Packing Hacks and Must Haves for Family Vacations

I have noticed that there are two camps when it comes to packing for vacation. Those who pack everything and the kitchen sink and those who try to take as few bags as possible. I generally fall into the first category. 🤪 This leaves John to try to juggle at least 4 or 5 bags while I wheel the kids through the airport. In this scenario, we usually (A) break down and pay one of the porters to help us, (B) John hurts himself (and is grumpy the rest of the day) or (C) we rent one of the carts (which you can never find where to put them when you are done).

If you’ve been following the blog this year, you know that one of my resolutions is to travel more. So far, I’ve been to the mountains of WV, NYC and now sunny Florida! After each trip, I vow to pack less. Besides the packing and lugging it through the airport, there’s the UNPACKING!😭  This trip I dove in and tried minimalist packing!!

As you all are probably aware, traveling with kids really makes you want to curl in the fetal position changes the game. So, one big caveat to this minimalist packing experience is that I knew that there were (easily accessible) laundry facilities at our condo. Here’s what my minimalist packing looked like for a 4 year old:

Here is what it looked like for my 1 year old:

All-in-all, I was super happy with the experience. It really did streamline our check-in (yay Southwest – and yes, I did sit next to the window; if anyone was getting sucked out it was going to be ME!) and we generally had everything we needed. Believe it or not, we didn’t even use everything we packed! While, I’m sure my over-packing days aren’t over, I am going to try my darnedest to pair down my packing. There really is something to be said for simplicity (especially when you will be spending the majority of the time in a bathing suit).

Just to clarify, the items above are just the clothes portion of the packing. After all of our travels with a baby, baby + toddler and two toddlers, here is my MUST HAVE non-clothing packing list (click on the pink links below to get a better look at the product described):

Pack ‘n Play – If you have a baby, this is the numero uno crucial item. We were lucky because one of my mom’s friends had a smaller pack ‘n play that she gave us after our son was born. This was awesome to take to grandmother’s house and also to travel with! If you can, find a smaller one than your large one with the bassinet and changing table, you will be glad you did. This Costco one is only $50! Not only is is smaller, but lighter! Your baby won’t know the difference and you can have a little peace of mind bringing your own. Another option is to use the one at your hotel or condo. I was weirded out by that with my oldest, but the poor second child has used the hotel’s several times, after a clorox drench wipe down.

Toddler Cot – This might sound weird, but we got this idea after seeing our kids sleep so well on the cots at school. Our kids were introduced to cots at 18 months (or earlier) at their “school” and there’s something about them having their own space. It’s smaller than a pack ‘n play and if you can get away with it, it’s less to pack (it can even fit in a suitcase)! This Regalo one took the cake. It comes with a case and a sheet  – win/win.

Car Seat Cover – We like the J.L. Childress brand for the car seat travel bag. It is durable, can be worn like a backpack and fits most car seats. It’s always a struggle to figure out what will be less of a hassle – taking car seats or renting them upon arrival. What we’ve found, is that if you are renting a car, rent the seats. If someone is picking you up at the airport, take your own. There is nothing worse than being trapped in a rental line after a tiring flight with cranky kids, when everyone just wants to get to the destination.

Umbrella Stroller – We love the UPPAbaby 2015 G-Lite Stroller. Anyone who knows my husband, knows that he researches like crazy to get the best deal. This stroller has proved to be great for ages 1 – 4 (we don’t have anyone older than that, ha). The best part about this stroller is that the shade has an extra extender part, that keeps the sun off the kids. I also love the mesh back and it has a strap so you can carry it over your shoulder. It is crazy lightweight and worth every penny. It made it across the Pacific Ocean and back and still looks brand new.

Stroller Cover – This gate check stroller cover has been super durable and it prevents parts from going missing or wear and tear to the stroller.

Sippy Cups – I seriously might have all the sippy/insulated cups ever created and sold in the U.S. market. When traveling, my fav and go-to is the CamelBak. I like these because they hold a lot of liquid, can clip to a stroller hook and the spout can fold down to be less exposed to whatever gross stuff it might come into contact with. The runner up is the Thermos Funtainer. This is a little heavier and not as convenient to hook to a stroller or backpack. However, the spout is completely covered and it does keep things cold/warm longer.

