Monday, August 29, 2016

At Home Date Nights & Favorite Games

I've loved the questions from readers asking about our at home date nights and our favorite games. To be honest, our Monday through Thursday evening routine is pretty lame and usually consists of catching up on TV shows and/or working after the kids go to bed. So by Friday we are more than ready to kick off the weekend with some quality time together. Trust me, I loooove getting dolled up for a date night out with my hubby but babysitting + uber rides + cocktails + dinner can add up quickly so we definitely can't do that every week! However, that doesn't mean we can't host our own little date together at home on the reg.
So after the kiddos are in bed (with both of their magical sound machines blasting on high), we retreat to our backyard with some cocktails and the baby monitor. We turn on the bistro lights, set out the patio furniture pillows, turn on the Thermacell to block the mosquitoes, and turn up our favorite Pandora station over the portable speaker deck (side note: if you don't have one of these, add it to your Christmas list!!!! best gift ever!). Then we bust out the games -- loser is responsible for refilling cocktails! Here are some of our favorite two-player games:
date nite games

For dinner we keep it super easy so our time spent together isn't cooking. I usually make a low prep appetizer (caprese salad is our go-to recently), throw meat on the grill, oven roast or grill some fresh veggies and serve a pre-made dessert from the teeter bakery. 

Some of our favorite EASY summertime grilled items include Grilled Cheese, Cabernet Burgers (prepped the night before), Pesto Shrimp, pork chops and steak! Side note: We recently started picking up our meat from Trader Joes and I am so impressed with the quality of their filet mignon and pork chops -- highly recommend!
Also, we've been waiting all season long for patio furniture to go on sale to finally swoop up this beautiful and comfortable 5 piece rattan wicker sofa set for our backyard. My crazy internet sale shopping finally paid off when the price dropped to half off. I love that the cushions are plush, all of the pieces can be separated and positioned for larger group use, the cushion covers are removable for washing and it came with some pillows!
 And that's a peak into our at home date nite!

Would love to know your favorite games too!
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Friday, August 26, 2016

Five on Friday!

Happy Friday!
one. Last weekend Matt assembled our new patio furniture. The instructions estimated a 3 hour assembly time but with the help of two minis it took about 9 hours.
 
two. There is nothing worse than stepping out of the shower to a towel that smells like it sat a little too long in the washer machine! Every now and then I deep clean all my towels at once. Here's how I do it: Wash your towels in hot water with one cup of vinegar (only). Wash towels in hot water again with 1/2 cup of baking soda. Throw them in the dryer and enjoy your fresh towels!
three. It's been a hot minute since I blogged about my love for Parsley Plus, but I just received a new bulk shipment and had to give my favorite earth-friendly household cleaning product of all time a shout out. If you love the smell of fresh herbs this product is for you (and your counter tops!).
four. We are working SO hard on getting Tom Tom to graduate from taking a few steps to walking! He definitely knows how to take a few steps at a time unassisted but always ends up choosing to crawl instead. And if he isn't crawling he is climbing. He knows how to get on and off Caroline's bed, can get on and off the couch by scooting a chair over as a step stool and is frequently found just standing on top of his chair laughing at us having a heart attack. Anyway, we are beyond ready for him to begin walking so we can set him down in public places, ditch the snap & go stroller and give him a little more independence. Plus he moves up to the next class in two weeks and will be on the big playground every day and really dislikes crawling in mulch so we're working hard to get him to let go of the tip of our finger and take off. Also, the most steps he'll take at a time is to...you guessed it...his sissy. She is so dang cute with her cheerleading "Come on, Tom Tom! You can do it! Come here! Come to me! Come on!"
five.  Favorite HelloFresh meal this week goes to...Steak Fajitas with Kiwi Salsa & Crispy Beans!!! Hands down the best fajitas ever. And kiwi isn't something I would ever think to add to my tex-mex but I'm so glad I did. Check out this recipe to make it yourself.

