Road Tripping 101…with Kids!

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Hubs and I just returned from a week long road trip with the babes! We went from Michigan to Virginia (and back) with a couple of stops along the way! This was our first adventure like this and I do have to say it went pretty smoothly! The babes LOVED staying in a hotel and the car rides were pretty painless. Here are some of the things that helped us remain stress free!

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-Split the trip up!! Our entire trip was about 8 and a half hours one way without stopping and we decided that we shouldn’t try and make it in one day. Both ways we stopped at the halfway mark and stayed over night.

-Try to drive during a normal “rest time”. The very first day we got on the road it was 4pm and the babes were no where near tired. This was probably the most restless part of the journey.  The days that we left right before naptime (noon) the babes were naturally ready to rest and it made for a pretty quiet ride.

-Portable DVD player is a MUST! We borrowed one from a friend that had dual screens. It was nice to start each leg of our trip with a movie. I also borrowed movies that the babes hadn’t seen before. It kept their attention!

-Make up little travel bags with coloring books, crayons, and stickers. I got all these items at the dollar tree and didn’t show them to the kids until we got to the hotel! They loved it!

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  -Utilize the hotel cribs! Giada still sleeps in a crib and it was super hard to contain her to a bed at night. The second day of our trip I called down and we got a rolling crib! It was the perfect solution to keep her contained!

-Pack easy to travel/eat in the car snacks. I brought applesauce pouches, mini cups of pringles, apples, and other individual snacks they didn’t need to be refrigerated. I also brought a loaf of bread along with peanut butter & jelly for easy lunchtime sandwiches!

-ALWAYS get a room with a mini fridge! Each hotel we stayed in offered free breakfast. Every morning we would take an extra milk from breakfast to have for later in the day!

-Use fast food drink holders as individual plates for the car! This was an easy way to portion meals on the go for them..and allow them to still have their dips!

-Let the kids run off some steam at rest stops!! Or better yet, find a waterpark! We stayed at one on our last night and it was so refreshing to have a place to go play instead of camping out in our hotel room!

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-If you can’t find a waterpark at least find a hotel with an indoor pool!

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-Bring an ipad or tablet that can connect to the hotel’s wifi. Hotel TV’s are always hit or miss as far as catching a cartoon. This way the adults can watch the TV and the babes can relax with their favorite shows at night!

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-Have a diaper bag close to the front of the car with all incidentals you might need along the way. Our bag included band aids, ibuprofen, Tylenol, wipes, a change of clothes for each kid, sun block, bug spray, hand sanitizer, toothbrushes, and toothpaste. I wanted something easy to grab without having to sift through luggage.

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-Make a schedule, but allow for some flexibility. Sitting in a car for a long period of time isn’t easy on anyone! Sometimes you just need to go with the flow on vacation!

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They See Me Rolling { Double Stroller Tips }

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I’m in a few “mom” support groups on Facebook and I cannot tell you how often we talk about double strollers. Do I need one? Should I get a tandem? What about side by side? Does it have to be compatible with my infant seat?

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My babes are 22 months apart and for us a double stroller was 100% needed. There wasn’t any way shape or form I was going to let my 22 month old walk for any extended period of time.

After researching and hunting for nine months we decided on the Britax B-Agile double stroller. The side by side style seemed most suitable for us and it folded up so small!

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I opted to not use a car seat convertor for my double stroller and here is my reasoning…

First, the convertor was an additional $70+. I thought that was outrageous! Second I tested out the convertor bar in the store and just didn’t feel like it was a good fit. It made the stroller seem a lot bulkier and I didn’t want to have to take the bar in and out each time I used my stroller. Instead I got this newborn insert and put Giada in the stroller completely flat.

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A few tips for you to decide.

1. Acutally test out the stollers! I went to Buy Buy Baby several times before I made my final decision and walked around the store with each model I was considering. I found that the tandem strollers were a lot harder to maneuver vs the side by side strollers.

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2. Check out the storage situation. The Britax B-Agile double had easy access to the basket from the front!! So when my diaper bag was hanging I could easily get underneath!

