Tuesday, February 18, 2020

WHY SPOONFULONE IS IMPORTANT TO US...



SPOONFULONE (25% off with code: ANNIE25)

As a mother, there are so many things that we worry about, but there are also many things that we aren’t aware of. Food allergies, for example, are on the rise, but what many don’t know is that there are steps parents can take to help protect against them. Why do you think babies and children develop certain food allergies? Like peanuts. I personally thought it had to do with genetics and a few of y’all have expressed that y'all thought the same. 2 out of 3 babies with food allergies have parents that don’t have any. It’s actually due to sterile indoor environments, excess use of antibiotics and hand sanitizers, and lack of exposure to good bacteria. Studies have shown that exposing our babies and children to a variety of foods help protect their immune systems. 

Our family was introduced to SpoonfulOne last year, and after reading up on their products I knew I wanted to share about it. What is SpoonfulOne? SpoonfulOne has  variety of products that we can give to our children starting at 4 months, from mix-in’s that we can add to baby food and purees,to oat crackers and puffs. Each SpoonfulOne packet contains small amounts of the nine food groups that make up over 90% of food allergies, including peanuts, milk, shellfish, tree nuts, egg, fish, grains, soy, and sesame. By introducing these foods to our babies early on, we may reduce food allergy risk by 86% compared to avoidance. In leading clinical studies, 98% of babies who fed these foods did NOT develop a food allergy. Those numbers are so significant! SpoonfulOne can be introduced in babies’ diets at 4 months and up to many years. Liam and Easton (4 and 5 years old) love the oat crackers the most and eat them daily. Chloe also eats a packet a day in the morning and enjoys the taste. 

SpoonfulOne is especially convenient because our family doesn’t really eat peanut butter or tree nuts, so getting those foods in their diets was a little difficult because they weren’t part of our family’s normal diet. At the same time, I don’t want them to be allergic if they chose to eat any of those foodsat school or when we’re out. Because each packet has small doses of peanuts and tree nuts, it puts me at ease knowing that they’re still exposed to it on a daily basis. 

Easton’s classroom is actually peanut-free and when I bake snacks, they also need to be gluten-free due to one of his classmates’ allergies. It’s already difficult getting our children to eat ALL the right foods and if you’re adding all of these limitations, it’s even harder. One of my closest friend’s daughter is allergic to eggs and she has expressed the challenges that she faces with her daughter’s dietary restrictions. She has expressed that she wishes she knew about SpoonfulOne earlier. 

If you have children or know of people that have babies, SpoonfulOne should be shared just as much as sharing the right formula or diapers to use. I’ve noticed firsthand the incredible increase in food allergies in children and it’s something that we can protect against with SpoonfulOne. You can learn more here.

xo,
Annie

Friday, February 14, 2020

WHAT LIFE HAS BEEN LIKE AS A STEPMOM...



ME: TOP // BOTTOMS // TOMMY: TOP // BOTTOM

I think most us of has one point in our lives dreamt about having little babies, becoming a mom, and having a family. When we're young, no one thinks "Wow, I can't wait to be a stepmom". Being a stepmom isn't a role that I thought I would ever have but everything happens for a reason and here I am; a full time stepmom. I'm not sure what you would label my role at this point; mom, full time step mom, parent? 

For me, being a step is truly harder than being a "regular" mom. For me, being a step mom is second guessing EVERY SINGLE THING that I do or say towards Easton. I'm constantly telling myself, "don't be that stepmom in Cinderella". Questions that I use to ask myself over and over are "Am I treating him equally", "Am I discipling Easton the same way that I do with Liam and Chloe", "Are my parenting skills the same throughout all 3 children", "Will I ever feel like he's mine"? 

