Real Life With Rita: Summer isn’t over yet

I hate that as July comes to a close, we mentally start moving into thoughts of “end of summer”. I’ll be the first to admit our recent spell of hot-hot-humidity has kept me indoors and doing anything BUT enjoying summer, but the reality is we have a solid six weeks of summer-y weather left. However, back-to-school mode is in full swing and marketing has shifted to playing on our love of fall weather. Even Dorothy has been talking about playing in the snow–slow it down, girlie!


However, I’m still over here loving summertime. Maybe it’s the pregnancy; I can throw on tank tops, flip flops and running shorts and be comfortable very easily. (Bundling up with a belly can be a pain.) Maybe it’s the fact our vacation is still ahead of us. Who knows. Either way, I will say I feel like July went by quickly even though it seemed less eventful than June.

After hosting friends a family 4th of July weekend (and having Mingus home for 4-straight days!), we stayed in a lot. I made visits to a few friends who’ve recently had babies, but, otherwise, we’ve laid low.


However, this weekend I will be packing up the kids for our first ‘family’ vacation, and I cannot deny the excitement I have for our Myrtle Beach trip. I am actually a little disappointed we are headed out later than planned due to some unexpected training that came up for Husband. The good news, the kids don’t feel that disappointment since they are too young to know the plan for departure anyway. We’ll just head out one day and they’ll be excited!

I suppose it seems natural to be excited over vacation–especially when you haven’t been on one in 4 years; however, the sensation is a little new to me. I did not grow up in a house where the word ‘vacation’ was used much outside of the general ‘summer vacation’ term. Often what we ended up considering a ‘vacation’ was a piggyback off of another planned trip… An extended stay in St. Louis for a family wedding; a week in Arkansas during my brother’s pole vault camp; North Carolina to get acquire a specific breed puppy… The only things close to standard family vacations we had were our Disney World trip, a road trip to Montana for a week of camping, and a beach trip to Florida; although this was with my aunt and cousin, not my father.

Most of my friends took regular summer vacations or spring break trips. I never really envied them or wondered why we couldn’t do such things. I loved my childhood. I loved what I saw as “vacation” and the time I spent with my family. If anything I wondered “why” people went on these trips, because in my mind there had to be purpose outside of it just being “vacation”.

Since being married, I’ve been blessed with a wonderful new family. One thing his parents love is the beach–particularly when it is shared with family. We passed on our opportunity for vacation with them two years ago when they were going to Disney World. I was pregnant with Jacob, Dorothy had just turned one and we had spent the year building the house and were prepping to move in; it felt more stressful to think about a week away than anything.


This year we are traveling with the Harris family to stay in a condo on Myrtle Beach. It will be our family, his parents and his sister’s family of four. And while I did not grow up taking these kinds of vacations (where there was no ulterior motive for taking time away to travel somewhere as a family), I can say I am truly excited about this trip and am grateful for the opportunity. My gratitude comes so much in knowing that this is something I never would be doing by my own choice. (Ask Mingus to take off work so we can spend a week spending money while taking away from the things he could be getting done at home?? Never!)

I so look forward to seeing my two toddlers experience the beach for the first time. While I know they will love it, I also know Jacob will likely have no memory of the experience and Dorothy’s will be dreamlike if anything. That’s why I feel like this is a gift my in-laws are giving me, more than the kids, because I will have these memories—ones I would, without a doubt, not be getting otherwise. Every stage in these children’s lives is precious. It all bring so much joy to my life and I just cannot savor enough. The way they respond and react to everything; the things they say; their levels of excitement. Seeing them experience the beach at this age is a moment in time I get to capture that I won’t ever get again at any point in my life—an experience, that without my mother-in-law and father-in-law—I would never have.


I am well aware this won’t be quite a ‘vacation’ like it was for Husband and I when we went with them to the beach in 2012 and were newly married with no kids. It will be work. It will be crazy and tiring, but luckily we’ll have the help of others and playmates for the kids.

I am grateful that I was brought up with the mindset that vacations were not something to be expected or something to be taken for granted; however, I am also grateful for a new family that has taught me that there is nothing wrong with taking time out to step away from ‘regular’ life and capture priceless memories with those you love most. Life is short and it’s what we make it. It’s important to spend your time feeling happy—whatever that is for you.  If that is being home, traveling—maybe even working—that is OK. Just do what makes you happy with the time you have here–and spend it with the people who matter.

