mom2momdfw
DFW Moms

Disclaimer: I was provided products for the purposes of this review; however, no compensation was received. All comments and thoughts disclosed here are my own. 
We all have grandiose visions of what amazing things we are going to do for our children to be "good parents." One of my biggest goals was to create my own baby food for my son so he would enjoy healthy eating and ate more than chicken nuggets, goldfish and strained peas. 

It's been way too long since I got out there and did a Try-it Fitness Tuesday. I could make all kinds of excuses like I've been sick, I've been busy, etc. but to get to the point: I've been a lazy mama and it's time to get things going again - especially before it's fall and those sweat pants and sweaters make it so much easy to cover up all that blubber.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Netflix.

This summer San Antonio turns into a citywide playground for kids and families with the first-ever Kidcation Week, August 12-18. Kidcation Week provides families a chance to closeout summer with one last jam-packed adventure. Visitors can look forward to exclusive kids programming and events, free entertainment and fantastic deals at hotels, attractions, shops and restaurants.

There's something said for tradition, but there's also said for doing something different - especially when it comes to seeing and experiencing new places. 

While trying to research a few quick, fun, family getaways, I was "lucky" to find Horseshoe Bay Resort in the heart of Texas Hill Country, on the shore of constant-level Lake LBJ.

Named a recipient of Trip Advisor's 2013 Certificate of Excellence, this 7,000 acre resort offers a multitude of amenities including a full-service marina, spa, tennis, golf (like serious golfing here), fun activities such as banana-boat rides on the lake and 8 dining options all in one place. Basically, this place has something for everyone for your family. (Which is great when parents are looking to enjoy their vacation alongside the kids!) 

And right now, this one-of-a-kind resort is gearing up for their all-star Fourth of July weekend with their seventh annual Red, White & Blue BBQ, music, lakeside fun, land and boat parades, fire dancers. a concert by Fastlane (an Eagles Tribute Band) and amazing fireworks over the lake.  

And of course, that's not all, folks! (Cue up the music!) 

Also during the fun-filled weekend, guests will stay busy with family-friendly activities including kids’ banana boat rides, guided fishing tours on Lake LBJ, rubber ducky races, scavenger hunts and more. For a complete list of activities available during the Fourth of July weekend, and throughout the summer, check out the Horseshoe Bay Resort Summer Activity Guide.

Thinking this might be just the plan for you? Here's a great package that makes a getaway what it's supposed to be - a way to getaway that's easy to book and no planning to do! 

Patriotic Fourth of July Family Package
Starting at $429, the Patriotic Fourth of July Family Package includes:
  • Standard accommodations
  • Daily breakfast buffet at Lantana Grill
  • Seventh annual Red, White & Blue BBQ at Yacht Club or Lantana Grill on July 4
  • Fireworks display over Lake LBJ on July 4
  • Pool party on July 5
  • A performance by Fastlane on July 6
  • $100 in resort credit for two nights, $150 in resort credit for three nights
  • One Patriotic Fun Pack for children ages 3-12 ($70 retail value)
  • Complimentary sodas for children ages 3-12
Just use promotional code: HOL to get this special rate

Father’s Day is this weekend and to help you celebrate, Rdio just released a “Dads Who Rock” playlist with 26 songs from some of the hottest daddies in music. An eclectic mix of R&B to old school rock and roll, enjoy some of the best hit tracks from old, new, and soon-to-be dads in this original playlist including Kanye West, Kid Rock and Elvis Presley!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of NETFLIX. However, all the comments here are my own.

Some cleaning habits may actually be making your kitchen dirtier and more harmful for your family.Take a look at these tips for a more healthy and cleaner kitchen.

When I was growing up in Graham (about 90 minutes west of Fort Worth), we always had a drive-in. In fact since 1955, most the time in Graham, there has always been the Graham Drive-in to look forward to on summer nights. You went with your family, you went with your friends and later, most of us probably had a date night under the stars, watching films like Grease, Indiana Jones and many others that I can't seem to remember now in much older years, but meant a lot to me at the time. 

See how my Try-it Tuesday went at the new Pure Barre studio in Arlington.

Every Monday I bring you things on mamachallenge.com that really matter to mom (at least to me!) This morning "Me Monday" took on a whole new meaning because this Monday I (me) was on WFAA's Good Morning Texas making a whole meal in the microwave - and in only 4:30 minutes! Not only was it easy and healthy, but it also was quick so you can spend more time with your family and spend less time cooking in your kitchen!

Being pinned down on the ground is normally not the way I like to workout (at least not most the time). However, when it involves burning up to 600-800 calories, teaching discipline AND spending time with my kids, I can definitely be convinced.

And that’s exactly how I found myself at the Independent Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy in south Arlington. Surrounded by people of all ages, I was able to explore the whole new world of jiu jitsu. Opening its doors last October, the staff (who also work as firemen and other community roles by day) has more than 60 years of combined experience that allow them to focus on not just the sport of jiu jitsu, but also how it can arm women with self-defense skills and help children deal with the ever-growing issue of bullying.

The guy on top? It was his first day and his first class, too.   

With all my recent adventures to find new and exciting ways to exercise like hot yoga, pilatesbarre and spin, I needed to look fab while I looked fit. Thus also began my search for the best sports bra, which actually began as a personal quest to replace an old sports bra I had come to rely on for more than six years. It had "carried" me through a large part of my life - my new boobs after my breast reduction, marriage, several 5Ks, weight loss/weight gain and two kids... And had never let me (or the girls) down. Unfortunately, the wires had shot completely out both sides and I figured since I couldn't read the tag any longer to find a new one, it was time for a new one that could keep me and my girls under control for another six years. I had no idea it was going to be so hard to find a [GOOD] sports bra. 

As a mom that is always on the go, I’ve been known to make some pretty bad choices about food.

"Have you found yourself at McDonald’s with the idea of ordering a yogurt parfait and getting a cheeseburger instead?"

"Ordering Chick-Fil-A for the kids and then eating 3-4 of your own, along with a couple of French fries and a half the cookie before you hand it to them?"

Between running through the drive-in or ordering dinner to go, the crazy schedule that families like mine try to deal with everyday is hard…especially on a mom who needs to lose around 20, 30…well I need to lose some weight!

So you can imagine my surprise when I was told that a COOKIE could make me lose weight. This was definitely a plan for me!

While I could have told you that an Oreo cookie doesn’t make you skinny, I was all for a “magic cookie” (even if it wasn’t an Oreo) that could. Especially if it was made from other busy moms who were facing the same dilemmas I was.
The Magic Cookie was created by Dallas mom/daughter duo Nanci Masso and Faryn Clark. In addition to being successful business women, both are busy moms - Nanci is a mother of five ranging from 40 to 14 years of age and Faryn is a mother of three boys ages 5,3, and 22 months.  Wow…and a few lucrative businesses to boot!)

