We’re Going On An Adventure! – New Zealand Edition

To wrap up our great 2018 year of adventure, we decided to make the trek to Middle Earth aka New Zealand! While I’ve made the trip a few times as a singleton, this was my first trip this big with the family. (John thought the travel to S. Korea was long…HA!). I’ve covered the basics of traveling with kids in other posts, but this trip was epic. The heroes of the day(s) were the kindles loaded with all episodes of Puppy Dog Pals, several movies and games (thanks John!) and headphones for the kids. I’ve realized that my sanity was all-to-closely linked to the happiness of my kids. I had two books with me and got through exactly 5 pages during the combined 50+ hours of travel to Auckland and back. When the kids were entertained, I slipped into some sort of zen state and blankly stared at strangers. Lol.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My parents met us at the airport and what a relief it was to pass the kids off to someone else. Ha. During our two weeks, we spent about a week in Auckland. There is SO much to do and see within an hour or so around the capital.

 

One Tree Hill:

 

MJ Savage Memorial Park:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mission Bay:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waitakere Ranges National Park:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Piha Beach (on basically every episode of best beaches in the world)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ferry to the city center:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sky Tower:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John and I got away and visited Queenstown for a few days. We left the kids with my parents and headed to the adventure capital of the world! We didn’t bungee jump (invented here!) but we did do some awesome things. I would have never guessed that I would have done one of them:

One of the best places we ate was Fergberger. It was our first stop off the shuttle from the airport. It had a line around the block and we soon found out why. Two things of note here: 1) Coke Zero is EVERYWHERE in NZ (score!!) and 2) We sat where Ed Sheeran sat! (ahhhh!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We rode the Shotover Jet and I would HIGHLY recommend it. We had a fun driver and whipped among the canyons and did 360s in the open water. Whatever you do, don’t be fooled by the other companies offering similar experiences. Shotover

Jet has the rights to this part of the whitewater and in my opinion has the best views and experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Queenstown:

Not only were the views so crazy (the Remarkables aren’t called remarkable for nothin’) but the ice cream and street performers kept us entertained. (John: “Jess the Mess”- need I say more? LOL)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In some parts of the city, I felt transported back to merry old England:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lake Hayes Loop Track:

 

Ok, I was lead to believe by my better half that this “walk” was going to be an easy “beginner” hike. I knew I had been duped when we “started” the hike with a walk up a hill so steep my feet were at a 25 degree angle to my leg (think: Lombard Street in San Francisco). We finally make it to the start of the hike and see people with walking stick and Camelbacks on…I had tennis shoes on and one water bottle. Lol. The sign also mentioned that this is an intermediate to advanced hike. (JOHN!!!) Once we made it to the forest area, the temperature was awesome and we wound around the mountain taking breaks to enjoy the scenery (and catch my breath). Several of the hikers were encouraging as we made our way to the summit, but others were complaining that the hike down was even harder. I had some choice words for those people – luckily they thought I was joking. Anyway, once we made it to the top, the view was INSANE and I had a major feeling of accomplishment. Maybe there is some outdoorsy person in me hoping to come out. Ha.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Queenstown Skyline Gondola:

I guess by now you know that I’m afraid of heights. This gondola ride took us to the top of the sister mountain that we just climbed. Tons of mountain bikers hooked their bikes to the gondola and flew down the mountain. I was just freaking out as we flew up the mountain in the gondola.

Once we got to the top, we took the luge ride about midway down the mountain (3 times, ha). John and I raced down and got some serious air. Major MUST DO!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matamata:

One of the bucket list items for John was Hobbiton, and it didn’t disappoint. This private farm still hosts the set from the Lord of the Rings Series and Hobbiton. We were transported to the Shire and couldn’t get enough! There were some HARD CORE Hobbit fans there (this one guy had “the ring” and took pictures with it at every Hobbit door). We had an awesome guide and got the scoop on behind the scenes info.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Redwoods – Whakarewarewa Forest:

I was so low-key excited to hang where the Royals (Prince Harry and Megan Markle) were visiting a couple of months ago!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Davenport:

NZ has some of the most awesome playgrounds and I think my parents located ALL of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We couldn’t have been luckier with the kids on the long flight. If you get the chance, make sure and reserve the “sky couch”. The cushions pop up and create a flat couch-like area. A cushiony mat is put on top of the seats, big pillows and fluffy blankets are provided. It helped these babies get a good 8 hours each way. PTL!!