Also, be sure to check out my July Vlog here!


10 Things Tuesday: July Vlog, L’Oreal Foundation, Cobbler Recipe, & Popsicles

1. July… So Far!
It’s been a busy month, and as to not make my vlog too extremely long (and so you aren’t so far behind on my happenings) I published a vlog of the first half of July. Complete with a trip to the zoo, a wedding, garden preserving, new kittens, berry picking, 4th of July fun and more! -Rita

2. Back to School
Although it’s not something I actively partake in, I am well aware that many people’s focus is shifting to back-to-school mode–which seems absurd when we are are hardly halfway through July! I actually am feeling the pressure of “end of summer” in many ways because the people to see and things to do that suddenly end because of the schedule change. Even though my schedule as SAHM keeps me flexible, finding windows of time that work for other people to spend time together is a real challenge! If your “summer” is ending soon due to school, what are the final things on your to-do list? -Rita

There are a plethora of babies that have been born in my life since May–almost all boys! Unfortunately, I have not met most of them. (See above regarding busy summer schedules!) Last week I finally met Mr. Oscar (already two months!) and Mr. Daxton (only 2 weeks!). I love seeing my kiddos with other babies! -Rita

4. L’Oreal Infallible Pro Glow Foundation
I am always trying to find a drugstore foundation that I love! I like one that has a yellow undertone, lasts all day, covers my redness and doesn’t settle into lines or pores. After wearing all day I found the L’Oreal Pro Glow Foundation to be quite impressive and it did not disappoint. -Holly Jo

5. Easy Cobbler Recipe
With berries plentiful in our fields (and at a low price in the stores) this cobbler recipe is a great go-to for me. It is simple (and I can swap ingredients to make it Mingus-friendly). This is for blackberries in particular, but I’ve used it for other berries as well. Also, I mix it in the pan to make it that much simpler. -Rita 813191ae-9b4a-4a07-b6fc-2745d795eaf0

6. Healthy Popsicles
The kids are loving some refreshing popsicle treats this summer and I’m grateful for the molds where you make them yourself. The kind we have include a straw at the bottom to easily sip out the melting juice. I also love that I can choose what kind of popsicle they have–like using an all natural juice instead of a sugar and dye filled popsicle. The molds can be found numerous places for purchase. -Rita 413Sr3Nr9YL

7. Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival
This weekend at Water Tower Park in Louisville is the Four Roses Bourbon Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival. Check out the full schedule of music, events and food happening on the website and check it out if you don’t have other plans! -Rita stack

8. No more Daniel Tiger??
Who else is devastated (maybe more than their kids??) that Daniel Tiger is no longer available on Netflix? It’s not just that my kids actually like it, but I loved it for them. Jacob is just getting to the age Dorothy was when it truly started to engage her. Netflix does have a new original series, Word Party, that is a similar style show for similar ages, but it is about learning words rather than feelings and how you work with others. What other shows on Netflix do you love for your toddlers? -Rita

9. BVI Vacay!
HJ went on a sans-kids getaway to the British Virgin Islands. Be sure to tune into her next vlog to hear all about it!
@hhellyer01 • Instagram photos and videos 2016-07-19 12-53-21

10. Travel Tips?
Many people have already had their big summer vacation trip… Ours is a week and a half away. Although I’ve already learned a lot of tips and tricks about long road trips with toddlers, I’m always open to new and additional ideas. If you traveled recently, what were the big wins or fails on your trip? Any suggestions on things to have in the car, activities to bring? I am also brain storming some things to have in our condo for the week to entertain kids while we are having down time. Leave your advice in the comments! -Rita

Review: Hosting an Usborne Books & More Online Event

If you have a Facebook account, no doubt a friend has invited you to some form of online sales “party”. I know I’ve gotten a million invites and I’ve helped with or participated in many Juice Plus+ events. This past I hosted an event for Usborne Books & More, a product I was familiar with but do not sell myself. These are my thoughts on hosting one of these and the books themselves. 13645364_10204783992918073_4876258167235028944_n

Thoughts on the Usborne Books & More products

Why check out these books? Working with someone directly on recommendations and learning about the books is great when there is a world of books out there. Here are some things I have come to love about Usborne after spending more time looking at the options and building a wish list.