Sunscreen – Toddler tested, mother approved. My son tans really easily and we haven’t had a burn (knock on wood). My daughter is super fair, like her Dada, and I was pretty frantic about finding a non-toxic sunscreen to provide crazy coverage, without tons of re-application. Here’s what I found, Babyganics. We applied this once in the morning and once in the afternoon and girlfriend didn’t get pink! Hooray!

Bumpers – These hiccapop bumpers were recommended to me by a friend (thanks Brittany!) and whoa!! total GAME CHANGER. Forget lugging those bulky plastic or metal bed rails/guards around. These take up little space when rolled up and have treads that keep them in place under the fitted sheet. Not only are these great for traveling (*read – you don’t have to drag the toddler cot around all of the time*) but, they are also great when transitioning your toddler to a big bed. Buy them, you won’t regret it.

Packing Cubes – I can’t stop talking about these.  Here’s the latest review: packing cubes.

Things to NEVER forget (and might be best in a carry-on):

Blankie

Favorite Stuffed Animal

Sound Machine

Tablets/chargers

Snacks/drinks for take-off and landing

Time Savers

  • If you are going to be somewhere for a week consider ordering essentials: diapers, wipes, formula, baby food from Walmart and have it delivered to your room (2-day shipping 🙌 ). Amazon Prime works for this too!
  • Walmart has free grocery pickup in tons of locations now. You just order online and they will load your groceries for FREE! Here is a $10 coupon to try it: Walmart Grocery Pickup
  • Many grocery stores offer free shipping to your room/condo if you order over $50 (which is super easy with 4 people).
  • If you want to stay in one night and don’t want to cook, check with GrubHub or Seamless. These services deliver from tons of participating restaurants.
  • Look really strung out and desperate in the airport…lol. TSA usually has mercy on our souls and lets us through a shorter line.

Many of you have asked me for these tips, so I hope this is helpful! Let me know if you have any favorite products you can’t live without when traveling. I love hearing new ideas!

Happy Vacationing!

XOXO,
Lauren

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7 Cringeworthy Phrases Every Mom Dreads

 

Whether your child is 2 or 22, there are just certain phrases that every mom has heard that makes her cringe before she even spots the damage! Here are what we think make the top 7 on the LONG list of cringeworthy phrases we hear as mothers:

 

1.” Your child has been exposed to Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease” – NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Where did this dreadful disease come from and why does it hit the schools at the most inopportune time?!  It’s always when you have big plans; it never fails.  That ‘parents only’ trip you were taking this weekend…yeah – it’s cancelled!

 

2. “I think I’m going to throw up” (or in our house, it’s usually just the dreaded gagging sound) – Of course, you are always in the car when this happens. First it’s the dry heaving, then the kid leans into the cough?! “Come on! Stop trying to throw up, kid!” As you drive 90 mph down the interstate trying to pull off like it’s the Daytona 500 and you’re going in for a pit stop.  Literally jumping out from the car while it’s still rolling.  Nothing raises your heart rate quite like this situation.

 

3. “[Child’s name] tell your mom what happened in class today” – it’s the dreaded teacher’s note for bad behavior.  Or even worse- when you see the school phone number pop up on your Caller ID in the middle of the work day.  Your heart immediately races as you imagine that your child has experienced the worst playground injury of all time.  This literally sends shivers down our spines.  Whether the issue is big or small, the anticipation is a nightmare. (Then sometimes you find out that your child pulled down his pants on the playground and peed on a tiny patch of grass and basically you want to frame the “incident report” or file it away for the wedding slide show.)

 

 

4. “You have been selected to be in charge of the class Christmas Party” – This is especially fun when you have to coordinate with other parents who don’t really want to participate.  Everyone wants to bring plates and cups and no one else is available to bring anything else.  Except for the lady who would be glad to provide cucumber sandwiches for 3 year olds.  {Insert eye roll.}  Thanks, Deborah.  I’m sure those will go over just swell with the toddlers.

 

 

5. “Your child had a blow-out” – Usually you can tell this right away because your kid is not in the same clothes you sent them to school in. Even more fun is when this happens at home. You know what I’m talking about.  When it literally runs all the way to their shoes and you have to practically hose them off in the yard.  It’s like a total hazmat situation up in here!  Yeah, that’s my favorite.  Sometimes, you just want to burn all those clothes and start over.

 

6. “I need a cup of water” – You all know exactly what we’re talking about – the bedtime stall routine. You put your toddler to bed five times and they keep reappearing needing things like water, snacks, hugs, and want to know the meaning of life. We’ve recently been hearing it all, including needing “fresh water”. What are you? A barn animal?!  This isn’t the Ritz Carlton and I’m not your bellhop!  Get back in bed!