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3. Consider if the canopy’s are individual or one large shade. You might want your infant covered, but your toddler will have other plans.

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4. Practice folding the stroller closed and fitting it in your vehicle. Buy Buy Baby is great about that and will let you! Some strollers are very large when folded and don’t fit easily in trunks.

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5. Consider buying second hand! We’ve used ours for 2 summers and are just about done with it. It’s in mint condition so I’m sure other’s will be as well!

Happy Stroller Shopping!

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Say What?! 5 Ways to promote language development.

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I’m certainly no speech expert, but I’d like to think I am an expert when it comes to my babes. While I can recognize that every child develops differently, I knew that Giada was behind when it came to speech. She has some words and can get her point across, but I could tell she was getting frustrated. I expressed my concerns with my ped and she told me that typically there isn’t a worry until age 2. Since Giada’s birthday fell at the end of the school year, though, she said it wouldn’t hurt to take her in to be evaluated early since services aren’t offered during the summer..

We met with our local school district and the women there were beyond friendly, helpful, and extremely patient with Giada. They tested Giada’s hearing, her comprehension, and then her ability to communicate. Giada fell in the 24 month range for her understanding but only 15 months for her speech. Because of the discrepancy between her understanding and her ability they recommended speech therapy for her! I was SO happy I listened to my “mom-intuition” and didn’t go any longer leaving her frustrated. Sometimes… what works for one child doesn’t work for the next and us parents need to make some modifications to what we are doing. Language seemed to come very easy to Ari, but Giada needs some changes to her environment.

The entire evaluation experience was so educational for me. I was an early elementary teacher and knew so many of these strategies, but when you get caught up in the day to day you sometimes forget. Before we left the evaluation they gave me some super easy strategies to implement immediately. Honesty I can’t believe the difference it has made in only a couple short weeks.

If you have a toddler on the verge of talking or one that is struggling to talk I highly suggest using some of these strategies!

Ditch the Sippy Cups/Pacifiers – They couldn’t stress enough the negative impact these two items had on language acquisition. I read this post before and “knew” they weren’t the best thing, but I never really cared that much until I was sitting in a speech evaluation and being told my daughter needed ME to toss them.  I was nervous about giving her an open cup at meals, but overall the transition hasn’t been terrible! I got cups with handles from Target for $.79!

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Strengthen the entire body – The body works together in complex ways. They suggested doing wheelbarrows with her and getting her to try to balance on one foot!

Stimulate the Mouth – Some children need extra stimulation in their mouths. It was suggested we get her an electric toothbrush instead of a regular one. Giada loves it!

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Give her the words – This one made perfect sense now looking back. Instead of asking her a yes or no question you offer a choice, use adjectives, and give her the word you want her to say. The last word out of your mouth should be what you want them to say.

Example: instead of saying “Giada do you want this hairbow?” All she can respond with is yes and it’s not expanding her vocabulary. You say “Giada, do you want this clip or this PINK HAIRBOW?”. It allows her to repeat the last thing you just said because you are giving her the word. I’ve been using this technique a TON and I am so surprised at how many new words she is trying to say just by me changing my behavior!

Use songs/body movements – Using a song or a beat allows children to easily chime in at words they know. Now we’ve been singing songs every night that involve hand movements like “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Baby Bumblebee”. Giada has been so engaged and tries to sing along with us!

I’m sure there’s going to come a day when I wish Giada wasn’t talking SO much. But, for now, I’m determined to do everything in my power to help her get where she needs to be! In just a few weeks of doing these things I have seen such an incredible difference in her communication. I can’t wait until our actual first lesson! I will be learning as much as Giada.

Be Who You Are…and let your kids too!

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I am lucky enough to be raising two very independent children.  At the young ages they are both of them know what they want and won’t back down until they get it. Sometimes it’s frustrating for me, but just recently it taught me a very important lesson.