1. Watching the Usborne videos is very beneficial

Whether you are live at an event or not, the videos are very helpful in understanding these books, especially some of the interactive ones. Additionally, it is worth searching YouTube for specific books you are interested in, as there tend to be video previews of many of them. Many of the shopping pages themselves do not have pictures of pages inside the books, but you can easily find these on YouTube.

2. Fair to Good Pricing on Books

If you ever shop books, you can easily see that the books you are getting are a great price. Even the very interactive books. Probably the worst part about buying from or hosting an online event is that you can physically see and feel and flip through books. (Or maybe it is good, because doing so would make buying them all irresistible!) Having kids of my own, I can vouch for easily accumulating too many toys, but books are something always of value and what I consider a quality gift.

3. The Interactive Book selection is great

Sticker books, wipe-clean books, busy books… The list goes on and on for the books Usborne offers that are much more than just standard pages if you want something that has more of a ‘toy’ or ‘game’ feel to it. Their lift-the-flap and touchy-feely books are even top of the line compared to many other options out there.

Thoughts on Hosting An Usborne Books & More Party

Despite the fact my consultant had trouble with her live stream at the event and then the website malfunctioned right as the party came to a close (meaning no one could shop!), the event was a huge success in my eyes. Here are a few reasons I think I had such luck.

1. Listen to the expert (the consultant)

Through my own experience in direct marketing with Juice Plus+, I know and can respect that there is a proven method how to do things. If you follow the process taught and used by those who have succeeded, you will succeed too. It’s easy to feel your own ideas will work better because you are “different”, but I know better. The work I have done over the past 8 years has also taught me that as unique as things can be, there are methods for success that work for everything. Because of this, I followed my consultant’s directions for hosting the party–all of which were very simple. This resulted in fantastic pre-party participation, great party attendance and wonderful sales (despite some technological difficulties!)

2. Personalize your invitations

Although, this is likely a part of #1, because my consultant told me to send personal messages to those I invited, I want to reiterate this step and the importance of your verbiage. My consultant made it super simple to do by writing this personal message for me; however, I took it a step further and I think this made a difference. I took the time to customize her text to my voice, and then used it as a base to send an even more personal message to those I invited. I did this because I knew some friends were more likely to have heard of Usborne than others; I knew some have children the same age as mine; I knew some had older kids; I knew some were now in grandparent stage while others were also teachers. I tried to say why I’d thought of that individual’s interest to let them know they weren’t just the next person on my friend list that showed up to be invited.

3. Don’t limit your invites

Even if you are afraid people will be annoyed or offended by your invite, it does not hurt to politely extend the invitation–as long as you are personally inviting them. I was surprised by some of the people who got back to me and appreciated the info because they had never heard of Usborne. I was also surprised to see some of the orders come through from people I did not expect to purchase from me.

If you are ever invited to one of these events–online or in person–at least attend to educate yourself on the selection of books. Kid books are an exceptional gift for all occasions and all ages. I will even say, if you are a book lover, being a consultant for this company would probably be worth looking into. (I am not one and do not know the details, so I am saying this completely of my own opinion and freedom.) Sharing a love of books would be an easy thing to do.


If you are interested, my party is still open until tonight (July 15, 2016). Feel free to check it out and shop. If you are interested in hosting an event to earn books for yourself, I would be happy to connect you with my consultant, Kelly Kremer. 13726621_10204813021083759_1774060197487872856_n



10 Things Tuesday: ISR Swim, Usborne Books, Chocolate Zucchini Bread & New Kittens

1. ABC Crafts
I’ve recently started trying to put more focus on helping Dorothy learn her letters. She can identify about half of the alphabet (capital letters), but she is going on 3 and since I don’t do any preschool, I want to make sure I take time for meaningful activities. I found these fun ABC activity ideas. I’ve tweaked them a bit to be super simple for the materials I have on hand, but so far so good! -Rita letter-of-the-week-craf...rystalandcomp-1024x10241

2. “I Lost Myself In Motherhood”
I loved this little post by one of my favorite moms on Instagram, Christina Boyce. She was pregnant with her first babe at age 21 and just had number 4 recently and celebrated her 30th birthday. No matter your story as a mom, she has your back. -Rita lostself