 

 

7. “No!  Stop!  MOOOOOOOOOM” {Insert lots of blood curdling screaming!} – Two words: sibling rivalry. It’s the dreaded shrieking from the other room when you don’t know what’s going on or who has been harmed. You’re not quite sure what you’re going to walk in on and you just want to put yourself in timeout, so you don’t have to deal with it! #ITapOut

 

I feel like my blood pressure is elevated just writing these phrases. Ha. What are your dreaded phrases? (We know you have them….)

 

Here’s to a cringe-free week (and even if it’s not, know you are not alone!!)

 

XOXO,

Jill + Lauren

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Disney Cruising During Hurricane Season

If you are anything like me, you have been seeing your friends/family/colleagues/ people-you-don’t know-why-you-are-still-friends-on-FB-with/random strangers, constantly post pics of their Magical Vacations to Disney World, Disneyland, and on Disney Cruises! I will admit, I am one of the culprits. 

I love the memories I have at Disney with my parents and grandparents, and want to share that with MY kids! We took my son to Disney World at two (still free and no dining plan required). With the help of a Disney Vacation Planner (look up Michelle Farrell!) and lots of discussions with fellow Disney-loving friends/veterans, we had a super stress-free and completely fun vacation, (Side note: I was seven month preggo and the Zika virus was alive and well, so that’s saying something!).

This year, we decided on a new type of vacation – a Disney Cruise! If you haven’t heard how awesome a Disney Cruise is, you may be living under a rock. But, good news, I’m here to tell you all about it! While there are tons of reviews of Disney Cruises, you may not have read one about cruising during HURRICANE SEASON!! (What were we thinking?!).

We kept our eye out for changes to our cruise itinerary or complete reroutes, but we got lucky and got to sail as planned. We liked arriving in Florida a couple of days early, in case of flight delays or last minute cruise changes. Disney cast members are true professionals – they aren’t going to chance it or take you anywhere near harm’s way. So, if you decide to cruise during hurricane season, here are 8 of my observations: 

1. Scop patches and Dramamine!!

This was like gold for my hubs and other members of our group! The first night we were on the ocean, Hurricane Maria had just passed by Florida, so it was a little lot rocky, starting at dinner. Luckily, we were in the Animator’s Palate restaurant that night and the “Turtle Talk” with Crush was super entertaining and hilarious.  I won’t ruin the surprise, but let’s just say it was a conversation. This kept us distracted from the swaying of the boat. We were bouncing off the walls getting back to our room, and that’s where the $%&# hit the fan.  At least two members of our group were down for the count. I generally don’t have motion sickness, but I even popped a Dramamine, preventatively. Once those Scop patches kicked in, everyone was back on their feet the next morning.

2. Dance Parties!

There are a ton of these and the next one is better than the last. I think one of the most underrated things on the ship is the live music! The performers on our ship were awesome. Occasionally, they would provide the music for the dance parties and really played off the crowd. The Disney characters  make appearances and dance with the kids; which for my 3 year old, was LIFE! A huge plus about these dance parties – you don’t feel the sway of the boat!

3. Aquaduck

Do not miss the most fun ride on the Disney Dream. The hubs and I stole a couple of hours away and had a blast on the water coaster that goes around the top of the boat. Parts of the ride are in a clear tube, so you can see the ocean. If we didn’t have to wait 45 minutes to ride, we would have ridden it over and over. It’s a popular attraction, but down times are early morning and late evening.

4. Character Meet and Greets

There are 1000 of these!  While the lines are long, the Cruise Navigation app gives you times and locations of these character meet and greets. My kids LOVED the characters and the variety was really great. They are all over the ship and are in different costumes throughout the cruise.

5. Rotational Dining

While I was skeptical about this at first, this proved to be a great change of scenery for the kids especially. The Animator’s Palate had very kid-friendly decor and as I mentioned above, Turtle Talk with Crush.  I don’t know if you can requests certain seats at dinner, but if so try to get a seat by the screen. The Enchanted Garden was so pretty and we had a fabulous view of the ocean and sunsets. Royal Palace had spectacular food (they all did really). Besides the rotational dinner restaurants, we had wonderful experiences at the lunch buffet, Cabanas (shrimp galore!) and our 3-year-old loved Flo’s Cafe (of course, with the Cars theme). Also, anti-bacterial wipes were handed out before every meal. It made my germaphobe self so happy.