All-in-all this was a trip of a lifetime and it was so special that I could share it with my family. NZ is so beautiful and would totally recommend that everyone visit!!

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MISSION: Lasik Eye Surgery – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

Who: ME!

What: Lasik Eye Surgery

When: July 2018

Where: LasikPlus, Columbus, OH

Why: Unassisted perfect vision, yo!

I have thought about getting Lasik eye surgery for the last 10 years. I’ve seen each of my family members get Lasik and ask me “WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR??”. My first evaluation was about 10 years ago. I got the “go” from the doc, despite my astigmatism and young (*ahem*) age. Besides the fact that I’d have to pony up 3 months worth of rent (in DC!) for the procedure, it just didn’t feel right. From what understood, my eyes should be stable for 1-5 years and many times prescriptions will change after pregnancy. At that time I wasn’t married and there were no kids in sight, so I backed out.

Fast forward 10 years and after suffering with increasingly itchy eyes around the spring and fall allergy seasons, it was time to take the plunge. I didn’t really plan to get Lasik this year, (if I had it to do over, I would have maxed out my FSA!) but after my brother’s pseudo-spiritual experience (😂) with Lasik, I had to get on the ball.

After copious amounts of research, I settled on LasikPlus in Columbus, OH. I made an appointment and because of scheduling, took my 4 year old.  He was playing a game on his Kindle and would yell, “YEAAHHH” or “WOOOO”, which freaked out the opthamologist checking my eyes. 😅 She double checked both eyes to make sure the side comments didn’t cause any mistakes. The appointment lasted about an hour and I got my results the same day. I was told I had a beautiful optical nerve and lots of cornal tissue which made me a candidate!! (Do they say this to everyone?) This news was so exciting that I made my surgery appointment on the spot. I had one month to mentally prepare myself.

 

DAY OF SURGERY:

So, if you read our aerial yoga blog post you know that I have a serious fear of the unknown. I have been known to dive head first into “fun ideas” only to FREAK OUT the night before the event. There were lots of thoughts running through my head before I went in for surgery (check out the Glitter Jungle InstaStories).

I had another full eye exam to confirm the results of the exam a month ago. During one of the exams, the tech put numbing drops in my eyes and asked if I wanted a Valium. Before I could answer, my husband said “yes, she would like a Valium.”😒 (I, of course, agreed with him). Once in the final waiting area, I watched a couple of people go in before me and literally walk in and out in 5 minutes, like nothing happened. My name was called and I didn’t even have time to stress.

MOMENT OF TRUTH:

Once I was in the surgical room, (aka giant fishbowl that everyone could see into) I was ushered into the first chair where a plastic dome was taped to my left eye. My right eye was fitted with another device that held it open. The surgeon explained that I would feel some pressure, my eye would go black and then it would be over.  I started my deep breathing and he began the 30 second countdown. My right eye was suctioned to the machine and felt some pressure. My vision went black, but it didn’t freak me out because I just imagined that I had closed my eye because of the pressure. The surgeon got to 3, 2, 1…and I let out a sigh of relief. NO pain at all. They switched the plastic dome to the right side and my left eye was propped open and suctioned. Same 30 second countdown, deep breathing and boom, off to the second chair. Did anyone else initially freak about not being able “to hold my eye open that long” or “thought I might look away”? Yeah, no chance of that with the kind of suction that was going on here.

Once in the second chair, I was informed that I would see a series of Green and Red lights and was instructed do my best to keep my eye on it until the 30 second countdown was over. At this point, I had the plastic dome taped to my left eye and my right eye was held open with a metal device. It wasn’t hard to keep looking at the lights. Towards the end, I did notice that the surgeon had folded the flap back into place and looked like he was painting my eye with a small paintbrush. Kind of disturbing, but I didn’t feel a thing. Same story for the left side.