Dallas mom/daughter duo Nanci Masso and Faryn Clark of Biosanes.
Biosanes, the maker of the “magic cookie,” evolved from more than 25 years of research and development in the nutrition industry. The local Dallas company offers health and weight loss products that are good for the whole family.  The “magic” (as called by Biosanes) is Arabinogalactan, which is 100% soluble fiber derived from the Western Larch tree, has been found to be more powerful than echinacea in its immune enhancing abilities.  What really makes it work like magic is that it encapsulates fat and removes it from the body before it turns into unwanted pounds, supports healthy glucose and cholesterol and aids in digestion.

While some of that went over my head, I understood a couple things very plainly: “remove” and “unwanted pounds.” So l was all about trying these babies out.

So I armed myself with two boxes of cookies, stuck them in some convenient areas in efforts to fend off the times when I start to roll into the drive through…like in between meetings, doing errands, etc. Check out how I faired with this video.

And even more than just being a weight loss supplement, these cookies are also good for maintaining a healthy living by boosting immunity because it meets 1/3 of your daily nutritional needs while supressing hunger. 

I’ll admit I favored the Oatmeal Raisin cookie to the Granola Cranberry and so did my kids:). Many times we shared the cookies to keep us all from eating sugary crap we could be eating.  While I ate the Cranberry cookie, it tasted a lot more like a nutritional supplement than the Oatmeal Raisin recipe. Additionally, I always made sure I had something on my lap as I ate the cookie so it wouldn’t get all over me and the car (the cookie does have a crumbly texture, but was still soft like a cookie should be. Thankfully Biosanes is already working on perfecting that part too!)

If only they would come out with a chocolate chip cookie or an Oreo, I’ll stock up my whole pantry.
     

This week’s challenge to make a BETTER ME was to try a hot yoga at a place I’ve been meaning to attend for way too long. I was so excited to get to finally go…And as I’ll share here, it was oneof the best (and embarrassing) experiences ever. Read on to find out why.

I’ve done yoga in a lot of places for a many years…Don’t be fooled though. I’m not any good at it; I just can’t call myself a beginner anymore (but maybe a beginner II.) Since I was exploring fun ways to lose weight, itwas time to finally take a "hot" yoga class. Lucky for me, they were also running an unlimited yoga for $25 introductory offer, so I signed up. 

The next day, I was so blooming excited; I put on my best yoga outfit and showed up for my 8:45 AM class (6 AM was too early to try something new.) When I arrived I was greeted by my a woman who was friendly and made me feel at ease about my *first time.* It seemed so yoga-riffic!

The room itself was also very warm, apparently more than 9 5degrees warm. The floor was made of cork and felt soft, yet firm on the soles of my bare feet. The interior was simple with clean lines, fixtures and minimal décor. Yet, different than other studios, there were no mirrors. No music and no instructor at the front of the room. 
Oh, this was going to be different.

But I was already in this saddle, so I had to ride it out, no matter what.

The hour and half we spent practicing was amazing. While I had no one in the front to look at for demonstration or a mirror to try to copythe other students in the room, I was able to listen to the instructor on what to do with my body and how. I had to rely, listen and trust myself and my breathing to do each pose. It was kinda magical…(or maybe I was starting to hallucinate?) Eitherway, it was great.  

Did I mention by doing this you lose up to 600 calories an hour?  (Photo courtesy www.theyogaproject.net.)
But then after about 25 minutes of upward-downward dog, warrior 1 & 2 - it happened.

My bliss suddenly turned to embarrassment when I totally ripped one in the quiet classroom with no music and I knew no one. Well, not really ripped one, as passed one, as I would come to find out in my future research.

Lucky me. 
Thankfully, no one in the classroom snickered, so I was able to finish the class. While totally red-faced, I was able to blame it on the heat, so I could escape without making an issue.

Refuge.

When I got home, I went straight to one of my best friends, Google, for answers.

I couldn’t believe what I found!

First, I certainly wasn’t the only woman who ever did the Passed Wind “pose” in class. It actually seemed quite common, especially for women whohave had children. This passing of air happens because of the the loosening of the pelvic floor that happens during pregnancy and childbirth. I even found astory of a pharmacist who would see swarms of women come into his drugstore before a yoga class and consume large amounts of anti-this and-that in hopes to try to keep the “vart” (as AuntYoga described it) from happening.

While this made me feel better at home, I still had to faceup to the challenge: returning to the class that I was so excited and embarrassed to attend again.  

I’ll be happy to report I haven’t had any more embarrassing issueshappen since the first one, but perhaps it looks like I was able to conquer “Passing Wind” for now. I've returned around four times now, upgraded my yoga mat and purchased my first yogitoes

Never heard of a "yogitoes?" I hadn't either, but you better learn. For this class, you're gonna need it. It helps to contain the euphoria and the other pose I'm trying to avoid: the falling on my face.  

The Yoga Project
2745 N Collins St #109, Arlington, TX 76001
817.548.0080
###

Ready to Get Your Fit On with Mamachallenge.com? 

I'm all about trying to get off the weight, but I'm sure you'll agree the idea of being on a treadmill day after day makes it hard to get motivated enough to get your hiney moving beyond all the other things you have to do every day. So in my pursuit of creating a BETTER ME in 2013, I decided to jump off the normal exercise routine and look at some unique options for working off the inches while keeping my interest peaked. 

There's nothing longer than a Woman's Want List. From having the perfect bedroom, to the the coolest outfit or the most popular purse and now as I've rounded over the 30 hill - the latest treatments to make me look and feel more youthful. Most opportunities to talk to other moms on something besides kids are filled with the current diet plan, procedure or plan in hopes to roll back the hands of time.   One of my most recent methods to feel like I was <30 is through B-12 injections with MIC. After hearing from friends that B-12 shots could help lose weight and get a boost of energy, I decided after a Groupon, to go ahead and take a shot (pun intended.)

But how does B-12 affect your body and how does it make you lose weight?  According to the Mayo Clinic, B12 is an essential water-soluable vitamin found in foods like fish, shellfish, meat, eggs and dairy that helps the body make DNA for new cells, form healthy red blood cells and turn food into energy. Bottom line: it helps boost your metabolism. However, before you start storing this stuff by the bottle, the human body stores several years' worth of vitamin B12 in the liver, so deficiency is rare.  Thankfully, Dr. Oz is once again to the rescue with research that says 15-40 percent of Americans don't have adequate levels of B12 for optimal health, hence the current surge in B-12 shots (what's good enough for Oprah, is good enough for America.) But many clinics offering B12 injections also suggest that other benefits include: 
  • Increased energy
  • Boost metabolism
  • Improved skin texture and tone
  • Improved mental cognitition
  • Decreased headaches
  • Improved mood, balanced hormones and decreased symptoms of PMS
  • Reduced stress
  • Boost immune system
  • Encourage detoxification
But let's not forget forget the MIC...According to the Live Well Blog, MIC stands for Methionine, Insolitol and Choline and play a role in fat metabolism, liver function and fat excretion. 

After my learning lesson, I signed up for a six-session series for B12 with MIC in hopes to get things moving along and do what ever I can to remove the fat from my body. While I'm still in process of the injections, I can report that I have seen a fluctuation -10 pounds over the duration of a few months. Unfortunately, a bout of pneumonia, bronchitis and several holidays may have hindered additional progress, but I'll never know exactly. However, I do plan to continue getting additional shots as I work to create a more IMPROVED ME!


