Today is my beloved Vivienne May’s first birthday.

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year already. It’s funny to think about how a year ago at this time, I was in labor—just an hour or so away from meeting my baby for the first time. I didn’t even know if she was a boy or a girl and wasn’t positive about what her name would be, so I certainly didn’t know anything about who she would be. And I still have much to learn as she grows.

But today, I wish the happiest of birthdays to my sweet, loving, smart, spunky, trouble-making, adorable Vivienne. I love her so much.

I’ll talk a lot more about her and my feelings about the big birthday in her 12-month post (with pics!), which realistically probably won’t be coming for another day or two. Because in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been quiet the last 10 days or so. Why? Because we’ve been at the beach!

We traveled down to the Outer Banks in North Carolina to spend a week at the beach with friends. Nine adults, seven children. It was a ton of fun, but also exhausting (a “vacation” with kids is not really a vacation at all, is it?!).

If you follow me on Instagram (@heatherkj), you’ve already gotten a pretty good taste of what we were up to all week. But for everyone else, here’s a quick peek:

These are only a handful of my favorites. So many more photos. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to sift through them all very soon and choose many more to share. Right now, we’re at my dad’s in Virginia (his house makes a very good pit stop between the OBX and home!) to enjoy Vivienne’s birthday before we head home tomorrow.

So, excuse me while I go snuggle my baby toddler. I’ll leave you with one more pic of the birthday girl…

She cracks me up. I love her so much!


Michael completed his first-ever triathlon a few weeks ago. I wish I could say it had been me, but the fact of the matter is that I’m in horrible shape, and Michael is in great shape. So much so that he did the darn thing without even training for it, whereas if I did that, I would probably die.

He was up super early on triathlon morning and headed to the race site. Nora, Vivienne, my mom and I followed a few hours later, aiming to get there by the time he came out of the water from completing the swimming portion. We were late—got on the road later than planned, then parked in the wrong place at first—so we missed him during the first transition, but we were there and ready for when he returned from the cycling.

While we waited, we had Nora work on a sign for her daddy.Vivienne was content just to empty the markers container, fill it back up again, empty it again, and so on. She does that with everything these days—including my purse if she can get her hands on it!

After a little while, we finally spotted Michael coming down the way.While he was in Transition 2, we were able to cross over so we were there when he took off for his run. And then we were right at the finish line when he came back.Michael was definitely happy to be done! It was “only” a sprint triathlon—so a 750-meter swim, a 16.1-mile bike, and a 3.1-mile run. He’ll be the first to say that his time was not great, but given that he didn’t even freakin’ train? I’m still pretty impressed. And Nora was proud of her daddy, even though she told him afterward, “Next time, I want you to win!” :) It was my first time ever attending a race like this, and it was actually really inspiring. As soon as he was done, Michael was already talking about going back to do it again next year—he plans to train next time!—and who knows? Maybe it’s something I’ll be disciplined enough to train for some day, too.

I’m still working on figuring out what kind of exercise is going to fit into my life with my full-time job and commitment to my family. I have yet to find a good solution that doesn’t involve me compromising in areas I don’t want to compromise. It’s tough. Now that Vivienne is about to be a year old, and my job is more flexible than my past one, I’m hoping that I will be able to start something soon. I’m considering CrossFit—Michael does it and loves it, as do some of my friends—but the schedule is still a little problematic. And it’s kind of expensive! :(

Anyway, I digress.

After the triathlon, we ended up at a restaurant on the lake to eat lunch. It was such a beautiful day, so it was a perfect afternoon for it—and a great way for Michael to celebrate his accomplishment.

Overall, a great summer day with our family’s triathlete! :)


When I was growing up, we NEVER used sunscreen. NEVER.

