Archive for August 2017

Off to Preschool Must Haves

August 23, 2017

We're just under two weeks until Jacob starts preschool and I think we've finally rounded up all the things he needs. This was our first time back to school shopping, and even though his list didn't include any traditional school supplies (we pay a supply fee instead) he still had a few things he needed. 

Backpack: Jacob got the Mackenzie backpack from Pottery Barn kids in a size small for his birthday back in June. We've had the Pre-K size for a while now, to carry a change of clothes (and before that diapers and wipes) and it's just not big enough for preschool. We've heard the Pottery Barn bags are sturdy and last a long time. We're hoping this size small will make it through this year and next (for Pre-K) and then we'll upgrade to a large for kindergarten. We looked through all the patterns together and Jacob picked out this cute blue one with puppy dogs. We had his monogram embroidered on there because we've heard it's safer than their name. 

Lunch box: He also got the matching lunch box. We went ahead and put his name on it since he won't be wearing it. (it'll be inside his backpack) We got the classic style and it's the perfect size for a snack container and water bottle, or a bento box with the water bottle in the outside mesh pocket. 

Water bottle: This is the medium size and it holds a good amount of water for the 3 hours that he's going to be at school. It fits perfectly inside the lunch box, or in the mesh pocket on the side. It's easy to open and drink from and doesn't spill. 

Snack container: We grabbed a few of these Sistema divided snack containers, which also fit perfect in the classic lunch box. We plan to fill one side with fruit, veggies, or protein and the other side with a carbohydrate for snack time. 

Labels: We labelled all of his supplies with school labels from Stuck on You. They come in all kinds of cute designs for boys and girls and can be personalized any way you like. I made sure to label both the top and bottom of his snack container and water bottle, lest they get separated some how. 

Sneakers: Recess calls for sturdy, comfy sneakers and these trainers from Skechers fit the bill. I love that they look like they lace up, but actually those laces are stretchy and they velcro at the top. They're easy to get on and off by himself too, so hopefully that will be helpful when Daddy is getting him ready in the morning. 

Vitamins: We're big fans of Olly vitamins. Jacob takes their daily vitamin + probiotic daily, and we alternate their immunity and brain booster ones. This will be Jacob's first time around a lot of other kids in a school setting so we're doing every thing we can to build up that immune system and keep him healthy. Thieves rollers are definitely on our to-do list too!!

The Night Before Preschool: Last, but not least, I picked up this precious book this summer. I always read The Night Before Kindergarten to my new batches of students every August so I was delighted to find a preschool version on the shelf while grocery shopping at Kroger. We plan to read this to Jacob the night before and use it to talk about all the things that may happen the following day, hopefully easing any anxieties he may have. 

What are your preschool essentials?? 

Be Brave & Keep Going

August 21, 2017

First of all a huge thank you to everyone who has walked beside us as we've tried to figure out just what was going on with our sweet boy. What a difficult and confusing road it is to walk the unknown, full of both scary and not so scary possibilities. All of your calls, texts, visits, and literal hand holding have pulled us through this humbling experience. Listening, questioning, and just being with us throughout the last few weeks means more than you'll know. It feels like so much has happened in just a few short weeks. 

So I guess I'll start from the beginning?

Jacob's three year well child check started like all of the ones before it. They asked a bunch of questions about his fine/gross motor and intellectual development. We laughed over him not being sure if he was a boy or a girl. (He finally had it straight by the end of the appointment. "I'm a boy, Emily and Olivia are girls.") He giggled over the nurses flashlight in his ears. I talked with the doctor about tantrums and tv time, snacks and safety. And then the doctor started his list of things to check over. All the things he's checked every visit before. His hip rotations, inside of his ears and throat, etc. and then he turned out the lights to check his eyes. 

Jacob squirmed like crazy every time the flashlight shone on his face and the doctor kept repeating the test over and over. I could tell that something wasn't right. When he turned the lights back on he explained that he was pretty sure one of Jacob's red reflex's was duller than the other and that he was going to refer us to the local pediatric opthalmologist. He handed me a referral, said we would call, leave a message requesting an appointment and it would be a 3 month wait. And then the well check was over. I didn't think much of it since it was all very nonchalant. I started work a few days later and forgot about it. 

A week or so later, as I was getting ready to leave school I came across the referral paper in my planner. I made a mental note to call and make the appointment so that we could start the 3 month wait sooner rather than later, and then on a whim I opened up google. Now I know what they tell you, don't google symptoms, diagnosis, etc. EVER. But I did. And wouldn't you know that the very first thing that popped up under asymmetrical red reflex was retinoblastoma. There it was, in bold letters. Google was telling me there was a good possibility my kid had cancer. No other symptoms, completely undetectable except by a red reflex test and follow up. Rare, but most common in children 3 and under. Treatable by chemo and surgery to remove the tumors. I remember walking to my car as fast as I could, calling up the number on the referral paper and leaving a message requesting an appointment. And then I cried the whole way home. 

