Monday, September 10, 2018

Advice from one StepMom to Another

As many of you know, I have a travel instagram account, and I recently merged these two areas of my social media life by linking my instagram and website. Not long after I added my web address to my instagram I received a message from a struggling stepmother (above). I have since written back and forth with her and we have gotten to know one another well enough that she gave me permission to share her direct message and some of the advice I gave her. I want to preface this share by saying that I respect the fact that she reached out to me because on that platform it was all very anonymous and I welcome anyone else to do the same!

There is a lot of stigma when it comes to step parenting and a lot more emotion than I had originally every imagined there would be. My best advice, which some people would completely disagree with, is to treat your stepson as you would your own child. (From our later discussion I have found that my Struggling Stepmama here has a wonderful relationship with her stepson and a deep bond.)  By trying to compete with the things that seem easier or more pleasing at his other home, all you would do is reinforce an attitude of irresponsibility. You are not his birth mother, and fixating on her will not fix anything or change anything about the family dynamic you have. You have to free yourself from the insecurity that is making you hold onto her so firmly.  If she didn't treat you right, forgive her.  If you didn't treat her right, forgive yourself.  If you are unhappy with the family you have in front of you, get over it.  Life is too short to let another human make you feel less than.  There is no magic formula for discovering how to do this but reminding yourself to be you and that you are enough is a good start. Once you let go of all the negative feelings you will start to feel free from fixating and free from guilt.

I have come to learn that no one else can take the place of a step parent! Step parents give unconditional love in a situation where it is not necessary to do so- your choice to love and bond with your stepson is magical too! Embrace that, don't compete with his birth mother! Even if you don't like the way things are run at her house- remember that fantasies kids make up about their parents unravel. As time passes he will be grateful you were there to teach him to be responsible and, if you can stop fixating on his birth mother and have a limited but positive relationship with her, he will be grateful for the life you gave his entire family. Remember who you are at where this all started: because two people fell in love.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Get Ready for NYCC and Halloween with these awesome Autumn books!

Disney Publishing loves to outdo themselves and these Fall pics (which came out this summer) are sure to get you in the mood for Comic Con and Halloween!

As if the release of the literary version of Hocus Pocus is not gift enough, this book comes split into two parts: first the original story, and then the ALL-NEW SEQUEL! Oh My Disney released this article with a little back story on the new characters! Let me just tell you that fans of this, well, fandom will not be disappointed! I don't want to give any spoilers but if this is one of your beloved films, I truly believe this will be one of your most beloved books!

And as if that hasn't been exciting enough! Britta Lunden (a writer for the CW's Riverdale) released this amazing young adult book Ship It through their FreeForm division this Spring! My teen stepdaughter had nothing but rave reviews! She started to tell me part after part and then stopped herself to save me from spoilers because "you HAAAAAAVE to read it!" It was by far her favorite summer read this year and I can say that it honestly completely reinvigorated her love of reading! 

And she was right about her review! Once I picked it up I loved the story that revolved around fandoms, friendship, and even had an awesome comic convention setting!
 If you want to check out my stepdaughter's take on her teen summer reading, check out her Instagram book review page, if you want to check out these two amazing Fall finds follow the links above or stop by your local book store! 

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Our go-to Disney Park Bag!

When we first got our hands on the adorable Petunia Picklebottom Axis Backpack, I knew it was going to come with me on many adventures! We have been to countless soccer games and zoo trips but above all, it was indescribably helpful our our recent trip to the Walt Disney World Resort! My kids love this bag as much as my husband and I! They are always doing things like filling the wipe container with snacks or shoving cameras in tiny pockets that are so smart and innovative!

