In my previous post I discussed the planning of our first family camping trip. I tried to plan everything to perfection so the kids would have the best time ever and be excited about any and all future trips and I'm proud to say that, even with a few mishaps, it was a successful trip! So, here's the recap!
The drive there was super pretty and uneventful. We followed along the side of the Arkansas River for the majority of the drive which made for some nice scenery. When we arrived the weather was nice and we got right to work setting up camp. The first snaffoo was realizing that the air pump for our air mattress needed D batteries that I did not have. So, Derek went to a the nearest town (20 minutes) to purchase some along with some alcohol for us to enjoy later by the fire. He wasn't excited about it but I have scoliosis and was unwilling to compromise with no mattress. Mere moments after his departure Arthur was trying to rinse his hands in the river and FELL IN! Luckily it is the Arkansas River Headwaters so the river is not as huge as it gets further south but he was pretty upset and the water was very cold. Luckily, the tent was set up so we got him in some dry clothes and he was all better.
When Derek returned we finished setting up our bed and had a dinner of chili cheese fries, hotdogs and s'mores. Everyone had a blast. Then it was bedtime. I purchased a tent heater to ensure that we had a good night's sleep however, I did not purchase a winterized tent. FAIL. The tent has a roof that is made entirely of mesh with an optional cover for rain. So, all of the heat our bodies and the heater produced went straight out of the top of the tent. We were all freezing for the entire night. It was terrible.
So, the next morning I have the ingenious idea to duct tape emergency blankets to the entire ceiling of the tent. I was quite proud of myself. I looked like we were inside of a a UFO and was a bit noisy but I'll take a little noise over freezing to death any day. The rest of the day was nice and relaxing. I made fire cooked blueberry french toast for breakfast which was bomb. We hung out, went for a hike, read books, the kids took advantage of all of the crafting supplies that I brough and I worked on some cross-stitching. For dinner I made us chicken teriyaki vegetables with rice which was also amaze-balls and we had some more s'mores. Then the wind came. It was so very, very windy. We had to extinguish the fire for fear of catching our tent on fire and we sent the kids into the tent to watch t.v. on my phone to distract them from the fact that Derek was outside literally holding the tent down. Oh, and the emergency blanket ceiling was soooooo loud with that wind ripping through it you could barely hear inside the tent. But, it did hold up and only had to be re-taped in a few places. And, once the wind calmed down we all slept great because the emergency blankets worked! I actually got sweaty even though it was colder the second night than it was the first.
The next morning the wind was still insane so we couldn't have a fire for breakfast but we did have a camp stove so we managed to eat some eggs and sausage. After packing up we headed to the nearby town of Buena Vista which is super picturesque. We enjoyed some well-deserved doughnuts and bougie coffee and even found an adorable bookstore to peruse for a bit. Then it was back home!
So, was it the picture perfect trip I had planned? No. But, it was very memorable and included a lot of family time. Plus, the kids had a blast despite the sleeping woes and are ready to go back. However, I don't think I will plan another fall camping trip. We'll go for a summer trip next time and hopefully avoid all of the trouble we experienced on this trip. If you're interested in any of the fun activities, planners and recipes that I used on my trip you can find them all for free in the my Mommy Camp: Camping download found on the post linked below.
I am sure you know how difficult travelling with kids can be. However, I truly feel that it is worth all of the stress and hard work and science backs me up on this. According to this article, taking your kids on vacation can enhance their executive functions and overall intelligence, help support their exploratory urge and can essentially refuel your family's affection for one another!
So, now that we've discussed how it can benefit your kids, let's talk about ways to make it not be a total shit show for you! Because, let's face it, going anywhere with kids can be a nightmare.
When I begin to plan a trip the biggest thing I can recommend is RESEARCH! Go to the internet and ask it some questions. Here are a few of the ones I always check on.
-What restaurants are kid friendly, offer kid discounts or even have a play area?
-What activities should you do? How much do they cost? What are the operating hours? Are there discount days?
-What is the driving distance from your hotel to the various activities you plan on doing?
