I’m Autumn and my husband is Charley. I’m a stay at home mama and he is a General Contractor. We decided to start this blog to chronicle our adventures in parenting, renovating, cooking, living a healthier lifestyle, and making the most of being blended (just to name a few).
This post is sponsored by Kohl’s. I was paid for this post and received the included toys as compensation.
Don’t get too jealous, but I’m pretty much done with my holiday shopping. Thanks to Kohl’s amazing selection of toys both in-store and online, I was able to cross off almost everything on my kid’s wish lists! Kohl’s carries all the top toy brands like Melissa & Doug, Fisher Price, Hot Wheels, Disney Princess, and Lego. So it was basically a one-stop shop for me this holiday season! Let me show you what I picked up for my boys.
Sonny is really into puzzles right now, so this Melissa & Doug wooden tools puzzle is perfect for him. We just love the quality! I also picked up this pots and pans set – also from Melissa & Doug! All of my kids love playing in their toy kitchen, making pretend food for Mommy and Daddy, so I know that they would love these pots and pans. And again, you can’t go wrong with Melissa & Doug. The quality of all of their toys is amazing! Kohl’s has a HUGE selection of Melissa & Doug for all ages, both boys and girls. You need to check it out!
Legos have been a huge hit in our family for a long time. We have been wanting to snag a Lego Classic Large Creative Brick Box Set for awhile, and at the price Kohl’s had it on sale for, we couldn’t pass it up! Luca is going to be so excited to open this up on Christmas morning! We love the kind of toys that promote creativity and imagination, and Legos are perfect for that. Kohl’s had a bunch of other fun sets as well – from Harry Potter to Lego Friends to Jurassic World, there is something for everybody on your list.
One of my favorite toy purchases from Kohl’s has to be the Fisher Price Little People Songs & Sounds Camper Set! Our family loves camping, so I thought this would be a fun toy for the boys to play with. The Little People toys are so adorable too! I also picked up a Fisher Price Imaginext Jurassic World Dinosaur set for Luca. He is currently obsessed with anything and everything Jurassic World, so I know that he will be so excited to add this to his collection!
The last toy that I picked up from Kohl’s is the Hot Wheels Jumbo Megamat. All of my boys love playing with Hot Wheels, so this is the perfect gift for them. It’s a foam mat with a scene printed on it that they can race their cars on. It’s also water-resistant and wipes clean, so bonus for Mom!
The best part of all this shopping – everything was on sale! AND I got Kohl’s cash for shopping too! Which I then used to pick up the rest of the items on my holiday list. I. Love. Kohl’s. Make sure that you go visit your nearest store, or check their toy selection out online. You won’t regret it! Happy Shopping!
My blog may contain links to other websites. I am not responsible for the privacy policies of those other websites. When you click on a link, your information may be collected by those websites so I encourage you to read their privacy policies. Any affiliate links are not associated with Kohl’s.
“This post is sponsored by Kohl’s. I was paid for this post and received the included home goods as compensation.”
The next couple of months are my absolute favorite time of the year! And not just because of the delicious food. The holidays are when I get to see family that I don’t get to see much throughout the year. Some of these relatives are from out of town, so my family gets the pleasure of hosting them! Which is why today I’m sharing with you how I create the perfect guest room for the holidays.
The most important part of the guest room – the bed. It has to be comfortable, and inviting. That’s where the bedding comes in. I like the bedding to have a holiday style to it – so festive! And this CuddlDuds set from Kohl’s is absolutely perfect. The set came with the red plaid comforter, 2 matching shams, and the adorable “Stay Cozy” pillow. That might be my favorite part of the whole bed! To make sure that my guests stay extra warm during their stay, I added the flannel sheets from CuddlDuds too. They are amazingly soft. The last piece of the bed is the faux fur throw, also from CuddlDuds. It’s pretty much the softest blanket you will ever own. You can find all of this gorgeous Winter Bedding from Kohl’s here!
Another bonus – Kohl’s is having a HUGE Home sale from November 7th to November 18th! There are four amazing brands included in the sale – Columbia, Serta, The Big One, and CuddlDuds. You can find so many quality home essentials at amazing prices.