(Sorry for hazy pics, it was so humid I couldn't keep my lens clear!)
We loved that now that our kids our big the hidden bottle pocket fits a perfect sunscreen spray, the cooler bottom kept our waters cold on the hottest July days Florida had this year (and kept them away from our other items) and the top part of the bag had perfect space to fit our purchases, our wipes (doesn't matter how old your kids are, the wipes are always needed, amiright?), and there were so many pouches we could keep all three of the kids pin lanyards separated! What more could you ask for in a Disney bag? "A cute Disney pattern" you say.  Well done and done, besides the Pooh & Friends pattern we have there is also an adorable Mickey & Minnie pattern available! And possibly the cutest of all is the new Stitch collaboration!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Summer Reads for School Age Star Wars fans!

In our house, the discovery of Tom Angleberger's writing was a beautiful moment in time for my stepson. Not only was Origami Yoda a new take on his favorite fandom, but he and the main character share the same name. There is no better jackpot for a 4th grader, really.  He devoured the entire series, and spent most of the Spring he was in 4th grade carrying his own Origami Yoda with him all over town (and creating his own origami characters).  He was over the moon (even though two years have passed since his obsession with that series) to find out that Angleberger released The Mighty Chewbacca and the Forest of Fear! He nearly snatched it out of my hand when our Disney Books package arrived! 

When I asked him for some details to post about, he revealed many plot points and spoilers so I will simply leave it at: this is an adventure the size of a wookie! And if you doubt how much my boy loved this book, take a look at where I found it when I went in his room to swipe it for some pictures!
Next up for my Star Warrior? Rae Carson's Most Wanted a story from the Solo era. 

Friday, August 3, 2018

Veggie Garden: Part 3- PICKLING!

We are up to roughly 30 cucumbers at this point and while we have sliced some up for salads the majority have gone to our two attempts at pickles! 

We made a grave error on our first attempt and did not slice our pickles first! 
We used onions and peppers from our garden and while our cucs got super deformed the consensus was still that they were a great homemade alternative to some bread and butter pickles at home!

We let the bad boys simmer while were in Disney World for 8 days and returned ready to harvest our garden and try again! We loved returning to so many veggies grown (we have the best dog and house sitter)! We had a wonderful week of veggie packed meals (beef skewers with onions, peppers, eggplant/ fresh salads with berries, veggies, and beans/ eggplant parmesan from scratch/ caprese salad) and while my stepson heads out to sleep away camp soon he is excited to come home to more pickles to try! 

For our second round, we went with a dill recipe and made sure to slice them up first! 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Cure the Rainy Day Blues this Summer with Heartwood Hotel!

Our 9 year old just adores the Heartwood Hotel series and the most recent installment, Home Again, was her top summer read! She declares, "they just keep getting better!" after every single book! She loves the community part of the story and how all the tree's creatures have stories that intermingle. 

As far as series go, she has now surpassed the reading level of these books but still continues on strong reading them as they come out. (I think it fit her reading level best around the start of 3rd grade.) We are looking forward to the next adventure at Heartwood Hotel!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Doritos Chicken Cutlets: Bringing Back Nacho Cheesier and Cooler Ranch

At a BBQ this summer my husband experienced something that was referred to as Doritos wings. Instead of frying them up with bread crumbs, the wings had been breaded with crunched up Doritos! I was immediately intrigued and the kids immediately were begging: "We HAVE to make these!" (We being me, obviously.)

So I applied some lower fat alternative baking to frying and we had a great and tasty meal that made everyone happy (especially me because no one dowsed their chicken in ranch dressing for once)! You don't need to follow my recipe, just cook up some chicken cutlets as you usually would and swap out your bread crumbs for crushed chips- but I will include a quick tutorial below!

Skinnless, boneless chicken breasts, sliced into tenders
Doritos (you will need about one bag's worth for bread crumbs but can use either flavor, we used both)
Egg/Milk wash
Baking sheet and oven

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Crunch up some Doritos (the kids did enjoying helping with this part), about 4 cups covered about two dozen tenders
3. Dip your tenders in the egg wash and then cover with your Dorito bread crumbs
4. Place on foil lined, greased (we use olive oil spray) baking sheet
Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes (ovens may vary) or until bread crumbs are starting to get golden brown and chicken is cooked all the way through 
5. Let cool and Enjoy! 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Read your way Off & Away on a summer adventure!

