Take Us Out to the Ballgame!

Summer. Baseball. Family. Fun.

These words just go together, don’t they?!

In Omaha, you can add three more words: College World Series.

Every June, college baseball fans from all over the country converge upon our fair city to cheer on their teams and it is quite the sight to see! The Hubby and I attended a College World Series game back when we were a young married couple without kids. That was back in the days of Rosenblatt Stadium, the long-time location for this baseball championship that is no longer standing.

We hadn’t been back to the College World Series or the festivities surrounding them since they moved to downtown Omaha, but we made it a priority this year! With the boys getting older and being more interested in actually watching the game, this was the perfect year to take it all in!

CWS Opening Day Collage

We had such a fun time attending the Opening Day festivities – meeting players, watching practice, playing games, eating yummy food! It was a great way to see the stadium and teams up close for FREE!

The fun didn’t stop there, though, because The Hubby picked up tickets for us to attend two games, including one featuring LSU, the team our oldest son had decided to cheer for in the tournament! Imagine the excitement when the boys found out we were going! Honestly, I was just as excited as them!

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One of the biggest differences between attending the Opening Day activities and the game was the weather! On Friday, we were wearing hoodies and jeans, but by game day on Tuesday, it was in the upper 80s with LOTS of sunshine! We came equipped with the necessities – hats, sunglasses, water bottles, and plenty of great Banana Boat® sunscreen!

As a mom, I know how important it is to make sun protection a priority. Sunscreen does more than protect against sunburns. It protects against long-term effects that are not always visible, like skin damage and skin cancer.

Banana Boat® sun care products are tested in seven conditions – sun, pool water, ocean water, wind, sweat, sand and extreme heat – to provide safe and effective broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection for the entire family. The Hubby and I prefer Banana Boat® Sport Performance® Lotion Sunscreen with PowerStay Technology™ for our active lifestyles as runners and as busy parents of boys!

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Our trip to this ballgame ended with an LSU win, three happy boys, and no sunburn! It was a smashing success and we we went back for more later in the week Looks like we have a new yearly tradition!

Have you had a memorable trip to a baseball game? Tell me about it!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Banana Boat® . The opinions and text are all mine.

It’s a Healthy Thing at Smoothie King!

This is a sponsored post for Smoothie King. I was compensated for this post, but all opinions are 100% my own!

I have a thing for smoothies. REAL smoothies. The kind made with fruit, not syrups and added sugar.

Turns out we have a great new place in Omaha that feels the same way about smoothies! I had the fun privilege of joining a group of Omaha bloggers to try out a huge variety of the awesome smoothies offered by Smoothie King!

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Smoothie King has been around since 1973, but they just made their way to 90th and Center in Omaha two months ago and I’m thrilled they are here!

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Before we even tried a smoothie, I noticed that Smoothie King is not just about smoothies – they are all about all-around health. The store has an active lifestyle theme, from the decor to the additional health food items sold in the store. Their motto is, “Smoothies with a purpose.” And that purpose is supporting a healthy lifestyle for Smoothie King customers! I love that!

Now about those smoothies, because we all know that’s the main event here…

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We got to try NINE different smoothie flavors during our night at Smoothie King. I honestly liked all nine of them, but I most definitely had my favorites! Here are the flavors we tried:

  • Angel Food = banana + strawberry (Smoothie King’s #1 seller)
  • Mangofest = orange + mango + pineapple
  • Lemon Twist Strawberry = strawberry + lemon + papaya (skinny version)
  • Almond Mocha High Protein = coffee
  • Chocolate Gladiator with Peanut Butter and Banana = choose two fruits or one + peanut butter + either chocolate, strawberry or vanilla protein)
  • Berry Carrot Dream = carrots + orange + apple + strawberry + banana
  • Pineapple Surf = pineapple + strawberry + kiwi
  • The Hulk Vanilla = butter pecan ice cream + banana
  • Peach Papaya Greek Yogurt = just what the name says!

