Monday, January 30, 2017

5 Yoga Poses To Do With Kids

One of the greatest benefits to working out at home is setting a positive example for my kids. I love that they're watching me live this healthy LIFEstyle, and I hope they grow to care, nourish and appreciate their own bodies.

I don't always love it when they're rolling balls and trucks across my feet while I'm working out (and that's exactly why I try to wake up super early and exercise before they're awake for the day), but we do enjoy practicing yoga together - especially on the weekends.

There's a wonderful (and free!) kids yoga program on YouTube called Cosmic Kids Yoga that Tory, Aden and I like to do together. The instructor uses imaginative stories to get kids doing yoga without even realizing it. They love it!

Here's a few other simple yoga poses to do with the kids in your life:

Invisible Chair
Instruct chair pose by saying something like, "Pretend to sit down in an imaginary chair." Then, reach the arms up overhead and SMILE big!

Happy Baby
Get down on the floor with your kids and have everyone (yourself included!) lay on their back. Instruct kids to bend their knees and hold onto their feet with their hands, with the bottoms of their feet facing the sky. This pose is especially wonderful at the end of the day or after a long car ride because it opens up the hips and feels awesome after sitting. Oh, and it pretty much guarantees a breakout of giggles. This pose just feels good.

Downward Dog
Even the youngest of kids can participate in yoga by practicing downward dog. Place both feet and hands on the ground and point your tush toward the sky. Encourage kids to keep their arms close to their ears and to straighten their back and legs.

Cat / Cow
This is an awesome stretch for the spine and feels good for kids and adults alike. Have kids get on their hands and knees. For cow pose, drop the belly and lift the chin. For cat, bring the chin to the chest and lift your upper back to the ceiling. Move between cat and cow poses. You can even make "moo" or "meow" noises while you do these stretches for extra fun.

Table Top
This move might be a little challenging for kids under the age of three, but that doesn't mean you can't try! Have kids place their hands and feet on the floor, then lift up their tummy toward the sky. The goal is to make yourself into the shape of a table - just like the one you sit at for breakfast!

Give these poses a try and let me know what you think!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

My Latest Obession: Maple Granola

My latest carb obsession is maple granola. O-M-G, I am in love with this stuff!

For the past few months, I've been in the habit of making homemade granola to sprinkle on top of Greek yogurt parfaits. It adds the perfect amount of sweet and crunch to breakfast in the morning, or my afternoon snack. The other day, I added a sprinkle of granola to the top of my peanut butter Greek yogurt dip, and WOW. So good!

Here's the recipe:

Clean Eating Maple Granola
4 Tbsp. granola = 1 yellow container on 21 Day Fix Eating Plan

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup coconut oil (I used virgin, unrefined)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. sea salt

1. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees
2. In a large bowl, mix together granola ingredients and stir to coat.
3. Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until dry and crisp, stirring once, 30-35 minutes.
4. Let cool. Store in an air-tight container.

Tip: For fast yogurt parfaits, assemble the yogurt and fruit of your choice in a resusable food storage container or mason jar with lid and store in the refrigerator. Top with granola just before eating.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Florida Getaway: Days 3 + 4

The five of us (Andi, Tory, Aden, Janie and I) woke up Sunday on a mission. A severe storm was forecasted in the area later that day, so we planned to capitalize on every minute of sunshine the day had to offer.

After breakfast in our beach villa (yogurt parfaits for the grown-ups and frozen waffles for the kiddos), we hopped in the golf cart and set off to explore the southern part of Palm Island. We cruised along the quiet roads and looked at old-style Florida beach villas lining the streets. I loved this sign near the entrance of the island - if this doesn't sum up island life, I don't know what does?

Andi parked our golf cart near the docks, and we wandered out to the water to look at the boats. The tree-lined walkway was so peaceful and serene; we had the whole pier to ourselves.

Tory was itching to get to the beach, so we drove back to Stump Pass - the same place we'd gone the morning before. The weather was sunny but windy, and we hoped to find a protected spot along the trees. First though, we stopped by our condo to grab ice cream cones. Who says you can't have ice cream at 10:00am on vacation? Aden threw a little tantrum when he realized I'd thrown away the last drippy bite of his cone before he had the chance to finish it. Oh, life's rough when you're three.

