Playroom Galley Wall

February 16, 2018

Taking photos of my kids has become something I do on the regular. I love snapping candid little moments that my kids have with each other. My problem is, I have trouble getting those fun photos off of my computer or phone. I'm great at displaying our "professional photos"...but what about those fun snaps that I take every day? They seem to live online forever....and I never get around to actually printing them off and displaying them in our home. So I made finding a way to display our fun photos one of my goals for 2018.

We recently finsied a room in our basement for the kids to use as a play room. It's a fun and relaxed space, perfect for a fun kid-focused and kid-friendly gallery wall! I wanted something that Hudson and Sadie (and one day Belle too!) could interact with and touch without out being fearful of breaking anything.

That's why Snapfish's photo canvas prints were PERFECT for this project!

The photo quality of the canvases is great. They are thick, sturdy, and bright. I ordered three 8x10s and two 11x14s for this project. And I plan to order more! I also found a few spare pieces of wood we had left over from our basement remodel and had the kids paint them while the baby napped. They thought this was the best idea ever....and were so excited when I told them we could hang them on our gallery wall!

Snapfish has an amazing site that makes creating custom home decor pieces like these canvas prints super easy...and fun! The hardest part was choosing what photos to print! This super hero print is one of my absolute favorite photos of Hudson and Sadie. It perfectly captures their spunk! And it turned out so beautiful on canvas! I can't get over how great all of the little details are! The colors are bright and vibrant...perfect for our playroom!

I got to work on our gallery wall during nap time when I had just one helper, instead of three. Moms everywhere rejoice. I laid all of our pieces out on the ground and played around with the layout a little bit to get the right flow of shapes and colors until it was perfect.

I really appreciated the fact that each of my Snapfish photo canvases came with sawtooth hangers that were really  simple to attach with my hammer. This made hanging them super easy and fool proof. 

I love how it turned out! It's simple, sweet, and perfect for us. I picked up the "enjoy the little things" sign at a local shop because I thought it perfectly summed up what we are trying to do this year: enjoy the little moments with each other. 

I love the way our playroom gallery wall came to life with these beautiful Snapfish photo canvases. I had hoped for something that felt fun, fresh, and would hold up to the kids touching and admiring the photos. 

And, as you can tell, touching them is something they can't stop doing. Belle loves to point at the photos and have us name who is in them. I remember Sadie doing the same thing when she was a baby and it's probably one of our favorite little games.

 I think our next step is to add some chalkboard paint to the wall so the kids can keep our gallery alive with fun artwork! I plan to add to this gallery wall over time so that it can be even more fun! I can't wait to fill it up with memories! Want to add some fun to your home? I have an amazing Snapfish coupon to share with all of you! Use code "JULIEHOME50" for 50% off your entire purchase. Yay! Code is good through May 31, 2018.

I partnered with Snapfish for this post but all opinions are my own.

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Heart Healthy Goals

February 12, 2018

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2018 is off to an amazing start. I’m one month in already and realized I need to share some of my healthy goals with all of you! This post is in partnership with Henry Ford Health System, all opinions are my own.

2017 was an amazing year for my family. We welcomed Annabelle in March and she was the most perfect gift we could ever receive. But 2017 was very, very, hard. We grew, changed, were challenged, and stretched to the max as we learned how to be a family of five. 2017 was tough. It was not a year of “me”. It was a year of “everyone else”. Because being a mom to three little ones is no laughing matter. Being pulled in a million different directions all day long (and sometimes all night long too) is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It is the best, don’t get me wrong, but it is hard.

After having Annabelle I suffered silently with post-partum depression. I didn’t talk about it much, but it was there. I knew enough about how you should feel after having a baby to know that what I was feeling was more than the typical baby blues. To make matters worse, when I finally started to feel a little bit more like myself I learned that my job was eliminated while I was out on maternity leave. I felt like I had been kicked while I was already down. And on top of that, my body didn’t bounce back after baby #3 like it had with the first two. After months of stressing and feeling not like myself, I finally just embraced it. 2017 was not the year for me to do ALL THE THINGS. It was a year for me to take care of my family, survive, and enjoy my kids.

But now that it’s 2018 and I’m feeling like I have a little bit more control over my life (I mean, as much as you can have with three little kids running round!) I think that this is the year of me. So often I’ve put myself on the back burner, but that is over! I’ve realized that taking care of myself needs to be a priority. I want to live a long and happy life, and be able to be there for my kids. A happy and healthy mom is what they need!