6. Customer Service

Everyone knows that Disney service is another level, but the Disney Cruise customer service is beyond! We had the same servers each evening and they had the kids’ drinks ready when we got there. They cut up the kids’ meals and helped keep them clean. It was A.W.E.S.O.M.E. They were friendly and even provided the adults some entertainment by way of riddles and puzzles. The guy whom cleaned our stateroom (who we called “our friend” because his name was super long and hard to pronounce and I forgot it after the first day…oops) was so great. He greeted the kids each time he saw them and they ran to him and said “hi, my friend”! He was a great guy and we felt like we we were getting special treatment. He even made baby girl’s bed and put her Mickey and Minnie on the pillow, every night.

7. Staterooms 

The family staterooms are so spacious! The bed was super comfy and raised, so you could store luggage underneath. The sitting area includes a couch that turns into a single bed. There was plenty of room for a pack ‘n play beside the bed (with enough space between, so the kids didn’t mess with each other). A heavy curtain separates the sitting room and the bedroom, which keeps out the light when the parents want to stay up and watch TV. 🙂 I was nervous that the kids were on the side of the curtain by the door to the balcony. However, there is a lock at the top of the balcony sliding door; Disney thinks of everything. Two closets and tons of drawers, in addition to the two bathrooms, made it so easy for a family to “live” in a stateroom. The kids were rocked to sleep by the sway of the boat the first night! Also, when the boat is rocking, it is nice to get some air – splurge for the balcony. 

8. Take advantage of the kids clubs

We made the mistake of not dropping off our kids in kids clubs. The 3-year-old loved them when we visited the open house, but silly us, we felt guilty for leaving him, since we were on a “family vaca”. Seriously though, anyone young or old would love being dropped off there. The Disney counselors are fun, on steroids. I think I would have been more comfortable leaving him if he was a bit older (i.e. school-aged), but he definitely would have had some major fun in the clubs. (Check out the awesome hand-washing stations!) The smart parents took a few hours a day to themselves and seemed to be more mentally zen than others. 🤣

Honorable Mention: Castaway Cay – Include this island on one of your cruises.  It is Disney’s private island and offers all of the Disney amenities.

I hope this gives you some good perspective on Disney Cruising during hurricane season.  All-in-all, we loved our Disney Cruise and would definitely recommend it to anyone (especially those of you with school-aged kids)!! If you have any Disney cruising tips or things you loved, we’d love to hear them in the comments below.

 

XOXO,

Lauren

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The Weekly Downward Spiral – Mom Edition

Whether you are a working mom, stay-at-home mom, or somewhere in-between, you are probably like us, and feel like your ability to get everyone out the door, fed, dressed, and happy, becomes a slow downward spiral throughout the week!

With the help of my artistic hubs, here is a look how every mom has felt throughout the week, at one time or another:

 

MONDAY

We’re feeling pretty good! We packed snacks and lunch for the kids the night before and the backpacks are laid out, with all of the necessities. All outfits are ironed and hair is fixed. We’re on time and everyone is happy. Our outfit is on point, we have our coffee in hand and we’re ready to take on the week!

 

TUESDAY

Welp, we hit that snooze button an extra time which has left us scrambling to find one of the kid’s science homework, soccer gear for practice after school and matching outfits. It was a little hairy there for a minute, but we got it together. We know that Dad is picking up/making dinner tonight, so we can breathe a sigh of relief.

 

WEDNESDAY

So, catching up on Game of Thrones or Fixer Upper last night wasn’t the best idea. We are rushing around to feed and clothe the small humans in our homes; while trying to make sure we look presentable for that client meeting/PTA/play date. Of course, on top of everything else, there are several spilled cereal, leaky bottle and knotted hair incidents. Everyone seems grouchy but after a rousing car-karoke rendition of “Let It Go”, everyone is back on track. Thank goodness for that frozen Rocco’s lasagna in the freezer (a bag of salad makes that a well-balanced meal right?)!

 

THURSDAY

O.M.G. is it only Thursday?! This is a ponytail/bun hair day FOR SURE. Between the kids eating breakfast in the car and putting makeup on in the rear view, this day is off with a bang. The screaming and crying in the backseat is just about enough to make you “pull over”, but you keep it together and profusely apologize to the teachers for the the tardies. By the end of the day, you are pretty well spent. This calls for take-out, baths, and then we’re ready to fall out.

