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Giving The Kids Lunchtime Control

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This post is sponsored by Stonyfield® Organic Kids® - a brand that we've consistently trusted for
our kids over the last six years.

This school year is proving to be an insanely hard one for our family. Between Derek's work schedule and my own, me going back to school to finish my degree, running the kids around to various appointments, and church/community responsibilities, more days than not I've had to heed the advice from many people that I can't do it all. And that I need to delegate responsibilities so that I don't go crazy. This has looked like neighbors helping me with kids after school, friends who jump in to help with weekly church activities, and delegating the role of lunch making to Jay. If he's going to be eating his school lunch, he might as well pack it right?

If I'm going to have Jay make his own lunch, then it's my job as a mom to set him up for success. We love keeping our fridge stocked with various Stonyfield® Organic Kids® products because their Pouches and Smoothies make for easy organic lunch box options, and are a quick grab and go for a hectic day! I also love that Stonyfield® Organic Kids® has 25-40% less sugar than the leading kid's yogurt brands, and that there are no artificial colors or flavors.

In addition to having a good supply of Stonyfield® Organic Kids® products, I like to keep a wide variety of easy produce on hand for Jay to pack his lunch with. I love things like mini bell peppers, strawberries, grapes, celery, etc... because I can wash and prep them for the week ahead of time, and then Jay just has to get them out of the containers and put them in the little compartments of his lunchbox. 

As a mom, it's important to me to know what my kid is eating at lunch everyday, and the easiest way to know that is having him bring food from our own home. I let Jay have the independence of buying his lunch at school for a few weeks this year after being impressed with all the healthy things it sounded like he was eating each day, only to find out that things that sounded healthy were actually coated in loads of extra sugar, and had ingredients that I didn't want my child consuming. It makes me grateful for companies like Stonyfield® Organic Kids® that are transparent about the wholesome ingredients they use and their ingredients are made by real organic farmers.

What items do you like to pack in your kids lunch? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below! 
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Stonyfield® Organic Kids®

How We Stay Active As A Family + Fall Scavenger Hunt Printable

This post is sponsored by Kohl's. I was paid for this post, and received the included Fitbit as compensation. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Staying physically fit and active has always been a long time priority of mine, and now that I'm a mother, I want physical activity and getting outdoors to be a real part of our family culture. This has looked different for us throughout the years, depending on what phase of life we're in, but over the summer we made hiking a huge priority. We also started going on nightly walks with Jay on his bike, and Derek or I pushing Em in the wheelchair. 

Now that the weather is cooling off here in Utah, we've made it a priority to get outdoors after dinner each night to burn off the bedtime wiggles in the backyard, or explore the nearby trail that runs behind our house. Fall is always a pretty magical time of year, so I even made some fall scavenger hunts for the kids, to encourage us to get outdoors even more, and explore the beauty all around us. (printable available for download at the bottom of the post!) 

I'm definitely a numbers person though, and love tracking my activity with my new Fitbit Versa Ruby, which is now available at Kohl's! I love being able to track my steps, and how many miles we go each night on our family adventures. I also love using it while running since it can connect with apps that record my fitness progress, you can load up to 300 songs on it, and connect it with your bluetooth headphones for listening to music! 

The Fitbit Versa is a modern, intuitive smartwatch at an approachable price. Even though it's the lightest metal smartwatch in the US market, they didn't miss a single detail when it comes to functionality and design. My favorite part be how pretty it is! The Fitbit Versa's new ruby red band is only available at Kohl's, and it's totally worth the trip to purchase it for the rose gold aluminum case alone! 

Between October 14-26th you can purchase the Fitbit Versa Ruby (exclusively at Kohl's) at an everyday price of $199.99 and the new Fitbit Charge 3 (soon to be released!) for $149.99. If you earn Kohl's Cash between 10/11-10/17 you can redeem it from 10/18-10/28 and if you earn Kohl's Cash from 10/18-10/21 you can redeem it from 10/22-10/28. The Fitbit Iconic is also on sale for $249.99 and Fitbit Ace (for children 8+) and Alta are both on sale for $79.99 

My blog may contain links to other websites. I am not responsible for the privacy policies of those other websites. When you click on a link, your information may be collected by those websites so I encourage you to read their privacy policies. Any affiliate links are not associated with Kohl’s.

