Starting Over

Some people have their lives well planned out like when they’re going to have kids, how many, how many years apart, and all that stuff. I’m not one of those people… I’ve been more fly the seat of your pants and see what happens when it came to having kids…. until recently that is. That is what this story is all about.

This is #1…. this is an older picture because I can’t find a newer one she’d like. Anyway, she’s 17.


This is #2 and this is a recent picture. She all dressed up looking pretty for the end of the year Spring Fling dance at school. Born in 1999… that always makes me want to break out in song! You know… that party like it’s 1999 by Prince?

Natalie - Spring Fling

This bored one is #3…. and she was born in 2002 and the year that I turned 30. She was supposed to be the last baby because my goal was to be done having kids before I turned 30.

Bored Lauren

This… well, this is #4. He’s the youngest and the most planned baby ever… and my last baby and he was born in 2010.

Andrew - bubbles

And this is where the starting over story begins… I’d love for you to read more of it too! I’m over at Sippy Cup Mom’s place today sharing my story about becoming a mom again after your kids are half grown and self sufficient.

Evolution of a Blogger

Today I am so lucky to be sharing my thoughts, opinions, hopes, dreams, and all that over at the Girls Lunch Out site. About what you ask?

Well, this fun little picture is what it’s all about, Evolution of a Blogger.


Comments are off so please stop over at GLO and let me know what you think!

About the Illustrator
Steph Calvert is the work at home mom and illustrator behind Hearts and Laserbeams. Her work has been seen worldwide on apparel, in print, and online. She’s been writing the Hearts and Laserbeams blog for over 10 years, and is a current blog contributor to

Steph lives in Savannah, Georgia with her hilarious partners in crime, husband Josh, son Phil, and mom in law Carole. She enjoys coloring with her son, karaoke, and a good glass of wine every now and then. (But preferably now, thanks.)

Click here to purchase this original illustration on Etsy.

East or West?

Well, my vacation is over and today we’re leaving warm, sunny Florida and heading back to cold, gray Michigan. As with any vacation I think I need a few day… maybe a week to recoup from my actual vacation! 

Today I have the wonderful Kate from Mommy Monologues here today to about an incredible spontaneous vacation that she took with her family. To me this sounds perfect! 

Thank you Kate for guest posting today while I’m off enjoying my vacation!

As far as awesome trips go, one of the best ones I went on was when I was 18. I am the oldest of 5 children (at the time we were 18, 16, 14, 12, 9) and my parents sat us all down, told us we were going on a 14 day trip, to pack 7 days worth of clothing (we would find laundry mats on the way), to prepare for everything, and we had no idea where we were going!

The next day, we literally loaded my parents brand new minivan with suitcases, toys, pillows, blankets, and every other thing a family of 7 could possibly need for a huge trip. Then we all climbed into our assigned seats (yes, assigned seating is a must with 5 children!) and as my father made it to the stop sign at the end of our road, he said to my mother, “Jane, are we going east or are we going west?”

She had two piles of travel books in her lap, on her left, she had books for travelling the western side of the United States & on her right she had books for travelling the eastern side. She looked down at the books, made up her mind, & said, “WEST!”

And west we went!!! We drove over 4,000 miles, went to 9 states, & drove for 14 days. We saw Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands, Native American Reservations, the Grand Tetons, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park, Custard’s Last Stand, Wall Drug Store, and so so much more.

You would think that with 5 kids & 2 adults in the car that there would have been major arguments? Nope. Disagreements over what to do? Nope. Parents stressed about how much money they were spending? Nope. It was quite literally some of the best times that I have ever had in my life.

How many people do not plan a 14 day vacation until they are on said vacation & just plan it as they go along? I only know of my parents doing it and it was awesome!

That trip is always a great reminder to me to never get so caught up with making plans, because sometimes the best events in life happen when you aren’t spending all your time planning them!

Are all your trips planned or are they more spontaneous?

Kate is the mom to two little ones and is the author of Mommy Monologues! You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, and of course Pinterest.

What makes a great vacation? The road less traveled.

Well, my vacation is close to ending and I’ll be honest… I’d much rather stay on vacation for another week than go home. Today is a down day for us and we’re hanging out by the pool.

Today I have Jill here to share what she thinks makes a great vacation and you know what…. I agree with her on so many points! Being able to just take off and explore can be so much fun.

Thank you Jill for guest posting today while I’m off enjoying my vacation!

“Vacation” is a different idea to every person. Some want mountains, some want beach, some want a reunion of epic numbers and some want to be alone. Some want desolate. Some want city. Some want electricity and running water. Others don’t.

Beautiful sights clench it for me. Which is why one of my very favorite places in the world to visit is the San Juan Island in Washington state. The photo above was taken on Orcas Island and there is no ugly to be found there. Nowhere.