Here’s how it all went down:

After the procedure, the surgeon asked me if I felt ok and advised me to get home and take a 4-6 hour nap. Just like the three people before me, I donned my sunglasses they provided and walked right out of the office. Luckily our hotel was in the same complex and it took us 10 minutes to get to our room. Let me stop here – I am a championship napper. I have joked that I should write a book about how to nap. Of course this day, I could not nap. The nurse told me that there would be 3 uncomfortable stages if I couldn’t nap. The first would be a feeling of onion juice being poured into my eyes, the second would be non-stop watering and third, dry eyes. Each stage lasted from 30 – 60 mins. I kept my eyes closed the majority of the 4 hours. I would not suggest peeking (oops) because that’s when I felt the pain. My suggestion would be NyQuil, if you aren’t a good napper.  I should also mention that I was given a series of 3 different eye drops and vitamins to take over the next few months. These are super important! After my “nap” John and I went to dinner (I wore sunglasses) and walked around Easton. I don’t know what was more impressive, that I didn’t have contacts in or glasses on, or that we were out past 10pm with no kids. 😂

The next morning I woke up and felt great. I put my eye drops in every couple of hours to keep my eyes from getting dry. Waking up and being able to see without glasses was awesome; even better was being able to watch a show before bed without glasses! No more falling asleep with glasses on. Hooray!

It has now been about a month and my eyes feel great! I would definitely recommend Dr. Thomas at LasikPlus in Columbus. He was great and I felt like I was in good hands. It sounds completely cliche, but this was one of the biggest quality of life changes I’ve made in a long time.

Have you had Lasik? What was your experience?

XOXO,

Lauren

 

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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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Bright Lights, Big City – My whirlwind work trip to NYC!

Anytime I get an opportunity to visit the Big Apple I jump at the chance! This time, I was there for work. I attended an intense, but really good academy to sharpen my skills after my-somewhat-career-pivot. I was in the classroom from 8am to 5pm. No joke (did I mention it was intense??). However, each day after 5pm, a few girls and I set off to explore the city. Surprisingly, NYC felt a lot smaller than I remembered. While there are tons of huge skyscrapers and masses of people everywhere, once you get your bearings, (and have your walking shoes on), everything you want/need is super accessible!

I originally had planned to arrive early afternoon the first day, however a cancelled flight and a tour of Pennsylvania, I finally made it to LaGuardia around 8pm. (Tip: if you want to get an insider’s scoop on what’s up with the airport you are flying into/out of, follow them on Twitter! Super helpful especially when you are flying in bad weather.) After waiting in a LONG taxi line, I finally made it to my hotel. (Tip: DO.NOT.RIDE with the randos asking you if you want to skip the taxi line, unless it’s your Uber or Lyft driver.)

I was stayed right in Times Square (as all the NY people roll their eyes…ha) and was SO excited to be there and among….the tourists, 🤣.

I was starving and really had my heart set on Korean food. It was 9:30pm and I wasn’t really comfortable navigating to Koreatown, by myself, at that hour. So, next best thing…Seamless! You’ve all heard that you can get anything you want, at anytime you want in the city. Seamless is a great delivery service that brings you food from any participating restaurant. Lucky for me, there was a great Korean restaurant open and I got a fabulous dinner. The banchan and bulgogi was so yummy!!!

So, you know how some little things give you a good feeling and really set the tone of a week?? Well, here was mine: 

This conference had Coke Zero. I was in heaven. Done.

So, when in NYC…right?? I wore grey on black on black the whole week…and loved every minute of it. I really need to get out of this dark wardrobe rut, (I’m trying out Trunk Club…more on that later).

One night we made our way to Chelsea Market. This fabulous market had super unique shops and delicious and affordable restaurants!

I tried a chicken soft taco and pork quesadilla from Los Tacos No. 1. The meat was so tasty and the service was so fast. Plus it was under $12!!!!! If I was a local, I’d be there once a week.