A pod of dolphins swimming by were enough to change his attitude. As we walked onto the beach, we saw a dozen dolphins swimming past us about 30 yards away from shore. It was an amazing sight! The kids weren't as impressed, but Janie, Andi and I were in awe of their beauty.

The five of us spent the rest of the morning hours playing at the beach. A girl could get used to this! It was quiet, calm and absolutely perfect.

Aden began to fuss around Noon because he was hungry, so we packed up our beach spot and drove our golf cart to Coconuts Restaurant on the property. We sat outside and enjoyed a big lunch of coconut shrimp, ribs, shrimp tacos and grilled mahi mahi. The kids had chicken strips and french fries, so naturally they were in heaven.

After lunch, we headed to the pool for our afternoon swim session. There were two other couples there - busy, ha! We swam, read books on our Kindles and laid in the sun. We could tell the storm was moving into the area around 4:00pm when the skies clouded over and the air around us grew increasingly windy. I washed up the kids from the pool and Janie made them dinner. Then, Andi and I went to the property's fitness center for a quick workout. Janie, Andi and I made turkey burgers for dinner with grilled zucchini and brussels sprouts. It was the perfect end to another great day at the beach.

Monday, the weather was super windy and cool. We packed up our beach villa and headed into Fort Myers to spend our last few hours of vacation. Our weekend trip was a short one, but a perfect getaway to relax and enjoy time together as a family. I'd definitely recommend this piece of Florida paradise: Palm Island was quiet, secluded and absolutely beautifiul. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Florida Getaway: Day 2

Saturday was our first full morning on Palm Island in Cape Haze, Florida. I felt a little better than I did the day before, so I kicked myself in the booty to get up and moving. The weather forecasted rain for Sunday, and I didn't want to miss the sunniest day of our weekend vacation.

I got dressed and whipped together some warm maple granola to top yogurt parfaits for breakfast. This granola is like crack to me lately! So clean, so crunchy, so delicious.

Aden liked breakfast so much, he licked his plate clean. 

After the five of us ate breakfast, we headed out for a golf cart ride around Palm Island to see what we could find in our new home away from home. The two-mile stretch of island beachfront is pristine with hardly another person in sight. We followed the road to the end and stopped to play at the beach on Stump Pass. The kids played in the sand and Janie, Andi and I sat beside them. It was relaxing and beautiful.

It's amazing how content the kids can be with a few sand toys, the beach and the sun. We could've stayed out there for hours. And, I suppose we did until it was time for lunch.

Andi grilled steak and tuna for lunch, and I made a kale salad with mango-lime dressing to go with it. We ate al fresco on the patio, and it was just fantastic. How wonderful would it be to eat outdoors in the sunshine everyday?

After lunch, we headed to the resort pool. Once again, we had the pool to ourselves and played there all afternoon.

By 4:00pm, the kids were exhausted. We left the pool and showered off the sand and sunscreen. Tory and Aden ate an early dinner, and Aden passed out on the sofa shortly after. Janie encouraged Andi and I to go for a sunset beach stroll, so we did just that.

Andi grilled fresh shrimp for dinner, and we roasted zucchini and asparagus alongside it. We ended our night with a candlelight dinner on the screen porch. It was a perfectly relaxing day.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Florida Getaway: Day 1

When a work friend of Andi's offered to let us use his Florida beach villa for the weekend, we jumped at the opportunity. Sunny Florida in January? What's there to think about!

Andi, Janie (Andi's mom), Tory, Aden and I left the Twin Cities early Friday morning for Fort Myers, Florida. We had a direct three-hour flight that departed at 7:00am, which meant early morning wake-ups for the kids. We were on the road to the airport by 5:15am. Fortunately, we'd allowed ourselves extra time. It was busy, and all the monitors displaying gate information projected flight information from the prior day. This led to quite a bit of confusion from travelers, including us. We hustled from Concourse G to C, then back to G again, making it to our gate just in time for take-off. Phew! We made it, donuts in hand.

Our weekend beach villa is part of Palm Island Resort in Cape Haze, Florida. It's located about 1 1/2 hours from the Fort Myers airport, so we rented a car and decided to stop for lunch before our drive there. It's easy traveling with Andi and Janie because we all like to eat healthier foods, so Andi found a sustainable farm restaurant nearby that was both unique and delicious. Buckingham Farms offered sandwiches, salads and local Floridan dishes made with produce grown on site. Bonus points for having lunch outdoors under a big, shady tree in the garden.

