Marriage Mondays: Don’t Get Married for the Wrong Reasons

As you probably know about me at this point, I think marriage is awesome. You can check out past Marriage Monday posts and see that I find great value in marriage [to the right person]. That being said, so many people get married for the wrong reasons. They think that marriage is a magical fix-it band-aid that will make everything better.

Newsflash.

That is not what marriage is.

Marriage is a commitment to love someone until your dying day and demonstrate that love by standing by them through the ups and downs of life. Staying with them when you’re swimming in money. Staying with them when you don’t have two nickels to rub together. Being with someone during sickness, health, and everything in-between. Marriage is REAL y’all! It’s supposed to be for forever.

That being said, so many people get married for the wrong reasons. If you’re single, in a relationship, engaged, or whatever the case may be, check your heart and make sure you’re not about to get married for the wrong reason.

5 wrong reasons to get married to someone:

  1. You want a fancy wedding.

Maybe you’re reading that and scoffing at it. Yeah right, who would get married for a nice wedding?  We all know that girl who has been planning their wedding day since they could talk and walk. Some people even have Pinterest boards that have their whole dream wedding documented and they’re not in a relationship yet – I’m not throwing shade, I promise – but some people get so caught up in a beautiful wedding they forget that after the wedding there is an actual marriage to tend to. I think that if people put the effort, time, and energy into their marriages that they put into their actual wedding day, you would see an abundance of relationships thrive. The point I’m making is this: your wedding day is one single day. Your marriage is supposed to be the rest of your life. Invest!

2. Your boyfriend/girlfriend sucks, but if you marry them all of their suckiness will go away.

NOT TRUE! NOT TRUE! NOT TRUE! Can you tell I’m screaming this virtually from my use of caps? The number one mistake I see is that a person marries someone thinking that they can change them. IF YOU WON’T MARRY THEM EXACTLY AS THEY, ARE DON’T MARRY THEM. If they are a terrible person beforehand, don’t think that solely because you have put a ring on their finger they will suddenly be magical. Marriage doesn’t magically make a terrible person a better one. Don’t marry someone for this reason.

3. You hate being alone.

Marrying someone because you hate being alone is just not enough of a good reason to marry someone. Do you hate being alone? Join a book club. Find a church. Go to a paint party. Yes, companionship is wonderful and marriage is beautiful in that you have a friend and a partner to walk through life with. However, marrying someone on the basis of not being alone is just not enough. Know yourself. Spend time alone. Learn to be content independently. I firmly believe you’ll be a better spouse!

4. It’s part of your 5 year, 10 year, ___ year life plan.

Perhaps you are one of those life planner people. For example, it goes like this: By 25 I want to be in a serious committed relationship on the way to engagement. By 26, I want to be engaged. By 27,  I want to be married. By 28 I want to have my first kid because I CAN’T HAVE KIDS IN MY 30S OMG WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF I HAVE A CHILD IN MY 30S.  Calm down. There’s nothing wrong with having a plan! But here’s what I’ve learned: life plans are funny. Most of the time we plan away and there are certain things you can’t control. Don’t settle for someone who isn’t the right person for you so you can check it off your life plan.  A lifetime is too long to be with someone just because it fell into your five-year plan.

5. you’re tired of dating. 

I once heard someone say, “This is the last relationship I plan on being in because I’m tired of dating and just want to get married.” They didn’t mention being in love, whether the person they were dating had the qualities they wanted or anything along those lines.  All I could think to myself was, “Well, that’s some love story to tell one day.” They just wanted to be done with what they felt like was the grueling process of dating. From what I can see from the outside looking in [people not wanting to be committed and living in more of a hook-up type of generation] I can only imagine how exhausting the whole dating process must be now.  Especially when so many people play games. However, it’s not a good reason to settle. Forever is too long. If you’re tired of dating, take a break from it for awhile. Don’t settle for some Joe Schmo who you don’t really care about. It’s a waste for you and that person and will cost you both in the end.

All of this to say, marriage is awesome and if you are going to get married to someone, don’t do it for the wrong reasons. Xo!

 

8 Years Married: 8 Lessons I’ve Learned

Jose and I are celebrating 8 years of marriage! I am kind of in awe of that. I’m not surprised that we’re still married, but I can’t believe it’s been 8 years already.


It feels like just yesterday I was floating down the aisle towards my high school sweetheart, a bundle of nerves in my stomach but so sure in my heart. Eight years later, I am still so sure and so in love. In a culture that minimizes the importance of marriage and practically scoffs at commitment, where divorce runs rampant and marriages apparently face some kind of ‘7-year itch’ I can shout from the rooftops that MARRIAGE IS BEAUTIFUL. I still love it!

8 Lessons I’ve learned in 8 years of marriage:

1. Teamwork really does make the dream work.

I think part of what has helped our relationship flourish so much is the fact that we are a team. We team up on pretty much every single thing in life. His dreams are my dreams. My goals are his goals. We do what we can to support one another. I found that this is especially critical when it comes to parenting. We have always parented and continue to parent as a team. There is nothing that is deemed something that only mom does or dad does [okay, except maybe wrestling but I’m just not a wrestler!] We support each other. If he’s had a busy day with clients and has been out all day, I know I may have to step up when it comes to cooking, cleaning, or getting school things together for the boys. If I’ve had a challenging day and his day is slow, it’s nothing for him to cook dinner, do laundry, and pick up the kids from school. He is always willing to help me and vice versa. This is so integral to any relationship, in my opinion.

