Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Holiday Decorating with Nebraska Furniture Mart

Disclosure: I attended a Holiday Preview Event at Nebraska Furniture Mart and received a free gift (a beautiful dish set and kitchen goodies) at the event. No other compensation was received and all opinions are 100% honest and my own! 
I know it's Thanksgiving week and I shouldn't be thinking about Christmas yet, but please tell me I'm not the only one super excited to get started on Christmas decorating?? Mike is a holiday purist and does not want a single Christmas decoration up until after Thanksgiving so I'm not very patiently waiting until Friday. But this weekend, I fully intend to go a bit crazy decorating! I got in the holiday spirit early this year when I got the chance to attend a preview of the holiday decor at Nebraska Furniture Mart in Kansas City, KS.

First of all, if you've never been to a Nebraska Furniture Mart store, you need to. These stores are massive. We have furnished most of our house there and I could spend hours there just wandering around looking at everything. I have never had the chance to visit during the holidays and now that I've seen all of the amazing holiday decorations and rooms they have set up, I know I will be making a yearly trip to get more fun holiday decorating items!

The decorating team does an amazing job of bringing the holiday spirit alive with beautiful trees:

If you're looking for holiday room inspiration, make sure to check out their beautiful bedroom scenes:

I NEED someone to come decorate my dining room exactly like the red dining room on the right. It is so cheery and fun!

From rustic scenes to bright spirited displays, Nebraska Furniture Mart has holiday decor bound to make you smile. How cute are these gingerbread decorations??

I have already told Mike that I'm heading there this weekend to get my top 3 holiday decor must haves this season:

1. These fun metal signs are perfect for the mantle and you can even put lights in them. I can't decide which one I want, may be I need to get both!

2. They have so many choices of beautiful wall decor but this sparkly simple piece caught my eye.

3. I love this for a table scape. Simple and beautiful!

I hope this helped you get in the holiday mood! Do you wait to decorate until after Thanksgiving? 

Friday, November 20, 2015

JBF Lee's Summit Holiday Sale Great Gift Finds

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by JBF Lee's Summit. All opinions are 100% my own and honest.

Can you believe there are only 5 weeks until Christmas?? It feels like the holiday season is already flying by and I am NOT ready! Lucky for me, my favorite children's consignment sale JBF Lee's Summit has their annual Holiday Sale this weekend. This is the perfect time to stock up on gifts for all of the kids in your life and I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek yesterday! John Knox Pavilion is absolutely massive and I cannot emphasize just how much stuff was there. Toys as far as the eye can see....

While this sale mainly focuses on toys, baby gear and clothes for kids of all ages are also available. Don't miss the Melissa & Doug section that offers amazing wooden and classic toys and puzzles for a fraction of the retail price!

My number 1 tip for this sale is to leave the kids with a sitter! There are so many amazing toys to choose from and I don't know any child who can resist begging for their favorites. I unfortunately had to bring mine with me and I let them each pick one thing to distract them while I was stuffing things in my bag for their Christmas presents. Connor found his pick early on and managed to wear this Iron Man helmet the entire time we were at the sale. It lights up and talks and he won't take it off! This was just too cute of a picture to miss. I promise we were parked when I was taking these pictures!!
Grace loves the Pinkalicious book series right now and freaked out when she found this doll. It's more than I would normally spend on a doll but it looks brand new and she loves it.

Despite the fact that neither of my kids needs any more clothes after stocking up for them at the last few JBF sales, I couldn't resist just peeking through the kids clothes and I found some great stuff.
Grace got:
  • Green Hanna Andersson for $10.00. I have been drooling over these dresses for years and I finally got her one! They retail from $50-60 so this was a steal.
  • Glitter jeans for $4. She refuses to wear jeans that aren't sparkly....
  • Aurora nightgown for $3.50. Nightgowns are her PJs of choice and long sleeved ones are difficult to find.
  • Janie and Jack Gold Tutu for $6.50. It's so pretty!
  • White fur cape for $6. I can't wait to see this over her Christmas dress!
Poor Connor only got a set of Planes PJs for $4 but he could care less about clothes. 

