friday favorites #5

Happy Friday, y'all! I haven't done a Friday Favorites post in awhile, but it just felt right this week. We've been busy, but still enjoying the freedom that summer brings. I'm getting better at getting out of the house with the kids in the morning, and being more productive during down time. Here are some of the things we've been loving so far this summer!

Library story time

Library story time satisfies all my criteria for a good outing where I'm outnumbered by the kids. It's free, it's educational, we're in a contained space, and the kids are entertained. This week's theme was outer space, and Pippa hasn't stopped talking about rocket ships, la luna (the moon), and the librarians who went all out and dressed up in space suits. And don't forget the thrill of picking out a new stack of books to take home afterward! I chose All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, and I'm loving it so far! Added bonus: library story time is where I have met all my mom friends in the area besides church and school!


Audio Books

While we're on this topic, I also want to bring up audio books for in the car. I used to borrow audio books for my commute to and from work and almost hoped for traffic so I could listen to more of the book! I just discovered that our library has an audio book section for kids. The closest thing I could find to a preschool-age appropriate book was the Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park. Pippa is actually listening to the story, but I don't like how many times Junie B. says "stupid" and "shut up." You know, the "s words." So I'm on the hunt for something a 3 year old would like listening to in the car. Ideas?

Summer Schedules

It took us awhile to get into a groove this summer. We're both teachers who have "off" during the summer months, but we're still at school all the time lesson planning, helping with summer activities, attending meetings, and getting ready for the upcoming school year.  What's worked for us so far is switching off days to go get planning done away from the kids, which leaves the other parent at home with 2 small children. Summer in Florida is like winter in the midwest in that you're stuck inside a lot of the time due to extremely warm weather. Especially with a baby, we try to limit outdoor time in the heat of the day. That means lots of downtime inside the house. Which means there's always the temptation to turn on the tv or just be lazy.

But that didn't turn out well for the kids or us, so we've been working on staying disciplined in a routine. Waking up early to work out, turn off the tv during the day, and coming up with activities and outings to keep all of us busy. It's been just the perfect mix of structure and relaxation, and we're loving it so far!

Avocado Smoothies

I made both kids a green smoothie for lunch yesterday, and ended up drinking most of it myself because it was that good! 1 frozen banana, 1 cup almond milk, 1/2 avocado, 1 handful of spinach, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. It was so creamy! Justin even tasted it and said it tasted like a banana bread smoothie...I call that a win!

Splash Pad

We tried our first splash pad this past weekend with the kids. Pippa was apprehensive at first, because the water can be a little aggressive, but she ended up loving it! It was so fun to watch her shriek as she dashed through the cascading water. I would definitely go back to the splash park we chose, because there was a playground nearby that was little kid friendly, and it was right on the beach as well! There were clean restrooms, and they even had a private family bathroom that was large enough to change the kids for the ride home. It ended up being the perfect day out. I can't wait to try out the other splash parks in the area!

Have a great weekend everyone!


ideas for staying healthy as a busy mom

Ladies. Mamas. We're notorious for putting everyone else's needs before our own. It feels self-sacrificial and noble in the moment, but often ends up backfiring because we're exhausted, dehydrated, and cranky. You've heard the old sayings: happy wife, happy life and if mama's not happy, nobody's happy. And let me tell you, they aren't just jokes dads make at weddings. We truly set the tone in our homes with our behavior and attitude and mood. I learned this the hard way when my toddler kept asking "Mama, are you happy, sad, or mad?" Talk about a wake-up call to adjust my mood!

So much of my mood depends on my spiritual life. If I'm in God's Word on a daily basis, talking to Him through prayer, and trusting in him to provide, I'm a happier person. This is priority número uno (and also a blog post topic for next week).

It's also very evident to me that if I'm not taking care of my body, my mood suffers as well. Who among us has not stood in tears over a pile of clothes we've discarded on the floor because they just don't fit the way we want them to? Then there's the 3 p.m. slump where your kids are tugging at your sleeves to come play mommy! and it's all you can do to peel yourself off the couch. Mentally you feel disappointed and angry because you know you could be doing better, but you're frustrated because you just can't seem to fit it into your day. Physically you're drained, crabby, and spread too thin. Tell me that doesn't affect those around you!

