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Podcast: Bring On The Holidays: Our Busy Holiday Schedule

Listen on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast and other major podcast apps through here!

 

Co-hosts, Paige + Leslie talk about their holiday schedules witb their kids, and some tips on how to make the hussle and bussle a little easier for their little ones. Paige talks about accidentally telling her step-son that Santa isn’t real.


Show Notes

Co-Hosts: Paige Martinek + Leslie Caruthers

 

What holiday traditions do you have? Comment below?

Don’t Blink, Mama.

Don’t blink, mama. 

I have always struggled with my perception of time. When I was a kid time moved so slowly, I measured my years by my birthdays and they always seemed so far away. I would tell my mom all I wanted was to be a grown up. I didn’t want time to slow down, I wanted it to speed up. So I would blink as fast as I could hoping that one day I would wake up and find myself to be that “grown up” I had always wished for. Once I became that grown up I discovered that time sped up. The more I appreciated time the faster it went. I began to understand why everyone complained about time slipping away from them and how fast time really does change. 

Please blink, mama.

After my first was born I told myself to enjoy every moment. My pregnancy had gone by quicker than I thought but I was so excited to hold my baby that it didn’t matter. I had heard other moms saying “They grow up so fast.” and  “This phase will be over before you know it”. I knew they were right but still didn’t completely believe them. I tried, honestly I did. I tried to enjoy every smile, to appreciate all the cuddles, or every time she fell asleep in my arms. I tried to remember every outfit, or commit to memory her first smile or how she struggled trying to roll over. I tried not to worry about the laundry or the messy house, but the truth is I still did. I got distracted and would say I can cuddle tomorrow, she won’t grow that fast. I tried to breathe in her new baby smell and when I was rocking her at 3am because she wouldn’t sleep, I tried to tell myself how quickly this phase would pass, but I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t see through the tiredness, the loneliness, and the stress of adjusting to motherhood that those early days would go by so fast. Each day felt so long but so rewarding and those moms were right, that phase was over before I knew it. Soon she wouldn’t let me rock her to sleep, she stopped needing me to feed her, she wanted her independence. When did my newborn baby turn into this independent sassy little girl? 

You blinked, mama.

I did, and I woke up one morning to find out I was pregnant again. We were trying, so it wasn’t a huge surprise but in that moment I found myself asking, “How is this even possible, didn’t I just have a baby? I can’t be pregnant again, it just isn’t physically possible.” With this pregnancy I knew it would go by in the blink of an eye so I tried to take more time to enjoy being pregnant. To love my growing belly, to appreciate every kick, but even though I knew it would fly by I still blinked.

My first pregnancy- I didn’t believe it would go by as fast as it did, my second pregnancy didn’t allow me to fully soak in those nine months because I didn’t want to miss any of the huge milestones my first was hitting. When we found out we were pregnant I calculated when I would be able to find out the gender and thought 20 weeks is so far away, but I knew that in the blink of an eye we would be on our way to the ultrasound, making our announcement to friends and family and planning for her arrival. As the weeks went on I packed our hospital bag, we transitioned our first out of the nursery and unpacked the newborn clothes into the dresser. I knew she would arrive in a few weeks but the anticipation made it feel like the date would never arrive. I should have known better, soon she was here and we were already home from the hospital. We were introducing our new baby to her older sister who welcomed her with open arms. As I held our daughter down to meet her big sister I realized my brand new 5 lb newborn won’t be this little for long. My journey of holding on to each moment as they passed was starting all over again. I knew that her sweet innocent cries would soon turn into toddler screams and her little hand that couldn’t quite grasp my fingers would soon grow to hold my hand as she stood. I enjoyed the cuddles in bed. I didn’t guilt myself over laundry this time because I knew, this could be that last day; the last night feeding, the last newborn outfit, the last morning cuddle in bed. I took in every smile as they happened and tried to commit to memory every giggle but inevitably I also had to blink. 

You have to blink, mama.

As I looked down at my growing toddler I realized that each moment that seemed to disappear, that slipped out of my grasp too quick, led to new moments that created more memories. When I think of holding my daughter for the first time the memory is blurry. I remember the emotions but I can’t pinpoint the exact moment in my life, but If time had stopped there, or when she was an infant I wouldn’t have gotten to hear her say “mama” or “daddy”.  I wouldn’t have gotten to watch her learn to sing and dance or learn how to go down slides all by herself. As quickly as time goes by and as much as Idon’t want to blink, I have learned blinking is necessary. In those fleeting quiet moments that I’m not chasing the toddler around the stairs, cleaning the house, or doing the million other things on my list, I remember. I remember what her first smile was like, how we would cuddle and she would fall asleep in my arms, how I would rock her to sleep at 3 am, and how precious her new baby smell was. Then I stop remembering and I start living in each moment before I blink and those too become distant memories. 

