Friday, July 30, 2010

Minor League Baseball on Family Fun Friday

O.K. so baseball has been a topic around here a time or two (or three).  But, seriously, can you get any more "summer" or "American" than baseball?  I don't think so!

Last year my kids signed up for the PawSox Kid's Club.  In December, we attended their FREE Christmas party (free drinks, hot dogs, tours of the dressing rooms, and autographs!) and received FREE tickets to a game in April.

As an added bonus we ran into our friends and the party and they received tickets to the same game!

Here's the proof that we all had a great time:

Unfortunately our team lost.  But the babies didn't care.

If you have a Minor League baseball team nearby I highly recommend you make one of their games a part of your summer plan!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

4 Tips to Make T-Ball Tons of Fun for Kids and Parents

I love T-ball.

I admitted at the beginning of the season that I wasn't thrilled with the boys playing T-ball. But we ended up have a great season! I'm so glad Joel vetoed me and we let the boys play this year!!

From observing opposing teams, coaches and parents over the last 2 months, I can state that, without a doubt, we had the BEST team in the T-ball division!

With that said, I give you my 4 tips to make T-Ball tons of fun for kids and parents:

Start with a coach who is patient, excited about T-ball, wants to be the coach and models good sportsmanship for the kids. I never heard our coach speak harshly to or act frustrated with our players.  I think that speaks volumes about our coach.

Next add committed and involved DADS (or men) for the assistant coaches and helpers.  It's so important for boys to have their dads (men) involved in their activities.  We had several boys on our team who live with single moms so I think it was especially important for them to have these men taking an interest in them every week.  This impressed me greatly!

Then add encouraging parents who stay for practice and games. Parents on our team cheered for everyone's children - including the opposing team!  NO ONE shouted anything ugly or put unnecessary pressure on the children.  And every time a child came to bat or ran home he looked in the stands to see if mom and dad were watching.  Parental support cannot be underestimated for kids!

Finally, invite as many friends and extended family members to attend the games as possible.  We were able to have 2 different sets of friends each come to a game.  My boys loved being able to share the experience of the game with them and they definitely enjoyed the attention our friends gave.  One player on our team had her parents, sibling, aunts/uncles, and grandparents at almost every game.  Such attention tells kids they are important and valuable.

I realize that some of these tips are out of your control but if you can make them happen, I promise you'll have a great T-ball season, too!

What tips do you have for allowing your children to play organized sports?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Baseball Children's Books Recommendation

T-ball season has come and gone at my house but the love for the game isn't going anywhere!  In fact, on a recent trip to the library Will's only request was for me to find baseball books to bring home.  I won't bore you with the how-to books I found (though they are fascinating for a 7 year old who dreams of becoming a pitcher).  Instead I'll share 3 really cute picture books about baseball.


Hey Batta Batta Swing!  The Wild Old Days of Baseball by Sally Cook and James Charlton.  Illustrated by Ross MacDonald.  Simon & Schuster, 2007.

Think you know what a "can of corn" is?  What about "tweeners?"  I doubt you know their meanings in the context of baseball history!!

My 7 year old was fascinated by all he learned about baseball from this book, especially one old rule that allowed you to get a runner out by SOAKING him.  (That means hitting him with the ball if he was off base.)  Can we say OUCH?!!

From players to teams to strange vocabulary, Hey Batta Batta Swing! covers it all.  If you have a budding baseball fanatic in your home, I highly recommend this book!!!! 


The Babe & I by David A. Adler.  Illustrated by Terry Widener.  Harcourt Brace and Company, 1999.

In order to help his family during the Great Depression, a boy works as a newsie selling newspapers on the streets of New York City.  His friend, Jacob, who got him the job, shows him where to stand outside Yankee Stadium and yell out headlines about Babe Ruth.  It doesn't take long for this budding entrepreneur to learn the ropes of selling papers and using Babe's fame to his advantage.

