When You Think You’ve Changed Your Mind

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Isn’t life a funny, unscripted shit-show? 

At least in my family it is.

I’ve been a bit MIA because I’m a true rollercoaster of emotions over here, but this post isn’t meant to just be a rambling of my crazy circus-style life. It is meant to help others who may find themselves changing their minds and feeling almost insane because of it. Perhaps my methods may help you sort out your back and forth…

Over the recent months, I have finally started feeling like my normal, motivated, genuinely happy, pre-surprise-baby #5 self. Maybe it’s my hormones finally balancing out. Veda is barely nursing anymore; my cycle has started back after 11+ years of pregnancy and breastfeeding (literally, no cycle for over a decade). I think my body is reclaiming itself – with my mind becoming the star of the show.

It’s quite freeing to feel like me again. 

Along with the fog completely clearing, I am finding myself at a crossroads with our upcoming move. I have fought the midwest for 2.5 years. I have built a wall around myself, guarding from deeper friendships, and disconnecting from so much here. I blamed the winter. The winter is brutal, and my Florida blood just doesn’t enjoy it. I have Raynuad’s disease (autoimmune) where my fingers and toes lose circulation and experience incredible pain when they are cold. It happens even at the grocery store, so the extreme temperatures here have made my love of the outdoors turn into a fear of any temperatures below 50 degrees – which of course is more than half the year. More than the winter, though – my attitude is probably mostly to blame. But, there is beauty everywhere here. There are genuinely good people who I would love to welcome into my life on a regular basis and not just as friends in passing. We have built a life here, and it is wonderful. Our children are thriving in all aspects, too.

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This leads me to a new place. This leads me to wondering what it would be like if we stayed longer.

When we were in Virginia, we wanted to stay forever. We knew moving was what was needed, though, for John to continue his upward career growth. However, in Omaha, there is potential for many projects to continue that growth. 

I’m torn, you all. I’m torn.

So here I sit, my mind pulling me in a direction I have sworn off for the past 2 years. 

When You Think You’ve Changed Your Mind

My husband thinks I’m riding the crazy train right now, but here’s what I’m doing to sort out my thoughts on our future… Perhaps my methods may help you figure out your confused state. 

Personal Pro Con List

Selfishly, I am starting here. I have to sort out what I like and dislike about this situation.

Family Pro Con List

I will then recruit my kids and ask them to create a list of their own. While most big decisions fall on the adults, it’s nice to at least include the kids and hear their thoughts. 

Family Getaway

We are packing our bags and taking a quick road trip this weekend. It’s time to start exploring a bit more out here, and some quality family time is needed to stay connected and focus on the most important parts of life. 

Getting away with your kids can be a great distraction from the weight of your decision. It can remind you to live in the moment and have fun. It can bring you back to the reality of it all – that in the end, this family is what’s important.

Adults’ Only Getaway

Next month, while we have family in town, John and I are going to escape for a few days. It will give us more than the few minutes we get at home of uninterrupted conversation.

A quick trip together can be fun, of course, but it can also grant you the time you need to breathe and absorb your thoughts – and your partner’s thoughts. 

Exercise

If you are anything like me, sweating it out helps everything. 

Prayer 

There are times to be selfish, and times to look deep at why you are being selfish. This is a time for me to let go and learn about myself. I find myself praying for peace and trust in what choices we make. There is no wrong answer for our family, but that doesn’t make it less difficult. 

I have no idea what will happen in the near future, and it has been eating me up — but I’m hoping I can come to a solid state of peace about it all… but for now, my pro-list is greatly outweighing the con-list.

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The hardest part.

We love adventure.

We have made the unknown our lifestyle for over a decade now, and have had 5 children born in 4 different states, with our oldest living in 5 states before she turned 8. Life is definitely anything but boring over here.

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Here is what I love about this life:

Our marriage. Moving brings John and I closer, as it reminds us that a house is only a house, but we create the home for each other. We can tackle just about anything together, and exploring new places always gives us a rush.

Our family’s bond. I am biased, but these kids of ours are pretty darn cool. They are supportive of one another, look out for each other, and are truly best friends. Watching their relationships develop as we move is inspiring and makes my heart sing.

New friendships. I believe that people are brought into your life at certain points for certain reasons. I have collected several friends who I will cherish for all of my life – but I never would have met them if it weren’t for being relocated every few years. 

