How We Keep the Romance Alive as Parents of Five

Daniel and I started dating a few months after my fifteenth birthday during the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of high school  He is very much my high school sweetheart.  I married him when I was eighteen, just a few short months after I graduated from high school.

In the course of our almost twelve year marriage we have completed four college degrees between the two of us and welcomed five children to our lives.  Between full time jobs, college, and our kids and their activities, keeping our marriage and relationship healthy isn’t always the easiest task.

When we committed to each other through marriage we promised that we would always put each other first, even before our children.  Our children are extremely important to us and we make sure they have everything they need and are well taken care of mentally, physically, and emotionally.  However, in just a few short years (much sooner than I think I will be ready for!) our children will be adults.  When our children leave the house, it will be just Daniel and I.  We don’t want to spend those empty nesting years trying to repair a neglected marriage so we do our best to make an effort now to keep the flame alive and our relationship thriving.

As parents of small children, we struggle to find time together.  Date nights aren’t always a reality for us, especially since the youngest twins were born.  We don’t have many people in our lives who willingly volunteer or that we trust to keep all five kids so we can have dinner together.  Five kids, especially with two babies, can be overwhelming.  So, we do our best to only ask family to babysit if we have work obligations.

Since we don’t feel like we have reliable and readily-available babysitters most of the time we have started making efforts to carve out alone time at home.  I thought I would share how we are doing that as an inspiration to other parents of young children.

1. Date-Night In Box

After the babies were born last August, we were struggling.  I was dealing with a bit of postpartum depression and a stressful semester of graduate school on top of midnight feedings.  Daniel and I were having a hard time connecting.  By Christmas, we were barely talking most of the time.  We both recognized that we needed to refocus on us.  So my Christmas gift to Daniel was a subscription box called Date Night In.  

The Date Night In subscription box arrives once a month.  The box contains everything you need for a date night in with your spouse.  Each box contains the items needed to complete a specific activity, a treat to share, a recipe to cook and eat together, and something to set the mood.  The company also provides a play list to help set the mood as well.

The activities we received in the box have included all kinds of things from writing love letters to playing games together.  Every month is new and unique.  The box costs $34.99 a month plus tax and shipping.  They also have 3-month and 6-month plan that offers a bit of discount as well.  If you have the extra money for this each month, I highly recommend it.

I won’t lie.  The first few months were hard for me.  We were struggling so much that I really didn’t want to participate in the activities but I buckled down anyway and completed the activities included in the box. At this point, I think we both really look forward to getting a new box in the mail each month and completing the dates with each other once the kids are in bed.  It is a guaranteed Date Night In once a month!

2. Dinner for Two

Sometimes even if we can get a babysitter, a night out just isn’t in the budget.  Making a special dinner together for just the two of us is always a nice way to go.  If you have kids and can stand to have a late dinner, I highly recommended waiting to have dinner until after the kids are in bed.  Cook dinner together, light some candles, and enjoy a meal without your kids.

There are a ton of recipe books out there that cater to couples.  One of my favorites is Date Night In: More than 120 Recipes to Nourish Your Relationship.  This book contains full menus to prepare together and enjoy a night in.  Of course, you don’t have to prepare the entire suggested menu.  Just a main course or an appetizer provides a nice quiet retreat.

3. Share a Sweet Treat

Sometimes it just isn’t feasible to cook a full meal so Daniel and I have been sharing desserts after the kids are in bed.  Sometimes he will run up town and bring back ice cream sundaes to share.

Sometimes we bake brownies or cookies and share them with a big glass of milk.  It is nice to curl up together on the couch, share a sweet treat, and have a quiet conversation.  If you need some ideas there are some wonderful cookbooks that have sweet recipes just for two.  Sweet & Simple: Dessert for Two is a great option!

4. Play a Game Together

My husband loves board games.  I’m not so crazy about them.  He is constantly trying to get me to play games with him.  I have put effort in over the past few years to play more games with him.  While games may not be your thing, they do bring some fun and laughs to your relationship.  There are plenty of two player games available out there.

Even if we aren’t together, Daniel and I play games.  We almost always have some sort of game going on our phones. Games are a good way to build companionship and keep the fun in our relationship.

5. Write Letters

Remember those love notes you wrote when you first started dating.  Keep writing them!  Even after being married for almost twelve years, Daniel and I still write each other letters and notes.  We don’t do it as frequently as we used to but getting a surprise letter from Daniel still makes my heart flutter.

