Keeping Kids Alive at the Pool

These tips for keeping kids safe at the pool has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc.
and its advertiser.
All opinions are mine alone. #JumpIntoSummer #CollectiveBias

Over the past 12 years. we’ve had lots of non-swimmers around these parts…and since the twins were born in 2011, we’ve had at least 3 kids that can’t swim competently!  That’s a lot of stress at the pool, yet with sweltering desert temps, we need some way to beat the heat.  I’ve collected a handful of ways to keep my kids safe when it’s time to swim, so that we still get a chance to cool off without giving poor mom a heart attack!

  • My first trick is to leave the baby at home asleep. We don’t have a pool at our house but we do have one down the street, so sometimes I’ll have my 12 year old neighbor come sit at my house while a baby or toddler naps.  We also have a couple of friends and grandmas with pools so it’s nice to put baby to sleep inside while we swim at someone’s house.
  • We always use trustworthy flotation devices for the non-swimmers. The Stearns® Puddle Jumper® Bahamas 3D Life Jacket has been the only thing we’ve used for YEARS.  I love them because they keep kids upright in the water comfortably and let them use their arms to practice swimming.  Kids feel independent and more confident and I get a chance to play with my kids in the water rather than holding a kid hostage on the steps.  It’s also US Coast Guard-approved which means that we can be use them at public pools with strict life jacket requirements.  Finally, the buckle is in the BACK which means that tricky little kids can’t escape.  I seriously can’t praise them enough.  Even the Puddle Jumper® Life Jackets we’ve had for over 5 years still look and smell as good as new!

We bought our cute Paw Patrol version at Target this year and the girls all love it!

  • Bring an extra adult or teen.  This goes without saying, but the more competent helpers you have at the pool, the safer everyone will be.  The only trick to this is that the other person can’t distract you!  It’s always tempting to sit and chat with a friend but kids can drown in just minutes so I try to keep distractions at a minimum.
  • Watch for hazards in natural bodies of water.  We do most of our swimming in pools, but any visit to an ocean, lake or river has me extra cautious.  Hidden dangers like rocks, branches, wildlife and undertow can create a deadly situation if we’re not careful so we warn the kids of these dangers and stay in safe places.

 

My last tip for using a new personal flotation device is to test it on your child with you close by.  You want to make sure that the child can keep his head out of the water comfortably.  For example, Stearns® Puddle Jumper® Life Jackets are recommended for kids 30-50lbs and so since Mimi is already 30 pounds (at age 2! Such a chunk!), I tried one on her, but her arms were too weak to hold her up and she couldn’t stay in it.  Finn, on the other hand, only weighs about 4 pounds more than her, but is much stronger and more mature so he does fantastic in them.  The twins are getting to be pretty competent little swimmers as well but if there are lots of kids at the pool, I often put a personal flotation device on them as well to keep me sane.  

 

Good luck with your littles this summer and stay safe!  

 

Check out this cute video for more ideas and instructions for Stearns® Puddle Jumper® Life Jackets.

 

How to Do Disney With a TON of Kids!

Taking a large group to Disneyland requires preparation, skill and patience – but it can be done!
These 10 tips will ensure you all have a great time!

About a month ago I finally convinced Luke that it was time to take the kids back to Disneyland; see some of our highlights here!  We came prepared with a few of our favorite tips for keeping kids together and happy, but quickly learned lots more about surviving at a giant amusement park with a party of 10! (Actually 11 since we brought our babysitter).  Read on for the 10 things I’d do next time to make the experience even more fun (and less crazy)!