New houses. I can’t lie, it’s fun to reuse furniture and decor in a new space. It makes everything feel new. It’s also fun to find new pieces for each house to make it feel like ours. We love putting our touch on each place while also creating memories. We’ll eventually frame a picture of each house we called home.

Purging. We have about zero attachment to many tangible items. We purge things easier than most. Art projects? trash. Toys? gone. 

Freedom to start over. Do you ever just wish that you could start fresh? We actually get to every 2-3 years. This freedom comes with so much happiness, just as you would imagine. 

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Here is what is hard:

Packing and Unpacking (Selling and Buying). Yes, movers move us, but it doesn’t come without crazy amounts of organizing things. And just like any trip the worst part is unpacking. Trying to make a new place a home as fast as possible is hard. 

Friendships. Finding friends as an adult is HARD. Mix into that my natural-minded stance on life, homeschooling 5 kids, and working from home, and most women run away from me. 

Kids’ Friends. As hard as it is for me to find new friends, watching my children leave their friends and try to start from zero again is heartbreaking. I know that it makes them strong and confident. They know no different and love having friends all over, but it doesn’t make anything easier.

Kid Sports. I am devastated over moving away from Emmett’s club soccer team here. They have played together for over 2 years and have become an unbelievable family (and force to be reckoned with on the field). When we move, he will be at the age that he will be trying out for travel/club teams that have been playing together since age 5/6…  Then there is winter wrestling, spring baseball, basketball, dance studios, and every other sport these kids want to play. 

Other Activities. I have to find new speech therapists, enroll kids into the school system to receive free therapies, find scout troops, musical theater groups, homeschool coops, museums, memberships, etc.

Miscellaneous Crap. New doctors, chiropractor, dentist, happy hour spots, grocery stores, shopping, etc. EVERYTHING is new.

Finding a Babysitter. This is almost the hardest part of moving when the kids are still at babysitting ages. 

But the hardest part… the hardest part is:

Anxiety.

We have no idea when we will be moved or where we will be moved to. The entire United States is a possibility for us. This is extremely exciting, but a small town BFE town in poe-dunk, USA is NOT where I want to be… I want a say, and I don’t really get one. I suffer from the high highs of adventure, but also from the lows of knowing that time is up but having no say over what is next. I am the one who handles 98% of life at home and the stress is REAL for the 6 moths before an inevitable move occurs….

Can you tell that we are within that move window?

Well, we have about 6-8 months left with no idea what is next.

Scottsdale: A Bucket List Add-On to Your Girls’ Trip Weekends

Many of you know that I flew away (much like running away, but much more glamorous!) to my first girls’ weekend since having kids. That’s over a decade… and previous life was rice-and-beans bank account, so there wasn’t much traveling then, either! One of my nearest and dearest friends had been begging me for a weekend away, but my mom-guilt kept me from saying yes. However, once Veda turned two, I was ready and willing to leave for a few nights. (Yes, she’s still nursing. Yes, I had to pump. Yes, it was worth it.)

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While we have traveled as a family, there is so much to consider when traveling solo. The mother-anxiety is strong. What if I die on the plane and my kids grow up without me? What if something happens while I’m gone? 

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Although, packing is fantastic. I had an entire suitcase TO MYSELF. I filled that thing with things that I knew there wasn’t enough time to wear! I didn’t care, I just wanted to fill it with MY THINGS. I packed heels, sneakers, sandals, flip flops, and flats. I packed pool dresses, multiple swimwear, shorts, dinner dresses, and running gear. I packed a sun hat, a straightener, a curling wand, and all.the.makeup. Why not, right? 

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Nicole and I are about 17 hours or so apart these days, and we both still have toddlers at home. We needed to find a great location that would be an easy flight. Scottsdale was an obvious choice. I had never been, and the resort looked like a slice of heaven. Little did I know just how heavenly it would be.

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If you are considering a weekend away, JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback should be added to your potential destination list. From the moment we arrived, we were escorted on golf carts to our room, which had 360 degree views of the mountains. With a small balcony to sip champagne on, and a second (unbelievably large) patio with lounge chairs, outdoor tables, and privacy, and a sunset unlike anything I have seen. The sky is just different out there. 

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After popping champagne and locking ourselves on one of the balconies, we were rescued, got glam’d up and headed out to explore. We enjoyed ample amounts of wine – and had no one take care of for 2 days. The food on site was perfect, and the resort is large enough to spend days at without leaving for much. 

