Melissa & Doug Toys for 20% Off

Melissa and Doug Toys for 20% off on Amazon - My kids love these toys!

I am a huge fan of Melissa & Doug toys.  They are a company I trust and my children love playing with their toys. Get an early start on your Christmas shopping (eek! Did I really say Christmas??) with these great sales from Amazon.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. These prices are subject to change.

As of July 22, 2014, the following Melissa & Doug toys are all at least 20% off and qualify for prime shipping:

Click on each image for product information, pricing, and to make your purchase.

OUTDOOR FUN:





BABY TOYS:




PLAY FOOD:



ART & MUSIC:






BLOCKS & PUZZLES:





AND MORE!



Would you like to see more posts like this highlighting deals I find online? Let me know!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. At no extra charge to you, I will receive a small commission off any sale through these links. This is a blessing to my family and I thank you for supporting Simply Rebekah.

Posted in Frugal | Leave a comment

I’m Scared to Have 2 Kids: an update 2 years later

Two years ago I confessed my fears of having a second child. Now I'm sharing my 3 struggles with the transition, how having 2 kids is actually easier, and the 6 questions I ask myself when I think of having a third.

On April 23, 2012 I took a deep breath and published a blog post that I was nervous to share. I confessed that my swollen belly made me anxious. I wasn’t ready to have two kids. In fact, I was flat out scared that I wasn’t going to be able to step up to the challenge.

Ironically, the same day that I published that post ended up being was the same day my second child was born. Today my little Noah is over two years old and I think it is finally time for an update.

So is it scary to having more than one kid after all? Yes. And no. Parenthood is scary in general. I don’t think it matters if you have 1 kid or 11 kids. I’m confident that I will always be wondering if I’m doing it right.

Noah and Grace September 2012

3 Struggles We Had Going from 1 to 2 Kids

1)  Grace loved Noah deeply and adhored holding her new little brother. However, she was not a fan of me breastfeeding. It is possible that she remembered nursing and felt jealous, but even if she didn’t remember it was clear to her that I was doing something very intimate with Noah that she wasn’t able to do. She cried and wanted on my lap whenever I nursed him for the first couple of days.

It broke my heart to see Grace’s tears and jealousy. I had been worried about how Grace would handle sharing mommy and daddy and this type of reaction was exactly what I had feared. It was difficult to balance my clingy toddler, hungry newborn, new-mama guilt, and my need for some personal space!

Thankfully, this stage didn’t last long and Grace quickly overcame her insecurities. In the moment it felt long and heartbreaking, but ultimately it only lasted a few days.

2) Getting enough sleep was certainly a challenge. At night, Nate and I each had a child we were in charge of.  I took care of all of Noah’s needs. If Grace woke up, then Nate was on duty. Although I wasn’t getting a ton of sleep, that method helped. I also napped daily when Grace napped in the afternoon. Of course it was just the worst. thing. ever when Noah and Grace didn’t coordinate their nap times. Those days felt like eternity.

3) The biggest challenge (after I started getting enough sleep at night!) was the feeling of constantly being needed for something. My “down time” significantly decreased. Someone is always asking for something. I’ve even told my children, “Stop asking me for things!” Some days aren’t so bad and then there are others when I feel like I’m going insane.

Grace and Noah April 2014

How Having More Than One Kid is Actually Easier

Now that Noah is a little older, he and Grace play together. all. the. time. It isn’t always a peaceful playtime, but it is a lovely experience. Now that I’m not Grace’s number one playmate, it is easier for me to do laundry and prepare meals. Plus it is just plain adorable.

Nate and I always knew that we wanted more than 1 child. It was easy to take the plunge and have our second child even though I worried about my abilities as a mother. We don’t regret having Noah for an instant. He is amazing and we are lucky to have him.

Now that we have 2 children, the big question is:
Will we have 3???

All of those same fears I wrote about in 2012 come rushing back when I think about adding another little one to my family. Additionally, there are several new questions and fears.

1) Do we really want to hit the reset button again? Life is starting to get a bit easier. Everyone is sleeping through the night. We don’t worry about little ones falling down the stairs. I can see a light at the end of the diaper tunnel. That reset button takes us back to all of that again.

2) Can we afford 3 children? It isn’t all about money. I’m sure we would make due, but more children means there is less money to go around for big things like braces, college, and weddings.

