Lark Toys in Kellogg

Just before school started we took the kids on a little adventure to Lark Toys in Kellogg. I admit I was a stitch skeptical of the idea thinking what in the world will we do at a toy store? And it’s how far away?
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UntitledBut alas it was a great time. All of our kids had a blast. And we were there pretty much all day.
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Introducing Lark Toys.
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The best and most fun and magical toy store you’ll likely ever visit.
UntitledThis is no chain toy store, this is an original, complete with a toy museum with all of the classics and just about any other specialty toy you can think of. From baby dolls to puppets to Legos to books. There are brand names and Lark wooden exclusives. There are toys for everyone.

An old fashioned candy shoppe right on site complete with ice cream by the scoop.
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There is plenty to do at Lark Toys between the browsing in the store for books and toys to having a snack to playing a round of mini golf outside …
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…and my personal favorite part, the carousel.
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A real, old fashioned, gorgeous original carousel.
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It was F’s first ride and she loved it.

Well, honestly she was skeptical but I loved that it was her first carousel ride.

If you go, Lark Toys is open year round and is free to visit. We found the food reasonably priced for homemade picks. Toys range in price as does the candy shoppe. The carousel is $2/person but those age 90 and older can ride for free.

The second Friday of each month they hold a special preschool story time that includes a FREE carousel ride. 

Have you been to Lark Toys?
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On Serving Well.

This morning we sat gathered with friends and family and people we don’t even know, who knew my father in law, to remember his sweet 83 year old life. My father in law passed away 10 days ago now and life has been such a whirl with details and planning and too much pneumonia in our household and life all mixed together.

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I sat in the crowded funeral room sandwiched between J and F and M. My arm draped around sweet M, who’s so sad to have lost her grandpa and J leaning forward to touch his mom. A woman who’s spent the last 55 years serving her husband.

The minister spoke and he looked right at Judy and he said, “you have served your husband well.”

And I was so taken aback by those words. Not because they aren’t true because they’ve likely never been truer, I’ve never seen a soul serve another so wholly and deeply in my life. But I was just taken aback by the fact of it all. Of the many, many things I could say about my inlaws, the flaws and faults I could poke at, there’s not anything I could say that would change this fact.

Judy has lived her life as though her job was to serve Bernie. 

Our society tends to nitpick anything that speaks of gender roles when it comes to marriage. And I admit I’m one of the first to speak when I feel as though women are given the short end of the stick.  We value individualism and pride ourselves on being able to “do it ourselves”. There are thousands of articles and blog posts and journals written about women and power and feminism and equality and more. But service isn’t about any of that for me.

For 55 years my mother in law has served my father in law.

She served him well by raising their children and by supporting him while he chased his dreams of opening a bakery. She served him by working at that bakery and cleaning and cooking and shopping and doing all the things wives do. For the last 18 months or so, she has served him in sickness, in real, true, heartbreaking sickness. She served him at his best when they married and were both handsome and beautiful people, young and alert and ready for the world. And she served him at his worst, when his body was broken and his patience was shot. She served him all these years and she served him well.

J serves me daily. He gets up at night with our kids when he knows I need to sleep and when I am sick as I was this last week, he steps in and takes care of me better than I would take care of myself.  And he’d probably have to mention that just about every single night as I climb into bed, I’ll say “oh shoot, I forgot my water. Will you go grab it for me?” And he does. Every time. He serves me and our family well.

We are served by others in our life in many ways. Friends who brought meals when we needed them, family who helped with kids when we needed. We are served well by others.

I only hope I, too, am serving others well.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10

Buy One, Get One at SkyZone!

BUY ONE GET ONE at SKY ZONE! – Show this coupon {click link!} at Sky Zone in Plymouth or Oakdale, and you will receive a second 60 minute jump ticket free when you purchase the first!
skyzoneHappy jumping!!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post as part of US Family Guide.

PediaCare Smooth Melts {Giveaway.}

This post is sponsored by PediaCare.

‘Tis the season for colds, flu, sniffles and more. It seems since school started we’ve had our share of fevers and illness around here. Both boys have had temps around 103, H had pneumonia and Miss F has had an on again off again cold.

I recently participated in a PediaCare webinar with Dr. David Hill and he shared some great information on children’s health and cold and flu season.

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According to Dr. Hill {and most parents would agree here} back to school season is peak time for illnesses. Young kids {age 6 and under} typically get 6-8 colds a year and older kids get fewer each year.

