Parenting

On the road again…Top 5 must haves for a road trip with kids.

These are all of my favorite things that have helped me with my kiddos in the car and helped create our best road trips that I would happily and easily do again!

A pouch with their souvenir money inside –  I picked up zipper pouches  and  placed souvenir money inside to give to them ahead of time as a reminder for behaving well. I give one reminder warning, but every whine or fight after the warning, and they owe me a dollar from their pouch. This has worked so well in the past I’ve actually not heard a peep from them for over 2 hours before and then over the top complimentary comments back and forth just to seal the deal they keep their trip money.

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A binder for each child from the dollar store – I also picked up soft cover binders from the dollar store. I placed inside sheets I print out easily found on google. The license plate game, car bingo, mad libs, mazes, dot to dots … are all great additions. I have a laminator I like to use to keep the papers from tearing. The papers are put inside laminating pouches, which the girls can use sharpies on them (which won’t come off) or dry erase marker if we wish to save and reuse the sheets for the trip back. If you don’t have a laminator, pocket sheet protectors work great or even a strip of tape down the side and punch holes in the tape for the 3-ring binder loops. All options will prevent the sheets from tearing out of the binder before the trip is over and reduce tears or grumpy attitudes.

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A map of your route with clearly labeled states – This helps kids as young as 4 or 5 be able to see where you are in your route and how much further you have to go. Plus it gives a little fun education to which states you’ve visited and a visual of the state or country depending on how far you’re traveling. It also provides a great souvenir for when it’s time for them to tell their school or friends about their trip and where they visited. This is another great idea to laminate or place in a sheet protector and put in the binder so they know exactly where to find it.

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Small magnetic car games – These are always fun to have on the road! Our favorite mini magnetic travel car games are hangman, snakes and ladders and tic tac toe but there are so many more options as well. They keep interacting fun and eyes off the screens for a bit while the magnets ensure you don’t lose as many pieces. You do want to be careful with young children possibly putting small pieces in their mouths.

Something with a timer – I have my kids set a timer on their ipad or watch (or you could use a inexpensive kitchen timer, as well). This stops the kids from asking me “how much longer?!” every 5 minutes since they can see the countdown themselves whenever they feel like checking it. Just don’t forget to pause it for stops!

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Bonus tip…

Plastic bags – Too often my kids enjoy handing me every tiny little piece of paper or wrapper (while I’m trying to drive!). To prevent so many distractions, I like to place a grocery bag between the armrests so that the kids can take care of their own trash. Especially with all the little tiny snack wrappers and straw wrappers that accumulate during a long trip in the car. Once it’s full, just throw out at your next stop and replace with a new one from the glove box.

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Our last 2 car trips have been so successful with such low amounts of whining, I actually chose to give my girls 2 minute segments for whining a few times as rewards and stress relievers. We all agree these are ideas we’ll use every time we travel! Enjoy and safe travels!

Parenting · Saving Money · Summer

Keeping Busy in Summer

“We’re bored! There’s nothing to do.”

One of my most useful and successful tools I’ve made for the summer is a list of possible options of what we can do and how much they cost.

Too often my kids find themselves wandering towards screens because they don’t know what else there is and screens are easy to fall back on. This is why we made a list of ideas to help us.

We try to pick something off the list quite often. Typically every day unless we’re already super busy with something special.

Being that I have my girls every day, I found it was getting too expensive to just have them pick whatever adventure they wanted all the time, and whole I like to them about budgeting, I like to refrain from complaining about money too often.

Creating our list into categories gives them a better understanding of what type of activity we’re looking to do.

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I might say “you can pick from the whole list today” or “we just did something from the purple column. Let’s go for a blue today please.”

They’re just as happy with this because everything in the blue column is spending time together and sure to be a great time.

This list also gives me a reminder of everything we’ve looked up to try in past summers, and what’s locally available to us. This way I’m not starting from scratch each summer with ideas to stay busy.

Life · Parenting · Saving Money · Summer

Summer Rain

So my girls and I have a summer rule to do something active every day. We had decided to go on a bike ride as our Wednesday activity only to walk to the window and see the downpour.

The sound of rainfall is one of the most soothing sounds to me so we opened the garage door and sat watching the rain. All of the sudden I stood up and walked out in it and the girls shrill laughter made my day.

I turned around, smiled and said “let’s go!” and we were off. Running the sidewalks, jumping in every puddle, splashing water as high as we could. When the rain stopped, we sat down in puddles and continued splashing around until we couldn’t take the laughter anymore.

IMG_3111.JPGThere’s too much time in the day that’s  necessary to adult and be serious and plan. When I take a spontaneous moment to be a child and be silly, we always end up creating some of our most favorite memories together AND this is a free activity that only requires some warm, dry clothes after.

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If you haven’t already, get out there in the warm summer rain and show your kids, or even remind yourself, you still have a carefree, silly side.

Bonus: if you happen to have cool neighbors, maybe they’ll grab a hose and join in like ours did only extending the party.