12 Tips For Visiting Disney World With Young Children

Disney World is often referred to as ‘The Happiest Place On Earth’ but sometimes the thought of going with kids can be overwhelming. I was always told to “Wait until the kids are old enough to remember it”, “wait until they’re potty trained”, “wait until they can ride all the rides”

I am here to tell you, NO THANKS! Waiting isn’t for me. I believe you should take kids while they’re young enough to believe in the Magic! So what if they don’t remember every detail? You will! They will have pictures to look back on and special memories and stories to hear from you. So what if they can’t ride all the thrill rides? There are so many other fun things to do! I have always had an outstanding love for Disney, and visiting the parks. As a single woman, I would show up at whatever time I want, ride whatever I want and eat whenever and where ever I wanted. Visiting with kids changes EVERYTHING. I tried to be as organized as I possibly could for my first trip with kiddos but I quickly realized, I wasn’t nearly as prepared as I thought I was. After a few more trips, I’ve learned a lot and I’m here to share some tips with you to make your vacay a little more stress free.

1. Disney World App

This will be your best friend while on your Disney vacation. From your Disney App you can mobile order food, pick up Fast Passes, get up to date wait times on rides, organize character meet and greets and shows, instantly download your PhotoPass pictures and it even has an interactive park map. It’s free to download and will help you navigate through the parks.

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2. Fast Pass 

Fast Pass selections can be made 60 days in advance if you’re staying in a Disney resort and 30 days if you’re staying off property.

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Fast Passes are a great way to avoid standing in long lines where kids tend to get impatient. You can book 3 Fast Passes per day before your vacation. It’s best to get Fast Passes for as early in the day as you can. Once you use all 3, you are able to pick up more..one at a time.

3. PhotoPass

This is 100% the best thing you can possibly buy on your Disney vacation. As a parent it will help take all the stress off capturing those sweet character interaction moments. It will allow you to be in the moment, enjoying the experience with your child. It also allows everyone to be in the picture. Plus you get Magic Shots! These are the cutest little experiences you can find all around the parks. Sometimes you get to hold Tinkerbell, sometimes you get to dance next to Olaf. The kids will love it! We got to the point where the kids would run up to every PhotoPass Cast Member they could find and ask them which Magic Shots they have. Also, if you buy before the trip you get a discount and trust me, it is so worth it!

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4. Strollers 

The one thing everybody dreads! Navigating a heavy stroller miles and miles around a crowded park all day is not ideal but trust me, you want to have one. We heavily debated on not bringing one but boy what a mistake that would have been! The kids will get tired and need a place to rest and honestly it is a lifesaver not having to carry the bags around the park all day. I recommended a stroller with a storage space at the bottom.

  • Do not bring multiple umbrella strollers if you have multiple children. I honestly thought that was a good idea on my first trip because yes they’re light and fold easy but Disney Cast Members are constantly rearranging the stroller parking areas and if you have more than one stroller you will spend your whole day searching for them. I never realized how many red strollers there are in the world until I was trying to find ours in a sea of strollers that all look exactly the same.
  • Put something on your stroller to separate it from the rest. Wether that be a flag or a sign – have something that is easy to spot to save time.

 

5. Bring Your Own Snacks 

I always bring an empty water bottle for each family member. If you have the dining plan with the resort cups you will be able to fill them before you leave but because of the design of the cup, you will be stuck holding them. So bring along a bottle with a sealed lid and empty your drink it to it and toss it in the stroller. Disney also allows you to bring food in to the park. We always do the dining plan so we typically stop in the cafeteria in the morning before we head to the park and each pick out a bag of snacks to keep with us to munch on while we’re standing in line. It is an easy way to keep the kiddos happy when there’s nothing else to do.

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6. Disney Resorts

I know what you’re thinking. ‘Disney Resorts are too expensive. I’d rather find a cheaper hotel close by and save some money.’ I used to think that way too but let me tell you…Disney Resorts actually SAVE you money in the long run. Yes, you heard that right. Let’s look at the benefits of staying at a Disney Resort.

  • Parking at a Disney park is $25 per day! Think of how much money you’ll save on parking alone. Not to mention gas and possibly having to rent a car, if you flew to Orlando. The Disney bus service is amazing. They pick you up right from your hotel and drop you off right at the entrance of the park. It is quick, easy, clean, convenient and fun! We actually love riding the Disney busses. It also makes nap time so much easier. Depending on the ages of your kiddos, they will get tired and they will need a mid day rest. Some kids can sleep in a stroller with all the noise and some can’t. The Disney bus makes it so easy to pop back over to your resort for a quick nap and then get back to the park ASAP.
  • Extra Magic Hours. These will vary and either be offered early in the morning, before the parks open or late in the evening after they close. All guests who aren’t staying at a Disney resort will have to leave the park, leaving it just for Disney resort guests. You would be surprised at how empty the park feels and how many rides you can ride with little to no wait.
  • Merchandise delivery. All of the gift shops in Disney Parks will deliver your purchases to your resort free of charge. I love shopping while I’m in the parks. You can find so many items exclusive to the parks but the last thing I want to do is carry around a bunch of shopping bags. Besides the inconvenience of carrying them, you also risk losing items. I love being able to send my purchases straight to my resort.
  • Dining Plan. You can only use the Disney Dining Plan if you are a resort guest. Dining plans make life so much easier! More on that in the next section.