My honest truth is that I didn't feel a connection with Easton until maybe a few weeks ago. There were many months that I felt guilty about not feeling the same way for him as I did Liam and Chloe. I  shared my feeling with friends and family and learned that the way I felt was okay. It's okay that I don't have that instant loving connection with him. It's something that grows over time. It wasn't something that I could force myself to feel. Even though I felt this way, I made sure Easton never knew. I would hug, kiss, and tell him "I love you" just as much as my other two children. 

For me, being a stepmom is a whole new way of life. I've learned from my mistake and have better myself as a parent. I've broken down the way I'm going to share about my step parent life into questions that y'all have asked. 

COMMON QUESTIONS I RECEIVED AS A STEPMOM: 

WHAT DOES HE CALL YOU? 
Easton has referred to me as "mom" for about 3/4 months but didn't actually call me "mom" until last month. For example, when he was speaking to Liam he would say "Mom, is calling us for dinner". He would avoid calling me "mom" directly. His first time calling me "mom" directly was when he was using the bathroom and there wasn't toilet paper, lol. I heard him yell "MOM! MOM!". Easton's mom passed away way too early and we didn't want him to feel that he didn't have a mom. Easton knows he has two moms and that one of his moms passed away. In no way am I ever going to try to replace her. With Easton being so young, we decided that I would be called "mom" versus "stepmom" because our situation and how young he was. 

HOW HAS HE TRANSITIONED? 
Easton, honesty had a very hard time transitioning into our family. His habits, diet, manners, language, was A LOT different than ours. It was hard trying to raise a child that was raised completely differently than how Tommy and I raised Liam and Chloe. It took Easton maybe 4 months to get into the hang of things. One thing that has really helped him is a strict schedule. I've started a strict schedule since Chloe was born and it's so important for us to function properly. Our family is obviously again (Vietnamese) so that meant Easton diving into an entire new culture. He was picked up so much Vietnamese in such a short time. This is his norm now and he's very happy. 

HOW ARE LIAM AND CHLOE COOPING?
It was very hard for Liam in the beginning. Liam had only become a big brother less than a year ago and overnight, all of his stuff and space was shared with Easton. These two would wake up every single morning and argue over anything. It drove me insane for months to the point where I was ready to give up on watching Easton. I actually purchased a 3rd row car so that I could place one of the boys in the very back to prevent them fighting. Fast forward 7 months and these two love playing with each other. Yes, they get into little arguments but they're so short lived. They're each other's best friend. I went through a lot of time outs but they learned eventually. 

DID I ADOPT EASTON? 
No. On paper, Easton isn't my son. Luckily, I haven't had any problems showing proof that I'm his mom. I'm ready to adopt Easton today, it's just the matter of starting the entire process. Those offices and the entire process is pretty dreadful. We'll have it done by the end of the year. 

WHY DO YOU AND YOUR HUSBAND LIVE IN DIFFERENT CITIES? 
Tommy is based in Fort Hood, which is 3 1/2 hours from Killeen. We've decided that we want our children to grow up in Houston so we started setting things in motion in Houston; school, friends, a stable life. When Easton first came to us, I said "NO, there's no way I can raise him by myself in Houston for 1 1/2 years". How am I suppose to take care of 3 children all alone? I was truly the ONLY one that could take Easton in so I felt that it was extremely forced. I didn't feel content with it until about last November. Being a stepmom truly takes time; time to connect, time to be okay with everything, time to being a mom to a child that isn't biologically yours. 

WHAT ARE SOME STRUGGLES YOU WENT THROUGH? 
I struggled with a lot but the main thing I struggled with is obviously not feeling connected like I had mentioned, his sensitivity, and lisp. Our family isn't all that sensitive and I get that from my mom. When my child falls to the ground, my first reaction is "get up, you're okay". Easton's norm was that an adult would get a pack of ice, a bandaid, and popsicle to make the boo-boos go away. I felt guilty because I knew he wanted to be held and cuddled but that's not what I would do to Liam or Chloe. It's been a learning lesson for both Easton and I. He has had to learn how we live and deal with things and I want to say that he fully picked up on that last month. 