I’m by no means a bonafide Disney expert, but these tricks really made the trip enjoyable for us so hopefully they can help you too!
For reference, at the time of this trip our kids were 11, 9, 7, 5, 5, 3, 2, and 2 months. (And an apology for the crappy photos…I could barely keep tabs on my kids, let alone a nice camera 🙂

  1.  If at all possible, I highly recommend bringing an extra adult helper with you since each grownup can only reasonably handle so many kids!  We paid for our sitter’s tickets and food but didn’t pay her an additional wage.  She was OK with this and we were happy! Which leads me to my next tip…
  2. Give each adult specific kids to be in charge of.  I knew there was no way I could keep tabs on all 8 kids all the time without driving myself crazy, so we distributed responsibility: each of us was solely in charge of 2 or 3 kids. This worked out great…or at least it did after we lost Vivian and we started taking our jobs really seriously!
  3. Be sure every child has your phone number on them.  We went the tacky way and just wrote my cell number on everyone’s forearm with permanent marker.  But the last time we went, I ordered dog tags with my name and number on them and made bracelets out of them.  Either way, it’s an easy way for a lost child to locate you.  We just told all the littles, “If you get lost, find a mom with kids and ask her to call us”.  Stressful situations can make even the smartest kids forget an important number, so be sure the older ones have it too!
  4. Few people know about an amazing picnic area just outside of the park on Disney property, right outside Downtown Disney. An easy way to find it is to go to the restrooms just left of the Disneyland main entrance, and then look left – you’ll see an entrance right there.  It’s surrounded by bushes and kind of remote, a perfect place to let kids run around and enjoy snacks or a meal you’ve packed along with you (there are also lockers to rent there).  For meals, we ate cereal and instant oatmeal at our hotel (a coffeemaker makes perfect hot water for oatmeal!), packed lots of sandwiches and snacks so kids could eat whenever they got hungry and then planned to just buy a few snacks and dinner in the park.  MUCH cheaper than buying every meal there!
  5. Most people know about fast passes but here’s the lowdown if you’re not familiar: there are kiosks outside of the really big, popular rides that dispense “fast passes”, or tickets that allow you to enter a shortened line at a specified time.  These are especially great on crowded days or when you have lots of little kids with you who won’t tolerate waiting in line for an hour.  Be sure that the person getting fast passes has everyone’s admission tickets with them because you can only get one fast pass per ticket (wearing a lanyard is a great way to keep all the tickets handy and safe!).We also made use of ride switching which goes like this: Dad goes on a ride with big kids while Mom stays behind with the littlest ones.  Dad asks for a ride switch ticket at the end of the line and then when he gets off, gives the ride switch to Mom who can then take up to 2 other kids back on the ride with her.  We also figured out a cool loophole: we could get 9 fast passes for the 9 paid tickets we had, but on the big rides usually only 7 of us were tall enough.  That left us 2 extra fast passes for some people to go a second time and if you get a ride switch, then you also save those fast passes for another turn!  We got to do several big rides a couple of times using this trick
    (another great reason to bring an extra adult: mom & dad can occasionally ride together).

    Lastly, make a basic plan and then be flexible.  For example, look up the most exciting/popular rides and plan to go grab fast passes for those at the beginning of the day, then follow your route around the park, being prepared to make some changes depending on when your fast passes are valid.  This will help you get the most out of the park instead of just wandering aimlessly.

  6. Give each kid some money and say no to everything else! We decided each kid could have $25 to spend wherever they wanted in the park and then we didn’t buy them anything else (except food).  One kid blew his wad within hours the first day, another saved until she’d seen everything on the second day and another bought two churros and took the rest home!  It kept kids from begging for stuff every minute of every day.
  7. We only stay at hotels that are within easy walking distance from the park.  Parking and shuttles and everything else are just too big of a hassle.  This makes it easy to take a child home for a nap if needed, run back for an extra set of clothes or, in our case, take one who was feeling sick back to rest!
  8. I love getting the kids Disney shirts to wear to the park to make the whole experience more magical and all-encompassing 😉 but the shirts at the park itself are pretty expensive (especially times 8!).  The big box stores in Anaheim (Target & Walmart) have a great selection of cute Disney shirts for super cheap!  We love picking them out the night before we head to the park.
  9. Even though your kids might generally be way too old for strollers, we always make sure we have one for any child under 8. At the end of a 12+ hour day on your feet, even the grownups are wiped out! I love having a seat for the 7 & under crowd to rest (and even my older boys try to use it at the end of the day). I’ll also add here that it’s best to not try to do too much.  When I was little, my mom was a Disney freak, which meant 15 hour days, for 3 days straight.  That kind of “fun” just isn’t possible with a huge group of little kids so we stuck to 2 days and didn’t get upset when we needed to go home a little earlier than anticipated.  Which leads me my last tip…
  10. Unless you’re bringing a grandparent who doesn’t care about going on rides, or you only have very little kids, we’ve learned that it’s generally best to leave the under 5 crowd at home.  Yes it’s fun to take the whole family, but the littlest ones can’t ride the really great rides and it didn’t seem fair to make the older kids wait while we switched parents.  This is totally a personal preference and obviously if you only have little ones and you still want them to experience the magic, then do it!  But for our family at this stage, it’s not really worth it to bring toddlers and preschoolers. 