Looking for more ways to create a more IMPROVED YOU? Follow MamaChallenge.com for more like:
Get Your Ticket to Ride...Flywheel is Moms' Dream to Nightclub + Fitness

I have a friend who buys a board game every year for Christmas for each member of her family to encourage family time while building a collection that they can share with their family and friends. So this year I totally stole the idea and have decided to take it on for my family. Oh, I didn’t know what I was embarking on in my search for the right game for the right person. There is a huge selection out there, but where do you start? 

Christmas is all about giving. So this Christmas consider not just giving a gift, but making a bigger impact with the gifts that you give. Here’s a great list of how you can make a difference by just buying a gift, creating your holiday cards or just searching for gifts online.

Buying a gift for my hubby (next to my mother) is one of the hardest things to check off my list each year. While I always plan to get him his obligatory sweaters, PJs, etc. I still try to give him something he really wants and can be surprised about. However, that's a lot easier said than done; but this year's Christmas came a little early...when he got the chance to learn to fly. 

Recently, my official family event reviewer (my four-year-old son) and I took a much needed mother-son adventure to travel to the Christmas Capital of the World, Grapevine, Texas for the opening of ICE! at the Gaylord Texan. (Oh, the things we do for prosperity!) Since it was our first experience, we thought we'd give you some tips on how you can have your best first experience at ICE! based on our lessons learned.

TIP #1: Bring Your Hats and Mittens with You to ICE! 
While they have jackets for you to wear to stay warm in the exhibit, there are no pockets and your little hands and ears are going to be very cold. However, take those Texas temps into consideration and dress in layers so you don't sweat on your way there.

During Christmastime, there's nothing like driving through Main Street in Grapevine to put you in the Christmas mood with all the decorated store fronts up and down the street. (And the North Pole Express is an absolute must, but that's another day trip!) 
TIP #2: Make Time to Enjoy Yourself. 
We gave ourselves the afternoon to enjoy the whole experience to the Gaylord, so we took our time driving, talking about the holidays, the exhibit and everything else holiday at the Gaylord Texan. We spent around 3-4 hours for our excursion.
 
Pulling up to the entrance to the Gaylord Texan you can see that they are all about the Christmas details...even before you past the gates. My son was already so excited at this point I wasn't sure he was going to be able to contain himself. 
TIP #3: Parking may be an issue if you are bringing lots of little ones or the stroller. 
If you follow the signs to "ICE Parking" you will be sent to the other side of the hotel to park. There is some Convention Center parking, but it's hard to score. My suggestion, which is what I didn't do, VALET if you can. It will cut your walking time in half. However, remember, your parking cost (a $17 value) is included with your ticket to ICE! 

Here we are with the "big blue jackets" and ready to enter the freezing temperatures of ICE! (FYI, the tent that houses the 2 million pounds of ice is kept at around 12-25 degrees, so get ready for the chill.)
TIP #4: You can take photos at ICE!
However, your camera may react different to the temperatures so take that into consideration. But take into consideration, there are several people going through the exhibit as well and sometime trying to get that perfect picture can back up traffic. Note: if you don't want to deal with photos, you can have your photos taken and purchased at the end of the exhibit. 

The first room you get to includes this great welcome from the sponsors. 

An Oldie (But Goodie): Cabbage Patch Kids Babies

As Texas residents there is a requirement that you own a grill. It’s like an extension of your kitchen and like many things also in Texas – the bigger the better. Thankfully, temperatures here allow you to cook outside ‘round the year except when Mother Nature throws you a loop about half-way through the grilling process.

"O Christmas Cards, O Christmas Cards, 

How will I ever complete you. 

O Christmas Cards, O Christmas Cards, 

O Christmas Cards, O Christmas Cards, 

How will I ever complete you. 

 

It's the last minute, I need you fast, 

Thank goodness this year there's OfficeMax.

O Christmas Cards, O Christmas Cards, 

Now I can complete you."

 

Can you believe we already are talking Christmas cards? While photographs should already have been done (ours aren’t), but to get cards printed, mailed, sent and delivered before the holidays, you should have orders already done. So basically, we are behind already. Super, right?

Paper Culture 

However, you can consider looking at a service to do all the work for you after you select the invite, but can you really afford that? Yes, you can with Paper Culture.

 

With their Mail & Message option, Paper Culture will stuff, address, stamp, and send your cards for free (all you pay is postage). All you have to do is upload your list in a spreadsheet or manually insert in your own online address book. And even better, the company vows it plants a tree with each order and prints everything on 100% post-consumer recycled paper.

And best of all, the holiday designs as well as their general stationary templates are clean, attractive, modern and totally “fridgeworthy” (as DailyCandy says of Paper Culture.) From baby shower invitationsbaby announcementsbar mitzvahbirthday parties and everything in between, Paper Culture has designs that will work perfect for you.


Now instead of thinking about whether can you wait until New Year's to do your cards, download a few photos from Facebook, pop 'em into one of their cute designs, add your name and give 'em your names and address for them to do. You can actually be done in less than hour. 

OfficeMax IMPRESS

 

Did you know your local OfficeMax is not just your place for office supplies, but they also do holiday card printing? Not only are they are cute designs but they are really reasonably priced! (And just to add you can get seals, stamps and more as well!)

 

 

OfficeMax ImPress Print Center is offering a GREAT deal on custom holiday greeting now through December 30, 2012.  At checkout, simply enter “CARDSAVINGS” to get 50% OFF PLUS $50 OFF holiday card orders of $200 or more at www.officemaxphoto.com/holiday-store.html.

 

However, one of you will be the winner of free greeting cards from OfficeMax ImPress from MamaChallenge! All you have to do is register this Rafflecopter (and you even have multiple opportunities to enter) now until November 18, 2012.  

 

 

 

Good Luck!

For more cool options for holiday cards and the giveaway, check out my last post. 

 

DISCLAIMER:

I received one or more of the mentioned products for the sole purpose of this review. No other compensating was given and all opinions expressed are 100 percent my own. (Accordance with FTC's 16 CFR Part 255, "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.") 

We’ve long been fans of everything “train” in our home, but the holidays are like the epicenter of holiday train fun, especially in Tarrant County. So board the MamaChallenge train as we load up for train fun during the holidays. 

Facebook has brought us so many things:  the ability to communicate with long-lost friends, quietly stalk old boyfriends and brag about the cool places you are going to. Actually, I love Facebook and it’s amazing what one website has allowed us to do (or in my case, not do.) And now it’s brought us the easiest shopping experiences possible – via Facebook auction.

8:45 am                Parade registration (for those participating)

9:30 am                Parade lineup (for those participating)

10:00 am              Parade starts toward the Cotton Belt Depot (begins at the corner of Main Street and East Wall)

10:45 am              First Live Butterfly Release

11:15 am              Costume Contest Awards

11:45 am              Second Live Butterfly Release

12:30 pm              Final Butterfly Release


Then while you’re in Grapevine, continue celebrating the season with the 2nd ANNUAL FALL ROUND-UP at Nash Farms. From 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. your whole family can enjoy the outdoors with the following activities:

  • Jump rope making
  • Leather working
  • Blacksmith demonstrations
  • Kitchen gardening
  • Hayrides ($1 per person)
  • Butterfly release
  • Wood carving
  • Cotton picking
  • Farm chores
  • Heritage toys
  • Corn shuck doll making

Sounds like there is a lot to fall for in Grapevine, Texas this weekend!