After I get the bed all set up, I like to add a few more touches to the room for my guests. I like to put these items in the room to make them feel more at home, and to make things as convenient as possible while they are staying with us!
1. Books and magazines
2. Bottles of water
3. Small bags of snacks and sweets
4. Basic toiletries (in case they forget anything)
5. Mints on the pillow (of course!)
The holidays can’t come soon enough! I am so excited to share my home with family, who I know will love this cozy and inviting guest room. Share your tips on creating a guest room in the comments below!
“My blog may contain links to other websites. I am not responsible for the privacy policies of those other websites. When you click on a link, your information may be collected by those websites so I encourage you to read their privacy policies.”
Our family was lucky enough to sneak away for 3 days to Woodloch Resort in the Poconos – and we fell in love! Woodloch is a gorgeous, all-inclusive family resort nestled in the mountains by a beautiful lake. You guys, it reminds me so much of the resort in Dirty Dancing! Except Woodloch is much more kid-friendly, lol. We had our 3 youngest with us – ages 7, 4, and 21 months – and there was so much to do for everyone. I’m so excited to share our trip with you!
There are a few different options for rooms at the resort. Our family stayed in the Mountain Laurel building, which houses the amazing indoor pool area. It was so convenient being able to get there without going outside! So our room was a Deluxe Lakeview. We had our own private balcony, with a gorgeous view of the lake! After putting the kids to bed, Charley and I relaxed out there with a drink, and just enjoyed the peace and quiet.
We spent time at the pool area both evenings of our stay – we couldn’t keep the kids away! This area is newly renovated, and so much fun! The outdoor pool has a splash pad, 12 person hot tub, and a tiki bar. Inside, there is a HUGE splash pad for the kids, along with a new 40-foot water slide! They also have several Jacuzzis and saunas. The pools were definitely one of our favorite areas of the whole resort.
Every morning when you get to your breakfast table, there is a daily events calendar waiting for you. It separates the activities by morning, afternoon, late afternoon, and evening, so that you can plan out your day! It also specifies which activities are appropriate for which age groups. Some examples of the activities during our stay: family scavenger hunt, petting zoo and pony rides, mini golf contest, trivial pursuit contest, jackpot bingo games, a carnival with tons of boardwalk games and prizes, etc. The list goes on and on! They also had evening entertainment which included magic shows, a ventriloquists, movies, and a “Diamond Jubilee” to celebrate their 60th anniversary. And all of this is included in your stay!! How amazing is that?! We had a BLAST participating in these activities!
In addition to all of the activities Woodloch plans throughout the day, there are quite a few amenities that are available at most times, and are also included in your stay! We actually were able to take advantage of most of these! I mentioned the amazing pool complex before, with the indoor and outdoor pools, splash pads, and water slide. Charley, Luca, and Enzo got to try out the all-new EZ-Glide Synthetic Skate Rink! So cool! We also took advantage of the Viper Go-Carts (for parents and older kids), and the Jr. Go-Carts (for the younger kiddos). The five of us took a leisurely paddle boat ride across the lake, which the kids loved. The Indoor Forest Playground, Arcade, and Bumper Cars were other favorites of my 3 little guys!
Make sure you go to my Instagram page and check out my story highlight labeled “Woodloch.” I posted tons of video and pictures of the activities and amenities that we took part in!
My family LOVED how Woodloch dining is set up. As I mentioned before, this is an all-inclusive resort, so your meals are included in your stay. We had each meal in the Main Dining Room, and you are seated at the same table every time. Ours had a beautiful view of the lake! Our first meal was Friday dinner – Charley and I both got the Prime Rib, which was amazing. And the kids got to choose from about 10 different options for their dinner. They also have character appearances for the kids at every meal!
Breakfast on Saturday and Sunday were both delicious. So many options! And if you visit Woodloch, you MUST get the crumb cake. Best I’ve ever had! I have to say that lunch both days were probably our favorite. On Saturday, they did a huge outdoor cookout. There were burgers, hot dogs, chicken, pasta salads, oysters, corn on the cob, you name it. They even had servers passing out huge ice cream sandwiches for dessert. Now you can see why all 3 of my kids cried leaving, lol. The lunch on Sunday was equally as delicious. Tons of appetizers – bruschetta, cheese and meat trays, smoked salmon, olives, etc. And the lunch was a huge seafood buffet. We ate so much.
