Crated With Love: The Ultimate Date Night At Home

  You guys: how hard is it to plan a date night once you become a parent? So hard! My Valentine and I haven't had a night out since my birthday back in October, so some alone time is truly in order. And while I love a little Netflix and chill, I've been yearning for some dedicated time just for us, so we tried out Crated With Love and are pretty obsessed with everything about it. For the ultimate date night at home... Crated With Love is the perfect date night and investment in your relationship - perfect to use after the kiddos go to bed (ahem...no babysitter required!). Crated With Love is a subscription box that contains everything you need for some fun with your partner. Each box has a fun theme and 4-5 activities that correlate with that theme, honing in on important relationship skills like communication, trust and teamwork - everything you ned to have a happy, healthy relationship. For us, we get so caught up in taking care of everything everyday that we often forget how important it is to make time for us, no kids included. Yes, family time is equally important in the Cooper household, but our relationship is the foundation of everything and if that's not strong then everything else crumbles. Honestly, I was so excited to get the opportunity to write about and experience something that was just for Chris and I. The health of our relationship is huge for us and we often neglect it because we get busy or tired or other things come … [Read more...]

I Broke Up With Breastfeeding and It Made Me a Better Mom

  It's time for me to get real with you all, so I have a confession to make: I broke up with breastfeeding. Yup, me and breastfeeding are no longer a thang. And you know what? I couldn't be happier. It's even made me a better mom. I know. Gasp. I'm sure the "breast is best" crusade is probably ready to come after me, but hold up and just let me explain. If you have followed along through my pregnancy and Blake's birth, you know that I had a very serious breastfeeding plan in mind. In fact, I was heart-set on making it work. You watched me share the products I was using to keep things going, special bras that helped make it a hands free experience for me when pumping, and even my favorite Boppy breastfeeding pillow (which I still love), but there was a lot more going on behind the scenes. The truth is that breastfeeding started consuming my life. I know that it is a commitment and I had prepared myself for that, but the stress of it all began to overwhelm me, take me away from everything else in my life, made me behind on work (work that my family and I need done to survive) and disconnected me from my husband and son. It got to be too much and Chris and I finally decided that enough is enough. First and foremost, I started at a disadvantage. Having a breast reduction when I was 17, I knew that there was a possibility that I only had so many milk ducts intact, so I knew that I would be supplementing to begin with, and I was okay with that. I didn't … [Read more...]

I Want More Days Like These

  On Friday, Branden took a (what we'll call) "mental health day." And I'm totally okay with that. Kids deserve them and need them just as much as we do as adults. I had been wanting to get to the Pixel Forest exhibit at The New Museum before it closed, and we finally did. (Check out some behind the scenes looks on my Instagram stories - it was a really cool exhibit!) Chris had the morning off, so he got up and watched the kids while I got my morning writing done, did all my invoicing, got dinner prepped in the crock pot, ran to the grocery store and finally - took a shower. It was truly magical all that I could get done by 11am whenever I wasn't interrupted. We had lunch and off to the museum we went, while Chris went in the opposite direction for work. It was nice to work that half day and get to spend the rest of the afternoon with the kids, being really present and focusing on this cool exhibit we were about to see. I felt like even though B wasn't in school, I was giving him a culture lesson instead.Then, I realized: I want more days like these. My truth lately is this: I'm struggling a little bit feeling like I should be doing more with my kids. I work from home, yes, my choice so that we don't have to pay for child care, but some days I feel like I yearn for more. I scroll through Instagram and see my friends who are out and about with their kids, constantly exploring the coolest offerings of our city and I wish I could be more present to guide … [Read more...]