So I’ve created a few healthy goals for this year…all of which are realistic and attainable. Just what I need!
1. Enjoy more. I know just how fast this time with my babies will go. And I want to enjoy it all. Soak it up. Cuddle more. Tickle more. Play cars on the ground more. Say “yes” to my kids more. Just do more.

2. Say no. If I want to do more and say “yes” to my kids, that means I need to learn to say “no” to all of the extra things that take up my time that don’t bring me joy.

3. Do something for me, every day. That means waking up early to enjoy some peace and quiet time by myself. Or taking a hot bubble bath alone. Going for a walk alone. Hitting the gym. Taking a yoga class. Just something. It doesn’t have to be big, but it has to be just for me.

4. Get out and be active! My kids keep me busy, but doing something physical with them every day is totally a key to their happiness as well as mine!

5. Make healthy choices with food. I need to focus this year on taking care of my body, and that starts with the foods I put in to it. I want to model healthy eating and making healthy choices to my kids.

6. Get my kids cooking! I want to involve Hudson in the kitchen more this year. He loves to help me cook and it’s a great way to motivate him to try new foods.

7. Read more. I love to read but haven’t had time to actually do it in the past few years. I’d love to read one book a month, and go to the library twice a month with the kids to pick out new books. They LOVE going and I love seeing them excited over books.

8. Clean the kitchen every night before bed. This may seem silly, but having a clean kitchen and zero dishes in the sink when I wake up in the morning makes a world of difference and helps our hectic mornings run more smoothly.

9. Get a heart screening. I know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, so keeping my heart healthy and making healthy choices is something that is very important to me. Henry Ford Health System Heart Screening is available for women like me in Michigan and is a great resource for learning more about your own health.

Overall this year I just want to be healthy. I want to be able to run and play with my kids without being winded. I want to be able to say yes to them more. And I just want to enjoy them more. When I’m with them I want to focus on them…and not the million other tasks I need to be working on. My children are the most important things to me in this world… taking care of myself will help me be a better mom to them, and that’s all that matters.

Part of taking care of yourself means setting up an annual physical exam. I know it can be difficult to make the time to do this, but it really is important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. My doctor sends me a reminder card in the mail every year, which makes setting up that appointment so much easier! Henry Ford offers an easy, interactive online tool to assess your heart health called the Heart Health Risk Assessment. I recently took it (it only took a few minutes!) and found out that I am at a low risk for heart disease. My uncle died from heart disease so it is something I always have in the back of my mind. I love that such a simple tool can help you learn so much about your health! Take a few minutes to take the assessment...I promise you'll get a lot of helpful insight into your health! The sooner you know your risk of heart disease, the better chance you have to keep your heart healthy and strong. If you have heart disease in your family, or simply want to learn more about your heart health, Henry Ford offers a $99 heart screening with an expert so that you can know your heart risk in less than an hour!

Taking care of your heart is so important to being happy and healthy. As a world leader in heart health, Henry Ford Heart & Vascular Institute offers minimally invasive surgeries and treatments for people with heart disease every day. They offer a wide variety of resources for keeping your heart healthy. People from all over the world visit Henry Ford Heart & Vascular Institute because they believe that heart and vascular care is not one size fits all because you and your heart are one of a kind. Be sure to check out their Women’s Heart Center for some great resources.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Henry Ford Health System.

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The Best Chicken Stir Fry

February 8, 2018

My mom makes the BEST chicken stir fry. And I mean it. The best. And it's fairly easy too. Plus all of my kids actually eat it! This recipe makes as little or as much as you want. We like to make a ton so that we can enjoy the leftovers!

First, make a marinade by mixing together:

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 - 3/4 cup honey
4 Tbsp rice vinegar
3 Tsp minced garlic
3 Tsp ginger (powder or paste)
1/2 cup vegetable oil

We typically use 2-3 chicken breasts for this stir fry. Cube your chicken and marinate it in the above mixture for at least one hour...the longer the better!

You can use pretty much any vegetables you like. Our favorites are: zucchini, bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, purple onion, cauliflower...basically whatever you have on hand!

Chop up all of your veggies, and then get started. My mom uses a wok, like this one, to make this stir fry...and it turns out great every time. 