Yesterday morning my son, Ari, woke up a little cranky before it was time to go to preschool. He had an empty paper towel roll but somehow it had been “smushed” during the night by our giant dog. He was crabbing and I was trying to get everyone out the door on time. Before we left Ari insisted I give him some string so that he could make a necklace out of his paper towel roll. Since the morning was already a little rocky I went with it. I knew if I didn’t it would take us even longer to get out the door. So I helped him quickly make a necklace that was about the width of his entire body. It literally took me 30 seconds and in an instant his entire mood changed. Ari was so proud of what he had made.

 

We brought the necklace in the car, but I was secretly hoping he would forget about it by the time we got to preschool. Silly me to think he would forget about such a creation. As we were getting out of the car I kept asking him “Are you sure you want to bring that in?”. Confidently he said “Yes”. Ari is one of the youngest children in his entire preschool program so I was a little nervous for the outcome. In the back of my mind I kept worrying what others would think… Are the kids going to make fun of him? He was wearing a paper towel roll around his neck! What will his teachers think of this necklace? Will he get his feelings hurt?

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Little man was not taking no for an answer, though. He strolled into preschool confident as ever wearing his paper towel necklace.  A few other boys greeted him and started talking about their plans for a playdate that night while I put his things away.  As Ari was sitting down to eat breakfast a few little boys started asking him about his “tube” and where he got it. They wanted one like him. As I was watching them talk I couldn’t help but notice the pride and confidence my son was exuding. Ari was smiling from ear to ear telling his friends about his necklace that he made.

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We live in a time where image is everything. Every single life event is photographed and uploaded. Social media feeds are plastered with images of how people should look. As parents, its all to easy to get wrapped up in that when it comes to raising our little ones. I find myself all too guilty of trying to create the perfect image. My children are always dressed to perfection and forget about letting them leave the house in something that isn’t photo worthy. Today, though, made me realize that isn’t what’s important.  All this pressure we put on ourselves is silly. Sometimes I need to stop and remember that these little babes I am raising are both unique humans with their own BIG ideas. Who am I to prevent them from just being themselves?

Instead of helping them look the best they can… I need to help them BE the best they can.

Even if it means allowing them to dress silly and wear paper towel necklaces to preschool.

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Parenting. One change after another!

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It’s no secret that babies and toddlers are creatures of habit. They thrive on routine and consistency. But if I know one absolute truth about parenting it’s that change is inevitable. Just when you think you have the hang of something here comes another curve ball. Personally it’s always scary to tackle new transitions especially when things are already going smooth. I’m a planner and the uncertainty makes me uneasy. More often than not it seems easier to just “wait” and maybe take on the change at a later time.  While it may seem like an easy solution at the time, I promise you if you just stick with it, the transition will fly by in no time and the new norm will be created.

Just this morning I dropped Ari off at preschool and watched as he effortlessly hung his jacket on the “Ari” hook, put his boots away, and joined the other kids at the breakfast table.  He was smiling, showing off his strawberry oatmeal, and interacting with his classmates. I gave him a kiss on the cheek and left the room as he smiled back and told me to have a good day. When I got to my car I was beaming with pride. You see transitioning to full day preschool wasn’t exactly easy for Ari. There was a time that he was gripping onto me for dear life and sobbing “Don’t go Mommy” “I’m going to miss you”.  I’d leave feeling absolutely terrible.  Why was I making him do something when he was so upset about it? He was used to going to the same daycare as his sister and his best friend and my man was used to his routine. He was now faced with an uncomfortable change of being in a new environment with new people. Drop offs continued to be hard and I tried to blame lack of sleep or even the holidays for a bad day, a bad week, and eventually an entire bad month of drop offs.