{Me, circa 1990, when summers were made for non-stop sun and swimming}

Every summer, my brothers and I spent eight weeks with my dad in Virginia. My dad, grandparents, and cousins all lived on the same street (small town!) and my grandparents had a great in-ground pool. While my dad was at work, we spent the entirety of our days with our cousins, in the pool. ALWAYS IN THE POOL. In all of the photos of my childhood summers, we are BROWN. So brown. The most amazing, gorgeous tans you can imagine. A tan I would kill to have in my adulthood—if I was OK with getting skin cancer. Which I’m obviously not OK with. But when we were kids, no one worried about sunscreen or sunburns.

It’s amazing how drastically things can change in 20 years, huh?

Today, as a mom, I’m horribly concerned with protecting my children from the sun. I know the damage UVA rays can do, and just how risky exposure to UVB rays can be. So I’ve been pretty good about using sunscreen on Nora (and now Vivienne).

Then I started learning more about sunscreens themselves, which was a complete eye-opener. It’s SO DEPRESSING, you guys, to learn that the products you’re putting on your child to protect them can actually be doing more harm than good. I may have been protecting her from the dangers of cancer-causing UVB rays… but I was using sunscreens with cancer-causing ingredients to do it. My former favorite? The spray sunscreens. So easy, so fast, so convenient. Come to find out they are like the WORST possible thing you could be using. Go figure.

If you’re curious about how your current sunscreens rank in the safety department, check out the Environmental Working Group’s 2014 Guide to Sunscreens. When it comes to this guide, the lower the score, the better. Scores 0-2 (green) are considered “low hazard”; scores 3-6 (yellow) are “moderate hazard”; scores 7-10 (red) are “high hazard.”

The sunscreens we’ve used in the past are all in the “high hazard” category, unfortunately. Since I was armed with this new (to me) information, I couldn’t NOT make a change this summer. I knew I had to find something more safe for my kids. I started searching for safe sunscreens that also happened to be sprays. As it turns out, that’s a very tall order. If you ask the experts, sprays in general = unsafe. Period.

But then I found Goddess Garden. Garden is a mineral sunscreen. The bad, dangerous kinds are chemical sunscreens. When you classify them like that, it’s easy to tell which one you should avoid, right? Chemical sunscreens sound icky by default. Unfortunately, many of them are “chemical cocktails” that can do more harm than good. Apparently, the biggest danger in chemical sunscreens is an ingredient called oxybenzone. It’s a hormone disruptor that can negatively impact the immune system and mimic estrogen. Other common harmful ingredients include: octinoxate (hormone disrupter, reproductive toxicity); retinyl (reproductive toxicity, organ system toxicity, possible carcinogen); synthetic fragrances; and alcohol.

Goddess Garden sunscreens contain none of these things.

As I mentioned, I first found Goddess Garden through a search for mineral sunscreen sprays. And as far as I know, they are the only ones to offer mineral sunscreen in a continuous spray like this.

Now, I have to point out that it’s not the same as the sprays you come across with other brands—and that’s why it’s safer. The nice thing about the continuous spray over a traditional lotion is that it helps to evenly disperse the sunscreen over the body (just like the nasty sprays). The difference is that with Goddess Garden, you still have to rub it in after you spray. If you actually read the directions on traditional spray sunscreens, you’re technically supposed to rub those in, too—but I never did. Garden Sunny Kids Sport Spray

Pros: IT’S A SPRAY! Rubs in easily. A little bit goes a long way. It’s safe!
Cons: You have to rub it in. But like I said, you’re supposed to do that anyway, so it’s hard to hold that against Goddess Garden.

One thing to note about the Sunny Kids Sport Spray is that its EWG rating is “only” a 3. That puts it just out of the “low hazard” range and into the low end of the “moderate hazard” range, unfortunately. However, Goddess Garden says this: “…our sprays (both trigger and continuous sprays) have an EWG rating of 3 instead of 1 like the rest of our sunscreens. The only actual difference between our continuous spray and our traditional lotion is that the sprays don’t have Shea butter. Other than that, the ingredient list is exactly the same. The EWG is concerned about inhalation of airborne particles—namely zinc and titanium. … The zinc and titanium that we use in our sprays is actually the EXACT SAME NON-NANO zinc and titanium that we use in our lotions. The average particle size is 120nm. The range in particle sizes is 100nm to 130nm. Most definitions of “nano-particles” are under 100nm.”