15th Annual Butterfly Flutterby

Nash Farm’s 2nd Annual Fall Round-Up!

Oct. 20 (times vary)

Grapevine, Texas

Free

 

This weekend is actually shaping up to be all about fall and family. With few opportunities left to enjoy the amazing Texas fall weather, I'm suggesting you get out outdoors and just spend time doing nothing, but enjoying each other.  Here's my roundup of a few events that will entertain your family this weekend in DFW: 

My family recently celebrated my daughter’s first birthday…while it was a day of joy for my daughter; I’ll admit I was sad that after a year, I was still carrying my baby weight (and then some.) While I wish that this post was the miracle way I dropped 20 lbs., at least I can share that I figured out how to drop a dress size… at least for a couple of hours.

Actually after two kids, things on my body don’t look or feel the way they used to (to say the least.) And while I’m working to get things back in order with diet and exercise, there are certainly some areas that need all the help that I can get. During my first pregnancy, I didn't know anything about belly bands or post-pregnancy garments and how they can help get the body put back into place. However, several weeks later, I realized that I needed a little more (or a lot more) help than what the band could do. I needed something that didn't just put my baby weight in place, but helped me in all the other places, too.

So I began the search for something that could do more for me and didn't end up either in my purse at the end of the night or rolled up underneath my bra creating one more extra roll.  I purchased cheap ones, expensive brands, belly bands, full-thigh girdles and even a tank top in hopes to find the ideal solution for making me look like Jennifer Lopez without all the workouts and salmon. While each of them may solve one problem area, I was trading one body issue for another (lovely).

When I was offered the chance to try a new brand, I was anxious to see how I would be mushed up, sucked up, and all the other things that happen when you put on a girdle – or shapewear as they now call it. However, anything could be better than the way things were looking nowadays.

My Wink Belly & Hip Shaper is perfect for post partum weight issues as well as those like myself that are holding on to the baby way after the fact. Unlike other bands (I've tried several), it is longer than the average band, and extends well beyond hip level. It is secured on the bottom and the top with a customary elastic band so it will not ride up when you sit down (I've tried four different ones and this one is the only one that doesn't roll.) This length provides compression at the waist as well as the hips, thereby compressing and shrinking belly and hips up to two sizes. Best of all, with size panels of hook and eye closure on the side, it allows for adjustment and tightening as your size goes down and the fabric allows your skin to breathe, so you aren't sweating underneath that dress you’ve been working to get into for weeks.

   

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I’m not quite Roseanne Connor level, but I do enjoy the costumes, décor and of course, the treats! Now with kids of my own, it’s not just about my costume, but finding the coolest and cutest ones out there. While my 4-year-old knew exactly what he wanted to be (he’s at the Superhero stage in his life), where do you even start when your kiddo is one or you’ve outgrown that witch getup you’ve been sporting since your 20s?

As a proud resident of Arlington, I love when I can attend and recommend worth-while events in my own backyard. After Dark in the Park, Oct. 5 – 7 from 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. is one of them. Designed to create awareness of the River Legacy Living Science Center environmental-education programs, After Dark in the Park is an annual family-friendly fall festival that includes fun family programming from ages 2 – 10 years old. 
It comes at a perfect time of the year when you start burning those pumpkin candles and thinking about the holidays. My favorite part is that the event is just the ideal size to enjoy with a young child without feeling overwhelmed or like you’re missing something. And since entrance includes a hayride shuttle from River Legacy Parks to event entrance, that’s almost worth the experience all together.

Here's an old shot of  my then 2 yr. old enjoying the simple fun of leaves at After Dark in the Park. 

A few pages into this book, I was already crying. Not because I’m a child of divorce, but because as a mother now, I was instantly touched about how a child would feel reading this book and as a parent IF I had to discuss such a difficult issue with my child. While it is sad that divorce is so prevalent in our culture, it is fact that children will be affected when 50 percent of marriages do result in divorce.

Thankfully there is a book on a 3 – 8 year-old level that kids relate to and can help parents communicate and share their feelings about divorce in an easy-to-read format.

A child of a successful “bonus mom” relationship, author Tami Butcher penned My Bonus Mom! Take the Step out of Step Mom to plant a seed in children’s minds that having a stepmother/stepfather can be a bonus with their hearts and minds accept the new relationship in a positive way. Through colorful graphics and rhyme, she’s developed a must-have book for any family affected by divorce and remarriage. 

My Bonus Mom! Take the Step out of Step Mom
By Tami Butcher
Five Star Publications, Inc.
ISBN: 978-1-58985-081-1

DISCLAIMER:
I received one or more of the mentioned products for the sole purpose of this review. No other compensating was given and all opinions expressed are 100 percent my own. (Accordance with FTC's 16 CFR Part 255, "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.")

Autumn is a woman of many likes in this world including food, family, friends and fun. And not necessarily in that order. She can be found here and in other places, but strives to everyday to get a gold star on her own blog, mamachallenge.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

It's always a challenge to stay up on all the things techo and digital, so get your tips with TechTuesdays on mamachallenge.com.

While cooking might not be one of my strongest talents, eating and watching all things food is. My Pinterest board is full of all the things I’ll make in my next life and when the TV’s on…it’s Food Network that makes my heart (and my stomach) skip a beat. 

So when I heard that THE Paula Deen was going to be in Dallas for MetroCooking Dallas…I quickly jumped to see her Southern Highness whip up something and utter her magic twang that could make scrambled eggs sound like the best thing EVER. Speaking of the best thing ever (another Food Network reference), Paula’s not coming empty handed! She’s bringing Iron Chef, Boy Meets Grill, Food Network Star host - we’ll I could go on forever on his list of shows…Bobby Flay. And that’s just for starters.
 
Photo courtesy of MetrocookingDallas.com.          

I try to always give readers a heads up on where they can score free food -- especially when you are paying for kids to eat, too. Worst off, when you are trying to eat healthy it can go to the wayside if you have to take out the whole family. (I mean how can you compete with a Little Ceasar's Pizza at $5 for a large pepperoni!) That's why one of the most heavily downloaded lists is that of all the “kids eat free” restaurants in DFW. But keeping up that list and printing it out to put on the refrigerator may be a thing of the past with a new free website and app.

[This blog is devoted to all things mama -- which means most the time it's stuff about the kids, what to make for dinner and things that are designed to make our lives easier. This month I'm taking the focus off the family and putting it back on #1 (that's you, ladies!) With all the stresses of being a mama, we have a tendency to forget about us...from our looks, our bodies and our minds. So September is all about taking care of yourself and remembering that there are other parts of being a mom...being yourself. (And if you don't remember what that means, then you really need to get ready this month!) So get out a glass of water or wine and enjoy!]
I'm still recovering, but I have to admit it was all worth it in the name of shopping! 