3. Usborne BOOKS–Tonight!
I’m hosting an Usborne Books & More on Facebook tonight, through a friend from my college days. I’m really excited about it because I love giving books as children’s gifts and I love seeing all the fun, creative and interactive books they carry. If you have interest in them or just want to learn, join us at 8:30 p.m. (EST) on Facebook. The event will stay open through Friday, July 15. -Rita 13528434_10204749828983996_6077593862700219277_o

4. 5-Minute Summer Make Up Tutorial
This is a fast light weight summer makeup tutorial using only 5 makeup products! -Holly Jo

5. Kids Day At The Lake
This weekend it’s all about the kids at State Dock in Jamestown, Ky.  Bring your kids ready for lots of fun on Saturday.  The day includes contests, adventures, prizes and entertainment for everyone: fishing, karaoke, kayaking, bouncy castle and movies.  See here for the full schedule.  Note that all times are central time.

6. ISR Swim
At first I was very hesitant about putting my daughter in ISR (Infant Swim Resource, Self-Rescue) lessons. She did not like when water splashed in her face, much less going under the water. However, we have a pool and the thought of her falling in and not being able to save herself was not an option. I can honestly say ISR Lessons is the best decision we have made for our daughter. She can now swim and save herself if in a pool! -Holly Jo

7. Our Journal
Last week I came downstairs to find a hardcover book of blank pages with some blue and purple pens next to it. Inside, on the first page, was a note from the hubs. He had the brilliant idea to start a book for us to write/journal back and forth in. We will leave each other random notes at hit and miss times anyway, but he thought this was a better way to save our thoughts, prayers and correspondence over time and for our children to one day have. And you wonder why I love him so?? This is an excellent idea for anyone, but especially couples with children where it can be hard time find time for each other and slow down to share deep thoughts and personal pieces of yourself with each other. Never stop saying, “I love you.” -Rita

8. Vegan Chocolate Zucchini Bread
I truly cannot express the abundance of zucchini/squash coming from our garden right now. I wasn’t out there to pick for about 5 days due to rain and kid schedules not working out. There were some MONSTER size squash out there. Needless to say, I’ve been making a lot of chocolate zucchini bread. I’ve followed this recipe to keep it Mingus-friendly. -Rita C.-Bread-700x339

9. Baby Update!
You’ve probably assumed or guessed it, but I’ve decided to be no fun (for everyone else) and not find out the baby’s sex. It might be easiest this time around for whatever reason–to much else to be distracted with than just wondering. Plus, of course, I have an amazing daughter and son already. In other news, though, the baby is moving around like crazy anymore. (As I type!) Dot is in love with this baby and it is so cute! -Rita

10. New Kittens
We got two little kittens from my cousin. Having outdoor cats around is handy when you live in a field where mice are abundant (leading to snakes–eek!) Dot named them after one of her favorite TV show/books: Max & Ruby. (It’s a big sister and younger brother… SOOOO my two kids!) LouLou can’t get enough! She talks to them like they are her little babies she takes care of and the poor things are actually quite tolerant even she she has them in a choke hold! -Rita

7 first impressions of Costco and wholesale memberships

I made my first trip to Costco this past week and thought I’d share my initial impressions and thoughts. I went as a guest with my cousin after asking to tag along primarily for the purpose of stocking up on items for our vacation in a few weeks. We’ll be road tripping it to Myrtle Beach, so car snacks are crucial and even good snacks for the week at the beach are important.

I was obviously overwhelmed and had to rein myself in, but it definitely got me thinking about whether or not I want to get a membership here or somewhere similar. For the record, Costco is 90 minutes away, so weekly trips probably aren’t in the cards. Here are some initial considerations about shopping at Costco. Costco-Logo

Shop with a purpose

I’d advise not shopping here without a list or a goal, unless you have gotten super familiar with it. (If you’ve been frequenting one for a few years, you probably know the ropes, prices, what you use, and what is worth it, etc.) I was regularly reminding myself of focusing on vacation snacks (or things that I knew we’d use immediately/quickly–like taco chips!)