Though the story itself is fiction, the Great Depression, newsie job, and headlines about Babe Ruth are historical facts which lend this book a true-to-life feeling.  As Red Sox fans, we chose to ignore the fact that this book promotes the Yankees and focus on the hard work of the boy and his excitement at running into Babe Ruth.

Over all, a really cute baseball book that my young fans have enjoyed.


A boy watches his first game at Fenway Park with his dad.  After his dad catches a ball in the stands and hands it to him the boy proclaims, " This baseball is magic!"  

I can just imagine how excited my 7 year old Red Sox fan would be if he attended a game at Fenway Park and came home with a ball!  He wouldn't stop talking about it for months!!

Tavares does a great job of capturing the magic that baseball holds for young fans, as well as the transfer of that magic from one generation to the next.  

We all enjoyed this book at our house hope to one day visit Fenway Park and watch the Red Sox play.

What baseball books do you recommend for my young baseball fans?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dear Friendly's

Dear Friendly's,

Just a note to say thank you for the delicious FREE ice cream in June.  We drove straight to our local restaurant right after a T-ball game.  After sitting/ playing in the sun for an hour the cold ice cream cone really hit the spot!

We appreciated the variety of flavors you made available as well as the options of cones or cups.  We selected soft serve chocolate, chocolate chip, and chocolate chip cookie dough - all in waffle cones.

Your staff were all friendly, helpful and quick in serving our ice cream.  My children enjoyed seeing the people in costumes and receiving balloons.

My only complaint is that your napkins don't help much when a 19 month old boy is coated in chocolate ice cream.  But that's my complaint, NOT his!! 

Again, thank you for the free ice cream.  I'm sure we'll be in again later this summer.

Your happy customers,

The Stephanie's Mommy Brain Family

Disclosure:  No one asked me to write this post.  It was NOT a part of any promotion.  We simply enjoyed cones on Friendly's Free Ice Cream Day and wanted to share about it.  Mark your calendars now so you can watch for details about Free Cone Day next year.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dear Cracker Barrel

Dear Cracker Barrel,

Thank you for being the best family friendly restaurant ever!!

We have been regularly (once every 2-3 months) visiting the same Cracker Barrel restaurant since it opened 7 years ago.  We also stop at your restaurant when we are traveling and have found the same service and hospitality in those restaurants as we find at the one in Rhode Island.

We love your baby boards (for infant carriers), high chairs and booster seats.  I don't know where you get them from but they are AWESOME!  I can't tell you how wonderful it is not to have your newborn perched precariously on an upside-down high chair!  Or how fabulous it is to have your toddler/preschooler sit at the table in a regular place rather than at the end of the table where the waiter has to serve hot food over him!  I've even filled out surveys for other restaurants and recommended they replace their high chairs/ booster seats with yours!!

I also appreciate sitting at a regular table for 6 rather than being squeezed into a booth designed for 4 adults.  This makes us feel valued as a customer.

Speaking of feeling valued as a customer, your waiters and hostesses always welcome us and treat us like they want us there.  I realize that serving a family of 6 (with 4 children under 7) is a lot of work and a big mess (I do it every day so I know how much work it is!!) but your employees have never acted like this is a bother - something I can't say about most restaurants we visit.

I just wanted to say thank you for providing reasonably priced food in an environment where my family is welcomed and wanted!

Your Happy Customers,

The Stephanie's Mommy Brain Family

Ps.  If you should ever need a Mommy or Family Social Media Ambassador, I'm your mom!!  I love telling other moms how wonderful your restaurant is.

Disclosure:  I have not received compensation of any kind for this post.  I just really think Cracker Barrel is the best family-friendly restaurant out there!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dear Residence Inn Herndon Reston, Virginia

Dear Residence Inn,

My family and I thoroughly enjoyed our stay at your hotel the week before Memorial Day 2010.  We arrived on Friday evening and checked out Wednesday morning, only days before the holiday weekend.