7. Character Dining 

I never experienced Character Dining before I went to Disney with kids but it is a great way for the kids to have time with the characters and actually play and interact with them. Character meet and greets are typically a little more on the rushed side as they are trying to get lines of people through as fast as possible, but character meals really allow your child to have time and enjoy the characters. It’s a wonderful experience to watch and it allows you time to relax. Plus we’ve never had a Character Dining meal we didn’t love!

8. Buttons

One of the few souvenirs that are free! We usually collect ours at our Disney resort as soon as we arrive. Kids absolutely love them! The front desk will have “1st Visit”, “Happy Birthday”, “Happily Ever After” and “I’m Celebrating” buttons. We’ve managed to collect them all at one point or another. They’re fun to wear around the park or pin on your backpack. Cast Members notice them and often time create a little Disney Magic just for you and whatever it is you’re celebrating.

9. Rider Swap

This is so helpful for big thrill rides that little ones can’t go on or a ride that one child is tall enough to ride but another isn’t. Rider Swap allows one adult to go on the ride and as soon as they get off the other adult gets to ride without having to wait all over again. If there is a child tall enough to ride, then they get to ride twice!

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10. Zip Lock Bag

I always like to bring a zip lock full of essentials. Band aids, Tylenol, Sunscreen…things we are bound to need every day! If you forget something, don’t stress. There’s First Aid Centers at all the parks and they are more then happy to help out with any boo boos.

11. Shows

The shows are a fun way to take a break from all the excitement. Most of the shows are indoors so they can also be a great way to cool off during the summer months. Some of our favorites are Beauty and the Beast, Frozen Sing Along, Voyage of the Little Mermaid and Disney Jr. Dance Party. That is the one show nobody talks about but the one we had the most fun at! I suggest a Fast Pass for that one. We got to be the very first people in with our Fast Passes. Everyone sits on the floor. We sat front and center. The characters come out and dance in the crowd with the kiddos. It’s a blast!

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12. Safety

Last, but certainly not least, Disney parks are big places with lots of people. It would only take a split second for a child to disappear in to the crowd. We always put our names and phones numbers inside the kids shoe. Make sure the child knows it’s there and how to find a Cast Member and tell them, so they can call us.

The most important thing to remember is to relax, Mama. Plan it out as best as you can but don’t stress over it.

I can promise you at the end of the day, no matter what, everyone will have had a great time and you will have a ton of magical memories to look back on.


 

Tips When Considering Embryo Donation to Create Your Family

In todays world there are many different ways to raise a child and/or have a baby. Finding out that you can not genetically have a child can be devastating and Can make you feel like there is no hope to have a “child of your own”. Many people struggling with infertility are made aware of donor conceived options, such as using donor eggs or donor sperm, but there is another, less talked about option – embryo donation.

Embryo donation is where a person is able to adopt an embryo from another family that has created embryos using IVF. They may have decided that their family is complete, yet still have remaining embryos that are frozen. There are also options of adopting embryos that have been created by donor sperm and a donor egg, but this is less common to my knowledge.

Every couple that is considering embryo donation/adoption (the terms are used interchangeably with generally the same meaning, although you should check with the clinic you are working with) will have different experiences. In my case, my husband and I were on the same page very quickly, we knew that adoption was always a realistic option for us, when we discovered embryo donation, we instantly fell in love with the idea of combining adoption with the ability to carry a baby through pregnancy. We decided to match privately with a family that was willing to donate 2 male embryos to us and we have since gone on to have a beautiful little boy and have grown to be close friends more like family with our donors. We were both open to having an “open adoption”, however we wanted the relationship to build naturally, therefore we chose to not put specific stipulations in our legal agreement and the let nature take its course. We now speak regularly, FaceTime, have met 3 times and are even planning to spend a holiday together this year. “The boys” as we call them will all grow up knowing each other and understanding that they are brothers. We already share their story with them and the oldest child (6) seems to truly understand. We also read picture books to our son regularly, and our hope is that he will learn to love his story and feel how much love it took to create him. This is what works for us, not all situations are like this, in fact most are not so it is important to communicate your needs, wishes and hopes for the future.

Here are a few tips that I suggest to any couple that is considering embryo donation. 

See a psychologist that specializes in donor conceiving.

Most fertility clinics will have this be a mandatory step before beginning the process, but if its not, definitely see a professional to help you navigate your feelings about using an adopted embryo to get pregnant. It is a great way to have a safe space to speak with your partner about all of your feelings and make sure they are on the same page as you. There are a lot of emotions surrounding using an adopted embryo, most importantly the grief of how you imagined getting pregnant and brining a child into the world. Many people struggle with the idea of raising a child that is not their DNA, they fear that they may not love the baby in the same way they would if the baby was genetically theirs. 

Research the different ways to adopt an embryo.

