Friday, August 30, 2013

Health & Fitness Friday Gets a Makeover

Before I begin today's Health & Fitness Friday post, I just want to say


to everyone who took the time to comment and link-up last week. Deciding not to run the half marathon this year was a big decision and it was so nice to have all of my buddies support me. And that's why I've decided to keep Health & Fitness Fridays going...I would miss you all too much :-)

But it's obvious that if this link-up is going to continue, it needs a little makeover. Flying by the seat of my pants each week is NOT producing fun or inspirational material. In fact, when I go back and read over some of my posts from the last 6 months, it reads like "Confessions of a YoYo Dieter". One week I'm all, "Yay! I've lost 5 pounds" and the next I'm all, "Damn camping food! I'm up 5 pounds!!" All I could think the whole time I was reading them was NO ONE CARES JEN! And seriously...if I read the words "get back on track" one more time...I was going to lose my shit. How have you guys put up with me for so long? Ha!

My posts from last year were so different though. I had so much enthusiasm and excitement. I was training for my first half marathon, I was discovering yoga and cross training, I was trying to eat cleaner and make more meals for my family. I was making all these big changes and trying new things and those posts were fun to read. I loved sharing new recipes, workouts and inspiration and that's honestly what I feel like I need to get back to. This link-up can't just be about the stupid 5 pounds I keep gaining and losing and can't all just be about running. To be TRULY healthy and fit means having a strong


And that, my friends, is what I think this link-up needs to be about. Finding balance in our crazy lives, making time for all the things that are important to us and make us happy and healthy. I found this great post over at Healthy Chicks about living a "nourished life" and it was a fantastic reminder to...

This should be our goal every single day and I think it's the perfect format for our weekly link-up. I want us all to focus every Friday on what we:


This will be the place to share recipes and meal ideas and perhaps set a goal for ourselves each week. For example, my goal this week is to make a fresh breakfast for the kids each day before school. I need to break our Eggo Waffle addiction :-)


This will be the place to share new workouts, set goals and focus on being active. It's also the place to talk about anything the we DO to nourish our soul...even if it means skipping a workout to walk around the mall with your mom or ignoring the piles of laundry to go ride bikes with your kids :-)


This will be the place to share inspiration and focus only on positive and encouraging thoughts. I don't want to spend any more time focusing on all the ways I "failed" each week, because sadly my failures make up quite a bit of my H&FF posts in the past. We will not beat ourselves up for eating cake. We will not beat ourselves up for skipping a workout {or four} and we will CERTAINLY not beat ourselves up over the number on the scale or the size clothes we wear. You know all those fabulous quotes we pin on Pinterest each week? They can go here and hopefully inspire others to think the same way :-)

So what do you guys think of this set-up?!! Your feedback has already helped so much...I just want to make sure this is something you can all get behind and have fun with. I can already see this won't help my Pinterest addiction...but oh well. I am really looking forward to it!!

Thank you all again for being so awesome :-)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

100 Days to Christmas Review and NEW Christmas Printables

It's hard to even think about Christmas when it is still 90 degrees outside, but because I LIVE for this holiday, I've already been anxiously awaiting the release of the 2013 edition of 100 Days to Christmas ebook!

100 Days to Christmas 2013 eBook

For three years now, I have had the privilege of reviewing 100 Days to Christmas and it has quickly become one of my most favorite holiday traditions. I am a sucker for anything that claims to help keep me organized, especially during the busy holiday season, but this book is so much more than that!! One day I will be making a productive list of all my Christmas card recipients for "Address Roundup", and the next day I'll be out picking apples with my kids for "Apple of My Eye" day. This ebook is the perfect blend of fun and functionality. I can honestly say that my past few holiday seasons would not have been as peaceful or enjoyable if it had not been for the wonderful tips and inspiration that this book provides.

And for all of you I-Dont-Think-About-Christmas-Until-After-Thanksgiving types...please don't let the title of the book fool you. It may force you to think about your wrapping supplies and Christmas card pictures a little earlier than you are used to, but it also makes sure to not leave out a single holiday from September - December. There will be plenty of time to bake pies out of the apples you pick, take an afternoon drive to check out the changing leaves, visit a pumpkin patch and prepare for all those trick-or-treaters. This book will also help you plan for your Thanksgiving feast and remind you to pop some popcorn and enjoy a family viewing of Charlie Brown.

Perhaps my favorite thing about this book is the inspiration it provides to start new family traditions. In October, we are inspired to "Establish a Tradition of Giving". This may be something your family already does during the holidays, but if you are like me, it is nice to have that reminder to start thinking about it ahead of time. Choose the organizations you want to work with, start saving those pennies or collecting items for donation and most importantly...spend some time thinking about something that is meaningful to your family and make it your new tradition. For us, we donate toys to sick kids in the hospital and support at least one needy family from the community through the Salvation Army. The kids also participated in Operation Christmas Child through school last year and that was so exciting for them. These events are also a part of our Advent Activities Calendar, which is another tradition inspired by 100 Days to Christmas.