After doing some preliminary research I begin to form my plan. First, I plan the trip there. We have not taken a trip requiring a flight with ours yet (mostly due to the extreme cost that involves) so, I have to do a good amount of planning for the drive.
Kids can't sit in the car for too long without a stop for play or pee or whatever. I usually use this site to find the halfway point between my start and end locations. Once I've found it, I will try to pick a good spot for us to stop somewhere around that spot, preferably a place that gives kids the opportunity to play.
For example, we recently went on a quick weekend trip to Huntsville, AL to visit the Space and Rocket Center. We live in Jonesboro, AR so halfway was a pretty small town. I started looking at a larger area not too far off and found a great indoor play center with a Red Robin close by! Winning! So, we ate and then played for a few hours. The play place was super cute AND offered free coffee for parents. They even had a giant ball pit that ALL of us enjoyed.
They were all really worn out and slept for the majority of the remaining 3 hour drive. The key is not to be in a rush. Take your time getting to your destination. It makes the drive there PART of the vacation! Also, this is important for the return trip too. You can repeat the same activities you did the first time or mix it up but, unless you are driving through the night, you should probably plan to have a fun stop in the middle.
Once I've planned the driving, I pick the hotel. I am very picky about hotels and generally want a suite that has a separate bedroom but, I'm also cheap AF. I am a Hilton Honors member which gets me some perks and discounts so, I generally stay at one of the Hilton affiliated hotels. I really like Homewood Suites. They have a free breakfast that is yummy, the hotels are usually very updated if not new and their suites include a full kitchen. Also, they usually have a pool. You should choose what your priorities are and go from there. I like to look at reviews and customer images on Tripadvisor when deciding between hotels.
After picking the hotel I get into all the details and actually create an itinerary for each day. Now, just because I have a plan does not mean that I stick to it hell or highwater. I leave it as an option but change based on how the day goes. I will often put some alternative activities or options on my list for the day just in case things don't go as planned.
I know it sounds super OCD of me to have it all planned but, with kids, it really does make it SOOO much better. When we went on our first family trip with an itinerary my husband scoffed and thought I was crazy but, because it was so informative (time to get from hotel to restaurant, addresses, business hours and cost) it made it easier for us to make decisions about our day and unplanned events didn't throw us for a loop.
For example, when we went to St. Louis for a week last summer, the first night we were there my son began to complain of a pain in his leg. Upon inspection, we found that it was hot, hard and red. Not good. So, we dosed him with some tylenol. (You should ALWAYS bring tylenol/motrin you'd be surprised how often you need it.) Then, the first thing the next morning we took him to an urgent care clinic nearby. Because I had planned so well and we knew what our plan was supposed to be along with hours and distance, it didn't mess with our day at all. He got treated and we went about our day.
Now, how do I keep up with all of this info? If you are picturing a jumbled up mess of papers and post-its to keep up with all of this info you'd be wrong. I created a doc to edit and use with each trip. It is graphically pleasing, well-organized and FREE for you to download! Just click one of the images below to download the free file!
I hope that my tips are helpful and give you the tools you need to plan an awesome family trip! Let me know how it goes and if you have any tips for me! I'm always eager to learn something new!
Thanks for visiting!
It was a quick and easy project that my daughter and I are both excited about. I'll update later to let you know how everything goes.
My daughter started expressing interest in earning money for doing things around the house so, before I jumped into the idea I decided to read up on the suggestions from people who might know a little more than me. I checked out my local library and grabbed a few titles that seemed helpful. After reading a bit of each, I decided that I would introduce a guaranteed weekly allowance that was not dependent on chores. That being said, she still has to finish the chores she has always done as a requirement for being a member of the family. I decided to give her $6 per week. The books I read suggested the number of dollars equal the age of the child with a raise each birthday. I also created three jars for her allowance: spend, save and give. She can choose how much to put into each jar but she must put some in each every week. The idea is that they learn the value of saving for something big and helping others while still having a little spending money on the regular.