2. You reap what you sow.

You have heard this a thousand times. Why is that? BECAUSE IT’S TRUE. You will get out of a marriage what you put into it. If you treat your marriage like a piece of garbage, that’s what your marriage will eventually become. If you don’t prioritize your relationship or each other, it will reflect, I can promise that. Something that’s big for us is quality time. We can live in the same household and be two ships passing in the night if we don’t prioritize spending time together and having conversation. Because this is essential for the both of us, we make sure we pour a lot of that into our relationship, even if it means turning down other engagements [sorry family and friends – I still love you!]. I always want to sow into my relationship so that we can see the benefits of that.

3. for better or for worse truly means for better or for worse.

Life isn’t a fairytale and sometimes crap hits the fan. Life gets SUPER REAL all of a sudden. For Jose and I, three years into our marriage we faced the challenge of infertility. When our boys were born, they faced quite a few medical issues. The first year of their lives was SO hard! After that, one of the boys had a medical diagnosis that presented more challenges. And the list goes on and on. The point I’m making is that for all of the mountaintops we had, we had a ton of valleys. Our vows were tested repeatedly. Don’t go into marriage with the false assumption that you will ride off into the sunset and it will always be a fairytale. Yet, know that when you hit the hard times, these challenges will be a catalyst for growth if you allow them to be.

4. There’s no room for selfishness.

Marriage for me was a reality check that the entire world didn’t revolve around me. Growing up as a middle child but the only girl out of two brothers meant that I was the apple of my family’s eyes, especially on my dad’s side. I usually got what I wanted. I scoffed at the idea of cooking and cleaning because it wasn’t “fun” and I “didn’t like it.” I stood firm all the way up to the wedding day that I wouldn’t cook or clean and I shouldn’t have to because it was a gender stereotype that I was supposed to. A whole lot of words to sum up me being selfishness. Guess what? When I got back from the honeymoon and realized my new husband and I had to eat food, I learned to cook pretty quickly.

5. The Words you speak to each other matter.

I wrote a post already about this one, so I won’t repeat myself too much except to say this: you can’t take back words. Words have the power to bring life to your spouse or to destroy their spirit. Choose wisely and recognize that many marriages are destroyed over words.

6. romance and intimacy are important.

Sometimes couples get really comfortable and start to think this doesn’t matter or start treating their spouse like more of a live-in roommate. Don’t fall into that trap! Go on dates. Get creative. Try new adventures together. Protect your marriage and recognize that a little romance goes a long way! If you haven’t read the 5 Love Languages, I recommend that for any married couple. Find out your spouse’s love language and start speaking it. For me, whenever Jose gives me a handwritten card my heart just melts into a giant sappy puddle on the floor. Written words from him always make me cry for some reason. He can get me an amazing gift, but the card and his note to me is what always gets to me! It’s the little things!

 

7. The Two C’s: Compromising and Communication

Being married to my husband has taught me a lot about compromise! We have completely opposite tastes in a lot of areas. We enjoy doing different things. We don’t like the same kinds of movies. We have varying tastes in music. BUT the fun part is compromising with each other and as a result, stepping out of our comfort zones and tastes to do what the other loves! Communication is an obvious one, but it’s essential! I’m not a mind reader and neither is my husband. We have to communicate our struggles, desires, dreams, the bad days, good days, and everything inbetween. Also, just to talk. Unplug. Put phones away and have solid conversation.

8. No marriage should be an island.

Support and community matter. For our relationship, the wisdom of people we respect and admire has strengthened us during the hard times of life. There’s something powerful about knowing that people have your back and that you have people you can trust and talk to. I especially love talking to people who have a marriage I admire, have been married a long time, and are filled with wisdom and experience! They’ve been there! They get it! Go find those people, talk to them, hang out with them.

In eight years, I can still say marriage is beautiful. It’s what you make it. We aren’t perfect people. Far from it! Yet I’m so happy I married this guy and am looking forward to spending the rest of my life with him. Here’s to growing old together.

  

Our Ocean City, NJ Vacation and Why You Should Visit

Ocean City, NJ Vacation

This year for vacation we went to a local spot and one of my favorite places: Ocean City, NJ. This is my absolute favorite beach! We stayed here once before when the boys were around one and it was a fun experience! When I was thinking of places to vacation I wanted to stay local and have a stress free vacation. Ocean City, NJ for us was a no-brainer. We are only about 45 minutes away and yet it feels like a world away. We rented the same beach house we stayed at before and it was AWESOME.

What’s the point of vacation, after all? For my family, it’s pure relaxation. We are the kind of family that likes to breathe and not run from one place to another. You know how some people like to hit every attraction? Yeah, not us. We are lazy vacationers at best, but I’d have it no other way and this year was no exception.

From the time I was a preteen, Ocean City, NJ has held a really special place in my heart! I used to vacation here with my best friend and her family during my preteen into teen years. I have so many warm fuzzy memories. Long walks around Ocean City, the bay area, beautiful neighborhoods with a Vanilla Pepsi in hand talking about our hopes, dreams, and crushes. When I think back to my teen years, my OC vacations with my best friend and her family are a clear highlight. We always said we wanted our children to love the beach and Ocean City as much as we did and we succeeded.

See, when your life feels like it’s going about a million miles a minute regularly it’s so beautiful to take a week where all of that is on pause. My husband and I literally said we aren’t going to talk work, business, church…anything. We aren’t going to stress or worry. We are going to relax. That’s pretty much what we did as much as possible, except for hubs doing some real estate work (which I have found is practically unavoidable – since he’s become a realtor we’ve never had a trip where he didn’t have to work a little). It was fantastic and we are likely going to do at least one beach vacay a year we are thinking.