You see friends...this is why this book is so genius. You can take a good old To-Do list and turn it into a meaningful holiday tradition! We've been doing an Advent Activities Calendar for 3 years now and the kids love sitting down to talk about all the things we want to do. This year's ebook comes with 31 printables from ListPlanIt, including an Advent Activities Calendar that you can print at home or view on your mobile phone or tablet. I have actually enjoyed hanging our Advent Activities Calendar on our fridge, so I made a fancier version of this list to coordinate with my own Christmas Binder Printables.

If you like fancy, I've got 6 great printables for your holiday binder, including the NEW Menu Planner and Christmas Budget Log. You can download all of them here.

But if you like to keep things simple and functional {and not waste all that ink on the "fancy"}, ListPlanIt is really your one-stop-shop. They have HUNDREDS of lists to keep you organized all year long. And the great news is that your copy of 100 Days to Christmas will come with a 60-Day free trial!!!

All the fun starts on September 16th, but if you visit ListPlanIt and the click over to 100 Days of Christmas, you can enter to win a FREE COPY of the book!! But hurry guys...this giveaway ends on August 30th!!

Be sure to let me know if you purchase {or WIN} a coy of the ebook this year so we can follow along with each other and share ideas throughout the season. I also encourage you to like 100 Days to Christmas on Facebook and be a part of the Christmas-loving community :-)

Thank you so much to Jennifer Tankersley for the opportunity to review and share this fabulous book. Here's to a wonderful, enjoyable, PEACEFUL holiday season!!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Happy Friday Peeps!

Today I have two very important things to talk about:

1. Why I've decided NOT to run another half marathon this year.

2. What the future holds for Health & Fitness Friday.

These two things have been weighing on my mind a lot lately and I think it's finally time I come to terms with that fact that matter how hard I try...things just don't go the way I planned them.

Let's talk about the half marathon first. As you all know from previous H&FF posts, my friend Amanda {Twinnie} and I were all registered to run the Chicago Monster Dash Half Marathon together this October. I ran this half last year and the weather was perfect, the scenery was gorgeous and the course was flat as a pancake. For me, it was the ideal time and place to run 13.1 miles and I couldn't wait to do it again.

So when Amanda told me that reading my post about the Monster Dash inspired her to sign up for a half marathon, I BEGGED her to come here and do it with me this year. I bribed her in cute costumes and pumpkin spice lattes and pretty soon...I had her sold. We both submitted our registrations early this summer and I've been recruiting other friends ever since. 

As of early July, I had 5 friends ready to run by my side dressed as one of the Disney Princesses {even my friend Tommers} and I was feeling so optimistic about training and the race in general. We were all going to have a BLAST!!

But then the first of many roadblocks popped up. I found out that my cousin was getting married the NIGHT before the big race. At first I thought this was no big deal. I just wouldn't drink or stay out late. But as soon as I explained my plan to Eric, he practically laughed in my face. He said, "So you're telling me that instead of dancing to Uncle Jimmy's accordion and enjoying all-you-can-drink Riesling, you are going to make us eat dinner and leave?"

He was right...there was no way I could miss the chicken dance. 

Strike one for the race.

About 2 weeks after finding out about the wedding, one of my running buddies went down at a New Kids on the Block concert and broke her foot. I am happy to report that Carol IS recovering, but she wants to save all her energy for the Chicago Marathon so there is no way she could pull off a half marathon a week after, even if she wanted to.

Strike two for the race.

And speaking of the marathon, my other running buddy Aimee has found a way into the race so she will also be running 26.2 miles the week before the Monster. 

One by one, all my princesses were dropping out. Even Tommers had to break the news that his new job would require him to work that day.

As sad as I was to be losing my buddies, I STILL had Amanda! Or at least I did until she found out that airline tickets to Chicago were as much as tickets to London! DAMN IT!! We both cried on the phone that night and cursed our shitty luck.

Strike three for the race.

So now, not only was I going to be running 13.1 miles on little sleep, I was also going to be doing it ALONE! And on my period. And in a stupid princess costume that didn't coordinate with anyone else. Suddenly, the race just wasn't sounding fun to me anymore. But because I'd already paid the money, I wanted to at least start training.

And that I did...two weeks ago. I'd say my runs are going okay, but not awesome. I just can't seem to get my head right. I don't feel that excitement or drive I had last year and I certainly don't feel motivated the way I did through every long run. I just feel kind of "meh" about the whole thing. And I don't know about you guys, but I can't run 13.1 miles of "meh". Know what I mean?

