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    Parenting

    Simple Tips For A Successful Road Trip With The Kids

    Today was our first day of “Fall Break” or is it “Thanksgiving Break”? Whatever it is, it’s a break and we are ready for it! It was so nice this morning to wake up and not have to immediately start fixing breakfast, packing lunches and repeating the phrase “Have your brushed your teeth and hair?” twelve times. My kids played together, we read books, we decorated for Christmas a little bit and we did not turn on the TV once. No one even asked. That was a bit of a parenting win there, we all love to be around each other!

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    We are getting ready to go on a short road trip for Thanksgiving. Although my packing situation won’t look like the one above, I love a good road trip. I love the freedom from most responsibilities, time with family, inevitable good food, several hours of conversation with Brian while my kids are secured and watching a movie with headphones, and general relaxation. And let me tell you, the first road trip we took with a minivan, bliss I tell you. We survived 40+ hours of driving on a roadtrip in August so this week’s total of less than 10 will be a piece of cake, right?  I in no way claim to be a parenting expert, but over the years I have picked up a few tips to make roadtrips a little more likely to be successful (and repeated) with small children:

    In the car:

    Pack a lot of snacks: Like a lot more than you need. And pack a mix of healthy snacks and treats. I think back to a road trip Brian and I went on in our first year of marriage and I distinctly remember buying Oreos, Ruffles and onion dip and Gatorade. I feel a little sick to my stomach just thinking about it. A mix of healthy and not-so-healthy makes for a well-balanced, appetizing trip. Plus, for some reason, your children who eat about three bites of any given meal, with suddenly become ravenous bottomless pits on a road trip, guaranteed.

    A few “new” activities: I always try to pack a few simple “new” activities for the car ride. I also try to keep it simple so it doesn’t look like a tornado went through our car after we arrive at our destination. Stickers and a pad of paper, a couple of new Hot Wheels Cars, a notebook and pencil, books, etc.

    Movies: This one is self-explanatory, right? I try to break up the movie watching with aforementioned activities, but sometimes you do what you have to do!

    A handheld vacuum: I know this sounds ridiculous, but I bring a handheld vacuum (think Dustbuster) on roadtrips and it is so nice (for me) to be able to vacuum the car quickly either at a pit stop, before the next leg of the journey, or before the trip home. It’s a little like cleaning your house before you leave on vacation or doing laundry before coming home, I guess.

    For your destination:

    “Kid proof” Activities: Being in a new or unfamiliar environment can be rough on kids, whether it’s a house that isn’t “kid/baby-proofed” or they struggle sleeping in a bed that is not their own, I try to bring a few activities/items for my kids that are familiar and/or deters them from touching all the things they shouldn’t touch. For bedtime, I be sure to bring their favorite blankets/stuffed animals, sound machines, pajamas, etc to make it feel familiar. Then I pack a few activities or toys that they love to keep them occupied during downtime. Cars for my little boy, coloring books and stickers for my daughter. Since it is Thanksgiving, I’m bringing these activity pages I picked up at Target last year (and forgot to use them).

    tday activity sheets

    I’m also bringing the supplies to make gumdrop turkeys, an activity Brian did growing up at Thanksgiving. Being prepared with a few extra things significantly lowers my blood pressure and anxiety that something will get broken.

    Travel medicine bag: A few weeks ago I posted on Instagram about how I always bring a small medicine bag with me when we travel, no matter how short the trip. Several years ago when I only had one baby and she woke up in the middle of the night with a burning fever while we were on a trip and I had nothing to take care of her. Ever since, I bring a small bag with a thermometer, children’s and infant’s fever reducer, nose drops and a syringe and a few Band Aids thrown in for good measure. It’s saved me (and others) several times while traveling!

    travel medicine bag

    Those are just a few things outside of the typical items brought on a trip (clothes, toiletries, you know). By bringing along these few items, the driving portion of the trip goes smoothly, so long as you plan for the inevitable diaper emergency, and the stay is comfortable and familiar.

    Happy traveling!

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    Health & Fitness

    Running Challenge Update

    Remember that time I set a goal to run 30 miles in November? Yeah. Then my whole family contracted some sort of illness that lasted about ten days. It was one of those illnesses that manifested itself in different ways in each person. It started with a cold in my oldest. Then at the end of the week, we got an email that no parents wants to receive from her teacher that four students were out with a stomach bug and not one hour later it hit our house. It made it’s way through everyone and after a random couple of day of 100+ fevers at the beginning of this week, I think we are finally over it (knock on wood).