Moving Forward

  I have to admit, I contemplated a bit about even writing anything about the new year at all. Everywhere I looked and everyone I talked to seemed to have nothing good to say about 2016 and are ready for 2017 to take the wheel. I, on the other hand, have conflicting feelings. Last year, I wrote about how we were hoping for change in our lives  and 2016 brought just that. Little did everyone know at the time, but when I wrote those words just one year ago, I was pregnant with our little Blake and already knew that change had arrived. Blake has been the biggest blessing and brought together our family in ways that I have never dreamt that she could. Our family is more connected now than ever and she was truly the puzzle piece that we all felt we were missing the second that she was born. Her smile lights up all of our faces and there is nothing that I love more in this world then watching Branden be a big brother and Chris now be a girl dad, too. They are the best father and son duo and I know that as long as I have this little family by my side that anything is possible. I'm excited about the future of the Coopers and know that if we continue to work hard, we will eventually reach our goals of moving out of the city and buying a home that we love. But, that will happen when it's meant to. I'm thankful for everything that 2016 brought in our lives and the word "change" certainly described just that. We in addition to expanding our family, Chris started a … [Read more...]

The Only Bottle For Our Babes

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Philips Avent. As always, opinions are my own.  When we first had Branden, now eight years ago, we were new parents swimming in a sea of bottle options. We went through quite a bit of the many, many brands on the market until we found one that was right for our little guy. Philips Avent was the answer that we had been looking for in those new moments of parenthood that made feeding so much easier. Fast forward to almost nine years later and we didn't even blink an eye stocking up on the Philips Avent Anti-Colic Bottle for little Blake. In fact, these are the only bottles that we will use for our babes. I shared over the summer how I attended a Philips Avent event with Sarah Chalke and got to hear her story about using these awesome bottles with her children, and definitely felt a camaraderie there. You can watch her video here and instantly see that you are in good company with Philips Avent lovers everywhere. When we had Blake, colic was definitely a worry, since we didn't deal with it when we had Branden. At about a month and a half old, it hit us like a ton of bricks and my husband and I were scrambling to find a resolution (and get some sleep, too). We turned to the Philips Avent Anti-Colic Bottle because Philips Avent is the #1 bottle brand and it helped create a better feeding experience for both us and Blake that lessened the screaming and lead to less gas, as it's clinically proven to reduce colic … [Read more...]

In The Spirit of Giving

This post was sponsored by Johnson & Johnson as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own. Giving in any capacity has always been a huge part of my life. Back in high school, I used to go on mission trips with church to countries that were so poor that it made your heart literally ache. I was never much for building things, so my volunteering heart always fled to the children and lifting their spirits in any way that I possibly could. One year, in a small village in Jamaica, I sat with a little girl outside in the blazing heat. She was so interested in my phone and the camera and I brushed it off as her never playing with one before. But it went so much deeper than that. This little girl had never seen a picture of herself. This is something so simple that we take for granted each day. As an adult with a family and a job, my giving now happens in many different forms throughout the year, but I always promised myself that it would be something I would instill in my children as they got older. Blake is much too young to understand and Branden of course isn't perfect, but we do our part as much as we can so that he knows just how fortunate he is and that we should be grateful for all that we have. I try my hardest not to make giving a one time, holiday only yearly thing, but a part of our lives. Living in New York City, we send out our laundry to be washed every other week and in the parking lot of a clothing … [Read more...]

Holiday Safety Tips For Accident Prone Families

  Are you a member of a family who always somehow seems to end up with a knocked over christmas tree? Something always gets caught on fire while cooking? Or you can't quite remember which wires are meant to be used on the outdoor or indoors lights? Yup, I'm right there with you. A few weeks ago when we were putting up our Christmas tree, Branden decided to (very proudly) climb up and put the star on the top without any help while my husband was untangling ornaments and I was changing a diaper. Let's just say we almost had a mini disaster here. This is exactly why we all need to learn a little bit about the most proactive holiday safety tips so that we don't end up spending the most exciting season of the year in the emergency room. Last week, I had the opportunity to attend an event sponsored by Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care  and learned so much about keeping our family safe this holiday season. (Seriously, it was embarrassing how much I didn't realize!) First and foremost though, if you are in a situation where you do need to get to an urgent care, there are 30 different Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care  locations that allow you to self-checkin online and are easy to check the wait time at all the different locations. And as an added mom tip: if you don't feel like pulling your kids out of school for a day to go to the pediatrician, they offer walk-ins for the flu shot for only $20 each - does it get any easier than that? I think … [Read more...]