The last few nights I have thought long and hard about what I want to do. I know in my heart that this just isn't the right time to commit to such a big race, but I am having a hard time admitting that because I am not a quitter. I hate giving up on things and not reaching goals that I set for myself. But at the same time, I don't want to waste my time {and my family's time} training for this race if my heart and my head are not in it.

So I made my decision and emailed the peeps over at the Monster Dash and asked if I could switch my registration to either the 10K or the 5K. It looks like I should have no problem doing that and as soon as I read those words, a wave of relief washed over me!! I started whiting out some of the long runs on my calendar and realized now, I wouldn't have to squeeze in 11 miles the day I am helping host a Flashback Prom for my high school, or 12 miles on our weekend trip to Yogi Bear, or 13.1 miles the day after my cousin's wedding. I could just run FOR FUN this fall and do all those little 5Ks and 10Ks that I have been wanting to do. No pressure, no strict schedule, just fun. I know that next year I will get the bug to do a half marathon again and hopefully all my princesses and I will be able to do it together for real! But for now, I am going to enjoy my laid back fall running and schedule my "Pretend" Monster Dash with Amanda. We are dressing up, running at the same time {while on the phone with each other} and making our own special medals to mail across the country. It will be perfect.

Man...if you guys have actually made it to this point in the post, I applaud you. I realize this was a long winded explanation for my decision, but even typing it out and explaining it to myself again gives me the relief I need to accept it and move on. No half marathon for me this year...and I am 100% okay with that :-)


Now...let's talk about the fate of this little link-up. I know I have been terrible about posting on my blog this summer and even though I have done my best to keep up on Health & Fitness Friday posts...I know they've been lacking quality content. But even the crappiest of posts give me motivation to keep exercising and trying new new things. I don't want to say goodbye to Health & Fitness Friday, but I know it needs to change. So here are some of my questions:

1. If I could develop a more structured template for this link-up, and have all of share not just our workouts, but maybe one recipe a week, one motivational Pinterest Pin a week, one workout a week, etc. would that make it easier to write about, even on weeks when we slack in the exercise department?

2. Is once a week just too much to commit to? Should the link-up be a monthly recap, or a bimonthly recap?

3. Has this link-up sorta run it's course for now and maybe I will revisit it down the road?

I am just looking for advice here friends. This link-up is only as good as it's followers and contributors, which is why I want to hear from you guys. Even if you don't link-up every week but enjoy checking in and reading along, please leave a comment and let me know. 

Well MADE IT TO THE END of this insanely long post. I feel sooooooo much better sharing all this with you guys and asking the big questions about this link-up. I am excited for the changes, whatever they end up being :-)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Addison's First Day of Kindergarten!!

I am happy to report that Addie and I BOTH made it through her first day of Kindergarten without any tears!!!

Okay that's a lie...I totally cried after she went into the building. But at least I held it together for the most part!! I just can't believe my baby girl is a Kindergartner!!!

This morning Addie woke up with the BIGGEST smile and I just knew that she was going to have the best day ever, despite the fact that she told me last night that she was a teeny tiny bit nervous.

I think what helped her a lot today was knowing that Nia was just down the hall from her.

Now that Nia is a big 1st grader, she was able to show Addie the ropes.

These two were ready to go!

One of the most special things about our morning today (besides the cinnamon rolls I made for breakfast) was that Daddy was able to go into work a little late so that he could walk with us to school!! Addie was so excited to have him there.

Loving her Elvis smile in this one :-)

And this one. Blake wasn't really feeling the pictures at this point either. And MAN...does that kid need a haircut.

My sis and brother-in-law live in the neighborhood right across from the elementary school and they live on a great street with a bunch of other kids Addie and Nia's age. So this morning, they all grabbed their backpacks and walked together :-)

And the boys cruised along with in hand :-)

This is the point where I was fighting back tears...we were almost there and I was going to have to say goodbye!!

I could tell Addie was getting a little nervous so Nia gave her the first big hug...

And then Daddy scooped her up and gave her a bunch of good luck hugs and kisses.

And then she was off! I got a quick kiss as she walked in but that was it. No looking back. I think she may have even skipped to her classroom.

As we walked away, Eric was holding my hand and congratulated me on not holding it together. But then he looked at me with my eyes full of tears and we both laughed. I was so glad we could take her together today. What a special moment.

The next 2 1/2 hours went by in the blink of an eye. Before I knew it we were driving back to get her and when she came out, she was all smiles again and told me she had "A TERRIFIC DAY!"

Tonight we did our "homework", laid out our outfit for tomorrow and set our Tinkerbell alarm clock. School is in session, my friends.