Writing letters promotes better communication in your relationship as well.  When you write a letter you have to take the time to actually construct the sentences instead of just letting your thoughts flow out of your mouth.  Taking the time to think about what you want to say to your spouse usually results in more meaningful communication.

Daniel and I have also found that sometimes it is easier to write about something going on in our relationship instead of talking about.  Sitting down to write a letter keeps the emotions a bit less heated during those times that we are having a disagreement.

We actually keep a moleskin notebook that we have written letters to each other in over the years.  He will write me a letter and leave it on my nightstand.  I’ll respond and leave it on his.  Sometimes we keep up with this well.  Other times it falls to the back burner for us.  Writing letters definitely runs in cycles for us but it is an awesome communication tool.

Need More Ideas?

Still looking for more ideas to keep the romance alive?  There are some amazing books available that promote healthy relationships.  We recommend 52 Uncommon Dates: A Couple’s Adventure Guide for Praying, Playing, and Staying Together.  We also own both the husband and wife version of 100 Ways to Love Your Wife: A Life Long Journey of Learning to Love.

What are your favorite tips for maintaining a healthy relationship with your spouse?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you).

 

I Did It! I Survived Graduate School!

I did it!

This past Wednesday I took my comprehensive exams to finish up my master’s degree!  I was nervous about failing them but I passed all three of them!  Tuesday night I will give a twenty minute presentation over a paper I wrote and I will take one more final test on Wednesday night and then I am officially done with my master’s degree.  Commencement is on May 12 and I can’t wait to have that diploma in my hand.

Daniel commented the other day that my life was about to go from super busy all the time to having lots of free time in just a short amount of time.  Not long after I graduate, the school I teach at will be out for summer break.  I spent the past two summers attending graduate classes so I am really looking forward to a summer break with no plans.  I have a list of books that I am hoping to finish and I am looking forward to just hanging out with my kids.

Summer Plans

We have approximately three weeks of school left.  We also only have about three weeks of dance left as well.  The girls will dance in their recital the last week of May.  Shortly after that soccer and baseball will wrap up and we will have some major down time.  Swim team starts in June but for some reason it doesn’t feel as hectic to me.  I think part of that is because I’m not working all day and then trying to get kids to practice.  We get up in the morning, go to swim team practice, and then have the rest of the day to hang out.

We aren’t really planning on taking any major trips this summer.  The littlest babies just aren’t old enough to go too far and this mommy stay sane while traveling with five kids.  We are visiting a couple of cities that are within about four hours of our home town.  We are planning to visit an aquarium and a science museum.  I won’t be surprised if we throw some other places in this summer as well.

My biggest goal this summer is just to rest.  After graduate school, new babies, spring sports, and the nonstop schedules we have maintained for the last two years, I desperately need rest…mind, body, and soul.  That is my plan for this summer above all else.

Do you have any fun summer plans?  What are you reading this summer?

Hello April!

Wow!  It has been almost a month since I have posted a blog entry.  This past month has just been crazy and busy, but good!

World Traveler

My last blog post was on March 15 and I boarded a plane early the next morning to head to Italy!  I had so much fun in Italy!

I visited Verona, Venice, Florence, Assissi, Pisa, and Rome.  When life slows down a bit, I plan to share a couple of posts about what I did in Italy, what I ate, and my tips for traveling in Italy. For now, I’ll just leave with you some pictures!

Graduate School

When I returned from Italy, I jumped head first into finishing up grad school which is why I neglected the The French Lemon bit. I turned my last paper in this past Wednesday! One final and a seven-hour comprehensive exam at the end of April that stand between me and graduation!  I’m so close but yet it still feels like so much work.  I recently ordered my cap and gown so things are starting to feel real!

Spring Sports

Spring sports are heating up!  Jackson and Emily have both started soccer and Jackson is also playing baseball.  Lauren and Emily are both still dancing three nights a week!  There is a little over a month until the dance recital and I am so ready for it.  It will be nice to have a break from dance classes in the evenings.Hello April Spring Soccer

With all the activities, we are constantly on the go right now.  Jackson and Emily both had their first soccer games this past Saturday…at the same time.  I was trying to watch both fields and catch both of them playing!  They both played well and were happy to be back on the field.

Growing Babies

Harrison and Katherine are growing so fast!  I can’t believe that they are going to be eight months old in just a couple of weeks.  Both babies have two bottom teeth.  Harrison is currently working on cutting his first top tooth.  He also started crawling last week!  Katherine doesn’t seem to have much interest in crawling just yet. Time slow down!