Parenting · Saving Money · Summer

Book club for kids

My 7 year old has been part of a book club this summer thanks to a friends suggestion. (Thanks Heydie!) She and a few friends read half a book each week and then we all get together to discuss what they read and how they felt about it.

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We go to the library together and pick out a book that they all think looks interesting. The girls (this would be great for boys too) read a portion of the book and then we get together for them to discuss it.

They answer questions together like:

Who are the characters?

What is the setting?

What is the main idea of chapter 1, 2, 3…?

What do you predict will be the ending?

What was your favorite part?

It’s been so much fun and such a great addition to our summer. It creates a fun way for her to make sure she gets her reading in, while also working on her reading comprehension during the summer months.

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We jazz it up with tea parties, snacks or lunch, and playtime afterwards, which makes the girls even more excited to participate.

I thought this was such a good idea and so enjoyed by all of us that I would share this creative and cute idea with you.

Life

Amor Fati

Sometimes we have the best, most unimaginable phases in our lives that we can’t truly put into words what they mean to us. It’s our own personal utopias that scare us to the core they could end. That’s how you know what something means to you, think about losing it.

Then there are the phases we can’t explain for different reasons. The ones that feel like we just hit a wall, and we can’t take anymore, yet the hits just keep on coming anyway. However, we just need to live them and ride through. We don’t know what’s waiting at the end of the trip.

Now I don’t like to wish away time (my girls are only little for so long) so I try to deal with the lows with a grain of salt until they’re over, and I try to take each moment for what it is. A learning experience.

Everything is meant to teach us something about ourselves or the people in our lives. Our experiences help us to grow into the people we’re supposed to become.  Most things, after a lot of discovery, are all part of a plan to build new strengths in us and push us to new levels we had no idea were possible. Almost every negative thing that has happened has the possibility to bring something new and wonderful we had no idea even existed. We just have to remain open to new possibilities and keep ourselves from being closed off.

This is why I can’t truly be unhappy with any part of my life, and I try not to have regrets. We wouldn’t be who we are without every single moment. Get hurt, get out there anyway. Get burned, trust again. Lose someone, love anyway. When we choose to become bitter and close in on ourselves, we miss all the beauty that there is out there to explore.

Everything happens for a reason so Amor Fati, “Love your Fate” and enjoy the ride and where it takes you.

Fitness · Life · Relationships

Taking time for yourself isn’t selfish, it’s necessary.

Parenting · Saving Money · Summer

Blog break is over and what we made today with these parts that cost only $16!

I had just started my writing adventure when everything around me became too much. Every area of my life had so much going on that I couldn’t have a proper thought for myself and if we find we aren’t good for ourselves at the moment, how could we possibly be any good for others?

So, against what I wanted, I set everything aside and focused on what I had to. One day at a time, one project at a time and one emotion at a time. Lots of deep breaths, lots of hugs from my kiddos and many chats with wine with my besties. This last part of the plan, video chats work beautifully if you can’t see them in person, is 100% essential to the healing process and should never be ignored.

Now that “schoooool’s out for…summer!” I’m enjoying time with my babies and planning adventures (cheap ones…hey this girls on a budget and I LOVE cheap, fun projects!!) What better ways to spend time with your kiddos then building new things and going new places while not breaking the bank. I plan to write mostly about these adventures this summer unless, of course, I have one too many glasses of wine and see a picture of Ryan Gosling without his shirt on…then I may feel compelled to write about that instead.

Today’s fun project? This fabulous sprinkler/bike wash toy.

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It cost $16 in parts from Lowe’s. Any other hardware store, with plumbing parts, would do just fine. It took us approximately 30 minutes to complete the project from start to finish and it proved to be loads of fun that will be great all summer! This kind of project is one of my favorites because it costs a small amount of money only one time, we built it together as a team and it can be used over and over on a hot day. Who needs an expensive water park? Not us!

 

Parenting · Saving Money

Making a doll wardrobe for free

Does anyone else become completely frustrated with the inflated price of doll furniture? I do.

While I love my kids, unless they receive it as a gift, I’m not spending $60 on a wardrobe (as seen in the Target version, called Our Generation, in the picture on the left) or a whopping $120 (as seen in the American Doll furniture picture on the right).

Seeing these sticker shock prices is what drives our creativity. We decided to make one of our own and for FREE!

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My daughter had received an American Doll gift in an adorable box, which we chose to use. You could also use an ordinary box and paint it and/or cover it with your favorite stickers to make it more special.

First, I removed the lid, laid the box on it’s side and cut one side off with an exacto knife (or any blade would do).

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Sitting the box upright again, this is what it looked like. While it was on it’s side, I reinforced the bottom with gorilla tape we already had on hand. Packaging tape would also work because it’s clear, as well, but being that’s it’s on the bottom and not viewed, duct tape would also be just fine.

I then cut two small slits in the middle of each side of the box. This is to hold the support that is to go across for the hangers. I had originally tried placing string across the box (pictured) but found the weight of the dresses/hangers to be too much.

