Celebrate Your Firsts With Netflix #StreamTeam

 This post is brought to in partnership with Netflix.  All opinions expressed are my own.Netflix_Logo_Print_FourColorCMYK


Once our ‘babies’ head off for their first day of school we often feel as if the “firsts” are over.  But there’s still so much left to celebrate when we take a step back and consider all the ‘mini-milestones’ left for kids and even adults.

This year marked a large milestone for the boys as the first time they have moved (that they remember, we moved when the older boys were teeny tiny).  It was exciting, exhausting and nerve wracking all at the same time.  It meant new rooms, new neighborhoods and new schools.  There was a lot of joy over a new safer neighborhood where the boys can be allowed to get out and play more freely.  But there was also a lot of anxiety with new schools, including MIDDLE SCHOOL for the older boys and leaving Bryan in a school without his brothers.

With Middle School also came a first dance for both the older boys.  There were no dates (which my fragile mom of tweens heart is grateful for) but there was grooming, loud music, a rather late night and thankfully a good time had.

Whether your firsts are full of excitement or anxiety a great way to prepare for them is to find comfort in those who’ve been down the same path.  This may be done by getting together with friends, OR an evening in with some Netflix!  Check out this great list of movies and TV shows the celebrate a ton of FIRSTS!













New Job: The Office
Getting Married: My Fair Wedding with David Tutera
Having a Baby: What to Expect When You’re Expecting
Life as a Parent: Parenthood
Running for Office: Parks & Recreation
Buying a Home: House Hunters




This month also marks my first post as part of the Netflix Stream Team.  We LOVE Netflix and look forward to sharing more ways to have fun with Netflix!










Aquatic Experience – Chicago Ticket Giveaway

Second annual Aquatic Experience – Chicago makes a splash with additional 130+ tanks of tropical fish, return of Live Shark Encounter and Kids Aquarium Contest
November 7-9, 2014

Everything under one roof also includes:
Fish from Around the World display
Children’s Touch Tank
Two inaugural aquatic competitions
Educational seminars
…and more!

Aquatic Experience - Discus fish

The World Pet Association’s (WPA) second annual Aquatic Experience – Chicago makes a splash Nov. 7-9, 2014, with the addition of over 130 aquariums of tropical fish and return of the popular Live Shark Encounter and Kids Aquarium Contest. Show attendees will find “everything aquatic under one roof” at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center, from saltwater and freshwater fish to pond and aquatic plants—including a Fish from Around the World display with Children’s Touch Tank, two inaugural aquatic competitions, educational seminars and a thriving show floor of exhibitors showcasing the latest in aquatic trends and products.

Daily family passes ($25), individual tickets ($10), weekend passes ($99) and Saturday dinner and keynote tickets ($60) are now on sale for Aquatic Experience – Chicago. Registration for the Kids Aquarium Contest for children ages 5-16 is $5 and includes a 10-gallon aquarium kit complete with filter, lighting, heater and thermometer, plus a wristband for free admission to the show floor with a paying adult. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit www.aquaticexperience.org.

The new display of over 130 aquariums of tropical fish, presented by the Florida Tropical Fish Farmers Association, will include a wide variety of tropical fresh and salt water fish farmed in the US and provide inspiration for retailers, advanced hobbyists and fledgling aquarists all three days of the show. Haai Inc’s Live Shark Encounter, the only travelling shark show in the country, returns this year to give attendees the chance to see sharks up close as a diver swims and interacts with these awe-inspiring animals, providing entertaining and educational information.

Aquatic Experience’s educational seminars on hobbyist and retail topics will feature keynote speaker and Newport Aquarium Zoological Operations Manager Jeff Gibula, in partnership with Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, taking a behind-the-scenes lighthearted look at public aquariums and their relationship to today’s hobbyists and their home aquariums. This year’s show also hosts two inaugural aquatic competitions: the Aquascaping Live! Contest presented by the Aquatic Gardeners Association, and the Aquatic Experience Fancy Guppy Competition presented by the International Fancy Guppy Association.

Additional aquatic experts presenting at educational seminars this year are Anton Lamboj, Bob Fenner, Brandon McLane, Charles Delbeek, Chris Lukhaup, Eric Bodrock, Francis Yupangco, Heiko Bleher, Jake Adams, Jen Reynolds, Joe Olenik, Jonathan Dooley, Julian Sprung, Karen Randall, Kevin Kohen, Oliver Knott, Oliver Lucanus, Patrick Dontson, Rusty Wessel, Sandy Moore, Sanjay Joshi, Steve Lundblad and Ted Judy. Topics include: aquarium and water garden plants; fish breeding; changes in the aquatic world; specialty stores in niche markets; hiring and training strategies; designing a successful fish room; and aquatic explorations of Thailand and Lake Tanganyika.