It's nearly impossible for me to get gifts for Grace while she's there as she remembers everything so the majority of my toy purchases were for Connor.
  • Iron Man helmet: $4.50
  • Toy Story Slinky Dog: $7
  • New Melissa and Doug Wooden Advent Calendar: $15
  • Pinkalicious Doll: $7
  • Batman figure: $2
  • 2 Ninja Turtles: $3
  • New Melissa & Doug Make-a-Face Princesses Sticker set: $4
That finishes out all of their Christmas gifts and I spent a grand total of $82.41. I am extremely pleased with my haul. 

If you're in the Kansas City metro, make sure to visit the JBF Lee's Summit Holiday Sale this weekend. Here are the details:

John Knox Pavilion

Friday, Nov 20th 10am-7pm

Saturday, Nov 21st 10am-7pm

FREE Pictures with Santa on Saturday from 1-3pm!

Sunday, Nov 22nd 10am-4pm ~ 50% off SALE!*

*Many items reduced, those with a star on their tag remain full price.

For more details about the sale, check out the Just Between Friends- Lees Summit Holiday Sale WebsiteFacebook page, and Twitter page.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Children's Mercy Hospital: Child Centered Care Close to Home

Disclosure: I attended a day event at Children's Mercy to learn about the hospital and their services. I was provided lunch but no compensation was received. 

There are many amazing things in Kansas City that I've come to appreciate in my 13+ years as a resident, but since having children I've realized that one of our biggest assets is Children's Mercy Hospital. We have used the hospital several times in the past couple of years, once for their ER for Connor and once for urgent care for Grace and we had amazing experiences both times. I was excited when I got an email recently asking if I'd like to come learn more about the hospital and their services. I headed to Children's Mercy Kansas (formerly Children's Mercy South) in Overland Park last week and had the chance to take a tour and learn about some of their clinics, departments, and overall culture. Some of it I knew, some I didn't and I'm thrilled to be able to share a few of the things I learned with you!

Started in 1897 by two sisters, Children's Mercy has grown from only a few beds to one of the leading children's hospitals in the nation. The hospital values compassion and mercy and the staff unashamedly state that the kids are the ones in charge. They started with the principle to offer care to all kids regardless of the ability to pay and that is still practiced today.

The hospital was created with kids in mind. With colorful decorations and kid size equipment, it is designed to feel as "un-hospital" like as possible.  Throughout all of hospital's many campuses, you will find murals and art pieces done by the hospital artist Scribe. He even designed the artwork for all of the transport vehicles.

From the moment a child enters the hospital, the employees try everything they can to make him or her feel comfortable. The Child Life Department provides services to help make the hospital experience as easy as possible for both the patient and the family. From child friendly procedural education to playgroups, the Child Life specialists try to make things fun.

At Children's Mercy Kansas, the Art Galaxy wall is full of beautiful artwork from the kids. This location has the only sleep lab and epilepsy monitoring units in the hospital system.

Children's Mercy has two facility dogs that provide comfort to kids. We met Hope who is a trained therapy dog that works mainly in the epilepsy monitoring unit. She helps keep the kids calm during their testing. The other dog Hunter mainly works in the Oncology unit downtown.

One of the highlights of our day was hearing from Dr. Barnes, the Medical Director of Cardiac Transplantation. She talked to us about the very detailed process of starting the Cardiac Transplant department at Children's Mercy and answered all of our questions about their very first heart transplant patient. They have now completed 3 heart transplants and have 4 more patients on the wait list. It was fascinating to hear the process of the transplants and it is amazing that we have this program in Kansas City

After a busy morning of very informative presentations, we broke up into groups and I was lucky enough to get put in the group to head to Blue Valley Urgent Care and Sports Medicine. We got to ride in an ambulance over to the building and I was so thrilled! This is not your average ambulance. This is a massive transport vehicle made specifically for kids. These ambulances will never arrive on scene. If you call 911 for your child, they will first be transported to your local hospital and Children's Mercy will be called to transfer your child to one of their facilities. Most parents are shocked to hear that they are not allowed to ride in the back with their kid, but the medic assured us that 99% of kids calm down right away and love riding in the back. They even have a DVD player for kids to watch during the transport, how cool is that?? These ambulances have 4 seats in the front so that the parents can at least be in the vehicle with their child.