Start by cooking each vegetable separately (pictured above are the bell peppers) in a hot wok with some vegetable oil. Some vegetables cook faster than others (zucchini cooks quickly while carrots take longer) so you'll have to do one at a time in the wok in order to avoid over-cooking them. Place your cooked veggies in a large bowl and set aside.

Cook the chicken last, without the sauce. Once your chicken is cooked through, add the sauce and let it cook for about a minute or two. 

Then add back in ALL of your cooked vegetables. Stir everything and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes, until sauce is bubbling. 

Enjoy over rice. It's SO good. And makes a TON. 

*this post contains an affiliate link

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8 Tips to get your baby to take a bottle

February 5, 2018

As a mom of three, breastfeeding my babies has been one of the biggest joys of my life. Next to creating and giving birth to three of the most precious children in the entire world, it is my biggest accomplishment. 

Each round of breastfeeding has taught me so much about myself as a mom. I have learned how to sacrifice my own comforts for my child day in and day out. I know what it is like to be 100% responsible for feeding a baby. I know the joy that comes from providing what's best for my child. Breastfeeding my children has been my greatest success as a mother.

But it hasn’t always been easy. Breastfeeding can be pretty demanding at times. Being the only one who can feed the baby is overwhelming. Thankfully I’ve been able to get all three of my babies to take a bottle so that someone else can take over a feeding for me so I can have a break, a date night with my husband, or run some errands. However, getting a breastfed baby to take a bottle is sometimes difficult! After doing it with three different babies I can tell you that every baby is different! Drinking from a bottle is a learned skill, so it makes sense that most babies need to practice. Today I’m sharing my best tips for helping your baby be successful at drinking from a bottle.

1. If you are breastfeeding, wait to bottle feed until breastfeeding is well established. Usually this takes between 3 and 5 weeks.

2. Have your spouse or partner offer baby a bottle. This will help them learn that they can get milk from someone other than mom.

3. Leave the room. If you are in the room when your baby is trying a bottle for the first time, they may refuse it. I typically leave the house whenever my baby is learning to take a bottle. It’s just easier for me to be completely out of sight! Plus, a “hovering” mama can make the person trying to feed the baby nervous.

4. Do not introduce a bottle to your baby when they are fussy or very hungry. My babies would get very mad when we would offer them a bottle when they were really hungry. So don’t wait until they are starving to try!

5. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. It may take several attempts for your baby to accept a bottle. This is normal! Don’t give up!

6. If you are returning to work after maternity leave, try to allow for at least two weeks of bottle practice.

7. In my experience, the best time to teach a baby how to use a bottle is after they start putting things in their mouth…usually around 5-6 months old. I know this is a very long time to wait, and not realistic if you work outside of the home. But if you can wait that long, you might have an easier time with the bottle transition. If your 6 month old previously refused a bottle, try it again. My babies were always much more willing to accept a bottle when they were in the “put everything in your mouth” stage. Belle is 9 months old and breastfed about 95% of the time…but she recognizes a bottle right away and totally knows what to do!

8. Pick the right bottle for your baby. There are a ton of options out there, but we love the new Philips Avent Anti-colic bottle with AirFree vent and the Philips Avent Natural bottle. Both are easy to use, hold, and clean.

The Philips Avent Anti-colic bottle is designed to help your baby swallow less air as they drink by keeping the nipple full of milk during the feeding. This helps to reduce the amount of air your baby ingests, making feeding more comfortable for your baby. It also helps reduce colic, reflux & gas. In fact, the nipple is clinically proven to reduce colic, reflux, gas and fussing. It also has different flow rates to keep up with your baby's growth. This bottle can be used with or without the AirFree vent, which gives moms the freedom to pick what is best for their baby.

The Philips Avent Natural bottle features an ultra-soft nipple that more closely resembles and mimics the breast. The wide breast-shaped nipple with flexible spiral design and comfort petals allows natural latch on and makes it easy to combine breast and bottle feeding, which is perfect for Belle!

The Philips Avent Natural bottle also has an anti-colic Airflex vent technology that was designed to reduce colic and discomfort, by venting air away from your baby's tummy. I love that they also offer different nipple softness and increasing flow rates for every development stage of your baby.

Both bottles are super easy to clean and only have a few parts, which moms know is super important!

Compensation for this post was provided by Philips Avent via Momtrends. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions of Philips Avent or Momtrends. 