    That’s it!  We really did have a great time notwithstanding the chaos of so many kids and I can’t wait to use these tips on our next go around.  The very best suggestion I can offer when doing Disney with a bunch of little rugrats is to realize that the trip won’t be perfect, but you can enjoy it anyway!

8 Kids + Disneyland!

We survived taking the whole crew to Disneyland! Here are some of our goofs and a highlight video.

We DID it!  We survived Disneyland with the whole crew!  I’m working on an in-depth post all about how to do Disneyland with, like, a billion children in tow, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy a couple pics and the highlights of our rookie mistakes…

I packed extra underwear and shorts for any and all children who might have an accident…except the baby.  This baby usually poops once every 10 days, no lie.  And yet on this trip she pooped during every. single. feeding.  What the..?! If you look closely in the first pic, you’ll notice that she’s actually naked in that Solly Baby wrap because she blew out all over herself and me just minutes before entering the park on the first day.  Oy vey.  We took this pic and then I found a cute Minnie onesie in a Main Street shop for her to wear the rest of the day.

Getting pooped on at the Most Magical Place on Earth: check!


We’d only managed a couple rides before getting in line for It’s a Small World, a nice, quiet ride that we knew everyone would enjoy and would last long enough for us to catch our breath.  When we got towards the front of the line, the lady putting people on boats hustled us to the front because we had the perfect amount of people to fill the next boat in line.  So we dashed down there, hopped in and sat back to relax.  A few minutes in, I was enjoying myself enough to glance around at all the kids’ faces.  I especially wanted to see Vivian’s reaction…but alas, no Vivian!

Cue high-strung-mom-hyper-panic-mode.  We’re stuck on a boat, in the middle of the LONGEST RIDE EVER and I’m missing a kid.  I start calling all my extended family members (who were in the park with us) to see if anyone is nearby and can come find her.  Vivian had my cell phone number written on her arm so I start wondering why no one is calling me and totally expecting the worst.  I’m poised to leap out of the boat as soon as we spy daylight (with a baby strapped to me, no less) when all of a sudden my phone rings and it’s Disneyland security with a lost little girl.  HALLELUJAH!  We come out of the ride and see her sitting up at the control booth with a nice lady and a Mickey Mouse sticker, completely unconcerned.

Losing a child (and having a heart attack) at the Most Magical Place on Earth: check!


Right as we’re walking in the park on the first day, Liam confesses he’s not feeling very well and proceeds to visit every bathroom we pass for the next 5 hours.  By 2pm, he’s miserable and just needs to rest so we sent him back to the hotel with our sitter.  Poor kid missed out on most of the first day but thankfully was back to normal for day 2!

Having a kid get sick at the Most Magical Place on Earth: check!

Overall I think everyone had a great time and you know nothing will keep me away from the place…  Only next time we’ll probably leave the littlest ones home with grandma.

Check out this highlight video of our favorite parts of the trip!

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!

Welcome Baby Alice!