Books

Guess what?  Grad school has gotten close enough to wrapping up that I was able to take some time and read a book for pleasure!  I had almost forgotten what that felt like!  After I take my comprehensive exam on April 26, I plan to do quite a bit of reading and I can’t wait to share what I am reading with you!

Drop me a comment and tell me what you have been reading lately!

Hope you all have a Happy Easter this weekend!

 

10 Reasons I am Rocking Motherhood

I was recently tagged by Alicia at Adventures With My Littles to complete the Rocking Motherhood Challenge.  Thanks so much for tagging me, Alicia!

The idea behind the challenge is to encourage mothers to recognize and remember the things that make us great moms rather than focusing on the things we feel we might be failing at.  Motherhood is hard sometimes. It is so important that we celebrate the little things that make it worthwhile.

To keep the challenge going and to help some other moms celebrate motherhood, I am tagging mom bloggers Kayla at Virtuous Mama’s Corner, Jourdan at Time Out For Mommy,  Janice at Mami’s Time Out, Victoria at Jigsaw Heart, Jackie at The Granola Girl, Annie at Life as Annie P., Jennifer at Under Pressure, and Hannah at Home and Lifestyle of Hannah Beswick to post their own lists of how they are rocking motherhood.

My 10 Reasons I Am Rocking Motherhood

  1. I talk to my kids.
    With five kids running around, the laundry isn’t always done and the sink is full of dirty dishes but my kids don’t really care about those things.  What they do care about is that they have a mom who is interested in them and their lives.  I talk to them about what is going on at school and how their day was everyday. Communicating with your kids is so important and I’m rocking it!
  2. I encourage my kids to be involved.
    With five kids, life would be so much simpler if I didn’t allow my kids to play every sport they wanted to play.  However, I make every effort possible to let my kids be involved in everything they want to do.  Dance, soccer, baseball, football, and swim team takes up so much of our time and makes my life really hectic at times.  However, it is a sacrifice I am willing to make for my children.
  3. I connect with my kids through their interests.
    I struggle with this one and I don’t always succeed but I make an attempt to connect with my kids through their own interests.  My oldest daughter, Emily, is a reader.  She always has a book with her. I try to read books that she recommends to me or tells me that she enjoyed.  We are then able to discuss the books and connect in that way.  My middle daughter, Lauren, is a little fashionista.  She loves clothes, shoes, and make-up.  She is my shopping partner and we do our “make-up” together in the mornings. I struggle with my son, Jackson, since I don’t play football or baseball.  Sometimes connecting with him just means that we lay on the bed and watch YouTube videos together.
  4. I am still nursing our youngest set of twins.
    With our first three kids, nursing was no big deal to me.  I was a stay-at-home mom and had all day to nurse on demand. I nursed all three of our oldest kids exclusively for more than a year. Fast forward seven years to this newest set of twins and things have changed.  I work full time and attend graduate school in the evenings.  My pump goes every where with me.  I feel like I spend most of my time either nursing my babies when they are with me or pumping when they are not.  Most days I am only able to pump just enough to get them through the next day at daycare.  There is no surplus.  I often want to give up but for now I’m hanging in there.  We’ve made it almost seven months.  I hope to make it until their first birthday!
  5. I’m learning to choose my battles.
    When my oldest child was born, I obsessed about doing everything perfectly.  She was breastfed.  She always had a hair bow and was perfectly groomed.  I’m almost positive the child probably wasn’t exposed to dirt for the first two years of her life.  And then she became a big sister…  Once that first set of twins arrived, I had to come to terms with the fact that I had to give up some control.  Sure, I don’t think leggings and a t-shirt is an appropriate outfit for school, but Lauren does.  I’m learning to choose my battles.  Hey, at least she is dressed…even if she doesn’t match.
  6. I’ve loosened up and calmed down.
    When my husband and I first started dating I was very uptight. I stuck to the rules and didn’t handle spontaneity well.  My husband is exactly the opposite.  After eleven years of marriage and five children, I loosened up so much.  I appreciate the chaos and fun that comes with motherhood now.  I am so much better at rolling with the punches and keeping my calm.
  7. I try to set an example and embrace a life outside of my kids.
    I am a firm believer that while motherhood is a very important part of a woman’s life, it is not the only thing that defines her.  I want my girls to enjoy a successful and fulfilling life. I hope that includes motherhood for them but I also want them to know that their careers and individual life away from their kids is also valuable.  I try my best to set that example for my kids.  I maintain a career and travel without my kids.  I attend graduate school and pursue my own ambitions.  While I love being a mother, I also want my kids to see that I am more than that.  I hope they’re proud of me and can recognize and embrace all that I am.  While I hope all my kids get to experience what it is like to be a parent, I don’t want any of them to feel defined by only parenthood.
  8. I love their father.
    It is so important that our kids know what a healthy relationship looks like.  I want all of my kids to develop relationships someday that they feel appreciated, safe, loved, and respected in.  The best way I know to impart that desire to my children is to model it. So, I love their father.  My husband and I do our best to demonstrate a healthy relationship in front of our kids.  We talk about important stuff in front of them.  We thank each other for various things, such as doing the dishes, so that our kids can hear it.  He and I both make an effort to help each other out and demonstrate a sense of respect for each other in front of our kids.  And, most importantly, we are affectionate in front of our kids.  Greeting each other with a kiss and a hug in front of our kids every day will hopefully help them see the value in these actions towards those we love.
  9. I let them help.
    Dinner definitely makes it to the table quicker without my kids’ help but I let them help anyway.  I want my kids to feel like they contribute to the family and that their contribution is valued.  When they offer to help with something, I almost always embrace that.  Most nights one of the girls usually wants to help me cook dinner.  Lauren sets the table quite often.  Jackson is a pro at putting laundry away.  It used to drive me crazy when one of them wouldn’t fold the towels the way I do but I have learned to let go and let them help anyway.
  10. My kids are happy and healthy.
    Things aren’t perfect at our house and they never will be.  I’m definitely not a perfect mother but I’ve managed to raise some pretty happy and healthy kids so far.  I consider that a success  and just another reason that I am rocking motherhood!

