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.


Patriotic Dress and Blanket-Tote

This easy sewing project yields the perfect patriotic blanket for all your summer picnics. Bonus: it folds into itself to use as a tote!



You guys might remember this patriotic sewing idea from last year when I guest posted on the Sugarbee Crafts blog. This dress and blanket are still some of my favorite patriotic projects so here’s some inspiration for you this summer! (Side note…do you believe how little Marilyn is here?? #allthefeels)

The dress is simply an Alcoy Dress made out of patriotic fabrics (red stripes from Girl Charlee several years ago, anchor fabric from a repurposed skirt)…read on for instructions on how to make the blanket/tote bag!

What you’ll need:

  • Large square of home decor fabric (mine was a 56″ square that I bought at Ikea; or about 2 2/3 yards of 56″ wide fabric)
  • 6 1/4 yards of coordinating bias tape
  • just over 2/3 yard of coordinating fabric for pocket and strap
  1.  Begin by sewing the bias tape around your square of fabric.  You can also choose to make your blanket two layers thick (a front and a back side) but mine was thick enough that I chose not to.
    You just sandwich the raw edge right inside the bias tape and stitch close to the folded edge.  If you look closely, you’ll notice that bias tape has one side that is slightly shorter than the other.  Be sure to put this shorter edge on top of the fabric so that your stitching catches the longer edge underneath.
  2. When you get to a corner, stitch all the way to the end of the fabric, then flatten our your bias tape corner as shown below.  picnic_blanket_carrying_tote_tutorial
    Fold the rest of the bias tape around the adjacent side of the fabric, creating a mitered corner like in the picture above.  Resume stitching right at that folded corner (you can use pins or binder clips to hold it in place).  Repeat with all four corners until you’re back where you started.
  3. Stop stitching just a few inches from the beginning.picnic_blanket_carrying_bag_DIYpicnic_blanket_bagUnfold the raw end of the bias tape and fold down horizontally about 1/2″.  Fold your previous folds back in place, overlap the beginning of the bias tape and sew to your blanket.picnic_blanket_bag_DIY
  4. Once your bias tape is in place, you’ll begin your pocket!  Cut two pieces of coordinating fabric into 14″ squares (you might need to adjust the size of your pocket if you make a bigger blanket than 56″).  Lay the pieces right sides together, and sew around 3 sides.  Clip the corners of your seam allowances and turn pocket right sides out.picnic_blanket_tote
    (A portion of my 4th side is sewn shut in the above picture but just ignore that goof! 🙂  Press all your seams and corners well, and fold in the open raw edges of that 4th side about 1/4″ to the inside.
  5. Create your straps by cutting a strip of your pocket fabric 40″ long x 5″ wide.  Fold it in half lengthwise and press.  Stitch down the entire long side opening, creating a tube of fabric.picnic_blanket_bag_tutorial
    Turn your tube right side out and press well.
  6. Insert your straps into the open edge of the pocket and topstitch this open edge closed.
  7. Now topstitch your pocket to a corner of your blanket, along 3 sides, right along the bias tape trim.  Be sure the edge of the pocket with the straps is on one of the sides facing into the blanket, not along the bias tape (and leave this edge unsewn to the blanket!).  When you’re done, it should look like this:
    Voila!  All done!  Now just fold up your blanket like this:
    picnic_blanket_tote_DIyFold it in half, then in half again lengthwise.  Then fold it into quarters, ending with the edge where the pocket is.  Turn the pocket inside out so that it surrounds the blanket and the strap hangs free.  Bonus: you can stash your wallet, phone, water bottles & any other essentials inside the bag when it’s all folded up!picnic_blanket_fold_into_tote
    Fun, huh?  Now I want to make all my blankets into blanket-totes!

A Curvy Girl’s Guide to Swimsuits

Curvy girls rejoice!  We don’t have to be afraid of the pool anymore; use these easy tips to find your most flattering swimsuit!

(See widget below for links to the red & white striped suit and the floral suit; the black is no longer available but I linked similar ones!)

If you’ve got curves, then chances are that the only thing more painful than shopping for jeans, is shopping for swimsuits! Just the thought of a rack full of teeny tiny lycra in yellowy fitting room lighting is enough to induce tears.  I get it, it ain’t fun!But for most moms, the summer involves swimming and we all need something we can feel great in.  I’m sick of feeling apologetic that I’m not living up to some crazy, unrealistic body image when I walk out to a pool with my kids.  I’m working hard to improve my diet and get my muscles back to where they should be after this last baby but let’s face it: this is what my body looks like at this point in life and I’m gonna stop stressing. I’m stretched out and squishy and paler than a vampire but who the heck cares?!There are a few things that I look for in a swimsuit to help support and flatter my curves; I wanted to share them with any other mom out there who just wants to swim with her kids without feeling like she has to wear a muumuu on top of it all. I’ve broken it down according to body type so you can take what you need, depending on what you’re looking to flatter.