Honestly, I really believe it’s fine. When we spray this sunscreen, there is no “cloud” of mist. You don’t feel like you are breathing anything in like you do with typical spray sunscreens. I think EWG is docking Goddess Garden Sunny Kids Sport Spray’s rating simply because it’s a spray—and to be better safe than sorry. In comparison, though? This spray has a rating of 3, while our old sprays were rated at 7 or more. HUGE improvement.

Although I would feel perfectly fine using the spray on Vivienne, we’ve been using another one of Goddess Garden’s sunscreens on her—Sunny Baby.

Goddess Garden Sunny Baby Natural Sunscreen

Pros: Easy to spread and rub in. Much less greasy than a lot of sunscreens. A little bit really does go a long way.
Cons: Sometimes seems to “reappear” on the surface of the skin when the kids get wet in the pool or whatever. Its consistency is a bit thin, which is great as far as the rubbing in is concerned, but also means you can sometimes accidentally squirt out WAY more than you need. So be careful; squeeze the tube gently. :)

The price for this can seem steep when you look at the size of the tube, but I’m not kidding when I say that this will last a while. You don’t need a lot to cover those little body parts!

Goddess Garden Sunny Baby has an EWG rating of 1. Considered very low hazard! Garden Sunny Face Natural Sunscreen

Adults are not left out! Goddess Garden makes sunscreens for us, too. Of course, you can also use any of the stuff labeled Sunny Baby and Sunny Kids as well, but should you be looking for yourself, check out Goddess Garden Sunny Face Natural Sunscreen.

The pros and cons are honestly exactly the same as those I’ve listed above for Sunny Baby. Goddess Garden Sunny Face also has an EWG rating of 1.

Goddess Garden has been keeping us protected from the sun for several weeks now, and I’m very happy with this family of products. I feel much better about what I’m slathering all over my kids now. And good thing, because we’ll be going on vacation to the beach very soon! A week in the sun, sand, and water means we’ll be really putting this stuff to the test.

I want YOU to be able to put it to the test, too. And for one lucky winner, Goddess Garden will be making that possible. Three cheers for a giveaway! Up for grabs is a Goddess Garden product package. If you win, you choose ONE of the following packages:

  1. Goddess Garden Sunny Kids Sport Spray (6 oz.); Goddess Garden Sunny Face Natural Sunscreen (3.4 oz.); Goddess Garden Sunny Baby Natural Sunscreen (3.4 oz.)
  2. Goddess Garden Sunny Kids Sport Spray (6 oz.); Goddess Garden Sunny Face Natural Sunscreen (3.4 oz.); Goddess Garden Sunny Body Natural Sunscreen (3.4 oz.)
  3. Goddess Garden Sunny Kids Sport Spray (6 oz.); Goddess Garden Sunny Face Natural Sunscreen (3.4 oz.); Goddess Garden Sunny Kids Natural Sunscreen (3.4 oz.)

The differences between the packages lie in the third product—you can choose whether you want Sunny Baby, Sunny Body, or Sunny Kids. Truthfully, any of these can be used on any member of your family; it’s all in the name! :) Still, your choice.

One winner will be announced next Friday, July 25 (giveaway ends at noon on that same day).

To enter to win, use the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: Goddess Garden provided sunscreen for us to try at no charge in exchange for my review. However, opinions expressed within this post are my own. Goddess Garden is also sponsoring the associated giveaway.


Warning: This is going to be a monster, mammoth post with a ton of photos. I used to split up the Poconos posts into each individual day, but I’m already far enough behind where I’ll just stick it all together. Be prepared!