Children's Mercy has a huge fleet of ambulances, a helicopter, and a plane for their exclusive use. They will also have a jet that they can use for up to 12 hours a day soon. The transport team travels all over the country and last year covered enough miles to reach the moon and back 17 times. How amazing is that??
Photo from ChildrensMercy.org
Photo from ChildrensMercy.org
The bloggers and transport team

When we arrived at Blue Valley Urgent Care we got a tour and learned that they are available when your pediatrician is not. They can take care of anything from strep to a sprain. We have used urgent care for Grace before and it was a life saver, we were in and out within an hour.

We then got the chance to tour the Sports Medicine area which focuses on the needs of middle school and high schoolers. While athletes are a large part of their patient base, the Sports Medicine department also helps dancers and even musicians with repetitive motion injuries. Most physical therapy departments are not set up for the needs of teenagers and so Children's Mercy designed this building just for the teens. It's decorated like a gym and they have a team of sports medicine physicians and physical therapists dedicated to helping kids heal from sports injuries.
This focus on sports medicine has led to an amazing partnership just announced today with Sporting KC! To learn more about the partnership check out this article. Some of the highlights include that Children’s Mercy will open a state-of-the-art Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center at the National Training Center, which will break ground in Kansas City, Kansas, in spring 2016 and what we have known as Sporting Park will now be Children's Mercy Park!

To learn more about the wonderful services that Children's Mercy provides to Kansas City and the surrounding area, visit ChildrensMercy.org. Also, make sure to watch Season 2 of Inside Pediatrics premiering at 7 p.m., Dec. 16 on KMBC. You can watch Season 1 here and I highly recommend it!! It's narrated by our hometown favorite Paul Rudd and it's addicting. I started watching the first episode late on a Saturday night and might have watched the entire season that night. I couldn't stop watching. So I will be tuning into the premiere!

Thanks to Children's Mercy for having me for the day and although I hope I never need to bring my children to your hospital, I am so glad we have it close to home when needed. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Connor: 3 Years Old

Dear Connor,

There seems to be a trend of me doing your yearly posts super late. I promise it's not intentional. First of all, I really don't want to admit that you're 3. When people ask me how old you are, I still automatically say 2 and I probably will for a while. Secondly, you keep me busy mister. You tend to go non stop all the time so I don't have much time to sit at my laptop. The moment I sit down I hear "mama, play!!"

You have developed such a personality this past year. You are our goofy, fun loving guy. You love to be a tough guy but you have a sweet sensitive side as well. You are a little bit more compliant when taking pictures this year, but it was still a challenge to get you to smile. You look so big!!

Despite my efforts to keep you a baby as long as possible, you have undergone a major transformation this year from a toddler to a preschooler and you are on a mission to be a big boy as quickly as possible. You want to do everything Grace does, including going to preschool. About 2 months ago, I told you that if you wanted to go to preschool you had to be potty trained. Up until then I hadn't really pushed using the potty much although you did it occasionally. From that day forward you potty trained yourself with only a few accidents since. Like I said, you are bound and determined to do everything she does. You two are still peas in a pod and most days I find you happily playing together.
Now that you're older, you are starting to push back when she bosses you around and that leads to many fights I have to break up but overall you guys have a great time together.

Here are some things we don't want to forget about you at 3 years old:

  • You are generally all rough and tough boy but recently some of your sensitive side has been peeking out. You adore babies and often play with Grace's baby dolls. You much prefer to be in the nursery at church helping take care of the little ones than playing in the toddler room. 
  • You don't stop much but you still love mommy cuddles. You will guide me to the couch, wrap your arms around me and snuggle for a while before running off to your next adventure. 
  • Despite having never seen superhero shows before this year, you are suddenly obsessed with all superheroes. It started with a love of the Avengers and you have now expanded your love to Superman and Batman. You refuse to wear any other PJs except your Superman and Batman ones and you run around the house yelling "SUPERMAN!" all evening long. You love dressing up in various costumes and many times wear components from different heroes. My favorite combination so far has been Mr. Incredible Iron Man Captain America. You were obviously proud of it since you yelled "mama, cheese!" 
  • Your love of trains has not wavered, but you are obsessed with planes now and we spend lots of time looking for them when we are outside. You basically love any sort of vehicle and one of your favorite gifts this year was a road rug from Grandma that you have in your bedroom. I actually hear you right now zooming your trucks around on it instead of sleeping. 

