Archives for May 2012

#BackyardBash Recipe: Lemon Bars

These lemon bars were absolutely divine! You can find the original recipe on the Egg Beaters website: Lemon Bars


  • 1-1/4 cups all purpose flour, divided
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup Fleischmann’s Original – stick
  • 1/2 cup Egg Beaters Original
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • Confectioners’ sugar {optional}


  1. Preheat oven to 350*. Combine 1 cup of the flour and 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar in a medium bowl. Cut in Fleischmann’s with pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press firmly into bottom of a 9-inch square baking pan. Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  2. Beat Egg Beaters, lemon peel, lemon juice, and the remaining 1/4 cup flour and the remaining 3/4 cup granulated sugar with a wire whisk until well blended. Pour over crust.
  3. Bake 15 minutes, or until center is set. Cool completely on wire rack. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar if desired. Cut into 16 bars to serve. Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.

@Sears, I am One Unhappy Customer

Yesterday, I called Sears about my broken stovetop. I spoke with Melissa and told her the story of exactly how it happened. She assured me that the damage would be covered under the warranty. At that moment, I was so thankful my husband and I had paid the almost $300 to get the extended warranty on our electric range.

Today, the technician came to the house to take pictures of the cooktop and verify that it is indeed broken. After he looked at it, he told me that the repair would cost $400, and it is not covered under the warranty. {It’s the same accidental damage clause that Walmart has.}

It didn’t upset me that it’s not covered. What upsets me is that a technician told me it WAS covered after hearing exactly how it was broken, and that we paid out so much for an “extra” warranty that doesn’t cover squat.

I bought this range in March. It has been used less than 3 months. What on earth did I pay the extra $300 for the extended warranty for if it will not cover things like this?! I wish I had recorded my conversation with the salesman at our local Sears store. He recommended we get the extended warranty because we have six kids. If that doesn’t insinuate that accidental damage would be covered by that extra warranty, I don’t know what does.

For $400, I could buy a new oven. It might not have all the bells and whistles this one has, but it would still cook my family’s food.

I have always gone to Sears for everything: Washers and Dryers, dishwashers, ranges, microwaves, and the like. Since I moved out on my own 14 years ago, every time I have made a major appliance purchase, it has come from Sears. Now, I’m done. You don’t tell a customer one thing and then tell them something else the next day. You train your associates to be upfront and honest with your customers. Now I feel cheated and angry.

I know that this will all work out how it is supposed to, but I want to send out a warning to my readers: CHECK YOUR WARRANTIES. I never, ever would have paid more for the extended warranty had I known it wouldn’t cover accidental damage. The cost of the extended warranty was almost as much as I now have to pay for the new cooktop. I’m out twice the amount of money, and for what reason? Because I didn’t take the time to read the fine print of our warranty agreement.

Let my screw-up be a lesson to you to check the details before you sign or purchase any warranty agreement. Know exactly what you are giving them money to cover.

Sears, I’d like to get a refund on the money I paid out for the extra warranty. At least with that, I could afford to fix my stove.

Anyone want to come over and grill out? We’ll be doing a lot of that for the next few weeks.

My Electric Range Shattered! {Warning to Parents}

Yesterday, my husband had a day off. It was his first day off in weeks. We decided that we would leave the kids at home and spend some quality husband and wife time together. Originally our plan had been to see a movie, but as we were driving toward the theater, hubby decided that he didn’t want to see a movie. He wanted to go somewhere that we could actually talk and enjoy each other’s company. {I adore my hubby.}

As we were driving toward Brasstown Bald Mountain, I got a text message from my oldest daughter, Ashley. It said, “Can I call you?” Now, when Ashley sends me a text like that, I KNOW something is wrong. I immediately dialed her number.

When she answered the phone, she was crying hysterically. She was crying so hard, in fact, that I could barely understand her saying, “I’m so sorry” over and over.

Instantly, my mind went to the worst places it could go: Someone was hurt, someone was bleeding, Lucy had broken her arm again, the baby had fallen down the basement steps…. My mind was racing as I tried to calm her down and get her to tell me what was wrong.

Finally she said, “I broke your stove.”

My heart finally started beating again. It was just the stove. Thank God. A stove can be replaced… a child cannot. I think Ashley was so scared because this is a brand new oven. We just bought it in March, and she just knew I was going to be furious. I think it totally surprised her that I wasn’t upset. It’s under warranty, and it should be covered 100%.

She told me that she had pulled Lucy’s Hot Pocket out of the microwave, {which is directly above our stove}, and it was hotter than she expected. She dropped the plate, and the glass cooktop shattered.

I called my best friend, and she ran over to the house to make sure that all of the kids were fine and that all of the glass was cleaned up.