If the artwork alone in Cale Atkinson's "Off & Away" does not steal your heart, this story of ocean-filled adventure surely will. 
Sit back, and enjoy sneak peek of what is surely going to be a family favorite! 

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Veggie Garden: Part 2

Tomatoes, tomatoes everywhere! We have had such a great first harvests! So far, we have gotten easily 200 cherry and grape tomatoes! It is caprese salad season in the beehive! We also had about 6 cups of green beans 3 eggplant, 1 purple pepper and 2 green (even though we planted red), about 10 cups of salad greens, and about 3 dozen cucumbers. Our regular cucs didn't make it but we have been working on pickling (check for a new post on that soon). The onions needed to be harvested early after some thunderstorms that brought some rough hail but are delicious and the sprouts and corn aren't read yet.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe is everything good about summer reading!

The people who have read my writing or book reviews before already know that there are two things I love best in books: quality character development and a solid coming of age story. Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton is my pick this summer for best YA read! I love love loved it! If you read J.C. Gieger's Wildman and enjoyed it, this is right up your alley. The kind of story that you can perfectly imagine unfolding with just right parts love story, overcoming the odds, and growing up.

As a teenager, I was never into books like this, but as an adult I adore them. Anytime I get to see the adage "hurt people, hurt people... and healed people, heal people" play out I feel empowered as a parent, educator, friend, and human being. 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Washington DC: Top 10 for Families

I have been to DC five times in as many years. I have traveled solo, with groups, and with teens. There is a lot to see and do and for free! A family on a long weekend can navigate their way through the best of the best and here is my top locations!

All of these are free and with a few notes:

  • If you plan to go to the African American or Holocaust museums I *highly* recommend booking online through their respective websites. The cost is $1 for Holocaust and free for African American at this time but it guarantees you a time slot to visit these popular spots! 
  • If you bring the littles to some locations, be patient if they can't fully appreciate them and take time to explain along the way! 
  • All the museums listed here are in the National Mall area and are walking distance from one another (Holocaust is the furthest away).  I recommend also doing a monument tour if you are unfamiliar with the area, there are many in town so it's easy to find an affordable one. 
  • Also, note that you can get great views of the Washington Monument from all over the National Mall so you don't need to plan separately for that one! 

1. The National Zoo Pandas
You can see the entire zoo, including these incredible creatures, in about 3 hours at a leisurely pace! Perfect place to start or end your day!

2. The Museum of African American History & Culture
This is the newest and best! It is split in two parts: culture and history and is designed to draw in everyone who come into the space! It is so wonderful and so well done! I spent about 4 hours here not including the very tasty food court meal I had. I actually missed my tour bus back to our hotel and  had to take a Lyft and still wasn't done! This place is not to be missed!

3. Air and Space Museum
I moved this further up the list than I would personally put it because while it I awesome to see the Wright Brothers plane, I am happy with a walkthrough here where I know many (most) people could spend an afternoon here. 

4. Martin Luther King Jr Monument
Breathtaking. The most beautiful monument and you could spend a solid hour admiring the monument, reading the quotes, and walking around this area. As pictures, dusk is the perfect time for this monument.

5. World War II Memorial / Lincoln Memorial (tie)
You can often find these on tours together and they are not to be missed. I do like the Jefferson Memorial but if you were planning a DC weekend these two fit right in. The Lincoln Memorial is great for pictures and admiring the mall and the statue (and searching for the errors in the carvings). My favorite part is standing where MLK Jr gave his "I have a dream" speech. The World War II memorial is another memorial that is worth taking time to wander and admire. I think 45 minutes to an hour at each are a good amount of time. 

6. Shaved Ice from National Mall Food Trucks
I don't know if it is because I have always visited DC in summer and craved something sweet and cold or if they are truly as divine as they seem in my mind. Either way, enjoy for a small fee (I highly recommend rainbow). 