I ordered a chef salad with fresh lettuce and tomatoes, hard boiled egg, sliced ham and turkey and avocado. It was so flavorful, no dressing was needed! Andi had some delicious crab cakes and Janie ordered a shrimp and kale salad with peanut dressing.

Unfortunately as the day went on, my stomach really started to hurt. I'd woke up at home feeling "off," but didn't think much of it. I didn't feel great on the airplane either, but thought maybe I hadn't eaten enough food that morning. After lunch, I felt awful but had no choice to power on until we arrived to our beach villa. Andi and I stopped by the grocery store near the ferry landing in Cape Haze to buy food for the weekend, and we made another stop to the local fish market for shrimp and tuna. Around 2:00pm, we'd made it on the ferry and were in route to our condo for the weekend.


Andi, Janie and the kids pulled on their swimming suits and headed straight to the beach. I ... collapsed onto the bed and slept for three hours. I wanted nothing more than to watch our first Florida sunset together on the beach that evening, but I just didn't have it in me. Thankfully, Andi and Janie were there to care for the kids so I could rest.

Andi said they had a lovely time at the beach. The water was calm and the kids leapt for joy - quite literally - because they were so happy to be there. Tory's been afraid of the ocean waves on our last few beach vacations, but appeared to move past that now. Hooray! Our little adventurer, Aden, proved to be the more timid one this time.

Palm Island's beaches are covered in sea shells, more than I've ever seen before. It's made for hours of entertainment for the kids - collecting, washing and examining shells, making designs in the sand with them and listening to the ocean waves.

Palm Island is only accessible by ferry boat (no road or bridge access) so the small island is quiet and secluded. It's wonderful feeling like we've got the entire island to ourselves.

Everyone was tired after an early morning flight and travel arriving here. Aden proclaimed he was ready for bed, and the rest of us followed his lead. I hoped to feel better on Saturday, so I didn't miss out on our getaway weekend vacation. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Day In The Life: Winter 2017

Day In The Life time again! Thanks to Julia at My Life In Transition for hosting. This quarter, I documented Monday, January 9, 2017.

Andi is 36 years old
Heather is 35 years old
Tory is 5 years, 4 months
Aden is 3 years, 1 month
Chloe (the dog) is living with my parents right now!


1:37am: I wake to hear Aden crying from his downstairs bedroom. "Mommy! Can you help me? MOMMY!" in a desperate, pleading voice. I don't need to go down there to know he's sitting behind his closed bedroom door, crying. We're in the middle of sleep training (again) as he's had a rough bout of sleep lately. Night terrors led to too many times sleeping in Mom and Dad's bed which have led to one little who boy who'd prefer not to sleep in his own now. No one ever tell new parents that sleep training is an on-going thing.

2:00am: Ten or fifteen minutes pass, and Aden is quiet now. Eventually, I drift back to sleep myself.

5:02am: In a daze, I notice Andi wake up for the day. I listen to him pack his gym bag and fumble around in the kitchen as I doze in and out of consiousness.

6:08am: Crap! I overslept. Andi is my human alarm clock and I usually get up to workout after he's left for the gym. Not that I don't set my own alarm clock - I do - but I'm so used to my Fitbit alarm buzzing on my wrist, I barely notice it anymore. I hop out of bed and pull on some comfy clothes. I remember today is my first day of a 3-Day Refresh, so I plan to do a lighter workout. Hopefully I won't get too sweaty and can skip a morning shower.

I walk down the stairs and set up my laptop to play the workout video. As I do, I can see Aden's bedroom light turned on from the crack under his door. Poor buddy. He must've fallen asleep with it on last night. I quietly turn the handle to open the door, but it won't budge. I see a sliver of his pajamas through the crack in the door and a sleeping three-year-old on the other side. Ugh, my mama heartstrings are pulled tight. Tough love, man. It's not easy! 

6:15am: I decide to let him sleep. I push play on Country Heat: Rope and Ride which is one of my favorite low-impact workouts. I guess I secretly love to dance, at least when no one's watching, and bopping around to fun music in the morning puts me in a great mood.