The World Pet Association (WPA) is the oldest industry organization promoting responsible growth and development of the companion pet and related products and services. WPA works to inform and educate the general public in order to ensure safe and healthy lifestyles for our animal friends. WPA is the host of America’s Family Pet Expo, the world’s largest consumer pet and pet products expo, held annually in Costa Mesa, California. The organization also produces SuperZoo, an annual pet industry trade show that showcases a comprehensive collection of exhibits and offers a variety of informative educational seminars, and Atlanta Pet Fair, the Southeast’s largest competition and trade show for the professional pet stylist. For more information, please visit www.worldpetassociation.org.


Find AquaticExperience on Twitter or Facebook




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Celebrate National Pasta Month with #PastaFits #MC #Sponsored

I participated in an Ambassador Program on behalf of Mom Central for the National Pasta Association. I received pasta samples and a stipend to facilitate the creation of pasta recipes as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.


October is National Pasta Month!

Celebrate with recipes from PastaFits.org. In addition to recipes, you’ll find nutrition information, contest and promotions, as well as general cooking tips and pasta facts.  Pasta Fits is a nutrition and culinary education and resource initiative sponsored by the National Pasta Association.  So you can celebrate national pasta month with good for you food for your family.

To celebrate in our house I decided to give these Healthy Stuffed Shells from PastaFits.org a try.


Knowing that this recipe was filled with carrots and spinach I did do my prep while the boys were outside playing in an effort to get these veggies past them.  I have never made stuffed shells before but I was surprised by how easy there were.  When looking at the ingredients I wasn’t even sure how they’d mix together but I was able to easily get it all mixed nicely together.  But there was definitely no getting past the green of the spinach.



But I loved that I was able to prep them and then refrigerate them.  Since we spend MANY nights out at sports practices right at dinner time, we are often very rushed for dinner.  With these stuffed shells I could easily prep them the night before and then just have to heat it all and have a hearty, delicious dinner on the table in under an hour.

20141013_134347And it turned out delicious, at least in my opinion.  I was honestly shocked by the reception it got from my kids.  The little one, well I thought it was a long shot getting any GREEN food into him, and he didn’t surprise me.  He declined to try it and had to make himself something else to eat.  But my oldest who I typically consider my most adventurous eater tried it but insisted the spinach made it taste weird.  Sigh.  But the middle one, if I had to guess he’d have been the other one who I would have assumed would have turned up his nose at it.  And he was a little put off by the looks of it.  But following our house rules of trying things, he tried a bite and loved it….and had not only seconds but thirds.  So you just never know until you try something.  Thankfully we had company come by the night I made it that helped us eat it.  But I think it’d also hold well for lunch leftovers too.  And I also think you could prep it and freeze some for later though I didn’t try that.



Be sure to check out PastaFits online, on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Halloween Crafts

I’m seriously so in love with our new house, I’m actually decorating for holiday for the first time.  I love Halloween, the FUN side of Halloween.  I don’t to creepy, scary or gross.  So my decorations are just fun and festive.  I even decided to get brave and try some Halloween Crafts.

This year we’re skipping the traditional pumpkins for a project I’ll share later but I had to have at least one pumpkin so I picked up one at Michaels (50% off woohoo) and decorated it with a colorful saying that I made with my Silhoutte Cameo.  My boys think it’s hysterical that I referred to myself as a witch.  Eh, I’ve been called worse.  Plus it’s totally cute!



And then I made this colorful wreath for our front door.  But it’s been pouring nonstop for days so I had to settle for taking a pic of it indoors for now.  I got the idea for a Michaels tutorial but mine doesn’t look exactly like theirs.  But I still think it’s fun.  If you attempt this my best advice it just keep going.  At one point I was convinced it would NOT come out looking decent at all and well I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder but I’m happy with it.


Do YOU decorate for Halloween?



Capture Adventure #GoProatBestBuy with @BestBuy

The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.

 DCIM104GOPROI LOVE photography.  I love the ability to capture a moment forever.  And I usually love my dslr camera.  But sometimes a dslr just doesn’t fit our adventures.  But at Best Buy, the home of the latest cameras and camcorders, you can find the full line of new GoPro cameras, plus a broad assortment of accessories. GoPro’s new line of cameras allow you to beautifully and authentically capture and share the experiences that bring purpose, adventure, and joy to your life. GoPro cameras also make perfect holiday gifts for everyone, from kids and teens, to gadget gurus.