We spent the next few days playing phone tag as every time they called back I was working, and by the time I returned the call I got the answering machine again. I asked everyone I interacted with on a daily basis to pray for us, for Jacob's eyes. I held out hope that he was fine, that he was just squirming around too much to get an accurate reading, while feeling as though my heart was preparing for the worst. I laid in bed at night wondering what it would be like if we  ended up needing a lengthy hospital stay. Wondering how Jacob would react to any needed treatments. And just getting down about the whole thing in general. Everyone kept telling me not to worry, that they were sure he was fine, but I just couldn't shake that feeling. What if he was super sick and we had no idea? When I finally got in touch with the specialists they gave me an appointment in 3 months, just like the pediatrician said. As we were about to hang up I asked if they needed to know what the referral paper said and they asked if there was a diagnosis on it. I found the part that said "dx" and read it to him. I heard him gasp lightly and he told me we couldn't wait 3 months, Jacob needed to be seen ASAP. He gave me a new appointment time, early in the morning before they officially open, for the following week. I felt he was validating my fears and I hung up the phone and sobbed. And when another teacher heard me sobbing she came in and she cried too. 

During that week's wait I met up with my bible study girls who gave me a bracelet that read "Be brave and keep going." It's been passed through a few members of the group already as they've faced tough battles of their own. I looked at it over and over that week and reminded myself that no matter what we were going to keep going and we were going to do whatever it took to keep Jacob and his eyes as healthy as possible. Things were busy that week, school started back up along with swimming and soccer. But in the back of my head, those fears were still lurking. I took off  work the morning of his appointment so that we could all go together. I put that bracelet on and dabbed some stress away essential oils on my wrists to try and stay calm while my brain was freaking out. I repeated "Be brave and keep going" to myself over and over as we drove there, feeling like I could barely breathe. We checked in and then we waited. 

When they called us back the nurse first did a basic eye test with Jacob. She covered up his right eye and asked him to name the pictures for her as they decreased in size. House, hand, airplane, heart, over and over as they got smaller and smaller he named them. Then she switched and put the spoon over his left eye and repeated the test. I knew right away this was the problem eye. He squirmed and pushed at the spoon to try and see around it. When the nurse and daddy held him still so that he couldn't move he named all the pictures wrong. Then we waited for the doctor. When he came in he examined Jacob's eyes and said that he had an astigmatism in the left eye and that his two eyes have been seeing at very different levels and competing with each other for some time now. He said Jacob would need glasses to correct his vision and possibly a patch if his vision wasn't better in three months. He also noticed a slight bit of Brown's Syndrome in Jacob's right eye when he held his head straight and had him look at something up high. He had me watch, but I could barely notice it. Since it's not hindering his vision, the doctor said surgery would be unnecessary and that it would get better as he grows. I'm sure the sigh I let out was audible as someone had finally mentioned not needing surgery. Then Jacob was held down while drops were put in his eyes to dilate them. And he SCREAMED. 

Lucky for him blue eyes dilate fast and he got to watch tv and play with puzzles while he waited. When we were called back in Jacob had to be held down again while they held up glasses to his eyes and shone a bright light to figure out his prescription. There was more screaming. A LOT more screaming. When they were finally done they gave him a pair of sunglasses, which he called minion glasses, and sent us on our way. I remember walking out the doors carrying my little boy and feeling the deepest sense of peace. He was super fussy and moody that evening, but we could handle this. Glasses were nothing. Glasses were inevitable eventually since everyone else in the family wears them. We'll take glasses instead of chemo or surgery ANY day. 

I eventually returned to school that afternoon, but not after sending everyone that had been praying for us an update with the good news. The following morning we went to an optical shop and picked out a pair of glasses for Jacob that will arrive just in time for him to start preschool. He's not super excited about wearing them, he kept ripping them off at the shop, so I suspect there will be lots of bribery involved. Only time will tell whether we'll eventually need to patch up the one eye to force the other to work harder. Until then, we'll be brave.... and keep going. 

Back to School Styles for Little Men

August 18, 2017

We've got just a few weeks now until Jacob starts preschool and we've been having so much fun getting ready. He loves to tell us how we're going to "drop him off and say bye" to him. Needless to say he's ready  for all the fun! This will be the only year before he enters our public school system and has to wear a uniform so it's really our only chance to go back to school shopping for clothes. We had to take a few things into consideration, the first being that he will be going to the bathroom all by himself. He's been potty trained for over a year now, but we definitely help a lot with the clothing aspects of it. All of the bottoms here are elastic waist for ease at potty breaks. We've also grabbed some of our favorite underwear from Carters, they just seem to fit him the best and be easiest to get off and on. The second thing that we can count on is that it will be hot well into the fall and even the winter. We've added a few layering pieces for the winter months, but otherwise kept things light. 

