Thursday, July 24, 2014

College Nannies + Tutors: Local Business Spotlight and a Great Giveaway!

Written by Marily

If you have children, you can probably relate to how hard it can be to find good child care when you need it; whether it is on a regular basis or more sporadically, like our family. Getting a good, trustworthy person is a top priority for parents.

Recently, I got to work with College Nannies + Tutors and the owner of two of their franchise locations here in the valley. The business employs nannies and tutors to help families make matches that fit their family's specific needs. 

College Nannies + Tutors, Gilbert location
Here are some of the perks of working with College Nannies + Tutors compared with some of your other options:
  • Hire a nanny with ease- They do the interviews and background checks for you. They hire the best people around to make sure their customers have the best experiences.
  • All nannies and tutors are 18 years and older. They hire role models for your children who are responsible to carry out your wishes. Nannies can have fun with the children but also get them to bed on time.
  • Always have a back-up. If you use their on-call service there are several great nannies so it is easier to find someone when you need a sitter. If you have a regular nanny who comes while you work and she gets sick, College Nannies + Tutors can find someone else to fill in and you don't have to scramble.
  • Tutoring services can be in-home or at their centers. There is a brand new center just getting ready to open at Dana Park in Mesa. Tutoring services available in all subjects including test prep.
The whole process for us began with a short family meeting. The owner, Nicole, came to my home to meet me and my kids and get to know our family so she could make a good placement with a nanny. After the meeting, my husband Mark and I scheduled some time out away from the kids and we let College Nannies + Tutors know when we needed a nanny. I was given an email once they chose Makenzie for our family with the nanny's name, references, a photo, and lots of information about her. Makenzie even gave me a call the day before she came over to check in with me and run through the kids' bedtime routines. 

We loved Makenzie! (p.s. this is not my daughter :))
Tuesday night came and our nanny showed up prompt and ready to start. Makenzie got a chance to get to know the kids and we ran through important information with her including emergency papers (College Nannies + Tutors includes these for you to fill out.)

Mark and I used our Pogo Passes that night to catch a Diamondbacks game and we stopped at a favorite Mexican restaurant near the ballpark. Date night is so important and I am grateful College Nannies + Tutors made this happen for us this week! More to come later on where we went.

It was so nice to come back home to our kids because Makenzie had taken care of everything.  It really would be hard to find a better sitter for my kids, in fact I don't think I have ever had a better one than her. She brought some modeling clay and bubbles to give the kids some fun activities to do while we were out. She got dinner ready for them and even washed the dishes they all used. After Mark and I got home, I saw a note Makenzie had written for us outlining how the evening went and how she loved hanging out with our kids. I said to my husband, "That is the difference between a babysitter and a nanny."

A note from Makenzie, and the bubbles and modeling clay creations she left for our kids
Really, the experience with College Nannies + Tutors felt much less like working with a business and much more like interacting with some really nice, kind, and dependable people. That is the kind of relationship I want to have with someone who is going to be watching my children. 

And guess what? 

You could win a free date from this great company too! 

Giveaway instructions after the jump.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Arizona Elections 2014: Important Dates You Need to Know

Driving around it's hard to not notice it is election time. Here is a quick shot of info in order to keep you in-in-the-know so you can accomplish your civic duty this fall. If you are not registered to vote or need to change your registration, time is ticking!

Images and writing by Marily
Any other info you need can be found on the Secretary of State's website including:
  • Voter registration info
  • A kids' page to learn about the state of Arizona
  • How to request an early ballot
...and more. 

For me, as a mom of little kids, I like requesting an early ballot, filling it out at home, then walking it in to the polls on election day. I can take my kids to the polls with me to show them the voting process but I don't have to wait in line with them or fill out my ballot while I am there. It's a great option for me.

And as for candidates and issues, I am not going to be helping with that info, good luck!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Foster Care Journey in Arizona

Writing and images by Kathryn

(Disclosure:  I am not an expert.  This is just my beginning.)

Some of you may have noticed that it seems Marily has been doing all the work this last month at I Heart AZ.  And you are right.  Marily is a friend that has been there through the thick and thin of it all since we were both awkward little girls in 8th grade.  Marily has taken over for me for much of this summer because...