 

FRIDAY

Am I sleep-walking?! Are these screaming banshees my kids? Did I wear this outfit this week? Does my hair look THAT bad? As we are dragging our kids to the car, we are on auto-pilot. We hope the kids got to the right classrooms, with the right backpacks/lunch boxes. We remember, at the last minute, to turn in the after-care forms and then race to work. At some point throughout the day, we start to perk up – IT’S FRIDAY!!! Excitement turns into adrenaline, as we decide where we are going to eat tonight, who is coming to the tailgate tomorrow, what family fun can we get into.

 

Life is coming at us fast and furious, and mommas we feel you! We’ve all been there and will be there again. We hope you had a great long-weekend!!

 

Tell us your funniest or most memorable “downward spiral” moments! We love hearing from you. Also, be sure to subscribe, to get the latest from Glitter Jungle.

 

XOXO,

Lauren

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What I Wish Everyone Knew About Motherhood

“You are the trip I did not take;

You are the pearls I could not buy;
You are my blue Italian lake;
You are my piece of foreign sky. //

You are my Honolulu moon;
You are the book I did not write;
You are my heart’s unuttered tune:
You are a candle in my night. //

You are the flower beneath the snow;
In my dark sky a bit of blue;
Answering Disappointment’s blow
With ‘I am happy! I have you!'” -Anne Campbell //

 

 

For me, this sums up #motherhood and parenthood in a nutshell. The sacrifices we make as mothers are real. The sacrifices are costly. Perhaps you’ve had to put certain hopes and dreams on hold to prioritize current family needs. Perhaps life didn’t turn out quite as rosy as you once upon a time imagined it would be. I can sometimes be hard on myself about where I think I should be during this stage of my life. Being self-motivated certainly has its pros and cons! It’s tempting to entertain these futile “coulda, woulda, shoulda” thoughts. But I take one look at my kids, I see what amazing miracles both of them are, and all those fears and regrets fly right out the window. My kids have a way of keeping me centered. Their love and trust in me as their mama humbles me. They help me to remember what is most important in this world and that life, as hard and messy as it can be sometimes, is beautiful.

 

Guest Contributor Sarah Brown is a happy wife, proud mama, and relentless real estate agent living la vida loca in Washington, DC. In her spare time, she enjoys working out, pretending like she knows what she’s doing in her garden, spending time with family and friends, and perfecting her sea salt caramel chocolate chip cookie recipe. You can find Sarah on Instagram @sarahbrowndc!

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18 Random Things You Don’t Know Until You Have Kids…

 

When you found out you were pregnant, you may have read up on all the latest information, talked to all your mom/dad friends and you may have even taken child care classes.  However, in my experience (with input from the Husband), there are just some things you can’t prepare for. In the words of the old MTV show Diary, “you think you know…but you have no idea”.

 

 

  1. When kids get a cough, they will sometimes cough until they throw up. This leaves you to run for water and scream, “don’t throw up!!” each time you hear a cough coming on.
  2. A runny nose is a nightmare when your child doesn’t know how to blow his/her nose.
  3. Stomach bugs + pull-ups = certain death
  4. Babies are able to defy gravity with their poo (aka bowel movement or BM).
  5. BM becomes common vernacular.
  6. Onsies can be taken off by pulling them over your baby’s head or more importantly in light of #4, down over the shoulders.
  7. Sometimes your 8 hour work day is the most relaxing part of the day.
  8. You will enjoy certain toys more than your kids do.
  9. Some babies don’t like baby food. It’s super fun trying to figure out what a person with no teeth and a sensitive tummy can eat.
  10. It is a privilege to mow the lawn.  Peace, sweet peace.
  11. Sometimes, NOTHING, even something they really really want, will motivate them to use the potty.
  12. A grocery store run, after school, with 2 kids, is a kamikaze suicide mission.
  13. You gain a supreme amount of appreciation for your dog. She doesn’t talk back or whine and generally obeys.
  14. You should include the following brands in you retirement portfolio: PROCTER & GAMBLE (Pampers) or Kimberly-Clark Brands (Huggies), Abbott Laboratories (Similac) or Mead Johnson & Company, LLC (Enfamil), Nestle (Gerber) and Baby Gap. The amount you (and every other parent) will spend buying products from these companies will certainly secure a plush retirement.
  15. You will have to choose between personal time and sleep.  (Lauren: sleep wins / John: personal time wins)
  16. Buy (at least) two of whatever comfort item your child has. Losing this item = no sleep for 3 weeks.
  17. Sprinklers are magic mood boosters for kids. (Tip: buy one from the home and garden section not the toy section.)
  18. Kisses and hugs from your child and the random “I wuv you momma/dada” will melt you and make you want to be a better parent.