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I decided to wake up before the sun and run the few miles to the base of Camelback Mountain. It was a spontaneous decision that John had planted the seed for, as he has hiked the mountain and described it as a must-conquer experience. With people being helicoptered down every few hours, it was a bit intimidating, especially climbing alone, but once I approached the start, I knew I couldn’t turn back. There were other people hiking – some slowly, others at a pace that screamed ‘I do this every Saturday!’ I was in awe of all of them. The hike was something you need to experience. The views, the trail, the solitude (or company if you want to do it together) were all exactly what I needed on this trip. I had hours to focus on myself and where I am in life right now. I absorbed the moments hiking that mountain and had passing thoughts of:

  • I can’t wait to do this with the kids when they are older.
  • I wish John were here with me.
  • This is too hard.
  • This is freaking unbelievable. 
  • I am a badass.

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And then I realized just how happy I am right now. I work hard. I mom hard. I wife hard. But my personal cup is constantly full, too. Life is not easy, but it is wonderful.

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After running out, hiking, and running back to the resort, it was time to be pampered. Nicole and I settled on having honey and oats dripped and rubbed over us in our morning treatment. We retreated poolside with friends afterward, where we enjoyed the frozen peaches compliments of our amazing pool boy. (I’m not kidding) We drank, swam, chatted, laughed so hard that we cried, and drank some more. And then, Nicole and I walked (still sans makeup from our first spa treatment) back to the spa for Round 2! This time, we received massages that sent us into deep relaxation. Room service was in order for dinner after that experience. Can you imagine? I ran, climbed a mountain, and received detox massages all in the same day.

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We slept like the queens that we are, in the most comfortable beds, with the doors open and the Arizona air blowing in. The weekend was too fast, but it was much needed. 

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Every mother needs to retreat somewhere at sometime. Even if it is a decade after becoming a mother. Even if it means anxiety creeps up. Even if it means you leave 5 kids behind and consider skipping your flight back home and extending the trip for another week, or two.

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10 Ways to Save Money for a Trip

I recently wrote about why it’s so important for me to pay off our trips before we even go on them. It’s the only way I can relax and have fun – and NOT think about how much everything is costing! But I realized I didn’t explain HOW I save enough to actually pay these adventures off! 

Don’t get me wrong, this budgeting thing is not easy. We are not growing a money tree over here, either. We are in the thick of childhood – and only have 3 of the 5 kids in year round sports so far. We pay a mortgage payment (more!) in healthy foods each month – and if you think homeschooling is free, think again. The way we are doing it, it’s as if we are paying for private school! So yes, money is tight. It’s always tight. We have to triple think every purchase before it is made, and always consider savings accounts first. 

But there are a few things that I have learned throughout the last few years. I have found these small things add up to big trips for our large family! 

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10 Ways to Save Money for a Trip

Take extra cash out when grocery shopping and save it. 

Even if it means you put back a few ‘treats.’ Withdraw $20-40 each week to stuff inside of your travel account. This can include all change you are handed back when paying in cash, too.

Automatically transfer money to a vacation fund.

Our paychecks are direct deposited, and I have $100 immediately taken out and transferred to a vacation account. If you set it up to automatically do this, you won’t even realize that money is gone.

Cancel/put on hold any memberships such as the gym or audiobooks.

Most families are paying for things they aren’t using, or things they could do without for a little while. I found that I was paying an annual subscription for several educational apps ($30-50 each for a year!) that my kids maybe toyed with here and there. Those were cancelled immediately, and we put our crazy expensive gym membership on hold whenever we need to save quick. 

Create an actual budget so you know where your money is going.

This is key so that you know where your money is going. It doesn’t just disappear, you (and I) spend it. Create a spread sheet with the last 12 months on it so you can see your trends. You’ll be shocked how much you spend on Starbucks.

Stop spending money on unnecessary things…

Such as fast food, restaurants, expensive (or cheap) coffee, happy hour, lavish date nights, or even just bottled water—- pack food, reuse cups, eat at home, etc.

After you’ve looked at your spending habits and created a realistic budget, you’ll naturally want to cut out this excess spending. Fast food is junk, and it adds up fast! Those coffees, happy hours, and quick errands will put your vacation on hold. 

Second guess yourself before spending money, and hold yourself accountable.

This is where my Target trips come in. I have to ask myself if it is even necessary to walk in those doors? Is it a need or a want? Stop yourself before running out for that ‘one thing’ that always leads to $50 blown. 

