Ultimate Family Summer Road Trip Essentials

With summer comes summer vacations and for the past several summers we have racked up the miles across this nation exploring states to the west and east of Chicago. Last summer we explored the east coast from Washington D.C. to Niagara Falls and everywhere in between.  This summer we explored Orlando because we were missing a proper summer these past few months as Chicago has had a relatively cool summer. Certainly nothing like a typical Midwest summer of my youth

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Top 5 Reason to Have Summer Fun at Raging Waves Waterpark

There are over 20 water slides and various other activities that kept the entire park from seeming super crowded, including a ¼ mile long lazy river. We didn't rent a cabana as we had no plans of sitting and relaxing. We were looking for summer fun in the form of action and slides! We put our bags down near Brock's Giant Sandbox, where there are plenty of chairs. Then everyone headed off in different directions. I didn't see my daughters again for two whole hours as they were off with my husband in one direction and my son and I were in another.

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies with Homemade Chocolate Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Last week we had a couple of fabulous sunny days and then toward the end of the week, we were blasted with more storms. There has been so much rain this summer and it really puts a damper on our day time activities. My grass has ever been this green in July and I'm loving that aspect of the rain! We haven't been able to get in as much time at the pool as my kiddos would like because of the rain. While it is fun to swim in the rain; at the first spot of lightening, the pool is closed! Sadly, we've spent more time indoors this summer than normal.

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Grilled Chicken Chipotle Street Tacos with Chipotle Avocado Crema

I am a big supporter of the arts! I happen to think it is so important to support the arts in my community as well. The arts enrich and inspire our families and especially, my children. We are so fortunate to live in an area where I can literally turn in a circle and point to a city where we would could see some form of an arts performance. Luckily, we have a fabulous arts center in our own village.

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Ultimate Family Road Trip Vacation to Orlando, Florida

The sun is beginning to warm up here in the Midwest and that means it's time to get ready for Summer Vacations. Residents in sunny Florida are so lucky to have sunshine all year long! Here is Chicago, we are not so lucky! My family loves to travel to Florida every few years to really soak up the sunshine! My family of five will be traveling this August for our annual summer vacation and we have selected Florida!

Why Florida -- because, Orlando is a magical place.

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Taking a Break Over the Summer with #Netflix

This past school year was a whirlwind for me. I think I spent at least 2-4 hours, sometimes more, in the driver's seat, shuffling my kiddos from one activity to another. It was brutal. By the end of may, I was spent. Quite literally, my brain had finally fizzled out and died. Not really, but you get the idea.

Three kids schedules is a lot to manage in the suburbs, when every activity location is no less than 10 miles away from our home!

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4th of July American Cake Shakes

Last year while we were in New York, we stayed at this really fun hotel in SOHO. We walked around quite a bit from our hotel, to get to public transportation and on our way one day, I spied a fun restaurant. There was a line out the door and around the corner to this teeny, tiny, little restaurant. We peeked closer to see what the "what" was about. This is when we discovered CAKE SHAKES!

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5 Reasons to Stay On-Site When Visiting Universal Orlando

When we visit Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida; we like to stay in on-site resorts. Universal Orlando offers five amazing on-site hotels—with a sixth on the way (in 2018)!! There are numerous reasons to stay on-site whilst visiting Universal Orlando, but I have 5 reasons that have been quite beneficial to my family of five.

Firstly, here are your options for selecting an on-site resort at Universal Orlando.


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Inspiring Ideas to Take Better Summer Photographs

When the summer sunshine finally arrives here in the midwest, Chicago to be exact, we really can’t wait to spend time outdoors. We certainly have enough of gloomy weather all winter long and spring can be fierce and cold here as well.  We wait so long to enjoy the elusive sun, when it finally makes an appearance; we are outdoors all day long, literally soaking up as many vitamin D rays as possible.