Alice Jayne Wiscombe
February 21, 2017; 12:13am
7lbs, 7oz; 21.5″

It’s been a week now since baby Alice joined our family and this 8 kids thing is no joke!  I think it’ll take a few weeks before I start figuring out how to balance the basics of mothering this brood, getting essential homeschool stuff done, digging my house out from under the mess and blogging.

With each baby comes the necessity of streamlining tasks, rebalancing priorities and relegating the unessential to the sideline.  It’s HARD, I already know this.  In my perfectly controlled world, I’d give my housework as much attention as my own self care but sometimes you just have to focus on the very essentials: feeding yourself and your kids, giving them love and making sure you stay sane.  Everything else can learn to wait.

If you caught my FB Live video about Alice’s birth then you already know the drama behind her big world entry!  Birth never ceases to amaze me, and as much as I’ve loved my peaceful, uncomplicated home births, I can very acutely see God’s hand in the others as well, and this birth was no exception.

My technical “due date” was February 9th, but I always go late so I wasn’t terribly surprised when 41 weeks came and went.  The whole weekend before she was born, I was in really easy early labor and even went to bed with some strong regular contractions once or twice, but they always went away sometime during the night.  By Monday (President’s Day) I was getting really frustrated and was tired of being pregnant.  It was also Luke’s last day home before the start of a new week and I just didn’t have the energy to take care of kids by myself the next day.

I decided to take castor oil that morning (despite hating it the last time I took it!  Desperate times…) and it started working several hours after that.  At about 4pm, Luke and I decided to go for a walk around the neighborhood to get things moving.  I only made it about 100 yards from my front door, however, before I felt a gush of fluid.  I was hoping it was amniotic fluid but when I looked down, I realized it was bright red blood.

My midwife suggested we go to OB triage at the hospital to get checked out and after hours of waiting around (and a reassuring peek at a healthy, happy baby), we finally got to see a doctor.  I’d never seen this OB before but I immediately liked him.  Even after I experienced more bleeding in traige, he said that they still weren’t sure what it was but that he’d work with me on getting the birth I wanted.

At this point I really didn’t feel good about going home (and neither did my midwife who assured me that if the bleeding continued, we’d just end up right back at the hospital) and so I chose to stay and be gently induced in order to keep an eye on the bleeding and the baby.

We used a combination of a foley bulb and breaking my bag of waters to get things going. All this time, we continued to see bleeding and finally surmised that there was probably a placental abruption going on (in other words, the placenta was starting to pull away from the uterine wall).  The dangers of this are twofold: excessive bleeding for mom and the potential loss of oxygen to the baby.  We talked briefly about a c-section, but given my history of a past cesarean and all those VBACS, we decided to try everything we could to avoid surgery.  The OB said that as long as baby’s heartbeat looked good, we’d be OK in continuing with a vaginal delivery.

Once my water broke, however, things started moving fast.  The bleeding kept coming and my contractions got really hard.  Within about a half hour I was really working through labor, and during one particularly intense contraction, things got really weird.  My midwife said the baby’s heartrate dropped really low and they moved me onto my side.  Right then there was a HUGE gush of blood, I started to feel weak, and my vision went snowy…I didn’t even really have the mental capacity to work out what was happening, but my blood pressure had plummeted (at one point it was down to 55/25!).  I lost consciousness briefly but they gave me some O2 and I came back pretty quickly.  I clung to that oxygen like crazy, because it was the only thing that made me feel like I wasn’t going to die!

Another 15 minutes or so of contractions and I started feeling “pushy”.   I got on my hands and knees and let myself start pushing her down; then once I felt baby’s head crowning I just went crazy pushing because I knew I didn’t have the energy for more than one push!  After just a few moments, out she came, bright red and wailing like crazy.

They started cleaning me up and handed me the baby and she was so beautiful!  But I wasn’t out of the woods yet.  I was so, SO tired that it was hard to even hold her.  The doctor went to town trying to get my placenta out because I was still bleeding heavily and that was almost as painful as labor!  Once that was out, they gave me something to stop the bleeding and made sure I was getting plenty of fluids.