When I decided to make the jars I didn't want them to be breakable. My three year old son enjoys messing with everything that belongs to his big sister and I didn't want to run the risk of broken glass everywhere. So, I found a package of three food storage containers at the Dollar Tree. I cut a hole in the top of each and lined the jagged plastic with colorful washi tape. Then I taped colorful paper on the inside of each container and, using my Silhouette Cameo, I created vinyl letter labels.
Now that I'm a month away from having a new baby I have finally gotten around to doing a little preparation. With selling our house, moving, starting back to work after summer break and planning for my daughter's birthday party I have just now found the time! A little late, I know. I'm usually an over-preparer but in this case I think my motivation has been somewhat thwarted by not finding out the sex of the baby. It makes it hard to have everything perfectly prepared seeing as how I don't know what clothing I'll need and don't really feel like decorating a nursery in gender neutralness. So, a lot of things are going to happen after the baby arrives to make it more personal. However, I am planning on tackling the cloth diaper monster again this time around.
With my first child (who is now 6) we used cloth and it was really great. We saved a ton of money and she never had diaper rash. With my second we didn't and I fully regret that decision. The cost has been insane! So, I'm going back to cloth this time around. I've already purchased a starting set of diapers but want to wait to purchase the rest until I know the gender so I can get some adorable prints and more fun colors. The majority I've purchased are white with the exception of a few blue. I did a ton of research and tried out several types with my daughter and our favorite by far was Rumparooz. This time I did more research just to make sure it was still my best bet and have decided to only purchase those this time around. They still get some of the highest ratings on various websites and my past experience made it an easy decision.
Washing cloth diapers isn't too difficult but a sleep deprived mom who hasn't done it in 6 years could always use a little help and I need to prep these diapers so they are ready to go! So, I did a bit of research to refresh my memory and created a printable to hang in my laundry room to remind not only myself but also my husband and anyone else who decides to help out from time to time. You can get my free printable below if you are also tackling the cloth diaper beast. Enjoy!
I don't know about you but I have a VERY hard time finding something that my kids will eat at home other than plain spaghetti noodles. I don't really know how this happened to me. As babies I made my own baby food and always made sure they had balanced meal options but now, they won't even eat macaroni and cheese! Every time I make them a meal I feel like a horrible mom because I either branch out with something new that they won't eat or I serve them the same meal of plain noodles some fruit and a yogurt over and over again! So, I decided to brainstorm and utilize pinterest to get some inspiration. I've come up with a quick reference guide that I plan on taping inside my pantry door. This way, when I go to prepare them something I can mix it up a bit while keeping within their VERY limited range of acceptable options. Hopefully it will help all of us get through the daily horror that is dinner time!
I'm finally ready to let you in on a secret I've been keeping since Valentine's Day! Can you figure it out?
That's right! We're expecting number three! I represent as a Spanish teacher and made the announcement en Español. It was really funny watching people analyze the photo for understanding and then seeing their realization and excited face. I even used it with my classes to make the announcement and prefaced it by saying they were going to analyze a photo for meaning. We're really excited and can't wait!
Just in case you're curious, I used my favorite text on photo app, Phonto, to create the image with text. Then I ran it through a filter and voila!
Spring break is only a few weeks away! That means it's time for another Mommy Camp! Since the break this year falls right before Easter I've made it Easter themed! You can read about a few of the specific activities we'll be doing and download some printables I created, including the lesson plan below.
Theme One: Jelly Beans
The first focus is on jelly beans. We'll be conducting experiments, participating in a taste test, learning how they are made, making necklaces and more! (A list and links to all of the activities can be found in the lesson plan download.)
Theme Two: Eggs
This is a very fun-filled theme that includes egg science, growing "egg heads", paint-filled egg bomb painting, a glowing egg hunt and "egg-ing" the neighbors. Plus a ton of other fantastic activities focusing on math, reading and sensory experiences. (A list and links to all of the activities can be found in the lesson plan download.)
Theme Three: Bunnies
In the bunnies focus we will learn about rabbits, do the bunny pokey, learn how to draw a bunny, dig for sight word carrots and make bunny handprint art along with some fun math, reading and cooking. (A list and links to all of the activities can be found in the lesson plan download.)