Shop consignment stores for kids clothes.

If you look regularly, you’ll get the newest stuff! I would guess that 80% of my kids’ closets are previously owned items.

Meal plan and stick to your list.

Take the time each week to plan our your dinner menu, utilizing similar ingredients to save money and buy in bulk. Cook larger batches to roll over into lunches, too. 

Make money on the side.

Babysit, wait tables, take an extra shift.

If you are really trying to save large funds, consider taking on extra money-making hours. Sleep is still needed, but you can find a way to make a couple hundred dollars by selling items/toys/clothes in your house, picking up a weekend serving job, babysitting, or even taking those cheesy online surveys.

Get your kids on board. 

If the entire family understands why you are saving money, they will be less inclined to asking for additional money. My kids host lemonade and cookie stands, car washes, and ask neighbors to pull weeds to earn a few dollars to contribute.

Watering Your Garden

It’s an interesting thing, a vegetable garden. We plant one every year, at every house, in every city, in every state that we live in. We reinvest our energy, time, and money in creating a solid foundation to grow beautiful plants full of organic, beautiful foods. We have learned that different foods grow better in different areas, and sometimes the soil isn’t right for some. We have used raised beds and in-ground beds… potted gardens and patio gardens. We have adapted to our environment with each move because a garden is important to us. 

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But, do you know what happens when you start to get comfortable? You can forget to water your garden. It becomes another chore or task that can be easily forgotten because it is no longer new or exciting. We generally skip this part, though – as we are moved so frequently, but I realized as I was watering our garden today just how easy it would be to completely forget about it alongside of our house. We are comfortable here, now. We are well over the 2 year mark. Life has fallen into routine. We have grown to love our neighborhood and friends. We have grown to handle the temperatures (as well as can be expected), too. But we have learned how to have a very successful garden, and I do not want to take it for granted.

As you can tell, I’m not solely writing about our garden; although, it is worth it’s own post. I’m writing to remind myself -and perhaps you- that after becoming comfortable with where you are in life, it can be very easy to stop watering all the things that need watered. These things may include filling your own cup with self-happiness, appreciating your children for who they are right now, taking time to reconnect with your partner, or continuing to build friendships. Comfort is a beautiful and time-sucking thing, isn’t it?

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“The Simple Life” is a motto well known around these parts, and it is one that I understand and question often, but I have come to appreciate just how much people water their gardens here. You will find grocery store conversations lasting longer than coffee dates, and the dinner table is a place that is always sat at. 

I started running longer distances again. I took a hiatus for awhile there throughout the unexpected baby #5, unexpected cross-country move, mid-western winter, and postpartum depression time of my life. I did, however, find yoga then. And now the two have found a significant balance in my life. Doing these great things keeps my own garden watered. Whether you sew, cook, read, dance, or sing – find some time to do it. 

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Finding a connection that is not the general parental role with your child(ren) can prove challenging. My 10 year old and I just started watching Gilmore Girls from season 1 together. I didn’t realize just how much fun it would be to have this thing that only we share. It can be so simple, so easy to create and strengthen these connections, but also so easy to blow past the opportunity to do so. There are great similarities when comparing my garden to my relationships with each child. My garden produces well-grown, healthy foods when maintained, suffers when neglected. My children are balanced, connected, and happy when I take care of that relationship. Again, I’ve learned how important it is to water my garden.

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The most overlooked area of life always seems to be the marriage or foundational relationship within the family. It is the most comfortable spot – the worn in couch cushion. It’s the strawberry plant that comes back year after year, generally more fruitful each time. But it still needs watered. The love and appreciation is always there, but the watering may not be happening much. The leaves may be wilting, and the harvesting isn’t happening near enough to keep the plant healthy and happy. It doesn’t take more than brushing arms as you pass each other – pulling in for a true kiss, or dancing in the kitchen to an old song. These things will keep the garden growing.

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Between juggling work, kids, marriage, house, food, calendar, and life – how does one even have time to start a garden, you may ask? If it’s time consuming enough to remember to water the fictional hypothetical garden in your life, how can you ever plant a real one? Well, it takes a little bit of time, a lot of love, and the helping hands of those around you, but you can do it. Will it be a huge success? Yes – if only to bring you all closer and remind you to water your life daily. 