Another night we headed to Central Park. A girl I was sitting next to at the conference was dying to see the carousel. We raced to Central Park but missed it before it closed. However, we did see this great message on our way:

So, Central Park after dark wasn’t the best idea. We followed a little old lady with a dog, to the outer ring where all the runners were congregated. Back on track, away from the wierdos that all seemed to look like Al Pacino. Whew.

Throughout the rest of the week, we went to Carmine’s for dinner, shopped at Century 21, Nordstrom Rack, and everything in Times Square. I loved seeing the sites and taking in all of the architecture.

The second of two major Nor’easters that came through NYC, hit the night before I was supposed to fly out. The snow made the city look beautiful! PTL – the ground crews at the airport were ready and I got out of the city without so much as a delay!!

NYC is always a blast and reminds me of the amazing diversity in our country. You hear the stories of people coming to NYC with $50 in their pocket and making dreams come true. It is so humbling and an great reminder of all I have and motivation to hustle! As much as I loved my work trip, I completely missed my family and was SO happy to see them! I can’t wait to take my kids and show them NYC! Till next time!

XOXO,

Lauren

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Couples Workout – Marriage Maker or Breaker?

In this month of love, John and I tried something that we have never done before. While it took a bit of convincing, we finally decided to take the plunge. We tried – wait for it – a COUPLES BOOTCAMP class! If your read my bucket list post, you know that a goal of mine this year is healthy living and adventure. This class seemed to check both boxes…and what says love more than couples bootcamp??

John and I generally don’t workout together, besides the occasional tennis game or walk. So, I thought this would be a fun way to connect and get a good workout in! (Side note: He joined me for a couple of weeks during a P90X kick I was on, but after spending an uncomfortable amount of time and eventually getting stuck in frog pose, during the Yoga day, he was out.)

If you checked out the Acro Yoga or Aerial Yoga posts, you know that I am all “gung-ho” about signing up for new workouts, but when the rubber meets the road, I freak out! So, this time was no different, but I tried to put on a brave face for John. I’m not a total bootcamp class newbie (usually end up puking my guts out at minute 40) but this was John’s first time. I won’t say that I gave him ALL the facts about the workout we were about to do, but thought I prepared him enough to not be totally caught off guard. (John is one of those annoying people that doesn’t work out regularly, but can join in and outwork me, so I didn’t feel too bad.) When we got to the gym and he saw the set up below, John gave me one of his “looks”, followed by a characteristic *sigh*…he he.

We were divided into groups of three couples and circulated through several stations. Our trainer, Brittany, kept us “motivated” and on track. She and her training partner were super encouraging and took special care to make sure we had good form and knew what we were supposed to do (especially for those of us who probably had a “deer in the headlights” look).

I would totally recommend this bootcamp class! You can catch it every Saturday morning at the HIT center. Take your gal-pal, bestie, or significant other and have a fun, calorie torching workout before 10am!

XOXO,

Lauren

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My Bucket List for the Year

It’s a new year – a total clean slate. It’s a time for new beginnings, goals, resolutions, and bucket list items. I am, for sure, an optimist, and I totally get into thinking about things I’d like to change in my life, how I I want to grow, what I want to do and accomplish and how it’s going to happen. *Let me just stop right here* and acknowledge that all of us with young children are totally in survival mode and just getting ourselves and families fed, dressed and out the door in the morning is an accomplishment. But, as I come through the fog of having an infant (2 toddlers now!?!), I have a newfound burst of energy to tackle some of the things that were on hold for the last year or so.

So, to be completely honest, I have found some of my inspiration for my New Year’s resolutions from The Bucket List Family.  If you aren’t familiar with them, they are a family who sold everything to travel around the world, learn about different cultures and give back.  I first learned about them as they partnered with Disney and reviewed resorts in their 30 Stays in 30 Days videos. I really appreciate their goals for the family: Adventure, Service and Culture (and health). (I also absolutely love the idea of living with less “stuff”, but that’s another post for another time. 😁) This was completely inspiring to me, so this year, my big goals for myself and family are Adventure, Service and Healthy Living.