This is where I admit to you that once upon a time I didn't think dressing a boy would be any fun. Oh how wrong I was! We also picked up a sturdy Pottery Barn Kids backpack that we're hoping will last a few years, and a new pair of our favorite sneakers since his feet are growing like crazy lately. Here are some of our favorite picks for back to school:

Bring on the Tailgate

August 15, 2017

I know two guys who are VERY excited that it's finally time to start breaking out the football jerseys again. Jacob is finally at the age where he is old enough to start to "get it." (perhaps more so than mommy, which is somewhat embarrassing) Now that he's starting to understand football we figure maybe we can take him along to some games or tailgates this year. 

In anticipation of that, we've started stocking away some necessities. actually has an entire tailgating section! It's really easy to find everything since it's all together in one spot. We ordered two Coleman quad chairs and a 50 quart cooler, but I suspect we'll grab a few more things before football officially starts. All of our items were available for pickup at our local Walmart, the day after we ordered them. 

We'll try to keep things as simple as possible, bringing or ordering easy foods that we know Jacob likes, and keeping plenty of water for him in the cooler since it's notoriously hot well into fall in Florida. The cooler is a perfect size and easy to transport with it's wheels and handle. It's also super sturdy and makes a great seat for a toddler or small child. 

The chairs are super roomy and comfortable and they'll also be great for sitting on the sidelines at Jacob's soccer games this fall. There's plenty of space to comfortably hold a kid in your lap, and they even have a built in cooler on the armrest to keep your drinks cold! 

If you have football traditions with your kids or other tailgate essentials that we need to add to our list, please let me know! I'd love to hear from you!

Jacob's First Sleepover + Checklist

August 11, 2017

Jacob had his first sleepover earlier this month at his grandparents. I know sleepovers are a hot topic in mom groups, and I'm not sure where we fall yet on the sleeping over at a friends house debate. I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. We had a lot of painting to do in our living room and we needed him out of the house and away from the paint fumes to do it. We also got to see a movie while he was away, our first in months! 

He had a grand old time at his grandparents. They made him steak for dinner, which is one of his favorites and let him watch his favorite movie Polar Express. At bedtime he slept in his travel bed that he usually sleeps in for naps at their house. Sometime around 1:00 am he woke up and was a bit out of sorts waking up in a new place and wormed his way into their big bed. From what I hear there was very little sleeping between the hours of 1:00 and 4:00 am, but at 4:00 he decided to go back to his own bed and slept till 7:00. Despite his late night shenanigans he still got a beach trip in the morning, so I'd say he got the better end of the deal here! 

Before he left I made sure to pack up his bag with everything he could possibly need to recreate his sleeping environment at home as much as possible. This was our very first night apart ever! He has a duffel bag from Pottery Barn Kids that was the perfect size to hold everything. In addition to the basics I sent Llama Llama Gram & Grandpa which is about sleeping over at grandparents for the first time. It was the perfect bedtime story for the occasion. 

As  excited as we were for a night off, and to get all our painting done, we were just as excited to pick him up the next day. Our house sure is quiet when he isn't in it! Each new milestone we pass is bittersweet. He's growing all too fast! 

Starting our Gallery Wall + Printable

August 9, 2017

The past few weekends we finally started to tackle our living room, a project I've been itching to start for years. The first step was to paint the whole area white, to try and brighten up our not so bright townhome. The nature of the beast with a town home is that you are only getting light on two sides.... not my favorite thing as a lover of light. When we go searching for our next house, good natural light will be the number one thing I look for! Give me all the windows and sky lights!!! 

Painting took us an entire weekend while Jacob slept over at his grandparents (more about that soon) because we are novice painters. This was actually Dan's first time painting ever! We got better as we went and the second coat was MUCH easier and faster than the first. The following weekend we swapped out our TV stand for a wood one and began to collect (and make!) artwork and plan out where we wanted it. I decided to take a page book from Young House Love and add our frames directly around the TV to help the it not stick out like a sore thumb so much. 

We cut newspaper to the size of each frame and used painters tape to hang them until we found an arrangement that looked good. Then we marked where the nail holes should go and hung them up. It wasn't perfect right away, we moved some stuff around before landing on our final arrangement. I used a mix of frames, but made sure to put the black and gold ones on opposite sides to balance each other out. We kept the spacing between the frames as consistent as possible to make the variety of frames look intentional. The gold frame has a mat that is white, while the others are off white, so I may try to switch that mat out down the road to match better. Now... on to the art!! 