It’s important when taking care of a sick kid to make sure they are getting plenty of rest, they are staying hydrated and that they are being medicated appropriately.

Some kids don’t like the taste of medicine which makes it hard to keep fevers down or start feeling better.

“Babies are born with the ability to detect and prefer sweetness,” Dr. Hill said in the webinar.

His tips for giving kids meds:

1. Use a syringe instead of the measuring cup.

2. Point the syringe towards the back of the mouth and inner cheek.

3. Always ask the pharmacist about if you can mix the medicine with juice or applesauce to make sure it will still be effective.

4. Always take medicine before brushing teeth.

“Great taste increases the willingness to take medicine,” Dr. Hill said.
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In celebration of their 30th anniversary of being devoted to children’s medicine, PediaCare has recently come out with a new medicine to help kids with cold and flu symptoms. PediaCare Smooth Melts- an acetaminophen based fever reducer and pain reliever. The new medicine focuses on taste so kids will take it willingly, is cherry flavored and an easy chewable tablet. Recommended for children ages 4-11, I love the idea of no dosing cups and also the fact that the tablets are pre scored so easy to cut in half when necessary.

Currently, PediaCare Smooth Melts are available at RiteAid and Amazon.

What do you use when your kids are sick? Tell me in the comments and you could win a prize pack from PediaCare including a healthy supply of samples and other PediaCare products.

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  Disclosure: This post is sponsored by PediaCare. All opinions expressed are mine. 

It’s Going to be a very Frozen Halloween. {GIVEAWAY!}

If I were a betting woman I would bet that there are going to be just a few Anna’s and Elsa’s and Olaf’s trick or treating this Halloween, wouldn’t you agree?

The trouble is finding all the right costumes, accessories. EVERYTHING. Am I right or am I right?

Thanks to the help of friends and good ol’ Facebook here are your best bets for securing Frozen Halloween anything:

Elsa hair-

elsahairI ordered this one on Amazon. com. Whether it will be here in time is anyone’s guess because it’s shipping from China. {Might need a back up plan but I did get a shipping notification already tonight!}

Justice {Thanks to my friend H for this tip!} The Albertville Justice store has plenty in stock, made by Disney and $15 a piece. You can also order online for $14.35 plus shipping.

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If you are crafty, this is adorable. And the pattern is FREE. 

Costumes:

Target has a ton of options but Target keeps selling out. This week they did BOGO on select Halloween costumes and MANY of the Frozen pieces were included. But KEEP looking. I called my local Target tonight and totally lucked out. So CALL your local store and keep checking if you are looking for something specific, they can hold things for up to 24 hours.

Kohls {thanks for the tip S!} Lots of options if you’re ok paying for shipping. Two discount codes you can use this weekend: YES2FAM for 20% off and TRICK15 for 15% off costumes.

How cute is this sweet Olaf costume?
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Where are you finding your Frozen goods this Halloween?

Good news, Frozen fans {and parents of Frozen fans} I’ve got a Disney Frozen Elsa costume to give away! As pictured below, it’s size 2T and I KNOW that there is some mama out there who just HAS to have this costume for her little girl.

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This giveaway is sponsored by me and I will ship the dress directly to the winner. United States only, please. Resale of the costume will be strictly prohibited.

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Five Reasons to go see Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day This Weekend! {Review}

Two of my littles and I went and saw Disney’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day on Tuesday night and it was a hit. We are already planning on taking J to see it and can be sure it will be a family hit!
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Here’s five reasons we think you should go see it this weekend:

1. It’s good, clean fun. It’s rated PG and there is some potty talk but there was no swearing, no violence and no sex. The potty talk is mild {butt crack and penis, but in a mother/son way}, the baby pees on the floor and at the end, the Australian cowboys are actually strippers but most kids wouldn’t pick up on that joke and they do NOT strip.

2. You will laugh. And laugh and laugh and laugh. We laughed the entire movie through.

3. As a parent, it’s terribly relatable. We have all had those days where it is one thing after another after another and where you’re just rolling with things as they come.
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4. All star cast. Any movie starring Jennifer Garner and Steve Carell is sure to be a hit.

5. It’s a rare Hollywood movie where the siblings actually GET ALONG. I’m so tired of movies and tv shows that perpetuate sibling conflict. While yes there are some disagreements between siblings {because THAT is real life} in the end, the priority is family and that’s always a plus for me.