Traveling with small children (4 under the age of 7) can be stressful and difficult.   I have learned from experience that a suite can help reduce our stress levels greatly.  Your 2 bedroom and 2 bathroom suite certainly helped on our vacation to the Washington, DC area; as did the free breakfasts.

My kids LOVED having a second floor bedroom all to themselves.  We do not have a 2 story home so this was a real novelty for them.  I loved not having to share my bathroom with my children for the week!!  And my husband loved having a large flat panel television in every room!!  At one point on our trip, my children were watching cartoons upstairs while my husband watched a "manly" show in the living room and I watched a decorating show in the bedroom.  For us, that's living in luxury!!

We also found your daily breakfast delicious.  Choosing between the daily hot breakfast, fresh waffles, or pastries/cereals wasn't easy but we did it.  I appreciated the wide variety of food you had available and that we didn't have to start the day off with a donut sugar high.  (That doesn't mean my kids didn't eat them, just that there was also other foods available.)

Last but not least, your staff was courteous and helpful at all times.  They were understanding when one of my sons wet the bed during the night and quickly changed the sheets.  They also provided stamps for us to purchase and mailed our post cards.

Overall, we greatly enjoyed our stay at your hotel.  Our one (small) complaint is that the swimming pool wasn't open while we were there.  I understand that you opened it a few days after our visit.  I know that those living in VA may not feel May is warm enough to swim but visitors from New England definitely think it's warm enough when "down South".

Thank you for making our vacation relaxing and enjoyable!

Very Happy Customers,

The Stephanie's Mommy Brain Family

PS.  If you should ever need a Mommy or Family Ambassador, I would LOVE to tell people how family friendly your hotel is!!

Disclosure:  I was not paid or compensated in any way to write this post.  I found this hotel to be clean, courteous, and well priced for my family and wanted to share that with other families.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Water Gun Fight on Family Fun Friday

Last week I told you about our fun time in the sprinkler toy.  What I didn't share was that it turned into a water gun fight! (That's #6 on the list in case you were wondering.)

It started with Daddy bringing out the water gun and attacking the children but before we were done EVERYONE had a turn.

 Beware of Ben!!!

Watch out for Ellie!!

What a sweet sister!

Ben had the right idea!

Will didn't realize he was out-gunned!

Even the baby got in on the action.

You're next!!!

When was the last time you enjoyed a water gun fight? 

For more "Fun Mom" ideas visit Please Pass the Salt.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

30 Day Shred Review

In January I announced to the world that I am about 20 pounds overweight and terribly out of shape.  I also had a plan to change all of that.  Unfortunately, the small changes I made back then produced small results (as you can see in the picture).

So, in May I decided to make some big changes in the hopes of producing big results.  I've adjusted some of my eating habits and I've started using an exercise DVD four days a week.

I know.  I know.  NOT an exercise video {groan}.

That's how I felt last year when everywhere I looked on-line women were raving about Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred.  I thought it would be too hard for me to do.  I thought the workouts would damage my RA joints.  And, truth be told, I thought it was impossible for me to lose 20 pounds and have a fit body.

But something clicked for me in May.  As much as I enjoy walking and running, it just wasn't toning any muscles or shrinking any flab.  So I decided to give 30 Day Shred a chance for ... 30 days (har.har.).

Holy Cow!!  Now I see why women were raving and ranting about this workout video!  I started using it June 1 (2 days after that picture was taken) and thought I was going to die.  My arms, shoulders and chest muscles ACHED and that's from only 20 minutes a day Tuesday - Friday!!

I thought because I heft 25 pounds and 30 pounds (Sam and Ellie) around all day that my arms were in good shape.  Ha!  Jillian has me working muscles I'd forgotten existed!

The DVD comes with 3 complete 20 minute workouts.  I used level 1 for 2 weeks and did something to my knees so I took a week off.  (I think this was RA related so you should be fine.)  Last week I started with level 1 again and found myself kind of bored with it (not that I had mastered the exercises, just tired of doing the same routine) so I moved up to level 2.