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There were several times that my husband and I questioned our decision to send him and considered “waiting” another year. Waiting until he was “ready”.  Waiting until he was another year older. But then my mama instinct kicked in. He was ready. I actually wrote about his readiness in the beginning of the year and how this particular program was right for him.  Instead of pulling him out, I spoke with his teachers and they assured me that he was handling preschool just fine.  That within 15 minutes of me leaving each day he was happy, interacting with his classmates, and that he was in fact thriving in preschool. He had to go to school at some point and with the demanding kindergarten curriculum I really wanted him to get acclimated to school ahead of time.  So instead of taking the easy route and waiting we decided to continue to send him to preschool.  At home we made sure to talk about how great preschool was, we offered him incentives for having good drop offs, and we assured him that going to school was a good thing. The change in Ari’s attitude didn’t happen overnight. We still had terrible drop offs, I still questioned our decision, but eventually the sobbing turned to little frowns, and finally he was smiling and confidentially saying bye!

The moral of the story? When it comes to raising kids change is inevitable. I’m not suggesting make life altering changes before your babe is ready, but when it’s time, be ready with some of my tips below. My husband and I tackle all changes the same way; as a team. Whether it’s something small like taking away a bottle or moving to one nap. Or if its something large like adding a new sibling, moving to a bed from the crib, or going to a new school. Kids need time and they need consistency. When both parents decide on a plan and stick with it the change doesn’t seem so bad.

Do you have a change or a transition you are about to face? Try these tips. Honestly they apply to almost every parenting transition.

-Make sure you have a plan and stick with it. Don’t give up the first week of doing something new. Did you know if takes 21 days to form a new habit?

-Plan for set backs and what you are going to do when things don’t go according to plan. Definitely have a plan B and C!

-Get everyone on board. Parents and other caregivers must be consistent during the transition. Mom says no paci, but babysitter sneaks it anyways? Not going to work.

-Keep it positive! Once children are old enough to understand and pick up on your behavior it’s important not to show frustrations.

-Trust your instincts. If you babe isn’t really ready, don’t push it.

Make it a December to Remember

 Happy December 1st!!

We are jam packed with parties and holiday get togethers but I wanted to take a moment to share some ideas to make this a December to Remember for you and your families! My husband and I just love this time of year and how magical it is for the babes. Although things may get crazy and everyone will be exhausted come January 1, it is so worth it to celebrate through the eyes of children.  Here are a few ideas!!

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Visit Santa! You may have to get up early. You may have to wait in lines. You may have to feed your children a million snacks to contain them. BUT it’s all worth it! We went over the weekend and although my youngest was not having it my son was just so precious to watch.  Before it was our turn he was just mesmerized by the Big Man.  Santa kept waving and giving a thumbs up to us. It seriously made my son’s day.

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Make Fake Snow! Whether it’s a white Christmas or not your babes can enjoy some fun white stuff without hats or gloves. Mix equal parts baking soda & shaving cream and let them go to town!  I found both items at the Dollar store!!

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Elf on the Shelf. I know I know this is obvious as EVERYONE is doing it. BUT this was our first year and my son (3.5) absolutely loves it.  He was shrieking with excitement when he found “Shimmy Coma” taking a bath in marshmallows over the weekend. He thought it was the funniest thing he has ever seen.

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Christmas crafts!  Make some gifts for their grandparents!  My babes LOVE getting their hands dirty and creating something special.

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New Jammies!! Our holiday jammies arrived the day after Thanksgiving. I wanted them to get a lot of use out of them! Plus, who doesn’t love new jammies?

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A few other ideas I have for making this a December to Remember:

-Make/decorate cookies

-Drive to see Christmas lights

-Read Christmas books and sing Christmas carols before bed

-Make crafts for neighbors & teachers

-Breakfast with Santa

-Donate old toys to families in need

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How are you making this  December to Remember? I’d love to hear!

 

The Best Path

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The day has come.  Tomorrow my son is off to preschool! It marks his first time packing a lunch, his first time going to school without a parent, and his first real taste of independence.  He’s been anxiously awaiting this day for quite some time now and you know what?  I am right there with him!! I’m not sad to let him go.  In fact I am so excited for what’s in store this year and everything he is going to experience. 