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A Week in Denver: Our Daily Itinerary

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I can’t tell you enough about our latest adventure. We had the greatest week, and I truly owe it to creating an itinerary for us to follow. There were no moments of arguing or trying to figure out where to eat. Everything was already decided. The beauty of this itinerary is that you can play so much by ear! Switch restaurants or add in an additional hike, whatever makes you happy!

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We decided to cut the drive in half on the way out there, but we would not do it again. Just suffer through and get to Denver – at least if you are driving from Omaha. The hotel was awful, the town was obsolete, and the food was appalling. (The lake was gorgeous, and the jet skiing was a blast, though! But something you can do on another lake in a better area.)

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Day 1

  • Bring snacks/lunch
  • Check in to hotel in Ogallala, NE – Lake McConaughy
  • Travelodge by Wyndham Ogallala (Think motel not hotel, here folks. We would skip this stop next time and head straight to Denver!)
  • Jet ski rental $85 for an hour/ $135 for 2 hours — reservation is 3:30-5:30 (308.355.5555 Big Mac Marina in Arthur’s bay)
  • Play at the beach all afternoon
  • Eat dinner @ Urban Farmer

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Day 2

  • Up, eat, and go. (3+ hours drive)
  • Check into hotel in Greenwood Village (Sheraton Denver Tech Center)
  • Lunch at Mediterranean Place across from hotel— Quick and easy!
  • Drive 35 minutes to Roxborough State Park – Hike – This was GORGEOUS!
  • Stop at any local lake you find to skip rocks and play.
  • Dinner @ Breckenridge Brewery in Littleton (10 minutes from hotel) Reservation was at 6pm – What an amazingly fun brewery!! They have live music, food trucks for those eating outside, and SO MANY BEERS. We played until 10:00pm because it was so much fun.

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Day 3 

  • (pack lunch/snacks/waters)
  • Hiking at Red Rock Ampitheater and Morrison Castle Trail (Castle Trail, Morrison, CO 80465) or Maxwell Falls Lower Trail (easy trail to a waterfall) – Note: Red Rock takes at least 2 hours! Make sure you run the stairs at Red Rock (if you are a running geek like me – it was a bucket list item!)
  • Hike Dinosaur Ridgway!
  • Bear Creek Lake – Kayaking and Beach Play – $10 entrance fee for the park — paddle boarding at Rocky Mountain Paddleboard. This lake is small with little beach area, but it was a great way to spend an afternoon.
  • Horseback riding at Bear Creek Stables 1 hour $40/each person. We sent our 5, 7, and 9 year olds solo with the guide. She assured us they would be safe. They had an adventure that they will remember forever!
  • Dinner @ Sazza Pizza (Get there for happy hour!)

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Day 4

  • Waterworld ALL DAY LONG. Pre-purchase tickets to save money.
  • Dinner @ Homegrown Tap & Dough – Washington Park location. Note: This is a MUST to entertain the kids. They have a FREE arcade and patio full of games! (Not to mention, they have great beer and food.)

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Day 5 

  • National Ballpark Museum
  • Rockies Baseball Game
  • Eat Dinner Downtown by Union Station Splash Fountain! The kids get to play and get wet while you enjoy happy hour and appetizers/dinner.

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Day 6 

  • Switch Hotels and head downtown! (Hyatt Place Denver Downtown!)
  • Children’s museum and explore downtown – The museum is fun, but it was so packed that my anxiety was on high. The ropes course was a blast, but again, they need to cap the amount of people allowed in each day.
  • Walk the outdoor mall and pick up some Denver shirts!
  • We were exhausted and the rain chased us all the way back to the hotel, so we opted to order dinner in and go to bed early. (We had planned to eat by Union Station at another restaurant, though.)

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Day 7 

  • Walk around downtown
  • Enjoy chocolate and cupcakes (of course)
  • Pack up the car and jump back on the road for the drive home

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I could have filled several weeks worth of Denver-Fun for our family, and I cannot wait to head back sometime to continue exploring!

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Packing Tips for a Family Road Trip

We have seven humans in a car that has seven seats. 

Our road trips can be a long weekend, an 8 hour drive and a week long stay, or a two month adventure with multiple hotels, cities, and states. Packing can present a few challenges, depending on the purpose of each trip, and we have tried -and changed- many packing methods. We have a hitch that can hold a luggage trailer and a rack on top of the van. However, I’m not a fan of using these if John is not with us on a road trip. I need to get over it and put on my big girl panties her here, but until then, I’m bound and determined to get everything inside the van.

