Hey, Mom and Dad- It’s not your fault.

By: Taylor Arellano

I was a brand new Mom with a sweet little newborn boy. He was the center of my whole world, my iPhone was filled with nothing but pictures of him throughout every part of our day no matter how insignificant. I lived and breathed for every involuntary smile, coo, and wiggle.

Like any new Mom, I spammed my Facebook news feed with pictures of my new baby all day, every day. I was so proud of this little life Zach and I had brought into the world, and I wanted to share his never ending cuteness (no matter how insignificant the photo really was) with the whole world.

So, the day I received a Facebook message in regards to a picture I posted of a photo of my then 2 month old son still makes me question myself to this day…

I had just started my transition out of the Military and was home often by myself with Isaac. Being a brand new, young Mom I was learning how to balance home chores with trying to feed and please a newborn, as well as apply for new jobs, buy a new home, and more. These days were absolutely crazy to say the least.

One day, Isaac was especially fussy, and I distinctly remember it was a day where I needed to be on the phone to talk to the lenders for the home we were purchasing. Wondering if it would work, I turned on a quiet T.V. Channel and placed Isaac in his bouncer in front of the T.V. Stand to occupy him while I was on the phone. To my surprise, it worked, and I actually thought it was cute that my 2 month old was so entertained by a completely random T.V. show, so of course I snapped a pic and uploaded it to Facebook thinking how cute it was that my newborn was just lounging around watching a morning talk show.

It wasn’t but a couple hours later that I signed into Facebook to find a private message from an old High School classmate that I had not even remembered speaking to in at least 8 years. But what was even more shocking, was the context of her message.

In short, the message basically read that she was attending College to be an early childhood educator, and she wanted to advise me that letting young children watch television was extremely damaging to their development and that my “adorable son” (Yeah, she tried to bring me a up a little before she kicked me down) could actually end up with a speech delay or other cognitive disabilities. There was a lot more detail and degrading comments in her message, but I will spare you those.

Immediately, I felt awful. I was a brand new Mom, I had no idea what I was doing. Was that hour of T.V. going to damage his ability to speak in a couple of years? When is he allowed to start watching T.V.? Why do they even make those baby shows? The questions in my head were endless, but I knew that I did not want to ask this “friend” the answers to these questions because I felt degraded and dumb.

Fast forward 18 months later. Isaac is diagnosed as Speech Delayed.

If you don’t think that message from my former classmate popped into my head, think again.

Zach and I were sad, we were worried, we felt so bad. Did we do something wrong? Were we failing Isaac in his development? We by no means used the T.V. as a babysitter, we played outside with him, we played games with him, we read books. Was this still somehow our fault?

The short answer to those questions- NO.

We were assured by our pediatrician, speech therapists, hearing evaluation specialists and more that THESE THINGS HAPPEN. We were good parents.

I am a believer in science and medicine, I am a Nursing Student myself, and I know there is a clinical basis for almost everything. I know that there are predisposing factors for illnesses, developmental delays, etc.

…But I also know that I am a good Mom. Zach is an amazing Dad. Our Son is a healthy and curious little boy, and his speech development is a work in progress that we see improvements in DAILY. We are doing our best as parents, and Isaac is doing his best too.

It took a long time for me to stop blaming myself. I would think back on the message from my old classmate and wonder if this was my fault. If the occasional Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episode made my little boy incapable of speaking at an age appropriate level. If I should have taken our T.V. and completely left it in the garage for 3 years since according to an early education STUDENT ” a child should see no T.V. until age 3″.

I need to add that I am in no way trying to discredit the knowledge of this person. I am sure she knew a lot about the subject. I also understand that television and other factors do have significant effects on a child’s development. That is not the point here though.

I wondered if that classmate (who had no children) knew what it was like to be so burnt out from being home with an 11 month old for 7 days straight and had 1 shower in that time frame- knew what it was like to just need 30 minutes of quiet so she could be a better Mom.

In addition to understanding that we cannot blame ourselves, we also need to think about how our words may affect another parent. Whenever I feel like I have a piece of advice for another parent, I stop first. I think about how I felt when I got that Facebook message.

Is saying this going to make them feel inferior in their parenting skills and decisions? Is saying this going to be helpful? Am I going to make him/her feel like they have done something wrong? Am I stealing this Mom’s joy right now?

OF COURSE- if a child’s safety or well-being is in danger, there are appropriate ways to intervene. But unless you have A LOT and I mean A LOT of probable cause to think someone is really affecting their child’s well-being, we have to think twice before we hand out unsolicited advice to parents.

The words of someone completely insignificant to my family’s life had a lasting impact on me.

Be a good friend. Be a good fellow parent. But be considerate.

And to my fellow Mom’s and Dad’s with a child who may be needing some extra help in one or more areas of development, hang in there. Progress comes with time, and I know very well how the wait for signs of progress can seem like ages. Be gentle on yourself, and on your child. The first time they call you “Mama” or “Dada” with true recognition and affiliation with the word, you will cry. That first “I love you” will make your heart burst, and it is so worth the wait.