6:43am: I workout right outside the kids' bedroom doors, so I wear cordless earbuds and try my best to be quiet in the mornings. Some days, Tory or Aden will wake up and lay on the floor beside me; other days, I can get in a 30-minute workout before they wake up. Today, they're both still sleeping, so I tip-toe upstairs when I'm finished to wash up for the day.

Workout is done and I've clocked 3,500 steps - wahoo! A few of the girls in my fitness group are participating in a weekly Fitbit step challenge, so I'm glad to have a leg up first-thing Monday morning.

I text Andi a picture of Aden sleeping behind his door. "Tough love," he responds. He's definitely the tougher parent between the two of us; I'm such a push-over (which is probably why we're sleep training Aden again in the first place).

7:00am: I couldn't shower upstairs this morning if I wanted to because our condo building is in the process of re-caulking the showers. The inside tile needs to stay dry for two days before they complete the work and two days afterward, which is a bit of a pain. Always something around here! Last night, I put a sticky note on the shower door to remind Andi and Tory not to turn on the water. The last thing I want is for the shower walls to get wet and to wait another few days to finish the project.

7:10am: I hear Aden's footsteps down the upstairs hallway. He enters my bedroom and seems happy this morning, despite the middle-of-the-night wake-up. There's a carpet imprint on his left cheek. "Please I watch show and drink milkie?" he asks politely. I give him a squeeze and tuck him into my bed sheets. Then, I go to the kitchen to retrieve him a sippy cup of soy milk and an applesauce pouch.

When I return, Aden's looking at our leftover Christmas card. "There's my Tory Bean! Oh, and there's my Dad!" he says. "Please I eat ice cream like Tory?" (There's a picture of Tory eating an ice cream cone on the Christmas card.) I turn Mickey Mouse on the T.V. for Aden, and finish getting myself dressed.

Do you ever have a favorite shirt in constant rotation? This Columbia sweatshirt is it for me right now, I have no idea why. I probably wear it (clean and washed) three times a week.
7:20am: I turn on the Today Show in the living room to steal a few minutes of grown-up T.V. time before Tory wakes up. As the news plays in the background, I start making breakfast for the kids and I. Tory comes up the stairs shortly afterwards. "Morning, Mom!" she says cheerfully. She climbs into her seat at the table and immediately begins crafting a picture for her pre-K teacher, Ms. Jessica.

7:30am: Breakfast: Tory requests a strawberry toaster strudel and pear slices, and Aden has Cheerios, sausage links and pears. As dictated by the 3-Day Refresh program guide, I make myself a Strawberry Shakeology for breakfast and eat one serving of fruit (my choice - apple slices with cinnamon).

7:45am: My Fitbit buzzes on my wrist reminding me to hit the auto-start button on my key chain to warm up my car. We'll need to leave the house in 15 minutes to take Tory to preschool. The kids finish their breakfasts, then I clean up the dishes and load them in the dishwasher. When I'm done, I run downstairs to pick out the kids' clothes for the day while they're both laying on the sofa watching Ready, Set, JET on television.

I set out their clothes and encourage Tory to get herself dressed for school. I'm trying to teach her more independence, and she's begrudgingly going along with it. She approaches me in the kitchen with her arms in the air and her pajama shirt stuck on her head. "A little help here!" she exclaims. 

I help Tory finish getting dressed, and I also put Aden's clothes on him for the day. I tell the kids to brush their teeth in the bathroom and Tory does so on her own. Aden tries to brush his teeth first, and I follow up afterward with another scrub.

8:00am: Time for school! It's like herding cats down the hallway, and I've always got a handful of trash and recycling to take out as well. I nudge Tory toward the back door, and ask her to pull on her shoes and coat. She does. Aden is plopped on the floor in front of a display of Christmas cards in the living room. "We've got to go, Buddy!" I tell him as I physically pick him up and carry him to the back door.

8:10am: We load into the car, and Tory's upset I yelled for her to buckle her seat belt. If yelling constitutes the spoken words "buckles, Tory" I'd hate to see how she reacts when I'm really mad.

All four of these drinks are for me as I drop Tory at school and run errands this morning: water, Shakeology, green tea and a Fiber Sweep beverage I need to drink mid-morning as part of the 3-Day Refresh. In addition to the kids, backpacks, trash, recycling, etc. - this might be part of the problem in juggling to get out the door in the mornings. Hey! I like to stay hydrated, what can I say?