To be honest, I still don't find working out fun.  BUT I like the way I feel afterward and I'm seeing results.  After using the Shred DVD for a month (more or less) I've lost 6 pounds and my clothes fit better.  While I haven't exactly gone down a size (yet) my "fat" shorts have a lot of wiggle room in them and capris I could barely button a month ago now button without me having to suck my stomach in.

I consider that progress!  So every time I'm tempted to skip a workout I remind myself of where I started (the picture above) and what I've already accomplished.  My hope is to continue working out, make some more diet changes and end this summer wearing my "skinny" shorts.

Will you join me in getting healthy and fit?  I've already convinced Carrie to use the DVD, how about you?

Ps.  I think I should tell you Jillian uses a couple of mild swear words on the video.  Also 2 of the 3 girls show a lot of um...  "skin" so I do NOT recommend this video for men or teenage boys!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Externally motivated by a pedometer?!

In the last 2 months I've come to see just how externally motivated I am.  It's sad really.  And maybe just a little pathetic.

Two months ago my husband bought us each a pedometer.  Since then I've been known to clip it on my belt BEFORE my feet hit the floor in the morning so I can record every possible step.  I also find myself willing to walk a little further into the kids' rooms to put away a toy instead of just dropping it at the door for them to put away - all for the sake of recording a few more steps.

See?  I told you it's really sad.

Wearing a pedometer has been eye opening about how much I move in a day.  Our pedometers (Omron Premium Pedometer, in case you're interested) record number of steps and distance walked (the manual gives a formula for how to configure this) in a day.  On a typical day, WITHOUT EVER LEAVING MY HOUSE, I walk about a mile.  Wow!  That's a lot of back and forth down my short hallway!!

So, on one hand wearing the pedometer has made me feel better about how much I move.  I can see that I'm not just sitting on the couch all day.  But, on the other hand, wearing the pedometer has made me feel that how much I move isn't enough.  I want big numbers on that little gadget!  And for that I have to walk.  And walk.  And walk.

And Heaven help me if I forget my pedometer at home!!  I did that once when I went to the grocery store.  I was sick about.  Just sick!

I guess you could say I love my pedometer.  I wear it everywhere - even to church.

Interested in its features?  Clips to my waist.  Records steps, aerobic steps, calories burned and distance for 7 consecutive days.  Also has a clock, which is great since I don't wear a watch.  And seems pretty sturdy (mine has survived been dropped a couple of times).

Anybody want to join me in a little external motivation to walk more?  I'm available for a friendly pedometer competition.  Just name the start date!

Disclosure:  No goods, services or compensation of any kind were given for this blog post.  My husband researched pedometers several weeks and decided this one was the best on the market for our budget.

Monday, July 12, 2010

My McDonald's Epiphany

My McDonald's Epiphany crept up on me over a series of three visits to that famed fast food restaurant.  I wasn't looking for any new understandings about myself and food.  In fact, I had made a few changes in my diet and was exercising so I thought I was good.  Boy, was I wrong!

The first nudging happened on a road trip with a friend.  We were driving home after 24 straight hours of girl talk, laughter and caffeine.  After sitting in traffic on I95, we decided to take a restroom break and grab supper at one of Connecticut's rest stops with a McDonald's.

I ordered my usual:  Big Mac, medium fries, medium Coke.  If memory serves, my friend had a regular hamburger, small fries and small drink.

For some reason my friend's order struck me as odd.  We were on a girls road trip and hadn't eaten much since lunch (it was now supper).  Wasn't she hungry?  We (make that I) had eaten a lot of junk food over the last 24 hours so I shrugged it off as maybe she was tired of junk food.

Fast forward a month.  The kids and I met my friend and her children at a McDonald's (with a play land) for lunch and a play date.  I again ordered my usual.  She again ordered a regular hamburger, small fries and small drink.