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We then decided to use 2 strips of cardboard that we cut off the side I had removed, glued them together back to back to reinforce the cardboard, and then placed the strip in both slats and taped it down to reinforce it. It would be even better if you had a small piece of wood/dowel to place across the box that would hold even more weight.

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This was the end result which we found adorable! It was the perfect size for what she needed and we didn’t spend a dime. (She used hangers she’d saved from build a bear visits and hangers that came with different doll clothing purchases and gifts over the years.)

What have you/can you create that saves money and is functional and adorable for your kiddos?

Life · Relationships

What everyone should know about their significant other and what I learned too late.

Does this situation sound familiar?

Husband walks in the door, wife is instantly annoyed because husband is late from work and has thrown his socks on the floor tired from his long day. Wife says “Thanks a lot. Now I have to pick those up AGAIN,” under her breath. Husband becomes annoyed because the last thing he wants is to be nagged straight when he gets home and counters with “Seriously? This again?”

All of this could be prevented and especially before it gets worse. If husband knows socks on the floor are a hot topic, why are they on the floor? The kind act would be to place them where they don’t then have to be picked up. When wife made the snide remarks about his socks, it instantly made husband feel defensive escalating the conversation.

Here’s another situation. Husband walks in the door and places socks in the hamper knowing wife likes that. Wife says “Thanks for keeping those picked up. That means a lot to me,” adding positive reinforcement to his kid act. Husband gives wife a huge kiss and kids shout “gross!” from across the room. Beautiful, right?

Both set off by each choosing one small change.

Reading The 5 Love Languages, by Gary D. Chapman, recommended to me by a good friend (Thanks Dawn!), has completely changed my perspective on my past marriage and all relationships (including my kids, close friends, and family). 

It states that there are 5 love languages which are “spoken”. Many people have more than one. 

1. Words of Affirmation: Expressing affection through spoken affection, praise, or appreciation.

2. Acts of Service: Actions, rather than words, are used to show and receive love.

3. Receiving Gifts: Gifting is symbolic of love and affection.

4. Quality Time: Expressing affection with undivided, undistracted attention.

 

Physical touch? I’m not going to go too deeply into this one since you can use your imagination for most of it, but a back or foot rub after a long day is a big one that gets overlooked. Holding hands more and making sure to get small kisses in more often. It’s too easy to let each day go by and not set time aside for the small things in this one because of work, kids, and housework and remember… “Hugs… release oxytocin, the bonding hormone that appears to build trust, reduces fear, and increase compassion and generosity.” Sounds good to me!

Life · Parenting

Here’s to the jerk parent.

As I was driving around today, picking up new bikes for my kids I purchased from other people whose kids had outgrown them, I started to tear up hoping they’d like the bikes because their dad just went out and bought them each new $200 mountain bikes.

My ex and I have very different ideas when it comes to raising kids and how to show love.

When my kids ask for something, he says yes. If it’s not a birthday, holiday or need, I  typically say no. I’m the jerk parent.

They visit the Nike store regularly and the girls have so many Nike sweatshirts and tennis shoes, it’s ridiculous. Here they get excited about our consignment store “binge purchases” where they each spend $60 and receive roughly 14 new (name brand) outfits each.

When they want to watch, read or try something new, he buys it. At my house we try the library, dollar store and finally consignment shops first for ideas.

When my 11 year old loses her lunch box, he buys her a new one immediately. I would’ve had her brown bag it for a few weeks in hopes she learns to take better care of her belongings or at least look harder for them. I’m the jerk parent.

He does all the expensive and extravagant vacations. I believe kids can have fun on road trips to wherever and make your own nachos in the kitchenette after a day on the beach. (And I was right on that one, we had a blast.)

This doesn’t mean that his versions are any more right or wrong than mine, but if he’s going to choose all the expensive ones, then I’ll gladly chose the lesser to keep my kids feet on the ground.

I hope to help them understand that shiny and brand new does not always mean it works or looks better. Wearing the latest thing or name, means nothing. I just recently bought a cute, flowy shirt from Rite Aid for $8 (Yes! Rite Aid), and I had so many compliments on it at work and no one could believe it. My girls thought it was hysterical.

So I get to be the jerk parent who has to make sure they keep from being spoiled and hopefully have a better understanding of reality and money as they get older. I get to be the parent who says no, write it on a list, sorry you’ll have to go without, you’ll be ok without it, and you could save up for it. I’m ok with that.

As adults, we can’t just walk around randomly asking for everything and receiving it. I wish. So if I have to be the jerk parent who says no, but they become better people for it later, I’m ok with that too.

My kids love me and the amount of time that we spend together coming up with cheap, hair-brained ideas. Our time together and the memories are better than any store could provide. When their Nike sweatshirts and shoes don’t fit anymore, my girls will have all the pictures and memories of how mom did just as great and with so much less.

So cheers to being the jerk parent…some day they’ll get it.

Are you a proud jerk parent?