If you’re not from the South Jersey Area and aren’t familiar with Ocean City, I’m going to give you some reasons why you should consider an Ocean City, NJ vacation.

Reasons you should consider an ocean city, nj vacation:

  1. It’s family friendly.

    Ocean City - Gillian's Pier

Where we vacationed, the people below us were parents of triplet girls. If you go to the boardwalk or to the beach, you’ll see families galore. There are tons of things to do including Gillians Wonderland Pier, mini golfing, bike riding on the boardwalk, and more. Also, Ocean City is a dry town and smoking is prohibited on the boardwalk.  It’s just so family oriented and you feel it!

2. It’s a Close walk to the beach.

Ocean City, NJ Boardwalk

Ocean City has a fantastic boardwalk that’s really close to its beach. You can walk right off the boardwalk and the next thing you know, you’re on the beach and don’t have to go far to find yourself in the water.  I don’t want to feel like I’m trekking across the great unknown to have my feet touch the water. I love the fact that everything is in close proximity. Let’s face it, the boardwalk food is 95% of the reason I even go to the beach, who am I kidding?

3. It has an Awesome boardwalk with tons to do.


Mini-Golf, Escape Rooms, Rides, Bumper Carts and all of your essential boardwalk activities are available. I never get tired of walking the boardwalk because there’s always something new to do or something new to see. During the summer on Thursday nights, they have ‘Family Night’ where there is tons of live music and a lively atmosphere. My favorite nights of the summer!

4. it’s Budget Friendly.


Some people might scoff at that, but an Ocean City vacation can be quite affordable actually. Here are a few tips: go in with another family or another person on a beach house. When you do that, you can split the cost. So if a beach house will cost you $1250 for the week, divide that by two and you get the idea. What we did was we ate breakfast at the house, usually grabbed lunch on the boardwalk, ate dinner at the beach house and went to the boardwalk for desserts or any snacks we wanted. If you hit the grocery stores and cook half of your meals, you’ll save a fortune. When it comes to the rides, Gillians Wonderland  Pier offers different specials throughout the week. If you hit the rides during the three ticket ride days/hours, you will get more bang for your book. This helped me as a mom of multiples! We bought one book of 150 tickets for $100 and that was enough to last us throughout the entire week with a few tickets left over.

5. fantastic places to eat.

My absolute favorite part of the boardwalk is the food. I don’t care what anyone tells me, it’s the best part of the boardwalk! I’ve had friends try to convince me to go to other beaches and the first question I have is: are there good places to eat? If the answer is no, I’m not interested. I’m not talking about high-end places if you want that go to Atlantic City. I’m talking about simple food that just tastes good in my belly. I have favorites and you can check them out below.

 My Favorite Places to Eat In Ocean City:

  1. Brown’s Donuts. [Expect a line but it’s worth it!]Brown's Donuts - Ocean City, NJ
  2. Prep’s Pizza. [Just as good as Manco and Manco’s but with better seating and they give the kids dough to play with.]Prep's Pizza in Ocean City, NJ
  3. Piccini’s Wood Fire Pizza. [Fab Italian food!]
  4. The Hula Grill. [Probably my favorite! Hawaiin food – yum!]The Hula Grill in Ocean City, NJ
  5. OC Surf Cafe [New spot for me, great for breakfast or brunch!]

My Favorite Boardwalk Food:

  1. Polish Water Ice.
  2. Shriver’s Gelato – THE CREPES ARE LIFE CHANGING.
  3. Monkey Bread.
  4. George’s Ice Cream.
  5. Johnson’s Popcorn.

6. Insanely relaxing.


Have you ever been on a vacation that was so jam packed you needed a vacation after it to decompress? I feel like beach vacations are so relaxing and a vacation in Ocean City, NJ  is no exception. As mentioned for us, we would wake up, head to the beach for a bit, come back to the beach house for a nap, and then head to the boardwalk for the evening if we felt like it. We also incorporated date nights, courtesy of having my mom with us, movie nights, and mini golf nights. No pressure, no time constraints, and a go at your own pace vibe. The epitome of relaxation.

Overall, an Ocean City, NJ vacation was the perfect vacation for us! We had an amazing time, as evidenced by the smiles!

What are your favorite family friendly vacation spots? Share below! We are always looking for new places to visit! 

What I Love About Being a Twin Mom!

There are so many reasons I love being a twin mom, but today I’ll share just a few! In January 2013, we found out we were having twins. I remember laying there looking at the screen, my husband out of his mind excited because he had always wanted twins, while I kind of stared in disbelief. Part of me was scared and part of me just didn’t believe it was happening.  Like truly didn’t believe it was true. 34 weeks later, we were parents to two little boys.

Being a mom of multiples is definitely an adventure! If you’re a parent, think back to those first three months. That newborn life. You know what I’m talking about. Picture it times two at the exact time! IT’S INSANE.

As crazy as it all was, double the diapers, double the tears, AND NEVER EVER SLEEPING for most of the first year, I wouldn’t trade it for the world! I love being a twin mom! It’s pretty amazing.

why I love being a twin mom:

1. Built in playmate.

It’s true what they say. When you are a twin mom, your kids are born with a built-in playmate. This means you don’t have to entertain your children 24 hours of the day. You can actually shower, brush your teeth, and sometimes if you’re lucky – you might even be able to use the bathroom alone. Maybe. Don’t push your luck.