Bust: There was a time in my life I thought it’d be nice to have a little extra on top…but now is not that time!  Most days I’m trying to strategically minimize my bust and keep the “girls”  strapped down.  One option to look for is molded cups, like the floral suit I’m wearing here.  It’s basically like wearing a bra so it’s great for support.  The downside to these is that they often show off a bit too much for most women’s comfort level (if you look closely you can see that I added a strip of fabric to the top of my suit here because my cups literally overfloweth ;). They can also be hard to find big enough at most stores.  This suit is from Old Navy and, as you can see, the large barely covers my assets, but the XL would’ve been too big in the bum.  Look for suits that are sized like bras: 34C, etc to remedy that problem.Another option is to look for molded bandeaus like the black suit above.  These are super flattering, have a decent amount of support and tend to be easier to fit big bosoms into.  Just be sure to size up because some bandeau tops (especially two pieces) are sized very small!Lastly, try a suit that has some distraction up top, like the one-shoulder tie on the striped suit above.  Now in the interest of full disclosure, the support on this suit is definitely sub-par.  I have to tie that thing tight and I don’t expect to do any diving in it, but for a lounging suit, it’s super cute! I’ve included some other one-shoulder and ruffly versions above.

Waist: My two favorite tricks for belly camoflauge are ruching and patterns.  Ruching is basically when the fabric is all gathered together, thereby hiding any imperfections (and who doesn’t have those??).  The wilder the pattern on the fabric, the better for visually smoothing lumps and bumps!  I’ve included quite a few waist-whittlers in the widget above as well as some super cute prints.

Bottom Half: There are significantly fewer options when it comes to flattering hips, thighs and bottom in a swimsuit, simply because there’s less fabric down there!  I used to be so insecure about my thighs that I wore shorts all the time…but I was never comfortable in them and they were just a pain so I ditched them years ago. Nowadays I mostly just look for swimsuits that have good rear coverage, with a slightly higher leg cut. Now let me explain this one: I’m often tempted to get boy cut bottoms to try to get as much coverage as I can, but when your hips or thighs are the widest part of your body, the last thing you want is a horizontal line running right across that!  Now that I know that a higher cut leg opening is actually more flattering for my short legs, I’ve stayed away from the boy short style ever since.Swimsuits don’t have to be terrifying!  Find the best suit for your body and then forget about it.  Let’s show our kids that having fun with them is more important than our insecurities!



DIY Wraparound Towel

This easy sewing tutorial is created in partnership with Collective Bias and its advertiser,
as part of a social shopper amplification.  All opinions are my own.
#CollectiveBias #FreeOfSulfates

Motherhood ain’t a walk in the park, considering all the things we have to protect our children from.  Most of the time I just choose to not think about the crazy dangers that could lurk around any corner and threaten my kids…otherwise I’d go crazy!  But I do think a lot about what foods and products enter our home since my purchasing power is one thing that I have complete control over. (Then again, maybe “control” isn’t the right word to use when describing my shopping habits, if you know what I mean.  Hehe.)


It’s not always easy to know what to avoid in your household cleaning products, but I recently learned that sulfates can strip away important anti-microbial proteins and oils that our bodies create to protect us.  Since we do SO. MUCH. LAUNDRY. at our house, I try to use detergents that are easier on our clothes and bodies (but will get rid of my children’s disgusting messes!).  I was excited to find NEW sulfate free all® fresh clean ESSENTIALS® which delivers a powerful clean without harshness.


It’s even one of the first laundry detergents to include a list of the ingredients on the back so you know you’re getting a sulfate-free formula! And on top of that, the sulfate-free formula infuses fabrics with essential, proven and effective ingredients for deep cleaning and stain lifting.  Look for it on the top shelves in the laundry aisle at your local Walmart (near cleaning supplies).  Also, click here for a $.50 cent coupon off any all® product (while supplies last)!

And if what goes into my laundry detergent matters, the ingredients in my shampoo and conditioner are even more important…I mean, we’re pouring this stuff on our heads multiple times a week! AVEENO PURE RENEWAL® Shampoo and Conditioner contains naturally derived cleansers and a sulfate free formula to gently cleanse your hair and scalp (and they’re also free of dyes and parabens!).


I’ve actually noticed that my scalp gets irritated and dry when I use traditional shampoos versus sulfate-free varieties; in fact I’m not the only one with sensitive skin at our house.  I mean, the whole point of shampoos and conditioners is that they make our hair look and feel amazing, right??