8:20am: I pull into my usual parking spot at Tory's school and spend the next few minutes turned around in my seat, work to dress Aden and Tory in their winter coats, hats and mittens. The three of us walk into school together. The kids are both so excited to be here, I half-jog to keep up with them as they run into the building. 

8:25am: Tory, Aden and I wait for her teacher to greet the students gathered in the front lobby for class. While we wait, I snap a picture of Tory and school friend, Ryan, because they look so cute together. The girls look so much alike it's uncanny with their similarly-colored hair, height and "ear mugs" (ear muffs) as Tory calls them.

Ms. Jessica, Tory's teacher, walks down the stairway to greet us in the lobby below, and greets the children lined up alongside the wall. "Are you ready to go, Tor-," she asks, Tory who's standing next to me. Tory shakes her head no. "No?!" her teacher says, surprised. Tory absolutely loves school and her teacher knows it, so I think she's a bit confused. "I want to take a picture with you," Tory says. Tory and I are planning to decorate a picture frame of Tory and her teacher for a Valentine's Day present. "Well, of course!" Ms. Jessica says, and gives Tory a big squeeze. I quickly snap their picture as it's chaotic in the lobby area with parents and kids rushing by, then Tory joins her classmates standing along the wall.  

8:35am: Aden and I walk back to our car in the parking lot, and I chat with Ryan's mom on the way. Aden asks to sit on "Tory's side" (in her car seat) as he does every morning when Tory's away at school. Fortunately, the have the same car seats so it doesn't matter. 

I sit in the parked car for a few minutes and post a picture to Instagram of Aden brushing his teeth this morning. Aden is contently sitting in the back seat playing with Tory's iPad. 

8:45am: First errand of the morning is to deliver Andi's breakfast and lunch to his office. Coincidently, we visited Andi's office the last time I wrote about "a day in our life" this past fall, but this isn't a usual occurance. "Where we go first, Mom?" Aden asks, and thinks it's hilarious when I tell him Andi forgot his food at home today. "Oh, Daddy forgot his eggs?" [laughs] "Oh, Daddy need us bring him?" [more giggles] I always want to remember the way Aden says "Oh, ..." at the beginning of every sentence. It makes me smile every time.

8:50am: Andi's office is about a mile away, and takes us five minutes to drive there. I park my car in front of the building, and unbuckle Aden from his seat. The weather is surprisingly warm this morning (19 degrees!) which feels like a heat wave compared to the frigid temps we've had the last few weeks. I pull on Aden's coat and hat, but skip the mittens. He runs up the long ramp to the front door.

Confidently, Aden walks into the front door of Andi's office confidently and waves hello to the gal sitting at the front desk. He spots a Polaris Rzr on display in the lobby area, and bee-lines over to it to get a closer look. "Oh, wow! Look at Daddy's Ranger ride!" Aden exclaims. Andi walks down the hallway to greet

9:00am: I say hello to Andi and hand him his food. The three of us walk to the kitchen so Andi can put the food in the refrigerator, and say hi to a few people there filling their morning coffee cups. Aden knows exactly where the snacks are in the office kitchen, and begins pulling open drawers to find mini bags of red Doritos. "Please I have some chips?" he pleads. "Sure, I tell him." Who doesn't eat chips for breakfast?

Aden and I follow Andi into the shop area of the office, so Andi can show Aden the tools. Andi and I chat a minute about a new laser-cut machine they got, as red-faced Aden runs around eating his bag of Doritos. A few minutes later, Aden and I say good-bye to Andi and leave the office.

9:15am: Next stop is across the parking lot from Andi's office to pick up our Origin Meals for the week. We've been buying fresh-prepared dinners from this service for over a year now and it's saved my sanity in the evenings - so worth it! Inside the gym where I pick up the meals, Aden says hello to all the personal trainers. I move quickly to load the dinners into my cooler bag; Aden's already climbing onto a treadmill in the seconds it takes me to do so.

I herd Aden out the front door of the gym, and buckle him back into Tory's car seat. That's the fourth time I've wrestled him into his seat buckles this morning, if you're keeping count. Phew!