I'm a new mom again!  That means I'm getting up every two or three hours in the night and hoping that this little one doesn't decide to have a party at 3:00 AM (like last night).  I try to fit in my meals when I can.  My arms and voice seem to be the comfort that baby craves, which I don't really mind.  I'm soaking in dreamy smiles and chubby cheeks and that fresh baby smell and trying to forget about all the less important things that still seem to be calling my attention.     

But when I look down at these dark brown eyes and stroke this beautiful downy hair, I know this baby is not mine to keep.  I didn't give birth to him.  I don't even have custody of him.  I'm his foster mom.  I'm here for however long he needs.  Whether it is one month or two years or possibly a lifetime.  He is my Maybe Baby.     
My girls waiting to meet our new little guy.  I had just driven in the garage when my husband snapped this picture.  
Let me tell you, it is crazy adjusting to being the mom without really being the mom.  Crazy!  I've given birth to two sets of twins and tandem nursed them for a year each.  I figured that would be my crowning jewel, the information they could put on my tombstone to prove I did something valuable in life.  But people want to know how fostering feels in comparison.  Obviously I'm not lactating and my body isn't in recovery from a recent twin pregnancy and delivery, but becoming a foster mother is VERY different, and not necessarily easier.  The emotions of it all are new to me and I'm navigating as best I can.  I'm driving to biological visits several times a week.  I learned how to sign up for WIC.  I'm learning what to say to people when this precious newborn looks nothing like me or my husband or our blond haired blue eyed gaggle of girls.  I'm adjusting to the reality of loving someone so much but not knowing how long I'll get to keep him.  I'm adjusting to so many maybe's that sometimes I think my head might explode. 

But I don't regret becoming a foster mom.  I know this is what I was supposed to do and I knew it wouldn't be easy.  I knew there would be days where I would lose sight of why my husband and I made this decision, but the right idea is not always the easy idea.

In 2012 there were 14,111 children in Arizona who were placed in out-of-home care due to neglect, abandonment or abuse.  14,111!

In 2012, seventy children died in Arizona from "maltreatment."  In 2011 it was 71.  In 2010 is was 70.  That is roughly three whole classrooms full of children who vanish each year due to abuse.  

I've heard, "I could never do that.  It would break my heart," so. many. times.  First statement is false.  Second statement is true.  Your heart will be stretched, broken, filled with so much love you can't stand it and crushed...but you could do it.  You can handle that.  Most of us where raised in such a way that we can handle the battle, but these children, no matter what you think your heart can handle or not, still need homes.  There will still be drunken rage, children born addicted to drugs, too young of children left to fend for themselves, sexual abuse, emotional and physical abuses, children needing stability, and the list goes on and on. 

I'm not saying foster care is for everyone, but, if you stop lying to yourself that your heart could never handle it, would you find a heart actually willing?

(And just to clarify - you do not need to be married to be a foster parent)

Why are you doing foster care?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Exploring Arizona: Salt River Canyon Scenic Drive

Recently we took a day trip to Show Low and drove through the Salt River Canyon. If you enjoy scenic drives, this is a must see and definitely a highlight of my summer

My husband Mark talks about driving through the Salt River Canyon numerous times growing up on the way to and from Show Low to see family.  Many people describe it as a mini Grand Canyon. The cool part though is that you get to drive through the canyon.  I am not sure how I missed seeing this place, having lived in Arizona nearly all my life. 

The rode takes you through the the San Carlos and Fort Apache Indian reservations so you may get a chance to stop and buy items from Native Americans if you'd like.  We would have stopped for that and to take some pictures too, but we had two kids sleeping in the back seat who needed a good nap before we stopped for dinner in Miami.  We drove straight through this time so  this is the only photo I got:

Written by Marily, photos are credited to their original sources

Fortunately, there are some much better photographers out there. Check these out: 

Image source: EJ Photo

Image source: EJ Photo

Image Source: EJ Photo

Image source: 52 Wednesdays

Image source: Wikipedia
How to get there 
Check out more information about the drive including how to get there and other places to stop at on the way here.

You might want to know that if you have a big fear of heights or are inexperienced driving winding mountain roads, this may not be so much fun for you. However, if you take it slow and the driver can pay attention to the road without getting too distracted by the view, it is a beautiful and safe drive.