So what's a busy mom to do? Believe me, I have lived and completely understand every excuse in the book. Your kids wake up at the crack of dawn, so there's no way you can work out first thing in the morning. Your small 2nd floor apartment isn't conducive to a fitness routine. You can't afford healthy food. Healthy food takes too long to prepare. You don't have time to exercise or meal plan. I know, I know. I totally get it.

But I'll tell you what I used to tell my volleyball players. If it's important to you, you'll find a way. If it's not, you'll find an excuse. So let me give you some ideas to get the creative juices flowing. Remember, I'm not a certified fitness expert or nutrition expert - just a mom who has a passion for health and wellness, and who is speaking from her own experience.

Ideas to Stay Healthy as a Busy Mom:

Working Out

• Set the alarm for an hour before your children get up if they have a consistent waking time that isn't 5 a.m. Go for a jog, take the dog for a walk, look up circuits on Pinterest, or buy a workout DVD.

• Find an affordable gym membership with a reliable daycare and use it guilt-free. Preferably one with classes so you can meet other women with the same interests. It's more fun with a community, and they will hold you accountable.

• Work out after the kids go to bed. Presumably your husband is home by this time, and you can leave the house to run, go to the gym, or lock yourself somewhere to avoid interruption.

• Work out with your children in the room. My daughter used to love doing the Jillian Michael's Cardio Kickboxing dvd with me. Find ways to involve them, like Mommy and Me yoga videos or show them how to do the exercises you're doing.

• Take the whole family for a long walk.

• Whatever workout you decide to do, write it on the calendar at the beginning of the week. Make it a non-negotiable. Set the appointment for yourself and you'll be far more likely to do it.


• Meal plan on the weekend with your husband. Write down every ingredient you need from the store, and stick to the list. My affordable and healthy meals are not original by any means. Whole wheat pasta and meat sauce made with ground turkey and chopped up veggies. Burrito bowls with chicken, quinoa, veggies, salsa, and greek yogurt as a substitute for sour cream. Turkey burgers. Baked potatoes. Chicken, rice, and a vegetable.

• Try a smoothie or shake for one meal. You can jam pack fruits and vegetables into a smoothie, just be careful of the sugar content (Don't use fruit juice as a base...water is best!) Plus there are so many add-in options to up the nutrition factor: coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, flax seed, chia seeds, and protein powder to name a few. I do 1 or 2 meal replacement shakes each day, because they're the perfect balance of carbs, fat, and protein you need each meal, full of vitamins and minerals, and super convenient.

• Carry your water bottle with you wherever you go. Have one in each room of the house. Set a timer every 30 minutes and you and your kids can chug water. Drink all the water.

• Stash healthy snacks in your purse. My students used to make fun of me because I was always eating apple slices like a little kid. But it's a fruit I know I like, no mess, and it's easy to transport. Clementines, bananas, baby carrots, and almonds are other great options.

• Serve vegetables first at lunch and dinner. This is as much for me as it is for my children. I don't always remember to do this, but when I do the kids gobble up their broccoli or salad. If they have the option of crackers vs. broccoli, I think we all know what's going to win. I can't blame them. I would also choose the crackers.

• Don't buy chips or cookies or junk food. Just don't keep them in the house at all. If you want a dessert, bake some cookies or banana bread. If you have kids who "need" snacks, lead by example and show them healthier options. Listen, I'm human. I give my kids Goldfish or Annie's Cheddar Bunnies just like the next gal. But I also know that if Sun Chips are in the house, that bag is going to be gone by sun down. Bad example for the kids, junk for hangover for mama. Plus, now you have more money to put toward expensive produce (why are there never coupons for health food?)