3) Can we fit 3 children in our home? This is 100% a first world problem. We can totally fit another person in here, but the logistics still give me pause.

4) How far apart do we want our children? I like the idea of my children enjoying the same types of things at the same time. My sister and brother are 12 and 10 years older than I am, so this wasn’t the reality in my house. Yet wouldn’t it be nice if we could go to the park as a family and all of the children are still young enough to enjoy being there?

5) Am I willing to put my body through another pregnancy and birth? Sadly, I have learned that a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery are not a guarantee. Another pregnancy would be met with a new sense of fear. Plus it is highly likely that I would need to have another c-section. I didn’t love the first one.

6) What will a 3rd child do to our marriage? AKA: Will anyone ever be willing to watch 3 kids so we can enjoy a date night???

I am jealous of the couples who are confident in their family size. I wish I had the confidence to know with certainty that Nate and I are done having children or to know with certainty that there is another baby coming.  But I don’t know. I just don’t know.

One thing I do know with certainty is that whether we are a family of 4 or a family of 5, we are one awesome family. I am so thankful.

I would love to hear your experiences. What influenced your decision to have or not have more children? How did your family adjust to bringing home a new baby?

Posted in Parenthood, Pregnancy | 36 Comments

More Fast & Easy Vacation Meal Planning

More Fast and Easy Vacation Meal Planning- Save money on vacation by planning easy meals you can make yourself! This is an example of what one family truly ate while on vacation.

When our family goes on vacation, I always make a meal plan.  We love to eat out, but it isn’t very relaxing with little ones.  Plus it gets expensive!

In 2011, I pulled together a fast and easy vacation meal plan.  Last summer when we went on a beach vacation, I decided to document our meals so I could share them with you all again.  I hope it inspires you as you plan for your next vacation.

What We (2 adults, a preschooler, and a toddler) Ate On Vacation

Day One:

  • Breakfast - peanut butter toast at home
  • Lunch - chicken salad sandwiches, chips, and yogurt in the car
  • Supper - chicken tenders, green beans, grapes - This meal was suppose to have rice, but I forgot it at home. I made the chicken tenders with an Italian Parmesan cheese and breadcrumb mix you can find in the refrigerator section of the grocery store.

chicken, green beans, and grapes

Day Two:

  • Breakfast - baked oatmeal - I made (and froze ahead of time) one large pan of baked oatmeal and we ate it all week.

baked oatmeal

  • Lunch - chicken salad, chips, carrots & dip, and apples - I bought a few easy pre-made things for easy lunches all week. 

chicken salad, carrots, and apples

  • Supper - pizza tot casserole, peas – I made the casserole ahead of time and froze it. It is nearly impossible to take an appetizing picture of pizza tot casserole, so this is one isn’t from vacation.

Pizza Tot Casserole: a freezer friendly recipe

Day Three:

  • Breakfast - baked oatmeal
  • Lunch - chicken salad, macaroni salad, peaches / kids – peanut butter sandwiches, chips, peaches

chicken salad, macaroni salad, and peach

  • Supper - chef salads with homemade dressingNormally I add hard boiled eggs to my chef salads, but I skipped them to simplify the meal. The dressing I made ahead of time.

chef salad

Day Four:

  • Breakfast - pancakes, eggs, bacon – We like to go out to eat for breakfast even more than we like doing it for supper. It is cheaper, less busy, and the kids are usually better behaved first thing in the morning.

breakfast out

  • Lunch - cheese sticks, granola bars, bananas – This was a simple, snacky type lunch because of our big breakfast.
  • Supper - enchiladas, spanish rice, peas - The enchiladas were made ahead of time and frozen.

enchiladas, rice, and peas

Day Five:

  • Breakfast - peanut butter toast
  • Lunch - On a last minute whim, we grabbed lunch on the boardwalk.
  • Supper - leftovers

Snacks for the week included: fruit, cheese sticks, energy bites, granola bars, and this heavenly chocolate butterscotch chex mix.

Heavenly Chocolate Butterscotch Chex Mix

My biggest tips for fast and easy vacation meal planning:

  • Figure out how many meals you’ll eat in and how many you’ll eat out.
  • Make as many meals ahead of time as you can and freeze them.
  • Don’t forget about fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Keep breakfast and lunch simple.
  • Make food you are excited to eat. It is vacation after all! If you are excited about the food you are making, you’ll be less likely to skip it and eat out.
  • Plan at least one meal for leftovers.