One HUGE problem we went through was Easton's lateral lisp. Tommy and I were actually the ones who noticed that he had a lisp and that wasn't until he was 5 1/2 years. Easton went to multiple speech lessons and it helped a bit. Juggling a full time job, 3 children's schedule, family time, and a speech class twice a week was very hard. Easton couldn't say his "S's, C's, or X's". He wasn't able to say his own name and we could tell that he would feel very insecure about it. 7 months had passes and we weren't getting anywhere. I actually looked up a youtube video two weeks ago and really made him practice it for 4+ hours a day and the day after his birthday, he said his FIRST "S" ever!! I could immediately tell that he felt a lot more confident, proud, and happy. 

HOW IS EVERYTHING NOW? 
I never thought we would be where we are today. For half a year I felt that things weren't going to change. I would always wish that someone would take these responsibilities away from me because it was TOO much. After Christmas, things started getting a lot better. I started to feel a connection, I could tell that Easton started to feel connected, and our family overall was a family of 5. Not just a family of 4 plus Easton. We're very content and happy with life. 

Easton and I have come such a long way and we're in such a good place. We're still learning from each other and there are still mistakes but it's getting better. Being a stepmom is so so difficult but I think one thing that helped me improve was asking myself "What type of stepmom did I want to be"? I'm doing the best I can and that's all I can do.  

If y'all have any questions, I'm completely open! Please dm or email me! 

Thank you so much for reading! 

xo,
Annie


Wednesday, February 12, 2020

CELEBRATE YOUR BESTIES THIS VALENTINES DAY



Do you celebrate Valentines Day? Growing up, I use to dread Valentines Day because I was usually alone. The pressure and hype of being with your boyfriend or girlfriend was set way too high. When in reality, Valentines Day should be spent with the people you love, not just your significant other. Valentines Day is a holiday I look forward to now because it's another reason for me to go the extra mile to be kind to my girlfriends, children, and husband. 

I wanted to do something fun with my girlfriends so I arranged a little Valentines photoshoot for us. I've known these beautiful mamas for years and they're my best friends. Our children are also besties too. We styled our outfits with Victoria Emerson cuff bracelets and I love how it helped elevate our outfits. This white neutral cuff is my first cuff and it's now the first bracelet I grab every morning. I'm a huge fan of the thick "arm candy" look and this cuff bracelet looks like many different bracelets combined but it's actually just one. The cuff connect by a strong magnetic strip and stays clasped. The details are why Victoria Emerson pieces are my favorite. Mine is made of crystal and metallic beads, gold link chains, turquoise, and textured leather. Their bracelets are the perfect Valentines gifts. Their huge selection is affordable, well made, beautiful, and can be worn daily. I think a great way to go the extra mile with your Valentines gift is to add your Victoria Emerson bracelet in a travel jewelry organizer or box, a hand written card, and a box of chocolates.  

Planning a Galentines Day with your girlfriends can be super easy. Here are a few ideas! 

GIRLS WINE NIGHT
I'm all for stocking my bar cart, getting a few heart shaped balloons, picking out a fun card game, and having the girls over. Some of my favorite nights with my friends were spent in the living room in our cute pajamas catching up on life. 

MANI & PEDI DATE
Who doesn't love a little pampering? Getting your nails done together is never a bad idea. Make sure to make a reservation because the salons get pretty busy during this time. You can also arrange a day a couple of days before Valentines Day

PAINT AND WINE
There are many painting and wine classes, you can look to see if they have any in your area. I went to one a few months ago with my girlfriend and we had so much fun! It's something different y'all can do and you come home with a little masterpiece

HOST A BRUNCH
Hosting a lunch doesn't need to be hard. Make it a light brunch with croissants, waffles, fruit, and mimosas! You can pick up some decorations at your nearest grocery store or retailer; balloons, flowers, and Valentines inspired dinnerware. I've seen so many inspirations on Pinterest under "Galentines Brunch". 

xo,
Annie  

*Thank you Victoria Emerson for sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions are my own.