Do your research and decide what type of adoption you are open to or would like to pursue. Just as in traditional adoption, there are several ways to go about embryo adoption/donation. There are 3 main types of adoption: open, semi-open and closed. Open can mean that you talk very often to the family, have many visits, have them be in your child’s life in one way or another. Semi-open could mean that you both decide to only share pictures a few times a year, communicate only through emails but not meeting face to face. A closed adoption would simply mean you receive the embryos and the relationship ends, but you would still have the benefit of knowing the genetic parents and/or siblings. A good place to start is by talking to your fertility clinic and seeing what options they have available to you. You can choose to have a private adoption where you and the donating family work out your own stipulations with a lawyer, this can include how open you would like the relationship to be in the future. There are websites such as https://www.nrfa.org where you can create a profile and match with a family, you can still decide to have a closed adoption even if you were to choose to match privately. You can choose to adopt anonymously from either your fertility clinic or another one that offers embryo donation/adoption. 

Join a social media group for Embryo Donation.  

This is a great resource for anyone considering heading down this path, you will be able to read many first hand true stories that will help you decide what kind of adoption you are interested in pursuing.  You can find support from families that have been through the same experience, have access to a resource to ask questions as they arise and also potentially match with donor couples. 

Embryo donation was the right choice for my family. We couldn’t be happier with our decision, not only did it bring us our son, but we gained this entire village to help us show our son what love and true kindness is all about. If you are struggling to conceive your family, Im sorry, I know how hard it can be to navigate all of your feelings and think about options that were not always part of your plan, but when you are ready, embryo donation is a beautiful choice and just might bring you a miracle.

Brian with his brothers

3 Tips For The Busy Mom

I am a busy mom. I work full time, I single parent two young children on a week on/off basis. I manage our household, I have important relationships that I care about and need to show up for – all while striving to maintain my health as a top priority in my life. I hold my health at the top of my to-do list every week, because I know that if I am not at my best, then it trickles down throughout my life in a negative way. My parenting suffers, my work suffers, and my mental health suffers – and we all know that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Full disclosure though: some weeks I am a hot mess. I am by no means perfect, but I have definitely learned the hard way how important my health is and how different I feel on the weeks where I have all of my ducks in a row. I have spent a lot of time fine-tuning what works for me and have had a lot of questions on how I manage it all. I have developed a great routine for myself and have found such a good groove for myself. Changes don’t happen overnight, and in an effort to not overwhelm you, here are my top 3 tips for thriving as a busy mom!

1. Meal Prep – 100%, without a doubt, absolutely non-negotiable. If you are going to do ANYTHING, start in the kitchen. I’ve been meal prepping for years now, so I have it down to an art. But it doesn’t have to be complicated for you. The top 3 things to have in your fridge prepped are protein, fruit and veggies. I usually hard-boil eggs, cook chicken in the crockpot and shred it, and pick a few veggies and fruit to have cut up and in containers for the week.  Everything else is gravy. If you have this all ready to go, you’re less likely to hit the drive-thru or go rummaging through the pantry trying to find something for yourself to eat. If you feel that you don’t have time to exercise, at the very least having healthy options to grab when you’re busy will be a game changer for you and give your body the fuel that it needs.

2. Sleep – Sleep is one of those things that we put on the back burner, but it is one of the most important aspects of thriving as a mother. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re not running as well as you could be. Sleep affects your mood, your energy levels, your stress management, your work ethic… and the list goes on. If you’re not getting enough sleep you are not 100% you, and the rest of the world is missing out. Although I am not one to always follow the rules I set for myself, I try to make it a habit to be in bed by 9pm, and up for my alarm at 5am. That gives me plenty of downtime and sleep and I know that when I follow this routine, I always feel incredible the following day. Below are some tips that will help set you up for a great night of sleep:

– Put your phone on airplane mode at 8pm.

– Enjoy a warm tea/lemon water and a book to settle your mind.

– Keep a notebook beside your bed to write down any thoughts that might keep you up at night.

– Pack lunches/bags the night before so that you’re prepared for the next morning.

 

3. Grace – The thing is, I know we’d all really love to do it all. We’d love to be the perfect friend, perfect housewife, perfect partner and perfect mother. In an ideal world, everything would be meal prepped and your diet would be on point, you’d get all of your exercise and sleep in, everything would be organized and handled, and everyone would be happy and you’d just be killing it at motherhood. But life is busy and messy, and some weeks we just can’t do it all. Some weeks, everything runs smoothly and some weeks one or two or ten balls drop. That’s just how life goes and we can’t be perfect 100% of the time. It’s important to go easy on yourself and remember that life happens. Give yourself some grace and forgive yourself if all you do is just survive some days.

All the love, mamas!

Amy xo


 

amy mercer headshotimg_8476

Amy is a single mother to two girls, living in a small town located on the lakeshores of Lake Huron in Ontario. She loves writing, traveling and maintaining a healthy, all- natural lifestyle. You can read more about her here!

5 Key Interior Design Tips

Interior design is a huge part of our everyday lives. It evokes the true essence of your home and it is a reflection of your personal style. Our home should be our sanctuary, a place where we can come home and unwind. Many of us pack our schedules so tight we forget to leave time to personalize our space. When we finally make time, we have no idea where to begin. Thankfully, I am here to help. I will be sharing some key design tips to help you get your home exactly how you have always wanted it.