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10 Summer Reading Programs for Kids | FREE

For as long as I can remember, I have had my children read, daily. I was a voracious book reader as a child and really want all my children to love books as well. My son used to read two or three books at a time. My oldest daughter is not keen on books, which makes me sad; although she does love when I read to her. My youngest daughter is a lover of words, like me and it delights my heart.

Every summer, I select books for each of my children to read and we chat about the books and sometimes even have comprehension tests and book reports! Last summer, I created a list of books for my super smart son, but all the books were at college level and he really didn't enjoy any of the books. This summer I decided to select age-appropriate books . . . . and he read one book in two days! (I've learned my lesson)

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How to Stop Summer Brain Drain

Summer breezes are blowing in my windows these days and my children’s motivation toward their (summer) is floating right out that same open window. Green grass and trees and shrubs are in full bloom. Flowers are blooming everywhere. There is even a new robin’s nest with a couple of eggs sitting in the tree in our parkway. All these bright colors, after the gloom and doom of a Chicago winter and spring are simply too enticing for my children. The outdoors are calling my children and distracting them from concentrating on schoolwork indoors.

And, yes, we do school, a bit, in the summer months. I decide to go with the flow and instead of fighting for my children’s attention, I put the textbooks aside, for the time being,  and we headed outdoors.

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Family Dynamics is 100% Different During the Summer

Just as the summer is beginning to gear up and I am getting used to having my children around all day long, although I do have my daughters around all day long, everyday . . . but I feel like we have "school hours" and during that time, I'm not really on-duty for mom duties - if that makes any sense at all . . .. . . but it is summer break now and all three kiddos are home and I have to say I think I may find it hard for my children to return to school. (snort and snicker do I hear)

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Summer Streaming #StreamTeam

We finished up school last Monday, it was officially their last day of academy and the last day of home educating for this tired mama. My son has his last official day of school today. He will be cleaning out his locker and saying goodbye to freshman year of high school.

I will give the girls a small break before we hit the books again. We always have reading and math in the summer months, but not as heavy. All three of my kiddos are required to read one hour per day, every day of the summer months. . .  I know, I am wretched! BUT, reading is essential for kids, so it remains on schedules!

Once reading (and math, three day a week) is completed for the day, the kiddos are allowed media privileges.

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Anne of Green Gables Raspberry Cordial

Canadian author L.M. Montgomery first debuted a flame-haired protagonist in 1908 in a book titled Anne of Green Gables. This book is about a red-headed, orphaned girl who lives in an Edwardian era in Canada named, Anne Shirley.

I always felt a strong connection to Anne with and "e" when I was a young tween because 1) I am a red-head and 2) I am strong-willed, confident and super sensitive and 3) my middle name is Anne - spelled with a "e". I feel things deeply, care deeply and am super passionate about these. Eve though I am not an orphan, I have always felt a deep connection to this book.

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Equipped for Spring & Summer

When I was a young girl, growing up in rural Iowa, summers seemed like they were at least an entire year long. I would wake up, hurriedly eat breakfast and dash out the door to spend the day with my friends. We would ride our bicycles all over our tiny rural city, swim in gravel pits and the local swimming pool, eat watermelon and let the juices drip down off our elbows, and basically run all over town from sunrise to well after sunset.

I really have invaluable memories of summertime from my childhood. I would give anything to be able give those some memories to my children with the most beautiful gift wrapped box. However, we do not live i rural Iowa and times have certainly changed in the past 30+ years.

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What Will You Watch to Begin the Conversation?

Today’s teenagers prefer to watch Vine videos and YouTube videos over actual television. My son is pretty much obsessed with YouTube these days. He is a typical teenager in that he has his cell phone permanently glued to his hand at all times.  I'm pretty lenient with his usage except during certain times. No phones at the dinner table. Ever. No phones in church, although he tries, even after I give the 'mom look'. My husband won't allow him to stare endlessly at his phone when they are driving together (my husband is driving, not my son). And no cell phone alone in his bedroom, at all, at any time, but especially at night. the phone is plugged in downstairs and he sleeps upstairs in his room.

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