• I'm not perfect with this, and still follow the 80/20 rule (80% of the time we eat healthy, 20% we enjoy whatever we want), but try to listen to how your body feels after eating certain foods. I always feel parched and tired after eating salty foods like chips or crackers. I feel sluggish after eating sugar cereal. I have found that thinking about how a food will make me feel immediately is an easier way to say no to junk food than thinking "Oh, that might cause me to gain a pound or two if I keep doing this every night."


• Set an alarm for bedtime. 10:00 p.m. hits, my iPhone alarm rings, and I start the bedtime routine.

• Surround yourself with people who will support you. There are so many people who feel guilty about their own habits, so they'll try to tear you down subtly. An eye roll here, a sarcastic remark there. No bueno.

• Remember you're setting a great example for your kids about how to take care of the one body they are given. Not just to look and feel good, but because we are good stewards of the gifts God has given us.

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Check out the products I use to stay healthy here or shoot me an email at emilymaureen13@gmail.com for more info!


you're in there somewhere

Today was magical.

Today the stars aligned and fate was on my side. While the baby took his morning nap, the toddler played quietly in her room. I was showered. The chores were done. The house was relatively clean. The coffee maker was still on. So I did the unthinkable.

I snuck out to the screened in porch with a hot cup of coffee and an obscenely long fiction book. Not even a personal development book. A fiction book, written for pure pleasure. I even put my feet up, because hey! I didn't even need to be in a three-point athletic stance ready to intercept a toy thrown at my son's head. 

I explored France and Germany through the pages of that book. My mind drifted to far-off places, and a spirit of adventure replaced the usual survival mode. 

This was significant because just the night before I had been thinking about how I was so glad to be in my own bed, surrounded by my own people, and that I wouldn't even want to be exploring a foreign country even if the opportunity presented itself. This thought came with a twinge of sadness, because my entire career choice was based on my love of travel, culture, and foreign language. These things became part of my identity, to the point where I felt lost if I didn't have any international travel to look forward to. 

I clung to this part of myself even after having my first child. She just turned 3, and she's been to England, France, and Mexico. But ever since having a second child to love and care for, that part of me has felt like it's fading. My days are filled with cutting up bananas, searching for a burp cloth, changing the laundry, and giving my toddler 2 acceptable choices in order to avoid meltdowns. My nights are made up of witching hour, chaotic dinners, baths, stories, and trying to get the 3 year old to stay in her bed. There is no free time to daydream of sipping wine while watching the sun set over a plaza. Looking up deals on international flights no longer gets to claim a spot in my day. The books that used to lure me to new destinations have a bookmark stuck in page 58 until I have to return it to the library. 

But you know what? That adventurous person is still in there. I still long for adventure, and travel, and artfully crafted stories, and conversations in a foreign language. I still have a lot of ancient ruins to see, and a lot of wine to sip in plazas. I have a lot of new friends to make in other countries, and a lot of crazy stories to live. 

So it felt like magic to sip coffee on a patio and read about far off places, to feel the familiar longing for a place I've never been. I felt youthful. I felt hopeful. And I felt like me. 

The early years of motherhood are incredible and incredibly tough. They are all consuming and eternal and a whirlwind. They are physically exhausting, mentally draining. They cause me to see the world through fresh eyes full of wonder, but also to want to drop kick Caillou because his voice is so. whiney. I sometimes get sad that I don't have a ton of free time to do the things that give me life, like reading, studying languages, and traveling. But then I remind myself that there's no room for that in a spirit of thankfulness. 

The old me is in there somewhere. Right now my life is dedicated to growing kick-ass (great? good? at least civil?) human beings, growing a business that will allow me the resources and time freedom to travel in the future, and teaching middle school kids a language and culture that will open up the world for them, both literally and figuratively. But the old me still peeks out every now and then. Like when a certain song pops up on my iTunes and I can't help but salsa with my 10 month old. Or when a picture on my TimeHop transports me to that hilarious night in another country. Or when a good book causes me to daydream about driving to the airport and buying a one-way ticket to anywhere. Oh yes. She's still in there. She's waiting patiently, biding her time. And when her time comes, you will see her picture on your social media page holding up a glass of crisp white wine in a sun-soaked plaza and saying Salud!