I like all types, but I need two things to make it great. Family and beautiful. Although, I could easily be tempted into believing that a solo vacation could be super awesome, as long as my kiddos are still at home, I may not be taking a solo vacay anytime soon.

We usually only take vacation once every two years because it takes me a while to save up the $$. But when I do plan out a vacation I like to think of how my kids will remember the vacation. Will they remember it as amazing? Will they want to take their own family and make those same kind of memories? Will we see/do things that we may never do again? Those “road less traveled” things.

I like to explore, to jump in the car, drive around and find beautiful. I also like to leave a trip largely unplanned because I want to find the free or cheap stuff that the locals tell me about because that is where the magic happens.

Taking the road less traveled most usually offers up the most memorable adventure.

The photo of the sail boat above you won’t find that location just anywhere on the island, you won’t find it in town, you won’t find it at the ferry dock. Although you can find some pretty other docks around, you will have to get in your car and explore to find this one.

In 2011 we took a 10 day road trip to Arizona for my sister’s wedding (family). We drove through New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and back to Colorado (beautiful). I had ideas of what we would do on the way, but didn’t have the trip planned out aside from which day we needed to arrive where.

On our way to Sedona we stopped at the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest in Arizona. Ah-mazing! After the wedding we drove through the Grand Canyon, we went to the Rainbow Bridge, toured Antelope Canyons at Lake Powell…

But when we were coming out of the Petrified Forest on our way to the wedding I saw a sign for Route 66 and followed it just so that we could say we had been on Route 66 and then we came up on a place that looked like the Cozy Cone in the movie Cars and it had an old red tow truck sitting out front! I can’t say if it’s the real place modeled in the movie, but it was pretty darn cool!

While at Lake Powell, I asked one of our servers “what do the locals do? where should we go?” And he told us about a beautiful beach – I can’t remember the name of it now but we went. And we got stuck in the sand and had to be towed out of it.

The boys thought that was so cool! A little nerve wracking in a rental vehicle, but memorable!

On our most recent family vacation to the San Juan Islands in Washington we took a ferry over to Friday Harbor for a few hours and we mozied (sp?) on into a bbq restaurant and had the best bbq I have ever had. We didn’t choose the big restaurant on the main street, but we did get the best food around!

Anyway, I asked the server there what we should do – rather than the normal tourist things. She gave us a few ideas and then told us about Popeye, the well-known one-eyed seal that some of the locals fed down at the harbor.

The stars aligned that day because when we walked down to the harbor, wouldn’t you know it? Popeye was down there getting fed by some of the local crab fishermen and they offered to let the boys feed him. Now this is no Sea World and they did warn us that he is a wild animal and to be careful, but feeding a seal out of your hand like this? Was one of those things that the boys won’t ever forget!! And not one of the other tourists on our ferry that day can say that they got to feed Popeye too.

Oh, yeah and the other most memorable time that we’ll have from that AZ road trip that I mentioned earlier. I took a wrong turn somewhere in AZ and we ended up in Monument Valley, UT. Yes, I know that Monument Valley is in the middle of nothing so it would seem like it would be hard to take a wrong turn, right? Don’t judge me. Off the beaten path, remember? I gave my kids something they’ll never go see on purpose. 🙂

Do you ever take the road less traveled on vacation? What is your best experience?

Jill is a single mom raising three boys (18, 17 and 9). Somehow she finds the time to run an amazing blog and work!

You can find her on her blog, Facebook, and of course Twitter!

Tips for traveling with a baby

Hi! Well, I made it through Animal Kingdom and today I’m off to Disney Hollywood Studios!

Today I have the amazingly talented Erica here and she is sharing some of her tips for traveling with a baby. I’ll admit that I never traveled with my kids as babies until I had Andrew and it’s no easy task that’s for sure.

Thank you Erica for guest posting today while I’m off enjoying my vacation!

This is the time of the year most of us start dreaming of vacation. And, if you are like me – a working parent with 2 kids – vacation cannot come soon enough.

For us, tips for traveling with a baby include one thing: Know where every hospital and / or emergency room is.

This story is how I came to that learn that gem.

Our 7 hour-ish car ride to the Outer Banks, North Carolina, began with an overnight stop in Chincoteague, Virginia.

We were bored with the downtown within 5 minutes enjoyed the small town quaintness of Chincoteague. I scarfed down many blue crabs while getting my hands covered in Old Bay Seasoning We had a lovely dinner at the local crab shack. And managed so see some of the famed ponies enjoying the natural beauty of the island. Oh, and we had the crap bitten out of our legs by mosquitoes, which, of course, is expected in Chincoteague.

The next morning we planned to wake up early for a beach stroll before beginning the second leg of our journey down to the Outer Banks.

Then my daughter fell face down off the hotel bed. Face down.