Monday, February 10, 2020

DEDICATING WEEKLY ME TIME...


This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Pantene. All opinions are my own. 






Last year, I truly learned how important it was to set time aside for myself, my husband, and my friends. As a parent, so much of our time is dedicated to our children that we sometimes forget to take care of ourselves. I’m constantly going and going and going. When I became a mom of three, it was the biggest change of my life. Tommy and I live 4 hours away from each other so it’s me versus three, 90% of the month. My body and mind were exhausted from juggling everything. I felt like a ticking time bomb every single day. I could tell that I was putting my frustration and exhaustion on the kids and my husband. Imagine working for 10 days straight without having a day off. It’s overwhelming and you start to feel like a robot.


“Me” time is extremely important to me. It’s good for the mind, body and soul! I feel like a brand-new person after having some time to take care of myself. I dedicate 2 days every week to wind down after all the kids are in bed. The best way that I know how to relieve my stress is to draw a hot bath, throw in some bath salts, a bath bomb, put on a face mask and cleanse. This is a great way to focus on myself and discover what’s good in my life.

A few months ago, I added some color to my hair after 10 years of being dye-free. I knew that coloring my hair would take some nutrients away and maintaining it would be crucial to keeping it healthy. I’ve been using Pantene's Fortifying Damage Repair Collection with Castor Oil from their newest Nutrient Blends Collection and have seen my hair come back to life. When I had my big hair transformation, my stylist added a row of sewn-in natural hair extensions. It was important for me to keep the extensions nourished because it wasn’t producing any natural oils like my real hair does.


Pantene’s Fortifying Damage Repair Shampoo and Conditioner is made with Castor Oil to protect, repair and help give back nutrients that hair dyes take away. Castor Oil comes from the seeds of the Ricinus Communis plant grown in India and has amazing benefits. Free of sulfates, parabens, dye and mineral oil, this collection helps restore my hair with a blend of nutrients. My roots don’t typically have a problem with producing oils, but the bottom half of my hair struggles with it. My ends become dry and fried really fast with straightening. Big tip! When using Pantene’s Fortifying Damage Repair Conditioner, apply from ear length and down. I’ve been using Pantene’s shampoos and conditioners for over a decade and love that this collection focuses on repair and adding nutrients - it makes maintaining my long, colored hair A LOT easier! You can shop this collection here.

When it comes to bath time, I usually start with cleansing my hair and body first. After that, I throw on a facemask and watch a Netflix show. I personally get bored sitting in still water, so I prop my laptop up on a stool next to the tub for a bit of entertainment. I’ve been into all the documentaries on Netflix lately. Y’all, I also go crazy with my face masks. I think I have over 10 different face masks and it’s life changing. Sugar scrubs, charcoal and honey masks are a few of my current favorites. If it’s the weekend, feel free to pour yourself a glass of wine too. Make it a true at-home spa day!

Xo,
Annie



This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Pantene. All opinions are 100% mine.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

OUR WINTER GIRLS TRIP TO LEAVENWORTH, WA...



My trip to Leavenworth, WA was straight out of a winter holiday movie. My girlfriends and I decided a few months ago to take a trip to this beautiful German inspired town and it was so much more than I expected. Tommy and I actually drove up to Leavenworth in October for a festival and had so much fun eating and drinking. We were only there for a few hours so to be able to experience Leavenworth for 3 days was wonderful. If you're not familiar with Leavenworth, WA it's a Bavarian inspired village in the mountains. Within the village there are tons of cute shops, wineries, and restaurants; the food and drinks are German inspired. The Village is deep in the mountains so the views are just beautiful! Every morning, we were stunned and wished that we were able to wake up to these views back at home. During the 3 days, I created many lasting memories with Alice, Rebekah, and Roselyn. We ate a lot of food, went on fun adventures, and laughed for hours. I'm sharing all the details because Leavenworth, WA should be on your bucket list. I'm already planning to take my family back this winter!






