with an infant/toddler.

1. Start slow!
      No one said you have to jump in and take 15 credit hours your first semester. My first semester back I took one class at a time (LU does 8 week classes so I was able to take 2 classes per semester). Once you have the feel of how much time you need to devote to each class you can start adding more classes at your own pace. Just remember, the further you get into your study, the harder classes can be and the more demanding they can be. Take your time. I try and take one easier class and one hard class at the same time, that way I can even out my time and I am not working on two hard classes at once.

2. Be Organized/ Plan Ahead!!!
      At the beginning of each semester your instructor/professor will provide you with the ENTIRE syllabus for the class. So you already will know by week one what you have to do the entire semester.  You will know when tests are, you will know when projects are due. There is no need to plan a major outing the day before a test is due (unless you have to) and if you do, the you know to study prior to or carve some extra time out for that test, or that week's work.

3. Use Nap time Wisely!
        I try and use 2 days out of the week to get my course work done. I also try and use nap time during those 2 days to get it done. Jackson normally sleeps 1.5-2 hours at his morning nap, afternoon naps are sketchy so I don't count on those.  If I use 2 days worth of nap times to do course work that still gives me 3 days of nap times to get housework and bills done. and that isn't even counting weekends or evenings when my husband is home to help. I am only counting time when my husband is at work and the baby is sleeping. Obviously the more classes you take the more time you need to devote to course work. But by planning ahead and being organized (step 2) you can easily fit it all in. Baby or toddler doesn't nap? how about that being your toddler's "tv" time for each day or craft time, pinterest has some great easy craft ideas that do not require complete adult supervision. You can let them watch a movie or craft while you write your term paper, or whatever assignment is due.

4. Don't stop until you are done!
      I don't mean finish each assignment in one sitting. That can be nearly impossible. I mean finish your degree once you start. don't take a semester off unless absolutely necessary. Last semester my husband and I had to drop our last class of the semester due to moving. The last three weeks of the class we would have had no Internet and with an online class that is kind of needed! so it was necessary to drop that, but we are picking right back up as soon as classes start this week. We don't take summer break either. Once you take a break it's easy to make an excuse to not finish. Spring, summer and fall you should take classes. Especially if you can't take more than a couple at a time, you can still finish in a reasonable amount of time using your summer semester as well. The hard work will pay off, greatly!! drop down to one at a time in the summer if needed for school age kids being home or to accommodate family vacations, you can still do course work on vacation when the kids go to bed...might not be ideal but having that degree sooner will be nice!

5. Believe in yourself!!
      I'm going to say this is the most important one! if you don't have confidence in yourself to do it, you will not be able to finish. That goes for anything in life really. You need to believe in yourself that you are smart enough for even the toughest math class, or smart enough to write that English paper, or take that speech class (my worst nightmare!). You can do it, just set your goals and reach them one at a time. Decide how many classes you want to take the first 3 semesters and finish that goal, then the next 3 and so on until you have that diploma in hand!

In the end it is very possible to return to school after baby and while baby is still little. If it is something you are thinking about, then do more than just think about it. Start researching schools, call those schools and get the information you need to start...THEN START! Good luck to all those out there going back to school with me and always remember that you can do it!

Here is a link to Liberty University's online school website in case you are curious about their programs of study.

Until Next Time...

Sunday, January 5, 2014

My Christian workout playlist

I love to run. It gives me this rushing feeling of awesomeness (only way to describe it) when I run. Only one problem, I need serious upbeat fast paced music to run to. Other problem, I don't want to listen to trashy music just to have that upbeat fast paced music. I like to use my running time as time with God, its time I have completely alone to spend in thought with my savior, I want music to remind me of that while I am running. I know there are others out there like myself who would love to listen to a christian playlist while they run but amazing grace just isn't gonna help me get through that last half mile where I need that extra helping push. Hey, some people can listen to Rush Limbaugh (my husband) while they run, great for them...but not me! So here for your entertainment and hopefully help in finding some upbeat christian workout tunes is my christian workout playlist.

*I constantly add to my playlist but here is what I have for now. It's 19 songs and covers 72:14 minutes of workout (plenty of time to get a good workout or run in) 

My Christian Workout playlist...

Do Everything: Steven Curtis Champan--3:52min.

Turn Around: Matt Maher--4:13min.

Waiting for Tomorrow: Mandisha--3:17min. 

When Mercy found Me: Rhett Walker Band--3:58min.

I Refuse: Josh Wilson--3:37min.

Stronger: Mandisha-- 3:33min.

Overcomer: Mandisha--3:43min.

Run: Paul Colman Trio--3:55min.

When you give: Mark Schultz--4:34min.

Psalm 112: 4Him--4:50min.

Courageous: Casting Crowns--4:00min.

Lifesong: Casting Crowns--5:17min.

Cover Me: Brothers Keeper--3:51min.

Be Life You: Brothers Keeper--3:42min.

In Christ: Big Daddy Weave--3:52min.

Neighborhoods: Big Daddy Weave--4:33min.

More Beautiful You: Jonny Diaz--3:51min.

Dive: Steven Curtis Chapman-- 4:30min.

Live Out Loud: Steven Curtis Chapman--3:45min.


So what Christian songs would you add to this list? I hope that this playlist can help  you to enjoy some upbeat music while running and listening to some Christ inspiring music. 

Until Next Time...