Like many parents, my kiddos birthday parties are a big deal. I enjoy the planning and putting it together and they enjoy the party, so it’s a win-win, except for the paying part. However, for my daughter’s first birthday, I really wanted to make it all about family, especially since ours doesn't live so close. With an August birthday close to Labor Day, we chose the lake as a perfect setting to just take it easy with a retro cherry-themed birthday party, complete with mini-pies, homemade ice cream and a huge helping of family fun…all made possible with a little help from a couple of local friends.

After you've left the hospital and get to take your new darling home, there is a whole new world of acclimation for both you and baby to get into a routine. I basically compare it to when the honeymoon phase is over when you get married, but it is now time for you and baby to figure out: “How are we gonna do this?”

This weekend is tax-free holiday. Remember to buy up your diapers because you know you will need them and read these tips for making your babies look good without breaking the bank.

While spending 14 days in Italy with my husband without my kiddos or a phone sounds like the perfect opportunity to create several beautiful blog posts, I really made myself go on vacation and NOT work.  Being that this was my #1 bucket list item EVER and I had dreamed about it for 20 years (or more), I couldn't even begin to what NOT to write about. So for once in my life, I just inhaled (or ate) everything around me (except for those couple of times I did find a WIFI connection and jumped on Facebook.) From the sounds, the smells, the tastes, the feelings and of course the sights, I just took it all in (and when I was allowed) photographed everything I could. That’s why I have more than 1000 shots ordered from Shutterfly!

Did you know that more babies are born in August than any other month? In celebration of this and the fact that my daughter will turn one this month as well, we’ll be concentrating on all things baby this month. From newborns, toys, equipment must-haves and even trends in baby birthdays, we’ll be focusing on them this August.

Recently my oldest, Jackson, celebrated his 4th birthday just the way he wanted: Angry-Birds style! It was a lot of fun to plan together and I’m sure that everyone had a good time! Jackson was blessed to have many of his best friends at the party and many great gifts from some very thoughtful people. Some of them found some gifts I’d never even heard of, while others had contacted me in advance asking what the birthday boy might want for his birthday. Funny enough we were so immersed in the birthday party, I had to do a little research to find out what things my little man might want for his birthday…

With two kids, a full-time job and a husband in college, free time with my girlfriends is not something I enjoy very often. That’s why it’s important occasionally to make lunch dates (and even little movie dates) with my girlfriends during “working hours.” While normally not near long enough, an hour here and there is good enough to remember that there’s something else besides diapers, dinner and kiddo dilemmas. So the other day when I have a chance to eat at one of my bucket-list restaurants for lunch, the Brownstone in Fort Worth, I was ecstatic.

Nested in Fort Worth’s upscale West 7th district, the Brownstone is an open-space concept designed for everyone including the white-collar worker to a gals’ night out. My friend and I fell somewhere in between with only an hour for lunch, we quickly tried perused the menu. That was the hard choice to make since it was full of many great appetizers, salads and desserts. And with diver scallops, creamy mac n cheese and crawfish, the choice for lunch was going to be a hard one…except when we came across the Executive Menu option. Designed with the lunch hour in mind, it promises a delicious lunch featuring comfort classics like meatloaf and shrimp n grits in addition to the soup, salad and sandwich combos you expect. And best of all, they’ll get your meal and your included drink to you in 30 minutes or less for only $10.

While the Pimento Grilled Cheese, Tomato Bisque and Greens combo made my taste buds happy, it was The Stone Select that made intrigued me, so my girlfriend order the grilled cheese and I ordered the “little bit of everything.” While we waited for our meal, I broke down ordered the Brownstone white sangria, ensemble white wine. Full of summer berries, a light fruity flavor, and just a little tad of bubbly, I could see why this house favorite could be one of mine as well.

Only a few sips down, our meal arrived right on time. Indecisive as I am with food, The Stone Select was an ideal option. The perfectly portioned dish featured Brownstone’s Buffalo Blue Cheese Hummus, Asian Chicken Salad with almond, bacon, spinach, and artichoke dip, salad, crudités and other dippables. I  was was happy to dive in and share all my tasty choices with my girlfriend who also was returning the favor with her grilled cheese/soup combo. Although I don’t know the calorie count, it was a good, shareable meal. The Asian salad spotlighted a tangy and sweet dressing, almonds and bite-size pieces of chicken. The dips were great to share with my friend and the veggies on my plate made me feel better when I indulged with my sangria. My experience ended on a high note when the check came…less than $20 for a meal, apps and a drink and in less than an hour.

In addition to its Executive Lunch, I’d recommend Thursdays for Girls Night at the Brownstone. With $1 bubbly and free appetizers for tables of four or more, it’s sure to become the go-to destination for girls 21-41, looking for a great place to catch up with the girls. And July 18 from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. , the Brownstone becomes the headquarters for our Mom2Mom readers for our Moms Meet & Tweet. Part of a night of West 7th’s Ladies Night Out, not only will you drink bubbly at $1 a pop, get a personal chef demo of crab cakes from the Brownstone’s Christian Lehrmann and tons and tons of prizes, discounts, giveaways and more.

So bring your girlfriends and start your night off with us on July 18 at the Brownstone for a night of fun!

Brownstone
840 Currie Street
Fort Worth, TX
817-332-1555

After two decades of waiting, I’m only a week out from embarking on my dream vacation to Italy. Two glorious weeks in Rome, Sorrrento, Florence, Pisa and Venice with my husband – and totally kid free. While that sounds pretty amazing, I know that two weeks is going to be HARD without my kiddos. Luckily both my amazing mother and my selfless mother-in-law are sharing the load of taking care of the kids while we’re away at their homes. And for that to be successful for everyone, it takes planning and paperwork to make sure the children and our moms are properly prepared with every detail from what foods the kids eat – to  the pediatrician’s number in case an emergency happens (oh, please I hope that doesn’t happen...)

In Texas when you expect to reach 100 degree temps for most of the summer, you should know the importance of sunscreen. Now that I'm not as young as I used to be (and as dumb either when I baked in the sun using Crisco oil as sunscreen), I really appreciate the concept of "be nice to your skin and it will be nice to you." Worst of all with the new ranking of #9 Worst City for Skin in the U.S. by Daily Glow online and two kids with almost translucent skin, sunscreen is a must.

Here's everything you need to create your own Angry Birds Birthday!

There's nothing better than pizza except maybe FREE pizza. On June 5, Dallas-based Pizza Patron will give away 1 full large size pizza when you order your pizza in Spanish from 5 p.m. - 7 p.m. So whether you actually can speak Spanish, they say that "Pizza, por favor!" will be enough to get your pizza. 

If you’ve spent anytime following me, you know I like to eat. Unfortunately, while cooking sounds like it could be fun, time seems to get in the way for my battle to make a meal that’s healthy, quick (like 20 minutes quick) and of course, tasty. So when I got an invitation to attend a cooking class hosted by Wholly Guacamole to get some tips on “dinner dilemmas,” I was quick to RSVP since I need all the help I can get. However, while I am a fan of all things made with guacamole or salsa, I was intrigued to learn how I could make that spread for a week’s worth of dinner hearing the complaints of empty stomachs.