I also have to mention the INCREDIBLE wait staff. We had the same 2 servers the entire time we were there, and they were just amazing. They knew our kids by name, and treated them so wonderfully. And I’ve never had a dining experience where the servers were more accommodating. They got us whatever we needed to keep the kids happy! We were sad to say goodbye to them!
We Can’t Wait to Come Back!
I truly can’t recommend Woodloch enough for a family vacation. The resort itself is beautiful, and the surrounding area could only be described as scenic. The staff is courteous and accommodating, and our room with the view of the lake was perfect for our family. All of the activities and amenities kept us busy the entire time, which was just what we needed for our 3 little guys. And as you can see by my meal descriptions, we were sufficiently stuffed during our stay! We can’t wait to plan our next trip to Woodloch!
*This post was sponsored by Woodloch, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.
“To be passive is to let others decide for you. To be aggressive is to decide for others. To be assertive is to decide for yourself. And to trust that there is enough, that you are enough.” -Edith Eva Eger
This quote should really be the Stepmom’s motto. Being an assertive Stepmom absolutely means deciding for yourself. This is YOUR life. Do not let anyone tell you how to live it. Do not let anyone tell you the kind of Stepmom you SHOULD be. You know what is best for you and your family. It’s time to start standing up for that. And I’m going to share with you some ways to do it.
Learn To Say No
This one can be difficult for Stepmoms to master. We never want to be labeled the evil Stepmother, right? So we give in to our step kids when we shouldn’t, or maybe we don’t discipline them like we should. Obviously this doesn’t do anyone any favors. My husband and I learned quickly that the children actually craved discipline and structure. They needed it! Going back and forth between houses with different rules is hard. It makes it much easier if everyone knows what to expect. So don’t feel guilty about saying no to your step kids.
This doesn’t just apply to the kids. It is perfectly ok to tell your husband no too! Sometimes, we’ve just had enough. Enough drama. Enough conflict. And we need a break. My husband has been wonderful about giving me those breaks. Just make sure that you communicate your need for one before you get to your breaking point!
I don’t know about you, but I am much more likely to listen to someone and take them seriously, if they are speaking to me in a calm, cool manner. So before you have that conversation with your husband or your step kid’s mom that you’ve been planning for, relax! Collect your thoughts, prepare what you want to say, and be confident in your approach. Being an assertive stepmom doesn’t mean being aggressive.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become very unapologetic when it comes to how I live my life, and especially how I parent. Like I said before, you know what’s best for your family. And calmly conveying that to someone can feel pretty liberating!
This is perhaps the most important aspect of being an assertive Stepmom. Boundaries need set from the get-go, if you want any semblance of peace in your life. Here are two of the ways that my husband and I did this in the beginning:
First, we made rules about the conversations being held in our home, during family time. For the kids, that meant no complaining about the other household, or badmouthing any member of the other household. Now if there was a real problem, of course they were told to come to us with that. But, “My mom made me eat all of my vegetables at dinner,” is not a real problem. We told the kids that we love hearing about the fun things that they do at their Mom’s house, and encouraged those stories instead.
We also set boundaries concerning conversations with my husband’s ex. Now if your situation is very low-conflict, and you can make all the parenting decisions together without any problems, then you don’t have to worry about this. But if not, you may want to limit your exchanges to email or text. An in-person or phone conversation can turn hostile quick, and can take up your entire evening. So send an email or text instead, which lets you control when you respond. Don’t waste any of that precious family time arguing or being stressed out!
This is YOUR life. You are not a spectator. As a Stepmom, we can be made to feel this way sometimes. It seems that everyone has an opinion on how you should act, feel, run your household, you name it! Now I’m sure there are MANY things that you’d like to say. But usually, we keep our mouths shut for fear of starting conflict or being judged. To be clear, I am not suggesting that you suddenly start telling your husband, step kids, and the ex-wife everything you’ve been thinking since day one. But I am saying that you have every right to make yourself heard! Enter the assertive Stepmom!