  • I'm pretty sure your favorite person in the world is your cousin Kaden. You don't care that he's significantly older than you. You love the rest of us but oh my word you light up when you see him. You don't care what it is, if Kaden likes it, you like it. 
  • You love all animals but you have a special bond with our dog Doc. You love chasing him, playing with him, and petting him. I will find you sitting next to him throughout the day just cuddling with him. 
  • You basically have no fear. If you can climb it, you will. It's amazing to me that we haven't had more ER trips!
    This is what you did when I told you to smile. Goofball!
  • You love giving mommy cuddles and reading books with me, but you have a special bond with daddy. You guys love to wrestle and play rough. He bought you a foam sword at the Renaissance Festival and your new favorite game is to play swords or to put on your Iron Man or Hulk fists and "HULK SMASH!!!" each other. You play these games every single night and it's clearly your favorite part of the day. If you're not playing rough, you're asking him to throw you in the air and to mommy's horror he gets you pretty high.
  • You aren't much of a talker. You know lots of words. You can identify all of your colors, can count to 10, and can sing some of the ABCs. You are fully capable of putting a sentence together. You just don't often. Your sister tends to talk for you and we are really working hard to get you to use your words. 
  • You sleep very well at night. Generally you go down at around 8-8:30 and sleep until 7ish. You are just about sure that you don't need to nap anymore but your body betrays you and you normally fall asleep in the van or on the couch when I make you lay down for dreaded rest time. 
  • You love making people laugh. Your laugh is contagious! You are pretty easy going overall but you have your stubborn moments. You have gotten a lot easier in the past year now that you can understand what we want you to do and are pretty good about staying with us and not bolting away like last year, what a relief! 

  • Your favorite shows are Paw Patrol, Chuggington, and the Lego superhero shows. You still love Toy Story. 
  • Food is a difficult issue with you right now. You're taking pickiness to a new level and your diet consists of bacon (your very favorite food), peanut butter & jelly, chicken nuggets, french fries, yogurt, waffles, chips, pretzels, fruit & veggie muffins, and sweets. I'm not exaggerating when I saw you will eat NOTHING else. We are working on it and I sure hope that next year by this time I will be able to write that you're a great eater. But right now it's certainly a challenge! 
  • Despite your limited diet, you're growing great. You weigh 33.2 lbs (up 5 lbs, 1 oz from last year) and are 37 1/2 inches tall (up 3 1/4 inches from last year). You're still very broad shouldered and are comfortably in 3T although some 4T shirts fit perfectly. 

I am trying to cherish every second with you before you go to preschool next year but I know you are ready for the challenge! We love you so much Connor boo!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Halloween Adventures 2015

I realized yesterday that I am dreadfully behind in posting here. We've had so much excitement lately that I haven't had a chance to even open my laptop! So hopefully I'll have some time to update over the next couple of days.

First things first, I'm excited to share our Halloween adventures. This was the first year that I felt like both kids were aware of what was going on and they were super into it. Grace started talking about her costume months before the big day and after much deliberation, she decided on a ballerina. I figured that would be an easy costume since she goes to ballet every week but of course she threw a wrench in my plans several weeks before by announcing that she wanted a big tutu like the girls in Nutcracker. So off to Joanns I went for 3 yards of mesh tulle to create a massive tutu for her. She loved it and wanted to wear it every single day in October. We added a long sleeved leotard, ballet slippers from a consignment sale and a tiara that Grandma brought her from Disneyland.

Connor is in a huge super hero phase right now and had a difficult time choosing between all of his favorites. Thankfully a friend picked up this Captain America costume for me from Costco and it was perfect for him. I gave him the shield as a birthday present right before our first event and he wouldn't let go of it. Much to my surprise, he even wore the mask most of the time.

Our local grocery store had a party for the kids the weekend before Halloween and we figured it would be a great way to get more use out of the costumes! The kids got to decorate cookies, make caramel apples, and color pumpkins, it was so much fun.

After getting them good and sugared up, we headed to one of our favorite spots, the Kansas City Zoo, for Boo at the Zoo. There were trick and treating spots throughout the zoo and fun activities to keep them busy. The animals were being super active and the weather was gorgeous, it made for a great afternoon activity. And oh my word, so much candy.....