Solve mom's mealtime dilemma with The Mom 100 Cookbook by Cookstr.com Founding Editor Katie Workman. She'll be in North Texas May 24 to sign cookbooks and show her cooking skills at Central Market. See why Chef Bobby Flay says this gal is the solution to the question, "What's for dinner?"

If you're a mom, you love coffee (what mom doesn't) and like to win stuff, you're in luck. Einstein Bros and Krups recognize mom by giving her a chance to keep her caffeine inventory stocked!

May is National Smile Mouth. Check out these free tips to make your pearly whites look whiter instantly, a product that can make your teeth whiter at home and take a look at the future of dentistry + spa!

Rather than scour the planet to try to figure out what you think mom wants for Mother’s Day, I’m going to tell you exactly what to do to get it right this Mother’s Day... Go to Pinterest. You’ll find the motherload (yes, that was the perfect pun!)

To recognize Earth Day, April 22, I felt I needed to do something environmentally impactful. Unfortunately, my time and patience kept me from being the good example I intended to be. Instead I decided it was possible to still be a good patron of Mother Earth by just making a few changes with my family’s everyday that can make tomorrow even better.

With spring time in full swing, I enjoy everything Mother Nature offers like al fresco dining, working in the yard and consuming fresh fruit. Unfortunately, my vegetable intake is not exactly what it should be, although I have very good intentions when I purchase produce for my family. Undoubtedly, I end up throwing some of it away since I can’t always get to cooking something with it before it goes south. It’s a never-ending cycle that many times the cost outweighs my want for fresh vegetables and fruit, and I end up with frozen and canned versions instead (despite the flavor, color and quality.) 

This week many of us saw first-hand what Mother Nature can do in just a few hours.Help those left homeless by donating this Easter season

Losing baby socks are a thing of the past! Toe Blooms are a must-have for moms tired of coming home with just one of baby’s shoes! So cute you don't even have to wear socks.

Diaperpods is the solution for your diaper mess. Vote now to get your hands on these must-have diapers!

f you are interested in learning more about this camera ourbabycamera.com will be at the Dallas Kids Expo, March 24 at Dallas Market Hall. Word is ourbabycamera.com will be offering a special on the camera with installation if you want to pick up yours immediately! While you are there, also make plans to bring the kids for Bob the Builder, bounce houses and other fun entertainment. Mom and dad can also learn about other local DFW resources including other baby products like this. Tickets are $12 at the door and kids 12 and under get in free with a jar of peanut butter for the North Texas Food Bank. For more information about the Dallas Kids Expo, check out their website at www.dallaskidsexpo.com.

Spring brings out the organizing bug in me. I just want to run a well-oiled machine/household. Over the last few days I had begun my list of things I needed to purchase to be more organized when I was received a special invitation to get a sneak peak at the NEW Container Store in Arlington. I really couldn’t get more excited except that profits from sales during Grand Opening Weekend would benefit the local Junior League of Arlington, so it was a done deal that I was going to RSVP to this event. Oh what I did not realize I was going to have to contain myself!

As part of Galleria Dallas' Beauty Live 2012, a three-day event totally devoted to all things beauty, The Body Shop challenged this mom to take care of her skin with a four-week test drive. Did her skin look a wreck when she was done?

In celebration of President’s Day, GreatApps.com is proud to offer "Britannica Kids: U.S. Presidents," for free starting Friday, Feb. 17 through the end of President's Day on Feb. 20. The app teaches young learners an important aspect of U.S. history by taking them on a fun and educational meet and greet with the 44 U.S. Presidents.

Three years ago my newborn was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect, the most common birth defect. Celebrate him and the 1 in 10 kids born every year with CHD for CHD Awareness, Feb. 7-14.

Looking for something sweet to give your honey who loves taking photos? Personalize their picture-taking experience with a mod. camera accessories or win one for them through this review.

New Year’s always brings hope of new habits, new changes and for me (and many other women) – a new (smaller) waistline. See how this mom uses a "YumYum Dish" to help her keep those diet resolutions in check.

This mom got the chance to make her hectic life a little easier by "shaving" off the time it takes to shave by getting a wax

I’ll admit I rarely crave anything fried, but the next time my honey says he is craving something he can eat with ketchup or I want to meet up with friends, I think we found a place that’s perfect for friends, family and fried food at The Grease Monkey and Social House.

Get ready for a smooth beginning in 2012 with FREE WAX Jan. 4 -10 at European Wax Center in Addison.

In addition to the power of "The Elf on the Shelf" (one of the most amazing, money-making tools of all time!), I've employed a few more "tools" this year to not just ensure my kids are on their best bahavior, but that they KNOW that Santa Claus isn't just a myth, but a living legend.

I got the chance to try out the Ipad’s newest competitor, the Motorola Xoom, I was happy to see what “else” another tablet could actually do that an Ipad couldn’t. I mean comparison shopping is always necessary, right? I was pleasantly surprised by the answers.

I don’t know if it seems like there were more holiday events this year or everyone just stepped up their game, but here’s our four must-dos for the holidays this weekend. Yep, our game plan is to try to conquer holiday all in one weekend!

Making the Perfect Christmas Bow with tips from the pros at The Container Store

Are you one of those people who loves to play Farmville on their Facebook? Do you have Angry Birds on your Ipad? Is your idea of exercise pulling out the Wii Fit? Well, folks, that’s not me. Actually, while I am a competitive person and LOVE my techno toys, games (and especially a gaming system), don’t interest me. My husband enjoys them and has many on his phone and computer and my son has a Leapster he received as a gift, but admittedly we don’t have a Wii, a PS, a DS or any other one of those things. However, just like everything with being a parent, sometimes you find yourself reconsidering your thinking. This was especially the case for me after attending a special event at the W Hotel in Dallas called the Games for Girls Summit, which has me wondering now: Can games be a good thing?  

Hosted by an esteemed panel of women including Nicole Armstrong of Activision, Suzanne Kantra of Techilicious, and local hostess with the mostess, Holly Homer of She is Dallas/June Cleaver Nirvana, the Games for Girls Summit was held at the W Hotel in Dallas on November 15. The two-hour event included moms and their kiddos listening to information about games while experiencing the newest kid-centric games on the market. I really enjoyed being able to see the games in action by kids of all ages and since we are a group of moms talking about mom stuff – it was nice to have my kids experience it with me.

 

Although the environment was amazing, it was the facts from a few recent studies by BYU, NCBI and NPD I heard that really made me think.

 

Check these out:

·         42% of kids less than 8 years old have a TV in their room.

My kiddo has always had a TV in his room.

 

·         Today, 91 percent of kids (approximately 64 million) ages 2-17 are gaming in the U.S.

My kiddo has a Leapster and has eight game apps on my Iphone.

 

·         11% of 0-8 years olds have used a smartphone.

He can operate my phone better than I do.

 

·         People who play video games are more creative. Gamers process info faster and by playing a game together, create a social bond sooner with others.