I know so many Stepmoms who keep their thoughts and feelings from their husbands, because they don’t want to cause any more stress in their home. I can guarantee that this will lead to unhappiness and resentment every. single. time. If you and your husband are having difficulty communicating about your blended family life, I highly suggest seeking the help of a good counselor. There is nothing wrong with asking for help! And getting a fresh perspective is never a bad idea.
Now when it comes to voicing your opinion to your husband’s ex-wife, you have to be careful. Every situation is different, of course, but when it comes down to it, she is the kid’s mother. Essentially, it is up to her and your husband to make the decisions regarding their children. However, I absolutely think that you have every right to give input. And luckily, in our situation, when a big decision needs to be made, my husband, myself, the kid’s mom, and her husband, usually sit down together to figure things out. And if you can make this work, I highly recommend it. The best decisions are made when all parties involved have a chance to voice their opinion.
Let Go Of Guilt
You can’t please everyone, Mama! And the sooner you embrace this fact, the sooner you can be the assertive Stepmom you want to be. There is so much potential guilt lurking in Stepmom life. “Do my step kids know how much I love them?” “Does it look like I favor my biological kids over my step kids?” “Am I stepping on anyone’s toes?” After years of worrying about all of these things, I decided to let it all go. Because at the end of the day, I know that I am doing my best. And I know that my husband and ALL of my kids feel loved. And in blended family life, that’s all that you can really ask for.
*This post on Quiet Bags may contain affiliate links.
One of my goals as a mom (and as a person) is to be more prepared. I’m sure most of you can relate. There is nothing worse than getting to where you’re going, and realizing you forgot something, or have nothing to entertain your kids. Having five kids has definitely taught me that I need to be prepared for any situation! So I recently put together quiet bags to entertain my kids, no matter where we are. Now I made sure all of the items were quiet, i.e. church appropriate, since we spend our Sundays there. So here are my top picks – you can find them by clicking on the picture, or in the last line of my description! And as always, share yours with me in the comments!
Zoocchini is one of my favorite brands for kids! This backpack is the perfect size to take anywhere, and just so cute. They carry a bunch of different animal options too. You can find the shark here.
2. Boogie Board
This is definitely the hit of the quiet bag. So much so that I ordered two! Just trying to prevent sibling fights over here. These boards are actually really cool! You draw on it with that pen, and then when you’re done, you just hit the button at the top and it erases it. These boogie boards keep them busy for a long time. You can find them here.
3. Monkey Noodle
Monkey Noodles are a fun sensory/fidget toy for kiddos over 3 years old. Even our 11 year old loves them! Each noodle stretches from 10 inches to 8 feet – it’s true, my kids have tested that many times. You can twist them, tie them, stretch them, etc, and they always go back to their original shape. They are super durable! Each pack comes with 5 noodles. You can find them here.
4. Dog Man Books
My 6 year old is OBSESSED with these books! They are comic-style, and a really fun read. There are five books in the series currently, and we are working on collecting them all! You can find them here.
5. Not a Stick
This is a favorite of our little guys right now. This book talks about the different ways you can use your imagination when playing with a stick. We also have “Not A Box” – equally as adorable! You can find it here.
6. Melissa and Doug Water Wow! Activity Pads
These activity pads are so fun! You just fill up those pens with water, and the kids can “color” the pictures with them. When the water touches the page, the colors appear. Then you can just let them dry and start all over again. They come in a 2-pack: vehicles and animals! My 6 and 4 year olds love these! You can find them here.
7. Tangle Jr.
The Tangle Jr. is another fun sensory/fidget toy. We have the fuzzy one, but they also come in smooth and textured styles as well. You can twist these into so many different shapes, and is actually described as an anti-stress device too! So as a mom of five, I should probably stock up on these, lol. You can find it here.
So that is what you can find in our quiet bags! Share your favorites with me in the comments!
We are way overdue for a new Charley Says around here! I have been saving some really great quotes from my crazy husband – I hope you enjoy them as much as I do! I also wanted to share a few pictures from Charley and Kyleigh’s most recent Indian Princess Father/Daughter campout. They had a wonderful time as always :)
Enzo: “Do towel and mouse rhyme?”
Charley: “I think that you’ve forgotten how to rhyme during your sleep deprivation.”
Autumn: “Didn’t Sonny finish that food?”
Charley: “No. I couldn’t handle carnival gaming the spoon into his mouth anymore.”