So here’s a funny thing: Smoothie King’s #1 seller (Angel Food) and the taste testers’ favorite of the night (The Hulk Vanilla) were my two least favorite – and they were still delicious! I loved all of the others, but I was particularly fond of the Lemon Twist Strawberry which was made “skinny,” which means they left out the turbinado sugar and saved me 100 calories!

Smoothie King Samples

I didn’t think I would care for the Berry Carrot Dream, but it was seriously yummy. Anything coffee is always a hit for me, so the Almond Mocha was fabulous. And my smoothie go-to – chocolate, peanut butter, and banana – did not disappoint! We also got a sneak preview of the new Greek yogurt smoothies coming to Smoothie King in July – I’m a BIG fan of Greek yogurt in my smoothies!

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The point is you just can’t go wrong with a smoothie from Smoothie King! They will have something just for you – vegan, kale, fitness, high protein, every kind of fruit – the list goes on and on! Each smoothie comes in three sizes – 20 oz, 32 oz, and 40 oz. There are also 12 oz smoothies just for the kids! 25 of the smoothies offered at Smoothie King are under 300 calories for a 20 oz!

Smoothie King SizesYou really need to visit Smoothie King for yourself to experience all the goodness, but I have one more thing to convince you to stop by…

Smoothie King Drive-Thru

That’s right – DRIVE-THRU! And there was much rejoicing from all the parents, am I right?! A healthy drive-thru option is a reason to cheer for me!

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I know you’re ready to hop in your car to head to Smoothie King, so let me help you out – I’ve got a $50 gift card to the Omaha store to give away to one of you! To enter, leave a comment with which smoothie flavor you can’t wait to try! For extra entries, follow Smoothie King on Twitter and/or Instagram and tweet the following message:

[Tweet “A $50 gift card to @smoothiekingoma?! I’m in! Enter to win here: #smoothiekingomaha #omaha”]

Make sure you leave a separate comment for each entry! This giveaway closes Friday, June 26th at 9PM CST! 

So what flavor will you try first?!

 

NOW Solutions for the Health of Your Body!

I am a #NowWellness Blogger Ambassador. I have received monetary and product compensation for this post. This post contains affiliate links. All opinions, recipes, and ideas are always my own.

Last week, I shared some fabulous foods we’ve been making with NOW Foods products lately, but there is so much more to this wonderful company than just food! Through being a #NOWWellness Blogging Ambassador, I’ve been introduced to amazing NOW Solutions products to take care of my whole body from head to toe!

NOW Solutions

Let’s start at the top!

NOW Shampoo and Conditioner

NOW® Solutions Herbal Revival™ Shampoo and Conditioner

Friends, I have a LOT of hair. It is thick and long and needs some major attention. One of my main goals is to keep my hair healthy in a more natural way, but I’m just not into the whole no-shampoo thing. If it works for you, great. Carry on.

A little more info about what goes into these hair products: Herbal Revival Shampoo + Conditioner contain Horsetail Extract, Tea Tree Oil and Sea Kelp to help soothe and nourish the scalp, as well as L-Arginine and L-Cystine to strengthen damaged follicles, giving hair a healthy shine and smooth feel.

I love the focus on repairing damaged hair because I know my hair takes a beating from the hair dryer, ponytail holders, and more! I was a little skeptical with my first try because the shampoo didn’t produce much foam and that threw me off. I’m just used to more foam! But my hair did come out feeling very clean and after several uses, I’ve become accustomed to this difference! I do tend to get lots of tangles in my long hair and the conditioner didn’t do much to help that, but my hair has been very soft and clean feeling! I also like the size of the bottles – some companies make them so small these days!

NOW Almond Oil

NOW® Solutions Sweet Almond Oil

Did you know Sweet Almond Oil is one of the best natural moisturizers around? I was completely convinced even after just one night using this on my face before bed! My skin was SO smooth and soft and did not feel extra oily in any way the next day! Almond Oil is easily absorbed and won’t clog pores, promoting clear, soft, healthy skin. There’s not much more to say – it was so easy to massage just a few drops into my skin in a circular motion and that’s it! And it is SO much cheaper than expensive hydrating creams.

NOW Solutions Toothpaste

NOW® Solutions XyliWhite™ Neem & Tea Tree Toothpaste

Can I be honest? The name of this toothpaste made me think I might gag on it. But I didn’t! I really liked it! It has a minty taste and left my teeth feeling smooth and clean! The toothpaste is fluoride free, SLS free, gluten free, AND paraben free! It also contains 25% xylitol which can help keep a neutral pH level in the mouth. It also prevents bacteria from sticking to the teeth, which is how it protects the teeth from tooth decay!

NOW Vitamin D Lotion

NOW® Solutions Vitamin D-3 Cream

This is my favorite. My skin loves me for using this lotion. A little bit goes a long way with this thick, creamy lotion that provides amazing intense moisture for the whole body! The Vitamin D-3 Lotion contains 500 IU of vitamin A to help rejuvenate your skin with its antioxidant benefits, and 50 IU of vitamin E to help gently, naturally renew damaged skin. This lotion is a dream for my legs right now in the summer when shorts and swimsuits are the norm, and I know it will be much needed when the dry winter air sets in. Even though the lotion is thick, it doesn’t feel heavy at all and my skin is looking gorgeous after just a few weeks of using it! If I were to suggest one product to start with from the NOW Solutions line for your body, this would be it!

 

Have you tried any of these NOW Solutions products? Which ones interest you the most?

Mary Poppins + The Rose

I received tickets to Mary Poppins from the Rose in exchange for this review. I was not compensated in any other way for this review and all opinions are 100% my own.

I wrote last month about my return to the world of musical theatre – watching, not acting – with the amazing musical, Once, at the Orpheum. Last Friday night, I had the pleasure of taking my boys along for a magical musical journey when we attended Mary Poppins at the Rose!

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The Rose is a performing arts theater in Omaha focused on enriching the lives of children and their families through live theater and arts education. They strive to make the arts accessible to all children, with shows for all ages and programs to provide tickets for low-income families. Each season at the Rose features seven shows, plus two premium shows such the one we attended last week!

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The actual theater building is magical on its own, with beautifully sculpted interiors, gorgeous decor, and a ceiling that changes from clouds to stars with fun lighting. Just being in the theater is an experience, but we were in for a bigger treat when our show began!

We’re big fans of Mary Poppins, but the stage musical varies a bit from the movie with which we’re so familiar. That wasn’t a concern at all because the songs we love so much – “Feed the Birds,” “Spoonful of Sugar,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” and more – were still there and the new ones were delightful as well!

The cast was all local actors and the talent was amazing! The boys were agreed on their favorite cast member – Michael – and song – “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” They were able to meet “Michael” afterwards and this gracious 11-year-old was kind enough to give them each an autograph on their kids’ programs!

My favorites were the same as my favorites in the movie. Bert was just as Bert should be – charming, fun, wise, and a great dancer. And I’ve always been a sucker for a great group dance number, so I was totally won over by “Step in Time.” I especially loved the tap and the boys loved the special effects that had Bert dancing on the ceiling!

Remember how I mentioned I cried during Once? I actually had tears in my eyes during several of the big group dance numbers at Mary Poppins! And they weren’t even sad songs! There is just something about seeing a group singing and dancing so well together that gets me all emotional. I’d call that a sign of a wonderful performance!

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The Rose has so many extra little things that make the night special for families. The kids received programs as they entered with a plot summary and tons of fun activities to go with the show! Little J was thankful for the free booster seat that helped him see better from his spot!

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Before the show and during intermission, kids are welcome to look down into the orchestra pit to watch the musicians prepare for the show.

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At intermission of the two premier shows, there are chocolate chips cookies, bottled water, and pop available for $1 each! It was the perfect little treat in between acts! And at the end of the show, actors are available for Q&A with the kids and autographs!

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Before we even went to Mary Poppins, our family had purchased a membership for next season and we are all so excited to use it! A family membership to the Rose is just $95 and includes 4 tickets to each of the seven regular season shows. With your membership, you also receive discounts on the two premium shows of the season and classes, member-only opportunities for backstage tours and show-themed family classes, and a free member day! This is an amazing deal for such great exposure to the arts for the whole family!