Tomorrow, though, I'll be raising a cup of lukewarm coffee as my three-year-old rams her tricycle into my shin. Cheers!


summer activities for kids

There is no moment equal to a teacher on her first day of summer break. The world is her oyster! She twirls like Maria from the Sound of Music as she considers the copious amounts of time for doing projects around the house, for organizing her children's clothes, for reading a book lazily on the porch. There will be leisurely morning coffees and exciting day trips with the children.

And then, like a carriage turning back into a pumpkin, 3 p.m. on the first day of summer hits. It feels like 105 degrees Fahrenheit outside. The children don't seem to understand "quiet reading time." Every time a pile of laundry is folded by an adult, it is quickly unfolded by a toddler and hidden in a diaspora of clean clothes around the house, like a cruel game of hide and seek. There are Cheerios everywhere, and when will the dog stop barking at that squirrel? The wheels are falling off quickly, and it's only Day 1.

It's time for a summer activity brainstorm sesh.

Below are all of the ideas I have come up with so far to get out of the house with a 3 and almost-1 year old. Please feel free to join in the discussion with your ideas and experience!

1. The Library

Our library is a sanctuary for children. There is an amazing little room for kids to play and learn, a fantastic selection of children's books in English AND Spanish, and endless book choices for the adults as well. Once a week there is a wonderful library story time class, where we love to shake our sillies out. We will be spending lot of time here, I have a feeling.

2. Splash Pads

I remember seeing one in a nearby city last summer, but I was freshly recovering from a C-Section and figuring out how to be a mom of 2, so we didn't get a chance to try it. I can definitely see us going on tour and trying every splash pad in a 30 mile radius.

3. The Beach

Heading to the beach with a 3 and an almost-1-year-old who can't walk yet is not for the faint of heart. It is guaranteed one of them will consume magnificent amounts of sand, and the other will want to go play in the waves. A person cannot be in 2 places at once, so a battle will ensue. Then there's the hauling, lugging, and packing of gear. Again, not for the faint of heart. BUT if done with friends, definitely worth it.

4. Parks

During summer in Florida, trips to the park must be strategically planned. It's important to head out early in the day to avoid the heat and humidity that come with the midday sun. But, if it gets too hot, there's always ice cream or fro yo afterward, so...#worthit

5. Ice cream

Speaking of the delicious frozen treat, I think it deserves its own number. Maybe we'll search for the best ice cream in our county. Someone's gotta do it. I'm willing to take one for the team.

6. Day Trips

We live within driving distance of some incredible destinations. Orlando, St. Augustine, Jacksonville, and Daytona are all under 2 hours away. For a bit more of a drive we can discover Savannah, GA, Miami, or the Gulf Coast of Florida. This will take planning, and obviously cost some $$$, but might be worthwhile to get out of the house and be tourists in our own area.

7. The Movies

This would have to be done when one of us parents can take the baby, but I think it would be such a treat to take our three-year-old to the movie theater for the first time ever! Now, maybe that's just me wanting and excuse for some popcorn with extremely high-calorie fake butter, but I can see it being an awesome experience together!

That's all I've got so far! Would love to hear suggestions for free or cheap outings from other, more experienced parents. And...go!


working from home: what you need to know

I’m willing to bet that if you logged onto Facebook right now, you would be able to find at least a handful of friends or acquaintances with a home based business. You’ve attended their parties and supported their businesses. Maybe you’ve even gotten annoyed by it - why does everyone want to sell me something?

Everyone has - and is entitled to - their own opinion on the subject, but the fact of the matter is that with technology like smart phones and computers in every home, home based businesses are on the rise. Stay-at-home-parents have found a way to contribute to their family income. College students are paying off their student loans before they graduate. Successful 9-5ers have a passive second stream of income. You’ve seen so many acquaintances start their own venture, but so far you have just watched from the sidelines. Maybe you’re scared of being that person at family gatherings that no one wants to talk to. Maybe you’re nervous about alienating friends or getting blocked on Facebook. Maybe you’re not a people person, or you’re an introvert, and you just can’t see yourself being successful. Maybe you’ve worked retail, and you hate pressuring people to buy something.