2. You feel like a seasoned parenting pro sometimes.

Not going to lie. As a twin mom, sometimes I feel like a baller. I feel like the boys hazed us into a fraternity or something our first year. Near death experiences [RSV], time in the NICU, time in the PICU, gas issues, formula issues, skin issues, rash issues – we essentially lived at the doctor’s office the first year. If we didn’t go through it with one boy, we likely went through it with another. Also, we parented solo for the majority of that first year due to really crappy work schedules. This means that we were on our own doing double the work almost all of the time. Though I’m not interested in being pregnant again, I sometimes think about how easy it would be in comparison. Unless we had twins again.

3. double the love.

Ocean City, NJ

“Double the Trouble!” If you’re a twin mom, you’ll get used to people throwing this cliche at you. You might roll your eyes inwardly like I do. Yes, they can be double the trouble sometimes, especially if they’ve gotten into things they shouldn’t have or if they’re screaming at the same time. BUT, the best part is that you get double the love. Double the kisses, double the snuggles, double the affection, double the hugs, double the pride. For all of the crazy, listening to your babes tell you how much they love you in their squeaky little toddler voices = everything.

4. The Unique Twin bond.

Twins have a really interesting bond. It’s actually pretty amazing. After all, they shared the same living space for quite a bit in momma’s belly! For my boys personally, they have always shared a room, they were in the same pre-school class together, and generally spend a lot of time together. The boys have inside jokes that are only funny to them and we don’t understand. They have made up words that they know the meaning to and we don’t. They have a love for one another that goes deep. Finally, They love hard and fight hard. I like to think they have a special twin connection.

5. Two and done.

I always had the desire to have a really big family. In fact, I actually pictured having five kids. I loved the idea of tons of noise and shows with big families were always my favorite. It just seems so FUN. Between infertility struggles to preemie life, my desire for a large family faded away. I feel really blessed that the boys have each other as brothers! People ask me often whether or not I want to have a girl. Honestly, I’m perfectly content with my two boys. I feel like with twins, you have the option to be “done” pretty early on because as twins, they each have a sibling already. That’s how it feels for me anyway!

6. double the blessing.

The best part of being a twin mom. Double the blessing.

As a person who struggled with infertility and had to go through infertility treatments, I’m so grateful to have double the blessing for what felt like a loss for a long time. I felt defeated and discouraged many times and when it came time for the boys to be born and there really were two, it was amazing to see God’s blessing twice over. When I look at them now, I’m reminded that they are a complete and total gift from God. And that truly is the BEST part of being a twin mom.

Finding Peace in the Midst of Chaos.

My Pastor has been bringing some really powerful truths to our church. For the past month, he’s been doing this awesome series called, “First Things First.” We are on week two of the series and some of the words he spoke felt like a big slap on the face. Not in a bad way, but in a way that shouts: HEY YOU! FIX THIS AREA OF YOUR LIFE.

As I thought this message over, I felt really convicted and challenged as I wrestled with the question of whether or not I’ve been prioritizing God in my life.

  1. Is the Bible the first thing I read?

  2. Is He the first one I talk to (prayer?)

  3. Is He first in every area of my life?

When I answered these questions truthfully and also somewhat begrudgingly, “Well, mostly…” I didn’t like what I saw.

This morning when I felt like stress was trying to strangle me before I even hopped out of the bed, I thought of Psalm 23. I decided to read it.

 “The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalms 23:1-6

As I read the words, I felt stress release its ugly grip. I felt peace as I reminded myself of some powerful truths from this Psalm:

  1. God’s got me. I have everything I need.

  2. I can rest in Him. He is my peace.

  3. God gives me new strength on the daily.

  4. He shows me where I need to go and what I need to do.

  5. When everything goes to hell and I can’t see the light, fear has no place. He is with me.

  6. God has my back. I can cry to him and He’ll comfort me.

  7. He pours out His blessings over me in the face of people who hate me or don’t want me to do well (hint – these are not always clearly seen enemies).

  8. My life OVERFLOWS with blessing.

  9. His goodness and love literally chase after me and will continue to do so as long as I’m alive.

  10. I have eternity with Him.

If you are going through what feels like a trial or just a really tough spot in life, I encourage you to read Psalm 23. This is a Psalm you have heard a million times. You have probably read it so many times, BUT I challenge you to read it with fresh eyes, a fresh heart. Read it out loud. Feel His peace calm you in the middle of a torrent and remind yourself of the promised rest that comes with knowing Christ.

xo – Until Next Time

 

How To Be a Godly Leader According to Proverbs 16

Godly Leadership according to proverbs

I love learning about leadership and how to be a good leader. More importantly, I love learning about how to be a Godly leader.  As a teacher, a worship leader, and a part of the pastoral staff at our church, I constantly want to learn how I can be a better leader and a more effective leader. I love to talk to other leaders and soak in wisdom and listen to their experiences and mistakes.

Tonight when I was doing my study, I was reading through Proverbs 16. I’m doing a Bible Reading Plan where you go through Proverbs and Psalms multiple times throughout the year. Because I’m in my second round of reading through Proverbs in order, I like to switch through different versions. I decided to read through Proverbs 16 in The Message version and imagine my delight when I came across verse after verse with clear guidelines for leadership. As clear as night and day. I thought I would share. Being a leader is a huge responsibility and healthy leadership is really important. How do you know what healthy leadership and most importantly, BIBLICAL leadership should look like? Look at the word of God. Let’s take a look.

Here are some guidelines of what a Godly Leader Looks like According to proverbs 16:
  1. “A good leader motivates, doesn’t mislead, doesn’t exploit.” Proverbs 16:10

A godly leader will be a person that is constantly motivating you and challenging you. Good leaders will call out the best in you, and will also hold you accountable and be truthful. I love how it says they won’t mislead you or exploit you. In other words, a good leader shouldn’t USE you. If a person is only interested in your talents and abilities but doesn’t care about you as a person – run. You will see this if they drop you like a sack of hot potatoes once you are no longer useful to them.