Mary Poppins runs Friday and Saturday nights, along with Saturday and Sunday afternoons through June 28th. Purchase your tickets now and take the whole family!

 

Friday Favorites

I have included affiliate links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

I haven’t done a Friday Favorites in a while, so I have all sorts of stuff stored up in my head to share with you! And my friend, Crystal, does the most fun Friday Favorites every single week, so you should check hers out. We often agree on our favorite things. We’re cool like that.

Crossway Trio

Everything I’ve read from Crossway Books

I’ve read three books published by Crossway this year and I can’t get enough of them. I’m going to be writing a review on each one, but I just need to give you a heads up that these books need to be on your list. The absolute best part about books from Crossway is how they pack a TON of wisdom and grace into a small amount of pages. I pick up a Crossway book and think, “As a busy mom, I can handle a book this size.” And then I end up underlining half the book because they have each been THAT. GOOD. The three I’ve read so far are Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full, Blind Spots, and Women of the Word. I already have two more in line to read. Yes, Im addicted.

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Corn Salsa

Speaking of addictions, this corn salsa is super duper easy to make and I’ve been eating it for days on everything. I mixed it in with BBQ grilled chicken and quinoa for lunch yesterday. I used it to top a turkey burger. And, it may sound strange, but I’m loving using romaine leaves as “chips” and scooping up the corn salsa as a dip. Make some this weekend.

COS Beach Sale

Summer Accessories on Sale

Sunglasses, sandals, kimonos… So, I don’t own a kimono yet, but Cents of Style is totally tempting me with their summer accessories sale today. I want grab all their fun beach items and head to the ocean. Too bad I’m in the middle of the country. So here’s the great beach sale today: Get 40% off + free shipping on all the items you need to look fabulous at the beach with the code BEACHREADY at checkout! Kimonos are just $11.97! You can also get great deals on sandals, swimsuit coverups, and more! If you spend $20 or more, you will also get three sheets of fun metallic temporary tattoos for FREE!

DaySpring Fathers Day Flash Sale

Flash Sale for Father’s Day!

DaySpring is helping you get ready for Father’s Day this weekend with a flash sale on these amazing sets for dads! There are two gift sets available, each at the super low price of $19.99! AND you can use the code THANKYOU to get an extra 25% off as part of the Customer Appreciation Sale! These sets are on sale through the weekend and they are an amazing way to bless the man in your life for Father’s Day! If you’re not shopping for Dad, you can still use the THANKYOU code to get 25% off your DaySpring order!

We have a fun-packed weekend ahead of us – I can’t wait to fill you in on Monday! Enjoy your weekend!

 

Making Meals with NOW Foods!

I am a #NowWellness Blogger Ambassador. I have received monetary and product compensation for this post. This post contains affiliate links. All opinions, recipes, and ideas are always my own.

It has been my pleasure over the last week to be adding some amazing NOW Foods products into my daily life! I had no idea the breadth of products available from NOW Foods before becoming a blogger ambassador, so it’s been fun to try these high quality, natural, and affordable products that meet the stringent quality standards set forth by NOW Foods!

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Look at that haul we get to try! So many amazing products – food, personal care, sports nutrition, and supplements! I’m not a patient person, so I’ve been diving in to try everything these past two weeks!

My focus this week: making meals with NOW Foods!

NOW Foods Meals

One of our current obsessions is grain bowls. We’ve been trying different kinds of rice and quinoa mixed with meat and veggie combos, so the Living Now® Gluten-Free Organic Tri-Color Quinoa was a perfect fit for us!

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This tri-color quinoa is not only delicious, but also beautiful! I prepared the quinoa based on the package instructions, using chicken broth as the liquid. Quinoa is even easier to cook than rice and it doesn’t come out sticky! I also love that quinoa adds extra protein and iron to my meal.

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To partner with the tri-color quinoa, I baked chicken breasts in Ellyndale Organics™ Coconut Infusions™ Garlic Flavor. I also stir-fried the veggies for our bowl in the same oil. The subtle garlic flavor added by this oil was scrumptious!