When Gene and I got home that afternoon, this is what we found:

I honestly had no idea that my stovetop could shatter like that. Tiny shards of glass were everywhere after this happened. And I couldn’t be upset with Ashley – after all, it very easily could have been me that dropped the plate and caused this to happen.

Parents, take warning. If your microwave is above your oven, and you have a glass stovetop, know that it really can shatter.

I’ve made the kitchen off limits from now on while hubby and I are gone. Well, the microwave and stove/oven are now off limits. If they need to eat lunch, it will be Peanut Butter & Jelly or something that doesn’t require cooking.

Sears is coming today to assess the damage. They refused to just order the part while I was on the phone with them. Their service technician has to see that it actually is damaged and unusable. She also informed me that I could be without a stove for a week. Looks like we’ll be grilling out for the next week or so.

I am just SO thankful that none of the kids were hurt by this. It’s still scary that it even happened in the first place though.

Have you ever seen an electric cooktop do this before?

#BackyardBash Recipe: Braided Spaghetti Loaf

I’m going to admit right here and now that my version of this recipe did NOT turn out anything like the recipe you can find on the Chef Boyardee website. {Braided Spaghetti Loaf} Mine was an absolutely mess. But, man, did it taste good! I think the problem I had with mine was that I used the wrong kind of frozen bread. Living where we do, there really aren’t many options in our grocery stores, and the bread I used rose way too much during the cooking process. But, it still tasted really good, and my kids have already asked if we can have it again for dinner all the time. 🙂 {I’ll just need to find a different kind of dough to use.}


  • PAM Original No-Stick Cooking Spray
  • 1 loaf {1 pound} frozen bread dough, thawed
  • 2 cans {14.5 oz each} Chef Boyardee Spaghetti & Meatballs
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley


  1. Preheat oven to 375*. Spray large baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside. Roll dough into 14×11 inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Place dough on baking sheet. Spread Spaghetti & Meatballs lengthwise down center third of dough to within 1/2 and inch of each short edge. Top spaghetti with mozzarella cheese.
  2. Cut sides of dough into 12 equal strips, almost to filling. To enclose filling, take a strip from each side, overlap in center, and pinch together. Continue with remaining strips. Press each end of the loaf together and fold under. Sprinkle top with Parmesan cheese and parsley. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until dough is browned and spaghetti is hot. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting into strips.


#BackyardBash Recipe: Greek Pasta Salad

You can find this recipe on the Ready Set Eat website: Greek Pasta Salad

This was such an easy recipe to make, and it was a huge hit. In fact, I liked it so much that I made more to take to VBS with us the next day!

Greek Pasta Salad


  • 12 Ounces Dry Rotini Pasta, uncooked.
  • 2 tablespoons Pure Wesson Canola Oil.
  • 2 tablespoons Gulden’s Spicy Brown Mustard
  • 1 can {14.5 oz} Hunt’s Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic, and Oregano, undrained.
  • 2 cups diced, unpeeled, seeded cucumber
  • 1 can {2.25 oz} ripe olives, drained.
  • 1 package {3.5 oz} crumbled reduced fat feta cheese. {I used fat free feta, and no one but me even knew!}
  • Coarse ground black pepper


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt. Drain and rinse under cold water until cool.
  2. Meanwhile, mix together oil and mustard in large bowl. Stir in all remaining ingredients, except pepper, until combined. Toss in cooled pasta. Sprinkle with pepper, as desired.

This is a quick and easy recipe, and it tastes great! It’s perfect for your next summertime barbeque.

AMF Summer Unplugged & Summer Pass

I love bowling. I am absolutely terrible at it, but every time I go to the bowling alley, I have a great time. This summer, AMF wants to encourage families to get out and have fun together with two very special programs:

AMF Summer Unplugged

At select AMF centers, kids 15 and under get 2 free games of bowling per day. {The cost of shoe rental isn’t included, but it’s definitely worth paying for.}

  • Dates: Starts Monday, May 14th. Ends Monday, September 3rd {Labor Day}.
  • Time: 7 days a week, until 8PM.
  • Register: Parents, CLICK HERE to select a participating center {there are over 250 locations} and complete a simple registration form. Free game coupons will be emailed to you every week. It’s just that easy!
  • Eat: Not sure what to eat? Most AMF locations offer Kids Meals from just $3.29

AMF Summer Pass

This is the perfect deal for anyone 16 and over!

With just one $29.95 Summer Pass, you get 2 free games per day for up to 4 people that are ages 16 and over. All summer long! That comes down to just $7.50 per person. Shoe rental isn’t included, but it’s a small price to pay for a summer of fun! The same times and dates apply as the Summer Unplugged special.