2. “Good leaders abhor wrongdoing of all kinds; sound leadership has a moral foundation.” Proverbs 16:12

Godly leaders should have a solid moral life. This means they should hate evil. They should hate it enough to call it out. Also, if you are a leader you should be living a life of morality on and off the platform. Who cares if you can fool people when you can’t fool God? #moralitymatters

3. “Good leaders cultivate honest speech; they love advisors who tell them the truth.” Proverbs 16:13

Leaders should speak TRUTH and should love to hear TRUTH. Honesty is important as a leader. This means you have to be willing to speak truth, even if it hurts, even if it’s unpopular. On the other side of it, you should be able to listen to advisors and people who will do the same for your life. I’m extremely wary of people who refuse to listen to others and think they have all the answers. The Bible speaks repeatedly in listening to godly counsel from others, so as a leader – take it to heart and if you’re under leadership that won’t listen to others, that’s not biblical or wise.

4. “An intemperate leader wreaks havoc in lives; you’re smart to stay clear of someone like that.” Proverbs 16:14

Intemperate means a person who doesn’t have control. A godly leader should be self-controlled. A person who flies off the handle and lacks restraint is a person who can bring many lives to ruin. I have personally known people who have no control and who literally have ruined relationships, jobs, and anything good that was going for them. This doesn’t mean that a leader has to be 100% perfect. Trust me, it’s quite the opposite. But if a person is consistently living of a life that has zero control – stay clear!

5. “Good-tempered leaders invigorate lives; they’re like spring rain and sunshine.” Proverbs 16:15

Probably my favorite verse in this chapter. This goes along with the previous verse: a person that’s good tempered will add to your life. They will strengthen your life, energize it, add to it. A Godly leader will do just that – invigorate, strength, and add to the lives of those around them. Unhealthy leadership is a leader who drains the life from those around them. Instead of spring rain, they are more like clouds and storms. Ask yourself if you are bringing something to the table that adds to the lives of those you have the opportunity to influence and impact.

This is just what Proverbs 16 had to say about leadership. The Bible has a plethora of crystal clear guidelines on what leadership looks like according to a biblical standard. As a leader, we need to adhere to these standards. As a person under leadership, know the word and know what God looks for in leaders. I wanted to share because I loved how The Message wrote so clearly about it. Feel free to comment below with your thoughts!

 

My Top 10 Places in and Around South Jersey to Check Out if You have a Toddler

Top 10 Places to Visit with Toddlers in South Jersey

I’m the momma to two very active three-year-olds who will be four this summer. As a teacher, summer is EVERYTHING! I try to make the most of my time with my boys and since they’ve been born, I’ve gathered some of my favorite things to do with them and my favorite places to go.  Majority of these places work fine in the spring, summer, fall, and even winter. This list is compiled with things that we’ve personally enjoyed in the past and recently. This is not an all inclusive list though, so share what you love to do with your little people! Most places, except for two, are located in South Jersey! All located in the TriState Area. Please comment and let me know what places you enjoy and what activities you like to do over the summer!

My Top 10 South Jersey Places to Visit if you Have toddlers

1. Ocean City, NJ – the shore.

By far, my absolute favorite place to go in the summer is Ocean City. Maybe it’s because as a teenager I vacationed here with my best friend and her family or maybe it’s just the amazing food – Ocean City is a win and when you have kids, it’s a double win. First off, the beach is reasonable and if you buy beach tags for the summer, you’re good to go. Second off, Ocean City is super family friendly and there is a lot out there for toddlers including rides, strolling the boardwalk, surrey rides, parks, and more. We spend out time on the boardwalk and beach and it’s our favorite!

Toddler Fun in Ocean City, NJ

2. The Cape May Zoo.

It’s FREE. FREE. FREE. You can make a donation of your choice if you choose. Cape May is a fantastic zoo for toddlers. It’s very walkable because it’s not insanely big. It’s perfect. On top of that, it has an awesome park for the kiddos! There are plenty of pavilions so you can pack a lunch or you can buy lunch there. It’s not far from the Cape May beach area either, so you can do a combo day where you spend half the day at the zoo and half the day at the shore. Score!

Toddler Fun at the Cape May County Zoo Toddler Fun at the Cape May County Zoo Toddler Fun at the Cape May County Zoo Toddler Fun at the Cape May County Zoo

3. The Philadelphia Zoo.

We are pass holders here because by the time you add the price of the tickets together, it makes sense to buy a season pass and reap the benefits: free parking, 10% off your food purchases and gift shop purchases, and free parking. This zoo was the FIRST real zoo in the US. It’s spacious, has tons of animals and sites to see, and is really easy to walk – though because it’s so big we bring the stroller just in case! You can spend a good portion of your day here!

Toddler Fun at the Philadelphia Zoo

4. The Garden State Discovery Museum or Please Touch Museum.

I LOVE the Please Touch Museum. It’s a bit pricey at $19 per person (unless your child is 1 and under). HOWEVER, they offer $2 admission on the first Wednesday of each month from 4 pm to 7 pm. My husband and I like to arrive as soon as it opens. By the time we’ve gone through the whole museum and are ready to leave, that’s when it’s starting to get busy. The $2 fee on the first Wednesday of each month from 4 pm to 7 pm is unbeatable at that price, so if you’re on a budget that would be a good time to check this place out. The Garden State Discovery Museum is cheaper and discounts on Groupon are frequently offered. If you don’t feel like dealing with Philly traffic or driving into the city, The Garden State Discovery Museum is a fun spot too!