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Here is the end result – garlic baked chicken, tri-color quinoa, zucchini, red pepper, and onion! We both wanted two bowls because it was so delicious! We refrained and I’m glad we did, because the leftover quinoa was the perfect side for our grilled chicken and vegetables lunch over the weekend.

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Doesn’t this look like the perfect light, healthy summer meal?! The tri-color quinoa has quickly become a favorite in our household!

Another favorite summer lunch for me is a protein smoothie! 

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Protein smoothies are cool, refreshing, filling, and quick to make! My favorite combo is unsweetened vanilla almond milk, plain Greek yogurt, frozen banana, PB2, and chocolate protein powder. I was thrilled to find the  NOW® Sports Sprouted Brown Rice Protein – Chocolate in my package because it was perfect for this smoothie! One tablespoon of this protein powder is just 30 calories and 4g of protein, and it is soy-free + dairy-free – so great for those with food allergies.

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One last meal idea for you today – a giant salad. The Hubby and I love big salads topped with lots of veggies, a little bacon, and something crunchy. NOW Real Food® Organic Toasted Hemp Seeds are a fabulous salad topper! They lightly sea-salted (yum) and are a valuable source of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. One serving also packs 5g of protein! My mind is already thinking up new ways to use these nutritious, delicious seeds!

If you think these NOW Foods products sounds fabulous, you’re right, and I have SO much more to share! Look for another post next week highlighting the great personal care products I’ve been trying!

Which of these NOW Foods products would you like to try? How would you use them in a meal?

Go to Camp with Mabel’s Labels!

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Mabel’s Labels. I received a voucher to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

Last year, we sent our first kiddo off to summer camp. I knew he would be just fine, but I still had a bit of a hard time letting him go! All my fears + worries were alleviated when he came back, grinning from ear to ear. He hasn’t stopped talking about all the camp fun since – and it’s almost been a year since he was there!

Summer Camp

This year we’re sending TWO kids to summer camp and they could not be more excited! I am thrilled for them as well, but I know it will take a little extra planning + organization to send them both off to camp at the same time. Our boys are fairly tidy on their own, but I know clothes and other belongings can get mixed up easily in a dorm filled with other boys!

For this very purpose, I’m thrilled with Mabel’s Labels new Limited Edition Camp Label Pack! This is exactly what I need to make sure the boys bring back everything they took to camp! And we had fun picking out the colors and designs for our label pack together. There are so many color and theme choices for animal lovers, sports lovers, and even a camp theme!


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With Mabel’s Labels, I know I am getting a quality product that won’t fall off easily – they are laundry, dishwasher, and microwave-safe and come with a 100% guarantee! Each Limited Edition Camp Label Pack comes with:

  • 10 Personalized Name Stickers: 70mm x 16mm (2-3/4″ x 5/8″)
  • 24 Mini Custom Name Stickers: 38mm x 8mm (1-1/2″ x 5/16″)
  • 8 Custom Shoe Stickers: 33mm (1.3″)
  • 50 Tag Mates™ Stick On Clothing Labels: 21mm x 10mm (13/16″ x 3/8″)
  • 2 Personalized Bag Tags: 57mm x 32mm (2-1/4″ x 1-1/4″)

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How genius are those shoe stickers?! With all the flip flops floating around, I love that my boys will have theirs labeled and easily identifiable! I’ll be using all 50 of those clothing labels to keep their clothes straight, and the other name stickers will go on everything left over, including toiletries and their Bibles!

If you’re looking to order your own Limited Edition Camp Label Pack before you send your kids off to camp, whether it’s day camp or overnight, I’ve got a fun deal for you! Mabel’s Labels is offering a chance to receive 15 – 50% off or free item coupons! From now through June 22, 2015, sign up for the Mabel’s Labels Newsletter and complete one additional social share, and you will be given a one-time use coupon code! Go to the Mabel’s Labels website to find out which discount you got! Everything you need to sign up is right here:

Mabels Labels Camp Combo

Are your kids going to camp this summer? Which part of the Limited Edition Camp Label Pack would be most useful for you?