Did I miss any?  Comment and let us know the surprising things you’ve learned since becoming a parent.

Don’t forget to share this post and subscribe to Glitter Jungle so you don’t miss out on our exciting new posts coming this summer!

XOXO,

Lauren

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10 Types of Moms – Which one are you?

In honor of Mother’s Day this Sunday, here are 10 types of moms I’ve become intimately acquainted with in my three short years as a mother:

1. The Pinterest Mom – I’m not talking about the mom that looks at Pinterest and pins interesting crafts/recipes/outfits. I’m talking about that mom that is so creative she comes up with original ideas or improves upon the original pin.

 

 

2. The Sports/Dance/Cheer Mom – This mom’s casual wardrobe consists of sports t-shirts from the kids’ soccer/little league/football teams or cheer/dance competitions. You will find extra sets of socks, jerseys, athletic shoes, hair ties, and towels in her car. She can also rattle off the most healthy choices at each fast food restaurant in a 10 mile radius.

 

 

3. The Mom of Multiples – She is laid back, doesn’t give a $%!& about all the things first-time moms stress about. She laughs and talks with other moms while her kids are climbing the walls; only stopping the conversation when experience tells her they are going to inflict bodily harm on themselves or others.

 

 

4. The Germaphobe Mom – You know her because she has a mini bottle of hand sanitizer hanging from her bag. In case of a spill, you want her around with her endless supply of Clorox wipes, pacifier wipes, and tissues.

 

 

5. The Efficient Mom – She figures out anything that will make things easier/cheaper/faster. She wants to rock her job and spend time loving her kids; while keeping a smile on her face. You want to know one of these moms! She will make your life so much easier.

 

 

6. The PTA Mom – This mom is a teacher’s dream. She is everywhere and does everything for her kid’s school. Need someone to bring snacks? Need another costume for the end-of-year program? Need someone to coordinate a class gift for the teacher? She’s your girl. Volunteering should be on her resume.

 

 

7. The Rainbow Baby Mom – She is infinitely grateful for her kid(s) and reminds you, in the best of ways, to really appreciate motherhood. Find one of these people! She will be the sun to your clouds.

 

 

8. The Granola Mom – Natural, Organic, Free Range, Fair Trade, Non-GMO, Cage Free, and Grass Fed are part of her vocab. She makes her own baby food and only gives her fam the best in nutrition.

 

 

9. The Celebration Mom – She throws the most elaborate gender reveals, first birthday and every milestone. She makes everything special and loves making memories. Her child is the center of her universe.

 

 

11. The Fit Mom – We all hate her (unless you are her). She looks fabulous two months after giving birth. She is so disciplined that she gets her 3-10 miles in every day. The jogging stroller and then the double jogging stroller are necessities. Her workout clothes and running shoes are some of the most expensive things in her wardrobe. She motivates you to get off the couch and take a walk around the block.

 

 

While some of these mommas may not represent the “type” they are listed under, they are all MY.PEOPLE. They have helped keep me sane and provided SO many hours of laughter. Thank you mom friends!

Let me know which type of mom you and your friends are!

XOXO,

Lauren

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Baby + Toddler – Five Things You Should Not Live Without

Nothing, literally nothing could have prepared me for the onslaught of *insert your choice of expletive here* stuff that comes with a baby.  Now, instead of a semblance of order, I look around and see pairs of shoes my toddler has cast off after I carefully showed him (innumerable times) how to put them on and take them off (independence isn’t that important, why did I teach him to do that so soon? *crying emoji*), numerous bibs and burp cloths scattered around the house (now which ones are clean?), Paw Patrol pups, in various sizes, complete with the Paw Patroller, train tracks, cars and of course the dreaded Legos (primed and ready for stepping on in the middle of the night). As crazy as it is, with the exhaustion, panic and fury – these are the days!