Theme Four: Peeps
Everyone loves peeps! Delicious, sugary marshmallows! In this section we will conduct some peep experiments, learn how they are made, create puffy paint peeps and make peep play dough along with doing some reading and math. (A list and links to all of the activities can be found in the lesson plan download.)
Click the link below each image to download the printables that I've created as well as the lesson plan. Enjoy!
We like to think of ourselves as devoted and caring parents who make it a point to spend quality time with our children; however, we often find ourselves focusing on other things while attempting to play. Kids unknowingly crave alone time with parents where they are the only focus. By beginning a regular habit of dating our kids, we have improved not only our children's mental state and general behavior, but have also been able to improve our general feelings about ourselves as parents. We've been able to cut down on feelings of guilt and are not as stressed about the time we don't spend with them.
Now that Arthur is almost two, he requires more and more of our focus and Lillian is not blind to that fact. We've noticed a decrease in her willingness to cooperate and listen. Just last week we received an email from her teacher informing us that she was not listening to instruction. We instantly knew that her feelings of neglect were the likely culprit. (Not that she was being neglected in any way! She just wasn't getting as much one-on-one time as she needed.) So we made a plan to begin a weekly Mommy/Daddy date. This way, she would get a whole night, once a week, where she received 100% of our attention. The added benefit is that the parent who stays home gets to spend alone time with our son and he gets that parent's focus for the night.
We decided to give her a double dose for the first week and we both took her on a date. For our first date, I took her for hot chocolate and a chat at Starbucks. We talked about her day and I made sure to devote all of my attention to her. Taking special care to leave my phone in my purse except for a few fun selfies. While enjoying our drinks, I talked with her about her misbehavior at school and made sure she understood that it was not ok. Once we were done with the heavy stuff we were able to have fun for the rest of the night. We went to the mall and rode a motorized animal thing that they have, it's only $6 for 15 minutes and is pretty freakin' cool. (It's like a motor powered car but is shaped like an animal and the adult can ride it too. You can ride through the whole mall but cannot enter the stores.) Then, I let her pick out and stuff a bear at build-a-bear, (She won't get a toy every date night. That would be ridiculous.) We ended the evening by letting her choose the dinner venue. She opted for fried rice and veggies at our favorite Asian restaurant. We stayed out later than usual and had a discussion about what would happen when we got home in regards to getting ready and going to bed. She was very cooperative and went to bed without any problem. My husband, Derek, and Arthur got to spend time together playing and he said while they played with pretend dinosaurs in the floor, every so often Arthur would just gaze up at him with a grin from ear to ear that simply said, "I love you, Dad." It was pretty heartwarming.
The next morning she got up and came downstairs fully dressed and ready to go without any prompting. We also received an e-mail from her teacher letting us know that her behavior had dramatically improved and there was no longer an issue. My husband went ahead and took her for another date that night. They went to the college library and read numerous books together in the children's section. Then they ate burgers at Five Guys. Arthur and I basically cuddled the whole time they were out. He had a fever and wasn't feeling well. I'm not going to complain though, cuddling him will be something that I am going to miss the older he gets.
I think the key element to the idea of dating your children is that you spend time alone with each other. Not only does this give the child focused attention but it can also be very cathartic for the parent as well. You don't have to do it every week and you can choose the day and time. This allows for you as a parent to live in the moment with your child. Don't worry about things that need to be done, stop checking your phone, and simply exist in the moment with your child. Recent research has turned the idea of how much time we need to spend with our children on its head by stating that the amount of time has nothing to do with their happiness. It is the quality that is important. Children are not dumb and can tell when you are unhappy, stressed, and/or feeling guilty. They benefit from quality time where you are present both mentally and physically. This can also help during times when you are feeling guilty about the amount of time you are spending with your children because you know that you give them quality time on those dates so it's ok that you need to do laundry and dishes some of the other time.