At one point, while I was holding the baby, all of a sudden everyone was calling my name.  I opened my eyes and everyone was staring at me and the nurse was holding my baby.  I was really confused about that since I didn’t remember handing Alice over, but then I realized I’d passed out again and almost dropped her!  Other than low BP and exhaustion, the other side effect of the hemorrhaging was cold.  I was so, SO cold.  As they were cleaning me up, I just started shivering so hard I could barely talk.  At that point they decided I needed blood and put in an order for 2 units.

Once I had the first unit in me, I felt like a new person.  I had energy to talk and hold the baby and generally be so glad that everything worked out as well as it did!  I’m so grateful that we didn’t end up with a cesarean (I’m not sure how anyone recovers from surgery with a whole passel of little ones at home!) but even more grateful that Alice tolerated labor, that it was a quick labor and most of all that I followed my intuition and didn’t go back home to have her.

A lot of people think it’s strange and even dangerous to have a baby at home…but my decision to do so is always accompanied by lots of prayer and listening.  The interesting thing about this birth is that even though I originally felt good about a homebirth, as the time got closer and closer, I started to feel some vague misgivings.  Every time I’d look over at the birth tub in my living room I’d get anxious.  I thought it was because of Marilyn’s birth (the pushing part of her labor was HARD!) and so I did more hypnobirthing and meditation and prayer…and yet the nervousness didn’t go away.  I didn’t feel fully at ease until we checked into the hospital.  At that point, even though there was a chance my baby could be in danger, I felt totally comfortable with the resources there and knew that the outcome would be a good one.

Birth is usually the first important experience we undergo as mothers and we are completely entitled to receiving revelation (or intuition or whatever you want to call it) for ourselves and our babies.  Being a mom is often a scary road, but we’re never completely alone!  The moment when a new life comes into the world is truly a special one, and I’m so grateful I’ve been able to experience it over and over again.

If You Love Them, Leave Them

Getting away from the kids and house can do wonders for any mom’s soul.
If you need a recharge, chances are good maybe you need an escape!


If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw that I recently spent a few days in sunny, colorful Palm Springs for Altitude Summit (also known as Alt), a conference for creative entrepreneurs and bloggers.  I’d been looking forward to mixing, mingling and learning from other amazing creatives at this conference for almost a year…but it was only a couple months ago that I realized I’d be 38+ weeks pregnant at the time!

I decided to take the risk and make the four hour drive with some friends (including another very pregnant blogger) and I’m so glad I did!  You all know how passionate I am about taking time for yourself as a mom and homemaker and even though this was technically a “business” trip, it was just what I needed to recharge.

Moms spend their days pouring their hearts and souls into their children’s lives and their homes, it’s only right that we take time for ourselves sometimes.  Whether that comes in the form of a weekly art class, a lunch date with friends or a weekend away with the hubs, the important thing is that we never forget to take care of ourselves first and foremost.

I’ve found that I love being productive during my alone time by working on my blog or creating something of beauty.  At Alt, I met and saw women (and a couple brave men!) who were sheer powerhouses in their businesses and creative ventures.  Stylish fashion bloggers, savvy PR and marketing managers, creative Instagram moguls, you name it!  They were all in the business of kicking butt and taking names.

Every one of these women had taken something they were passionate about and turned it into a a fulfilling career that they were pursuing regardless of all the other obligations hanging over their heads.

While I’ll always consider the time invested in my children and husband the best use of my time, I remind myself regularly that by developing my own talents, hobbies and interests, I’m becoming a better mother and wife to those I love.  And I’m confident that our eventual transition into the “empty nester” phase of life will be a lot less jarring if we’re already pursuing some of our own passions.

What do you do to make yourself feel recharged and ready to take on the tasks of motherhood?

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!

survive-family-travel-pin

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…

cabin-family-vacation

travel-with-kids

plane-travel-kids

  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!)
    traveling-with-toddlers

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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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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.

When you just wanna quit

Have you ever just wanted to throw in the towel on motherhood?  There’s nothing wrong with you, I promise!