On the left side are two pieces that I made my self. The first is a branch with oranges and orange blossom. I made it with clip art I purchased on ETSY to represent our life here in Florida. The black frame holds a print that reads "then there were 3" representing our little family. 

Directly above the TV is a photograph taken by a Michigan photographer of Pine Trees. (Purchased from Minted) It reminds me of my grandparents house in Northern Michigan and every time I see it I think of our first ever vacation with Jacob when we took him on an airplane for the first time and flew up to Michigan. We stayed at the lake up in the woods for a few nights and Jacob slept longer through the night than ever before. We were all amazed at what some lake air can do!! 

On the right side is a watercolor painting I purchased off ETSY. The sea turtle reminds us of our many beach trips, and all of our beach vacations to Sanibel, Anna Maria, and the Keys. Our beaches are no stranger to nesting sea turtles and we often see roped off nests when we take beach trips. On our Sanibel trip we got to watch scientist observing and digging up a hatched nest. They found several live turtles still inside! 

The last print is another one that I made. It contains lyrics from the Jenny Lewis song "Barking at the Moon." The song is on the soundtrack of Jacob's favorite movie BOLT, and I love the sentiment of it. 

We're in love with the final result that is balanced visually, brings some color to our walls, and is so meaningful to our little family! I'm already dreaming up seasonal changes and pinning holiday printable to swap out for all the upcoming holidays! 

If you'd like a free copy of the Barking at the Moon printable I made, just click on it below! It's formatted to 8x10. 

Here's a handy pin if you'd like to save it for later!

10 Easy School Night Meals

August 4, 2017

This is it. The last weekend of summer. Can you hear my tears? They're falling like rain I tell you. Life gets real interesting when our house has two parents working plus little man and all his activities. During the week my one goal is to get dinner on the table as quickly as possible. The reason is two fold: 1. I'm exhausted from teaching all day, and 2. the sooner we eat dinner the sooner we start our bath and bedtime routine. Here are some of our tried and true weeknight dinners. The ones that are quick, easy, and for the most part cheap. They don't take much prep, or they can be prepped the night before. 

1. Spaghetti // I make a simple meat sauce (beef and garlic browned in a pan. drain. add in a jar of past sauce and a cup of grated parmesan) and serve over noodles with garlic toast (butter bread. sprinkle on parmesan and garlic salt. broil until golden) and call it a night. If I plan ahead I make a big batch of Nonna's meatballs on the weekend and freeze them. Then I can just defrost what we need and add those on top. 

2. Pulled Pork // THIS is my favorite pulled pork recipe. I marinate it the night before and then toss everything in the crock pot in the morning. I also make up the salsa the night before. All I have to do when I get home from work is boil a pot of rice and shred the pork. 

3. Flank Steak // another easy crock pot recipe. Toss it all in the crock pot and you're done. Serve over rice or shredded cauliflower or even mashed potatoes. Recipe HERE.

4. Sheet Pan Fajitas // I recently discovered THIS recipe for fajitas and it could not be easier. Everything cooks on one pan and you can use steak, chicken or shrimp. 

5. Breakfast // always a winner at our house. Little man eats breakfast food better than anything else. I will mix up some pancakes or waffles (from a box mix) and then fry up some eggs and bacon to go with it. 

6. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup // a classic. If I know the day is going to be super hectic I'll assemble the sandwiches the night before and keep them in the fridge until I'm ready to put them in the pan. 

7. Baked Meat + Veggie // I'll pop some chicken or pork chops or steak in a pan with some salt, pepper, and maybe garlic powder and then pull a bag of veggies from the freezer and cook them in the microwave. If I'm feeling extra fancy I'll cook some steak fries or sweet potato fries to go with. 

8. Sausage Bake // slice turkey sausage thin, add some diced potato and sliced pepper and toss with a few tablespoons of olive oil and some salt, pepper, garlic powder and any other seasonings. Then I lay it all out flat on a pan and bake at 350 until everything is getting nice and golden. 

9. Quiche // THIS is my favorite quiche recipe and I love to assemble them on the weekend and then bake before freezing, so that all I have to do during the week is defrost in the fridge during the day and then reheat that night. 

10. Chicken Salad Sliders // We pick up premade chicken salad either at Publix or Aldi and spread it on mini hamburger sliders for a fun change from hamburgers. We usually serve with some chips and fruit. 

And of course when things get really crazy we'll pop in a frozen pizza or a skillet bag (Jacob loves Bertolli Chicken Alfredo) or run through the drive through at Chick-fil-a, it's all about balance! What are your favorite quick and easy meals?