Make sure you join the Mabelhood community on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see how real-life families are using their Mabel’s Labels!

What I Wore

I have included affiliate links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

Wednesdays are for What I Wore! As a mom of boys, it’s fun for me to share my girlie side here each week talking fashion!

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Last week was the funeral for a fallen police officer in our community. It is such an incredibly sad situation, but I was so moved by how our community came together to honor her. This is one of the memorial shirts to benefit her family. I wore it down to police headquarters with the boys to see the memorial placed there by people from all over the state.

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Anybody else dealing with rollercoaster weather in your area? We’ve had warm days and cool days, but much more of the latter, so coffee + my Evy’s Tree hoodies have been a lifesaver. The coral Diana is the perfect summer wrap – lightweight, dreamy soft, versatile. I adore it.

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Apparently I decided to match our lunch location with my Evy’s Tree Brilla! The hoodie was accompanied by my fave gray tee and the best jeans ever from Maurice’s. I want to wear these jeans every single day.

Remember how I said I adore the Evy’s Tree Diana? Here it is again! I think I wore it every day this past weekend. It was the perfect jacket for our anniversary date night, paired with a fun burgundy top + white capris from Target, gold jewelry from Charming Charlie’s, my fashionABLE Mayume tote, and these amazing Clarks wedges!

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If you need me this summer, I’ll be at the tennis courts at least four hours a week for the kids’ lessons! There are no trees around the courts, so it’s either windy + chilly (like it was yesterday) or super duper hot! Yesterday was definitely hoodie weather, so obviously I grabbed my Evy’s Tree Ashley hoodie with my fave Old Navy tank + GAP shorts. I love tennis so much and being in the sun is a major bonus! Summer, we’re so glad you’re here!

What have you been wearing this week?

 

 

Weekend Snapshots

We packed a whole lot in to this wonderful weekend, so get ready for some photo overload in this week’s Weekend Snapshots!

Our weekend was spent in South Dakota with family starting with a little time in Brookings…

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I’ve been going to Nick’s since I was a little girl. It’s one of those old-fashioned diner places that serve hamburgers right at the counter and I just love taking our kids there now! Nick’s is a must if you visit Brookings!

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Another must in Brookings is the Children’s Museum of South Dakota! I’ll have a full post on the museum soon if you’re thinking of visiting, but we spent the afternoon there exploring, playing, and learning! It was a hit with all of the kids, ages one through nine!

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We capped off our time in Brookings with a visit to see my grandparents! I love that our kiddos are able to get to know their great-grandparents and spend time with them!

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We spent Saturday evening downtown Sioux Falls, starting at the beautiful Falls for which the city is named! The city has done such a lovely job making a beautiful park to surround the Falls. There were four couples having wedding pictures taken in the twenty minutes we were there!

If you live in or are visiting Sioux Falls, you have to check out Fiero Pizza in downtown Sioux Falls. This build-your-own pizza place is super fun and super delicious! Each pizza is around $9 and we had eight pizzas for the ten of us. The adults each had their own and some of the kids split pizzas with a little left over. We also had a dessert pizza to top it all off! Two thumbs up from everyone in our group! To add to the fun, the table tops are chalkboards, so the kids made some art before and after eating!

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Downtown Sioux Falls also has a fun sculpture walk. Beware the alligator!

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Sunday morning found us at one of my happy places – the tennis court! The Hubby and I played some mixed doubles with my parents and the boys hit around a little as well. The older two start up with tennis lessons again this week!

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The zoo is always a great choice with our guys, so we headed to the Great Plains Zoo for the afternoon. The petting zoo and giraffes were favorites, but the kids were pretty cute, too! That face by Double J is what happens when he’s crabby and I ask him to do a crazy face. that kid. And my niece is the cutest, agreed?!

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The whole reason for our weekend getaway, other than spending fun time with family, was to celebrate our twelfth wedding anniversary! We had the best date night to celebrate, having a fabulous dinner where we talked + talked, then seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron! There is no one I would rather spend time with and I love this man way more than when we said “I do” twelve years ago! He’s just the best. The end.