This was our eighth consecutive year traveling to the Poconos for a big family get-together. I’ve been going pretty regularly since I was a child, but once all of us kids got into our teen and college years, it was too difficult to coordinate schedules and we let it fall to the wayside for a while. But I’m so glad we’ve picked it back up again and have been making this a tradition—not only for ourselves, but for our children, too. Nora loves the Poconos and was REALLY looking forward to going this year. And boy, was she sad when we were leaving to come back home!

We drove down on a Wednesday night after work, stopped only for a quick bathroom break and to get our traditional frosties at Wendy’s, and got to the Poconos around 9:45 p.m. Unpacked the car, settled in a little bit, and tucked the kids into bed around 11:00. And then all of us adults were up until 1:00 a.m. talking and catching up. Yikes! And go figure, despite the late bedtime, our girls were up at 6:00 a.m. Ouch.

It was a beautiful day, though, so we took advantage and spent some time down at the pond (I guess it’s technically a tiny lake, according to my brother) in the late morning. Nora and Hunter were eager to head down there with their bathing suits and fishing poles.

After doing some fishing (with her new princess fishing pole, girly girls unite!), Michael took Nora out in the kayak. She LOVED that.

Trevor took Hunter out on the paddle board and they were all having a grand ol’ time.

Meanwhile, Kara and I relaxed in the gazebo with the babies…

Vivienne tried to eat Sadie again. You know, the usual.

I love this pic of Vivi. She is so sweet, but such a little terror, too. I’m pretty sure her toddlerhood is going to run us completely ragged. This girl is ON.THE.MOVE.

We relaxed on the deck/porch in the afternoon while thunderstorms rolled in. The big kids played with Play-Doh and the adults had a few beers and appetizers. We moved inside for dinner, then afterward, Tyler, Marie, and Bryce arrived. After all of the kids were in bed, we played Cards Against Humanity. Michael and I had never played before—such a fun game when you’re with the right group of people! :)

The next morning, we woke up to rain. Thankfully, the girls let us sleep in for a bit (probably mostly due to the gloomy weather). Everyone eventually got up, had a big breakfast, and then we made plans to go to the outlet mall. We were originally going to all go together—kids and all—but then my mom and Susan decided they were going to stay back… and offered to watch ALL FIVE KIDS for us!! Michael, Trevor, Kara, Tyler, Marie and I all BOLTED as soon as we heard that offer. We didn’t want them to have time to change their minds! We all packed into our car (minivan for the win!) and headed out for the afternoon.

It was the 4th of July, so first, we stopped at a fireworks store to buy $100 worth of fireworks to have our own personal show over the lake that night. Then we hit up a few stores at the outlet mall, then stopped off at a grocery store to replenish our beer supply—which took WAYYYYYY longer than expected (for all of you Pennsylvanians out there… man, you guys have some messed up liquor laws!). By this time, the weather had cleared up so we were anxious to get back to the house.

We had the ENTIRE group together for a very brief period of time, so we organized everyone out in front of the property to take our traditional group photo. It’s amazing how this photo has changed over time—I think I need to do a comparison post sometime where I compile all of these group pics together. It would be hilarious if I could gather the ones that my mom has from my childhood as well!

That afternoon/night, we played and talked outside, ate dinner outside, and then waited around for it to get dark enough for fireworks.

One of the stops we made at the outlet mall was at Gap. I’m sure you can’t tell, right? :) Such great deals on their hoodies, I couldn’t resist picking up one for all three of us!

This is the first year we’ve let Nora stay up late enough for fireworks. She had taken a good nap earlier in the day, so we knew she’d be able to handle it this year. Vivienne went to bed as usual and managed to sleep through them all.

When it was dark enough, we all went down and sat on the dock at the pond. My brother was in charge of the lighting the fireworks display and it turned out really well. It’s kind of impressive how good of a fireworks display $100 can buy you. Nora covered her ears for most of it, but she was smiling the whole time. About 30 seconds after it was over, she was asking when we could see fireworks again, so it’s safe to say that she loved it.