9:30am: I drive to Trader Joe's down the street to grab a few items for the week - yogurt cups, applesauce packets, some bulk nuts and dried fruit to make a trail mix later this afternoon. On the way there, Aden kicks off his winter boots and removes the socks from his feet. When I unbuckle Aden in the parking lot, he refuses to put his shoes back on. "No! I want to wear bug shoes!" he proclaims. Shamefully, he's discovered a pair of Tory's Crocs from this summer stuffed under the seat in my car. Whatever. I let him wear them. Is every mom's car a hot mess like mine? I swear I clean it out, but somehow it's always a disaster. 

Aden's "bug shoes" are a big hit with the Trader Joe's staff. "I like your fancy shoes," says the lady running the sample counter in the back of the store. I aim to defend myself for allowing my son to wear Crocs with no socks in the winter, but she doesn't seem bothered by it.

9:45am: I stop by Home Goods to buy a blanket for Aden's bed. The store just opened, so there's no one inside; perfect so I can get in and out with my wild man. I have to use the restroom first (remember? four beverages this morning) so I chase Aden to the back of the store to find the bathrooms. He won't follow me into the stall, so I listen to him banging around the bathroom on the other side of the partion. Then he enters the stall next to me, and locks the door behind him. "Come on out, Aden, turn the lock again," I urge him. "I can't! It's stuck!" he responds. Oh, great. Just as I'm about to crawl underneath the half-wall, he pops his head underneath the door. I feel guilty leaving the stall locked, but I don't want to crawl on the bathroom floor.

We find a twin-size blanket for Aden's bed in a heavily picked-over Home Goods, and pay for it at the check-out counter. In true Aden fashion, he darts away from me toward the automatic doors as I'm paying for the purchase. That kid! I'm clearly pushing my limits for number of errands this morning. 

As I carry Aden to the car through the store parking lot, I notice he pooped his diaper. I check my purse for wipes once we get to the car, but discover I don't have any. Shoot! I still have one more errand to run before we pick up Tory from school, so I decide to stop at the gas station across the street to buy wipes vs. driving all the way home. 

10:15am: I pull up to the front of Holiday gas station, and unload Aden from the car for the 7th time this morning. He's in full-on crazy Aden mode now, ripping through the gas station like a Tazmanian devil. I grab a pack of wipes off the shelf and pick him up with my other arm. In transit to the register, he grabs an ice scraper from a display bucket. The gas station cashier is chatting with a customer foreeeeever about something or another. Meanwhile, we're standing behind the other customer and Aden is flopping like a fish to break free from my grasp. HELLO!!!! I silently scream at the worker with my crazy mom eyes, but she doesn't catch my vibe. Eventually, she acknowledges us and asks if we have fuel today. "Just this," I tell her. "The scraper, too?" she asks, and I notice it's still clenched in Aden's fist. "No, thank you," I respond as I pry it out of his little fingers.

10:30am: I want to squeeze in one more errand before we pick up Tory from school. Aden and I drive to the school district administration office to drop off Tory's application for the Spanish Immersion school lottery. The anticipation of kindergarten this fall has me a ball of nerves, so I want to check this to-do off my list right away. 

Aden and I find the building, and park our car in front. I grab a diaper, the pack of wipes, the application form and unbuckle Aden from his seat. The building is locked and a note on the door says the buzzer is broken. Hmmm. Luckily, a delivery driver walks out of the building and lets us inside. An administration office worker immediately greets us, and says she can take application for me. I forgot to ask where the restrooms are so I can change Aden.    

10:45am: I decide to change Aden's diaper in the cargo area of my SUV which is not ideal since it's wintertime. I rush to change his diaper while he rolls away from me trying to reach a kid's umbrella laying back there. Back in the car now; seat belts buckled. 

10:50am: I drive the car down the street to Tory's school. Aden and I walk inside to wait for her to come down to the lobby with her classmates. Tory is full of energy and excitement, and happily embraces Aden in warm hug. The three of us walk out to the parking lot together. 

11:00am: I decide to take the kids to the library before lunchtime. Tory discovers a paperclip on the ground as we're walking into the building, and proudly shows it to me. Then, she stuffs the treasure into her coat pocket for safe keeping. 