How are you rocking motherhood?

March Madness

Starting Out Rough

I had really high hopes that March would be a bit easier on us than January and February. However, that is not proving to be true so far.  Just four days into March and we have sick kids…again.  Poor Lauren has had a headache and congestion all week.  I’m pretty sure that it is a pretty terrible sinus infection.  Early Friday morning, Emily woke Daniel and I up to let us know that she had thrown up in her bed.  Daniel got her cleaned up and her bedding changed while I nursed Katherine.  About fifteen minutes after we all were back in bed, Jackson came to our room to let us know that he had thrown up in his bed also.  Needless to say, all five kids got to stay home from school with Dad on Friday.

Grad School Blues

Graduate school is officially kicking my rear.  I started this degree in June of 2015 and plowed through every semester without feeling too stressed about any of this.  This semester, however, has been awful.  I have absolutely no motivation and I’m finding it difficult to get anything done.  I have never struggled this much with any classes and I am barely getting anything read or done.  Forget doing the research I desperately need to do.   I have already checked out when it comes to grad school.

This week I received the information for my comprehensive exams that I will have to take (and pass) in April in order to be eligible for graduation. It was some overwhelming information.  The test will end up being a seven hour commitment and it is pass or fail.  It can cover ANYTHING from my coursework…two years of work.  I’m not even sure how to prepare for this.  Just praying to survive the rest of this semester.  69 days until graduation!

The Silver Lining

There is a little silver lining for March and the rest of this school year.  First, I leave for Italy in 12 days!  What?!?  I seriously can’t wait.  I need some travel time.  Sometimes I feel trapped at home and traveling is such a breath of fresh air for me.  Seeing how big the world is always makes me realize how insignificant most of my problems are.  With everything weighing me down right now, I really need that perspective. Plus, there is cheese, pasta, and gelato.  I may never come home.

Second, we signed Emily and Jackson up for soccer last week.  Baseball sign-ups started this past Thursday and we signed Jackson up to play that as well.  With the exception of football in the fall, I really love spring and summer sports.  I look forward to baseball and swim team as much as the kids do.  Jackson’s a bit nervous about baseball this year.  He is moving up from t-ball to coach-pitch and he is terrified that he is going to get hit with the ball.  Daniel has promised to practice with him a ton.  Hopefully, it will be a good season for him.

The girls are wrapping up dance classes.  Their recital will be in May.  I honestly can’t wait.  I usually really enjoy dance but with grad school it has felt really overwhelming this year.  Three nights a week the girls are at the dance studio.  I am so ready for a break from dance.  Once the recital is over, we won’t have any dance related activities until August!  Praise the Lord!