Charley: “Come on Enzo, you need to get a bath.”
Enzo: (throws fit)
Charley: “No? Ok. You can wash yourself in your own tears then.”
Looks around the living room:
Charley: “I’m not dealing with this mess now. If somebody breaks in, they will just say, “Oh somebody already got this place. There is nothing of value left.”
Lunchtime in our house:
Charley: “Hold on Enzo, I have many things to do in life, and not all of them are corndog-based.”
His Mom calls him in the middle of the day to see if he wants a Dairy Queen coupon that expires that day:
Charley: “I don’t know what you think my job is, that I just drive around eating Royal Treats all day.”
*This post of our favorite 12 books for spring may contain affiliate links.
Today I’m sharing with you our favorite 12 books for spring! We are big readers around here, and I love collecting books for every season/holiday/special occasion. You name it, we have a book about it! Share your favorite spring books in the comments with me!
My kids LOVE the Little Blue Truck series, so we couldn’t wait to add this new one to our collection! The illustrations and colors are so pretty, and my kids love lifting the flaps to find the baby animals.
I think we can all relate to this book right now! A little boy and his dog decide to plant a garden, after they have had enough of the winter snow. The book follows them as they wait and hope for their garden to appear. Perfect for kiddos aged 4-7!
This book not only has classic Dr. Seuss rhymes and super fun illustrations, but it carries a message too. “Unless someone like you…cares a whole awful lot…nothing is going to get better…It’s not.” The Lorax talks about saving the planet in a way that kids can understand. A wonderful classic!
Another classic, this gorgeous Eric Carle book takes you through the life cycle of a flower. This particular book comes with a piece of seed-embedded paper that your kids can plant, and then watch their seeds grow into beautiful flowers!
Another gift that will provide hours of entertainment this spring/summer. I like to get them as many outdoor toys as possible to set myself up for success once school is out! You can find this chalk here.
My absolute favorite summer shoes for kiddos! They are easy to slip on, and more stylish than Crocs (in my opinion). They have a TON of different color options too, for both boys and girls. Native also makes a few different styles, but we usually stick with the Jefferson. You can find them here.
Bath toys are also a HUGE hit in our house. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that my favorite mom move is the midday bath. There are many posts with the hashtag #getmetonaptime. So I try to supply my boys with toys that will keep them busy for at least an hour in the tub. It’s just better when they are contained ;) These Nuby bath crayons are our favorite, and you can find them here.
I’ve shared this brand with you before – they make the most adorable sunglasses for babies and kids! All of my boys have them. They come in a few different styles, and a bunch of different colors too. Babiators are super durable too, which is very necessary with my kids. You can find them here.
We got the two older boys Farm Hoppers for Christmas, and I can easily say it is their most played-with toy! So I had to get Sonny his own for Easter. A bunny was the obvious choice ;) But they do have a bunch of different animal options. I highly recommend this toy! You can find them here.
This adorable bunny mobile device holder is one of my favorite Easter basket ideas! Luca actually has one for his iPad, so I wanted to get Enzo one for his phone that he uses to play games (my old phone). You attach a magnetic strip to the back of your device (under the cover), and it then can attach to the PawdPet. Like I said, it comes in two sizes, one for larger devices like tablets and iPads, and one for smaller mobile devices. I got Bun Bun for Enzo to stick with the Easter theme! You can find it here.
I hope you found these Easter basket ideas helpful! Leave your favorite ideas in the comments below!
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t grow up thinking that I would end up marrying a man with kids. It’s not really something that you prepare for. Or probably know much about. Which is why I’m here to help! I’ve been through those first years, which can be SO ROUGH. Now, I’ve never been the kind of person to keep my feelings inside. I don’t bottle up emotions. I like to voice my opinions. Just ask my husband ;) This turned out to be both a good thing and a bad thing when it came to marrying a man with kids. I 100% believe that communication is the key to success in any situation, but ESPECIALLY in a blended family. And ESPECIALLY for a Stepmom. So today I want to share with you 5 discussions that you NEED to have when marrying a man with kids.