I had to share this photo because I was so excited to get it but immediately regretted it when we heard Grace saw "ow, mommy!" After a minute of trying to figure out what happened, we realized she got her very first bee sting on her arm. It swelled up for a few minutes but luckily a train ride made for the perfect distraction and by the time we got off the train the swelling and pain were gone. She tells people all about it now and says she was "super brave!"

Of course no Halloween celebration would be complete without pumpkin decorating. I have to confess we didn't celebrate Halloween growing up so I've never actually carved pumpkins before. I didn't have much desire to start this year with two little ones so we decided to paint our pumpkins instead.

Grace got to work painting beautiful shapes on her pumpkin. Mike painted a horse, she painted our whole family. Her pumpkin is a work of art.

Connor's method of painting involved mixing the colors and slopping them on to create an almost entirely black pumpkin. He would yell at me the moment I would try to paint anything on it. He was happy with the results so I can't complain!

Halloween week tends to be crazy for us as Connor and I both have birthdays that week. This year his birthday happened to fall on the same days as Grace's Halloween parade and party at preschool so he wanted to dress up for the occasion. How could we tell this sweet birthday boy no? He and Mike had fun hanging out while we were waiting for Grace's class to parade around the gym.

Our beautiful ballerina happily paraded around the gym and went on to trick or treat around her school. Her only complaint was that her job for the day was to be the caboose, she didn't want to be last in line on parade day.

On Halloween we braved the cold to participate in our local Halloween parade event downtown but I didn't get any great pictures. The kids got the chance to go around to the local businesses and trick or treat.

In the evening, we went to St Mary's Manor in Blue Springs where they have a great Halloween event for the residents and kids. We didn't realize it was such a huge event and ended up waiting over 20 minutes in the freezing cold to get in but we were so glad we went. There were costumed characters everywhere and the residents obviously loved giving out candy to the kids. After a 20 minute trek through the building, our kids plastic pumpkins were 3/4 of the way full! Grace loved every single character and Connor was brave if Grace went with him.

We stopped by our church for Trunk or Treat and by the end of that the kids pumpkins were totally full. We emptied their pumpkins into a giant bag at home with plans to trick or treat around the neighborhood but by that time we were all pretty tired. We ended up trick or treating at a total of 2 houses before playing at a neighbors house for the rest of the night. The kids had an amazing day and went to bed with no complaints. Much to their surprise, some of their candy miraculously disappeared overnight. Didn't take them long to figure out that mommy and daddy might have had something to do with it....

How was your Halloween this year? 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Easy Halloween Glow Bracelet Classroom Favor Treats

So after returning from a nearly week long trip, I came home Wednesday to realize that Grace needed favors for her preschool Halloween party. I was so not prepared with anything and I turned to Pinterest praying that I could find an EASY idea! Of course I found the perfect thing and headed to Walmart with an idea in mind. Walmart was pretty picked over (that's what I get for waiting til 3 days before Halloween) but I modified the design a bit and ended up with the perfect preschool Halloween party favor. It's nothing fancy but for about 30 minutes of work, I'm pretty pleased with it.

I found glittery orange foam pumpkins at Walmart and cut two small slits in each to slip a glow bracelet in. If you try to do this, I highly advise buying extra glow bracelets just in case. I bought 3 packs of 5 thinking that would give me 3 extras and I cracked all 3 on accident. Luckily I completed the 12 I needed with no cracks. I found this cute tag at Ladybug's Teacher Files and they were the perfect compliment to the glow stick pumpkins. Grace's classmates loved them and I know I enjoy any favor that doesn't involve sugar! 

Easy Halloween Classroom Treats

Halloween is in 2 days, are you ready??

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Weekend Getaway in Kansas City: 5 tips for a Romantic Staycation

With two young kids, finding time to make our marriage a priority can be quite a challenge. We get occasional date nights, but we don't have anyone in town who can watch the kids overnight. So once a year, my parents come into town to keep the kids for us for an entire weekend to celebrate our anniversary. When we started doing it a couple of years ago, we had hoped to go on a short vacation. When we looked at the cost of round trip airfare or gas, we decided it wouldn't be worth it for a short weekend on our then tight budget. So we decided to enjoy a "staycation" since there is a ton to do in Kansas City that we normally don't do with the kids.