How’s your March going so far?  What are you looking forward to this spring?

 

 

Best Baby Products for the First Six Months

Our youngest set of twins (babies number 4 and 5!)  turned six months old this past Saturday!  The past six months have flown by.  They are growing so quickly and it breaks my momma heart a little bit.  I am just not ready for these babies to grow up so fast!

I have reached the point in my motherhood journey that I have become the one giving advice instead of asking for it.  It feels weird to be giving the young women who are becoming moms for the first time advice.  I’m happy to share my experiences with them though.  One of the things I am often asked about is which baby products have I used the most.  So, in honor of my babies’ half birthday I am going to share the list of must-have baby products that I have compiled after having five children.

Best Baby Products for the First Six Months According to a Mom of 5

  1. Fisher-Price Rock ‘N Play Sleeper

    Seriously guys, this thing is a lifesaver!!  Unfortunately, these didn’t exist when my oldest three kids were infants.  Our oldest three hated their bassinets so I knew I didn’t want to spend more money on a bassinet with these newest babies.  So many people recommended that we try a Fisher-Price Rock ‘N Play.  I’m so glad that we decided to get two of them!  Both of the babies love them and sleep in them every night.  They are slightly elevated which seems to help our little guys sleep and the seat cradles them perfectly in a way that mimics being held. I really recommend getting the more expensive version that has the automatic rock feature.  Just plug it in and let the soothing, rocking motion work its magic.  Several people told me that their babies only fit in a Rock ‘N Play until about four months old but our babies are still sleeping in them every night at six months old.  This has also replaced a swing for us.  We really don’t need  a swing or something similar because this does a wonderful job soothing our babies.

  2. NoseFrida

    I know, I know.  This is kind of gross…or at least my husband, Daniel, thinks so.  He is convinced that this is the most disgusting thing on the face of this planet and absolutely refuses to use it.  I, however, LOVE it. I have given birth to babies in August, September, and October which means I have suffered with tiny babies during cold and flu seasons a few times.  When babies are small, there isn’t much you can do to help them when they have a cold except run a humidifier, use saline nose drops, and suction as much snot out as you can.  With our three oldest, we used the suction bulb the hospital gives you but I never felt satisfied with it.  I always felt like there was still so much snot left in their little noses and it wasn’t helping at all.  Then, I discovered the NoseFrida.  This thing is AMAZING.  You essentially put the tip of the tube on their nose and use the red mouth piece to suction the snot out.  It is so much gentler on their noses and it gets so much more snot out!  Like I said, Daniel thinks it is nasty but it saved us this past winter.  It was a huge help in January when both babies had RSV.

  3. Fisher-Price Sit-Me-Up Floor Seat

    We were given two of these last summer before the babies were born.  I love them so much!  When the older kids were babies, we used Bumbo seats but I think these are so much better.  They are more secure than a Bumbo and provide more support since the back of the seat is higher.  We still have Bumbo seats with these new babies but rarely use them.  We prefer these Fisher-Price Sit-Me-Up Floor Seats and I think the babies prefer them as well.  Because of the added support, we were able to use these at an earlier age compared to the Bumbo seats.  You do really need to wait until your baby can support his or her own head to use these but they are wonderful.  I often put the babies in their floor seats and bring them with me in the kitchen when I’m cooking or cleaning.  I also use them when I’m doing laundry. These make getting household tasks while taking care of babies so much easier!

  4. Boppy Pillow

    A Boppy Pillow is one of those items that I have used with all five kids and still love it!  If you are planning to breastfeed, it is a must have!  This pillow has saved my back during my breastfeeding days. It allows you to support baby and bring him or her closer to the breast without bending down and straining your back.  My husband also uses the Boppy when he gives the babies a bottle.  It is just a great way to get some support and help holding baby during those feeding sessions.

  5. Munchkin Dishwasher Basket

    We have four Munchkin Dishwasher Baskets and with twins at least one of them has become a permanent addition to our dishwasher.  These are the perfect little contraptions to wash all those babies things.  It has two compartments.  The top compartment is perfect for bottle nipples and pacifiers. I use to bottom bigger compartment for lids and nipple rings from baby bottles.  When the babies get older and begin using sippy cups, these baskets are great for washing the stoppers that prevent leaks from from sippies.  These are also really great to throw small kitchen gadgets, plastic straws, breast pump parts, and medicine dosing cups in as well.  We’ve been using these since our oldest, Emily, was a baby (almost ten years ago!).