And, yet again, her order struck me as odd.  Now, you should know that my friend is about my height but is several jeans sizes smaller than I am.  I couldn't help but wonder why she ordered so little food.  For some reason, I didn't think to ask her that question.  Maybe because we were too busy discussing other topics, I don't know.

Anyway.  Those two events sort of settled in the back of my mind.  They never became a conscious thought but they just sort of wiggled around back there.  Do you understand what I mean?

Then came May.  And another trip to McDonald's.  This time with just my family.  As we ate our food (my usual Big Mac, medium fries and medium soda), I read the paper they put on the tray.  For some reason, it was turned to the side with the nutrition information.

All of a sudden the two experiences with my friend came to the foreground of my mind.  Hmmm... I wondered how many calories her meal was.... 495 to 645 (she might have had a Diet Coke, I can't remember).  Then I wondered how many calories my meal has... 1230.  1230!!!  One THOUSAND two hundred and thirty!!!  That's only slightly less calories than I should be taking in during an ENTIRE day!

And that's when my McDonald's Epiphany occurred -- I will never get fit and healthy by eating high calorie low nutritional meals.

Why do I allow myself to consume calories that have so little (any?) nutritional benefit for my body?  Truth be told, they don't even taste all that great to me any more.

I think it's out of habit.  That's just what I normally eat and so that's what my emotions and body think I need to feel full.  I also think it's because that's what I've been trained to eat.  For some reason I've developed the subconscious idea (feeling?) that to order a regular hamburger means you are a silly calorie counter {insert scoffing condescension} or poor.

Regardless of the why behind it, I am changing my eating habits (and subconscious thinking).  I am determined to be a healthy and active mom that my kids will be proud of.  I am determined to be a healthy and active wife that my husband will be proud of.  And I am determined to be a healthy and active woman who is comfortable in her own skin.

So, if you see me at McDonald's I'll be the woman savoring her regular hamburger, small fries, and water and feeling good about her smaller sized jeans.

What about you?  Do you need a McDonald's epiphany?  Want to join me in my journey to be healthy and active?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Playing in the Sprinklers on Family Fun Friday

Running through the sprinklers is a classic summer fun activity.  But one I find difficult to allow.  Why?

Muddy feet + grass coated swimsuits + wet towels
= More Work For Mom.

But this summer I'm trying very hard to see beyond the extra work, say yes more than I say no, and make this the best summer ever.

So, on a recent HOT Saturday, when my kids asked to hook up the Water Pillar Will received for his birthday I said yes (and Daddy hooked it up!).

I think it's safe to say they had fun!!

Have you been making this the best summer ever?  What activities have you done so far? 

Visit Fun Mom Friday at Please Pass the Salt for more summer fun ideas.

Dirty Dishes in the Sink at Offering Hospitality

I'm being very honest today at Offering Hospitality today (Dirty Dishes in the Sink) about a visit to a friend's home and an important lesson I learned.

Head over there and tell me if you can relate.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mama's Potato Salad Recipe - Offering Hospitality Recipe Swap

When thinking of summer picnics, cookouts and barbecues, my Mama's Potato Salad always comes to mind.  I didn't know there was any other way to prepare potato salad until I was in college!  These days I'm the mama and when fixing potato salad, this is the recipe I use.

Mama's Potato Salad Recipe

4 medium to large white or Russet potatoes (peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces)
1/2 cup of Miracle Whip (or mayonnaise)
3 Tbsp. prepared mustard
1/4 cup of sweet relish
2 boiled eggs, chopped

Boil potatoes until fork tender.  Drain potatoes and place them in a large bowl.  May leave potatoes as they are OR mash them a little (my mom always made them look like lumpy mashed potatoes).

Add remaining ingredients, stirring after each one.  These amounts are approximate and completely to taste!  I recommend you taste the salad after stirring in each ingredient.  I like mine tangy so I add more mustard.