I totally recommend taking your kids this weekend. I think most kids ages 5 and up would enjoy it and even though some of the jokes might fly over the younger ones’ heads, there will still be plenty of fun and enjoyment!

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day opens nationwide TODAY and we think you should go see it!
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Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions expressed are mine. We were invited to a complimentary press prescreening of the movie for review purposes and due to a relationship I have with Allied and Disney.

threeletterbirds Giveaway

Few things make me more excited that seeing people find a passion, whether that passion is to create or write or travel or whatever it is, seeing the spark of creativity and excitement about life and what they are doing is so exciting for me.
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It has been really fun to see my friend from college, Jenny, discover a gift she has and the joy that has unfolded from creating beautiful words on a page. Her work is lovely. And so is she.

She discovered calligraphy and began creating and even opened her very own etsy shop.
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While I haven’t seen Jenny in years. {I will be later this month. Can’t wait!} She is a kindred friend. She has been a constant supporter of me and my blog and I love that we are so frequently on the same page as we share ideas and articles and stories of life on Facebook and elsewhere. Jenny and her husband live in Chicago with their two adorable little girls.
jenny3I’m so excited to share Jenny’s work here because I find words so beautiful and words that are written so beautifully, even more. I love supporting other women I know who are pursuing their dreams so I’ve also decided to give away one of her in stock prints!

Take a look at her shop and enter the Rafflecopter giveaway right here:

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Busytown the Musical at Children’s Theatre Company

Miss E and I were able to attend Busytown the Musical at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis last weekend!

busytown3Busytown The Musical is based on the Richard Scarry book, What Do People Do All Day and was adapted for the stage by Kevin Kling.

Synopsis: Huckle the Cat’s curiosity drives the story of Busytown the Musical, beginning with his question to Sergeant Murphy, “what do people do all day?” We’re introduced to the many characters of Busytown through their roles in the community. Sergeant Murphy pursues Bananas Gorilla for stealing bananas, then a Construction Worker starts work on a new house, which prompts Huckle’s next question: “will there be children?” Each question is an opportunity to meet new characters and learn new things. Huckle meets Betsy Bear, who is writing a letter to her Grandma. We learn all about how letters are sent, and we also learn that it is Betsy Bear’s Grandma’s birthday. Huckle is invited and asked to make the cake, but how do you make a cake? With the help of Farmer Alfalfa, Able Baker Charlie and Humperdink, Huckle learns how to make a cake, but not before learning about fire safety from the Fire Chief afer he attempts to make one himself and fills his house with black smoke. Meanwhile, the letter makes its way to Grandma Bear with the help of Lowly, after a stop at the doctor’s office for a check-up, and a visit with Captain Salty and his pirates. We meet Train the dog, who operates the train, as well as all the people who ride it. Huckle enlists the help of his friends to bake the cake, Lowly delivers the letter to Grandma Bear just in time, and the creatures of Busytown make time for a birthday party for her, who Huckle guesses “may be over 30.” Rhyming verse, catchy songs and recognizable characters sing and show the how and why of community.

 

busytown2The play is 120 minutes long and includes a 15 minute intermission, from my perspective kids ages 4 and up would enjoy it, understand and follow along easily.

Miss E and I went last weekend and we loved it. The musical energy, the vibrant costumes and the amazing stage presence of all of the characters can’t be beat. You will leaving humming and toe tapping to all the enchanting songs. There were many familiar faces in the musical including company actors Autumn Ness, Reed Sigmund and Dean Holt. We especially enjoyed the presence of two new faces Meghan Kriedler, a University of Minnesota alum performing apprentice and Kasono Mwanza. {He was the best lion EVER.}

The show was engaging, entertaining and so fun. The adults laughed, the children laughed and everyone walked out smiling. busytown

It was especially fun to wait in line and get to meet the actors and have them autograph Miss E’s program. That was a first for us but select Saturday performances include that opportunity.
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Busytown The Musical is open through October 26 at Children’s Theatre Company. There is also a sensory friendly performance happening on Friday, October 24.

Are you going to see Busytown? What Children’s Theatre productions are you looking forward to this season?

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. I was invited to attend and review Busytown due to a relationship I have with the Children’s Theatre Company.