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A few things I have learned over the years traveling the highways with the kids:

Consider utilizing storage bins instead of luggage. They are easy to stack inside the car or on a trailer, and can be consolidated into categories: everyones’ hotel items, the clothing for a specific city/stop, things to bring to an area with water, etc. 

When changing hotels or packing to return home, consolidate luggage and turn one bag into the family laundry bag. It stays in the car and you will bring less into your next hotel – and when you get home, the clean vs dirty items are already separated. 

Snacks are key, but portioning them before hand is even better. Use ziplock baggies (forgive me, I’m a total natural minded mom, but sometimes, you have to do what’s easy) to portion healthy(ier) snacks like fresh popcorn, trail mix, nuts, energy bites, dried fruits, organic jerky, and anything else your kids will eat. You can toss a bag back and pray it doesn’t end up all over the floor.

Hang trash bags. I hang them from every arm rest in the van. It helps to make pit stops faster – I just dump them and scoop up anything big enough from the floor while kids are stretching their legs.

Kids have to pee – a lot. You can train your boys to pee in a bottle if you are brave, or you can just invest in a travel potty and pull over the nearest exit and let everyone pee into the wind (or squat on the potty). 

When packing clothes, sort them into matching outfits and roll them together. Everyone gets their own duffle bag or ziplock baggies inside of the containers. You want the ease of grabbing and being done without a second thought.

Pack minimal shoes for everyone. A pair of flip flops, sneakers, and possible a sandal/boot/dressier shoe should be enough for even the longest of trips. You can find a Target if a shoe emergency arises.

Don’t use the seats for storage. It’s tempting to use every free space inside the car, but the more you put near the kids, the crazier the car situation will get. Dvd’s, pads, pillows, blankets, snacks, and books are enough – don’t force the kids into any uncomfortable positions with 5 coolers, backpacks, and luggage under their feet. 

Invest in books on CD, audiobooks, and podcasts – for the kids and yourself. You can mandate headphones for some of the drive, so don’t forget to find something you will want to listen to.

Always have baby wipes, burp cloths, napkins, and plastic bags on hand. These things have nothing to do with babies – and everything to do with humans in a car.

Car Sickness Help. We give our sick-prone kids Dramamine before jumping in the car, but sometimes a drop of peppermint oil is enough to keep their stomachs calm. 

A Mother’s To Do List Before Vacation

T-minus 3 days until we leave for our week in Colorado. It’s about an 8 hour drive each way, and we will break it into two days on the way there. You know this isn’t our first rodeo, and I have packing down to a science. However, this is the first long trip with 5 kids. They all can touch in the van, and there is minimal space for much else. I’m trying to get ahead with my work so I can enjoy this trip, but it makes for a stressful week! Here’s a glimpse into what I’m handling — maybe (just maybe – wink wink) you can relate?

A Mother’s To Do List

Make a massive check list.

Continue to add to the check list, even after crossing items off. 

Take the car in for a check-up (and have the fuse replaced so DVD players might actually work on this trip. FYI – plugging in 4 at a time will blow the fuse.)

Spend 2 days searching for the damn DVD players and cords to make them work (have to purchase new cords because the cords are MIA)

Reschedule all of the things that were supposed to take place during the vacation (speech therapies, cleaners, play dates, appointments).

Organize work and schedule out anything that needs completed. 

Clean out car from the gold fish explosion last week, stickers, sand, dirt, shoes, clothes, toys, and everything else that you don’t want to know about beyond the first row. 

Fill the car with gas – but the night before the trip, no earlier.

Confirm the house sitter.

Get food for the house sitter.

Get food and treats for the dog (and CBD oil/rescue remedy/anything that will help her not freak out while we are gone).

Create a list for the house sitter — including dog items, garden instructions, house plants, remote control issues – you know, all.the.things. 

Call neighbors to inform them of our plans and have them check up on the garden and make sure teenage house sitter does not throw a massive party. (Only kidding, our sitter is AMAZING.) 

Confirm all reservations to make sure nothing was overlooked for the trip.

Create a grocery list for road trip: snackage, lunches, food to keep in the hotel. Don’t forget to bring wine instead of paying $10 a glass while on vacation. 

Run to Target for travel sizes items. (and 26 other items you didn’t intend to buy – new water bottles are always great.)

Have a house key made for the sitter.