For more vacation meal planning inspiration, check out what we ate on vacation in 2011.

What are your favorite dishes to make on vacation? Do you make freezer meals ahead of time?

Posted in Recipes & Freezer Cooking | 2 Comments

My Favorite Tried & True Pinterest Recipes

23 Tried and True Pinterest Recipes - I'm offering my tips and opinions on my favorite Pinterest discovered recipes. Don't be scared to try these! They are worth it!

One of the best gifts I ever received was a cookbook with personalized notes in it telling me which recipes were worth trying.  If you are anything like me, you’ve pinned approximately 27 million recipes on Pinterest, but how many have you actually tried? Sometimes it is just nice to have a real life person tell which recipes are worth it.

I’m challenging you to bring Pinterest to real life and try a new recipe this week!  To inspire you, I’m sharing 23 Pinterest discovered recipes that are worth trying out. Each recipe is linked to Pinterest so you can easily pin these winners for later.  While you are there, I would love to have you follow me!

23 Tried & True Pinterest Recipes

Main Dish Recipes

Smothered Beans & Rice Burritos - This is my favorite burrito recipes.  All the yummy-gooey stuff on top makes them oh-so-good!  Plus it is a freezer friendly recipe, which I love.

Crockpot Cheesy Pasta & Beef Casserole - Grace went on and on and ON about how much she loved this recipe.  It makes a lot, so we had it for leftovers a couple of times and she sang my praises every time.

Baked Sweet & Sour Chicken with Fried Rice – This recipe is sooooo good, but it is too much effort for a weeknight supper.  Save it for the weekend or anytime you don’t have children crying at your feet.  I’ve only made this once because of the effort, but I’ve literally day dreamed about making it again.  I think I used my own chicken fried rice recipe.

Zucchini & Ground Beef Skillet Casserole - This is one way that I use zucchini from my garden in the summer.  The flavor is really good and all the ingredients are unprocessed.

Crockpot Italian Chicken – The first time I made this recipe, it was a bit too salty for me.  I cut back on the Italian dressing and that helped a lot.  My whole family really likes this recipe, but it does call for some processed ingredients (cream of chicken soup) that some people like to avoid.

Pizza Balls - This recipe is easy and fun.  It would be good for lunch, but I never like to turn my oven on for lunch.

Cheesy Chicken & Wild Rice Casserole – This is another recipe that takes some extra effort.  There are two different kinds of rice that you need to have prepared.  Plus you need cooked chicken.  After I made it once, I didn’t think I would ever make it again, but it was so good that I had to.

Double Decker Tacos - Crunchy and soft tacos all in one!  This is a fun way to make taco night extra special.

Sausage-and-Lentil-Skillet-600x450.jpg

Sausage, Lentil, & Rice Skillet Meal – I can get the sausage at my discount grocery store, which makes the meal really cheap.  It is on my regular rotation of cheap meals.

Crockpot Creamy Mexican Chicken & Black Beans – Stop reading right now and pin this recipe. RIGHT NOW! This recipe is a foolproof meal to make when company is coming over.  I’ve made it several times and I’m always asked for the recipe. I serve it over spanish rice to add some extra flavor.

Taco Casserole – I don’t think this is the healthiest recipe with the chips, sour cream, cheese, and lack of vegetables, but it is oh so good! It freezes really well. I always make two and put one in the freezer for later. I add rice and black beans to help stretch the ground beef.

Spaghizza – Spaghetti and pizza combined to make this wonderful dish.  It is also freezer friendly.

Soup Recipes

Crockpot Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup - This is a creamy twist to regular tomato soup. It is a nice soup for company or if you are taking a meal to someone.

Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana Soup – Nothing from the Olive Garden is bad. NOTHING! This soup can get a bit spicy from the crushed pepper flakes, so adjust that accordingly if you are sensitive to hot stuff.  This is also a freezer friendly recipe.

Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup - This might be my favorite Pinterest recipe find of all time. L-O-V-E this soup!!! I have made this several times for company. Serve it with a salad and a good bread.

Hearty Potato Soup - This is a really good recipe with no processed ingredients. I don’t add the green chilies because my kids don’t like spicy things. However, Nate and I add some straight to our own bowls and I love the extra flavor it adds.