Tip #1 Select a color palette.

How many of you love color? I personally love color; I love the energy it brings into a space. A room can be warmed, cooled or neutralized by infusing color into the scheme. Although there is no rule to how many colors you can use, using too many colors can throw off a color scheme. As much as we love to see color in other people’s homes, many of us are afraid to integrate it into our own space. Let us begin by using the 60, 30, 10 rule, 60% of your space should be your primary color, 30% your secondary color and 10% your accent color.  A good foundational starting point would be to create a neutral palette within your home; this gives you the flexibility to integrate fun pops of color throughout the seasons.  (Stay tuned for future posts, I will provide a break down on selecting warm and cool color schemes, and additional fun ways to incorporate color into your homes and fashion wardrobes.)

Tip #2 Furnishing your space.

What is the function of the room? Be sure to get a clear concise idea of how you want the room to function. Next, select a focal point. A focal point is the focus of the room. It can be a fireplace, a built in bookcase or defined artwork in the room, and simply put it is the first piece that stands out in the space. The eye will search the room for it until it finds it.

A small space should have smaller scale furniture; a large space should have larger furniture.

Before you purchase any furniture, become well acquainted with the space. Measure out your living room, dining room, bedroom etc…The worst thing you can do is purchase furniture that is too big or too small for your home. Take the time to ask questions about sizes and color options. Most furniture stores can provide diagrams that have dimensions for pieces; if it is not available, you can always snap a picture so you have them available. If you are bringing the pieces home yourself, verify the pieces will fit through your doorways. I learned this lesson the hard way when I had to take doors off the hinges just to get a large sofa sectional through the entrance. In most cases, once you purchase furniture, you, own it. So make sure you do your due diligence ahead of time.

Next, Position your furniture so it flows well. Create spaces according to the rooms function. If it is a media room, place pieces so everyone can see the TV from every angle. If it is a conversation area, place furniture facing each other so one can dialogue comfortably. Think of the ease of the room- does it flow well with traffic? Considering these elements will help you find the right pieces for your space. Be sure to leave some white space within the room, there is no need to fill every corner. A well-designed space will look for a resting point.

Furniture

Tip # 3 Rule of Three

Do not take this rule too literal, use it as a guideline. Most accent pieces look best in groups of three and / or odd number configurations. Objects can be similar in color; with variations of artwork, etc…Using items in this configuration gives the space a calming feeling while providing visual appeal. Use the rule of three with color, accessories or various shapes and sizes. In color, repeat the same color in different elements, shades, or tones. When accessorizing use different shapes and sizes, they should all feel cohesive, to use with artwork. Keep the theme of the art in groups of threes. Each piece of art should have a common theme amongst one another. Use the rule of three in a perfectly symmetrical room and notice the room instantly become more visually appealing.

Rule of Three

Tip #4 Decide if your space will be symmetrical or asymmetrical.

Symmetry is a balance of design elements placed in a room. One side of the room should mirror the exact opposite. Symmetrical design is favored by most, it is a simpler process; it feels calm, cohesive, and well balanced. To know if you have achieved symmetry in the space, use this rule of thumb. If you take the room and cut the room in half, will it look identical to the other side? If the answer is yes, then you have successfully achieved symmetry.

If symmetry is not your thing then it is likely you prefer asymmetrical design.

Asymmetry is the opposite of symmetry; the design is different on both sides of the space. This layout will take more time and effort to achieve, but it can be a much livelier design. To achieve asymmetry you will have to find an equal balance between both sides of the space. A large chair next to a sofa can be paired with a side table and hefty table lamp. The coordinating components do not have to be identical as long as they have an equal balance of weight or scale.

To know if you have achieved asymmetry in the space, use this rule of thumb.  If you take the room and cut the room in half, do both sides of the space feel evenly weighted.  If yes, then you have successfully achieved asymmetry.

Tip #5 Harmony and Unity

Harmony and unity complete a well-designed space. This is the soul of the space, it is the feeling it exudes when you walk in. There is a lot of flexibility in this range so have fun with it. You can achieve unity by using repetition of different groupings. There are many elements to unity; I am providing only a few to help you simplify the decorating process. Create unity by incorporating consistent shapes, colors and textures. A grouping of round mirrors in various sizes look great. Repetition of a color grouping unifies the room. A textured rug and textured pillows uniform the space. Harmony and unity can be achieved through various groupings so do not be afraid to try new elements just be sure to keep them all consistent.

Harmony and Unity

There you have it; five key elements that will help you create a beautifully designed space you will love calling your own. I hope this helped you. This post is focused more on the decorating aspect of interior design as opposed to the technicalities of design.

 

Traveling With A Little One: My Best Tips And Tricks.

I took my son Asher on his first airplane/out of state trip when he was 7 months old. Since then, he has been on 29 flights and to 19 states! We just visited the Outer Banks the first weekend in November and I always think back to that first trip when I was getting ready to pack and how nervous I was to embark on my first adventure with my infant in tow.