Whew! I’m tired just recapping our weekend, but it was a great one!

How was your weekend? What were the highlights?

I’m linking up with Erin at Her Heartland Soul for Weekend Snapshots!

 

Fight Back With Joy

I received this book to review from Worthy Publishing. All opinions are 100% my own. This post contains affiliate links.

Sometimes a book just falls into your lap at just the right time and speaks right to what you are going through at that moment. That’s exactly what happened with Fight Back With Joy by Margaret Feinberg.

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As you might recall, I chose the word JOY as my word of the year for 2015. I chose it reluctantly, but can see countless reasons in these first five months of the year why God led me to that word. When I heard about Fight Back With Joy, I knew I needed to read this perspective on joy – and I was overwhelmed by what God taught me through Margaret’s words.

I should tell you first that we’ve had a somewhat turbulent first half of 2015. Plans were made and then turned upside down and we were just along for the bumpy ride. I believe this is why God chose JOY as my word of the year. And it’s also why He had me pick up Margaret’s book.

From the very first words, as Margaret also describes reluctantly choosing the word joy, I knew I would relate and learn from this book. I wrote about what joy really is in my post earlier this year, but I stand by her assertion in the intro:

“Many people live joyless lives because they don’t understand what joy is, what joy does, how to discover joy, and what to do with it once they find it.”

Margaret’s experience with joy was so relatable to me, but our battles have been very different. Fight Back With Joy walks us as readers through her battle with cancer and how she used joy as a weapon to fight off everything negative that came her way. It is extremely poignant, vulnerable, raw…all pointing back to God, the source of all joy.

“Joy emanates from the abiding sense of God’s fierce love for us.”

I think I have half the book underlined because Margaret’s words spoke to me SO much, but there was one chapter in particular that jumped out and grabbed hold of my heart.

Earlier this year, I shared our Bible verse of the year and why I thought God had spoken this verse to me. I was so wrong, not about the verse, but about the meaning. Our change in plans this spring means we won’t be moving to the small town by the river. I couldn’t understand what God meant for that verse in our life, hanging in our living room, until I read Chapter 8 in Fight Back With Joy.

If you weren’t with us at the beginning of the year, our verse of the year as a family was:

“They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.” -Isaiah 49:10

In Chapter 8, Margaret shares a story from the Bible I didn’t know very well about Caleb’s daughter, Achsah. There comes a point where she is newly married and living in a desert – an actual, physical desert. Instead of wallowing about her dry, awful living conditions, she boldly approaches her father and asks that he give them springs of water. And he grants her request.

When I read those three words – “springs of water” – a chill went through my body and I perked up to see where God was leading this train of thought. Turns out the train was going right where I needed it to go, to this statement…

“In the desert of despair, springs of water unlock reservoirs of joy.”

Our springs of water are usually not physical water. They weren’t for Margaret and they weren’t for me. The springs of water she experienced and the ones I have found are so much more life-giving.

“Achsah’s story serves as a reminder that we can petition God for sweet water when circumstances make us feel like we’re sucking sand. In those moments, we can ask for special favor and expect God to work in powerful ways.”

This chapter prompted me to ask and I fully received new blessings from God in the midst of our desert. Springs of water – and joy – were found in new opportunities, deepening friendships, moments celebrated together.

“A prayer for springs in the desert is a request to discover the fullness of life even when facing trouble and difficulty.”

That fullness of life, when found in Christ, is what joy is all about. God used this book in powerful way to lead me to those springs of water, and they have been filling me with joy ever since.

No matter where life has you right now – in a season of drought or abundance – you will find inspiration in Margaret’s words.

I really want to give every single one of you a copy of Fight Back With Joy. I can’t quite afford that, but I am giving away three copies thanks to Worthy Publishing!

To enter, tell me something that has brought you joy in the past week! For an extra entry, tweet about this giveaway and come back to tell me you did in a separate comment! This giveaway is open until Monday, June 1st at 9PM CDT!

[Tweet “I entered to win 1 of 3 copies of Fight Back with Joy by @mafeinberg from @WorthyPub!”]