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My Breastfeeding Journey…

 By Jennifer Stroble

At some point in raising their child, every parent has wished they came with a manual. Don’t try to deny it. The next best thing to a manual is a tribe or support system. The kind of people that won’t judge you for wanting wine at 10:00 am, because your child cried for two hours after you gave him the wrong colored cup at lunch time. These type of people are there to lift your spirits during troubling times, and generally make your life more enjoyable.

I found my tribe, also known as my mom’s group; when my oldest son, Keagan, was just shy of a year old. They have since kept me sane in times I thought I needed to go to a loony bin. I needed them most when Oliver, my last baby was born in September. That’s when all hell broke loose in my life.

Seven months ago, I had no idea what  was in store for my son and I. We endured a whirlwind of ups and downs. We’ve overcome jaundice, torticollis, and hospitalization for bronchiolitis. Although, nothing will compare to my current struggle: breastfeeding.

Throughout my entire pregnancy I told myself, and anyone who’d listen, that I’d breastfeed exclusively for a minimum of one year. My breastfeeding journey with his older brother came to a halt after three weeks due to illness and a less than ideal support system. I was determined to have better success this time around at providing my son’s nutrition, and having those special bonding moments with him.

My inner circle of friends tried to prepare me for my journey ahead. They tried to teach me that there would be many struggles, and that breastfeeding wasn’t going to be easy. It’s something you have to constantly work towards, but in the end would be worth every frustration. Some mothers have struggles latching or dealing with reflux, forceful letdowns, clogged milk ducts, and more. Not to mention, the sleepless nights and insatiable hunger.

However, none of them could prepare me for what I was about to withstand.

Oliver was born September 17th, 2015. Those first few moments were a blur. I remember crying from overwhelming amount of joy that he was here, and being in pure bliss with my baby boy. By the time I was discharged from the hospital 36 hours later, those tears had turned dark. I was beyond sleep deprived because my sleep cycle only occurred once every 30 minutes, if I was lucky. Trying to feed my child was becoming a nightmare the more I tried.

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Oliver was miserable. He’d cry nonstop, nothing would calm him.  I was told by the doctor that he may have a tongue tie and to get it evaluated. I found myself at Dr. Sierra’s office, in Tampa,  the following day for a free consultation. As it would turn out, he had the “most obvious” lip AND tongue tie that Dr. Sierra had ever seen. He encouraged me to feed him right after the lip and tongue tie revision, to help comfort him. I noticed a difference almost immediately. It no longer hurt as badly to feed him, and a weight had been lifted.

I battled with everything my friends warned me about: the sleepless nights, the hunger, the never ending nursing sessions and more. One thing nobody had warned me about though, was food intolerance and other food sensitivities while breastfeeding. If I ate something that the baby didn’t digest well, how would I know? Would he grow horns? Cry like he’s dying? Would he bleed? Get rashes? I had no clue. I had limited knowledge with food intolerance.

At six weeks old, I was proud to have made it that long, still being his source of nutrition. After all, it was an important milestone. Most mothers give up within the first six weeks. In that time though, Oliver had always had diarrhea, and it was almost always green. It would range from neon, to ninja turtle green. He was severely moody, spitting up, gassy, and just over all unpleasant. The doctors suggested I go dairy free.

Goodbye, ice cream. Farewell, cheese. See you later, yogurt. Smell you later, baked goods.

I found myself crying during most feeding sessions. After all, it was my milk that made his tummy so upset. I was doing my best, but it just didn’t feel good enough at that moment. His pediatrician and the lactation consultants at Baby Café, said it could take upwards of another six weeks before I saw a drastic improvement in his stools and overall attitude.

As time went by, I was second guessing myself more, and more. I’d think to myself, am I eating the wrong stuff? Am I over-thinking his poop? Could there be another cause? I was feeling so out of my element. At his three month check-up, they still found microscopic traces of blood in his diarrhea. I was told to eliminate soy as well as dairy. The world of processed foods had instantly vanished. No more late night munchies of Oreos and milk, or quick take out from our favorite fast food joint. Convenience was a luxury, and I no longer had it.

I went another six weeks of trial and error. At this point, Ollie is now 4½ months old. I had become what I would consider a master at examining infant poop. This is not a title I’d want on my resume. My silver lining was that he was noticeably happier on a day to day basis. Other than his runny number twos, he was a perfectly happy and healthy baby. He was gaining a slow but steady amount of weight, which was the only thing keeping the doctors (and myself) happy.

I hit a rock wall, as I knew there was still something wrong with my baby.  I was begging and pleading for answers. No one could tell me why he had diarrhea. I was fed up with his pediatrician. They told me to start solids and/or formula, even though I told them I want to exclusively feed him myself, and those were not currently an option for me. I begged for a GI specialist referral. I was referred to Dr. Izizarry in Brandon. She gave me three options: start solids, start a total elimination diet, or give formula.

Friends and family thought I was nuts. Who in their right mind would give up everything just to breastfeed their child? They tried to comfort me, and continue to support my decisions regardless of what I chose. After crying for what felt like forever, I went home and did my research on what foods I could do during a total elimination diet. I was determined to reach my goal, and to never give up. In the end, I felt that if I couldn’t make things right within my diet, how was a container of formula supposed to help? My milk was made especially for him.

I went approximately another six weeks slowly introducing one thing after another back into his diet. I hit numerous stand still periods, but continued forward. I brought back eggs, nuts, and wheat into my diet aside from my “safe” proteins and produce.