·         GoPro HERO4 Black: the most advanced GoPro ever, featuring improved image quality and a 2x more powerful processor with 2x faster video frame rates1, HERO4 Black takes award‐winning GoPro performance to a whole new level.Hero4Silver_Cluster_01

·         GoPro HERO4 Silver: the first-ever GoPro to feature a built-in touch display. Controlling The camera, playing back footage and adjusting settings is ultra-convenient—just view, tap and swipe the screen. With 1080p60 and 720p120 video, and 12MP photos at a staggering 30 frames per second, HERO4 Silver combines powerful, pro-quality capture with the convenience of a touch display.Hero_0

·         GoPro HERO: Featuring high‐quality 1080p30 and 720p60 video, and 5MP photos up to 5 fps, HERO captures the same immersive footage that’s made GoPro one of the best-selling cameras in the world.

12x more powerful processor with 2x faster video frame rates

I absolutely LOVE the idea of being able to relive the super exciting moments with my family.  I mean really, is there anything more priceless than the faces you make when you’re enjoying true adventure!

Hero lifestyle 3 DCIM106GOPRO

Learn more at www.bestbuy.com/GoPro or visit your local Best Buy to check out the latest cameras in person.

We Visited Where You’re Not

Five years ago this month I lost my best friend and mother to breast cancer.  She was an amazing, strong lady who loved to be silly, even when it may have been less then appropriate.  She loved my boys and hated when the time came that she couldn’t get around to play with them like she wanted.  She was also my oldest’s best friend too.  They had a bond from day one.  He doesn’t talk about her often, but when he does you can see the whole she left very visibly.

So when he spotted some pink ribbon shaped balloons at the store and asked if we could get one and take it to her at the cemetery I couldn’t deny his request.  It’s actually been a couple years since we’ve been to the cemetery.  It’s not a place I like going.   Part of that is because it was the place where her death really hit me.  The moment in which I had to walk away from her casket was quite possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  It was in that instant that my heart and soul broke and spilled out uncontrollably.

Nonetheless, I returned to the cemetery for the first couple years for each notable occasion, mostly out of obligation.  It’s what people do. It’s certainly what people expected me to do.  But that cold empty place always left me feeling just that…cold and empty.  You see to know my mother was to know life and warmth.  This place is not where she is.  Sure her name is that marble slab noting the years her smile graces the earth but she’s not there.

Please don’t misunderstand, I do believe she’s still with us.  That date on wall didn’t end the impact of her life or the memories she gave us.  The places where she is are the places where she lived and loved, not where I said my last goodbye.  I feel her with me, often unexpectedly in random moments or places.  From the hug from my less that snuggly tween that comes out of the blue to the goofiness my youngest is filled with so much like her.  In the moments when I wish I could see the pride on her face when ‘her boys’ do something amazing.

So I hope she doesn’t mind that I don’t visit that place too often, because I went and remember she isn’t there.

Capture Halloween With Canon Cameras and Lenses

You’ve worked for hours on the PERFECT jack-o-latern, but do you know how to capture it in all it’s glory?  Here are some tips for Canon:

As jack-o-lanterns cast shadows over porch steps and the cold, crisp air sets in, the season of dressing up and capturing memories is upon us. Whether trick-or-treating around the neighborhood or hosting a costume party, capture every spooky and ghoulish moment with Canon EF lenses and EOS DSLR cameras.


Trick-or-treaters and Halloween participants alike can #bringit with Canon by capturing high-quality images and HD video this October. As such, we wanted to provide you with a few tips and tricks, courtesy of Canon, to #bringit:


  • Be sure to capture every last gory detail with Canon’s EF 40mm STM lens. A slim lens is perfect for isolating parts of subjects, such as a vampire tooth or a bloody eyeball, and is light enough to carry in your trick-or-treat bag.
  • Using an aperture of f/2.8 or wider creates softer backgrounds for your photos, giving them an eerie, Halloween touch.
  • Consider using a tripod to help reduce camera shake. If you don’t have one, prop your camera on a fence post, mailbox, or whatever is flat, stable, and the right height for what you need. Most Canon DSLR camera’s have a built-in self-timer that will make sure you aren’t left out of the photo!


For more tips on how to #bringit this Halloween season, please visit Halloween Photography Tips, courtesy of Canon’s Digital Learning Center.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Presents LEGENDS

1429_RB_BTA_Main_r2sIconic Ringling Bros.® Stars Meet Fabled Mythological Creatures in

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Presents LEGENDSSM


The Greatest Show On Earth® Set to Capture Chicago Area’s Imagination,

Nov. 6 – 30, 2014

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents LEGENDS, an all-new edition that unites iconic circus stars with living mythological creatures in a celebration of the LEGENDS that have captured imaginations for centuries, is slated to appear Nov. 6-16 at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill., and Nov. 19-30 at Chicago’s United Center. Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson guides Paulo the Legend Seeker on his quest to discover real, living legends from around the world and presents Paulo’s fantastic discoveries to circus fans everywhere.


Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey is where legends live, and we constantly ask our audiences to believe in the unbelievable.  For this edition we’ve combined a number of mythical themes and stories into a lavish production of sight and sound unlike any show we have ever created,” says Producer Nicole Feld.

Mythology meets reality as Paulo encounters the wondrous Pegasus and the amazing Unicorn, as well as circus legends such as big cat presenter Alexander Lacey; the Riders of the Wind Cossack horsemen; and motorcycle daredevils, the Torres Family.  They all come together along with a cast spanning 25 countries in a spectacular production.

Experience magnificent Asian elephants, a twenty-acrobat troupe perched atop only a pair of bicycles, and a never-before-seen double-wide, high-flying trapeze act.


“A legend is something so magical and larger than life that once you see it, you never forget it.  The talent in this show is unprecedented and embodies the name LEGENDS,” says Producer Alana Feld.  “My sister and I were speechless when we saw these acts the first time.  We searched the world for the best of the best and put them together in an unforgettable show.”

The extraordinary talent that can only be seen at Ringling Bros. Presents LEGENDS includes:

·      Hailing from Great Britain, Alexander Lacey’s special bond with lions, tigers and a majestic leopard allow him to present a legendary mixed cat display that has garnered him awards from the renowned International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo and The Festival International du Cirque de Massy (France). With each performance, Lacey demonstrates his lifetime dedication to training and caring for these beautiful animals as he showcases their natural agility, strength and the unconditional respect and cooperation they share.

  • The Riders of the Wind thunder into the arena on the backs of thoroughbred horses and are the protectors of the mythological Pegasus and Unicorn.  These speeding daredevil Cossack riders display their strength and amazing dexterity as they perform intricate maneuvers, including a remarkable five-man high pyramid, while galloping at more than 25 miles per hour in a 46-foot-diameter, specially-designed ring.
  • From Paraguay, the fearless Torres Family shatters records and dares to achieve the impossible by putting eight family members, including one female rider, on speeding motorcycles inside the Globe of Steel. Once locked inside the 16-foot globe, they will orbit at an unprecedented 65 miles per hour with only six inches to spare between each rider, avoiding collision by relying on their rigorous accuracy and confidence in each other.
  • An elite super-group of high-flying trapeze artists from the U.S., Brazil, Venezuela and Mexico, The Solar Hawkspresent a never-before-seen double-wide flying trapeze act designed specifically for The Greatest Show On Earth. This dream team exhibits precision, stamina, strength and perfect form while attempting four consecutive triple somersaults with only seconds between each release.
  • The Chinese National Acrobatic Troupe from Beijing impresses audiences with a number of diverse acts that include fast-paced hoop diving through astonishingly tall and impossibly narrow hoops, an elegant rolling ballet on bicycles where acrobats perform feats and build an incredible pyramid and breathtaking pole climbers executing flips and twists accompanied by traditional, dancing Chinese lions.
  • Also hailing from China, the Jade Statues come to life in a graceful display combining elegant choreography, precise timing and coordination with jaw-dropping diablo juggling skills. The spinning diablos dance in the air like synchronized fountains and are caught by these masterful artists in a unique and memorable performance.
  • A heartwarming presentation of showmanship with an animal menagerie ranging from ten to 10,000 pounds can only be found at Ringling Bros. Presents LEGENDS. Treasured Ringling Bros. Asian Elephants, from the largest herd in North America, are presented in an incredible spectacle that cannot be seen anywhere but at Ringling Bros.Other legendary animals from almost every continent include North American rescue dogs, donkeys from Europe, pigs from Asia, llamas from South America, kangaroos from Australia and a special surprise…Woolly the Mammoth.
  • Under the baton of bandleader Wages Argott, the dynamic, nine-piece Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Bandperforms an original score of over 200 pieces of music arranged by award-winning Hollywood and Broadway composers.

An hour before show time, families can come to the arena floor and participate in interactive, up-close circus experiences, theAll-Access Pre-show and the brand new Ringmaster Zone.

Free to all ticketholders, the All Access Pre-show allows circus fans to learn juggling and balancing skills, meet the performers of The Greatest Show On Earth, get autographs, take photos and enter to win a one-of-a-kind Pachyderm Painting.