My husband, Casey and I got married at Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana. We wanted to celebrate our anniversary there but I wasn’t ready to leave my baby over night yet and I was still breastfeeding regularly. Wanting some alone time but not being ready for a baby-less vacation, we invited my mom to come along! I was SO nervous about being a new mom and traveling with an infant. What if his ears hurt? Would people be mad if he cried? What if I had to change a poopy diaper on the flight?!

The plane ride from Denver to New Orleans is almost three hours and I was totally consumed with what those three hours could hold for me. I read all of the blogs and Pinterest tips and was as prepared as I could be.

In the past three years I have traveled regularly with Asher, our longest flight being 7 hours nonstop and our longest travel day being 16 hours. We have had easy flights and we have had downright miserable travel days where we left at 2 am and didn’t get where we’re going for 13 hours. I feel like while it still requires a lot of planning I have definitely figured out some things since then that may be able to help moms who are feeling the same way I was on that first flight!

First off, planning ahead helps so much. When Asher was a newborn he mostly slept on flights which was great for both of us! But, that doesn’t always happen. Here is a list of things I would say are must haves for little ones:

Newborn-crawler age

1. Diapers and wipes.
2. Hand sanitizer.
3. A blanket to lay them down on the floor in the airport so they can play or get changed. (I try to always fold it so the side that is on the ground is always folded up inside and is always the same side on the ground, that way they aren’t playing on the dirty side.)
4. Another clean blanket for covering them up in the plane, stroller, car seat etc.
5. A couple changes of clothes. That first flight to New Orleans, Asher had a major blowout and there was no changing table on the plane. My husband and I cleaned him while one of us held him up midair and the other one washed and changed him. It wasn’t easy, but it was feasible. Extra clothes are a must for kids and sometimes adults.
6. Small toys and books.
7. A bottle or sippy cup for take off and landing for their ears, if they are not breastfeeding. (I recommend nursing or giving them something to drink when you take off and descend to help relieve ear pressure. This worked great for us every time and often helped put him to sleep).
8. Stroller.
9. Baby-wraps (Keep in mind if your baby is in your baby wearing wrap at security they will make you take him/her out. Same goes for the stroller but they are great to have for the rest of the airport).
10. Snacks for you!

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Older babies and toddlers

I have added and changed some stuff on the list. Extra clothes and diapers are a must but we bring a lot more toys than we did when Asher was a baby. My absolute favorite airplane toys are slime and putty! They keep Asher busy for so long and they are less messy than playdough. Make sure they are under 3 oz because airport security considers them a “gel or liquid” and they will take them if they are more than 3 oz. I also love to bring coloring books, magnet play sets, reusable stickers, and small games like memory cards. Amazon has great reusable sticker activity books.

We bring Asher an iPad for long flights. We only let him watch the iPad on airplanes. We do this because we feel like it makes it special for him and gives him something to look forward to. Since he isn’t allowed to watch it at home, it is a lot more fun for him to have something that is just for airplanes. We also use it as a last resort. Once we have played all the games, read all the books, and eaten all the snacks – he can watch his iPad. Some parents let their kids watch their iPads the entire flight and I am all for that as well. If that works for you and gets you through a tough travel day, I call it a win.

We hit bad weather flying home from Georgia this spring and had to be rerouted to a nearby state and were stuck on the plane for 4 hours longer than planned. I can’t imagine the meltdowns we all would’ve had if Asher didn’t have a movie to watch. Asher wasn’t into videos until just recently so we haven’t used that as our main form of entertainment. It’s also nice to have backups in the event of a dead battery, or no WiFi, etc.
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My other bit of advice when packing is to always bring a reusable water bottle and snacks, especially if your child has any dietary restrictions. Finding food at weird times and in a hurry in an airport can be challenging and stressful when you’re hungry so it never hurts to have a backup snack.

Car seats

When we plan to rent a car at our destination, I always bring my own car seat. We have rented them a couple of times and I always prefer to have my own. You can check your own for free at ticketing and it will arrive in oversized baggage at your destination. I’ve had to use rented car seats that are filthy. They have been out of infant or toddler seats and we have had to wait while they go get one from another rental facility (which is the worst when you’ve been traveling all day already), and they are usually expensive to rent.

Strollers

We always bring our stroller to the airport and check it at the gate. You just have to get a stroller tag at your gate and leave it right before you get on the plane.

We have always been really lucky with Asher on the plane. He enjoys it and is usually really good, but if your little one does have a meltdown or cries uncontrollably, just remember that a lot of the people on the plane have kids of their own and have been where you are. They know it’s hard and you’re trying your best. Flight attendants are often awesome with kids and will try and help you calm them or redirect their attention. If you know of something that may help, ask them. I can almost guarantee they will do it. If nothing helps and people are starting to give you snarky looks or making comments, remember that they are grown adults and they should’ve brought their noise cancelling head phones. No one wants their child to cry on an airplane- just try your best to stay calm and know it’s temporary.