Afterward, we walked back up the hill and put Nora to bed, then played some more Cards Against Humanity.

On Saturday, we woke up to beautiful weather, which was good because Vinny had made a reservation for us to rent a pontoon boat for the afternoon. We relaxed around the house in the morning, played outside for a bit.

Vivienne looks really tough in this photo. I wouldn’t mess with her and her puzzle pieces, you guys. :)

Right around lunchtime, we packed everyone up and headed out to Lake Wallenpaupack. We got to the marina, got the kids fitted for life jackets, and loaded everyone on the boat. The lake was quite choppy, but it was still really nice to get out and enjoy the fresh air, water, and sunshine.

We brought lunch on the boat for the kids, and snacks and beer for ourselves. We cruised around the lake for quite a while, stopped at Vinny’s brother’s place (right on the lake!) to swim for a few minutes, then loaded back up to head back to the marina. The babies had reached their limit of tolerance for the life jackets (well, at least Vivienne had—Sadie is a little more laidback about the matter), and it was getting to be close to dinnertime.

By this time, Nora was running on empty, too. She actually fell asleep sitting up in Michael’s arms on the way back to the marina. This NEVER happens. Tired girl!

Once we were back at the house, it was more of the same—hanging out outside, dinner outside, kids to bed. We made a fire in the fire pit and talked for a while, but then everyone turned in to go to bed pretty early.

When we woke up the next morning, we all began the process of packing up all of our things and taking off for the drive back home. *sigh* Another year down! It’s always a little depressing when the Poconos trip is over for the year. Already looking forward to the next!


During our Poconos trip last weekend, our dear friend Susan set out lunch for us on Thursday afternoon—and it was a combo we had never considered. She had some fresh baby spinach; a bowl of plain, cold quinoa; and some simple chicken salad. Toss it all together on a plate and you have a surprisingly tasty (and pretty healthy!) meal.

While feasting on it, Michael and I were already talking about recreating it at home so we could take it for lunches at work. We’re always looking for easy, healthy, tasty lunch ideas—and I am SO OVER cold cuts at this point.

We decided this morning to whip up a batch of chicken salad and a pot of quinoa. We ate it for dinner tonight, which was great since it is hot and muggy today and it was nice to have something a little lighter. And I’m already looking forward to eating this again for lunches this week!

Now, this isn’t so much a recipe as it is an idea, because I have NO IDEA how much of each ingredient I put into our chicken salad. I simply sprinkled in a bunch of stuff, stirred, tasted, sprinkled in more, stirred, tasted. I mean, it was a really tough process, what with all that tasting… ;) I’ve never actually made chicken salad because I’m typically not a fan of it—I kind of hate mayo—but with this, we’re using just enough to moisten the chicken mixture. It’s not at all the globs of mayo you’ll find in chicken salads at a deli or restaurant. And with the spices added in, it doesn’t taste much like mayo at all. So if you’re like me and think you don’t like chicken salad? Give this one a try; you might be surprised.

Based on my (obviously very limited) experience making chicken salad, I think it’s kind of hard to screw it up. There are so many flavor combinations, too, so play around with what you have and what you like.

Chicken Salad with Spinach and Quinoa

- 1-2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cooked and shredded)
- Mayonnaise
- Dried cranberries
- Sliced/shaved almonds
- Curry powder
- Cilantro (dried or fresh)
- Mustard seed
- Salt and pepper
- Quinoa
- Chicken broth (optional)
- Baby spinach

1. To make the chicken salad, combine ingredients (chicken through salt and pepper) and stir well. Add more spices and mayonnaise to taste.

2. Cook quinoa according to package directions, using chicken broth or water.

3. Once quinoa is cooked through, you can assemble and serve the meal immediately, or refrigerate and serve it cold at a later time. To serve, layer baby spinach, quinoa, and chicken salad on your plate. Enjoy!