Look for it in the Hair Care aisle at your local Walmart and grab this $1.00 coupon off any AVEENO® product (while supplies last).

And now, on to our tutorial!

My girls are constantly using towels, sheets or any scrap of fabric they can find to wrap around themselves and pretend they’re princesses (Moana-style). So this towel idea is perfect for the little girls in your lives, as well as for any boys who think towels are optional when walking to and from the bathroom (ew).  You can even make a bigger version for all you grown ups who’d like just a teensy bit more privacy in your post-shower moments.  (Seriously, children!!)

So, let’s get making!


1 large bath-sized towel (mine measured about 30″ x 60″)
20-30″ of 1″ elastic
1-2 pieces of velcro (both sides)
coordinating thread


**A note about fit: My twins are skinny and I wanted to get 2 wraparound towels out of each bath towel so ours only overlap edges by a few inches.  My girls actually really like how they show some leg through the slit when they walk (ha!), but if you want more coverage/overlap out of yours, just cut your towels a little wider than shown below.  This tutorial shows how to make a towel that measures 28″ long by 24″ wide.

  1.  Fold your towel in half widthwise and cut along the fold.  (If you want your towel wider than this, simply cut down the towel by less than half.)
  2.  Turn your towel 90 degrees and fold over the top edge by 3.5″, then cut along this fold (this measurement determines length so cut more or less depending on your desired length).

  3.  Fold over the towel’s edge (that you cut in step 2) by about 1.5″ and stitch close to raw edge, all the way across the top of the towel.  I made sure to finish the raw edges of my towel before sewing together because terry cloth frays pretty badly (a zigzag stitch works fine for this).

  4.  Measure your model’s chest and then cut your elastic to this measurement (ours was 23″).  Slip a safety pin into the edge of the elastic and thread it through the casing you sewed in step 3.

  5.  Pull until the opposite edge of your elastic is flush with the edge of the towel and stitch through both edges of the towel and elastic.  I used a zig zag stitch here for extra security.

  6.  Fit the towel to your model and continue pulling the elastic/safety pin out of the towel until desired tension is achieved.  Then stitch through this edge of the towel, closing the casing and securing the elastic.  Cut off remaining elastic.
  7.  Finally, sew one  piece of velcro onto each top edge of the towel, right on top of the elastic. Be sure that you sew one piece of velcro on the inside of the towel and the other piece on the outside so that they adhere when the towel is wrapped around.  If you ended up with more overlap than we did, sew your velcro farther in on the towel instead of right on the edge.

And that’s it! A perfect post-bath towel or cover-up for the pool.

Don’t forget to grab a bottle of sulfate free all® fresh clean ESSENTIALS® to wash your cute new towels with. And also try sulfate free AVEENO PURE RENEWAL® Shampoo and Conditioner, both at Walmart!

 Find the tutorial for the leotard/swimsuit Kira (on the right) is wearing HERE.

Father’s Day & Summer Gifts

Got a man to buy for this summer?
Check out some favorite warm weather gifts perfect for any dad, son, brother or uncle!

(This post contains affiliate links, but feel free to shop around!)

In our family. we have both Father’s Day coming up this weekend as well as a dad with a summer birthday to buy for!  There’s always so much fun going on in the summer that most of our gifts for Luke tend to revolve around parties, grilling, camping and vacations.  So today I’ve got a roundup of some of our favorite gifts for Dad or any other guy who needs a gift sometime during the warmer months.

Check them out!

  1.  Grilling supplies: This is one of our favorite genres of gifts for Luke and in the end, these benefit us all when he decides to throw steak on for dinner!Pictured above are CharMats which are silicone rubber mats designed to hold tools and food when you’re cooking, keeping your grill clean and scratch free.  A friend of ours is the inventor and we think they’re pretty great!  Get them HERE. We also love a great set of grill tools.  We have about a billion but Luke’s favorite came in a cute (er, rugged and manly) box with everything you need to clean and cook on your grill!  Check it out HERE. Add a masculine apron for a well-rounded gift that’ll make your outdoor cook super happy.  This one in particular cracks me up!  With room for beverages, condiments and who knows what else, it’s as practical as it is manly.  Ha ha!
  2. Camping supplies: Luke is a scout leader so he’s always going camping and has quite the arsenal of outdoor shtuff.If you’ve ever tried to pee outside in the dark, you know how invauable a great lantern is!  This one is amazing; it’s also a speaker, rechargeable and can can be hung inside a tent. Luke is obsessed with this camping table! It’s got a plastic side for preparing food and a metal grill for hanging things from or using a stove or dutch oven on.  Never make your food in the dirt again!Ok, for the record, I am NOT a camper.  Too many bad memories of getting stuck in the rain with a terrible tent.  But this one is the grand daddy of all tents!  I set this sucker up by myself in less than 5 minutes the first time, no lie.  A worthwhile investment, but if it’s too pricey or big for your taste, this little one is a good alternative. 
  3. Water toys: If you’re headed to the pool or lake this summer, these are great to bring along!Luke’s parents have a couple of these pool loungers and they are SO comfy! The kids are constantly fighting over who gets to relax in them.An inflatable, floating cooler. Need I say more??A pack of plastic playing cards: totally waterproof and great for playing on a boat on while floating on those loungers!