  6. Moby Wrap

    The Moby Wrap is another one of those products I have been using for the past ten years.  I have bought a new one with every pregnancy.  Babywearing with the Moby Wrap gives me a chance to get some stuff done around the house while still keeping my babies happy.  I like the Moby Wrap because it is so versatile.  Since it is a long piece of fabric there are numerous ways to tie it and to hold baby.  It grows with baby and you can use it from the newborn stage well into the toddler years. I absolutely love that it lasts so long.  It does have a learning curve and I highly suggest watching several YouTube videos to learn all the different holds and ways to tie it. Once you get the hang of it, it is super easy.

 

This is certainly not a comprehensive list.  There are definitely other products you will need the first six months of your baby’s life. These are certainly ones that have made our lives so much easier.  There are a number of other products that I have found particularly useful in the second half of our children’s first year and I hope to compile that list and share it with you this summer as we approach the twins’ first birthday!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you).

February Recap

It’s the last weekend in February. I wanted to give a little February Recap and let everyone know what we’ve been up to this month!

Bye, Bye Illness

Our February wasn’t totally illness free but it was so much better than January.  The first two weeks of February saw the babies still recovering with the bout of RSV that they caught at the end of January.  Our oldest daughter, Emily, also tested positive for the flu that week.  Jackson, our oldest son, was diagnosed with the flu four days after Emily so we did have a little bit of a rough start to the month.

We finally all made it back to work and school on the thirteenth, just in times for Valentine’s parties.  It was our first full week of work and school after several weeks of illness.  Everyone seems to be feeling so much better and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.  The babies are still a little stuffy but nothing too terrible.

Growing Up and Growing Teeth

Harrison and Katherine are six months old today! I can’t believe how quickly the past six months have flown by.  It seems like just yesterday we found out that we were expecting our second set of twins.  They are both growing like weeds.  Both can sit up but aren’t very good at it. They’re still pretty wobbly. They aren’t getting nearly enough time practicing independent sitting.  With three older siblings, they are always being held and carried around.

Harrison and Katherine are doing great at rolling over.  Katherine isn’t really interested in rolling over like Harrison is.  We can no longer keep him on his back.  He rolls all over the place.  He scoots around the floor when we put him down for tummy time.  We’re anticipate him figuring out the crawling thing soon.

Harrison and Katherine had their first bite of baby food this past Thursday.  We started with pears.  Katherine loved them! We can’t get baby food into Katherine’s mouth quick enough! Harrison had a little bit of trouble warming up to them.  He does seem to be enjoying them a bit more by today.  Harrison also cut his first tooth this week.  He had been fussing for a while so I knew one was coming.  I’m just happy that it finally broke through.  No teeth for Katherine yet but I’m sure she won’t be far behind him.

School and Activities

We’re all still hanging in there.  I don’t know about the kids but I am so, so ready for summer break.  I’m just not feeling this semester for whatever reason.  I am really looking forward to some down time and summer activities.  Snow cones and swimming, any one? Graduate school is probably part of the problem. It’s my last semester and I have just really lost all motivation.  I’m finding it more and more difficult to get all the things done that I need to do.  76 days until graduation!  I can make it!

The kids are keeping us busy as usual.  Dance practice is still taking up three nights of our week.  Soccer sign ups are next week and I have two kids that are planning to play.  Baseball sign ups start in just a few weeks so we will be adding that to our schedule in late March or early April.

Looking to the Future

We have a lot of things coming up that I am really looking forward to.  I’ll be spending my spring break in Italy and I can’t wait.  I leave in 18 days!  The kids will be staying home with Daniel.  I’m a little nervous about that since we have little ones this year but if anyone can handle it, it is Daniel!  He is so fabulous with the kids.  He always has been!  I am looking forward to the break though…and cheese…and pasta…and gelato.  I honestly plan to eat my weight in gelato.

Like I said earlier, I graduate with my master’s degree in 76 days.  I can’t wait.  Daniel and I have been married eleven and a half years and it seems like at least one of us has been in school the entire time between us both getting bachelor’s and master’s.  I’m not sure we are going to know how to function without one of us being in school but I’m looking forward to this new chapter in our lives.