If any of those concerns or objections spoke to you, then you and I have something in common. The potential to make a significant income from home is tempting, but you’re not willing to betray who you are or ruin relationships in the process. I get it. I’m the same way. And yet something inside me could not let go of the idea that maybe - just maybe- I could do it too. So objections in hand, I approached the most successful person I knew in the business and grilled her. How do you keep relationships intact? How do you balance work and family time when you work where you live and live where you work? Are you actually earning any money?

One phrase our company repeats over and over is this: We educate. You decide. We support.

Because in order to make an informed decision, each person needs the facts. They need to hear from people that have done it, and are doing it. Not just negative reviews online or anecdotes from friends who didn’t put in the work and didn’t see the results they wanted. Each person needs to block out the noise of opinions from other people so they can hear what this business is really about, then through careful thought and prayer make the best decision for themselves and their family. 

So this is me, busting through the noise to give you the facts and to share my story. I’m an introvert. I used to work retail and HATED sales. I think relationships are one of the most important things we have on this earth. I want everyone to feel comfortable around me. I don’t like to ruffle feathers. But I’m doing the thing. I’m experiencing success. And if you’re like me and are wondering if you can do it, too, take a listen to this story, then make your decision. You won’t regret being more informed! 

Click the link immediately below to hear my story, and the stories of 2 other normal, God-fearning, hard-working women who are experiencing success. If something in this recording speaks to you, reach out and email me! Let’s chat further to see if this could be a blessing for you and your family.

Listen here
Contact me at emilymaureen13@gmail.com 


philippa's third birthday

Happy Third Birthday, Phillipa Florence! It's been a crazy year of changes for you. Shortly after turning 2 you moved from Minnesota to Florida and got a baby brother! You started school for the first time, moved to a big girl bed, got potty trained, and moved to yet another house. You handled it all so well, like I knew you would. Sure, there were tantrums and tears, but we knew we'd figure it out together. You always keep us laughing with your big words, jokes, silly songs, and funny faces.

 I can't believe how strong and independent you're becoming! I see so much of your dad in you - in your sense of humor, and in how sociable you are. You make friends with anyone and everyone wherever you go. I pray you keep your adventurous spirit and zest for life as you grow older. It's what makes you Pippa! Keep letting that light shine! Happy birthday, and here's to another year or growth, change, fun, and laughter. Love you!

And now, here's a glimpse into Pippa's third birthday celebration:

Philippa Florence

you have traveled to:

North Carolina
South Carolina
South Dakota
Iceland (a layover...but still)

you have lived in 5 apartments/houses
in Minnesota and Florida

you're awesome because you:

can count in English and Spanish
can say the Lord's Prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, and your bedtime prayers
love to put on shows and performances for us
beg for the windows down when we drive
love to read and be read to
are an amazing big sister to Teddy
sing Jesus Loves Me in English and Spanish
play your Little People by yourself for hours
love brushing your teeth with the Disney Magic Timer app
are excited to learn and use Spanish words
use words like "enormous" and "unsanitary"
are Mommy's helper and Daddy's little girl
love to eat green peppers, any type of fruit, and salad
smother your Pablo with hugs, kisses, and snuggles - whether he wants it or not
pet any dog you come in contact with
know how to bargain for more cookies, chocolate chips, and Lucky Charms
handled 5 huge life changes like a champ (new brother, new house, new state, big girl bed, potty training)

favorite foods:
cheese, any kind of berries, green peppers, salad with croutons, pasta, cookies, cereal, shakes (batidos)

favorite songs:
Jesus Loves Me / Cristo Me Ama
Let It Go (Frozen)
Cheerleader (Omi)
I'll Make a Man Out of You (Mulan)
Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood Songs

favorite shows/movies:
Little Einsteins
Dora the Explorer
Mickey Mouse Club House
Daniel Tiger

I posted this interview on my Facebook page, but here is an interview with Pippa about her favorite things. I  plan to do this with her each year to see how she grows and changes: