Why your kids need you (and only you)

Doubts about our abilities as mothers are totally normal…but completely unfounded.
Here’s why your kids need you as their mom!

Happy Friday, friends!  Life has been verrrrry interesting lately, what with this new baby around and the stress of figuring out how to manage and balance all of my mothering responsibilities.  Every big transition is like that, don’t you think?  Super crazy and overwhelming for a while, then you gradually settle into a routine and, for better or for worse, this becomes your new normal.

I’ve realized that anytime life throws us curveballs, lots of insecurities and doubts tend to come along with them.  Thoughts about what we’re messing up and about how the rest of our life may be adversely affected by these changes.  Having a new baby means less housework gets done, less time spent with the other kids, fewer opportunities to finish work projects and thoughts about whether or not we’re up for all the new responsibilities and stressors.

Being a mom of a big family means that I struggle with self-doubt and insecurities every. single. day.  I strongly believe that God called me to be a mom, to have all these kids, to homeschool them and to lead the life we live.  But that doesn’t mean that I don’t constantly wonder about all the ways I’m failing every day.

Here’s the thing: your kids are your kids on purpose.  It’s no crapshoot that each family ends up together; all parents have personality traits, talents and abilities designed to help prepare their specific kids to become the best people they can be.  I know that sounds like a tall order to fill; personally it seems impossible that I could ever give all my children everything they need.

The important thing to remember is how little our kids actually need to thrive.  Yes, that’s right…how little.  They don’t need Pinterest parties or a mom in runway-worthy looks or even homecooked meals.  I know I’ve talked about this before, but when Luke and I got certified to become foster parents, we walked out of the training thinking about how we, and every single parent we know, are doing a pretty freaking stellar job.  We love our kids, we try to do right by them and we leave the rest up to God.

None of us knows exactly what sorts of trials we (or our children) will encounter in our lives.  But I really believe that we’ll be equipped to handle them because of the families we’ve been given.  Sure, our kids drive us crazy and our parents aren’t perfect – but we’re meant to be right where we are.

While our children don’t need picture perfect moms and dads, they do need parents who  love each other and their kids and who admit and apologize when they make mistakes.  They need parents who realize the blessings of being a parent and at least try to enjoy it now and then!  Parenthood ain’t for sissies…but I know each of us has what it takes to be GREAT at it!

Nursery & Toddler Room Reveal!

Get all the details on this fun gender neutral kids’ room redo…plus my unsponsored review of an online decorating service!

Bunk Beds – Wayfair (awesome quality and a GREAT deal!)|| Crib – Babyletto || Dresser – Craigslist || Rolling Cart – Ikea ||
Black Shelves – Target || Rocking Chair – Amazon ||Black & White pillows – handmade from this curtain || Curtain Rod – Wayfair ||
Pink Fleece Blanket – Wayfair (SO cozy!!) || Gold Task Lamp – Target || Hanging Pendant – Home Goods (similar) || Curtains – Wayfair || Crib Sheet – Target || White comforters – Walmart || Rug – Urban Outfitters || White Faceted Vase – Lulu & Georgia ||
White Frames – Target || Artificial Plant & stand – Target || Ribbon Mobile – Etsy || Art prints – All from this Rifle Paper Co. calendar ||
Quilt – Handmade (details here) || Clock – Target

I’ll be honest: home decor is not my strongest suit.  I know what I like, and I’m fairly picky at that, but I just can’t seem to recreate what I see on Pinterest in real life!  I’ve wanted our home to look put together for years, but since we’re on the track to moving in the next year or so, I’ve sadly stopped putting forth too much effort.

That is, until I got pregnant with this baby and we realized that we needed to do some rearranging in order to make this 4 bedroom house fit 10 bodies!  The big boys are settled and happy in our basement bedroom, while the 3 big girls share a full-twin bunk bed in their room and Mimi has her own room (perks of being a baby).

Poor Finn, however had simply been relegated to a crib mattress on the floor of the girls’ room…but let’s be honest, he ended up in our bed more often than not!  I knew that he needed to move in with Mimi, but that it needed to be a special place where he could feel grown up and important.