LEAVENWORTH, WASHINGTON TRAVEL GUIDE

WHERE TO STAY:

Enzian Inn: it's located right next to the town (5 minute walking distance). As soon as you walk in it feels warm and cozy. Leavenworth keeps their holiday lights up until February so there were tons of beautiful lit trees. The lobby areas in the hotel are huge! We could grab snacks or drinks and relax in the lobby near the fire. Upstairs, there is an outdoor patio area where you can get a stunning view of the mountains. Our rooms were very spacious and right outside our room, we had the beautiful mountain view. Every morning they served a buffet styled breakfast and we devoured a lot of omelets and ate a lot of cinnamon rolls. Being able to have breakfast in our hotel makes it easier on us and we're able to save time and money. The hotel overall had this home feel to it and had everything we needed.

WHAT TO DO: 

Snowshoeing: I've never been snowshoeing before and really enjoyed our tour. We went on a tour with Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery. There are guides that assist you with your gear, show you around the areas, and answer any questions that you may have. The tours are about 2 hours long but there are frequent stops to learn about Leavenworth and to take in the views.

Sleigh Rides: If this isn't on your winter bucket list, add it! When we got to Red Tail Canyon Farm, it felt like we stepped into a winter movie. There were several dogs running around, two beautiful horses, and the family that owned the ranch were so kind. We rode around the farm for about an hour. The sleigh rides are children friendly too!

Cross-country Skiing: We rented skis from our hotel and drove to Icicle River. I've never been skiing or cross-country skiing before and I think cross-country skiing is a great way to learn the basics of skiing. The concept is very similar to skiing but you're not going downhill. You're using your legs to glide through the snow. It was surprisingly a lot of fun and something I'd definitely do again.

Shop around town: There are so many stores throughout the town. There were childrens' clothing stores, home decor shops, souvenir stores, an ornament shop, and more.

WHERE TO EAT: 

Sulla Vita: is an italian mediterranean inspired restaurant. The food was delicious! I ordered the Scallop Picatta and the Sulla Vita Platter and I would order it again.

Andreas Keller: This restaurant is downstairs and it immediately felt like we walked into a set of The Hobbit. Thats exactly what it reminded me of. I ordered the Rotisserie Chicken and thought it was delicious.

Bavarian Bistro Bar: The food and drinks here were really good and I appreciate that they had a healthier menu option. I ordered the wedge salad and devoured the entire thing.

The Tumwater Bakery & Pizza: This is my kind of place! It reminded me off all the coffee/bakery  shops in Houston. They sold pizza, bakery goods, sandwiches, and really good coffee.

Mozarts Restaurant: This was probably my favorite place to eat. We ordered the fondue as an appetizer and being someone that isn't big on cheese, I thought it was amazing. I ordered the salmon for my entree and it was made really well.

Icicle Brewing Company: On the second night, we had about two hours to spare before dinner so we grabbed a few beers and appetizers here. The beer option in Leavenworth isn't your typical grocery store selection. They're from areas around and so good.

Gooseridge Winery: When you're with your girls, wine is typically a good idea. This was my second winery and I loved the ambiance. There was a great selection of wine, areas for children, and tables to sit and relax.

HOW TO GET AROUND: 

To get into Seattle does take a little bit of a drive but the views make it a lot easier. We fly into Seattle and picked up our MAZDA CX9. I've driven the MAZDA CX9 before it's such a smooth ride. It drives well in the snow which is a MUST. Leavenworth is about a 2 hour drive from the airport. I highly recommend flying in early if you're not familiar with driving up the mountains. There are shuttles that run from Seattle to Leavenworth but if you're going to be doing actives on the outer areas of the town, I highly recommend getting a rental. The town is small so there aren't car service options in town.

xo,
Annie




 

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