Organize dog items (leash, poop bags, food, treats, etc)

Make packing list: include clothing, entertainment for the drive, plenty of changes of undies for the potty-learning toddler, a travel potty, favorite games/toys, DVDs, batteries for DVD players, iPads/chargers, rafts for the lake, an air pump to blow up said rafts, toiletries, hiking gear, toddler hiking backpack/carrier, ergo carrier, stroller, laptop to make sure work is up-to-date, camera, wine, and the kitchen sink.

Return library books (that are due back during the trip).

Portion snacks into ziplock bags for the car ride. 

Clean out the refrigerator of anything that the house sitter won’t want. 

Water house plants.

Empty all trash bins in the house – before the designated trash day so house sitter won’t have to. 

Actually pack. But wait, not for yourself. You must first pack each of your five children – but into as small of bags as possible. Consider all activities and washing possibilities. (Oh, there are none? Ok, time to over-pack. yes, your spouse will then question your packing abilities, but at this point you can just pour a glass of wine and laugh.)

Continue to do the daily laundry, dishes, food prep, kitchen clean-up, bed making, house organizing, errands, kissing of boo-boos, nursing babies, actual work, and extra curricular activities.

The night before you leave, you may actually have time to pack for yourself. Pack way too much. There may be poop or puke on your clothing at some point, be prepared.

Listen to spouse complain about all the things he has to fit into the car.

Pour more wine because all he did was pack his own damn bag.  

 

(Yes the damn picture is sideways! I’ll fix it in my free time this week.)

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Raising Ninjas

I have had several people make comments about the extra curricular activities that my children are enrolled in.

Scarlett: Age 10

  • Girl Scouts (Homeschool troop that meets weekly for 3 hours)
  • Swim Team (summer only – after 2 years of a year-round team)
  • Musical Theater (August-May)
  • Martial Arts (2-3 evenings a week – year round)
  • Girls on the Run (August-November)
  • Triathlete (just completed her first triathlon)

Emmett: Age 8

  • Cub Scouts
  • Club Level Soccer (Fall, Winter, and Spring, with a camp in the Summer)
  • Wrestling (Winter)
  • Swim Team (Summer)
  • Martial Arts (2-3 evenings a week – year round)
  • Triathlete (just completed his first triathlon)

Lyle: Age 5

  • Soccer (First year on the club team!)
  • Swim Team (Summer)
  • Martial Arts (2 evenings a week)
  • Wrestling (First year for this!)
  • Wanna-Be Triathlete (haha)

Ollie Jack: Age 3

  • Martial Arts (one evening every few weeks, when he’s in the mood)

We recently dropped piano lessons for the oldest two, but Emmett will begin guitar lessons soon. He has also been begging for baseball to be added to his list. (But there are only so many evenings in a week!)

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Yes, it looks like a lot. Yes, we are broke (haha). But it all falls into place, and we take breaks (and vacations – duh!) whenever we feel the need. Homeschooling allows us to complete the education portion of the day within a few hours, giving the kids ample down time – and me, plenty of writing time. So, no, we are not over-scheduled or drowning, yet. Once Lyle wins his argument on joining a basketball team and the youngest two join in, we’ll see what happens.

The biggest question that I get about their activities is always about karate.

How do you manage to do it alongside other sports?

Why would you do it when the kids do other sports?

Why do you do it in general?

Is it worth the money?

What do the kids really get out of it?

b3

It is time-consuming, with a long term goal; meaning that it isn’t something you just start or stop, you are committed to it. The truth is that I grew up as a ninja myself, as did my brother. I was a ballerina and a black belt – the two having a significant impact on one another, both of which shaped my outlook on life and fitness. I did not begin martial arts until I was 12, though. It didn’t take long before everyone noticed that it was something I was pretty damn good at. I began competing throughout the country, and by 16, I had become a first degree black belt and held a few world fighting titles. Even after leaving for college, I still threw a few punches with old karate friends. But, I fell out of the sport as I became an adult.

It wasn’t until my oldest was about 7 that I realized just how important it was for my kids to pursue ‘black belt excellence.’ I would love for them to become world champion fighters and compete in famous tournaments, but I am also (very) okay with not going to down the route- at least at their current ages.