We. Were. Terrified|Horrified|Panicking.

She. Was. Crying|Screaming|Bleeding|Throbbing.

She had to go to the hospital. I called down to the receptionist.

“Um, hi, my daughter just fell off the bed and we need to go to an emergency room.”

“Well, the closest hospital is an hour away.”

An hour? Where the heck were we anyway??? Oh yeah, Chincoteague.

Why didn’t someone share with us tips for traveling with a baby and let us know we needed to stay within 15 minutes of a hospital??

Our daughter was finally calmed down, and we packed the car to go to Nassawadax, which, by the way, looks exactly like you would picture a town called Nassawadax, Virginia to look like. Chicken farms and boarded up gas stations.

She checked out fine… of course. Any change in behavior, we should come back.

She had a shiner, and some rug burns, but other than that… she was good to go.

Until 2 am… See, when she woke up at 2 am screaming and inconsolable, our first thought was, “Change in behavior! Concussion! Back to the hospital!”

So back we went. This time, to Nags Head Hospital, which was a bit more thorough. The doctor asked us a question that caught us off guard…

“Have you given her Tylenol for pain? She might have a headache.”

“Um, no. No one told us that was something we should do… hmmm…Can we have our Parenting Award of the Year now too?”

We got our discharge instructions and I, in my typical fast-northern talkative fashion asked the nurse who was letting us go…

“So, is there a 24-hour pharmacy, or someplace we can get Tylenol?”

“Well,” in a slower southern drawl…”Nothing’s open on the island 24 hours… ‘cept Harris Teeter.”

Um… great, thanks… yeah, the 24-hour grocery store will probably have what we need. Awesome. Can we go now?

We were also told it’s good luck for your child to fall off the bed before she is a year old. I guess this happens often enough for a wives’ tale about it.

So, it was an awesome start to the vacation…

SO… what has your kid done to make you scare the heck out of you? What toddler moment sent you to the ER?? What tips for traveling with a baby would YOU include?

Erica Voll is a freelance writer, blogger, and social media consultant. She writes a parenting blog, No Sleep ’til College, and is co-founder of Girls’ Lunch Out. Erica rarely sleeps.

Check out Erica’s favorite blog posts at No Sleep ’til College:

The Post In Which I Judge Other Moms

Hold Your Baby

My Toddler is an Awful Photographer


Welcome to Tuesday!

Thank you Emmy for guest posting today while I’m off enjoying my vacation!

Today I am visiting Animal Kindgom down in Orlando and having lots of fun! But I have Emmy here today and she is sharing her boycation memories with you. Boycation… this is  new word to me and I hope that it’s something that I never, ever have to do with my girls! Emmy… your mom was great for doing this! 

Not sure what I’m talking about? Read on!

What is your dream vacation?   When I was younger growing up in the Midwest, I dreamed of an exotic vacation to a place with a magical mouse called Disney World.  Then the dreams changed to vacations to another country or tropical island.  Now as a mom, sitting on a beach by myself reading a book would be enough for me!

Why do you go on a vacation?  To visit family, to get away, to see something new?  As a child I never did make it to Disney World or an exotic island.  Our vacations usually consisted of loading all 8 of us into our over sized van and driving cross country to visit grandparents or loading all 8 of us into the van so we could all cram into a tent while camping in an extraordinary destination called “Wisconsin”….  Yeah.

But then, there were the vacations for boys.  No, not for my brothers- but boys, boys I liked.

There was this cool new thing called the Internet.  I remember sneaking upstairs to get on the computer; though sneaking was futile as these were the days of dial-up, everyone and their dog knew I was on the computer when that started up.  I had my own email address and was dying just to get an e-mail, it was so fascinating and new.  I even found a site for making friends, created a profile and was soon chatting with a nice teenage boy from Wisconsin (ironic much).  Soon we were e-mail chatting back and forth, I would write a sentence hit send, wait for his reply, he would write back; we did this for hours.

We decided we really wanted to meet.  I don’t remember how in the world we managed to talk both of our parents into the fact that it would be a good idea to meet, but soon it was arranged.  My mom, my little sister and I made the several hour drive across the state boarder to Wisconsin to meet this mysterious guy.

I know!!   Now as a mother myself, even typing this makes me shudder.  What was my mom thinking??  What was I thinking?   Well I know what I was thinking, I was a teenage girl–so I wasn’t.

Thankfully he was just who I thought he was and we had a great time together.  We stayed at his family’s house and they were all super kind and nice.  Time and distance and his mom being scared we liked each other too much ended that relationship.

This was the first of many “boycations”.   There was the trip to Ohio to see the boy I met at a church youth conference, there were the boy(s) I drove out to Indiana to see, there was even this one crazy guy and his brothers who drove all the way from Oregon to meet me and of course my long distance boyfriend in Missouri.