I saw only one improvement. He went from 10+ poops a day, to 3-5 a day.

I cried. I felt lost. I had given up everything, living off of lamb and veggies. Everyone around me could tell I was unraveling and continued to push formula on me. I knew they all had very good intentions, but I still resisted.

Last month, it came back that his older brother Keagan had mild allergies to cow’s milk, peanuts, eggs, and wheat. I decided that since we were still struggling to find the culprit for his digestion issues, that we’d resume a normal diet and only avoid his brother’s allergies, with the exception of soy.

I’m happy to announce, that even though I’m still clueless as to what has been causing mayhem on my baby’s belly, he’s doing much better. He’s gone roughly a month free of wheat, peanuts, eggs, dairy and soy. He has had normal bowel movements in this time frame, as well.

Due to my determination, and overly supportive group of friends, I’ve managed to stay on track. There’s now a light at the end of my tunnel, and I hope to make my goal of one year.
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If I had struggled in silence, I likely wouldn’t have made it to my first six week milestone, let alone my six month milestone. Take it from me, find your support system to carry you through your struggles and keep you sane. I’ve had a large network of like-minded mothers to guide me through my journey thus far, and family to comfort me in moments I wanted to give up. Every hard decision I’ve made in the last six months, has been entirely worth it.

 

Jennifer Stroble.jpg I’m Jennifer, a 25 year old mother of two amazing boys. Keagan is four years old, and Oliver will be one in September. I’ve been married five years now, and have grown up in the Brandon area. I am a sarcastic, laid back stay-at-home parent with a hectic lifestyle catering to my children and two rambunctious dogs. Each day I’m simply trying to survive the never-ending ride that is parenthood. 

 

 

Blackened flounder philly with homemade coleslaw!

Flounder first!

1 cup vinegar

Glass pan half filled with water

4 Flounder filets

1 tablespoon paprika

2 teaspoons dry mustard

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

A couple of tbsp of olive oil for in the pan

Start off with putting the vinegar into the water and soaking the fish for 20-30 minutes. This will get rid of any fishy flavor!

Mix the seasonings together. Dip the fish in the melted butter and pat on the seasoning on both sides.

Make the pan hot and place the fish. Cook for 2-3 min on each side.

Melt provolone over the fish(or over your favorite veggies). Put it in a roll and enjoy!!

Must Have Mom Subscriptions

Must Have Mom Subscriptions

There are so many monthly subscriptions out there, from a personalized selection of clothes picked just for you to fishing supplies, depending on what type of water you fish in. (My husband is all about this by the way.)

This list is in no particular order and consist of things I have personally tried or plan to try in the near future.

  1. Amazon Prime – This first is so obvious but should come with a warning label. I love that I can buy anything on this site I need for my family. My most frequent purchases are diapers and Pediasure Grow and Gain but during the last Prime Day I ended up with a 2-pack of Clarisonic brushes and a shirt. I call that a success. But warning, it’s so easy to add things to your cart, check out and have it delivered in 2 days that you may quickly become a “primanista”. That meaning you’ll have packages arriving every few days. Which, doesn’t sound so bad actually. At around $10 a month its a complete and total NEED for moms, who just can’t go to the store one more time that week.
  2. Shipt – Hallelujah! I wish Shipt had been around when I had a newborn in the middle of the Tampa summer years ago. It’s a freaking life saver. Especially when you’re cooking dinner and need a forgotten ingredient or it’s raining, or you just don’t want to go. This subscription is an upfront annual fee of $99 but often run a $49 special when they add a new store or for special holidays. Current stores include Costco, Publix, Target, GFS, Winn Dixie and ABC Wine & Liquor (ummmmm yes!). If you don’t have it, get it. Now. G
  3. Netflix – This is our  most used subscription in my house. They’re always adding movies – whether they’re good or not is not my place to say. It’s less than $15 a month and you can stream it on 2 devices at one time. Yes, I know this for a fact. It’s usually a fight in my house to see who’s going to stop watching. I lose. Every time. So instead of hauling your kids to the movies to watch the newest Disney release, wait 12 weeks after it’s out of box office and save yourself the hassle and money. Unless its an Avengers movie because who doesn’t want to see Chris Hemsworth on the big screen?
  1. Firstleaf (Wine) – How many times have we had to pick up a bottle for friends on the way to a girls night/playdate – this happened to me 3 times last week. Whether you’re a 3 bottles a week gal or 3 bottles a month this could work for you! Firstleaf offers $20/month subscription which includes 3 bottles. The process is super easy, you take the quiz seeing what you’d like white, red, mix and import preference. The last question asks how many bottles you drink a month. So depending on your answers you’re given a suggestion. The wine is delivered to your door. So, you’re never without wine and wouldn’t that be a shame?
  1. FabKids – similar to clothing subscriptions for moms, it’s for the little’s. This is the way I see it. You’re going to spend money on your kids’ school clothes regularly. You see the cute top at Target, oh but does he have a pair of shorts to match? Can’t remember, may as well grab another pair. You’re doing that once a week while there PLUS the pre planned trips for new shoes they’ve outgrown, picture day..you know the drill. Here’s the fine print. Between the 1st and 5th of the month you’re sent an email for action – to shop or skip. If you do choose to skip your card is debited for $29.95 but you’re given that $29.95 as a credit to be used anytime. You’re charged the $29.95 until you cancel. There’s also perks like free shipping (that always gets me) and a rewards program.