 

Toddler Fun at The Garden State Discovery Museum

5. Storybook Land.

This place is essentially designed for toddlers and for small kiddos. It’s a load of fun, lines were short when we went in the summer, and it’s not hard to access/park. Tickets are around $23 if you buy them online and are a bit more at the door! I would choose Storybook Land over a place like Six Flags any day of the week. It’s not as packed and my boys could pretty much get on anything. Also, it’s themed after different classic children’s stories. FUN!

Storybook Land in Mayslanding, NJStorybook Land in Mayslanding, NJ

6. Sesame Place.

In my opinion, if you’re going to go, summer is definitely the time to go! They have awesome an awesome water park! We took the boys here for the majority of the day and we were pooped! Check out my post about Sesame Place for more detailed information about our experience here!

7. Parvin’s State Park.

Located only fifteen minutes away from where we live, we love going to Parvin’s State Park. There are plenty of nature trails that we explore as a family and so many outlets where the kids can skip stones, dip their feet into the lake, and even bicycle. One of my favorite places to go and best of all it’s FREE. I think they charge in the summer to swim/go in the beach area, but I wouldn’t know because we never go to that part.

8. Sahara Sam’s or Diggerland.

We have done Sahara Sam’s in the past but haven’t checked out Diggerland yet, though according to my friend’s, it’s a must. In fact, Diggerland has made it into Redbrook and some other magazines as a destination to check out on this side of the coast! I can speak for Sahara Sam’s and say that we had a fun experience here over the summer. It is an indoor and outdoor waterpark. It’s best to get here early because it gets really packed with different groups and camps coming through. I felt like there was enough for my boys to do at their age and the pool was fun because we could swim with them.

9. Smithville

Smithville is a really cute little historic town located in Atlantic County. When we go here with the boys, we spend maybe about two to three hours here tops. It’s not geared towards toddlers but we still have fun here! It’s quaint, cute, decorative, and a good place to hang for a few hours and do breakfast/lunch/dinner. My kids get a kick out of the ducks that walk around. There’s also a carousel and train rides. They also have different activities and events, so check out their calendar. Price wise: free. Can’t beat that.

10. Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ

This is a new one for us! We literally have JUST had the chance to check this place out. You can spend a good portion of your day here and your little ones will have a blast. This aquarium has plenty for the boys to see and do and they absolutely loved it. Price wise, it’s pricey! $28 per adult and $21 per child. As a teacher, we get discounts through ticketsatwork.com which saved us $30 from the total bill. Definitely worth a visit!

Toddler Fun at Adventure Aquarium Toddler Fun at Adventure Aquarium Toddler Fun at Adventure Aquarium

This summer I’m looking forward to creating new memories with my family and also discovering new places and things to do while revisiting some of the things we’ve done in the past! What about you? What’s your favorite summer activity or place to visit? We love to travel and I’m always looking for new places to check out!

7 Ways to Make Date Night Happen – No Excuses

Some of my favorite nights ever are the date nights that I have with my husband. As insane as life gets, whether the budget is fantastic or terrible, whether we “have the time” or not, Jose and I try to make it a priority to go on a date and have that time together without the kiddos. I wanted to share 7 ways to make date night happen regardless of your budget or busyness. For my husband and I, it’s really important!

Why?

Because before there were kids, there was US.

When the kids go to college, it will be US.

I’ve watched so many people have children and literally put their love lives completely on pause. Not for seconds or minutes or even days or weeks, but for YEARS. Then the kids go to college and there are two adults who barely know each other. I strongly believe that if mom and dad are happy and the marriage is healthy, the kiddos will feel the ripple effects of that. I know many who idolize their children to the point where their children consume every aspect of their lives above all things and anything else (even God). There is no room for anything or anyone else. Friendships dissolve and more. I don’t want to be that way! So I’ve decided I won’t.

I’ve faced judgment and even criticism sometimes, because God forbid if you are having fun without your kids, what kind of person even are you? Um, a human being who likes to have fun without her kids at times so she can pee in peace and have dinner without sharing.

Plus, it’ s SO FUN to continue to go on dates and do things together one on one. It keeps the romance alive and reminds me of our early years all over again. Stolen kisses, inside jokes, laughing together at something when we’re supposed to be serious. This is the stuff that my kind of love is made of!

How do you make this possible, especially if you have kids?

  1. Put it on the calendar. Once it’s on the calendar, it’s a priority! Make it one.

Put it in your calendar like you would put an actual appointment. Treat it like you would treat an appointment with a client – except your spouse is even more important! Time with your husband or wife is a worthy investment in your marriage and should be prioritized.2.

2. Have a group of reliable sitters at the ready.

Vary your sitters so you have options. We don’t like to put all of our eggs in one basket. That being said, we don’t just let anyone watch our boys. Typically it’s my mom, my mother-in-law and two reliable college age girls from church who work in the Sunday School program at our church. My boys love their sitters and are familiar with them. In the same way,

3. Don’t use your budget as an excuse.

It’s really easy to write off date night because it’s not in the budget. Trust me, been there before! However, date night can still be fun and free. There are a ton of resources and ideas available on Pinterest. Some of my favorite things to do:

  • Watch a movie: rent one through iTunes, watch for free on Netflix, TV. I have even borrowed movies from friends – talk about budget friendly!
  • During warm weather, lay a blanket in the backyard, put on the firepit: talk, listen to music, stargaze, ask silly questions.
  • Read together: call us dorks, we love to read books together. We pick out a book we both want to read and go through it chapter by chapter.
  • Game night: we don’t do this as often, but back in the day we would play board games and get really competitive. Scrabble and Bananagrams were favorites.
  • Park: Going to a park, walking the trails or riding bikes while having a conversation is relaxing and easy to do.
  • Free Events: Look up what’s free in your area and you would be surprised!