I received 3 more promo codes to give my friends a FREE box of HelloFresh meals! I'd be happy to send the first THREE people to leave their email address in the comments a free week of HelloFresh to try!  

Not one of the first 4 to comment but still want to try HelloFresh? Use promo code MG8GKD for $40 off your first box! That means you can try out HelloFresh for $29 and then cancel after your box arrives or keep on going. 
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Wanna join April, Natasha and I on the Friday fun? You can link-up on any of our four blogs every Friday! All you have to do is...
1.) Write your post about five things you're lovin' this week (or any five things you want to share!).
2.) Share the logo on your blog and link back. 
3.) Link-up at the bottom of the post so some new readers can check out your five things and say hello!
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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Mommy's Magical Stain Remover

Remember when this happened
One afternoon while Caroline was left unattended with markers just long enough for me to pee she decided to draw all over the carpet and couch. And then she spent an eternity in time out.
One of our bigger mistakes we've made was purchasing a WHITE couch (pre-kids). Thankfully we were talked into adding a 5 year furniture protection plan. However, when I sent the cleaning company the pictures of the couch to report the damage they laughed in my face and said "nope! nopity, nope, nope!" And so we let it sit for 6 weeks while I pondered how to tackle the stain.

Finally I remembered the super amazing tip from the Pottery Barn associate who helped us pick out ANOTHER WHITE piece of furniture for Caroline's nursery. That time I blame preggo brain for making such a terrible decision. Anyway, she told me to use Mr. Clean's Magic Erasers on our furniture to remove the toughest stains.
And it worked. So I finally un-grounded Caroline.
AFTER!!!

No go stock up on these miracle stain remover pads!

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

An Update on Thomas!

It truly means so much to me when my readers request an update on our little man! Thank you all so much for caring about him! We actually do have an exciting update...
Thomas recently had an appointment with his pediatric ophthalmologist. Matt and I are always so anxious for these appointments. They usually take up to three hours (sometimes more) waiting to be seen, checking eye pressure (for glaucoma -- a high risk side effect from his initial cataract removal surgeries), doing an eye exam over his contacts to check the prescription, removing the contacts, dilating his eyes, waiting 30 minutes, sometimes re-dilating and waiting 30 more minutes, doing a second eye exam without contacts and then putting the contacts back in and sitting through a consultation...with a 13 month old. 

BUT for our first visit ever the doctor informed us that we would not need a full eye exam and instead did a vision test in a dark room with light up toys to see how Thomas tracked them at various distances and angles. Our doctor was thrilled to let us know that he could see a tremendous improvement from all the hard patching work we (and our teachers -- they definitely deserve a shout out) have been doing.

At our last appointment almost 3 months ago we were instructed to get a lot more aggressive with his patching. So for the past few months we've been patching his "good eye" (left eye) to force him to use his "bad eye" (right eye) most of the day. He hates it (understandably) and we do too but he is such a trooper. The goal is to get both eyes working as close to equal as possible before we move forward with strabismus surgery. And we made it! So the doctor cleared us to schedule Thomas's surgery. And we received a date this week!  

On September 28 at 5:30 am Thomas will undergo strabismus surgery!!!!

Wait, what is strabismus? Strabismus is a vision condition when the eyes are misaligned, commonly known as "cross-eyed." Thomas has the type of strabismus where usually one eye (but sometimes both) turns in intermittently. Once it turns in the brain shuts it down and he exclusively uses the opposite eye which greatly affects his depth perception. 

During surgery our doctor will go in and tighten the muscle in each eye to pull it back to center. The biggest risk for this procedure is the likelihood we will need up to two additional strabismus surgeries to completely align his eyes. 

We were also kind of surprised to learn this recovery is actually tougher than his cataract removal recoveries. Thomas will receive a stitch in each eye which will feel very scratchy and greatly irritate him. He will want to rub his eyes obsessively which will be painful. Additionally he won't be able to wear his contacts for at least 3 days after surgery while he heals and we administer eye drops throughout the day. And as you know, no contacts mean NO VISION at ALL for him so that makes us a little sad.