Taking your kids on trips can seem overwhelming and be a lot work, but after that first flight, you will feel like a pro. Traveling with Asher has been my favorite thing. We have seen so many things together and at just three years old he has met so many wonderful people along the way. I know that all of those red eye flights and late nights packing and planning have been completely worth it. Take the trip! You will be so glad you did.

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Podcast:How To Have A Minimalist Christmas ( And More) With JoLynn Graubart

 

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Listen on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast and other major podcast apps through here!

 

Co-hosts, Paige + Leslie with Outnumbered Mamas contributor and guest, JoLynn Graubart discuss minimalism. JoLynn is a minimalist- in- progress and gives us tips on how her family celebrates Christmas with their two children.


Show Notes

Co-Hosts: Paige Martinek + Leslie Caruthers

Guest Host: JoLynn Graubart

Links from this podcast:

How To Have A Minimalist Christmas

Letters From Afar

Dear Working Mama, It’s Okay (And You’re Not Alone)

I know the feeling you had as you held your sweet, little baby and realized your precious time was almost up. I got that feeling too. It’s one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had.

My heart broke as I realized that, so soon, I would wake up and have to hand my baby off to someone else. Someone else will be taking care of my baby. I’ll have to miss out on watching her grow up. I’ll have to miss out on some of her firsts. I’ll have to miss out on all these important days of her little life.

I know what you were thinking. Why? Why can’t I have more time? Why did the time I had have to go by so fast? Why do I have to leave my baby when we just got in our routine? Why does this have to be so hard?  

Let me tell you, Mama, I understand completely… and it’s okay. 

It’s okay that you don’t want to leave your baby. I mean, who wants to leave their baby all day? Not me. I mean, c’mon it’s my BABY. The little life that I grew for nine months before anyone else knew her. She was a part of me and now I have to give that part of me away for 9 hours a day. It freaking sucks. 

It’s okay to cry. I still cry. I have days that I get back into my car after dropping her off and just cry. All I want to do is walk back in there, get my baby, and go back home… and it takes everything inside of me to put the car in drive and force a smile when I walk through those company doors. 

It’s okay to be mad when people tell you it will get easier. It’s pretty much one of the most annoying things people say to new working moms. It hasn’t gotten easier. It won’t get easier. It’s hard as hell to walk away from my little girl every day.

It’s okay to feel like you aren’t giving it all you have at work. I often feel like I’m not being the employee that I should be because I’m always thinking about my baby or having to miss days if she’s sick. Or not putting in the extra time and effort that I should because I want to get home and have at least a little time to spend with her between dinner, bath, and bedtime.  

It’s okay to feel like you’re not giving it all you have at home. Sometimes I feel like I’m not the mom I should be because she’s at daycare 9 hours a day instead of with me. Chick-fil-A is typically the go-to these days for dinner. The house never seems to be clean and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get all the laundry done. But when do I even have time to do all of this and be able to take a few moments to just stop and play with my baby after working all day?  

It’s okay to ask for help. Being a working mom leaves me with a never-ending list of things that need to be done and for some reason I think that I need to get it all done on my own. Asking for help relieves some of the stress and allows me to spend a few extra minutes with my sweet baby. 

It’s okay to need a break. The transition from doing what you want when you want, to being a working mama constantly on-the-go can be an adjustment. Sometimes I really just need some time to myself. Just a few hours alone to go get my nails done, walk around Target or grab a coffee and drink it while it’s still hot. 

It’s okay to struggle. I struggle daily but I know I’m not alone. YOU are not alone. Other working mamas out there understand the daily struggles we face. Know this Mama… you are strong, one of the strongest women I know and sometimes I just don’t know how we mamas do it all!  

Being a working mom is freaking hard. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise and never let anyone tell you that it’s not okay to not be okay sometimes. You are not alone. 

So, Mama, it’s okay. Cry if you need to. Take a break if you need it. Do what you have to do. Stay strong. You’re an amazing mom! Keep kicking butt and keep loving on those babies! 
 
xoxo, 

Your Working Mom Friend

How to Have a “Minimalist” Christmas

Okay, Mamas. This is an upfront disclaimer that I am a “minimalist in-progress.” Can we just agree that there is a middle-ground somewhere between shaming people who have throw pillows and keeping every book you’ve ever read? Maybe room for a family still clinging to their dying DVD collection, but intentionally inching towards minimalist living? That would be the category my family fits into.

Minimalism is all the rage, right? But what does it have to do with our families? One study found that an average 10 year old owns 238 toys, but only plays with 12 of them on a regular basis (1). Raise your hand if you just started mentally counting all of your children’s toys? (Yes, every Barbie shoe and Lego block counts.)

When I chose to embrace minimalism it was because I saw it as a way to raise content, grateful, and creative kids- the kind of kids who use the things they have with the fullness of their imagination; kids whose general state of happiness floats above the “need” for more and more stuff. Firstly, you’re right if you think that it must be BOTH satisfying and also completely terrifying to purge mass quantities of stuff with small people living in your house. Secondly, the peace found at the end of the process outweighs the energy and time commitment it takes – I promise.

As I’ve introduced this concept to the people in my kids’ lives (in other words, the people who give them gifts), they almost always get around to asking, “but what about Christmas?”