CLICK HERE to purchase your pass now.

Disclaimer: Information in this post was provided to me through the One2One Network. I have not been compensated for this post, but I have been entered to win a gift card as a thank you for putting up this post.

My ConAgra #BackyardBash

The weather around here has been absolutely perfect lately. This weekend was no exception, so I decided to host a backyard bash with some of my closest friends and family.

Let me tell you, it was honestly the most fun I have had in a very long time. We ate, we played, we talked, and we laughed. Oh my gosh, did we laugh. I’m pretty sure I burned more calories laughing last night than I did the entire time we played volleyball in 90* heat.

Family and good friends are so important to me. And so is knowing where my food comes from. Last night, many of the recipes were made using ConAgra products: Hunts tomatoes, Egg Beaters, and Chef Boyardee.

Before I get to the details and pictures from my party, I want to share a few need-to-know facts with you:

  • Chef Boyardee was a real person named Hector Boiardi. He wanted to make the best sauce and pasta dinner possible easily accessible to every family. {He actually owned a restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio.} It’s been more than 85 years, but Chef Boyardee continues the tradition of sharing quick and easy meals made with authentic recipes, no preservatives, and only quality ingredients.
  • Egg Beaters are real eggs. They just don’t have the yolk. They are a heart-healthy option to eggs from the shell. Egg Beaters provide the energy and nutrients your body needs without all the calories, fat, and cholesterol you find in shell eggs.
  • Hunt’s tomatoes are grown in Oakdale, California, and have been naturally steam peeled. They also contain no artificial ingredients or preservatives.

Here, take a look at this sheet. It will help you understand it all a little bit more. {You can click on it to view it larger.}

For the party, I selected 3 recipes to share with my family and friends: Greek Pasta Salad, Lemon Bars, and Braided Spaghetti Loaf. They were such a hit that I want to share those recipes with my readers! {Rather than bog down this post with 3 recipes, I will post them throughout the week as individual posts.} I can promise you that you are going to love them!

During the party, we also planted tomato seeds, {which I can’t wait to be able to pick soon!}, and buried a time capsule that we’ll dig up in 5 years. {In the time capsule, I buried a current family picture, and we all wrote what our “dreams” or goals are – much like Hector Boiardi’s dream to have his famous food in kitchens all across America. It was really special to hear each of the kids dreams. Jace’s made me laugh. It said, “I want to go one week without getting in trouble one time.” I hope he’s able to accomplish that several times over in the next 5 years. 🙂 }

Here are some pictures from the party. {Ignore the photo of me where I am beet red. I spent all day in the sun yesterday, and it left me glowing – and not in a good way!}

Here’s me at the food table {The lemon bars are still in the fridge} :

And here’s the gang having fun:

I think the party finally ended around 11 o’clock. It was such a fantastic night with friends and family that we just didn’t want it to end. We will definitely have to do this again… and I know what recipes we’ll be using!

I am so thankful for a company like ConAgra foods that provides high quality ingredients and isn’t afraid to tell me where my food comes from. I will continue to feed my family Hunts tomatoes, Egg Beaters, and Chef Boyardee products, because they are all products I can trust and feel good serving my family.

For more information, please visit the following website:

You can also become a fan of ConAgra Foods on Facebook.

Disclaimer: I wrote this review while participating in a campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of ConAgra and received products to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

VBS 2012 – Bug Zone: Transformed by God’s Love

Tomorrow starts our VBS week at church. I am really looking forward to it. Normally, I teach the older kids, but this year I opted to teach the little ones. I am the lucky teacher in the 2s and 3s classroom. That means I get to teach Parker’s class. He can’t wait, and neither can I!

Thursday night, my classroom helper, {and dear friend}, and I went over to the church and spent several hours decorating our room. It turned out SO great that I just had to share it with you all.

Here is our door. It’s the only thing not done. It will soon say, “We want to BEE like Jesus.”

Here are the four sides of the room. I just love our balloon clouds, paper plate daisies, and our tree!

And here’s a closeup of my FAVORITE part of the room. The Beehive:

Didn’t everything turn out so cute? I just love it all. And I think the kids will really love it too. I think it’s just perfect for their age group. I had so much fun putting it all together with Ms. Alecia. It makes me smile every time I look at it. 🙂

Is your church doing VBS this year? What’s your theme?

Are You Trying to Conceive? {Ends 6/16}

Let it be known: I am NOT trying to conceive. Therefore, I cannot do a review of this product. But, I know many people that are trying to conceive, and this is such a fantastic system that I felt it could benefit my readers.