This list was composed with you in mind, a little more added convenience to our lives is the way to go. I dread shopping with my kids, even if its a quick trip so you’ll find that all of these eliminate bringing what I’m sure are you wonderfully behaved children in public.

Disclaimer Alert: I haven’t listed all details for everyone of these subscription suggestions. It’s important to conduct your own research. 

36266338_10213004457965528_2216563528326709248_n Written By: Meghan Goodman

Dear MOMpreneur, know your worth! Six tips to help balance your life and business

 

Little girl playing with makeup

This is a long post with very little pictures, but I promise it’s worth every word!

Work life balance.

(Please note that this is coming from the perspective of a photographer and a homeschool mom. While this is something I see rampant in my industry, I am certain it is rampant everywhere)

This is such a hot topic these days. How do we make sure our business doesn’t take over our lives, but still get the things done that need to be done? Our worth as a woman is more than just being a mom, more than just being a business owner, more than just being an employee, more than just being a wife. We collectively need to support each other through the guilt of trying to do it all and help each other know that it’s ok to work hard in our business, work hard in our home life, and work hard in our personal life. We cannot do them all at once. We have to know when to say no, when to speak up for ourselves and when to just get the hell out.

The other day I was talking to a dear friend. She is also a photographer, as many of my friends are, and we were talking about life, business, and husbands. This is a topic that often comes up with my female photographer friends (seldom as often with my male friends, but they do talk about it to). We all seem to struggle with the balance. This is a profession that tends to take over our weekends and sometimes our lives.

We were talking about her life (and mine). She recently found out that her husband had been unfaithful and she was restructuring her work life to have more of a home life in efforts to save her marriage. Now, I want to stop right here. I have a lot of things to say about this, BUT I want to make it very clear, this is not the only thing she is doing. THEY are working on things together, but I want to address a few things from the female perspective, because my first reaction to her (besides what an asshole and man that sucks) was, I get it.

I know the hardship of working late nights and weekends to run this business. I hear my husband’s complaints of my late hours, going on shoots leaving him home with the kids and in general the putting of my camera before family.

What.The.Fuck

How dare we blame ourselves for our failing marriage?

Why the fuck do we do this?

Now, I get it, a failing relationship is a two-way street. It always takes two to tango. BUT here is the thing with many women I know, our husbands tend to look at our business as a hobby. They see it as something that takes away from their family, and not as a business. Yes, it might not be profitable this year, but without a shit load of hard work and late nights, it never will be!

There! I said it.

As a __________ (insert business here), I am running a business. A business that will take a lot of hard work and I have to treat it as a business as much as my significant other treats it as a business. 

PERIOD.

This isn’t a hobby, it’s not something I do just for fun (as much as I love it), and it’s not a side gig.

This is a career.

little boy mouth

 

According to Small Biz Trends, 69% percent of new businesses in 2016 started in the home and a bit more than 50% of those will fail within the first 4 years mainly due to poor money management. Which makes me wonder how much of it has to do with lack of support?

How many of my MOMpreneur friends struggle to balance work + life when all of that runs out of our home and how many have husbands that say, “no it’s my time to take care of the kids while you work”? How many are working nights to get shit done? Would these women get that same dirty look of “oh you are staying up late to work again” if they were leaving the house for a full-time job outside the home?  Do their husbands even realize they give that look?

I get it, what we do isn’t conventional.

Yes, I have some flexibility to schedule things in a way that allows me to leave the kids with their father while I meet clients. Yes, he is not the babysitter (I have one of those too), but actually a contributing member of this family. Yes, I don’t leave my house for 80% of my career. Yes, I can wipe my kid’s butt and edit at the same time (well, not exactly the same time, but you get it), but I still have a fucking job to do!

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And as I spew all this angst, I get that I am to blame for some of it. I should have set office hours (I have tried this, but maybe should try harder…). Yes, at one point this was just a hobby. I should say more often this is my work time and I shouldn’t just say “don’t worry I will do it.”

Fuck this.

Our marriages are two-way streets of support!

PERIOD.

Should our husband cheat on us if he doesn’t get enough wife time? NO! He also can’t roll his eyes and say “ugh, working again?” Like everything else, there needs to be communication. WE, have to work together. I will totally support you, your work, and your hobby, BUT I fucking expect the same in return.

I also get that our husbands work hard. Mine often works 70 hours a week to provide for our family life. Here is the thing though, I NEVER roll my eyes and lay on guilt when he tells me he has to work the 3rd weekend in a row. Honestly, my heart aches for him that he has to work that much. It sucks for all of us. I hate that he has to get up at 330 am to go to work, BUT does he ever hate that I have to stay up till 2 am working? Nope, he just gets mad about it.

Sure I am a “stay at home working mom”. We made the choice to homeschool which complicates things too. My days are filled with school stuff, my afternoons with home stuff and my nights with work stuff. I realize that these are choices I made, but fuck, can’t we get some support in them? Would I get more support if I was bartending or a lawyer?