Scavanger Hunt Printable Here

A Huge Life Update

It's been a long time since I've done a life update over here and I feel like so much has happened just since our last medical update with Em that I thought it would be good to sit down and write what's been going on in all of our lives. These posts are the most meaningful to me since I don't really write a formal journal, so having these posts to look back on is more beneficial for me than anything else, but I know you all love them as well, so here we go. 

The Em Update: 
Em's hip dysplasia is still stable. She goes in for x-rays and botox injections next week, and we'll know more information on that from there. We've had a crazy few months and haven't gotten her into the chiropractor as much as I would have liked to, and I'm hoping that won't have a negative impact on things when we get in there. 

Em is doing really well in PT right now. She started cruising on furniture this summer, but now that her botox is worn off again her legs are super tight and she doesn't like doing it all that much. We're hoping we can get some good forward momentum going once the new injections are active again. She also just got fitted for new leg braces and should have those in the next few weeks too!

Em got glasses! I'm sure some of you have seen them on social media, but Em got some new glasses at the end of the summer and they are dang cute on her. She has a pretty strong astigmatism, so she's wearing them full time, and she absolutely loves them! 

Currently she has a stomach bug and has been sick the last few days. Keep her in your prayers that she won't end up in the ER, that she'll be able to get the nutrients she needs, and that it won't negatively affect her BMI, which is always a huge concern for us. 

She just had her school testing done and I'm a little frustrated with her results. I feel like they give the kids in her class these crazy assessments that make the kids score super low because it's things that no human would ever work on with their kids. So then the results come back and say she's not smart enough to dual enroll with the special needs preschool class and the main stream preschool class in her school. It's frustrating because I don't care if she goes into the other class and "fails", and isn't up to speed with them all, I'm interested in the other benefits. Em is the only kid in her class that currently talks and I want her learning to communicate with her same age peers. I want her to be pushed and stretched. 

One thing they tested her on was, "What do you use a fork for?", the answer should have been eating, but Em didn't answer the question so they mark it wrong. If you put a fork and food in front of her, she knows what to do with it. They then flip the question around and say, "What do you use to eat?" and the answer should be, "A fork". I just feel like they waste time I things that aren't as important. 

Today she saw an excavator, pointed to it and said, "It's an excavator!" And she was right. I just feel like they give these standardize test that don't do a fair representation of the actual intelligence she has, and then keep her in a bubble because of it. I just want her to have the chance to try and potentially thrive with her typical peers. 

The Jay Update:   
Jay just started first grade this year. He is reading well and is doing alright in math. He's making new friends and has adjusted well from 2 hour kindergarten to full day first grade much better than I expected that he would. He buys his lunch in the cafeteria each day, and he loves the independence of getting to pick exactly what he eats. Luckily he picks out pretty healthy food, so I feel like it's good for him to be able to explore this whole cafeteria thing on his own.  

He started playing soccer a few weeks ago and loves it. He did a week long soccer camp during the summer which I think was really good to get him caught up to speed with his peers. We're kind of late to the soccer game in Utah, so while he isn't the best on his team, you can tell he definitely works hard, and has a good time which in my opinion is the most important part. 

Jay's eyes haven't been super great the last few months. His eyes were crossed when he was younger so he had an eye surgery to correct that, and since then they have been drifting out (like a lazy eye). We've been correcting it with glasses, but they only work to correct the problem for so long, and it looks like we're going to be having another surgery by the end of the year. I've mostly washed my hands of the whole situation and just feel like it is what it is. We feel confident in our ophthalmologist here in Utah and feel like he really has Jay's best interest at heart, and so we're just going to trust that it's all going to work out eventually. 

Jay got into a scooter accident a few weeks ago. He went to turn the corner and the handle bar hit him right below the eye pretty hard. He got four stitches in his cheek and tore his cornea, but it's all healed now for the most part. There's a chance that he might have broken his eye socket. If he did, they wouldn't have done the surgery to fix it until a few weeks after the incident anyways, and so we're going into the eye doctor this week to see if thats broken or not. 

Originally Derek and I didn't think it was, because he wasn't in pain or complaining about it. But this last weekend his eye bruised again all of a sudden and we're thinking that it might actually be broken now. We'll report back when we know more. 

The House Update: 
We have officially bought and moved into our new home. We've been here for about three weeks now and love every bit of it. We had painters come in and paint all the walls gray, and it's instantly helped to make the home look more up to date. We know that this house was hand picked for us from Heavenly Father and can't wait to live here for years and years to come. It truly is our forever home. 