Having Children of your Own
I started a conversation about this very early on. I knew that I wanted children of my own, so if he didn’t, it would be pointless to continue dating. Luckily, he wanted more kids! This issue is something that needs talked about from the very start of a relationship with a man with children. Well maybe not the VERY start. You don’t want to scare him ;) But at least when things begin to get serious, you need to make sure that you are on the same page. This would absolutely be a deal breaker in most marriages.
In the beginning, I had little to no communication with my stepkid’s mom. My husband worked everything out with her, and that was fine by me. It wasn’t my place. But over the years, with my husband’s blessing, she and I actually started to talk more, and we have done things like plan birthday parties together, work out schedule changes, etc. She is remarried now as well, so it isn’t uncommon for the four of us to sit down to discuss important issues. Every situation is different, and you need to know what the co-parenting situation with the ex is, so that you are prepared.
Your Role in the Kid’s Lives
My husband was very clear in the beginning that he wanted me to be a big part of his children’s lives. And I wanted that too. Both of his children were very young when we started dating, so it wasn’t too difficult of a transition for them. I was just another person to help take care of them when they were with their Dad. Over time, of course, I took on a more motherly role, and for some time now have been involved in every aspect of their lives. Obviously every situation is different, and the ages (and attitudes) of the kids when you enter their lives plays a huge part in how involved you will be. But I think it is important to discuss how big of a role you want to play, as well as how big of a role your significant other wants you to play.
This kind of goes along with the discussion above, but I believe that discipline is so important – it deserves a category of it’s own. Now when a couple decides to have children, they most likely don’t discuss how they will discipline the child. They are more worried about surviving life with a new baby. But when you marry a man with children, you need to be on the same page with styles of discipline, as well as how involved you will actually be in disciplining his kids. I have heard SO MANY stories of Stepmoms in disbelief over the lack of discipline their significant other provides. Which can lead to problems in every aspect of family life. When kids are going back and forth between Mom’s house and Dad’s house, it is vital that they have structure and discipline. But that’s a post for another day! As a Stepmom, especially in the beginning stages, we don’t always feel comfortable stepping in to discipline. My husband and I decided that he would be in charge of disciplining until the kids got more used to me being around. As I said before, his children were very young so I had it pretty easy. I never had to hear “You’re not my Mom.” Which I am forever grateful for. My husband and I also figured out what style of discipline we wanted to use, and stuck with that. And we kept with that style over the years, and now use it with our 3 boys as well.
This can be a tricky subject, but since studies say that money is the leading cause of stress in relationships, it is absolutely one that should be discussed. Merging lives and bank accounts is difficult enough, but when there are children from a previous marriage in the picture, there are so many other aspects involved. Maybe your significant other pays or receives child support. Maybe there is an agreement in place where they split the kid’s expenses 50/50. Whatever the situation, you need to be aware of it. My husband and I moved in together before we were married, and at that time we decided to merge our bank accounts. So essentially, I was contributing to the needs of his kids too. And I was fine with that. Because I knew what the situation was from the get-go. Now I know many couples who choose to keep their bank accounts separate, even after marriage. And that’s totally fine too. You have to do what works for YOUR family. An honest discussion about finances in the beginning can prevent a lot of resentment and arguing in the future.
I really hope that this post can help those women out there about to become a Stepmom, or even those that have been at it for awhile! As always, I’d love to hear your comments below!
It’s time for another Luca Says! If you’re new around here, this series is all about funny quotes from my 6 year old. This is the 15th “Luca Says” post, so make sure you go and check out the others! I promise you won’t be disappointed ;) Also, all of these adorable pictures were taken by Dana Patterson Photography!
Showing his affinity for medicine:
“Mummy, what if you had four babies at once? I bet you’d have to have two groups of doctors do your C-section.”
“Come on Enzo. Grab your Nerf gun and let’s go fight for our country.”
“Mummy, I need to go dumpster diving. I need stuff to make art.”
Me: “Is that a hole in your new pair of jeans??”
Luca: “Mummy, face it. You know there’s nothing you can do to stop this from happening.”
Me: “Did Enzo wake you up?”
Luca: “No. He didn’t wake me up before he go-go’ed. He left me hangin’ on like a yo-yo.”
Complimenting my husband’s cooking skills:
“I heard a commercial say that nobody out-pizzas the Hut. That’s wrong. Daddy does. Daddy out-pizzas the Hut.”