So, how do I deal with it all?? Coffee, a glass of wine, copious amounts of chocolate? Yes, yes and yes. Here are a few other things that I’ve gathered, that I have found helpful:

The baskets:

I picked these up at Marshalls. They are a great catch-all for the toys scattered around your living room. Throw everything in the baskets, slide them under the coffee table and voila, you have a tidy room. The ones we have are awesome, but should I find myself in the market for more, I will make sure they have more ridged sides for easier sliding. We keep these in the living room and kids’ rooms. They also double as basketball hoops and make clean-up more fun.

Basket Options: 

Navy Lattice Basket / StorageWorks Bamboo Basket / Jute Basket / Sea Team Large Basket

The Sit-Me-Up:

These are relatively new on the market; my three year old didn’t have the pleasure. My friend turned me on to these after complaints that my arm was numb from holding the baby for so long. This product is so smartly designed.  It folds down and fits under the couch/coffee table/bed, so it takes up little to no space when stored.  I started using it when baby girl was two months old and she still enjoys it now at eight months old.  The attached toys are chewable, which is a huge plus.  While the Bumbo is helpful for babies with good head control, the Sit-Me-Up seems more comfortable and the baby will sit in it longer. Also, my babies have/had extremely chunky thighs, so they basically outgrew the Bumbo at four to five months old.

Sit-Me-Up

The Sound Machine:

Both of my kids fall asleep to the sound of the ocean each night.  This has been helpful for sleep training, traveling (sleeping in different beds) and drowning out sounds going on outside of their room (e.g. Mom and Dad’s Netflix marathons: “The IT Crowd”, “Gilmore Girls – A Year in the Life”, “House of Cards”, “Goliath”, or “Stranger Things”). We also have a portable one, so when we travel, they hear the familiar ocean sounds and pass out. Our toddler has recently become “a little scared” about 100 times a night.  We’ve started cranking up the sound which lessens the number of creaks and sounds he hears inside and outside his room.

Green Sound Machine / ShusherPortable Sound Machine

 

The Amazon Kindle:

For the love.  If you don’t have one of these, drop what you are doing and buy one immediately. (I suppose if you have an iPad dedicated to the kid(s), that will suffice and you may resume your activities.) This has been an absolute lifesaver for us in the car, restaurants, church (shhh), airports, the mall and basically anytime we need some peace.  I cannot recommend this product more.

Kindle 7″ / Kindle 8″

Add ons:

Toddler-proof case: Green / Pink / Red / Blue

Headphones that won’t blow your kid’s ears out: Blue / Pink / Gray / Green

Apps: Two words – “Sago Mini”.  Any apps made by these people are amazing.

 

The Bath Whale:

I don’t know why I had to learn about these the hard way (bumps and bruises at bath time) but hopefully I can spare some of you the tears.  Not only is this thing cute, but it is so easy to slip on the bath spout (and difficult for your toddler/baby to get off) and has left the kids with bruise free foreheads and chins. Get one. It’s worth it.

I will be updating this list as items become “necessary” in our house. I’d love to hear what works for you and what you can’t live without.

XOXO

Lauren

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Surviving Dinner With Kids; Total Chaos

Remember when you were younger and spent weeks, or even MONTHS, planning for and anticipating your birthday? You obsessed over all the details – your outfit, your shoes, your hair and makeup. Who would be there to share it with you? Most importantly, what you would get?!? It’s funny how that all changes as you get older. Now that we are 30-somethings, birthdays seem a little less spectacular. This is probably due to the fact that we aren’t really focusing on ourselves that day. Birthdays are still fun and we get excited to have a little celebration, but now we have responsibilities and obligations. The carefree days of our 20’s are a thing of the past.

This weekend, we gathered with family and friends to celebrate John’s birthday (Lauren’s husband.) We had a great group of family and friends to dine with and many laughs were shared. John seemed to have a wonderful time; but, let’s face it, it was total chaos. Just imagine this scene: a restaurant with a cool, eclectic atmosphere (old school arcade upstairs) and gorgeous decor, add in a group of 20, throw four kids under 10 in the mix and a waitress who has never taken care of a group that big. Not to mention, the entire restaurant was severely understaffed, orders were misplaced, food was forgotten, drinks were spilled, and all of this was happening on a school night. This became an all-hands-on-deck situation. The kids were exhausted and Jill spent a significant amount of time in the restroom with her newly potty trained toddler!