Gone Girl {Review}

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I’ve been really excited about Gone Girl the movie ever since I heard the Gillian Flynn book was being made into a movie. Once I heard Ben Affleck was in it, I was pretty much sold.

I read the book with my book club in the fall of 2012 and quickly thereafter had to read Gillian Flynn’s other two books, Dark Places and Sharp Objects. She is one good, suspenseful writer.

Gone Girl is about a couple who the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, the wife, Amy, disappears. All eyes are on her husband, Nick and his every move as he follows along the annual anniversary treasure hunt she left for him before her disappearance. The book alternates from Nick’s perspective to Amy’s perspective via past journal entries and keeps you in suspense and not sure what has happened and who is at fault. {If you haven’t already read it, it’s totally worth reading before the movie!}

I thought the movie was fantastic. It was very true to the book and many of the scenes and houses and characters were just as I pictured while reading. Ben Affleck plays Nick and Rosamund Pike plays Amy and the chemistry between the two is amazing. While initially I was skeptical of her performance of Amy by the end she was a perfect fit.

In the book, I found neither character, Nick or Amy, very likable. I couldn’t find myself cheering for either one yet in the movie I definitely found myself more empathetic with Nick’s perspective especially watching the movie and the media scrutiny.

I think the movie does a really good job of exemplifying just how much of a role the media plays in cases like this. The focus on a spouse and how every single detail is scrutinized, from a smile at the wrong time to a bad alibi. It was really interesting to see just how much the media really directed the speculation and direction of the people and somewhat of the investigation.

Finally, the music. Oh, the music. It really made the movie. It was perfect and really set the tone and emotion of every scene. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross composed the music and did an epic job. It really makes the movie.

20TH Century Fox: GONE GIRL — directed by David Fincher and based upon the global bestseller by Gillian Flynn — unearths the secrets at the heart of a modern marriage. On the occasion of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) reports that his beautiful wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), has gone missing. Under pressure from the police and a growing media frenzy, Nick’s portrait of a blissful union begins to crumble. Soon his lies, deceits and strange behavior have everyone asking the same dark question: Did Nick Dunne kill his wife?

The movie is about 2 1/2 hours long and is rated R. There is some violence, some nudity and language. In addition to Pike and Affleck, Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris are in the movie.

I think the Gone Girl movie does a great job of depicting the book and that you’ll walk away reeling. Go see it when it opens nationwide TODAY!

Are you planning on seeing Gone Girl? Did you read the book?

October is SIDS Awareness Month! {Halo Swaddle + SleepSack Giveaway!}

October is SIDS Awareness Month! This summer, HALO continued its mission to develop products to help babies sleep safely with the introduction of a brand new baby bassinet – the HALO Bassinet. With its unique dual-swivel design, the Bassinest is the only bassinet that moves to bring baby to mom. It allows baby to sleep as close as Mom wants – even right next to her in bed – so baby can sleep close AND safe.

 

We are big fans of HALO products, Miss F slept in a HALO SleepSack for several months after she was born and I think they are a perfect solution to keep baby swaddled and warm enough without overheating and including extra blankets.

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For the month of October, HALO is giving away one of their HALO Bassinets every Friday on their Facebook page! They are also giving one of my readers a Swaddle + SleepSack. You can enter the Rafflecopter giveaway right here.
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Safe Sleep Tips from HALO 
Share these tips with all caregivers to ensure safe sleep for your baby:
ALWAYS
  • Place baby to sleep on his or her back at naptime and at night time.
  •  Room-share, but don’t bed share; the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend against bed sharing as it can lead to an increased risk for accidental suffocation.
  • Use a crib or bassinet that meets current safety standards with a firm mattress that fits snugly and is covered with only a tight-fitting crib sheet.
  • Remove all soft bedding and toys from your baby’s sleep area (this includes loose blankets, bumpers, pillows and positioners). The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests using a wearable blanket instead of loose blankets to keep your baby warm.
  • Offer a pacifier when putting baby to sleep. If breastfeeding, introduce pacifier after one month or after breastfeeding has been established.
  • Breastfeed, if possible, but when finished, put your baby back to sleep in his or her separate safe sleep area alongside your bed.
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  • Never put your baby to sleep on any soft surface (adult beds, sofas, chairs, water beds, quilts, sheep skins etc.)

  • Never dress your baby too warmly for sleep; keep room temperature 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Never allow anyone to smoke around your baby or take your baby into a room or car where someone has recently smoked.