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Real Life: The Not-So-Perfect Cookie Afternoon

February 1, 2018

Happy February! I can't believe January is already over. 2018 just started and it's already flying by. The kids love to do projects in the afternoon so I thought we should celebrate the start of the month of love with some Valentine's Day cookie decorating.

I made the cookies while Hudson was at school and Sadie was in the church nursery...I love baking with Hudson, but it's about ten times harder when Sadie gets involved. I'd love to say I made these cookies from scratch, but let's be real. I don't have time for that! Nor do I care to tackle that kind of mess. Plus, my kids don't care if the cookies are homemade or not. I love to use Betty Crocker sugar cookie's easy and the cookies always turn out perfect.

But, despite these perfect looking pictures, the afternoon was not perfect. It's hard to expect perfection from a 2 year old and a 5 year old.

So, after a million questions from Hudson, I finally let them have at it. 

Sadie insisted on pink everything. No surprise there. And Hudson was not thrilled with all the pink and hearts.

Real life: the kids decorated the cookies for maybe 5 minutes total before moving on to the next thing. I'd love to be able to share that we had the perfect cookie decorating afternoon, but that's just not what happened. My kids whine, get bored, and things don't go as I planned in my head. And that's life with a toddler and a 5 year old. So just because these photos look picture perfect, just know that this "perfectness" only lasted a few minutes.

But you better believe I soaked up every second of those 5 minutes. 

And really, mostly this is what happened. Lots and lots of eating. 

These days with my kids at home, although tough and long and exhausting, are fleeting. So we made a few memories. I'm probably the only one that will remember this short little cookie adventure. But really, that's fine.

And the cookies turned out super cute....a little messy, but still tasty! If you don't mind the fact that they probably licked every single one. 

These cute and colorful plates, bowls, and utensils, are from Re-Play and we just love them. We've been using Re-Play for a while now and they've all held up great! Sadie refuses to use any plate or bowl that isn't pink or purple, so I stocked up on some extra Sadie-approved colors just in time for Valentine's Day. I love that everything from Re-Play is made from recycled materials.

Are you going to decorate cookies with your kids for Valentine's Day? I'd love to hear about your adventures!

*this post contains affiliate links.

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Little Milestones I Don't Ever Want to Forget

January 25, 2018

I know I talk about this all the time, but it seems like this whole "growing up thing" is way more emotional with the last baby than it was with the first two. Every little milestone is met with happiness mixed with sadness. I love watching Belle grow and develop, but a part of me wants to keep her a baby forever. I felt that way at times with my first two, but the feeling is so much stronger the third time around. I know she's our last baby, so the idea that this will be the last time I have a baby that army crawls on the floor, or does that cute backwards waive, or babbles "mama mama mama" just makes me sad. 

Belle is standing up all the time and I know that in no time she'll be walking. At ten months old, she's already a champ at everything she does: crawling, standing, talking, eating, sleeping......everything except napping. She's not a champion napper. But she's so cute I'll let it slide.

When I went to bed last night, I journaled all about her little milestones and the way she throws her hands up in the air whenever my husband says "touchdown!". I don’t want to forget these little moments, I don’t want to forget how I felt and the moment she said my name for the first time or how her little hands reach up to me when she wants me to pick her up. 

Belle is eating a ton these days and I just let her have at it. I want to remember the yogurt all over her face and the big smile she gives me when I let her use the spoon on her own. It’s the simple things that Belle teaches me. She loves and gets the happiest from the little things in life and well, I want to live like that.

It’s funny how when you have little ones in your life, your perspective changes not only on life, but what you’re putting in your bodies! I want my kids to be as healthy as possible! A simple choice for us is the new Happy Baby Whole Milk Yogurt Cups. It's made from delicious USDA organic ingredients and beneficial nutrients that nourish little bodies. 

I don't know if you can tell, but Belle loves it! Whole milk yogurt is an excellent choice for one of your baby's early foods because it contains nutrients such as calcium, protein, and vitamin D..... all the things needed to keep your body running and functioning just like it should. 

And the Happy Baby yogurt is mindfully made with probiotics, no added sweeteners, and is non-GMO. We found Happy Baby Whole Milk Yogurt Cups at our local Walmart store. Right now you can save $1 on Happy Family with this Ibotta offer

And check out this cute little milestone video I made of Belle trying the Happy Baby yogurt for the first time!

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