For the ultimate circus fan experience, the producers have created a new, exclusive, intimate experience: the Ringmaster Zone. A combined value with the best seats in the house, the Ringmaster Zone offers families an unprecedented look behind the curtain of The Greatest Show On Earth. Fans have the opportunity to walk on the Ringling Red Carpet with Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson and the stars of the show, step inside the Globe of Steel, take photos on the ringmaster’s float and have an up-close elephant encounter.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents LEGENDS provides hours of thrilling entertainment that is fun for the whole family for about the price of a movie ticket. A great value in family entertainment, Ringling Bros. is Ticketmaster’s number one most purchased family event. Tickets, starting at $15, are available through Ticketmaster and the Allstate Arena and United Center box offices, by calling 1-800-745-3000, or visiting www.Ringling.com. Additionally, parking is FREE with ticket purchase in all official Allstate Arena and United Center parking lots. Service charges, facility and handling fees may apply. For general show information, call the Allstate Arena at (847) 635-6601, or the United Center at (312) 455-4500.

#forRMHC #spon

#spon: This post is in partnership with McDonald’s Family Arches and their Ronald McDonald House Charities.

This October marks the 40th anniversary of the opening of the very first Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the inception of  Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC). This milestone deserves a celebration and we plan to do so! By sharing stories online, sharing your stripes using #forRMHC and supporting the Charity through Donation Box funding via Day of Change on October 15 you can help support the families of RMHC.

Link to join Family Arches Advocate Experience
Join here to help spread the word!

LISTERINE Helps Us Develop Healthy Heroic Habits #Sponsored and #MC

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for LISTERINE. I received samples for this review and a promotional item to thank me for participating.

LISTERINE Smart Rinse Floss POKCETPACKSIt’s October, we’ve been in school for over a month, so I should probably feel a little better about our morning routine.  But whether it’s the fact that I’m not so much a morning person, or our very hectic evening schedules, or maybe a combo of the two, we haven’t fully hit our stride in the morning yet.

I mean I’ve learned some tricks.  For instance my 6 year old is the first of my kids to become very vocal about the selection of his clothes.  This was causing stress and lack of time in the mornings, where as with my previous two they would put on whatever I threw at them.  So I quickly figured out that a less groggy, more agreeable child was able to make a decision nicely before bed and was always fine with that selection in the morning. One major hurdle taken are of.

LISTERINE Smart Rinse kids oral dental health heroic habitsBut somehow we can still not manage to get all the things done each morning that should need to get done.  For whatever reason, I blame it on them being male, hygiene still isn’t high on the list.  I haven’t fully convinced them that there really is a need for them to brush their teeth in the morning. Their logic is that they JUST brushed them before bed.  I’m thinking my friend who’s currently going to school to be a Hygienist will be able to convince them with some photos at some point from her classes.  But until then, I try negotiate with them each morning.  And then when there simply isn’t enough time left to actually comb their hair, I shrug it off, some guys spend 20 minutes going for that bed head look, right?  Thankfully,  my boys would rinse with LISTERINE Smart Rinse any time of day.  I don’t know why I ever let myself run out of this.  Each time a fresh bottle enters our doors, I’m reminded of how much better they do with they oral care (and how much better they smell.)

Of course, even those of us (me) who don’t need to be convinced that brushing in the morning is in fact needed, some times, well some times stuff just happens and gets me off course.  Whether I’ve had to rush from the bathroom mid morning routing to break up WW3 or find a missing backpack, once in awhile I have been known to wind up in the car, realizing my mouth feels less than fresh.  For THOSE moments when I feel less than heroic, I am thankful for LISTERINE POCKETPACKS which I keep in my car for just such the occasion.  You know even super heroes need trusty sidekicks!LISTERINE POCKET PACKS

But you really need to meet my new love in LISTERINE COOL MINT Floss.  Since flossing has always been my biggest personal down fall, I really never thought much about the type of floss I used.  But I don’t think I’ll ever go back to plain ole ‘waxed’ floss again.  I love the feel of the LISTERINE COOL MINT Floss which removes 61% more plaque than a leading competitor, I really FEEL the difference even more than with typical floss.LISTERINE Cool Mint Floss

Here are the retailers where LISTERINE products are available for purchase.


If you need some inspiration on how to make healthy habits more fun, check out this video series with Ian Ziering.  Maybe it’s the 90’s me talking but I love him so much I’ll watch him talk about brushing and eating veggies all day.   LISTERINE YouTube page featuring the Healthy Habit Heroes video series

And learn more about these and other LISTERINE products to help YOU develop heroic habits visit the. LISTERINE website