4. If you can’t go out, date night in.

I’ve already listed a few ideas/suggestions that have worked for us. Feel free to borrow one or suggest one in the comment section!

5. Swap babysitting services with another couple for date nights.

We are in a bracket where a lot of our friends have babies/toddlers the same age. This is something we haven’t done but would be willing to do! I think it’s a pretty easy way to score a date night and to add a couple to your babysitting catalog.

6. Push guilt aside.

I know a lot of parents suffer from this! I think mom’s especially feel this type of guilt. Parents who feel awful for doing something without their children. I am NOT that parent, but if you happen to be, then realize this: it’s okay to have a night of fun without your kiddos. It doesn’t make you a bad person. A relaxed, happy, set of parents are better parents for their children.

7. Make FUN the priority.

Don’t get worked up over what doesn’t go right: keep in mind the primary goal of date night with your spouse is to have fun and enjoy each other’s company. I remember the days of dating during high school and the college years. I could literally be sitting next to Jose doing nothing, but the fact that we were together was just so NICE. As adults, life has only gotten more hectic as each year passes. It’s a beautiful thing to have fun and be reminded of where it all began.

My husband planned this one. After an obsession with Heartland, he took me horseback riding because I fell in love with horses.

Sunday afternoon date.

This date night we planned in advance. We bought concert tickets as our Christmas gift in December but the actual concert wasn’t until April 1st.

Couples date night out. This was something planned about a month in advance which gave us an opportunity to plan a sitter and budget accordingly.

A day at the beach is fun, cheap, and my favorite!

Even though the pictures you see are pictures of us actually going out – there are plenty of times we stay in! I guess I just don’t take too many pictures of those times! Ha!

These are some of my suggestions but I would love to hear some of yours! What do you and your spouse do for date nights? How often do you try to make date nights happen? Comment below!

 

 

 

Marriage Mondays – If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say…

You’ve heard the saying before:

If you don’t have anything nice to say….don’t say it all!

I don’t know about you, but I KNOW what my weakness is. I’ve always known it, even at a young age. It’s my tongue. My mouth. The words I speak.

When I was in middle school, I once got out of a situation where a girl wanted to fight me. She was taller than me, bigger than me, and would undoubtedly beat the tar out of me EXCEPT, I had a secret weapon. My mouth. So I hurled insults her way (not something I’m proud of as an adult!) and when it was time to “fight” she was nowhere to be found because I embarrassed her. I don’t say this as something to be proud of, but to emphasize the fact, that even at a young age I knew I could use words to hurt people.

As an adult, the more I learned about words and the power of the words we speak, the more I realized the words I spoke had weight, power, and could affect a situation or a person positively or negatively.

Now picture a girl whose weakness is her mouth in a relationship with a person who is hot headed and is also known for his mouth. Guys, it wasn’t a good combination. Jose and I spent the first few years of our relationship arguing a lot and using our words to hurt each other. The thing with the words you speak is that once you say them you can’t take them back and hurtful words are so painful and wound so deeply. If I asked you right now to tell me something someone said that hurt you, you could distinctly give me a specific incident and person. We remember these things.

This is why I want to tell you something I’ve had to learn myself in marriage.

When I don’t have anything to say that’s going to produce fruit in my marriage, sometimes the best thing to do is to BE QUIET.

As in literally, zip it and not say anything at all.

Here’s the thing – I know there are times where you will have to have difficult conversations within a marriage. This is a reality that’s inescapable and healthy. What I AM saying is this – if what you are going to say is not going to produce positive fruit in your marriage, don’t say it.

In this post, I’m talking specifically about those low blow moments. You know what I’m talking about. Those moments where you have something you can say that will really hit your spouse where it hurts. Maybe it’s a weakness, a vulnerability that’s been shared. You are so angry or mad and you just want your spouse to know it, so you prep your ammunition and are ready to aim. My plea to you – don’t.

 

Our first year of marriage, in the middle of an argument, Jose used to simply stop speaking and leave the room. At first, I was even more livid, “I’m talking to you! I’m trying to have a conversation with you! What are you doing?!” I would call after him. He would later explain that he just needed to step away from the situation until we could talk calmly about it. Oh, it would make me so irate because I wanted to talk about things RIGHT NOW and resolve it RIGHT AWAY. As time has gone on, I’ve appreciated how much it has saved us from a lot of pain! Eight years in, we don’t walk away from each other in the midst of hard conversations, but we have learned to guard the words that we speak to each other.

I love what James has to say about the words we speak:

“In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.” James 3:5-6

I love how it keeps mentioning “fire.” One terrible word or conversation can cause a world of pain and destruction. This can be avoided if we guard our speech and the words that we speak to our spouse.

I’m not telling you that anytime you get into an argument you need to physically run away from each other! When we were newlyweds,  we were learning how to fight fair.  We had to actually give each other some physical space for a few minutes or a half hour or so, then reconvene when we were calm. I’m glad that being married almost 8 years; we’ve come such a long way and don’t have to do this every time there’s a disagreement. We’ve learned that we respect and love each other enough to protect each other from words we might regret.