If you have ever struggled with trying to conceive {TTC to those who have been through it}, you know the anguish and the heartache of negative pregnancy tests month after month. You just want to see that positive test come through. And it seems like everywhere you look, someone else is announcing a pregnancy. You just want it to be your turn.

The ConceiveEasy TTC Starter Kit is put together to help you learn more about your body, increase your fertility, and do it all without any side effects.

Do you know how difficult it becomes for women in their 30s and 40s to conceive a child? It seems that so many are putting off having children until later in life, but chances are good that many of them are opting to have children through In Vitro Fertilization. The reality is that a healthy 30 year old only has a 20% chance of conceiving naturally each month. By age 40, it drops to just 5 percent.

FertiBella’s ConceiveEasy TTC Kit System is a solution for women who are trying to conceive in an affordable and natural way. This system is doctor formulated and clinically proven to help treat the 7 most common reasons of infertility and help increase your chances of conception. Reasons for infertility include: progesterone deficiency, hormonal imbalances, irregular cycles, luteal phase defect, high FSH levels, ovulatory dysfunction, and poor quality cervical mucus. And ConceiveEasy is a 100% drug free solution with absolutely no side effects.

Please take a moment to learn more about the ConceiveEasy TTC Starter Kit by visiting their website: You can also find them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

ConceiveEasy is giving one lucky Blessed Beyond Words reader a TTC Starter Kit of their very own. To enter, use the rafflecopter gadget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I have been compensated for this post as a thank you for my time by ConceiveEasy. They are also sponsoring this giveaway. Opinions expressed are 100% my own, and information and statistics have been received from ConceiveEasy.

Coupon Codes to Help Save You Money

Most of the time, bloggers are really good about posting coupon codes for items for sale here in the USA. And, that’s great. Many of our readers are from the USA, so these codes benefit them.

But what if you don’t live in the USA? What if you are looking for deals and discounts for Canada? Look no further than The site is specially designed to help Canadians save money on the items they need.

What if you are looking for coupons exclusive to Australia? I have several friends and clients in Australia, and I know they are often in need of coupons and ways to save money. To them, I recommend

I hope those discount codes help out my readers that aren’t local to the United States.

Disclaimer: This post is to replace the Lifetime Sponsorship that and purchased for my sidebar.

Roadtrip-a-Matic on

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of PA Tourism. All opinions are 100% mine.

I love roadtrips. I don't get to take them very often, since we have 6 kids. But, before I had kids, I was always taking a roadtrip somewhere.

When I lived in Ohio, we were right next door to Pennsylvania. Pa-roadtrips were something I took quiteoften. {There's some really great shopping available in Pennsylvania!}

Before going on a roadtrip, though, there were so many headaches – where to go, what attractions should we visit, where to we eat, where will we stay….. The list goes on and on and on.

Now, there's a much easier way to plan your roadtrip. The Roadtrip-a-Matic feature on is the perfect way to plan your next vacation. Maybe you and your spouse want to sneak away for a romantic weekend away. You can plan that with a few easy clicks. Want to take the entire family on a week-long summer vacation? You can plan every detail – down to where you'll eat, where you'll stay, and what exciting destinations you'll see.


I love the Roadtrip-a-Matic on the website. I've already encouraged many of my Ohio friends to check it out and plan a trip to their neighboring state.

What about you? What are you waiting for? Head on over to the website and start planning your next pa-roadtrips!

Visit Sponsor's Site

Where I’ve Been Hiding…

The past few weeks have been exhausting – to put it mildly. I have felt more out of control than I think I ever have. We are upon the last few days of school. Tomorrow morning, my oldest daughter will graduate from 8th grade, and that will be the end of the year. Next year, we’re off to a new school {actually 3 new schools: primary, elementary, and HIGH school – gasp!}, and off to bigger and better things.

To top that off, my husband, the amazing man that he is, has been putting in countless hours at work to prepare for their “re-grand opening.” The grocery store he works at has undergone a complete remodel, and it has been an absolute nightmare. He gets home about 7 or 8 o’clock at night, eats dinner, falls asleep on the couch, goes to bed around 10, and then he is back up at 3:15am to be at the store by 5. And this is every day for several weeks now. He is absolutely exhausted, and I can’t blame him.

BUT, with him being gone so much, it’s left me feeling like a single mom. I spent the first 5 years of Ashley’s life as a single mom. One kid was exhausting enough. Now I’ve got 6 kids. I take them into the grocery store, and by the end of it, I want to cry.

The re-grand opening happens on Thursday, then it’s Memorial Day weekend. Poor guy is going to be drained come next week.

We have our VBS kick-off on Saturday, which means I’ve got 3 days to get my hiney in gear and get my room decorated. SO thankful I picked the 2s and 3s to teach this year. The room will be so much fun to decorate… it’s just finding the spare time to do it all.