We play inside the library's kids area for an hour. There's a grocery store setup for dramatic play, and Aden busily zooms the plastic cart through the aisles of books. He stops for a few minutes to read with me on the sofa and builds blocks, too. 

Tory plays with magnets on a board with another little boy for a long time, then moves on to the blocks table with Aden.

11:45am: While the kids play, I find a few Valentine's Day books to take home. I let the kids scan the books on the check-out machine, and we leave the library. Outside, it's beginning to snow. Tory and Aden both instinctively stick their tongues out to catch the falling snowflakes in their mouths. I'm thankful I have my big camera with me today to capture the moment. 

Back in the car, I post the photo of Aden on Instagram, then we set off for home. 

Noon: I pull into our condo garage and unbuckle the kids from their car seats. I'm doing my best to control my frustration as the kids dilly-dally around in the car, and I've got my arms full of backpacks, coats, grocery bags, etc. The garage in our condo building isn't like a regular house in that the door to the building lobby automatically locks; I can't leave the kids in the garage until they eventually find their way inside.  

12:15pm: I unpack groceries and start lunch for the kids and I. Tory wants grilled cheese and tomato soup; I make Aden buttered noodles and apple slices. Kind of random, but he likes all those foods.

12:30pm: The kids eat their lunches and watch Thomas the Train on PBS, and I sit at the computer desk in the kitchen and have my 3-Day Refresh lunch: cauliflower rice tabbouleh and a Vanilla Fresh shake. I can't say this is what I'd choose for lunch had it not be for the Vegan diet I'm following today, but it tastes surprisingly fresh and delicious. Or, maybe I'm just hungry! I use the 30-minutes of lunch time to catch up on emails and check in with my fitness accountability group. Aden doesn't nap anymore, so this is really the only (semi) uninterrupted kid time I have all day.

1:15pm: My little artist sets in on making cards and pictures for her teacher and friends at school, as she does every afternoon. We fly through reams of paper every month, but I don't mind; I think it's sweet Tory loves her teacher and classmates so much. Typically she sits at the kitchen table to work on her drawings, but today she's chosen a spot right in front of the refrigerator which makes cleaning up lunch a bit more challenging. I step around her to clear off the table and load the dishwasher.

1:30pm: It's snowing steadily now and I watch the big, white flakes fall outside the window. I enjoy being a stay-at-home-mom for all the obvious reasons, but I'm especially thankful on afternoons like this where I'm safe and snug in my cozy home versus being stuck in traffic on the highway somewhere.

This big kitchen window is one of my favorite features of our condo.

1:45pm: After I finish cleaning up, I grab my computer and go downstairs to print thank-you notes for Christmas presents. This task has been on my to-do list for weeks, and I'm finally getting around to it before it's too late. I want Tory to help me write thank you's this year, and find a few free templates on Pinterest to use.

Upstairs, I cut the cards to size and write out a list of names for Tory to copy. One by one, she writes the names of all the card recipients, and also signs her and Aden's names at the bottom. Then, I fill in the body of each card, thanking the person for their gift. I am so proud of Tory for completing this task from start to finish! It takes her about 1 1/2 hours to do it, and she never complains. 

Aden's scribble contributions take six seconds. 

2:30pm: While Tory writes cards at the table, Aden and I make our favorite banana chocolate chip muffins. He helps me mix the batter together, and portion it into a mini muffin tin. The kids request a little bowl of chocolate chips to snack on, as per usual.

3:15pm: Aden's growing increasingly fussy as the day goes on. He asks for a muffin, then cries when it's too hot - "why you make it hot, Mom?" I set the muffins to cool on a metal rack and he reaches up repeatedly to snag one, screaming "too hot!" every single time. Eventually, the muffins are cool enough for him to eat. Tory has one, too.

I put a few of the cooled banana muffins in the refrigerator to eat this week, and pack the remainder in Ziploc bags to freeze for later. My kids love muffins for snacks, and I feel good about giving them this treat since I know it's homemade and semi-healthy.

I'm hungry and the smell of freshly-baked muffins isn't helping. I chug some water and ask Aden to go get the mail with me in the lobby area.