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(Quick and dirty vlog version of this post at the end!)

I wanted to quit being a mom today.  I know that sounds drastic and melodramatic, but heaven help me –  I.  Was.  Done.
Done with the tantrums, the fights, the nagging, the complaining, the sassiness; it just all came to a head in a filthy house with an overtired mom who wanted to storm out and never look back.

I really hope other moms don’t have days like this regularly, but my suspicion is that we all do.  The benefits of being a mom can sometimes be so great that it makes me want to cry great big joyous, grateful tears.

There are brief moments here and there where I look at my kids and I just wanna squeeze them all in a death grip of love and happiness!  But the majority of days (lately) have been so hard that I’m a lot closer to bursting into the other kind of tears.

The hardest part about motherhood is that we’re supposed be so darn grateful for it all the time.  I know there are accountants and lawyers and firemen and secretaries who walk around hating their jobs…but if you ever say (or even think) that being a mom just might kinda suck, then you must be an evil, terrible person. (BAD! Bad, naughty you!!)

If I feel frustrated about all my kids driving me insane, then guilt sets in because so many sweet women would do anything to have just one baby.  Maybe those of you with 1 or 2 kids feel like you can’t complain because you don’t have a huge family.  We stay-at-home moms might feel bad for wishing we had more time when those of you who work feel like no one will ever understand how busy your days are.

The fact is, motherhood is freaking hard no matter what it looks like.  You and your feelings of frustration, stress and being overwhelmed are always valid.  We always have a right to our feelings, no matter how unpleasant they may be.

Not only is it OK to feel these things, it’s OK to tell someone.  We should all have a non-judgmental friend or family member who we confide in when we’re at our wits’ end.

Lest anyone be duped into thinking my mothering attempts are all sunshine and roses, let the entirety of the internet hereby know now and forevermore: most days I have no idea what the crap I’m doing.

Our real work as mothers is pretty scary stuff.  It lies in loving, teaching and molding our children to be the best people they can be.  Even in the best circumstances, that’s a terrifying job.  Add in a household to run, a marriage to work on, maybe another job to perform, not to mention special needs, educating our kids, community obligations…it all just seems completely impossible to juggle all those balls.   It’s a wonder any of us want to become moms in the first place! (I suspect newborn squishiness is to blame.)

I try to remember in these moments of self-doubt, that my kids are part of my family for a reason.  I believe that every mom has something (actually oodles of things!) she can give her children that no one else can.  I also feel really strongly that every child can teach his parents lessons that we’d otherwise never be able to learn on our own.

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Sometimes I’m positive that even my very, very best will never be enough.  That my “good” mothering is sub-par to everyone else’s in the whole entire world, and that I will fail my children and they will never reach the potential they could (and/or they will potentially become creepy criminal weirdos who lurk in bushes and spy on people.  Ew.).  But, you know what I’ve realized lately?  Our mothering effort is completely independent of our children’s performance.

Let me just say that again…Our EFFORT as mothers is completely independent of how our children PERFORM.

Your toddler screaming and throwing toys through the aisles of Target does not make you a bad mom.   Your preteen saying he hates you and slamming a door in your face doesn’t make you a bad mom.
Your teenager getting into drugs or porn or hanging out with terrible friends does NOT make you a bad mom!
And even if, heaven forbid, our sweet innocent babies grow up to be serial killers or evil dictators or any number of awful things, all of the sacrifices we made as mothers would still be valid.  They would still COUNT.  You would still be a good person, even if your child chose not to be.

That’s a really, really hard thing to think about.  That no matter how hard we work as moms, we cannot choose our children’s destinies and we can’t keep them from harm or evil.  All we can do is love them.

And so, we do.  We love them with everything we’ve got. And we try to remember, amidst all the poop and the pb&j’s and the puberty, that we ARE good mothers.  Because good mothers show their love through service.  We might never throw a Pinterest-worthy party, or do our hair in time for preschool drop-off or be able to respond calmly when a kid says mean things, but we will keep loving.

Because loving is what moms do best.