VBS starts Sunday night, and runs all week. We do our VBS in the evening, so I’m hoping to have some quiet {HA!} time during the day. I’m also hoping and praying that next week hubby will finally have a day off. He certainly deserves it.

I know I haven’t posted much about the DietBet challenge – and for that I apologize. I am still losing weight! Just not quite as much as I’d hoped. I started this challenge at 183. At the end of week one, I was down to 178.8. At the end of week 2 {this past Saturday}, I was only down to 178.4. {I told you it’s been a stressful week.} This Saturday will be the end of week 3, and I’m hoping to have lost even more weight. I want so badly to be at my goal weight, but harboring all this stress is definitely a stumbling block.

Tell me – how are YOU? What exciting things do you have going on right now? Still counting down the school days, or are you out for summer?

Whitney Farms: 100% Natural Plant Foods and Soil

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Whitney Farms. All opinions are 100% mine.

As most of you are aware, we moved into a new house earlier this year. One thing this house has that all of our previous houses lacked, is a large yard – and the perfect spot for planting a garden.

Here, take a look:

Our Garden Spot

As you can see, we haven't done much with it… yet. Right now it needs a lot of TLC. But, I am envisioning that someday soon, I will have a beautiful garden full of fresh veggies for my family.

Whitney-Farms-Logo_Banner_New_C.jpg (6 documents, 6 total pages)

When I heard about Whitney Farms® and their products, I was instantly intrigued. I want to feed my family the best that I can – and if we start growing our own products, I would prefer to use both organic plant food and organic soil. I don't want to have to worry about the chemicals and additives that could be in the plant food I spread on my garden.

Whitney Farms® is 100% natural plant food and soil. There are no additives, nothing fake – just natural elements provided by the Earth to help you acheive a beautiful garden full of large plants and veggies.

 Whitney Farms® has been around for over 25 years, and offer the following positives:

  • No Manure Odor {LOVE THIS!}
  • Little to no dust
  • It's super easy to apply.
  • Their blends are specially designed and are protein-based to give your plants all the nutrients they need to grow and thrive.
  • Contain microbes that are beneficial to plant growth.

109103_1.jpg (6 documents, 6 total pages)

I can't wait to try Whitney Farms® natural plant food and soil for my garden, and I'd encourage you to try them as well. {Be sure to visit their website for a $3 off coupon.}


Visit Sponsor's Site

Costume SuperCenter – Our Captain America Costume Review

You’ve seen the commercials, and you’re well aware that The Avengers are in your local theater right now. {Still hoping I actually get to see the movie in the theater!} But, as a mom with 4 boys, I’ve got my own little set of Avengers here at home. And my boys have very vivid imaginations. One thing they love to do is dress up in costumes of their favorite super heroes. Needless to say, I am always scouting websites looking for the best boys costumes I can find – at a price I can actually afford.

Costume Supercenter recently contacted me and asked if I would like to review a costume for them. After visiting their website and seeing all the cool Avengers costumes they had available, I couldn’t wait to do this review… and neither could my boys!

Captain America is our favorite Avenger. He’s super cool, and he totally kicks butt. And the Captain America costume that Costume SuperCenter sent us is absolutely awesome! I love the fake “muscles” that are built into the costume. It makes my boys feel like they really are Captain America, and they can prepare to “fight the bad guys” – and all the evil things that lurk in the woods around our house. 🙂

I am really impressed with the quality of the costume – and with the price. At less than $30, these costumes are perfect for my boys. I can purchase them as birthday or Christmas gifts, or even “just because.”

The one thing that bummed us all out a bit, though, is that the costume didn’t come with Captain America’s shield. Now, really, how can you be Captain America without a shield? Luckily, my boys are great improvisors, and Zander made up his own Captain America shield. {I will be purchasing the Captain America movie shield from Costume Supercenter for Zander’s birthday.}

I will definitely be shopping at Costume Supercenter for all our costume needs. With their super low prices and fantastic selection, I can find exactly what I need for each one of my kids. Their customer service is top-notch, and they ship very quickly.

If you have kids that love to play dress up, or if you’re already thinking about what to do for Halloween costumes this year, head on over to the  Costume Supercenter website and take a look around. You’re certain to find something you’re going to love!

Also be sure to follow Costume Supercenter on Twitter and become a fan of Costume Supercenter on Facebook.

Disclaimer: I received the costume mentioned above from Costume Supercenter in order to facilitate my review. I have not been compensated for this post in any other way.