4:00pm: I remember the package of Christmas presents my brother and his girlfriend sent earlier, so I let the kids open their gifts and hope it's enough of a distraction for Mr. Fussypants. Aden opens a remote control Thomas the Train and a book; Tory receives a really nice art set and her first chapter book to read. Immediately, Tory tears into her art set and begins painting a picture at the kitchen table. These never get old, do they? I love to see he detail in Tory's pictures as she grows older. The latest is the addition of clothes in the shape of triangles compared to previous drawings of people with a head and legs only. She mostly draws people which I think is interesting as well. People and hearts. 

I spend a few minutes locating batteries for Aden's train and installing them while he cries at my feet for it to work. I've given up wine for the month of January but if I hadn't, this would be the perfect time to have a glass - gah! 

I get the train working, and he powers it around the living room for a few minutes before getting frustrated that it's not going where he wants it to. "Why don't you lay down and watch a show in my room?" I ask him. The no-nap transition is a hard stage. He wouldn't sleep if I tried to lay him down (or he'd be up all night if he did fall asleep during the afternoon), but he's tired and cranky by 5:00pm every night. Must. Power. Through. I do whatever I can to keep him distracted.

4:30pm: I set Aden up with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in my bedroom, and fold some laundry next to him while he lays in my bed. I run downstairs and put away the kids' clothes and put the new blanket I bought for Aden on his bed.

5:30pm: Andi sends me a text message saying traffic is terrible with the snow and he's in Saint Paul for a work meeting. He decides to visit his grandma in Minneapolis until rush hour is over. I'm bummed he'll be home later tonight, but I'm secretly glad I can eat my dinner now; I'm so hungry! I make the kids eggs and pancakes for dinner while I eat the moroccan carrot salad I made yesterday during my food prep and drink another Vanilla Fresh shake. This salad isn't as flavorful as the one I had for lunch, but it is filling.

6:00pm: Tory and Aden monkey around in the living room while I clean up dinner. Tory's teaching Aden how to do "Spiderman handstands" from her gymnastics class against the wall.

6:30pm: I haven't showered yet today since our upstairs bathroom is under construction, so I invite the kids downstairs to take a shower and get ready for bed with me. I've never showered in our basement before, which is funny since we've lived here for 10 months now. It's surprisingly bright for a bathroom with no windows! It's tight quarters as I wash myself and the kids play toys on the floor of the tub. I'm in the middle of washing them up when we hear Andi outside the shower curtain. Apparently, he'd been calling for us to let him in the back door but I didn't hear him because we were downstairs. I had the child-lock activated on the door since Aden has a tendency to escape.

7:00pm: I towel dry myself and the kids, and get everyone's dressed for bed while Andi lays on Tory's bed and tells me about his day. Tory removes a link from the Disney countdown paper chain her Auntie Lindsay made her for Christmas. Lindsay, Tory and I are going to Disney World together next month.

Tory finds a second wind, and gives us a performance in her closet by modeling her robe and doggie purse. She hops and dances around. Aden rolls around on Tory's bed; he's tired.

7:20pm: Time for books and bedtime. Since we're all in Tory's room, the four snuggle up in her bed and read stories together. Aden fusses, saying "No! Mommy read me!" and I assure him I will read to him in his bed as is our usual routine.

Andi reads the Valentine's Day books we brought home from the library today, and I laugh as I notice him skipping words left and right. I never skip words in book I read to the kids, and not because I don't want them to miss anything. I guess I'm too uptight not to read every single word as it written on the pages. Plus, Tory will call you out if you skip words in any of the books she's read before. Tonight, she doesn't know the difference since this is the first time we've read these library books.

7:40pm: Aden and I say good-night to Dad and Tory, and I finish reading him one more book in his bedroom. I tuck him into bed for the night, and he asks me in a pleading voice, "Mom, will you come check me up?" (aka: come back and check on me tonight) I assure him I will, even thought I won't, and I close his door behind me.

Meanwhile, Andi finishes Tory's bedtime routine and says good-night.

7:50pm: Andi is already upstairs by the time I finish with Aden. He's made us each a cup of hot tea, and we carry them to the bedroom. We lay in bed and finish catching up on our day without kid interruptions. Eventually, I read a page from Savor, a daily devotional book I'm reading in 2017, then pull up This One Is Mine on my iPhone Kindle to read until I fall asleep. Andi lays beside me reading a book on his Kindle until we both fall asleep sometime around 9:00pm.


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