I also began reading reviews of Decorist late last year and thought an online decorating service sounded fantastic, especially if I could snag it on sale.  I stalked their site for Black Friday deals and grabbed a room re-do for just $150!  That was all the motivation I needed to get started.

The pre-design process was very simple and pretty fun!  I submitted measurements and pictures of the room, as well as a pinterest board full of ideas.  I also included a list of what furnishings I wanted to keep for the room (Mimi’s crib, a light fixture, basket and dresser), and submitted my (very low) budget of $1-2K.

My designer, Becky, was super nice, friendly and down to earth and assured me she could totally work with my budget.  We discussed how the room needed to be gender neutral and include a set of bunk beds so that Mimi would have a big bed to grow into.  She also created a private Pinterest board for us to collaborate on and toss ideas back and forth.  That was my favorite part!

After a few weeks, she came back with 2 initial digital designs that I then weighed in on and told her what I did and didn’t love…this was my favorite of the two! (I really wanted to go with that pink on the walls, but alas, my 3 year old boy would’ve had something to say about that.)


About 1 week later she came back with the final design, which I again tweaked just a bit.  The cool thing is that she sourced and linked to all the products she used in the design, and you can even order the products through Decorist instead of shopping all over the internet, which I did for a few things.

As you can see, I ended up doing a few things differently from the final design, due to budget & practicality’s sake, but I absolutely LOVE how it turned out.  Finn also loves his new top bunk (complete with Star Wars sheets conveniently hidden under a pretty white comforter) and he and Mimi have been getting along swimmingly in the same room!  It makes me SO happy to have at least one room that’s totally done and fun to look at.

All in all, I would definitely use Decorist and Becky again, especially at that sale price! Although I probably wouldn’t order directly through Decorist again…I found out the hard way that most items ordered through them are final sale and even if you can return something, you only have 14 days.  I didn’t love the colors of the Lulu & Georgia rug in the final design once I got it, but after we got through Christmas and I decided to return, it was too late.  Kind of a bummer to get stuck with an expensive rug I didn’t want!

*Update: Decorist did end up working with me on returning the rug –  but I still think a 2 week return window is crazy short!

So, what do you guys think of the final product?  Have you ever considered using an online designer?

Check out this collection of amazing boy-friendly rooms (including my design) to see more darling ideas!

Family Pictures and Milestones

Check out our most recent family pictures!

 

Hurray for family pictures!  I’m thrilled to finally post all these…my sweet photographer Breanne had a baby right after shooting these and then Christmas and New Year’s so bless her heart for all the editing she’s been catching up on!

I love them all more than words can express and I hope you enjoy them at least a little 🙂

Liam is 11 this year and just the most delightful preteen around.  I seriously had no idea the older kid years would be so stinking much fun.  He has a hilarious sense of humor, is super intelligent and the BEST helper I could ask for.  He thinks nothing of jumping up every time I ask for something and is a fantastic big brother.  I can’t wait to see him as a teen!

Toby is 9 and the class clown of our homeschool – haha.  He is always happy and joking and LOVES little babies…he’s always hanging around Mimi and helping her.  Even at age 4 he loved holding the newborn twins so seeing him all grown up with a newborn (next month!) will be a lot of fun.  It took a while to convince him that reading can be as much fun as jumping on the trampoline but I love seeing him enjoy it now.

Juliet is bubbly, outgoing and can talk your ear off about anything…in other words, a pretty typical 7 year old girl.  She gets so excited about EVERYTHING so it’s kinda hard to keep a straight face when she’s talking to you.  Her latest obsessions are reading (Boxcar Children and Ramona Quimby books), her giant stuffed bear, riding her bike and gymnastics.

Vivan (aka the curly-haired twin) is a boisterous, opinionated and darling 5 year old.  She and Kira are THRILLED to be attending school one day a week and she doesn’t seem the least bit bothered by the fact that she can’t really write anything yet 🙂  Her personality is maddening on bad days and spunky on the good – I couldn’t love it more.

Kira is the most delightful little 5 year old lately!  She’s easy to please, quick to laugh and always obedient.  Kira worships her big sister Juliet and wants to copy everything about her, including her love of fashion, makeup and high heels.  We’re excited to see her get really close to reading independently too!

Finn is your typical, mischevious 3 year old, with a side of sweetness.  I’m really looking forward to seeing him with a new baby…he’s finally learning how to be tender and careful with little ones!  He and Mimi are developing a super cute little friendship as well, now that they share a bedroom (and when Finn’s not teaching her how to lose at sword fighting).  I’m thrilled that potty training has finally taken hold and his obsession with Star Wars knows no bounds!

Mimi (short for Marilyn) has been THE best baby on the planet!  Which just means that I hardly know what to do with the recent toddler curiosity that keeps her emptying 13 cabinets a day.  She is chubby and happy and a super great sleeper…in other words, a gateway baby to the next one! She’s also a girly girl to the extreme, in love with purses and shoes and trying on every lipgloss I own.

The love and adoration I have for this man is neverending.  Luke is the funniest, calmest, most loving man I know and I have never once seen him actually get angry in the 13 years we’ve known each other.  It takes a special guy to be willing to have a whole bunch of kids AND work hard enough to feed and keep them all in clothes, and I’m grateful for him every day.

Check out this post to see how I choose coordinating outfits for all these hooligans!

And these tips will help you succeed at family pictures every time.

Mom Goals for the New Year

Becoming a better mom is always one of my goals…give your kids this free survey to see how they think you’re doing!

Happy New Year!

I just love new beginnings and fresh starts…plus buying pretty new planners doesn’t hurt things either!

Since lots of my new goals this year have to do with being a better mom, I started thinking about what exactly that means.  Although I have my own ideas of how to measure my “success” as a mom, this year I want to focus on being the mom my kids need and want me to be.

Now if I gave them the option, I’m sure they’d tell me that a GOOD mom would feed them candy for breakfast and let them watch TV all day long.  So instead, I’ve created a simple little 10 question survey to get some specific ideas of what my kids think I can improve upon this year.

I’m hoping that this ends up being a fun little activity you can do with your kids to get a little insight into how their cute minds work.  I DON’T want it to end up being just a guilt-inducing exercise!  We all know we’re not perfect, but most of the time our kids think we’re pretty great.

You can download the survey HERE.

Feel free to print off copies or just have a little one on one chat with each kid and jot down their answers.

Have a great start to 2017 and I’d love to hear what cute, funny things your kids come up with!

Traveling with Kids: You Can Do It!

With a little preparation (and a good attitude) anyone can enjoy a family vacation, even with lots of little kids!

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This year my awesome mother-in-law suggested we all fly to Montana to visit Luke’s oldest sister and have a nice, cold, festive Thanksgiving! We said yes, of course, and the kids were brimming with excitement for weeks!

I, on the other hand, began to feel the vague misgivings of a potential looming disaster.  To say I felt uneasy about the logistics of getting 7 kids through airport security and a flight without meltdowns would be putting it lightly.  Also, I was 7 months pregnant.  You understand my hesitation.

In the end, the flight TO Montana was a dream; everyone was so excited, they were angels!  The flight back was, ah, well…not as successful.  I mentioned to Luke afterwards that overall I’d describe that second flight as “less than painful than 2 root canals”, and he agreed.   Take that as you will.

I wanted to share some of my favorite tips for surviving travel with the whole family!  Or even just a handful of the family.  Or even just ONE tyrannic toddler.  Read on for some ideas that really can make or break the trip…

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  1. If staying in a hotel or rental property (vs. staying with relatives) pack toys, food and baby feeding supplies.My big kids love a pack of cards or some books; a couple of action figures, pocket-sized dolls or matchbox cars work well for the younger crowd.   We prefer to stay in rooms with a kitchenette if possible and always buy some snacks and cereal to tide kids over between meals.  Make feeding time for the baby or toddler easier by packing the special spoons, sippy cups and bibs that you usually use at home.  And check out this portable booster seat!  Genius.
  2. Make sure you’ll have everything necessary to keep the littles happy at bedtime: a portable crib, pacifier(s!), favorite blanket and white noise machine (we love this one but sometimes even use a white noise app on our phones!) are our favorite tools for a peaceful nighttime routine, even in a strange place.  Think about your own child’s evening habits and make sure you can replicate them as closely as possible while on vacation.Finding a dark, quiet place for a baby or toddler to sleep can be the trickiest step.  My ideal place to set up a portable crib is in a large walk-in closet!  I’ve also had success putting a crib between the decorative and blackout layers of curtains in a hotel room, shielding baby from both the morning sun and the TV or hotel room lights.  I even once put a infant to sleep on a thick blanket in an empty bathtub!  We turned on the bathroom exhaust fan and closed the door and she slept like a dream.  (This only works with very little babies who are non-mobile, obviously!)
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3.  Be sure to pack well for your children, without going overboard.  This can be hard to do but I generally pack something like this:
Kids ages 7+: 1 shirt, pair socks and pair underwear per day and 1 pair of pants for every other day
Kids ages 2-6: 1 full outfit (shirt, pants, socks, underwear) per day PLUS 1 extra outfit
Kids ages 2 and under: Same as above but bring TWO extra outfits

Obviously this can be adjusted depending on how long you stay, whether or not you have access to a washing machine and the likelihood of your children ruining outfits (muddy or snowy places, etc).  And don’t forget to pack each day’s clothes up together by taking everything your kid will need for 1 day and then rolling it all up tightly.   Then there’s no rummaging around suitcases looking for stuff!

4.  Lastly, if you’re going to be flying with your crew, don’t be tempted to overpack!  There are a few essentials you want to have with you, but the less crap you have to haul through security and 4 miles to your gate (which, when traveling with kids, will always be the furthest one possible, obviously) the better!

Here are my essentials: Drinks and snacks (especially if your airline doesn’t provide much, and nowadays most don’t!), a new toy, coloring book (with attached markers/crayons if possible!), movie or games on a device (don’t forget headphones and a splitter if needed), and a book for older children who can read.  My hands-down best trick for keeping kids happy this trip?  A giant bag of little suckers.  I’ve learned to let go of my control freakish tendencies when traveling and just give the kids whatever keeps them happy….within reason.
Also check out this post for my favorite household items to entertain squirmy toddlers on a plane!

Comment below with any other tried and true tips you have for making family vacay fun and easy!

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5 Tips to help kids love work

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser.
All opinions are mine alone.
#RollAwayLint #CollectiveBias

There’s no way mom can do everything around the house – nor should she!  Get the kids involved with these easy tips and tools.

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There comes a time in every mother’s life when she realizes that she is basically just a maid.  Eventually all the little people just start assuming mom’s gonna do everything (because she always has) and mom slowly goes insane from all laundry-dishes-toilet-scrubbing.

The trick, of course, is to get the kids to actually HELP around the house, but as any mother who’s ever passed her 6 year old a dust cloth can attest, this is easier said than done.  Read on for some tried and true tips for getting small children to not only pitch in, but LOVE doing it!

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  1.  Give them kid-friendly tools for the job.  None of my little kids can handle the vacuum by themself yet, so we pulled out these  Scotch-Brite™ 50% Stickier Lint Rollers to help pick up crumbs and junk around the house.  They handled the inside of the couch cushions and the living room rug like a breeze!  And I’m telling you, my kids were FIGHTING over using them; they thought it was the most fun ever.The rollers picked up small dirt and crumbs easily, but also grabbed bigger debris, like pumpkin seeds that my kids had dumped inside the couch.  They were even sticky enough to grab glitter on the rug from a broken Christmas ornament.  Yep, you read that right…they clean up GLITTER.  The nemesis of mothers everywhere.target-lint-rollers
    (I got mine at Target in the aisle with all the cleaning supplies)
  2. Add music and/or a reward at the end.  My kids clean up the playroom in record time when T. Swift is blasting, and they work extra hard and fast when there’s a treat or some electronics time waiting for them when they’re done.
  3. Allow them independence.  There wasn’t much instruction needed to show the kids how to use the Scotch-Brite 50% Stickier Lint Rollers, so I just handed them over and got out of their way.  If you struggle with control freakish tendencies like I do, you can be tempted to micromanage every little job, but nothing kills kids’ enthusiasm like a mom who keeps correcting them!make-jobs-for-kids

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4.  Praise the steps along the way.  My little ones mostly just want to make me happy; if I can give them positive reinforcement as they’re learning a chore, they’ll remember that chore as a fun experience.  That means they’ll be more likely to do it in the future – score!

5.  Turn it into a game.  Next time I’m going to tell each kid that it’s a race to see who can get their Scotch-Brite 50% Stickier Lint Roller to lose its stickiness the quickest.  The quicker they fill up their roller with crumbs and junk, the quicker my (er, our) job is done!  We also loved using them on our upholstered bar stools, cause those things are always covered in crud.  Then I’ll put someone on the couch downstairs, and on the Christmas tree skirt, and on the carpeted stairs…

Teaching kids to work (and enjoy it) is not always an easy thing, but I find that my younger kids always want to be involved in what mom is doing.  If we can help them learn basic skills and then get out of their way, they just might surprise us in what they can do!

Check out more inspiration for your Scotch-Brite 50% Stickier Lint Roller HERE.  And get a Target Cartwheel Offer for 15% Off Scotch-Brite 50% Stickier Lint Roller (11/27-12/3) HERE!

Loving the difficult child

Despite our best intentions as mothers, some kids go through really tough phases.  If you find yourself struggling to show love to a certain little one, you’re not alone!

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When I first became a mom, I remember just kind of assuming that not only did moms always love their kids, but they always liked being around them, no matter what!  It wasn’t until Liam became a naughty toddler that I saw just a glimpse of the other side of motherhood: the challenge of loving a difficult child.

Now, in the grand scheme of things, our family has had it pretty easy: no kids with special needs or major health issues, no diagnosed behavioral or mental health problems. And yet, I’ve found myself struggling to show love to some of my kids when they’ve exhibited less than lovable behavior.  That’s not an easy thing to admit as a mom…but if you’ve ever felt this way, you’re not alone!

After Liam’s naughty preschool years, my first real struggle with this came with our older twin, the fiery redheaded Vivian (in fact I often blame her spunkiness on that wild hair!).  She has pushed me beyond the limits of my patience more times than I can count.  She has a mind of her own and when determined, she simply cannot be convinced otherwise.  In fact, if she had been my first child, I might have seriously questioned my mothering abilities!

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Vivian’s now getting considerably more mature and easy to reason with- but she’s still a spicy little one. Finn has now become my more challenging child, and sometimes it just breaks my heart that I spend all day dealing with his outbursts instead of enjoying his cute face and personality.  

It’s also extremely frustrating to parent these difficult children in public. For example, I’ve learned that Finn’s meltdowns are best diffused with humor or distraction but when we’re out in public, I feel pressured to scold him when he acts naughty.  It’s a struggle to remain calm and collected when strangers are staring and judging you and your screaming child!

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In the end, I try to remember a few important things when I’m dealing with a child in a naughty phase:

1. Separating the child from the behavior is one of the most powerful ways of continuing to love our sweet kids, even when they’re driving us completely crazy.

Our kids are good people who sometimes struggle with bad behavior.  Just as our mistakes as adults don’t define us, kids are also allowed to throw fits and melt down without being classified as “bad”.

2.  Keeping my cool as a mom goes a long way in helping my children overcome their emotional outbursts.  When children are dealing with a lot of crazy emotions and frustrations, it’s important for their grown up to stay calm and rational (when anyone figures out how to do this while a toddler is kicking you and screaming he hates you, let me know, eh??).

3.  Showing more love is always helpful.  I know how hard it is to give compassion to a child who’s hurting others or pushing your buttons, but I believe this is what we all need the most!

Hang in there moms! And, next time you see another mom at the grocery store pushing a screaming child around in a cart with a maniacal look on her face, just give her a fist bump and maybe slip her kid some candy.

The Pros and Cons of a Big Family

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Not a lot of people know exactly what their future family will look like when they’re still single…or even within the first few years of marriage.  But Luke and I always knew we wanted a large family and we’re pretty tickled pink that we’ve been able to make this dream happen!  Of course, having almost 8 children isn’t your typical success dream, like owning your own home or traveling the world.  It’s not filled with beautifully decorated rooms or fancy European food…and the hours are atrocious.  But it really IS wonderful!

Here’s just a peek into the good, the bad and the ridiculous of parenting a sports-team-sized crew!

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Click read more…

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Family Pictures: Dressing the Clan

Fall is the quintessential time for family photo shoots: temperatures have cooled off, you’re gearing up for the holidays and prepping to send out greeting cards.  But along with family photos comes the stress of all the prepwork!  There’s the photographer to choose, location to determine and, worst of all, the outfits to coordinate.  Ay!

I’ve got some tips today for how to dress your crew for the perfect family photo shoot…whether you have 1 child or 10!

 

family-picture-collageFind your color inspiration.  Sometimes this comes in the form of an outfit you already own and want to use, sometimes it’s a dress you see in the store or some other random print!  This year I used the ottoman in my daughter’s room as inspiration and decided to go with gray, berry and blue tones.  

While sometimes a wide array of colors can work for a large group, you’ll generally want to stick with no more than 3 colors (or color families).  Also, be sure to choose colors that are in style for the season!  You might want hot pink and royal blue for your Christmas cards but if those colors aren’t in stores, you’re going to have a hard time finding outfits for everyone.  This fall you’ll find lots of gray and blue tones, maroon and berry colors, blush pink and dusty greens.

Dress the hardest body first, and build around that.  Since I’m pregnant this year, I had considerably fewer options that I felt comfortable in, so my outfit got chosen first.  This could also be a child who has fewer clothes than the others or one whose outfit you already know you love and want to use.

Neutrals, neutrals, neutrals!  Beware of too many prints and colors; neutrals help ground an ensemble and will balance out all the other busyness.  It’s tempting to dress everyone in a cute print or color but in order for everyone to work together, there has to be places for the eye to rest.

Once you’ve gathered all the outfits you own that you want to use, pack them up and go shopping!  You can also take a picture of the outfits to reference while in the store, but having the actual clothes with you makes it MUCH easier to mix and match.  My favorite places to shop for the whole family are Old Navy and Gap since they have clothes for every age and use the same color scheme throughout the store each season.  This makes it a cinch to coordinate for the whole family!  It also helps to have an idea in mind of what you’re looking for…a printed dress with berry tones or a neutral button down, etc.

Be sure all the outfits work well in any combination…in other words, make sure the girls look good together, the boys’ outfits work next to each other, mom and dad’s colors blend, etc.  You want to make sure that no matter the configuration your photographer is shooting, all the colors meld well.  

In the example above, I put mom and dad in neutrals, with a colored cardigan and shoes for mom.  Then assuming there are 2 boys and 2 girls, I put one of each gender in a neutral and one in a colorful outfit, with just 2 simple prints.  No matter who gets photographed together, it will look great!

If you need more tips for how to survive family pictures, be sure to check out this post as well.

And to watch me walk through the process of selecting our outfits for this year’s pics, watch this FB Live video!

Ultimate Pool Bag Tutorial

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Hey guys!  I’ve got a really fun and easy tutorial for you today to help make you summer adventures easier.  If you’re here visiting from Nap Time Creations, then welcome!  I hope you love it.

Does anyone else find themselves playing the part of sherpa when it’s time to hit the pool or beach?  It seems even my big kids become completely incapable of carrying their own towel, goggles, pool toys, etc. and I’m walking around with my arms piled high with SHTUFF (and pool stuff x 7 kids = a big headache).  So I dreamed up this bag that would hold all our pool necessities without any extra effort on my part!  The best part is that it’s a backpack so that I can hold hands/babies while we walk down the street to our community pool.

Ready??  Let’s do it!