I feel like as women we give, give, give, and then get shit on because we didn’t give quite enough. So to fix the not giving enough, we give up more of ourselves.

Fuck. This.

So tell me, how do I fix this, not just for me, but for all of us? Instead of sympathizing with the next wife who tells me about her husband cheating on her for working so much, what conversation do we have? Instead of her just deciding to cut back on work because that will solve things, how do we rearrange things to make a marriage and a business work?  What do I tell her (and me) to make a difference in this world?

How do we, as working women, get some fucking support in our businesses?

Am I doing things wrong, do I see this problem wrong or do you feel this way too? Maybe it all just comes down to sex right? If we give more of ourselves to our significant other, everything will just be ok? Because I totally want to go to bed after teaching, working in the house, working in my job and give just a little bit fucking more!

So this then leads into another conversation from a dear friend and photographer Maragret. She just wrote a great 3 part series about us as women. She talks about the question, have we done this to ourselves?

“I can’t help but wonder if we as a gender have just accepted the narrative

that our time and skill just isn’t worth as much. 

…when we do step up to the plate and admit our worth, we get scared

that we aren’t falling in line with the norms. We worry we’re coming off

too strong, that we’re demanding too much. No one will love us for not

being like everyone else.”

Do we just set the stage that our time and skill, both in the home and out of it, are not worth as much? Why the fuck do we do this? Are we following some made up standard that we are supposed to do everything? We are to wipe every butt, wash every dish, work a job, teach our children and put them to bed. I know I set this expectation in many ways. It was easier for me to put them to bed with a boob, so I did. It was easier to wake up with them in the middle of the night with a boob, so I did. It was easier to just change the diaper, so I did. It was “easier” to work the job from home while teaching the kids, so I did…

This has to stop!

We are worth it.

If you want to wipe every nose, great, BUT we are not the only ones that can do it. Start asking for help. Don’t just complain about it, make it happen. Start demanding it! Start knowing your worth! Yes, they are assholes for cheating, no it’s not our fault! Could we handle our business better? Sure, BUT we need the fucking support to be able to do that!

 

little girl and brother face painting

Would you like a push in the right direction to help with knowing your worth for your business? I know some fabulous mentors to help you learn your numbers to make your business profitable! Just ask me and I will point you in their direction!

Want some help in your home life? Speak up, and know you are worth it! Take control, do the things that need to be done in your life and business.

  • Ask for help, from anyone that you think could help you
  • Talk to your spouse, be clear in your intentions
  • Write out a weekly schedule and share it with the whole house. Put everything on it from kid time to house time, business time and husband time.
  • Hire help, trade for help, beg for help. Find someone else to clean the house, have the laundry mat wash and fold your clothes, use a service for freshly prepared meals. Delegate, delegate, delegate!
  • Prioritize that to do list, you don’t  have to do it all at once
  • Have the grace to let the guilt go!

Have any more great tips? Tell me, please! Write them in the comments so everyone else that reads this can read them too. Let’s support each other virtually on how to get the support we need at home!

 

Mom and Daughter Selfie

The momma behind Momma Got Soul Photo and Films, Tampa Bay Family Photographer. I am a wife. I am a mother. I am an artistic storyteller. I stay up late, try to sleep late, and drink lots of coffee and beer (usually in that order, but not always). I grew up in sunny (which means really hot) central Florida, never go to the beach or Disney, but try to hike in the woods as much as I can. I remember a time when I said I would never photograph people, now that’s all I do. I think it started with wanting to explore the world and capture that to share with people. Now I just want to tell people that the real stuff outweighs the fake crap every time -Kelly

 

Back to school, back to school…

It’s that time of year again, time for back to school shopping and the highly anticipated first day of school. Whether it’s your first year sending your little one off to preschool or it’s your first year sending your child to college, photos are a must. It’s 2018 and documenting important moments are easier than ever. Just snap a few pictures on your smart phone and within minutes you can send pictures to grandparents in other states or post your pictures to Instagram. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love seeing cute kids on your Facebook feed?!?

I searched Pinterest and found several ideas that were quick and easy. I enlisted the help of my older girls (my littlest lady already started preschool) for a little back to school photo shoot. Manned with sidewalk chalk, printable signs (which I found free on Pinterest) and a few props we headed outside for a little fun! I don’t claim to be an award winning photographer and I was only using my iPhone, but I was able to capture several great photos of my girls.

So get out there and start snapping pictures of your adorable kiddos!

 

  • Kimberly Lasher – SAHM to three beautiful girls, reality TV junkie & ISR advocate. 

My favorite vegan pasta! One pot!

1/2 tbsp olive oil

4 cloves garlic minced

1tsp onion powder or 1 chopped shallot

2 cups veggie broth

1 bag of fresh broccoli

1 and 1/2 cups plain soy or almond milk

1 box of pasta (I use spaghetti or fettuccine)

Nutritional Yeast in place of Parmesan cheese

Salt, pepper and oregano to your taste

In a large skillet, heat olive oil and add garlic, onion/shallot and salt/pepper.

Once the garlic softens, add veggie broth and soy milk. Once combined, add the pasta- make sure it is completely submerged.