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For a long time I worried thinking about how a brand new 3 year old would be able to handle full day preschool. Reality is, though, that my husband and I both work so it was full day or nothing.  After going back and forth about our decision we settled on 2 full days a week at a local school with an entire early childhood wing. He will be in a class with other 3 and 4 year olds and expected to be pretty independent throughout the day.  It’s a little nerve wracking thinking of him doing everything on his own, but here I am on the eve of his first day very confident this is exactly what he needs.

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Ari loves to learn and he’s very social.  He thrives with structure and is a sponge when he is around older children.  Last year we went to a Parent & Me class in the evening and he looked forward to it every week.  He was down right disappointed on the weeks we didn’t have class. Seeing his attitude towards school last year I knew that if he didn’t go to school this year, I would be letting him down.  He would be missing out on experiences that he would enjoy so much.

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I subscribe to several parenting blogs and often read diverse opinions and points of view when it comes to parenting.  Although parenting styles can range drastically across the board, I find that every single parent strives for the same thing; the best path for their child.  No two children will travel the same path and that’s ok, but what is important is that every parent find a way to keep their child on their best path possible. Sometimes its scary and sometimes it takes sacrifice, but in the end, it’s so worth it.

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This upcoming year is going to have its ups and downs, but I am confident that this is the best path for Ari and his future!

 

Successful parenting. Hard work or Luck?

It seems like every single day (often multiple times a day) there’s a new parenting post getting shared around social media.  Usually with a “Love” or an “Amen” agreeing with author’s parenting point of view.  The very next day another article surfaces and it gets shared in the same fashion and so on and so forth.  I read one today titled “Things that do and do not make you a good mom”.  Author laid it out there in 10 easy steps.  Of the 10, one of the points made was that if your child hit their milestones on time or early that does NOT imply that you are a “good” mom.  It was shared by several people agreeing that certain milestones like sleeping through the night and potty training were not indicative of parenting skills, but just pure luck.

I could NOT DISAGREE MORE.

I’m not super mom by any means and I have many parenting flaws, but babies are not born knowing certain things. Sleeping; on their own outside of the womb is one of those things.  Us parents are there to teach them and to guide them and provide them with the tools they need to self soothe.  Hence the HUGE assortment of sleep training books out there for parents. It’s not luck by any means.

When my first was born I read the books, spoke to other moms, and through trial and error settled on a strict routine.  I did the things that were proven to work.  We kept a daytime schedule, we swaddled, and used a sound spa and guess what?  He was sleeping through the night by the time I went back to work at 12 weeks.  So many people told me how “lucky” I was and implied that surely it was nothing I was doing.  I smiled and laughed it off but for real it wasn’t luck.  Fast forward to the birth of my second.  I did the same things with her but surely we couldn’t get lucky a second time?  Oh wait we did.  My daughter was an amazing sleeper as well. At 6 weeks she was in her crib sleeping most of the night. Of course we got told that we just got 2 “great sleepers” that’s it.  Lucky people we are!

Then came time for potty training. Let’s not talk about the hard work, commitment, and consistency that us as parents and caregivers had to have…. Or the millions of poopy underwear I had to clean because I didn’t want to send mixed signals to my son by putting him back in pull ups.  My son hasn’t worn a diaper since 27 months.  What do you know.  I got lucky with 2 good sleepers AND an early potty trained little boy. I really need to play the lotto.

Wrong.  I’m not lucky.  I’m determined and I work hard.  I set goals and I develop plans to reach them.  Being a parent is just like being in a relationship, or being in school, or in a career.  In order to be successful in any of those things you need to work hard.  Things don’t just happen to you.  Of course some children will catch on to certain skills easier than others, but their parents and caregivers ultimately mold them into the people that they will become, and it doesn’t start with luck.

We all have the same goal; to raise independent, hard working children.  I’m no expert, but rather than call others lucky, why don’t we start praising them for their hard work.  I’d like my children to grow up knowing that it’s hard work, NOT luck, that will get them to their goals in life.

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It takes a village to raise a Mom

We all know the saying. “It takes a village to raise a child”

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What about us moms??

Nobody warned me how physically and emotionally draining becoming a mom would be.  How do we get through the sleepless nights, the demanding toddler stages, and the never-ending whiney cartoon days?