Panera’s Broccoli & Cheese Soup - I don’t think this is the healthiest soup and I don’t care. It is amazing.

Recipes to Drool Over

Chocolate Whole Wheat Zucchini Muffins

Chocolate Whole Wheat Zucchini Muffins - Oh goodness… This is like eating cake, but it is whole wheat and has zucchini in it, so it must be healthy!  Or maybe not.  I make it with coconut oil and I love the extra hint of coconut flavor.

Pumpkin Pie Dip - This dip is great for someone who is watching what they eat. The amount of calories per serving is really low and the serving size is a good amount. Don’t let all that healthy talk fool you though.  It is GOOD even though it is healthy!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie - This a healthier version of a chocolate milkshake and I can’t get enough of it.  I add a lot of ice cubes (in the blender) until it is as thick as I want it.  Otherwise, it is a really runny smoothie.

Easy No-Bake Granola Bars

Easy No-Bake Granola Bars - I double this recipe to make a 9×13 pan. I left out the chia seeds because I didn’t have any and the recipe still turned out great. They are so much better (and better for you) than store bought granola bars.

Cream Cheese Squares - These are very simple to make. They would be great for brunch.

Homemade Coffee Creamers - This isn’t the healthiest thing to put in your coffee, but it is so much better than fake coffee creamer you can buy at the store. The store bought stuff usually doesn’t even have dairy in it! I like making the almond version.

I hope you’ve been inspired to try a new recipe! Let me know which recipes are on the top of your list to try.

Photos used with permission from Amy’s Finer Things, Live Renewed, Hey Donna, Mostly Homemade Mom, and A Delightful Home.  

Posted in Recipes & Freezer Cooking | 2 Comments

Tips & Inspiration for Creating a Summer Fun List

Tips & Inspiration for Creating a Summer Fun List

It is already the middle of June, but it isn’t too late to write a Summer Fun List. I’ve made a summer fun list for 3 years and I find that it helps me to stay intentional throughout the summer. It keeps me focused on enjoying and celebrating summer.

5 tips for writing your own summer fun list:

1) When creating your list, think big and colorful! Put the chart in a place where the whole family can see it.

2) I like to brainstorm a long list on a separate sheet of paper before writing it all down on my official summer fun list. That way I can space things out nicely.

3) Don’t ask for you kids for input on the list unless they are able to share realistic ideas. You don’t want a list full of things things you can’t afford to do.

4) If you are having trouble filling up your list, write down repeat activities multiple times. One summer we registered for a recurring storytime at the library and I wrote it down each time so we would have more things to cross off.

5) Leave some room at the bottom of your list for extra ideas you come up with throughout the summer or if grandparents surprise you with fun activities.

6) Save your lists from year to year to help you easily remember what to put on your list each year.

Brainstorming Prompts:

The Big Things - Vacation, camp, bible school, etc.  Don’t forget about the extra special things that you plan to do on vacation.  Those can all be listed separately.

Special Occasions and Events - Are there any summer birthdays in your house? Do you do something special to celebrate July 4th?

Free Community Events - Parades, free concerts, story time at the library, etc.

Crafts - Search Pinterest for some extra special crafts to do with your kids.  Check out my Kool for Kiddos board for some inspiration.

The Little Things - I always include the small thing that we do on a regular basis.  Having bubbles, sandbox, and sidewalk chalk on the list helps us celebrate even the simplest parts of summer.

Active Things - swimming, bike rides, sports, etc.

Food - This just might be my favorite part! I always write down all the different ice cream shops we can visit, s’mores, and picnics.

The New Things - It is smart to have a realistic list so you aren’t met with disappointment at the end of the season, but it is still fun to try new things.  Try to think of a few things you or your little ones have never done before that you can add to the list.

Tips & Inspiration for Creating a Summer Fun List

List Inspiration:

My First Summer Fun List From 2011

How to Make a Sprinkler Out of a Pop Bottle

Summer Reading Programs

“Dress Like a Cow Day” at Chick-fil-A

Water Play Toys That Don’t Cost a Thing

Visit a Farm

Paint Just for the Sake of Painting

Finger Paint

The Best Sidewalk Chalk

Melted Crayon Art

Make a T-Shirt Necklace

Have you ever created a Summer Fun List? What is the most unique thing you write on your list?

Posted in Parenthood, Tips | Leave a comment