What about Christmas? Won’t there be a full-scale revolt if the pile under the tree shrinks suddenly?! How do you even get started with something like this? First…

Get your kids on board – I think most of us underestimate our kids. Children tend to be open to new ideas when they understand why something is happening. Talk to your kids honestly. Explain how wonderful it would be if their lives (and rooms) were only full of the things that they love and the things that they use. Talk up the beauty of simplicity! They’ll have less things to pick up at “clean up time.” They’ll be able to find that treasured item that always gets misplaced under a pile of junk.

They will follow your lead – Before tackling the playroom, demonstrate the process in other areas of the home and let them be part of the process. Cleaning out the pantry? Mommy is getting rid of things she doesn’t love and doesn’t use. Let them see how you make decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of. Watch an episode of Marie Kondo’s new show on Netflix together, and then hit their closets asking, “Does this bring me joy?” (my girls LOVED this part! They even made Daddy do it). Make it fun and exciting, a whole new way of looking at things.

Start the process now, not on Christmas EveBut what about Christmas?! This is a lifestyle change, guys. It’s going to take some getting used to. So the sooner you start having conversations the better. That also gives you the chance to work with your kids towards simplifying their playroom and bedrooms before a huge influx of gifts.

One thing that’s worked really well with my kids is giving them the option of only picking up the things they love. This is a winner in my house especially when the playroom floor is trashed. I frame it like, “guys I’m going to do you a huge favor. All you have to do is put away the things that you use and that you love, and Mommy will handle the rest.” Note: be careful to preserve trust and to respect your children during this process. At our house, the kids know that those trashbags go to the basement before they head to Goodwill. I stash them there for 2 months, and if they aren’t touched in that time, they get donated. The girls understand this process, so they are way more willing to let me haul that singing Elsa away in a plastic bag.

Clue in the relatives –  People are going to think you’re crazy. Get comfortable with that. They’re also going to be really uncomfortable NOT buying loads of stuff for you and your kids. Don’t apologize about going against the grain, but do give them ideas! If you need some, keep reading. Make an Amazon list for each of your kids and share it with family members. Most people want to get gifts that really bless you, and are thrilled to know exactly what that is.

What do you buy them? 

  1. Subscription boxes & magazines: what’s better than one gift that gets ignored in 2 weeks? A give that comes 12 times in a year! There are subscription boxes for everything from cultural cooking to woodworking. Google your child’s age/interest and I bet you find something amazing. Our absolute FAVORITE is Letters From Afar.
  2. Experiences: Museum & Zoo passes, Aquarium memberships, movie giftcards all fall under this category. My in-laws made the sweetest “box of dates” for our girls last year. Each 1st of the month they would open an envelope with a pre-planned date with Nana & Grandpop in it. It was super fun!
  3. Classes: How about getting grandma and grandpa to invest in a skill your kids are dying to work on, like gymnastics, swimming, karate lessons, space camp?!
  4. Open-ended toys: These are toys that can be used in more than one way, and for more than one age-group. I’m convinced that my kids could have happily survived the last 7 years playing with just silk scarves, Animal Figurines, and Magnet Blocks. Those are our top three for sure. (your standard cardboard box also fits in this category)
  5. Consumable items & Handicrafts: Art supplies are a hot commodity around here, and are always a crowd-pleaser. I mean who doesn’t love a fresh box of crayons or an elaborate coloring book.  This is also a great time to invest in a hands-on creative skill like crocheting, felting, sewing, beading, woodworking, or musical instruments.

Focus on the stuff that isn’t “stuff” – Since down-sizing our Christmas, we instead have time, energy, and mental space to pack the whole month of December with memory making. In fact, Advent kicks off the week of Thanksgiving in this house with a cranberry/popcorn/orange garland making fest. We read all the Christmas books, sing all the songs, watch all the movies, eat and bake and just generally pack this month full of good times. Here’s five ideas to get you started:

  1. Read good books together as a family: Sarah Mackenzie at Read-Aloud Revival has a great reading list! Grab a bunch of Christmas picture books from the library, wrap up 24 of them, and open one a day to read as a family. Or better yet, pick a big juicy classic novel like The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe to read over dinner each night (with Turkish Delight of course).
  2. Drive around the neighborhood with cocoa looking for Christmas lights.
  3. Make homemade salt-dough ornaments or sugar scrubs to give out to friends and family as gifts.
  4. On Christmas Eve make (more) cocoa and have a night picnic under the stars. We always take our popcorn garlands outside at this point, and hang them up on the trees for the animals.
  5. Set up a card making station for your kids full of stickers, stamps, and glitter. We make cards while listening to carols or audio-books all month long, and then bring them to a local nursing home. Focus on the GIVING, not the getting.

 

Further reading suggestions: Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne, Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquilyn Smith

Listen to JoLynn on The Outnumbered Mama’s Podcast to hear more about her minimalist lifestyle, and how she and her family celebrate Christmas.

 

  1. https://www.uctv.tv/RelatedContent.aspx?RelatedID=301

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