My Interview with Kerri Walsh {Thanks to @Pampers!}

One thing I love about my blog is that I get the opportunity to meet some fantastic people. Monday morning was definitely a highlight in my life, when I got the chance to sit down and interview Kerri Walsh – wife, mother of two, and 2-time Olympic Gold Medalist in beach volleyball.

Ok, ok. So we weren’t exactly sitting in the same room, but I did get to speak with her through the amazing power of technology – and my phone.

Kerri is amazing. She is so down to earth and just as sweet as the Tea the Southerners like to drink. I am still in awe at the fact that little old me got to talk one-on-one with her. {And I simply must mention just how jealous my daughter is. Kerri is someone that Ashley really looks up to, and after I had the opportunity to speak with Kerri, I think she’s an excellent role model for our daughters.}

I hope you’ll take a few moments and watch the video interview. {You won’t see me – just Kerri – but you’ll hear me ask all my questions and talk directly with her.}

She was so easy to talk to – I really could have talked all day! 🙂

What did you think of the interview? What questions would you have asked Kerri?

I am so thankful to Pampers for allowing me the chance to speak one-on-one with Kerri and ask her my questions. I had such a wonderful time, and I am just so honored to have been part of this.

Disclaimer: I have not been compensated for this post in any way. Pampers allowed me the opportunity to speak with Kerri Walsh. All photos in this post, as well as the video, are the copyright property of Pampers.

Looking for a Great Family Vacation? Go Central Jersey!

As a mom, I need vacation destinations that will make everyone in the family happy. Because we have such a wide range of ages, this can be quite difficult. So many places just don’t cater to families anymore. It seems the thing now is to keep kids quiet – or at home.

Recently, I had the opportunity to check out the website for Central Jersey. I was seriously impressed. There is so much to do! Theaters, parks, museums, restaurants, shopping, even a special playland just for kids. There are historical sites and tours that my husband {the history buff} would definitely have on our list of things to do. There is even an entire page dedicated to things to do with the kids! I love that they are so family-focused, and they don’t leave anyone out. My family would love to take a trip to Central Jersey and just go exploring. {And eat, and eat, and eat!} I just can’t get over how many options there are for families, couples, or anyone that visits their local area.

There are over 50 different hotels to choose from in Central Jersey, so there’s bound to be something that meets you needs – and your budget. Whether you are planning a romantic get-a-way with your significant other, or planning a family vacation, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for in Central Jersey.

I encourage you to visit and start planning your next vacation. Also, check out GoCentralJersey on Facebook and stay up-to-date with all the latest happenings, events, and more!

With 6 kids, it’s hard to find vacation spots where I know everyone will be happy. I hope that someday my family and I can visit the Central Jersey area and spend some time.



Spark Creativity Early with My First Crayola {Ends 5/26}

My kids love when they get to sit down and unleash their creativity on paper. My oldest sons, Zander and Jace, both love to write stories and draw pictures to go along with those stories. Lucy is starting to do a really good job of coloring inside the lines, and Parker is starting to make shapes that actually look like objects on paper. Even my 14 year old daughter loves to sit and color with kids when she babysits. And Gage, well, until this review came along, we had to keep the crayons away from Gage. He prefers to eat the crayons instead of actually use them on paper.
Thanks to My First Crayola, I don’t have to worry about that anymore. Crayola has come up with these awesome new products that allow my one year old to color like the big kids and I don’t have to worry about him eating the crayons or putting the markers in his mouth.
For this review, I received the following items:
  • My First Crayola™ Washable Crayons
  • My First Crayola™ Washable Markers
  • My First Crayola™ Washable Stampers
  • My First Crayola™ Washable Dry-Erase Activity Mat
  • My First Crayola™ Washable Triangular Dry-Erase Crayons
  • My First Crayola™ Washable Musical Rub-Art Station
  • My First Crayola™ Mess-Free Markers & Paper
  • My First Crayola™ Mess-Free Finger Painting
  • One specially marked box of original Cheerios® cereal

I have to say, this has to be one of our most favorite reviews that we have ever done. We all loved it! I’d like to take a minute and go through what I loved most about each of the products:

  • Washable Crayons, Markers, and Stampers – These are absolutely awesome! They are animal shapes, and they’re perfect for baby hands to grasp. Gage could sit for hours and color all over his paper – and his highchair. {Thank heavens they are washable!}
  • Washable Dry-Erase Activity Mat – Parker loves this! And, it’s completely portable, so he’ll take it with him every time we get in the car.
  • Washable Triangular Dry-Erase Crayons – These are awesome for teaching Parker the proper way to hold his crayons.
  • Washable Musical Rub-Art Station – Parker can’t get enough of this. He loves that it plays music when he presses on it, and how the picture “magically” appears.
  • Mess-Free Markers & Paper – Gage loves these! It came with a cow-shaped marker, and he loves scribbling all over the paper.
  • Mess-Free Finger Painting – So.Much.Fun! All my kids love that you can use clear paint and have designs appear like magic on the paper. I know it’s for the younger ones, but even my older kids love it.
  • Cheerios® – A staple in our house. And right now, Crayola & Cheerios have teamed up and are offering up to $5.00 off of My First Crayola products inside specially marked packages of Cheerios. This is a great way to get stocked up on My First Crayola items to get you through the summer.