Yield:  6-8 adult servings

What do you think?  Is this recipe worth a try?

For more picnic recipes visit the Recipe Swap at Offering Hospitality.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tumtum and Nutmeg by Emily Bearn

Tumtum and Nutmeg:  Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall by Emily Bearn.  Published by Hachette Book Group, 2009.

Tumtum and Nutmeg Nutmouse live in Nutmouse Hall which is located in a long forgotten closet in Rose Cottage.  The two mice live very pleasant, though slightly dull, lives until they decide to adopt the two human children of Rose Cottage.  Even that goes pleasantly, until Aunt Ivy shows up.  Aunt Ivy is determined to rid Rose Cottage of all mice - regardless of how helpful they are.

This edition contain 3 short-ish stories of Tumtum and Nutmeg.  Unfortunately, we had to return our copy to the library before we finished all the stories.  But if the other two are as entertaining as the first I have no doubts that your young readers will love them!

I read this story out loud to Ellie (3) who loved the idea of mice living in a doll house.  It didn't take her long to continually ask to read "the mouse book."  Even the two big boys (5 & 7) got into the story and wanted to know if Tumtum would survive Aunt Ivy's attack.  When 3 out of my 4 children enjoy a book I know I have a winner!!

I owe a special thanks to Carrie at Reading to Know and Stephanie at {Olive Tree} for recommending this adorable series!

Have you read a recommended book this month?  Head over to 5 Minutes for Books and link up your review in 'I read it!'

Friday, July 2, 2010

Happy 4th of July!!

"You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness.  You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism." ~Erma Bombeck

My family will be hosting a cookout Sunday evening for our church family. There will be hamburgers, hot dogs and lots of laughter as we celebrate our nation's Independence Day. We will even be setting off fireworks for the first time (thanks to a change in RI law that now allows individuals to shoot off fireworks!).

How do you plan to celebrate this weekend?

Picture and quote also posted at Offering Hospitality.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Visiting Washington, DC on Family Fun Friday

When thinking of Independence Day, I can't help recalling our recent trip to Washington, D.C. where so much of our National Mall is dedicated to the men and women who gave their lives for freedom.

That sounds so solemn and serious, doesn't it?  Our trip was anything but that!

After riding the Metro into the city we began walking towards the White House.  We didn't make it far before being stopped by police.  No, we didn't do anything wrong.  There was a Presidential motorcade coming down the street!  Regardless of your feelings toward our current President, seeing him drive down the street is pretty exciting!

Eventually we made our way to the White House.  Tours require advance reservations through your Representative so we satisfied ourselves with gawking through the fence.

After taking the mandatory dozen pictures we walked up toward the Washington Monument.  I say toward because there is a small grove of trees near the Monument that we used for a brief picnic.  You have no idea how amazing it is for me, just a country Arkansas girl, to have a picnic at the foot of the Washington Monument!

Joel and I opted out of the elevator ride to the top of the Monument and started toward the Lincoln Memorial.  We didn't make if very far before a helicopter flew over our heads and landed on the White House lawn.  Oh, yeah!!  You know I took pictures!!!  Talk about exciting for these tourists!

Once the excitement flew away, we continued walking to the Lincoln Memorial.  I think this is my favorite Memorial in the entire city.  President Lincoln was an incredible man who served his country well and paid dearly for that service.  I don't think it's possible to honor him too much.

From there we walked back up the Mall towards the Capitol Building.  Unfortunately, the little people in our family gave out before we got there so my pictures of it are from far away.

After spending 4 hours walking the National Mall, we decided to take the Metro back to our van and go eat supper.  Even though we only saw a small fraction of what D.C. has to offer it was a VERY fun day!!  My children are too small at this point in time to really understand what they saw and did but I made a promise to us all - we're coming back in 10 years and spending a week just touring the sights!!

What does Independence Day make YOU think of?  How are you celebrating this year?
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