And so it begins...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Our Second Half of Summer in a Nutshell

After recapping our First Half of Summer in a Nutshell, I swore I'd be better about posting more often on the blog. Yet here I am...recapping our SECOND half of summer in one post. Ha! Oh's more fun this way anyway :-)

So the second half of our summer kicked off with a fabulous family vacation to Holland, Michigan. Dana and I took one for the team and let the guys drive alone in the truck pulling the camper, and we took ALL FOUR KIDDIES along with us.

We all had the BEST time and you can read all about our trip here.

Eric and I are in love with Holland and can't wait to go back!!

Even though we had a blast on vacation, I was so happy to get home to my own bed! We had camped for almost 3 weeks straight and there were so many other things I wanted to fit into the summer. So we cleaned up our home-away-from-home and put her back in storage for the time being.

This summer, three really awesome movies came out for the kids. Monsters University, Despicable Me 2 and Disney's Planes. I figured we would try to see at least one of these movies but in the end, the kids ended up seeing ALL of them!! My parents took them to see Monsters University, I took them to see Despicable Me 2 (which was one of the best kids movies I have ever seen. HILARIOUS)...

And then Eric and Blake had a special Boys Night Out and went to see Planes last week.

Blake is now obsessed with Planes and insists he needs ALL the characters.

Another thing we really wanted to do this summer was squeeze in some playdates with friends but the time just went SO FAST and we didn't get to see everyone we had hoped to see :-( But...Addie did get to spend some time with her buddy Kennedy...

And we got a special visit from Aunt Tara and the twins...

This is Blake's idea of flirting with them. Ha!

We also got to spend a morning with Auntie Marie and we spent a few afternoons lounging and loving on Great Grandma...

We didn't get as much time as we wanted in Nana and Papa's pool {mostly because it wasn't warm enough around here} but we did make the best of it the days we could :-)

I guess one of the best parts of this summer was getting to spend so much time with my niece and nephews. We got to see and play with baby Owen a few times...

And he even came down to join us for our town's parade!

I swear he was happy about it too :-)

This year, Addie, Nia and Audrey were able to walk in the parade and pass out candy with Eric's uncle Dave. The girls thought this was pretty much the coolest thing ever!!

And trust me...the boys were totally fine with not walking. They were too busy grabbing candy...

Checking out all the awesome tractors...

And hanging out with random weird guys in full body suits.

Our town's parade is part of our weekend-long festival that includes a 5K, which I was able to run again...

As well as a big carnival!

Blake still isn't quite tall enough for a lot of the rides that Addie can go on so Eric took her and I took my little dude to get the biggest snow cone I have ever seen :-)

Nolan was nice enough to ride some of the smaller stuff with Blake too. Next year year!!

As a side note...can I just express how much I hate carnivals?!! Yuck.

But at least there was a great fireworks show afterwards!! The girls gave us a little performance before it started. They are calling themselves "The Princess Band"

My sis and brother-in-law have the PERFECT view of the fireworks from their front yard so we all took our seats just in time. Their faces in this picture are priceless.

I really love our small town in the summer. They do so many fun things for the kids, and one of which is Movie in the Park. They do one each month but due to our camping schedule, we were only able to make it to the August movie. They played Rise of the Guardians and even had a big Easter Egg hunt to go along with it.

We actually made movie night another "playdate" with our friend Natalie, who was celebrating her birthday that night!

Addie, Audrey and Natalie have gone to preschool together for the last two years but now they are going off to different Kindergarten classes :-(  I am just so glad the girls have stayed such good friends and look forward to all the playdates yet to come :-)

I know it may seem like the kids were the ones having all the fun this summer, but Eric and I got to have a little fun too! At the end of July, we went to see our FAVORITE band ever.


And this time we went with some of our buddies and we had an absolute blast.

And trust me...the kids did NOT mind the nights they were away from us this summer. They are so lucky to have two sets of grandparents and an Aunt and Uncle that are ALWAYS inviting them over.

In fact...I think Addie and Nia set a world record for most sleepovers in one summer :-)

And a world record for most outfit changes in one summer. Ha!

I don't think these kids even realize yet how LUCKY they are to have each other and how lucky they are to be able to look back on all these memories when they are older.

We have had an amazing summer. Maybe the best summer ever and even though I am a little sad to see it go, I am also very excited for the school year ahead. We've been busy cramming in all of our doc appointments...

And I actually witnessed a MIRACLE this past week when Blake sat through his entire cleaning at the dentist without a PEEP!! I can't express how huge this was for both of was just the boost of confidence I needed before sending him off to school in 2 weeks. He was SUCH a big boy and I couldn't be prouder of him!!

And I'm proud of my baby girl too. NO CAVITIES for either of them. Yay!!

And speaking of school, tonight is Addie's Kindergarten Orientation and she can't wait to meet her teacher! This is it my is back in session!!

Bye bye summer!! It's been a blast!!