    Back to the running challenge. Obviously, I did not keep up with my plan. My mileage currently is at 1. Yep. Just one. I am still going to push for 30 miles by the end of the year. It is still a goal I have, just modified. Sure, I missed my goal and an earlier version of myself would probably have been much more disappointed than I am now. I’ve learned as I have gotten older (I know so old and wise), that you can’t sweat the small stuff as much or it will really affect the way you live your life. So I’m moving on, keeping my goal with a new deadline.
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    But one thing I did learn through the whole ten days that I didn’t exercise really at all was that I have made exercise a habit because I really truly missed it. Again, another earlier version of myself would have said, “TEN days of no exercise, woohoo!” but instead I found myself waking up thinking to myself, “I really hope the kids don’t have a fever, or don’t throw up, or have a runny nose, because I really want to go to the gym today”. I’m calling that a win!

    I’m learning that the road to self-improvement is not a non-stop fast track. It can be bumpy, there could be traffic, maybe you have to pull over for a bit, but you’ll eventually get there! There’s some wisdom for your Friday.

    In other news, it’s Friday! The Friday before a week off of school! I’m excited to spend some quality time with my family and have a few fun posts coming up in the next week.

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    Learning, Parenting

    A Membership For Discovery

    One of my favorite parenting tips is to buy memberships to a couple of places in your area. I love having built in places to take my kids at anytime. Not only is it great for a planned day out, but it also can save the day, as it has a time or two for me. Last summer, the air conditioning wasn’t working in our house. Last summer. In Texas. We took refuge at the museum a few times during those uncomfortable weeks. Did I mention we had just moved and I was seven months pregnant, too? It was fun times.

    But really. a membership is a great way to encourage learning and exploration in your kids. Now, when we read a books with animals in it, my son points out all the animals he remembers seeing at the zoo. The museum is a place my kids ask for regularly. It’s a bit of an investment up front, but it pays for itself in just a couple of visits and then you are the beneficiaries every time!

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    Last week, we got to go check out some of the new additions to the Perot Museum of Nature & Science in Dallas. We have had a membership there a couple of times and it is such a fun place to take the family. Because when you have small children, everything takes about ten times longer than normal, going to a place like the Perot is great, because you can go ten times and still not see everything. Naturally, we always end up at the Children’s Museum first, spend an hour or so there, and have enough time to check out maybe one of the remaining four floors. All the more reason to keep going back. My assistant (toddler) photographer requested this photo.

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    We got to visit their new Birds of Paradise exhibit, which was so neat. It took me back to when we were newlyweds and we would get the Planet Earth DVDs from Netflix in the mail. For some reason, I remember the birds of paradise episode more than the others. Ah, the good old days.

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    After we explored the exhibit, we of course made a stop at the Children’s Museum. It is not huge, but we have spent hours there before and the kids could have kept on going. Any place that gets my kids using their imaginations, playing and socializing is a win in my book!

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    After tearing them away from their beloved Children’s area, we saw the Asteroids movie in 3D in the theater. It was probably an interesting movie, but my two year old decided he wasn’t a fan of giant rocks hurtling through space, so we didn’t watch much of it. I’ve seen movies there before though and they are fantastic. Just be honest with your expectations when taking young kids to things like that.

    Something I think is so neat about this museum (and any good museum for kids) is the different interactive features and how learning and information is incorporated. Case in point, I can never forget sitting on a bench and looking down to see the fact about how many bugs you eat on average in a year. It was way more than I ever would have hoped.

    Just writing about it makes me want to go back again. I can’t recommend memberships enough to a few places in your area. If you’re in the DFW area, head over to my Facebook page later today where I’m giving away a 4-pack of tickets to the Perot Museum of Nature & Science!

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    Celebrations

    A First Birthday

    My baby turned one last week. This first year flew by, possibly because she is a dream baby. (Knock on wood). I love celebrating birthdays. One thing I have learned over the years is that everyone has expectations, whether consciously or unconsciously, about everything. I have found out that I have expectations when it comes to birthdays. I love celebrating them. I love figuring out ways to make those special days that much more special.

    I wanted to have a little get together with some friends to celebrate our baby girl. I don’t know why, but I get a little self conscious when I want to have a party. Sometimes I even want to just cancel whatever it is I have planned. In some ways I feel like I’m back in junior high. Will people like it? Will people come? Will it make me look ridiculous? But I am getting better at pushing that talk out of my head and just doing what I want. Because it makes me happy! So if there is something you want do but you are worried about what others might think, just go for it if it makes you happy! I digress.