Bring to a boil, occasionally stirring(as much as you can).

Reduce to a simmer and add broccoli and nutritional yeast.

Continue to stir occasionally and remove from heat once the texture is creamy(to your liking)

Sprinkle oregano and a little extra yeast on top and enjoy!!

EM’s August Momprenuer Spotlight: Bridge Bowtique

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Bridge Bowtique Owner, Christina started her business 3 years ago. In her own words, she tells you her Why?………..

“For 10 years I was a local first grade teacher. In 2012 we were finally blessed with our son Gavin. A few years later his health began to decline. His medical needs and care came first so I resigned from teaching. 

A year or so went by and we realized returning to the classroom wasn’t an option. It wouldn’t be fair to Gavin or a classroom of kiddos. However, I still felt the need to be productive and support the medical costs associated with Gavin’s health needs. I tutored for a while, but ultimately decided I needed something with more flexibility. I’ve always been crafty and after hosting a baby shower for a friend which included handmade baby bows the idea came to me.

Bridge Bowtique allows me the flexibility to attend to my child as well as feel like I’m contributing in a financial way to my family. It has also allowed me the ability to give back to organizations near to my heart by donating baskets of bows to be used as raffle items. This month marks 3 years since I started the business. I now have a fully operational website and can ship across the country. I love interacting with the moms who stop by and shop. I’ve formed true friendships that would have most likely never happened by meeting so many wonderful people! Most important, I’m here for my child. During hospital inpatient stays and long infusion days I’m able to sit next to him and sew bows while watching movies or playing games.

I’m very blessed and grateful for the love and support that so many have shown my little business ❤️

If you would like to learn more about Bridge Bowtique & check out her variety of awesome Bows,  please visit her website at Bridgebowtique.com.

You can also follow along on Facebook at Bridge Bowtique, where she is running a giveaway for a chance to win a free bow a month for a year!

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Back To School – Lunch Time

Written By: Lisa Valentine

It’s that time of year again… Back to school! One of the hardest parts as a parent is figuring out what to pack our kids for lunch. If you’re like me, you want your kids to eat healthy so they can be fueled to work at their highest potential. First start by planning ahead and go food shopping on Friday or Saturday so you can prep on Sunday afternoon. If you have older kids, have them help! Studies show when they are involved in making their meals they are more likely to eat the foods prepared!

When planing try to incorporate a healthy protein (palm sized), fruit serving (1 cup) and veggie serving (1 cup). Using a small thermos for leftover dinners is also a great way to pack a healthy lunch. TIP* To keep food hot until lunch time you will have to prep the morning of. Heat some hot water in a tea kettle and poor it into the thermos and let it sit. Then heat the food you will be using in the microwave (make it hotter then normal when heating). Before you leave for school dump the hot water out and add the heated food.  Last year was my first year with a “school age child” and I experimented with various ideas from the school lunch box makeover group I was co hosting.  Below were a couple favorites.

Mac & Cheese Bites – 12 servings (12 minutes to make) from Autumn Calabrese Ingredients: 4 oz of whole wheat, quinoa or bean pasta, cooked 1 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or coconut milk drink) 1 1/4 cup + 1 TBS grated cheddar cheese 1 TBS corn starch 1 clove minced garlic 1/4 tsp sea salt

Directions:

1. In a large skillet, combine milk, salt and garlic and bring to a simmer over low heat

2. Toss 1 1/4 cup cheese with cornstarch until coated

3. Gradually whisk cheese mixture into simmering milk until fully incorpated 

4. Turn off heat and stir pasta into cheese sauce until coated

5. Line muffin pan with 12 muffin inner and divide mad & chesese evenly between cups

6. Sprinkle remaining cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes until golden on top. school luch 1 Healthy Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins – 12 servings (35 minutes to make) from Well Plated Ingredients: 2 cups shredded, unpeeled zucchini (about 1 small /medium zucchini) 1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 medium or large) 1/4 cup melted and cooled coconut oil 1/4 cup honey 1/4 cup brown sugar 1 tsp pure vanilla extract 2 large eggs, at room temperature (I sub with unsweetened apple sauce because my youngest has an egg allergy) 1 tsp ground cinnamon 1/2 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp kosher salt 2 cups whole wheat flour or favorite flour that fits your dietary needs 1/3 cup chocolate chips (mini or regular)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper liners.

2. Grate the zucchini, then throughly squeeze it with a paper towel to remove as much excess water as possible. Repeat as needed. If you have not already, melt the coconut oil and let come to room temperature.

3. In the bowl of a standing mixer or a large mixing bowl, beat together the banana, honey, brown sugar, coconut oil, and vanilla extract until smooth. Add the eggs (make sure they are room temperature or the coconut oil may resolidify), then beat again until combined.

4. Sprinkle the cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt over the top of the batter, then mix to combine. Sprinkle in the flour, then mix on low speed, just until the flour disappears. By hand, fold in the zucchini and chocolate chips.

5. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them 3/4 of the way. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Remove the muffins from the oven and place the pan on a wire rack. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then carefully lift the muffins out of the pan and place them on a wire rack to cool completely (this will keep the muffins from becoming soggy).school lunch2

I will be hosting another group in August if you would like to be a part of it for more ideas and inspiration, e mail me at timperey43@gmail.com.