I’m really looking forward to spring and summer sports and activities.  Soccer, baseball, dance recitals, and swim team are some of my favorite parts of this time of the year!  Bring it on!    What are you looking forward to this spring?

Valentine Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

It isn’t technically spring yet but it sure feels like it here in Arkansas.  We’ve enjoyed springlike weather with temperatures in the 70s and 80s all week.  I’ve absolutely loved it and it has kindled my desire to make spring treats and fire up the grill.

Every spring there is a little, local store run by a farm that opens in our town.  They have fields and fields of strawberries and the kids and I love to load up on fresh strawberries from this store.  We typically by a couple of huge boxes of those sweet berries and make all kinds of yummy treats in addition to just enjoying some fresh berries.  We usually make fresh strawberry jam and strawberry muffins but my favorite treat to make with the kids is chocolate-covered strawberries!  Our little, local farm store won’t open until April so we had to settle for strawberries from the grocery store but the girls and I got a head start on strawberry treats this afternoon.

 

Since this spring weather has put us in the mood for spring treats and it is the weekend before Valentine’s Day, Emily, Lauren, and I headed to the kitchen to add a Valentine’s spin to chocolate-covered strawberries.  Chocolate-covered strawberries are the perfect thing to satisfy my sweet tooth and one of the easiest, kid-friendly things to make in the kitchen.

We began by washing our strawberries off.  The girls do a great job at rinsing the berries and then using a paper towel to gently dry them off.  The chocolate becomes watered down and doesn’t stick to the berries if you don’t make sure they are dry.

Since this is a treat that I tend to make with the kids every year, I definitely try to make it as easy as possible.  One way I do that is by using Bakers Heat and Dip Dipping Chocolate.  Guys, I love this stuff!  It is so easy and it tastes sooooo good!  Open the package and stick it in the microwave for 30 seconds.  Stir the chips around with a spoon and then stick is back in the microwave for another 30 seconds.  Repeat until it is all melted.

Once your chocolate is melted, gently grab a clean, dry strawberry by the stem and dip it into the melted chocolate.  Set the dipped strawberries on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and let them sit until the chocolate had hardened.  Since it is so close to Valentine’s Day, my girls and I decided to get creative and add some Valentine’s sprinkles but the plain chocolate ones are still my favorite.  For the white chocolate ones, we used Ghiradelli White Chocolate Baking Chips.  We used these the same way that we used the Bakers Heat and Dip Dipping Chocolate.  We put some of the white chocolate in a small, deep bowl and melted them for thirty seconds at a time in the microwave.  We then dipped the strawberries in the white chocolate just like we did in the Bakers Chocolate.  If you want to add sprinkles, then make sure you sprinkle them on the strawberries immediately after you dip them and before the chocolate dries.

Bakers Heat and Dip Dipping Chocolate provides such a wonderful, smooth coat of chocolate and isn’t too hard when it dries.  It is so smooth and creamy once it dries on the strawberries!  One container usually does a pint of strawberries, give or take.  For the five of us in the house that can eat them, we usually make two pints of strawberries and use two of these dipping chocolate containers.

This treat literally took less than twenty minutes for my girls and I to make.  Even allowing the chocolate time to dry, these strawberries were ready to eat in under an hour.  You can pop your cookie sheet with strawberries in the refrigerator for a few minutes to make the chocolate harden quicker.  Also, they will keep in an air tight container in the refrigerator for a couple of days.

During the spring and summer months, we usually make these a couple of times a month.  They are a quick and easy treat.  I would much rather my kids eat fruit with a bit of chocolate than having something like a brownie or cookie for a snack so I consider it a win on the healthy eating front as well.  We don’t generally add sprinkles to our strawberries but we thought it would be fun for Valentine’s Day.  You can omit them though or add different colors for different holidays.  Green for St. Patrick’s day or pretty pastels for Easter would be cute!  Give it a try!  The next time you are creating your grocery order for your Walmart grocery pickup (best thing ever!) throw some Bakers Heat and Dip Dipping Chocolate and some strawberries in your cart for a quick, sweet treat!  Happy dipping!

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I may receive a small commission.

January Recap: What We’ve Been Up To

I had planned to blog so much more in January but life hit hard.  And not in a good way.  I hope to remedy that in February but I’ll be honest, February isn’t starting off on the best foot.  Here’s an update on the things going on in our household and what January looked like for us.