I have been a mom for almost 15 years now, and I have never seen anything quite like the My First Crayola line. I absolutely love it, and I would recommend it to any parent with young children.

I also want to encourage you to connect with Crayola in the following ways:

Want to try the My First Crayola line for yourself?

Myblogspark and Crayola are giving my readers the opportunity to win a My First Crayola prize pack. The prize pack includes:

  • My First Crayola™ Washable Crayons
  • My First Crayola™ Washable Markers
  • My First Crayola™ Washable Stampers
  • My First Crayola™ Washable Dry-Erase Activity Mat
  • One specially marked box of original Cheerios® cereal
To enter, use the Rafflecopter Gadget below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure:  The information, products, coupon, video and additional My First Crayola™ gift pack was provided by Crayola® and Cheerios through MyBlogSpark.

Parenting Issues: My Child Swallowed A Quarter

Kids are kids, and kids will do stupid things. Ok, honestly? Adults do stupid things too, but at least kids have an excuse: they really may not know any better.

Last night, we had one of those heart-stopping moments. I had put all the kids to bed, and I was sitting on the couch listening to music and trying to catch up on posts.

All of a sudden, Jace comes flying out of his room, hands around his throat, hacking like he had a hairball. I ran to him, asked him what happened, and waited for a minute to make sure he was really ok. He could breathe, and he could talk, so I knew there wasn’t any immediate danger… no need to panic, call 911 or perform CPR. He told me that he had swallowed a quarter. {Jace is 7. I still can’t figure out what on earth possessed this child to even put a quarter in his mouth. But I digress…}

Then he went into a full-fledged panic attack. He kept crying that his chest hurt, and that he was going to die. Jace is emotional, but this was a new side I had never seen to him. He was truly convinced he was not going to survive having swallowed this quarter.

Of course hubby was still at work, and Ashley was off with her best friend and my best friend at a Chorus concert. That left me and 5 kids home, and I had to figure out how to get one of those kids to the hospital. I called my friend and asked how soon she would be home. In less than 5 minutes, her husband was at my house so that I could take Jace to the ER.

It was a VERY good thing I took him in. {Note to parents: If you’re not sure you should take your child in or not, DO IT.}

They did an x-ray right away, and it revealed that the quarter had gotten stuck at the sphincter at the end of the esophagus. They gave us 2 options: 1. Give Jace a medicine {shot} to open up the sphincter, or 2. Jam a tube down his throat and force the quarter on through. Obviously, we opted for choice #1.

They gave him a shot in the rear, and we waited. And waited. About 45 minutes later, they brought the x-ray machine into the room and did two more x-rays to determine if the quarter had passed through the sphincter. We waited and waited some more. And then we waited even longer.

Finally, the doctor came in the room and showed us the second set of x-rays. You could see that the quarter had passed through the sphincter and was in the stomach. He assured us that it should be smooth sailing from here on out. {And I say that literally.} He did say that there was a slight chance it could get stuck again in the intestine, so if Jace has any pain, we have to take him back to the ER. I am hoping and praying that this is the end of it, and in the next 24 – 48 hours, the quarter is gone from his system.

While the waiting was ridiculous, I am so glad I took him in. We could have had serious complications when he went to eat something if the quarter hadn’t gotten through the sphincter.

Kids are kids, and kids put all sorts of stuff in their mouth. I am quite certain that after tonight’s episode, Jace will be much more careful about where he puts his money. And from now on, I will be making sure any loose change is in the piggy bank – and not where someone could get to it!

Have you had a child swallow money? What was your experience?

Being Missions-Minded

Last night we had a missionary to the Philippines speak at our church. Now, this is nothing new. From birth, I have been in churches where Missions play an important role, and Missionaries often speak or host entire services. I have attended Mission Conferences and I have even been on a missions trip to Mexico. I’ve always enjoyed learning about missions, but last night, everything changed.

The missionary played an 8 minute presentation about his ministry – how he was saved, when he was called, and what he’s doing in the Philippines now, etc. Then, he preached a message. An incredibly powerful message that told us we should pray to God, praise God, and to preach the Word of God – even in difficult times. Really, a great message.