    So we had a little party to celebrate. I had an idea in my mind of how I wanted it to look in my mind and it came out pretty close. Baby girl has been sweet and gentle since the day she was born so that’s the vibe I was going for.

    The only things I bought for the party were the balloon and the food. Everything else I had on hand, which is a bonus. Pull things from around your house to find the look you want. This might mean your gallery wall looks a little odd with a couple of frames missing for a few hours or your artificial plants are missing their pots, but it will be okay!

    Here is the table setup, pre-food:

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    We did a “Smoothies & Sweets” food theme. Big bags of frozen fruit with a little water and yogurt made perfect smoothies. Just ask my son, he had at least four.

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    I didn’t make any of the food for the party and it was seriously so nice. There’s a time and a place for the homemade treats, but for this one, I just wanted to make sure I had the party! I have always secretly wanted to buy that giant box of cream puffs from Costco and now I had a reason to.

     

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    Good food and good company are key to a good party and we had both. Such a fun little gathering to celebrate our new one-year old. Now if year two wouldn’t go by quiet as fast, that’d be great.

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    Collective Thoughts

    In My Home

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    Well, yesterday was a big day. An interesting day. An unexpected day for many. In the past few days, due to increased talks at school I’m guessing, my kindergartner has had many more questions about the election, who is running, what they think and what it all means for us. I had to have some conversations with her that I never expected to have with her at five years old because of things she heard from others. To explain certain things out loud to her was hard. But I learned from her, or rather it was more impressed on me because I have always known this about her, that she is wise beyond her years, she asks insightful questions, she questions things that don’t make sense to her, she understands when someone is not making a good choice. I learned I need to be more prepared to talk to her about topics I once thought we wouldn’t approach until later.

    But as we went out the door to school, I told her that I hope our new President makes good choices. I hope our new President shows compassion, love and kindness and makes decisions that will promote the safety of our country and protects our freedoms. And then I told her, that we can do all those things too and that is where it starts.

    “Your success as a family, our success as a society, depends not on what happens in the White House but on what happens inside your house”

    – Barbara Bush

    In our home we will teach:

    To love others, no matter their differences.

    To speak kindly.

    To show compassion.

    To show respect to others.

    To seek out and befriend the lonely.

    To stand up for what is right.

    To make good choices that will promote the safety and freedom of us all.

    We can choose to do all those things and more and we will.

    I’m grateful to have been raised to focus on finding the positive in any situation. To look for the good in the world and in others. It is my hope and belief that if we all do that, everything will be okay.

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    Motherhood

    Baby Basics for the First Year

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    My baby is going to be one this week. I can’t believe it. This year has flown by. I have written a few posts about pregnancy and having a newborn. Today I wanted to share my favorite baby products. These are the ones that were most used and most trusted. Most of them happen to be pretty economical choices. There are thousands of baby products out there. I am not against the higher end or more expensive products, but I have found that many times, the lesser known and less expensive brands and products work just as well. At this point, I have used these for multiple babies and have had great luck with all of them. I would say they are my go to baby products and I probably could have survived with just these products alone (I didn’t put diapers on this list- Kirkland brand from Costco, same with wipes).

    FEEDING. Read my post here about my approach to feeding. By my third baby, I figured out exactly how I liked feeding and what made me the most comfortable. I also found the products that I just kept going back to.

    bottles

    photo source: Amazon

    Evenflo bottlesThese are probably the most inexpensive, simple bottles out there. I have used the more expensive bottles, with multiple parts, before and they were fine. But these bottles worked just as well for me. My babies never seemed to be bothered by them, have an increased amount of gas, etc. I usually bought the three packs at Target for three or four dollars. I wish I would have looked on Amazon first, because these are fun colors!

    breast-pump

    photo source: Amazon

    Medela breast pumpI used this a lot with my second and third babies. Almost exclusively for a few months with both. It was covered by my insurance, so it was definitely the economical choice! Check with your insurance to find out what breast pumps they cover. Again, this one probably isn’t the top of the line, but it did the job when I needed it to, and that’s what matters! It was fairly small and portable. My oldest used to call it my “feeding box,” so there’s that.

    formula

    photo source: Costco

    Kirkland FormulaIf you read the post I linked above, you’ll know that by 6 months with all of my pregnancies, I had switched completely to formula. Clearly, formula is not the most economical choice (nursing=free) but for my sanity and peace of mind, the money was worth it. And when it came to buying formula, this was the best for me hands down. The price was great and my babies never seemed to have issues with it. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good formula!