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What you’ll need:

1 yard sturdy canvas-type fabric (any outdoor home decor fabric would work well, bonus if it’s water-resistant!  I re-purposed a heavy duty curtain from Target)
Extra long zipper (mine was 65″ – you probably won’t find this at your local craft store; I bought mine at an upholstery shop where they sell them by the yard.)
Heavy duty coordinating fabric for pockets (optional: clear vinyl or other waterproof fabric to make one pocket a wet bag!)
2 yards 1″ elastic for towel loops
1 yard 1/4″ elastic for pockets
Twill webbing for straps (about 1.5 yards)

  1.  First, I cut my fabric into 4 rectangles, each measuring 17″ x 21″ (2 pieces will be the outer portion of the bag and the other 2 will be the lining).  Then I used a cup (or other circular object) to trace around the corners and round them off.

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  2. Sew on your towel loops!  Take one of your rounded rectangles and sew strips of elastic onto the right side (my strips were about 13″ long);  I placed my strips of elastic in pairs, so that they’re running parallel to the long side of the fabric (see picture).  Sew down both raw edges to form a loop (using a zig zag stitch to reinforce each edge well!) It’s totally up to you how many loops you sew and the spacing, but I ended up with 6 loops, to hold 3 towels, since our towels are pretty bulky.  If needed, I could also stick just one towel in each loop so I could schlep twice as many!
  3. Next, you need to sew on your pockets.  I cut my smaller pockets measuring 6″ x 7″ and my larger pockets were 13″ x 8″.  Take two of the other rectangles of bag fabric, and begin by arranging your pockets as desired on the right side of the fabric.  I chose to put the two small pockets on top of one side (for sunscreen and little toys) and the large elasticized pockets everywhere else.

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  4. To sew on the small pockets, finish the raw edges (I used a serger but you can also just zigzag them), fold them under 1/4″ and topstitch along the top of your pocket.  Then stitch the sides and bottom right to your bag lining (leaving the top open!).
  5. For the bigger pockets, finish your raw edges and press under the bottom and sides 1/4″.  For the top of these pockets, you’ll press under 1/2″ and sew right along the raw edge, forming a casing.  Thread your 1/4″ elastic through the casing and gather the fabric as much as you’d like, pulling the elastic taut.  Stitch the elastic to the fabric on both open sides of the casing to keep it in place.  Then topstitch the sides and bottom of your pockets to your lining just as with the smaller pockets.  Don’t stretch your elastic to sew the sides…just let it pull the top of the pocket inwards so that the elastic will keep your stuff inside!
    pool-bag-instructions1
    pool-bag-instructions2
  6. Next, sew your straps to your last rectangle of fabric.  I didn’t make mine adjustable since I’ll be the only one wearing it, but that’s an option as well!  I simply topstitched one raw end of the straps to the edge of my fabric, right at the top (see picture) and then tried it on, measured where I wanted it to hit under my arms, trimmed the webbing and sewed the other ends to the sides of my fabric.
    pool-bag-final-exterior
  7. Now, you’ll be sewing your lining to your bag exteriors.  Match up one exterior piece (i.e. with the elastic loops) to one lining (i.e. with pockets), right sides together.  Begin sewing together just a few inches from the center of the bottom short end, all the way around (one long side, the top short side and the other long side) to a few inches from the center on the other side of the bottom.  Leave 5-6 inches open to turn.  Repeat with other two fabric pieces.  REMEMBER to make sure your pockets are facing UP!
  8. Turn both pieces of your bag right sides out and press the edges well.  Fold under the raw edges of the part you left open, and stitch the two pieces of the bag together, along this opening (this will be the bottom of the bag that keeps the pieces connected, even when the zipper is unzipped.

    pool-bag-instructions5

  9. Finally, stitch your zipper to you bag but sewing one zipper tape to one side of the bag, beginning right where you sewed the two halves together.  You’ll stitch the zipper tape to the bag ALL the way around, and then do the same with the other zipper tape and other side of the bag.

    pool-bag-instructions6
    pool-bag-final-interior2
    pool-bag-final-exterior2
    Thanks for reading!  I hope this tutorial helps lighten your summer load!

    Be sure to head over to the Nap Time Creations blog to see more posts in the Summer Fun Series!

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