Well, I have to wonder about this one since “creative” is a relative term, but it can’t hurt to add a little creativity to his learning, not to mention the ability to process info quickly. And while social interaction skills are so important at this age, I had always thought that games would make it that much harder, but it seems the opposite is true.

 

·         Gamers spend 80% of their time failing.

This was the one that really seemed to make me reconsider that by playing games like a Wii can really make my kid build perseverance: the age-old lesson, “When you fail, try, try again.”

 

Those stats game me really reeling. Then they brought out the goodies – all the newest and coolest games imaginable including Moshi Monsters: Moshling Zoo, Lalaloopsy, Zoobles, ZhuZhu Babies, Squinkies 2: Adventure Mall Surprize and one of the coolest games I have ever seen - Wappy Dog. The Wappy Dog interacts with the Nintendo DS and vice versa. I have to admit this toy was so cute and I’m really thinking about getting one for my three-year old.

 

All in all, I thought the summit was eye-opening and a real life-changing experience, honestly.  So the next day when I went to Best Buy, I sauntered over to the game section to look at what was out there. I will admit it was a little overwhelming, but at least I made my first step into gaming…and in perfect timing for the holidays (at least for my kids!)

 

Got any suggestions for a non-gaming mom? What’s your favorite system for the kiddos?

Come visit me at: http://www.autumnreo.com for more!

Now that I have two children, Holiday preparation consists of a lot more than just putting up my decorations. It's actually more fun now as I figure out the attire for our family photo for the family Christmas photo. From the sweaters to socks, in a way I never thought I would be, I enjoy trying to put together that one moment when it is ok to make everyone look like "Leave it to Beaver."

The Game Plan: Experience the arts with Shrek: The Musical at Bass Hall

A major part of my parenting strategy is to introduce my kids to the things I like so we can share them together. Of course, this is sometimes a challenge when it’s a fine dining establishment or in this case, an upscale musical performance at Bass Hall in Fort Worth. However, since the show was Shrek: The Musical, I expected that my 3-year-old could enjoy one of his favorite movies as a live feature and my 2-month old (with a full tummy) could snooze while we watched. So we prepared ourselves for the evening’s adventure by following play protocol in nice attire and arrived in enough time to get a good lay of the land (the location of our seats to the bathroom) just before the curtain pull for opening night.

Highlights:  The show begins by introducing the characters and the plotline in a basic way a child could understand and follow. Shrek and Fiona started things off quickly so his interest was piqued early on in the show. The very short Lord Farquaad was a complete riot as he did his entire performance and dance on his knees and kept the crowd clapping as he showed his moves. For us the full-scale dragon, made possible by several puppeteers was the ultimate crowd-pleaser as her eyes glowed and she danced. The puppeteers excellent handiwork, along with all the backdrops, lighting and fog used to create her lair really brought the dragon to life. And of course, just like in the movie, Donkey, Shrek’s trusty and hilarious companion, was a mainstay of the musical and kept the adults entertained with quick quips throughout.

Prepare the team: This is a live performance and was a bit loud sometimes which made things a little uncomfortable for my 3-year old, so perhaps picking aisle seats at the back of hall would make it easier for quick exits like bathroom breaks. Also, because it starts at 7:30 PM and goes until past nine, bathroom breaks are unenviable, but screens outside of the hall allow you to stay tuned to the musical if you need to break before intermission. As always in a public setting, a visit to the bathroom, whether your child warrants it or not at the time is a necessity. And because the musical is much longer than a Dora the Explorer episode, make sure to adjust dinner and sleep time accordingly. (Getting out the Goldfish and bringing their pillow is not permissible, although I saw a few small blankets and that seemed to make the late night easier for the littlest patrons.)

Overall Game: Use the evening as a learning tool and quietly ensure the child understands what is happening throughout the play. Quietly whispering to him about each scene and giving cues when things were funny, he seemed to enjoy it more as we shared it together. However, make sure to explain performance etiquette and that being loud and getting up and down is frowned upon since it interrupts the show and the people around you.  You will also need to bring a little extra money to buy the Shrek ears all the kids were wearing so you can take home a little token of your evening of arts and enrichment. Besides they were really cute and so was Shrek: The Musical that you can check out only at Bass Hall until this Sunday, Nov. 13. The hall is also decorated for the holidays so it's a great place to get a few good photos next to the tree and purchase a few decorations to take home. What a great way to start the holidays and prepare your kids for the upcoming holiday shows like The Nutcracker and the Gaylord Texan’s ICE - Shrek the Halls, which starts Nov. 11 through Jan. 1.

HERE'S A GREAT REMINDER ON HOW TO HAVE A FUN AND SAFE HALLOWEEN!

Tips Courtesy of Smart911

Trick-or-treating with your youngsters
1)      If you’re headed out with a large group make sure there is a buddy system place. A big crowd is fun, but it’s easy for a child to get left behind or mixed in with other groups.
2)      Select a meeting place your child knows, such as your home or a neighbor’s home. Tell your child if you get separated to head right to that meeting place. 
3)      Scout out neighborhoods in your town in advance and find out which ones are well lit and have sidewalks.
4)      Call your local police station in advance to let them know which neighborhoods will be most heavily trafficked with trick-or-treaters; this will get some extra attention on speeding drivers and help increase safety.
5)      Take a digital photo or your kids before you trick-or-treat. While it’s great for the scrapbook, it’s also important to have a recent and detailed description in the event of an emergency. A photo could be critical to helping any emergency efforts. And if you’ve set up a Smart911 Safety Profile, upload a recent photo of your child there as well. 
 
Trick-or-treating safety tips for your teen
1)      If your child doesn’t have their own cell phone, lend them your phone or your spouse’s phone for the night or pick-up a pre-paid cell. Make sure all the important numbers your child would need are easily found (9-1-1, parents and perhaps a neighbor).
2)      If your kids are heading out with friends, make sure you know who they are trick or treating with. Exchange phone numbers with your child’s friends and their parents. In the event of an emergency they will be the first people you probably call. 
3)      If your kids aren’t trick-or-treating in your neighborhood, scope out the neighborhood where they’re headed. Make sure the area looks safe and discuss what streets they plan to target.
4)      Create a timeline, discuss what time your kid plans to head out, where they plan to go and what time they will return home. 
5)      Make sure you know what your child will be dressed as. If they are dressing at friend’s house or pulling together a last minute costume, it’s important to be able to provide a detail description in the event of an emergency.
6)      Set ground rules- number one, make sure your child never enters a person’s house. If they can’t bring the candy out to the door step, walk away.

Don't forget your free food: While you're out - remember, when your kids wear a costume, they eat for free tonight at Dickey's!

About Smart 911

Smart911 is a free service that was recently made available to citizens and families in Cedar Hill, DoSoto and Duncanville. Smart911 is saving lives by providing critical information to 9-1-1 call takers the second a call is made via Safety Profiles that citizens can easily create (even through Facebook) for their entire households. Profiles can include information like any health conditions, allergies, up-to-date photos of family members (which is vital in the case of an Amber Alert), descriptive address, pets, etc., which pop up immediately so the call taker has this life-saving information before the caller even says a word.

Especially on Halloween, having an updated Smart911 Safety Profile for your entire family will ensure that in the event of an emergency, critical data is at the ready for first responders.