Then, he went on to tell us why he was in the States and what had happened since he arrived in the States a few days ago. He and his wife flew into Detroit, and they were treated like criminals. The authorities didn’t believe he was in the states to help raise funds for their mission, and instead of approving their Visa for 6 months, they were only given 7 weeks. They went from having half a year to raise $40,000 to just seven weeks. They need the money to purchase a building for their church, because the building they had been using was bought out by a man who wants nothing to do with the gospel and has kicked them out.

As he spoke, tears poured down my face. Then, a gentleman in our church stood up and pledged that he would give $100. Without thinking – or consulting my husband, I raised my hand that we would do the same. Hand after hand went up, until they got to $800. The missionary had been requesting that churches or individuals pledge $1,000 to help them reach their goal, and we were $200 short.

Time seemed to stand still. I wanted so badly for someone to pledge that last $200. The tears flowed harder, and at that moment, I wanted to pledge the last $200 – even though I knew we couldn’t realistically do it. The preacher requested that we take some of the extra money in our missions fund to help them reach $1,000. {I’m pretty sure that I heard my husband give a sigh of relief. He knew exactly what I had been thinking.}

I had forgotten the checkbook at home, so I grabbed Gene’s keys and flew out the door. I drove home, grabbed the checkbook, and then drove back to the church. While I was driving, for one moment, I felt that I would have given up all that I had to help that family. I would have sold all my worldly possessions for the hope that someone else might here the Gospel. In that one moment, I finally understood what “Missions” is all about.

I am so thankful for the way I grew up. I know it took 33 years, and moving across the country to finally “get it,” but I do get it. And now I want to be sure that my kids really get it. That they understand exactly  what missionaries do, and that it’s not easy. I also want to do a better job of supporting our missionaries.

Are you a missionary-minded family? What tools do you use to teach your children about missions? I’d love some ideas!

The DietBet Challenge is ON! My Official Weigh-in.

I’m a little behind posting this. Things have been kind of crazy around here.

On Saturday, I started a new DietBet weight loss challenge. This time, I competing against 6 ladies. At the end of the challenge, we will see who the winner{s?} is{are?}, and prizes will be awarded.

I am really excited about this challenge, for lots of reasons: First, I do better when I’m competing. It keeps me from eating things I know I shouldn’t, and it motivates me to exercise and push myself just a little harder. Secondly, I am already doing so well at reaching my goals, and I think this is the “push” I need to keep going.

I am also really excited about sharing this experience with some very special people in my life! Last time I did the DietBet challenge, I didn’t really know the girls I was competing against. This time, however, I know most of these girls on a personal level. I’ve known one girl since we were about 3 years old. We went to school together – from preschool all the way through 5th grade. {I moved to Chicago the summer between my 5th and 6th grade year.} We got back in contact in 2002 completely by accident… I ran into her mom at the little cake shop that made our wedding cake. It turned out her daughter was getting married about a month before I was. We were able to go to each others’ weddings. We lost touch again, and through the power of Facebook, we got back in touch. We’ve both struggled with our weight, so we’ve been cheering each other on for a few months now.

I’m also competing against a friend from a church I went to in Ohio, a friend I go to church with now, my best friend’s mom, and 2 other fabulous ladies I’ve just recently had the chance to meet. I am STOKED! Although, this may not be such a good thing. I may get so busy cheering them on that I might just forget and eat a box of donuts or something. 🙂 I’m sure they wouldn’t mind that at all.

Ok, ok. Time to get to the hardest part of this post. The video of my official weigh in. It’s a little different than my official weigh-in in January when I tipped the scales at 213 pounds. I’ve definitely lost some weight since then… but getting on a scale in front of anyone just isn’t easy.

And before you watch this video, let me just tell you that I had just finished playing 3 hours of volleyball. So, my hair is in a ponytail, and I’m pretty sure I sweated all my makeup off. But, that’s the real me… scary, I know.

Ok, here’s the video:

Crazy. 183.8. That’s down almost exactly 30 pounds since January, which is great, but I know I can do better. I really think this challenge will speed things up again. At least I’m hoping that’s what it does.

Now, here are my “Before” pictures for this challenge. {Be sure to check out my Before & After pictures from the last challenge. It made such a difference, I’m hoping to do it again!}

Yep, I still have a loooooong way to go. But I know I can do it!

I hope you’ll stick with us for the next 4 weeks. You can follow our DietBet Challenge by clicking here: DietBet Challenge – May 2012. Be sure to leave me some love on my profile page. I’m going to need it!

Also, I am still looking for a few more sponsors for the challenge. If you have a business and want lots of exposure, contact me today!

Let the games begin!