It’s not the place to experiment with too much “new”

It’s exciting to find new foods that seem like will feed your family well or will be big hits, but keep in mind the amount of something you are buying–even if the underlying price is a good deal. It’s great when the taste-testers are out and you can actually try something before buying a box of 36 and hope for the best! Example: I saw several veggie burger varieties that sounded good, but it wasn’t worth buying a bulk amount on the chance no one would really like them.

Eating healthy can be easy

While there is plenty of “junk” food available in bulk, I was impressed with how readily available the healthy and organic options were. Given, I was drawn toward things I buy or look for anyway, but I was shocked when I’d pull something off and then check and find it was organic–and that the price was still so good!

Keep in mind what you have room to store

You can buy giant boxes of things at great prices, but you have to have a place for it! This is another reason to shop with a list or focus in mind. You’ll find a little bit of everything in your cart, and then you’re trying to figure out where in the world you’ll put it all.

Fresh Produce–If you’re close!

I didn’t price out all of the produce, but I definitely picked up some blueberries and strawberries because the prices were incredible. If I had a Costco close, I’d be regularly buying my fruits here for that kind of savings.

Comparison to Sam’s Club?

I haven’t been to Sam’s in quite awhile and I have never done a real family shopping trip there, so I won’t try to give an opinion on one compared to the other. If I decide to get a bulk membership, though, I will definitely feel out Sam’s as well (and see how healthy their options are–the healthy options at Costco are a huge plus in my book). One perk in my particular situation is that there is a Sam’s Club closer than Costco. Costco is opening in Louisville, which is nice, but it’s still not closer than the Lexington option.

Membership? Yay or nay?

I honestly see us getting a membership to a wholesale store like this at some point. We already buy several items through a food co-op. (Rice, oatmeal, etc.) As you may know, frequent grocery trips can damage the budget–too many impulse or unnecessary buys–and this would help that much more. We already do a lot of dry goods through the co-op. What meat we use we tend to get through sources other than traditional groceries. Many months our vegetables are sourced through our garden. A resource like Costco could help us keep better/longer stocked on staples like snacks, cereal, frozen foods, baking and cooking needs. Not to mention… We know I love to host friends a family and buying bulk for such occasions would be a plus!

Your feedback?

Tell me your experiences with Costco or a similar store in the comments:

  • How frequently do you shop there?
  • What was your primary motivation for the membership?
  • What are you favorite things to buy at stores like this?
  • What are you Costco vs. Sam’s Club thoughts?
  • How close to your home is the store?

One Simple Change: Preparing for Baby #3

Last Month’s Review: June

Goal: Get creative and cook fresh from the garden

Fail/Success? Success! We have been eating straight from the garden constantly and I love it. I’ve tried several new things with the fresh produce and nearly all of them were simple things I plan to (or already have) repeated. I actually did not experiment any with our beets, broccoli or green beans. The beets and broccoli are just SO good steamed with butter (and easy for the kids) that I had no desire to do other things. The beans, so far, we’ve focused on canning for storage.

Here are some new things I did try and loved:

  • Overnight Oats – This was easy and simple. I actually bought my fruit, but we’ll have our own berries soon that I can repeat with. I’ve done it twice and just need more yogurt to repeat! (Check #5 on this 10 Things Tuesday List for recipe I followed.)
  • Dipping Oil – I used our fresh basil along with a plethora of other herbs and spices to make a dipping oil that turned out fabulous! It’s a great thing to set out with bread if you have guests over. (I used #2 on this list. I left off the Parmesan for Mingus’s sake.)
  • Zucchini Chips – I followed this recipe a couple of times (minus the tomato) and made half with Parmesan and half without. More recently I kept it super simple and just cubed the zucchini, sprayed them with oil and sprinkle Italian seasoning, garlic salt, and pepper.
  • Zucchini Pizzas – Major win! I’ve done it twice and once even made some with no cheese for Jon.
  • BBQ Kabobs – I’ve never made any kind of skewers or kabobs and this was fun to put together–Dorothy enjoyed it too. I loosely followed this recipe, but primarily used lots of veggies (peppers, onion, zucchini, cherry tomatoes), pineapple and chicken and brushed with Maul’s barbecue sauce.
  • Chicken & Pineapple Marinade – I had leftovers of nearly all my skewer ingredients, so I decided to marinade them the next night and simply wrap them in foil to bake. I found this kabob recipe and used it’s marinade (pineapple juice, soy sauce, honey, Sriracha, garlic) for my leftovers and served it over brown rice.
  • Salmon Patties – I’ve never experimented making these with an egg substitute and haven’t thought to do it since discovering duck eggs. I looked up a recipe and we will definitely be making these a staple in our house now.
  • Strawberry-Rhubarb Cookies – We had just enough rhubarb to do something but not a pie, so I’ve had this recipe marked in one of my allergy-friendly cook books for awhile. While they were very tasty, I think I’d prefer to use my rhubarb for something else and stick to simple oatmeal cookies.