We hit up Guayo's El Rey for some Mexican food in Miami on our way back to the Valley. Globe/Miami is known for it's great, authentic Mexican food and we were not disappointed. Two kinds of salsa, excellent enchiladas, and delicious shredded beef tacos. 

On our Facebook page, we asked what your favorite Mexican restaurants were in the Globe/Miami region.  Lots of people that said Burger House is the BEST for Mexican food, so we will have to check that out next time. Check us out on Facebook if you'd like to be part of the conversation.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

20 Plus Back to School Ideas (Link Roundup)

Maybe you are not yet in the back to school mode, but we are just about ready for school to start at my house. Many kids still have a couple of weeks of summer break, but we are counting down our last couple of days. Meet the Teacher is on Monday and school begins next Wednesday.


Here are several ideas I've found for back to school including food, shopping, schedules, and much more.

School Lunch Ideas

Writing by Marily. Images are from original sources, as cited

1. Create a grab and go snack station

2. Organize a school lunch making drawer

3. School lunch ideas

4. Free printable lunch box notes

Back to School Style

More ideas after the jump.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

50 Things to Do With Kids for the Last Stretch of Summer Break

If you have kids in school, then summer is likely on the home stretch. Some kids in Arizona are heading back this week! And some of you have a few more weeks to squeeze in some summer fun before classes start again. Here are our summer posts all gathered together in one easy spot for one long list of over 50 things to do to keep you and your family entertained til you get back to your school-day routines.

Air-Conditioned Fun: A list of indoor activities like museums, malls, etc around AZ

Water Fun and Splash Pads: Read this list for some new ideas for splash pads. Take a little drive and try out a new one. Or, try splash pad hopping by visiting more than one spot in a day.

Classes and Activities: There are still several things on this list that are going on at local businesses for kids. It's likely the activities are less busy now since it is towards the end of the season.

Writing by Marily. Photos by Kathryn and Marily.

Out to Eat: Kid-friendly restaurants and great deals for dining out with kids. You'll want this information even when it's not summer. 

Summer Reading Programs: If your kids have finished your library's reading program, get them refreshed and excited to read some more with a new program from a place on this list.

Try out a new ice cream spot

Buy a Pogo Pass and get entrance into 15 venues for one low price. Use code IHEARTAZ for 60% off.

The Pogo Pass will give you plenty to do for the last little bit of summer.  If you buy now it will also keep you entertained all the way into much of next summer too. 

Check out our facebook page here to chime in about your favorite Mexican restaurants in the Globe/Miami area.  

Follow us on Pinterest for more ideas of things to do in Arizona. 

What is your favorite thing you have done this summer in Arizona?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Where to Buy 3-Gallon Tubs of Ice Cream

Writing and Images by Marily
This is how we are celebrating National Ice Cream Month at our house. A couple big tubs of Thrifty ice cream, some cones, and some friends. What could be sweeter than that? 

Want to know our secret? The big 3-gallon tubs of Thrifty Ice Cream are from Restaurant Depot. These are so fun to pull out for a party or event. Restaurant Depot has over 30 flavors--all of your favorites and some really fun ones too like coconut-pineapple, cotton candy, strawberry cheesecake, and chocolate malted crunch. Ice cream and sherbet is priced at around $14 - $19 per tub depending on the flavor which ends up being about $2.50 - $3.25 per half gallon (not 1.75 like most containers of ice cream.) If you are looking for a dairy-free option Restaurant Depot carries a brand of Italian ice in 3-gallon tubs as well.

Where to Shop:
There are three locations in Arizona, in Mesa, Phoenix, and Tucson. If you don't have a membership to Restaurant Depot you can also get 3-gallon containers of ice cream at Smart and Final. The store by me has Thrifty vanilla ice cream and about four or five Smart and Final brand flavors. Another perk with Smart and Final is you don't need a membership card.

Membership Info:
You must have a membership card to shop at Restaurant Depot.  Memberships are free for business owners (you need to provide a business license or tax-exempt certificate.) The nice thing about these memberships is the cardholder does not have to be present. This is not a store for kids, actually you have to sign a waiver every time you bring a child into the store. 

This is how we are celebrating National Ice Cream Month. How about you?

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