Packing Allergy Friendly Lunches

If you’re anything like me, the thought of your kids going back to school makes you both excited and dreadful at the same time. While I’m jumping for joy that school starts again in the next couple weeks, I’m also dreading some of the things that go along with that…like early wake-up times, car line, and (dun dun dun) packing lunches. And if the task of coming up with interesting lunches your child will actually eat and enjoy wasn’t taxing enough, if you have an allergy child in the family it can be extra challenging.

One of my three children has food allergies including milk, eggs and peanuts/treenuts (excluding coconut). In the beginning I was mostly making him his own meals while I continued to cook normally for my other two that do not have any allergies. Over time I was able to find products that were not only allergy-friendly, but that my other children enjoyed as well. This has made cooking and preparing food for my family so much easier because 1) I’m only buying and preparing one “set” of groceries and 2) I am not worried about my allergy child accidentally eating something off one of his siblings plates that he is allergic to.

“Main Dishes”

  • Sandwiches (we use sprouted wheat bread, no particular brand but I ALWAYS check labels just to make sure):
    • Sunbutter (with or without jelly) – comes in creamy or crunchy – this is also great for peanut-free schools!
    • Lunchmeat (turkey and/or ham) and vegan mayo (we use Just Mayo) – you could also add vegan cheese (Chao brand is our favorite) and any toppings your kiddos like (mine love pickles)

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  • Hummus – I will pack them either pretzels, pita chips or veggie straws to dip. Sabra also makes these awesome pre-packaged hummus kits (with hummus and pretzels or pita chips) which are great if you’re in a hurry or, let’s be honest, just looking for something easy!

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  • Leftovers – This is really convenient and I actually do this a lot! If your kiddos are weirdos like mine, they’ll eat their food cold. If not, a thermos really comes in handy. You just heat the food in the morning and put it in the thermos before you leave. They work best in lunch boxes that have separate compartments, like a top and a bottom, so you can keep the warm thermos away from any ice packs and cold items.
    • Pasta – my kids love noodles with “red” sauce and noodles with “clear” sauce aka Kraft Italian Dressing – I switch up the type of pasta and that apparently keeps it interesting. Vegan mac n “cheese” is also an option (Annie’s brand makes a boxed one)3EE2730A-470D-45F4-8FE7-B7EBA64C2A0B
    • Chicken Nuggets – my kids are suckers for some dino nuggets (we buy the Yummy brand from Sam’s) and they will eat them cold, but you could also heat them and put them in a thermos. (Or if your child is in preschool they probably have a microwave) 0CA01E54-67EF-4C2E-B62C-473136809894
    • Hot dogs/kielbasa – same as above, but I cut it in half and wrap it in foil before putting it in the thermos
    • Rice & beans (my kids love yellow rice with black beans)

Fruit

  • Oranges (halos/cuties are the best because they’re easy for kids to peel)
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Blueberries
  • Applesauce and/or some type of fruit pouch (beware of yogurt ingredients in some of these)

Veggies

  • Cucumber Slices
  • Grape Tomatoes
  • Carrot Sticks

Snacks

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  • Yogurt (we use Silk or So Delicious Brands)
  • Graham Crackers (or Teddy Grahams/Scooby Snacks)
  • Chips (Mariquitas Plantain, Terra Sweet Potato, and Cape Cod BBQ are some of our favs)
  • Veggie Straws (or Veggie Chips – they make mickey shaped ones my kids love)
  • Original Chex Mix

Granola/Snack Bars

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  • Nature’s Bakery Fig or Honey & Oat Bars
  • Quaker Oats Bakery Squares (Strawberry or Apple)
  • Cascadian Farm (Vanilla Chip)
  • Enjoy Life Chewy Bars
  • Clif Kid Z Bar (Iced Oatmeal Cookie, Chocolate Brownie, Chocolate Chip, or S’mores)

Treats

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  • Cookies
    • Annie’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
    • Back to Nature Classic Creme Cookies
    • Back to Natue Chocolate Chunk Cookies
    • Enjoy Life Soft Baked or Crunchy Cookies
  •  Quaker Apple Cinnamon Rice Crisps

Drinks

  • Water (you can freeze the night before and it will double as an ice pack but should still be defrosted enough by lunch or recess time)
  • Juice Boxes/Pouches
  • Milk Alternatives (Silk or So Delicious brands)

For the most part, I pack the same lunches for all of my kids using food products I have found that cater to my child’s allergies. I always pack a main dish, a fruit, a vegetable, an applesauce/yogurt alternative, a drink, a couple snacks and a “treat”. I use items from these categories and just rotate them to create different lunch combos for each day and each week. If you have an allergy child, or even if  you don’t, these lunches can work for you. Or at least give you some ideas that hopefully help you in your lunch packing adventures!

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**Disclaimer: Every child and every allergy is different. The products in this post are suggestions that work for my child’s specific allergies but I can not guarantee they will work for yours. Please always read labels thoroughly and use your own mom judgment before giving your child a new foods!**

 

Affiliate Links:

Soft Lunch Box

Dual Compartment Lunch Bag

10oz Thermos Food Jar

Rubbermaid Mini Pack

Sistema Split Container

Stackable Snack Cups

Easy rice dish!