The Paige update: 
I've been super busy the last few weeks. I started the last year of my Bachelor's Degree last month and so far I'm doing well! All As! We'll see if that's still the case another month from now. I'm currently taking 7 classes and 16 credits. I mostly do school work non-stop Monday through Wednesday, and then the load gets a little lighter towards the end of the week, 

Blogging has become second to school work lately, which I feel bad about but I know I can't do it all. I have a lot of great posts coming out through the end of the month though, so be on the lookout for those. I recently signed with a media publishing team who will be writing content for my site 1-2 times per week. Basically they write the post, send it to me, I edit it to make it fit my blog a little better, add a picture that I've taken, and then publish it. The benefit for them is that they get links and SEO for their websites and brands that they're working with via the links I put in the posts, and I get paid to have the posts on my blog, and you guys still get content over here. These posts will be marked with a contributor tag at the bottom of the post. It's been a great way for me to get posts out while in school and still keep this thing running. 

I did my century ride a few weeks ago. More coming on that in a future post. Still don't know what my next athletic goal will be, but it may have to wait until after school is done in July because I literally have no time for heavy training right now. 

I recently got called to be the young women president at church, which isn't me bragging about a calling, but more to say that if my life wasn't busy already, this certainly took it to a whole other level. I don't feel like I'm drowning as much anymore, which is always nice. If I make it through the next few years without anyone exploding, then I'll feel like I've done my job. 

The Derek Update:
Derek's main lot in life is to walk me off the edge when all of the above starts to make me lose my mind. He's honestly the most supportive human being in the world. I recently went on a work trip and people were so over the moon impressed that he would take care of the kids while I was gone... but like... he's a dad. It's his job to raise the kids too, and he does a dang good job at it. I hate when people act like dads are a second class parent in the home. They're not, and Derek's awesome. 

He's been with L3 for a year now and still going strong. He's been interested in developing some gaming apps for apple devices, which he's been studying and working on in his free time. It's fun for me to watch him have an interest in something now that he's done with all of his schooling and can have hobbies again. 

If you made it through the end of this, you're a champ! Maybe I'll do the next one sooner than this one so it's not a million words long!

Teaching Fire Prevention in Your Home

Thank you First Alert for sponsoring this post. October is Fire Prevention Month - practice safety in numbers to ensure your family’s super prepared too!

Fire prevention and fire safety have been a passion of mine for most of my life. I remember in third grade my school held a fire prevention poster contest with all the other schools in my city, and my poster won first place! I got to go to the fire station for the day, ride the fire truck, have cake with the fire fighters, the whole nine yards. After that moment I was hooked, and it's been something that I've taken very seriously ever since.

Facts About Fire and CO Safety
Now that my kids are four and six, they're at the age where they're really starting to grasp fire safety topics, and we can start talking about it on a bigger scale with our kids. Did you know that in the US over 100 million homes aren't protected with smoke alarms, and that 3 of every 4 home fire deaths come from a home with 0 smoke alarms. 

Alarms provide early warning in case of a fire, so it's crucial to make sure that your's are working properly. You should test your alarms and replace batteries as needed every six months. To eliminate the need for battery replacement, upgrade to First Alert's 10-year sealed battery alarms. 

Carbon Monoxide is also something you should be teaching your children about too. CO poisoning is the number one cause of accidental death. Because it's odorless, tasteless, and invisible, it cannot be detected unless you have an alarm. 

How to Teach Your Kids About Fire and CO Safety
One way that Derek and I teach our kids about important topics they need to know are through weekly Family Home Evenings. We hold these every Monday night, and during the month of October, we plan on dedicating one of these nights to learning about Fire Safety.

If you log onto the First Alert website, you can find so many valuable teaching tools. They an entire section dedicated to, "The Super Prepared Family", where you can find animated informational videos to share with your children, activity pages to print and color, and many more valuable resources.

After you take your kids through the information on the First Alert website, it's important to talk about what Fire Safety looks like in your home. Show your kids where the smoke alarms are, test them with your kids so they know what they sound like, and have a designated meeting spot outside your home where your kids know to meet at when they hear that alarm.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Perfectly Moist Sour Cream Banana Bread

I have been making this banana bread recipe for years now. I've tried so many recipes only for them to turn out burnt, dry, too crumbly, too yellow, and other random texture issues that weren't quite what I was looking for. To me, the perfect banana bread is dense, moist, holds together, and turns out perfect every single time. For our family, that is this recipe. I love that I can throw all the ingredients together in one bowl, stir it up, and it's good to go in the oven. It's super easy with minimal steps, and turns out awesome every time.