So if I could share anything that has helped me:

  1. If you’re ticked off, don’t try to force a conversation in that moment.
  2. If you have to give each other a few minutes, do it. Don’t force it in that exact moment, BUT…
  3. Refuse to go to bed angry with each other (Ephesians 4:26).
  4. DON’T SAY INSULTING THINGS YOU WILL REGRET.
  5. Talk to your spouse when emotions have calmed down and you can be reasonable.
  6. Your words matter and will be remembered. They also can HURT and create a deep wound so PROTECT each other by refusing to engage in trading insults.

Here’s the thing – all couples have disagreements at one point or another. If you’ve never argued with your spouse, you are a magical unicorn and can I please have your autograph? The point is this – when you know you are on the verge of saying something destructive and life killing, ask yourself if it’s going to produce positive fruit in your relationship in the long run.

“A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered.” Proverbs 17:27

xoxo

My Favorite Ways to Save on Groceries

Groceries can be a major expense! If you have a large family, even more so. Even with our family of four, we can spend hundreds on food each month. I thought I would share some of the EASY things that I do to save on groceries each month.

  1. Manufacturer’s coupons.

Before you start panicking, I am NOT talking about Extreme Couponing. I don’t have the patience or time for it, so I stick to cutting coupons each week for items I use. I do keep a coupon binder and I look through it before I go to a grocery store. There are websites you can use if you’re interested in Extreme Couponing. DON’T disregard using coupons! You would be shocked to find there are coupons for items you regularly purchase and need and if you use them you can save so much money. For awhile I stopped couponing, when I started again I was staggered at how much I saved and it reminded me to stick with it. Take advantage of grocery store digital coupons as well!

2. Store coupons/apps – especially the digital ones!

This sounds obvious too, but some people don’t realize the savings that can be found here. My favorite drugstore to shop at is CVS. The reason is because CVS is ALWAYS sending me coupons through my e-mail that I can send directly to my CVS card. If I log on to my CVS account and click on the extra card section, there are always about a billion additional coupons that I can send to my card for everyday items. Pair this with manufacturers coupons or items that are already on sale and you will see the savings. Be sure to read the fine print! Those 30% off coupons don’t always include sale items. I’ll give an example. Let’s say CVS has pull-ups on sale for 10.99. They offer a digital coupon of $2 off all pull-ups. You have a manufacturer’s coupon that is $2 off. You can get the item for as low as $7. I save SO much at CVS because I never shop without a coupon there. Don’t ever shop Target without the Cartwheel App or without your Target or debit card where you’ll save an extra 5% every single time you shop.

3. Ibotta.

Y’all! You have heard me talk about Ibotta before! I write about it because it’s a really easy way to save money on grocery items you are already buying. It’s too easy to not be using. Also, if you refer a friend, you easily earn $5. All you need to do is keep your receipt, verify your eligible purchases, take a picture of the receipt, and voila – free money. After $20 you can have it cashed out in the form of a gift card or sent to you through Paypal or Venmo. The easiest money you’ll make shopping for groceries.

4. Walmart Savings Catcher

I don’t particularly enjoy shopping at Wal-mart (as I’ve written about in the past!) BUT Wal-mart is just so cheap that sometimes, I can’t resist. That being said, I love using Walmarts Savings Catcher. The way it works: you scan your Walmart receipt, Walmart compares prices, Walmart gives you the difference in price through a Walmart eCard and you can use it on any of your purchases. Now imagine combining coupons with sale items AND using this feature on the app. Win-win for your wallet. 5. Meal plan/freezer/cook/leftover life.

5. Favado.

Favado is a really excellent app that you can use to look up items and find out where certain items are the cheapest. If I’m looking to find a deal on Tresemme shampoo, I type that in and it will show me the stores that have Tresemme on sale. If I click on a store and the item, it will even show me what coupons I can stack with this item to make sure I am getting the lowest price.

6. Plan. Never shop without a list!

When I first started adulting and shopping for groceries on my own as a newly married woman, I never brought a list. I would just go to the store, walk through the aisles, and grab what I thought I needed. I ended up with stuff I didn’t need, a budget that had been blown, and essentially a hot mess on my hands. Bringing a list is important because it helps you stay focused on what you need! Also, don’t shop on an empty belly and also MEAL PLAN! So you know exactly what you need for each meal and will get just that. I recommend this grocery list template that will help you get started! They also sell these at select Marshall’s for really cheap!

7. Grocery shop online.

Here’s the thing, you’ll pay $10 for the online grocery shopping fee at some places, BUT you’ll save in buying exactly what you need – nothing more, nothing less. This is really helpful, especially if you’re insanely busy. I HATE grocery shopping , but there are times it’s unavoidable and I have to step foot into the actual store. I find that shopping online saves me money in the long run because I’m not tempted to buy things I don’t need and can look up exactly what I need to buy.

8. Shop at Aldi’s.

Aldi’s is insanely cheap and has some really solid items you can purchase at a fraction of the cost of what you would pay at a big box store. I don’t shop here all of the time, or even super regularly at that, BUT if I am really looking to slash spending I come here. The items I buy: rice, cereal, peanut butter, cooking items, etc. I don’t buy meat or produce from here, but I know so many people who do! It’s just my personal preference, I usually buy those items at Shoprite or BJ’s. Don’t count Aldi’s out as they’ve added many gluten free items and organic items at very reasonable prices.

9. Meal Plan.

This goes along with planning. I use a Google Calender to plan our meals every two weeks. This week I’ve slacked, but I meal plan and then make my grocery list around that. This way I have exactly what I need to cook and also don’t have to worry about spending money eating out on the week. Meal planning will help you stick to a grocery budget!

These are some simple things I do to save money on groceries. Nothing here is groundbreaking, but I wanted to share what I like to do personally! I always love hearing about new ways to save, so if you have some strategies that work for you please leave a comment and share!