In the past we've enjoyed comedy clubs, various movie theaters, sports games, and fancy restaurants. This year we planned our weekend around the Chipotle Cultivate festival so that we could enjoy the festival without worrying about the kids. We were excited to find out that our Kansas City soccer team, Sporting KC, also had a home game that weekend so we splurged on close seats for Friday night's game. It was gorgeous weather and our team won so it made for a perfect start to our weekend! After the game, we hit Walmart to grab some snacks and drinks. It made for a late night but we enjoyed sleeping in with no early morning "mommy? daddy? wake up!" from the kids.

On Saturday we headed to the Cultivate festival with some friends and had a great time overall. When we arrived it was pouring down rain and that certainly dampened our experience a bit (dampened, get it? Okay I'm tired obviously) The ground got extremely muddy and being the klutz I am I did a full on splits while falling. I wish I had a picture because I haven't done the splits since elementary school and let me tell you it was not comfortable! But thanks to the generosity of strangers who gave me water and napkins, I got cleaned up and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the day. There was great music, yummy food, and AMAZING chefs. I got to watch Amanda Frietag and Graham Elliot cook!

As a total food network geek, I was definitely a fan girl at the chef demonstrations. I made Mike stand in a 30 minute line to get a picture with Graham and it was totally worth it. He was extremely friendly and gracious. He didn't have to stay for pics, most of the other chefs didn't since it was over 100 degrees by the afternoon, but he braved the heat to get a picture with every single person who wanted one. How cool is that? We were sweaty and fairly gross by this point but I still love this picture!

We headed back to the hotel for much needed showers and to change clothes for our anniversary dinner at The Capital Grille on the Plaza. If you ever visit the Plaza in Kansas City, promise me you'll try the Capital Grille. It's definitely a splurge but it's worth EVERY penny! When Mike made reservations, they asked if we were celebrating anything special and he informed them it was our anniversary. When we arrived, we were taken to a quiet table that was decorated with a rose and rose pedals, it was very romantic! The waiter was very knowledgeable and even gave us a free toasting drink to start our evening. Mike got a special order steak while I enjoyed the herb roasted chicken. Everything was delicious, seriously one of the best meals we've ever had.
Like I said, it was a splurge but we felt so spoiled by the staff. After enjoying our meal, our waiter brought out a complimentary dessert tray with an amazing tiramisu and cheesecake. Despite being full from our main course, we ate every last crumb of the delicious dessert. I'm pretty sure going to Capital Grille for our anniversary will be a new tradition!

After a busy day on Saturday, we decided to veg out on Sunday by going to a movie. We enjoyed seeing Ant Man on opening weekend (it's a rarity for us to go to movies anymore, much less see them on opening weekend) at the Alamo Drafthouse in downtown KC. Comfortable seating, yummy food, and a funny movie, what more could we ask for? After the movie we made the 30 minute drive home to see our happy kiddos. I doubt they even noticed we were gone because they were having so much fun with their grandparents. It was nice to have a break but I missed them!

We've learned a few things through the years of staycationing so I thought I'd share some tips to help you plan the perfect weekend!
Staycation in Kansas City

1. Check out deal sites for cheap hotels. Since we're not picky about a certain hotel but know the best areas to stay, we get amazing last minute deals. I use betterbidding.com to find out what people have payed recently on priceline and hotwire in our area to know what to bid. I rarely pay over $65 a night for super nice hotels.

2. Visit local festivals or special events in your area. A fun food or music festival is much more relaxing without taking young kids and many are cheap or even free.

3. Play tourist in your own town. Visit museums (the Nelson Atkins art museum in Kansas City is on our list for next year, we always intend to go but never seem to make it), historical sites, and memorials that you have never taken the time to see.

4. Splurge on at least one fancy meal. Go to the restaurants you wouldn't dare take your kids to because of the atmosphere and let's be honest, the price.

5. Don't overbook yourselves. This is about reconnecting as a couple so order room service or just hang out in your room for an entire afternoon.

Have you ever taken a "staycation"? I would love to hear about it!


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