So we were on vacation this week in the Blue Ridge mountains; there is literally no where to get food(that isn’t over priced) and we don’t really eat out anyway! We brought enough go food to cook for the week and were able to enjoy home cooked meals every night.

Ingredients:

2-3 cups cooked brown rice

1 tbsp olive oil, margarine or butter

2 cups raw broccoli

1/3 a package of faux crab

1 xl egg or 1/2 a block of tofu, crumbled

1 tsp garlic(minced)

1 tsp honey

1 tsp onion powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat up a large frying pan and put the oil/margarine/butter in and add the minced garlic. As the margarine melts, add the rice. Stir and add the seasonings and honey. Next, add the egg/tofu and stir. The egg will cook pretty fast so keep your eye on it! At the last 3 minutes add the crab and broccoli.

Serve with sriracha and your favorite pink sauce.

Enjoy!

Park Spotlight

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On this months review of our local parks, I am highlighting my childhood favorite: Alderman’s Ford Conservation Park.

Location

100 Alderman’s Ford Park Dr.

Plant City, FL, FL 33567
Hours
Spring/Summer: 8 AM – 7 PM
Fall/Winter: 8 AM – 6 PM
Contact (813) 757-3801
 Entrance Fee

$2 per vehicle. Up to 8 people per vehicle. Rentals are extra.

 

This county park is at the top of my list. It offers a playground with shade for all ages,  a boardwalk, canoe/kayak launch, a gorgeous 1.9 mile paved hiking trail, and CLEAN bathrooms!

It is one of the most well-rounded parks in the area. The paved loop is hiker, pet, and bicycle friendly. The Boardwalk is great for bird watching and possibly spotting an alligator. The boardwalk is currently being repaired. (see note below).

The last time we went I took my daughters bike. She loved riding the trails and even rode her bike on the boardwalk bridge. We had the best time. She also enjoyed taking a break at the workout equipment along the trail.

As a self-proclaimed hover mom, this park makes me comfortable. I was able to walk the trail as my daughter rode her bike. It was not too hard to keep up with her and I was able to see her even if she was ahead of me. There is also a side-walk all the way around the playground (off the main trail) that kids can ride on. I can sit on a bench and see her ride around and around. The park equipment is appropriate for all ages even the little ones. there is a nice rubber pad under both play areas. There is also a big open area for the kids to explore while you keep an eye on them. We love to print and bring scavenger hunt with us too.

This park is also perfect for parties and family gatherings. Pavilions need to be reserved in advance, but can be done online. The cost ranges from 42.00 to 75.00 for the day. They also have a 600 sq. ft. air-conditioned room you can rent with 12 banquet tables and 65 chairs. The room cost is 161.00 for the day. All of these areas are close to the restrooms.

A canoe launch is located in a separate entrance at 9625 Canoe Launch Loop Lithia, FL 33547. The launch entrance opens daily at 7 a.m.

Fellow Everyday Moms, Jennifer Dean and Courtney Fletcher have spent many hours with her families at Alderman’s Ford. So I asked the two of them a few questions to provide a little more perspective.

1)What are your key reasons for visiting the park?

Jennifer Dean: “We were introduced to Alderman’s Ford Park by my oldest son’s school. They had their cross-country meets there once a week. He would run and our other kids would play on the playground. After visiting a few times, we decided to see what else the park had to offer. We’ve gone canoeing, hiking, fishing, attended a birthday party at the pavilions and have even had a photo shoot there.”

 

Courtney Fletcher: “The main reason for visit the park is to let the kid(s) play on play ground and run around and go on the trail and explore nature.”

Do you feel safe when visiting this park?

Jennifer Dean: “I’ve always felt safe at Alderman’s Ford, though I’ve never been there after dark or without an abundance of other families.”

Courtney Fletcher: “I have felt safe with no issues at Alderman’s Ford, other than squirrels liking to steal food when are not watching it.”

What is your overall opinion of Alderman’s Ford?

Jennifer Dean: “Overall, the park has some great offerings for families. We enjoy spending time there as a family. The main downside is lots of bugs (more than other parks we’ve been to in the area) and few restrooms or drinking fountains. As long as one plans ahead for these, a fun day can be had.”

Courtney Fletcher “I do like Alderman’s Ford park but due to the river flooding the past year its been hard to go out and enjoy the trails.”

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Overall Alderman’s Ford has much to offer the families in our community. As long as you protect your food and bring bug spray, you should have a wonderful time. Also, for those of us born and raised here this usually goes without saying, but BEWARE OF ALLIGATORS!

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Gator on the bank while Canoeing at Alderman’s Ford. Photo by Jennifer Dean

 

Suzette Foister,

SAHM, Wife, Homeschooler, EM contributor, Owner/Artist of Bring Your Own Canvas

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**PLEASE NOTE**

Unfortunately mother nature has caused the main trail to be closed during the weekdays this summer for repairs.

  • The canoe launch is temporarily closed (posted 7/3/18)
  • The paved trail at Alderman’s Ford Conservation Park will be closed during the weekdays from April 16, 2018 thru September 2018 for construction to the boardwalk. The trail will be open for use on the weekends.

For more details, please call the park at (813) 757-3801.