Minecraft Holiday Gifts For Kids

The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.  If you have followed along on my families adventure on Instagram, you can easily see that Minecraft plays a major role in Branden's life. It's one of those super cool games that I'm okay with him playing as a parent since it strengthens so many different skills and he has even taken classes for working with the Minecraft platform - it's pretty awesome in our eyes. (He has also dressed as both Steve and a Creeper for Halloween two years in a row now.) So, with Christmas "creeping" it's way rather quickly, here's what I have to say about gifting Minecraft gifts this holiday season. First and foremost, Best Buy has so many amazing assortments of Minecraft games and collectables to choose from, there is something for all the kids in your life no matter what stage in the game they are. We've been spending an awful lot of time at Best Buy lately because my computer crashed and I've been working with Geek Squad, so I've had lots of time to peruse their selection. Not sure what Minecraft is? Minecraft is a game about placing blocks and going on adventures. You get the chance to explore randomly generated worlds and build amazing things from the simplest of homes to the grandest of castles. You can play in Creative Mode with unlimited resources or mine deep in Survival Mode, crafting weapons and armor to fend off dangerous mobs. Do all this … [Read more...]

Smart Music For a Smart Baby

  Being a full time work from home mama is super, duper tough stuff. Yes, my schedule is more flexible and no, I don't need to have a babysitter full time (yet!), but my days are still a balancing game. When Branden was a baby, I had more time to give him undivided attention, and he definitely excelled because of that. Sometimes, I worry about Blake not getting my full attention to start educational activities, so being introduced to the Nuryl music app put my mind at ease, at it has so easily been integrated into our daily lives for a smarter future. There have been so many studies done (including this one from University of Washington's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences) that link together the role music plays in how smart babies can become and it makes perfect sense to me. We noticed really early on that when we played music, any music for Blake on Pandora that it instantly made her happy and calm and when we found Nuryl, it just took things to a whole new level. (Follow along on Instagram this week where I will be sharing behind the scenes of our experience using Nuryl!) The Nuryl music app can be easily downloaded on your phone for free, but there is an annual subscription for $89.99 or monthly subscription for $9.99 - totally worth it! The program was developed by Rick Beato, a classically trained musician. It is a music immersion program, specifically designed to improve cognac development for babies still in the womb to age two years … [Read more...]

The Easy Pillsbury Holiday Cookies You Want This Season

This post is sponsored by Pillsbury. As always, opinions are my own.  Spoiler alert: I'm not much of a baker. I know. Gasp. All the noises. BUT, that doesn't mean that I don't love doing it. In fact, baking is probably one of my favorite things to do with Branden (and I hope that Blake joins in next year!) - especially around the holidays. I will say this though, nothing complicated in the baking (or cooking for the matter) department for this girl. I'm all about simplicity so that I can focus on more time with the ones I love most, which is why my holiday baking always these easy Pillsbury holiday cookies. These easy Pillsbury holiday cookies may not look like much, which is why making them in a total stress-free experience - but holy crap they taste amazing. The secret is buried deep within the flawless, turns out perfect every single time Pillsbury sugar cookies and this icing - or is it actually icing? Read on to find out, you just might be surprised! So before I share my secret icing ingredients, I want to tell a little backstory about our holiday baking. If you follow along, you know that I'm from Pittsburgh and almost every year we travel there to spend the holiday with my family. So that we can spread the baking love, we always bring cookies that we bake with us for the holiday and share Christmas eve with everyone. My parents host Christmas eve at their house, we we fill plates will loads of sweet treats and these super easily Pillsbury holiday cookies are the … [Read more...]