Adventure

The wanderlust is real, you guys. Traveling is my happy place! While John and I aren’t going to sell everything and travel the world with our kids, this year my goal is to experience something new each month. While some of our adventures may be big, like a trip to New Zealand, some will be as simple as a visit to a new museum or new art class.

The last few years have flown by! If you are like me, you would love to slow things down (especially those sweet moments with your babies). You know how everyone says, if you want to slow the years down, take some time to learn something new? Here’s my attempt to make the most of the time with my family and have a really fun time doing it!

Service

Some of us are better at giving back than others. I love giving to charities and good causes, but getting down to the nitty gritty and rolling up my sleeves? Not as good. This year, I’d love to show my kids the value of getting involved in hands-on church and community projects to make our town a great place to live.

Healthy Living

Every year I make the resolution to lose weight, but this year, I am committing to a healthier lifestyle. Without health, we are really super limited to what we can do. Whether I like to admit it or not, I feel better when I exercise – I have more energy for my kids and am generally in a better mood (“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t. -Elle Woods). I am working on incorporating both strength training and HIIT training into my workout plan. Not only will that help keep me feeling good but I will be able to keep up with my kids!

Throughout this year, Jill and I will take you on our personal journeys and show you our fun (and hilarious) fitness adventures, life hacks, beauty tips/tricks, healthy living ideas and a lot more! Coming up is a series on fitness. Check back for our post on AcroYoga!!

Thank you all for taking the time to keep up with us and we look forward to hearing your resolutions, goals, and great tips for making 2018 a great year! Don’t forget to subscribe (below if you are on your mobile device and to the right if you are on your PC) and get the latest updates!

XOXO,

Lauren

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Some of My Favorite Christmas Sweets and Treats for Every Occasion!

For the Big Guy in the Red Suit:

If you have been watching the Food Network over the past couple of weeks, you have seen a million different recipes to make a party special/get into the holiday spirit/surprise Santa (does anyone really think Santa has time to sit down and enjoy a raspberry galette while delivering presents to all the children around the whole world in one night??). If you want something a bit different than cookies, but will still travel well and satisfy Old St. Nick, try Christmas Crack!

Photo Cred: Gal on a Mission

My Aunt Nancy introduced us to this delicious treat a couple of years ago and I was hooked at first bite! It is a great treat to keep around the house to munch on or spread the holiday spirit to your neighbors. (Shock! Horror! I may actually get to know a neighbor.)

 

For Your Child’s Class:

We all want to be that parent that brings the tasty, yet somewhat healthy treat that brings just the right amount of Christmas cheer to the classroom.  *Insert* Fruit Kabobs and Santa Hat Brownies!

Photo Cred: Daisy’s World

Both of these treats were easy to put together (tip for the santa hat brownies: buy the mini brownie bites, add a strawberry, put some icing in a sandwich bag, snip the corner and use it as a piping bag, make a circle of icing around the strawberry and a dot on top). It seemed like most of the kids popped off the strawberry, ate it and threw away the rest. Ha.

 

For the Dips and Desserts Party:

Some of my best holiday memories are making the next dessert – Pecan Tassies!

Photo Cred: Hi Cookery

These mini pecan pies are SOOOO tasty and taste better and better throughout the week. I can’t remember a Christmas without them.

As I started looking through family recipes (and had some major #fails as I tried recreating them), I think what makes them so special are the memories of flour all over the kitchen, feeling exhausted after adding the first ingredients and watching my mom finish the rest (he he), back and forth arguments with my brother about what dessert/how to make it/who would eat the most, my dad eating the lion’s portion of the sweet treats, and everyone passing out on the couch with a plate of tasty cookies/brownies/cake and watching Christmas movies or playing games.

This makes me think about my family of four and the traditions we will create. My son is super into baking right now (which I LOVE) and I am soaking up every minute of it. We have made enough cakes/cookies/muffins to last the whole year!

What are your favorite family traditions and tasty recipes?? Do you have something special that you wouldn’t miss this holiday season?

Here’s to the next few weeks of sweets and treats!

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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