A Mom Village.

 And we need one as large as we can get.  Majority of my close friends are not married and do not have kids.  They all adore my kids and are the best “aunts & uncles” to them, but when I became a mom I yearned for other Mom friends who “got it”.   I didn’t need just one or two mom friends.  I needed a village.  I needed a village who could share in mom victories, chuckle in my mistakes, and offer encouragement when things didn’t go according to plan.

I needed people who got it.

  • When I updated my status saying Mama needed wine, they got it.
  • When all I seemed to talk about was poop and pee, they got it.
  • When all I needed was to vent about leaky sippy cups, projectile vomit, or the never ending laundry, they got it.

Lucky for me I found a village that I am forever grateful for.  A friend of a friend started a private online community that provided endless support for me.  It is literally a network of 2000 + moms that are always there.  Always willing to laugh, offer advice, and just listen when I need to vent.   This village of moms has made me a better mom.  I can’t do it alone and most often someone else has been there, done that, and is willing to tell you all about it.  This group has moms with beliefs similar to mine, but also those who offer other opinions and parenting methods that I may have never considered.

Being a part of this group for almost 2 years now makes me realize how essential a village of mom friends really is.  It has made me open to making more mom friends in real life and allowed me to step out of my comfort zone.  Just the other day I was at our local outdoor mall and I recognized a mom there with her two little kids.  I had never met her, but knew her from the mom group online.  5 years ago I would have never dreamed of walking up to someone I didn’t know. But, it had been a long day, I was there alone, and so I put my insecurities aside.  I walked up to her introduced myself and just like that I spent the next hour talking to another mom.  It was just what I needed that day.

Moms.  Don’t do it alone.

Find your village.

When you are at the park, the mall, the grocery store and you see another mom, say hi.  Introduce yourself.   When you see a mom walking in your neighborhood, stop her, exchange numbers offer to arrange a playdate.  Invite other moms to be your facebook friend and interact with them.  Invite them to meet you at the park, the library, the mall; wherever.  Make friends with the other moms at daycare or at school.

Create your village.  Because let’s be honest, no one can do this alone.

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Roll with the punches.

ABM_1398690831Everyone has their own type of parenting style.  There are the crunchy parents, the attachment parents, the helicopter parents, and then there is my husband and I … I like to call it “Roll with the Punches”.  I plan ahead and schedule our lives down to the minute, but sometimes (or all the time) things don’t always happen the way you plan for, so we just go with it.  I like to think I’m helping my children to be flexible 🙂

 

Yesterday we had a family baptism.  Smack dab in the middle of naptime.  With 14 babies being baptized.  14 babies!  It would have been easy to skip the church and meet up at the luncheon afterwards.  But, I pride myself on being a go with the flow parent and not missing out on life’s events.  We have a schedule, both my kid’s nap at the same time, but you know what, their cousin only gets baptized once.  So we planned accordingly.  Church started at 2:15 and it was a half hour drive.  We ate lunch, negotiated with my 2 year old to wear his blazer and bowtie, and packed everyone up by 1pm.  I wanted a full hour in the car for rest time (I was secretly hoping they would both fall asleep at 1 and have a full hour of nap).  Well it didn’t go according to plan, neither kid fell asleep at 1pm, but I half expected this to happen so I was prepared to entertain 2 cranky kids in the event they (gasp) didn’t follow their normal schedule that day.

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During the 14 baby baptism ceremony the following items were crucial to avoiding any major meltdowns:

  • Papa and Grandma.  My 2 year old spent most of the time in the foyer with Papa, but hey he was still there and he just adores spending time with Papa.
  • Fruit snacks.  A silent snack that takes a long time to eat!
  • A matchbox car.  Another relatively quiet distraction.
  • Mum Mums for the baby.
  • A variety of teething toys and rattles for the baby.

Almost 2 hours later, the babes were tired and a little cranky, BUT they made it, and even posed for a family picture after.

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Anyone else follow the roll with the punches parenting method!?