This week all things are pointed at Halloween and ours points to Thomas the Tank Engine!

I just figured out 10 days in that it’s already October. I’ve been a little busy so the fall décor in the house consists of two pumpkins (there’s nothing done to them), changing out the summer Scentsy smells for cinnamon and pumpkin and a poorly baked pumpkin bread recipe I got from Pinterest (I’m sure it’s actually good, but maybe had something to do with it.) Strangely enough, as I put up my one other decoration for Halloween, I’ve decided to skip my normal favorite time of house decorating, so I can enjoy it and mentally decorating for Christmas.

Maybe this is because I decided since I was in the closet getting out the Halloween stuff that I went ahead and opened up the Christmas boxes. Maybe it’s because I’m excited to put my kiddos in matching attire for the family photo (yep, the stores have already enticed me to take up on those early sales and get their outfits!) Maybe it’s because if I started this month, I’d actually get it all up by December. Either way, I’ve done a warp through the holidays over this weekend – including my birthday plans and a few others that come somewhere in between the two. For this purpose, I feel like I need to share a few things that have become my top three best new friends/tools for this holiday season.

1.      Loved the Amazon Wish List Toolbar.

Hopefully you already know about this one, but it is one of my favorites (literally, you can find it on my Internet browser in my “favorites” folder.) Anyhow, this is the only way I think everyone should do their shopping.  Basically once you download the “Universal Button” you can save anything you find online to your personal wish list. That list is shareable to others so they can see what you want and where to get it and vice-versa (my husband and I share ours and I also make one for the kids for the grandparents.) It’s a great way to share with your spouse your wants without taking the spoil out of buying it for yourself, putting it under the tree and then putting his name on it. It’s a must.

 

2.      Hooked on the beloved Pinterest.

Once you’ve been on it for five seconds, you will undertand why I think I love this site/app better than Facebook. All I can tell you is if you haven’t been on it, I don’t know if you should – first, because it’s a huge drain on time because it somehow feesl like you are doing something useful when you aren’t and two – because sometimes the site is so overloaded that you can’t get on (“No pins available” is the phrase you will see in high traffic times.) Now from my description you are really confused I’m sure, but in a nutshell, this site is the momma of all good ideas. Back in the day you may have kept a folder or your email a photo or link when you found something you like (a recipe, an outfit or a DIY idea), but never to go back again. With Pinterest, you get the best ideas in one organized place and with the flick of your finger, you can save them and share them. And then the fun begins. Trust me, you will love it, just make sure to keep a timer around to remind you that you can't spend the whole day pinning – we’ll at least you shouldn’t. Come follow me at arredmon!

 

3.      Spent way too much money at T-Hee Greetings. 

        I’m an online shopper. I rarely get out to shop not because I don’t like to, but it’s quicker and easier to do when you have little ones. However, it’s good to check out things in person and when you don’t know what to get someone, then it’s really hard to Google “What to get my my son’s pre-school teacher for the holidays.” So the other day I was invited by a friend to check out the store for a quick moment out of the house, I took her up on it. When I got to the store (there’s actually two in Dallas), I went crazy. The store had so many cute things), there was tons of beautiful stationery (including Vera Wang!) and best of all, most anything could be monogrammed! So of course, I got tons of ideas for gifts from everyone from my girlfriend, my co-workers and I even bought something for my husband. I also got my eyes on these adorable personalized loafers for my daughter which I’m sure will be “her” present for Christmas! Like I said, it’s nice to press “enter” to have things shipped to the house, but wait they do that too. Check out a few of my favorites! In the words of Rachel Zoe: AHHH-MAZING.

 

·       Personalized IPhone Cover

 

 

·       Personalized Pendant

 

·       Personalized Burpee (see photo)! ·       Personalized Loafers (see photo)!

Running a family of four can be just like a game with mom playing umpire, pitcher, catcher and sometimes the bench!

As my little girl celebrates her 1 month birthday, the newness is starting to wear off of being a mom now of 2. We're supposed to be working our way into a "normal" schedule, although somehow she has me feeling like a new mom all over again like I was with my son. It's a repeat of three years ago: again I feel like there's never going to be a way to clean the house, get dinner prepared, get everyone to their appointments and oh yeah, get any amount of work completed! And since I really hadn't got a social life back from my first child, I guess that's the only thing that is going to stay the same. However, somehow, I was able to edge a little time to get something written - but what? To be honest, I've thought about tons of things I wanted to share...but they've never gotten to the computer. And when I am in front of the screen, my brain is mush and is full of only the basics right now: every two hours there's a little person who needs to eat and will expect to have her diaper changed as soon as she wakes up from her multiple naps a day.

As a woman about to give birth (literally, I’m sitting in the hospital bed now), I’m reminded of all the things that people have said to me over the last few days…Things I must tell you shouldn’t really be said to anyone, but someone either people don’t know what to say to pregnant women or don’t know that just because your brain thinks it – doesn’t mean you should let the words come out your mouth.

So in honor of those pregnant women like me and as a helpful reminder for those of you whom you might encounter, here are 10 Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Pregnant Woman (especially when she is about to give birth).  (*Thanks to those friends who have helped put this list together!)

1.       You look like you are about to pop.

2.       You’re still pregnant?

3.       Are you ready to have this baby?

4.       Have you gotten everything done?

5.       Are you having twins?

6.       You ready for all this brings?

7.       Are your feet normally that BIG?

8.       How are you feeling?

9.       It’s not gonna hurt/it’s not gonna be that bad…

10.   "Oh quit yer complaining. What's the big deal? Women have been doing it for thousands of years. Now get finished mowing the yard and bring me a beer!"

I had meant to give explanations to these, but then two things happened: one, I don’t think these need much rationale – just don’t say them. Two, the nurses told me it was time to get off my computer and push.

* Autumn Reo is taking off-season a little longer this year, but tune in for a few weeks once she gets her new team member ready for playing.

Needless to say, there is a HUGE difference in how a mom handles it as a new recruit (from advice and books) and now as a veteran mother. So I'm presenting a new list called “The Ultimate List of Things to at Nine Months Pregnant.”

Recent New Kids on the Block concert brings out the kid in me - especially right before I give birth to mine.

Recently I had the sincere pleasure to put my cake decorating skills to work in the name of charity. Kroger launched its annual “Bringing Hope to the Table” campaign and to start things off they invited some names you might know to have us put a little fun on this great effort for the fifth annual “Bringing Hope to the Table” Cake-Off.

Fast, Frugal & Fun: Quick day trips for the familiy that won't break the bank

A few months ago, we find out we were having a baby. I was very excited and began to consider all the names and nursery designs that I'd like to do.

The best part of the show was definitely the over-the-top number of "Be Our Guest."

Be green and get some black (coffee that is) on April 22 from Starbucks.

After years of attending, promoting and planning thousands of events(mostly in DFW), Mama realized she hadn't experienced everything Dallas. So using recommendations, several lists, and whatever else as a starting point, Mama has stepped up to the challenge to see what makes Dallas - well, simply stated, Dallas. So saddle up and read how "Mama Does Dallas."

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