1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 cup bananas, mashed (usually about three ripe bananas)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups flour

Preheat your oven to 350ยบ. Spray your bread pan with non-stick cooking spray, and then lightly coat with flour. In a large bowl mix your sugar, eggs, oil, bananas, sour cream, and vanilla until well combined. Then add in your salt, baking powder, and flour, and whisk to incorporate. Pour your mixture into your prepared bread pan, and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Once it's out of the oven, run a knife along the edges of the loaf to separate it from the sides of the pan, and then carefully flip it out onto a serving plate to cool. Slice when ready to serve.

Better Sleep Tips For Parents

Something that all parents have in common is that we're all exhausted. When you become a parent, you know lack of sleep is just part of the job, but you can never truly appreciate how tough it is until you're in the thick of it. Four years since Em was born, Derek and I are just getting to the point where were sleeping through the night on a fairly regular basis. As humans, sleep is critical to our health. It helps repair our body, regulate hormones, improve mood and other functions. As someone who knows that it's like to be exhausted for years on end, there are some ways that you can get more sleep, or better quality sleep, even when your kids aren't entirely on board with your plans.

Invest in a better bed
A good bed will prevent you from tossing and turning throughout the night due to discomfort. You want the peace of mind knowing that once you actually get to go to bed for the night, that you'll be comfortable and getting the best night's sleep that you can... until you get a wakeup call from a small child. A sturdy bed frame and a high quality mattress will support your body and allow you to rest as best as you possibly can. Whether it’s your screaming newborn, your restless toddler or your child waking up with nightmares- there are already plenty of reasons you’re up at night as a parent. Don’t let an uncomfortable bed be one of them.

Work out a system with your partner
Most of us are balancing work, childcare commitments, school, church callings, and so much more. That while raising children is a heavy load for both parents to carry. Regardless of your situation, try and come up with a plan that allows for each of you to get a good night sleep, even if it's just once a week. Derek and I can usually plan on waking up at least once in the middle of the night to help the kids. We usually trade off that Derek will get up with them one night, and I'll get up with them the next night. Derek also gets up early for work, so if one kid gets up while he's already awake, he'll help them and let me continue sleeping. Workout some system that works well for you and your partner so that you can both repay some sleep debt.

Consider extra help
If you're really struggling, don't feel bad about taking on some extra help. You could hire a cleaner, nanny, or laundry service to tackle some of the jobs you need to so. This frees up time that you can sleep, or do other things. When we lived in Georgia I hired a girl to come and watch my kids just so I could jog around the neighborhood by myself for thirty minutes to an hour. Just having that time to step away and get mental clarity was really valuable to me. Accept offers of help from family members, if an aunt or grandparent wants to take your child out for the day or have them overnight- say yes! It’s extra time that you have to yourself and can get yourself sorted. There’s no need to feel bad about it, everyone needs and deserves a break. Plus it allows loved ones the chance to bond with your child.

When You Become A Caregiver For A Loved One

This post is sponsored by Depend, Poise, Ensure, and Glucerna but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

This last year has been incredibly hard on my family, especially my mom who has been in the throws of caring for my grandmother as her health has rapidly declined over the last several months. It's hard for me to watch my grandmother age from far away, because she was such a large part of my upbringing growing up. Now seeing my mom caring for her has really shed some light as to what it's truly like to see your parents or grandparents age and get older.

My grandmother suffered several strokes many years ago, and this has left her with dementia and loss of physical abilities for the last ten years. She's been under constant care and supervision since, but over the summer she fell and broke her hip and has had a very difficult time eating and getting the nutrition she needs.

Ensure is a product we use regularly in our own home, but over the last several months I've gotten to see first hand the benefits that it can have for someone who can't consume nutrients otherwise. Ensure has been my grandmother's number one source of calories and nutrition the last several months, and it's made me realize how beneficial it is for not only gaining weight and adding calories, but truly sustaining life when all other forms of consumption are off the table as well.

If you're entering into a phase of life where you're caring for someone you love who has medical needs, keep in mind that your neighborhood Sam's Club has everything you need from Poise, Depend, Glucerna and even Ensure to make sure that the needs of those you love are constantly being met. There is peace of mind knowing that the supplies you need are readily available in one place, and it brings me comfort knowing that should we enter into this caretaker role for one of our family members, we would know right where to go to get everything we need.