BUT this surgery is huge for us and for him! This takes us one step closer to improving his vision. And for that we are extremely grateful!
As for an update on his vision, we've seen a tremendous improvement in his eye sight with the help of a new contact prescription. We still won't know exactly what his vision is until Thomas can read an eye chart but we have seen a difference at home. Around 3 months ago we notified our doctor that Thomas seemed to do well with objects up close (eating, toys, etc.) but wasn't interacting with us at distances more than several feet away. For example, at pickup he wouldn't even know I was in his classroom until I'd reach down to pick him up or he'd hear my voice (and yes, this would shatter my heart every single day). The new contacts are a much weaker power to allow him to practice seeing things further away. And it's working.
Contacts are definitely as challenging as you can imagine but we are beyond thankful for them. If you've ever had the frustrating job of clipping a toddler's toe nails or snot sucking a sick child, times that frustration by about a million and you can  kind of get an idea of what it's like to regularly change, clean and re-insert contacts. I wish I could say the contacts have gotten much easier with time but they've only brought new challenges as Thomas has gotten older. He's less tolerant of us messing with his eyes and is exposed to more activities that keep our anxiety levels at an all time high (ex: water play at school, swimming, etc.).
But through it all we are extremely grateful and blessed that God chose us to be Thomas's parents. And we're learning that God has prepared Matt and I our entire lives for all that this journey entails. Thank you all for the prayers and support for our little man. It definitely has not been easy (another post is in the works on how we've learned to cope, grieve and find joy in this journey) but we wouldn't trade it for the world.
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Friday, August 19, 2016

Five on Friday: Simple Favorite Weeknight Meals

Happy Friday!!! A few readers recently requested some examples of our easy go-to meals that I make during the work week. So today I thought I'd feature FIVE of our simple family favorites!
 
one. A super simple dinner I made this week was Zoodles & Sauce. This healthy twist on spaghetti night is sooooo delicious. Also, Caroline was excited to incorporate the basil she brought home from the school garden.
 
Quick & Delicious Zoodles & Sauce: Spiralize and saute 3 zucchinis with some olive oil. Meanwhile dump your favorite store bought (or homemade freezer stash) spaghetti sauce into a small pot and warm over medium heat. Add Trader Joe's frozen Turkey Meatballs to sauce! Top your pasta with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Yields leftovers for the lunch the following day.
two. Intrigued by zoodles? I have another recipe for ya if you have some leftover zucchini... 

Zoodle Shrimp Scampi

Ingredients
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lemon, juiced
3 large zucchini, spiralized 
2 tbl chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tbl dry parsley)
Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Directions
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add shrimp and garlic, stirring occasionally, until pink, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in lemon juice; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a simmer; stir in zucchini noodles until well combined, about 1-2 minutes. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of parsley and Parmesan.
three. One night per week Matt meets the guys for trivia. On these nights he races out the door right after the kids are asleep so I usually just throw a frozen pre-made meal into the oven or microwave. I just picked up this surprisingly delicious BBQ Chicken Teriyaki microwave meal from Trader Joes. Bam - dinner on the table in 6 minutes with no kitchen cleanup afterwards. You could easily add rice or noodles to this dish too.
four. Crockpot Chicken Tacos! Definitely a staple in our house!
five. Can't forget dessert! These mini cones from Trader Joes are REEEEE-diculously delicious and the perfect finale to dinner.

Please share YOUR favorite easy weeknight dinners in the comments!
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Wanna join April, Natasha and I on the Friday fun? You can link-up on any of our four blogs every Friday! All you have to do is...
1.) Write your post about five things you're lovin' this week (or any five things you want to share!).
2.) Share the logo on your blog and link back. 
3.) Link-up at the bottom of the post so some new readers can check out your five things and say hello!
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