Back to School

The first week of January brought an end to Christmas break for us.  Our school district requires teachers to return to school a day before students to attend professional development meetings so I headed back to the high school that I teach at on January 2.  Since students didn’t return to school until the third, all five kids got an extra day at home with Dad, which they, of course, loved! I, on the other hand, had a hard time going back to work and was so ready to cuddle my babies when I got home that evening!

January brought other back to school moments too!  On January 17th, I started my last semester of graduate school!  I’ve been working since June of 2015 on my master’s degree in history.  My bachelor’s degree is also in history.  I graduate in May and I absolutely cannot wait.  It feels like it has been a long time coming.  I’ve enjoyed the classes I have taken but it definitely hasn’t been an easy task to accomplish while I’m working full time as a teacher, keeping up with three active kids, and adding another set of twins last summer.  I’m currently driving to the university I attend two nights a week, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  It is over an hour drive one way and each class lasts three hours so it makes for a long evening away from my family.  I’m exhausted and so glad the end is in sight. At one point in time, I had seriously considered pursuing my PhD.  While that may still come to fruition, it will probably be quite a while before I put any active thought into that.  I need a break and I need some more time with my kids.

Extracurricular Activities

January also brought the return of what I call our “busy seasons.”  Our three oldest children are very active and keep us running on all four cylinders.  I’m sure these new babies will be just as involved when they are old enough.  Our oldest daughter is a dancer.  She’s been dancing since she was three.  This year she is dancing tap, ballet, jazz, hip hop, and musical theater.  Our middle daughter is also dancing tap, ballet, and jazz this year.  Their dance classes started in September and will continue until their recital at the end of May.  Their dances classes have at least one parent and them at the dance studio three nights a week!  My poor husband has to take all five kids to dance practice on Wednesdays while I attend my graduate class.  He is such an amazing dad with all these kids!  Christmas break afforded us a nice little break from dance but we jumped back in on January 3.

While I call it our “busy season,” things are still pretty mild right now.  Soccer will start in March and we usually have two kids that want to play and our son will start baseball in April.  By May we will have two kids dancing, two kids playing soccer, and one playing baseball on top of work, school, and graduate classes.  That is when things get really crazy.  We wouldn’t survive those crazy months without an amazing family who helps us by getting various kids to any practices or games that overlap.

Business Trips and Sick Kids

The fourth week of January is where things really went downhill for us.  Daniel left for a business trip on January 23.  I picked the babies up from daycare the next day and noticed that Harrison was pretty fussy and didn’t have much of an appetite.  He crashed around 7 pm which is very rare for him.  We usually can’t get these babies to sleep until ten or eleven.    Around 11, I checked on him and found that he was burning up.  I managed to take his temperature without waking him and found that he had a 102 degree fever.  I gave him some Tylenol. He slept without waking until 2:30 am.  When he did wake up, he screamed and was inconsolable for almost two hours.  I requested a sub for the next day at three in the morning.

Both babies woke up the next morning congested and coughing.  Katherine’s eyes were matted shut almost as if she had pink eye.  I called their doctor as soon as the office opened and they set up an appointment for that afternoon.  Both babies ended up being diagnosed with RSV.

Since Daniel was out of town, I spent the next three days home from work rocking babies and trying to keep their fever down.  My mother was an absolute angel and took the three older kids for the rest of the week so that I could focus on the babies.  By Friday night, I was so ready for Daniel to get home.  His plane was supposed to land around six that evening but ended up being delayed several times.  It was after ten before his plane finally landed and he made it home to us.  I’ve never been more thankful to see him and have him here to help with sick kids.

Rough Start to February

While the babies are still a bit congested and coughing, they were fever free and were able to return to daycare at the end of this past week.  The rest of us, however, aren’t doing so well.  By the time that I left work on Thursday, I was running a fever, had a horrible headache, and couldn’t hear out of either of my ears.  Daniel made me a doctor’s appointment for Friday morning.  She diagnosed me with a double ear infection and severe sinus infection but I tested negative for the flu!

When I picked Emily up after school, she was running a fever and feeling terrible so Daniel took her to an after hours clinic where she, unfortunately, tested positive for the flu.  She will have to stay home from school on Monday.  We’ve quarantined her upstairs so that the rest of us hopefully don’t get it.

I’m over all the illnesses and am so ready for spring and summer!  I’ve never been a fan of winter and it seems like this is always the time when we all end up sick!

I hope you all had a healthier and easier January than we did!  There are so many things coming up over the next few months that I am so excited about and can’t wait to share with you!