    BABY STUFF. It seems like there is so much “stuff” you can get out there for babies! So much. And a lot of it is really innovative and neat. For me, I was kind of a stick-to-the-basics kind of girl. So, here are a few of the basics we used that worked really well for us.

    baby-monitor

    photo source: Amazon

    V-tech Baby Monitor. Again, probably one of the cheaper options out there. With my third baby, I went back and forth about whether or not to get a video monitor. With my first, we didn’t even use a baby monitor. We lived in a small apartment and could hear every sound. And really, the same was true with our second baby. We had one for traveling, but that was it! With this last baby, we were a little more spread out from her once she started sleeping in her room, so a monitor was needed. But, in the end, the only reason I wanted a video monitor was that it sounded cool. Both my other babies did fine with an audio monitor, or even no monitor at all! And the only time I use a monitor is when I am asleep, so I wouldn’t be looking at anything anyway! So we went with this basic monitor that has worked great for us.

    pacifiers

    photo source: Amazon

    Nuk pacifiersAll my babies have been binky babies and all of them have loved these Nuk pacifiers. If you need a pacifier, find out which ones your baby likes, but I would recommend giving these a try. They stick around for a while. We have probably owned every design, size and color of these guys. We are currently trying to pry them out of my two and a half year old’s hands, er, mouth.

    blankets

    photo source: Amazon

    aden + anais BlanketsAnother favorite in our house. What’s not to like about these giant, soft, cuddly blankets? We currently have eight in our house. All gifted or bought with gift cards. My middle baby sleeps with all four of his, every night. My youngest always sleeps with one, too. It’s like instant cuddling when ever a corner of one of these blankets touches your cheek. Love them.

    sound-machine

    photo source: Amazon

    Sound machine. I love these things. We have used them for all of our babies. They are perfect for drowning out noise and helping babies stay asleep. They also become a sort of signal that it is time to go to sleep. I take my baby in her room, turn on the sound machine and her head instantly drops to my shoulder. They are great for traveling and staying in hotels too! I linked to the one we have, but I’m pretty sure any kind would do the job.

    high-chair

    photo source: Amazon

    High chair. This IKEA high chair is just the best. Inexpensive, durable, easy to clean and its simple look goes well in any kitchen (because that’s important, am I right?). We had a different high chair with our first, and this one is hands down better and easier.

    Well, there you have it. Some of my favorite and most used baby products. If there is anything I have learned over the course of three babies, is that sometimes, simple and basic is better. Of course, all the other stuff is fun and I like it too, don’t get me wrong. But when it comes down to it, these are the essentials that we have used over and over again in the first year and it’s helped these sweet, squishy babies survive their parents just doing the best they can!

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    Holidays

    November Traditions: The Grateful Tree

    This year has been one of the more “uneventful” years in our family, if there is such a thing. My husband and I are done with all our degrees, we didn’t have a baby or have a newborn, it’s been mostly living life, with ups and downs of course, but no major life changes.

    So one thing I have been trying to be more intentional about is implementing traditions. I love traditions and I think they are so important for family unity and memories. One activity we have done in the past in November is a grateful tree. There are versions of this throughout the Internet. Here’s how we have done our tree.

    One year, when it was just three of us, I went on a walk with my only baby and we picked up sticks to use as the branches of our tree. Then I dutifully traced and cut out realistically shaped leaves, we wrote the things we were grateful for on them and tied them to the branches. It turned out so cute and it worked great for that year. And now, I can’t find any photos of that tree. It looked good, I promise!

    Then I decided I wanted something I could pull out each year and not put much thought into the prep work. So a couple of years ago, I cut out the outline of a tree and branches using brown construction paper and then laminated it. I added magnets to the back so we can put it somewhere easily. In our previous apartment, the front door was magnetic, which was basically the coolest thing. This year, we are hanging it on our refrigerator. I cut out very basic leaves on a few different colors of construction paper while watching the latest This is Us episode and called it good.

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    The plan is take a few leaves each night or so and write things we are grateful for and add them to our grateful tree. I’ve saved the leaves from the last couple of years and it is fun to look back to see what was on our minds each year around this time.

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    Traditions don’t have to be complicated to be meaningful!dscn3098

    P.S. I’m sorry about the color in these photos. It was a weird overcast/sunny day when I took them and it threw off the color on all the photos!

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