Oh teenagers.  Sometimes it amazes me that I made it through my teenage years intact.

Relaxation, family, chance to see new exotic places, and of course boys isn’t that what vacations are all about?

Thanks Jackie for letting me take over your place today!  I hope you have a wonderful time at Disney, my childhood self is very jealous.

Emmy is a full-time mom, part time professional photographer who blogs about life, photography, crafts, and the crazy things her kids do at Emmy Mom-One Day at a Time.  She co-hosts a weekly meme called Proud Mommy Moments where you can tell about the proud and not so proud moments of being a parent.   She tries to find the humor and good in life with a glass half-full approach.

You can follow Emmy here:

Her Blog- Emmy Mom One Day at a Time

Twitter: Emmymom2


When I Grow Up

There are days where I wonder what in the world I’m doing and if I’ve made the right career choices. Often I find myself wondering what I want to be when I grow up… I suppose that I should figure it out soon though.

But instead of talking about what I could be when I grow up here I’m over at my good friend Wendy’s place guest posting on her Friday Take Over series. You can read it all over there.

I turned the comments off here so if you don’t mind stop over at Wendy’s and leave some love there!

Monday Menu ~ Crock Pot Jambayala with Mrs. B!!

Today is pretty awesome! Yea… yea… I know it’s Monday and that aside it’s a good day. Why you ask? Because today I have the talented Jen Bardall here visiting  from The Misadventures of Mrs. B and if you’ve ever been to her blog you know that she makes some pretty amazing dishes like this peanut butter cup cheesecake or her double chocolate brownies! So, let’s give her a magical welcome as she shares one of her amazing dishes with all of us.

Hi, everyone! It’s great to be here with Jackie and with you all, sharing a recipe which I am so glad my husband found and tweaked over time because it has become a huge favorite of ours.

I mean, what’s not to love about the flavor you get from chorizo, shrimp, chicken and veggies left to simmer for hours? Not to mention the fact that it feeds an army. When it comes to the three of us, we normally get two dinners and a few lunches worth of jambalaya out of this recipe. It’s saved our hungry hides many a weeknight.

And – hello! – it’s a crock pot creation. Set it and forget it, as they say.

You can always adjust heat level as you like. The original recipe called for only one teaspoon of hot sauce, but it was virtually undetectable to me and I have low heat tolerance. I bet you could use chicken or vegetable stock in place of water, too.

I hope you take the time to chop all those veggies and make a pot of jambalaya for your family. Be warned, though: The smell will darn near kill you as this cooks. You might want to leave the house for a while so as to avoid temptation, unless you’re a much stronger person than I.



Crock Pot Jambalaya


  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 sweet red peppers, diced
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup long grain brown rice
  • 12 oz chorizo or preferred sausage, cut into ½ inch thick rounds
  • 3 chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tsp hot sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbs fresh thyme
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tbs fresh parsley, minced


  1. In a slow cooker, layer the ingredients in this order: Onions, garlic, celery, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, rice, chicken and sausage. Add hot sauce, salt, pepper and thyme. Pour water over all. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
  2. In the last hour, add the shrimp and parsley, then stir to combine all ingredients. Add more water if jambalaya is dry.

Want to hear a funny story? I bought this delicious chicken andouille sausage with making jambalaya in mind. I usually wing it when making jambalaya and just toss this and that into the pot. For the most part it turns out but is always a little different each time. I think that it’s time for a change… if I used a recipe like this one I’d have more consistant results and it’d always be awesome!

Thank you Jen for sharing your recipe with all of us!

You can find Jen on her blog,  Twitter, Facebook, and of course Pinterest.

Something New & Exciting!!

I have something new & exciting to share with you today! I’ve been holding off on telling you all for a while because I wanted to wait until it was live!

Well… It’s live right now!

First MoonFrye Post

You see that there?? It’s my first post on the all new & improved Moonfrye site! I am one of several amazing women who are contributing writers at Moonfrye and I couldn’t be more honored.

About Me Moonfrye

I would love it if you would stop by over there and take a peak at the new site, check out my post, and then check out all of the other wonderful posts that everyone else is sharing.

This is a huge deal for me because I’ve never really written anywhere else on a regular basis aside from my blog and I consider this a step in the right direction. The direction that will help me learn, grow, and become a better person and writer. It’s another step in the direction of working towards my new career path.

This was an eventful week for me… stop by and see what 17 means to me.

Telling my story

Today I’m sharing a story with everyone around the bonfire over at Kludgy Mom about the the 3T’s. Never heard of them!! Well, I guess you better head over there right away and see what in the world I am talking about!

It may or may not have something to do with this one…


Kludgy Mom
I have turned off comments here because I would love it if you visited me at Kludgy Mom.