What I got out of it: Eating straight from the garden is one of my favorite things about summer. It makes dinner prep so easy every night, because there is always plenty of food in the house. Trying these new recipes has not only made my family happy, but it’s helped me realize how easy it is to find simple recipes, given me the confidence to adjust things to our liking or needs, and it makes me enjoy the cooking process more. 

Moving Forward: We have plenty of zucchini and squash to keep experimenting with as summer continues. I’m also looking forward to tomatoes and peppers coming on later. The cucumbers are just beginning to really produce as well. (I see pasta salads in our future!) Blackberries will be ready for picking soon, which will bring for some breakfast and dessert fun. (We had blueberries, but our bushes are young and the kids had them all eaten before we were even back to the house!)

New Challenge: July

Goal: Start prepping Dorothy and Jacob for arrival of Baby #3

Motivation behind the challenge: There are several things I know I need to do with my two kids that, if I’m being honest, I’ve just been too lazy to tackle. Considering the kids are not even 18 months and 2 1/2 going on 3, none of them would be that big of a deal, but since I have already experienced what it’s like to deal with a newborn and a toddler, I can anticipate what a newborn and two toddlers will be like. A good example of me learning this the hard way Dot’s potty training. To most, I started potty training Dorothy early at 20 months. She definitely would have been young to do it before Jacob was born (only 15 months). It turned out I started the process and not long after Jacob was teething–meaning he got fussier and needed more holding and nursing, which made for staying on Dot harder. I am not sure I would have done it differently, but that experience tells me I need to work through the changes I can with these two now, before baby arrives in November.

On my to-do list for this month are:

  • Doing away with pacifiers: I’ve relied on Dot’s forever because it’s just been easy. She doesn’t use it much anymore. But definitely expects it for sleeping. I need to have her off of it well before the baby arrives, because at that point, there is a good chance I’ll have them scattered throughout the house again and I don’t want her picking them up. Jacob uses them too, but I honestly think he’ll be easier to wean.
  • Overnight pull-ups: Dorothy is fully potty trained but still wears a pull-up at night. I originally thought she’d slowly start to not pee at night, but I think she sleeps so heavily she doesn’t even know she uses the bathroom while asleep. There are nights she is dry or sometimes she’ll wakes up in the morning and go on the potty in her room. Other mornings she wakes up to a full pull-up and takes it off herself–which tells me she knows it shouldn’t be full of pee and doesn’t like it. Many days she doesn’t nap anymore, another reason I believe she sleeps heavily at night. I have to figure out how to teach her to recognize and wake up when her bladder is full.
  • Two Kids/One Room: While we do have two bedrooms plus a nursery for the kids, I am going to have Jacob and Dorothy share a room. This will leave our guest room open longer and I think the hardest part will simply be on us during the early weeks of transitioning the two. I like the idea of them being used to sharing the space so that when we travel, it’s not a big deal if they sleep near each other. (We had our first experience of letting them share a room last week. While getting to sleep took awhile, they both slept through each other’s wake ups in the middle of the night. They were awake early, though.) Jacob still being in a crib should help since at least one kid will be confined.

There are some other things I plan to accomplish before baby’s arrival, but these three are on my radar for July. I’ll start with the pacifiers, as I suspect some fussing about it at bedtime, so I might as well face that while they are in separate rooms. I should probably work on night time bathroom breaks next, but I’d also like to get them used to sharing a room because that may be our setup during our August vacation.

Wish me luck or leave me your advice. I honestly think these tasks are harder on the parent than the kid. They are creatures of habit in all areas of life right now, so any change is hard, but usually a day or two of something new and they forget the old method. I just have to be disciplined!