Let’s be real, the madness actually started before we even left the house. There was a toddler who hated her outfit, another munchkin who didn’t want to get her hair fixed, and a frustrated husband who couldn’t find a parking spot. Just packing the diaper bag and making sure we had all of the “entertainment” for the kids was exhausting. Isn’t it funny how it always seems like the hardest part of going out is simply getting out the door? The night was a blur; a forever-long, baby feeding, toddler chasing, hunger induced, sunshiney blur. Did we even sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him? (Yes, we did; but both of the toddlers thought it was about them and didn’t like the idea of celebrating someone else’s birthday – until one realized that it was his dad’s birthday.) Yes, things are crazy right now. No, we don’t get to have meaningful conversations very often or even FINISH a conversation. However, as we’re living this crazy thing called mom-life, the reality is, we are simply trying to cherish every moment before this precious time is gone.

XOXO

Jill & Lauren

P.S. – During our 3 hour “dining experience”, we had PLENTY of time to take selfies!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Momma Got Her Groove Back

Parenting is mandatory, uncompensated employment that can bring you extreme highs and severely frustrating lows.  Every day we wake up hoping for the best while preparing ourselves for the worst.  As we mentally check off the laundry list of chores, errands and obligations that each day brings, we constantly find ourselves making sacrifices to simply get.things.done.  In true “momager” fashion, guess what goes on the chopping block first?!  ANYTHING that pertains to Mom.  We constantly red-shirt our own needs to make sure everyone else is cared for.  This instinct is as basic and primal as the urge to feed and protect our baby cubs.

By always putting our own needs on the back burner, we eventually end up feeling neglected, unappreciated and run down.  We let our hair color appointments go weeks past due until we’re literally hiding our roots with eyeliner and dry shampoo.  (You all do that too, RIGHT?!  Or is that just me?)  Months go by and we can’t even remember the last time we painted our nails.  Sometimes we’re still wearing a hint of last summer’s color on our toes in January.  Ponytails become the norm and makeup becomes a luxury we rarely indulge in.

After the birth of my second daughter, I went into survival mode.  Two children is no joke.  I can still remember the total panic I felt when my husband’s paternity leave came to an end and I knew I was going to be left alone with these two tiny, demanding, loud, needy but insanely sweet humans.  I can remember the postpartum  emotions and how everything made me cry.  I can remember the fear of knowing that I was responsible for keeping them alive!  Who trusted me with this kind of responsibility anyways?!

Those first few weeks were a real struggle.  A struggle trying to help baby adjust to the world and a struggle trying to help big sister adjust to the new screaming, pooping machine that we so kindly referred to as “the baby.” (For the love of everything holy, don’t make this mistake.  Call the baby by his/her proper name.)  It took us a while to realize just.how.much this upset our oldest daughter.   Everyone who had always treated her like a princess and put her on a pedestal was now suddenly stopping by our house to see “the baby.”  Big sister was getting very little attention while “the baby” was constantly oohh’d and aahh’d over.   To be honest, this took a toll on our oldest.  The good news is, we soon found our groove and things started to settle down; but those first few weeks were rough.

The further we got into this parenting multiple children thing, and the more sleep I missed out on, I slowly started to take less care of myself.  I was doing the bare minimum to get by.  For a while I chalked it up to “it is what it is.”  But then I realized that my happiness was just as important as anyone else’s and that I need to make myself a priority.  I also realized that I’m a much better wife and mother when I’m fulfilled on the inside.

I’m normally not a New Year’s Resolutions kind of person.  I usually laugh at resolutions because, let’s face it, those things never last.  But this year, I decided to get on board and make one of my own.  I vowed to spend more time on myself!  More workouts, more healthy living, more girl’s nights, more fun and only positive energy.  I’m happy to report that it’s April and my resolution is still going strong!  Most importantly,  I’m much happier than I was before.  I’ve learned that it is crucial to take care of myself.  It wasn’t my husband or my kid’s fault that I was neglecting myself, it was my fault.  It was that mom guilt that rages inside of us.  But I’ve learned that I’m a much more productive and patient mother when I’m feeling accomplished on the inside.  Take time for yourself.  It’s not selfish, its imperative.  Find time to pamper yourself.  Get a mani/pedi.  Go to the salon.  Join a gym.  Spend time with your girlfriends.  Get a spray tan.  Plan a kid-free vacation.  Splurge and buy something you wouldn’t normally buy for yourself.  Whatever it is that makes you happy, do it; because you deserve it.

XOXO
Jill

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