We've seen a noticeable change in her behavior, willingness to share, and cooperation at home and the teacher hasn't had to contact us again about misbehavior. I've also felt less stressed and guilty when I need to do things around the house or just need a break to read a book. I feel more confident that the time I spend with my children is valuable and that relieves a lot of my own underlying stress. We're making a point to continue a weekly date night, taking turns spending one-on-one time with our children. This week, Derek will take her and I'll stay with Arthur, next week we'll switch. There are many things you can take your child to do, but the most important thing is to simply spend time with them. Make them the focus and you will not only have a happier child, but you will be creating memories that will last forever not to mention strengthening your bond as parent and child. I've listed some more ideas for date nights with your child below and I encourage you to make a point to take them on a date every once in a while. You won't regret it!
Dating your Children: Date Ideas
- see a movie
- do an activity such as mini golf, bowling, pottery painting or skating
- visit a library or bookstore and read together
- go on a hike/nature walk
- mani/pedis - many nail salons nowadays have children's pedicure chairs
- fancy dinner - get dressed up in fancy clothes and have a meal
- gym class - a lot of places have regular mommy/daddy and me classes for yoga and more especially larger cities
- craft classes - similarly, home depot, and some craft stores host free craft classes for parents and children
- window shopping at the mall
- dessert date - Skip the dinner and just get a fancy dessert together.
- coffee date - get a coffee/hot chocolate together and chat
- visit a museum
- go on a scavenger hunt - there are plenty of ideas online for an easy and fun scavenger hunt
- have a photo shoot - you can head out or just hit the backyard and be sure to let your child pick their outfit and grab a few fun props. To make it extra fun, be sure to make it comical by directing them like a real photographer. "Make a fish face! Magnificent Dahling!"
- volunteer together
- makeovers at the mall - the make-up counters in department stores will give you a free makeover. Take advantage (Just be nice and let them know you don't intend on buying anything upfront so they can give attention to the people who do. They work on commission.)
Stay at Home:
- bake together
- have a tea party - Be sure to dress appropriately! Tiaras are a must!
- rent a movie and eat popcorn - We like to dump a bag of peanut m&m's in our popcorn. It's delicious!
- spa night - Skip the expensive salon and turn your bathroom into a spa. Light a candle, play some music and make a bubbly foot bath. Fancy treats like homemade chocolate covered strawberries and faux bubbly make it extra special.
- game night
- camp out - spend a night under the stars in your own backyard
- bike ride and picnic - pack your lunch/dinner and ride somewhere nearby for a lovely picnic
- dance and karaoke party - make your living room come alive with music and dance!
- craft something at home - visit pinterest or buy a craft in a box kit
- science experiment - you can also find plenty of ideas online or buy a kit
- plant a mini garden - grab a pot and let your child start their own mini garden
- build a fort and read books
- cook dinner together
- learn something - Hit the internet and learn about something of their choosing.
I wanted a few fun activities for Lilly that don't involve super messy things like paint and shaving cream. While in the dollar tree I found a big bag of colorful puff balls and knew I could use them for multiple things. When I got home I pulled out an ice cube tray and a pair of tongs and told her to pick up the puff balls with the tongs and put them in the ice cube tray. She spent quite a while doing this activity and she really enjoyed herself. After she has mastered the tongs I will add new elements like putting specific colors in specific spots and transferring them from one container to another. Plus I can give her tweezers to make it more of a challenge. (I started with tweezers but she couldn't figure out how to use them properly.)
The other activity I used was from a really nice site for toddler and preschool activities called www.prekinders.com. I found a fun activity to teach patterns using conversation heart candies. She enjoyed placing the candies on the correct colors and lining them up properly but the pattern idea was a bit over her head. However, she did spend about 25 minutes participating in this activity so I say it was a success. She was really excited when she realized that they were candy.
Rachel is a mother of three, elementary Spanish teacher and part-time blogger who loves crafting, creating fun and engaging activities for her children and students and hanging with her friends and family. She blogs about what she's doing and her interests at any given time which vary. She's a little OCD and always looking for her next project. Her husband calls it, "focusing her crazy", but she just calls it fun.