7. Museum of American History
So many fun things to explore here! I think the time I spent here only was surpassed by my time in the African American history museum! There are so many historical and pop culture artifacts here that there is no doubt everyone in your group will find something to be excited about! 

8. Museum of Natural History / Museum of Native American History (tie)
This museum is easily visited in an afternoon of museum hopping. You can walk from here to the American history, Air & Space, and African American history museums in one afternoon. If you break down your visit to visiting these (don't forget grabbing a sno-cone) and then taking a cab or Lyft to the Holocaust museum, you can conquer them all in one day. That would leave on a weekend trip a whole day for monuments and the zoo. That being said, this is a good place to start geographically. The exhibits are excellent and the setup is wonderful!

9. National Holocaust Museum 
I have been trying to explain my reasoning without giving away the best of the bet as far as these museums but I feel like I need to explain how heavy it is here. You can feel something as you walk through here and view the exhibits. It is one part hope and one part despair and there are moments that your heart feels torn. I wouldn't bring my kids here until they are all teens and can understand what they are seeing.

10. Vietnam and Korean War Memorials
These are wonderful and beautifully profound but I have witnessed multiple times frustrated parents because their kids were wanting to play or be silly. I don't see the need to hold your kids back from here but I do think that a conversation may be needed for many and a little extra patience from adults. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Disney + Neff tell an adorable Toy Story!

As you know from my minor obsession with Disney bags and luggage, I love to test out new bags. Recently while at a Disney Store outlet I nabbed up an awesome collab bag between Disney and Neff featuring Toy Story characters! We are planning a trip and over the moon excited for Toy Story Land at Walt Disney World Resort (and Slinky Dog Dash) and the final cost of this bag came to $18 once I used my coupon so I was a happy camper (originally $49). 

I took the bag with me to Washington DC where I was very pleased with the space. I used this as my personal item on the flight and only brought a small duffle with me for my carry-on.  It was great to be hands free in the airport and the backpack was wonderful as I explored the National Mall museums and monuments! And I received so many compliments at the great, low-key, design! There is a water bottle side pouch, small cooler pouch in front, and laptop space as well as pen and accessory organizer.

The collection is mostly sold-out on Shop Disney right now but you can view the whole lot of it and if you scroll down see if there is anything in local stores that catches your eye! I found mine just a few weeks ago so you may get lucky as well! 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Ant-Man is infesting your child's bookshelf this summer!

In our house we have kids ages 9, 11, and 13. We love to read around the fire pit on summer nights and even though our big kids are too old for storybooks at bedtime they love to read the family a pick from our bookshelf! We had a little bit of ant-man fever this summer having missed the wave of the first film but getting on board and loving the Wasp. This book was a no brainer for us!

The adorable drawing style reminds me of something straight out of a Toy Story concept art book and the little plugs (like the Avengers toys pictured here) make it fun for the whole family! We had younger cousins (toddler and preschool age) over when we read this book and it was a huge hit! There is nothing better than an adorable story to bring kids of all ages together. There is also an adorable growth chart included in the book. Grow Up, Ant-Man is an adorable story about realizing Dads are heroes. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Veggie Garden: Part 1

In our house, we love the Earth. We love to share with the kids the special bond that we, as humans, share with the world around us. The bond that reminds us that stuff doesn't really matter. The healing power of the ocean or a warm breeze are palpable. We visit parks and monasteries and we love to let go and grow!

This Mother's Day we planted a small vegetable garden. My husband built it for us and we bought small seedlings. Last year I grew from seeds but didn't really have the space I needed to we went bigger this year. We planted: lettuce, green beans, Brussel sprouts, onions, peppers (red and purple), cucumbers (pickling and regular), tomatoes, eggplant, corn, and a raspberry bush. Over the summer I will update you on our gardening so you can see if our family garden stood the test of time!

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