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Becoming a black belt is about the journey you have within yourself. It is a long and hard goal to accomplish – and it is a one-man sport. A teammate cannot do the work for you, you must show up – for multiple days every week, for years in a row. You must study the art – and you must practice. You must learn dedication, perseverance, failure, and triumph. You also learn internal motivation, self-confidence, and conflict resolution. Becoming a black belt sets a positive path for a lifetime of learning, acceptance, and happiness. Because finding and understanding happiness happens once you learn to stop comparing yourself to others and start following your own journey – much like what happens while pursuing a black belt.

Karate doesn’t have an end game, though. A black belt may just be an item you can order off Amazon, but the mindset one gains from earning that belt is so much more than can be explained. Respect, kindness, appreciation for others’ arts, self-discipline, and a passion for bettering one’s self is all par for the course when becoming a ninja. I also love that my kids will feel able to handle themselves if needed as they get older.

b5

After all, the rule in my house growing up was “You have to be able to fight before you can date.”

I’m pretty sure that this could be the best rule ever. It will live on.

So, friends, this is why I am raising ninjas.

b

 

 

5 Things To Do When Planning a Trip For a Child’s ‘Experience’ Birthday

Countdown to Departure: 9 days.

The excitement is growing, and my to-do list is not – thanks to all of my preplanning! I am  just dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s over here! I’m making eating reservations and paying off water park tickets… But I felt like it was the perfect time to share with you how to pull off a family trip instead of a birthday party for your child this year.

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5 Things To Do When Planning a Trip For a Child’s ‘Experience’ Birthday

#1 Plan Everything Ahead – including reservations to restaurants and ice-cream stops.

A daily itinerary may seem like an impossible task ahead of time, but it will make the entire trip more fun. You may think that your kids can go with the flow, but kids do much better when they know what is coming next. The less waiting time, the less meltdowns. You will also enjoy everything more if you put in the time prior to your departure. The last thing you want to do is spend a few hours each day researching where to eat or where to go. Print out your itinerary with reservation times (and phone numbers) highlighted. Keep your schedule on track, but don’t stress out if it all gets shifted around. You’ll have the ability to call and make changes, fit other things in, or skip over things that aren’t worth the time.

This is the most stressful part of planning an experience birthday trip. It can take weeks or months of late night googling to make sure that you find everything your family will want to do. Start with a master list of activities:
Sporting Events
Horseback Riding
Hiking
Swimming
Beach Play
Theme Park
Festival
Concert
Local-Can’t-Miss-Activities
Breweries/Wineries
Restaurants/Cafes/Ice-Cream Stops
Landmarks/Photo Opportunities

#2 Research, Budget, and Pay Before Your Leave

Shop around for the best hotel deal, make phone calls requesting discounts, and join social media groups for advice on ‘not to miss’ activities. While you’d love to include everything on your master list, it isn’t worth going into debt over. The earlier you begin your planning, the more you can fit in because you will have time to pay for it all. Depending on your family size, you may need two hotel rooms – that doubles the expenses right out of the gate. Consider planning separate activities for different ages – Let your oldest kids do a major waterpark, but save money by keeping the younger kids at the hotel pool (or spend a day exploring with them).

The key is to have everything paid off – or close to it before you pack your bags. The only money you want to spend is on gas and food, and you can even purchase VISA gift cards to make sure you don’t go over budget. You will feel more relaxed and be able to remain present throughout the trip if you are not frantically checking your bank account.

#3 Prepare Your Child

If your child is used to having a birthday party and receiving a large amount of (useless) gifts, you will want to help transition the expectations. Create a countdown for the trip that you can get excited together about. Consider keeping some aspects of the trip a surprise. You can give clues or leave pictures laying around to build the suspense! If your child isn’t big on surprises, you can let them help you plan the entire thing.

#4 Remember Why You Are Traveling

Yes, you are traveling to see and experience new things, but the trip should have multiple activities that celebrate the birthday child. While lounging poolside may seem like heaven for you, your child may love parasailing, horseback riding, or seeing the local zoo. You can mix activities so that everyone is happy, but don’t skimp on the birthday fun – I promise that you will have fun, too. Also – make sure you stop at a local bakery for a birthday cupcake.

#5 You Still Need a Gift

Yes, the trip is your child’s true gift, but there is something to be said about unwrapping something. It goes hand in hand with blowing out candles, right? Choose one item for your child. It can be something small to remember the trip by. It can be a snow globe or sweatshirt, even. Of course, it can be a piece of jewelry or a nicer item for an older child, too. A gift card is the easiest and sometimes most fun present! However, it is important that the gift does not overshadow the trip – and that it is simply a (one) gift.