A Fancy 4th of July – Ruffle Skirt DIY

Copy one of the trendiest looks this year with a DIY ruffle hem wrap skirt!
Ruffles are everywhere and this one is SO easy to replicate.

Hey all! Summer is here and our family’s hanging with friends and cousins, at the pool most days and living off popsicles :).  Before we know it, it’ll be time for Independence Day bbq’s and fireworks!

This year I wanted to make a celebratory 4th of July outfit (since a girl only needs so many American flag t-shirts) and I wanted to be able to wear it after the holiday as well.

This skirt was inspired by the myriads of ruffly wrap skirts we keep seeing this season and it turned out just the way I was envisioning! It may look complicated but it is so NOT. If you can sew a straight line, you can make this skirt!  (Or check out these links to my fave ready-to-wear versions!)

NOTE: These measurements worked well for my post-baby waist measurement of about 34″…if you’re significantly smaller or larger than that, you may need to make some adjustments, although a wrap skirt is very flexible!  Also, I use a 3/8″ seam allowance throughout.

Let’s do it!

What you’ll need:

3 yards of 54″ striped blue & white shirting (this is the fabric used to make men’s shirts and what I used, but any number of fabrics could work for this.  A rayon would be flowy and gorgeous!)
Lightweight fusible interfacing (enough to line a strip of fabric 54″ x 3″)
Coordinating thread

1. Cut your fabric into the following: 1 piece measuring 54″ x 27″ for the skirt body and 3 pieces measuring 54″ x 20″ for the ruffles (you’ll also have a scrap piece leftover – save this for the waistband).  Lay the skirt body on the floor and cut one long side into a rough “U” shape as pictured. My short sides ended up being about 9″ long on the left, 11″ long on the right and the longest middle portion measured 26″ long.  This doesn’t have to be really precise so don’t stress!

2. Now we need to add some darts to the top of the skirt in order to account for the difference between  hips and waist.  Wrap this piece of fabric around you with the straight edge at your waist. Pinch any excess fabric at the waist, in 2 or 4 different places, and pin.  (I originally only made two 2″ darts in the back (as you can see in the photo below), but after wearing the skirt once, I realized I need to add 2 more at the sides or front.). Sew the darts from top of skirt down and instead of backstitching, tie your thread tails in a knot (my darts were 7″ long but this depends on the length of your waist).  The amount you take in for darts should roughly equal the difference between your waist and hip measurements.

Hem short sides of skirt (I didn’t do this before adding ruffles which was a mistake!)

3. Take the other 3 rectangles (measuring 20″ x 54″) and gather each piece along one long side: sew a gathering stitch about 1/4″ from the raw edge and then a second row of stitching about 1/2″ from the first row. Pull your bobbin threads taut and gather the fabric. Sew your three gathered pieces into one long piece by stitching them together along the short sides.  Hem short ends of ruffle.

4. Pin the gathered edge of your ruffle to the bottom (curved edge) of your skirt, right sides together, by matching up raw edges and distributing gathered fabric evenly.  Stitch ruffle to skirt by sewing between your two rows of basting; remove any basting thread that shows on the right side of the skirt. Finish seam and press well.

5. Create waistband and ties by cutting remaining fabric into 2 long strips, each measuring 2.75″ x 54″.  Take one strip and add the fusible interfacing to the wrong side of fabric.  Then sew the RIGHT side of this strip (waistband) to the WRONG side of the top of your skirt (see pic below).

6.  Press waistband and seam allowance up, then press down opposite raw edge of waistband 3/8″.  Finally, fold waistband in half lengthwise and topstitch on the front of waistband, very close to fold.

7.  Now take the remaining strip of fabric and cut it so that you have 2 pieces, one measuring about 37″ long and the other 18″. As you can see from the pictures, I wrap mine so that it ties on my left side which means that when looking at my skirt flat on the floor (ruffle closest to me), the left tie is super long (that’s the 37″ tie) and the right tie is shorter (18″).  Sew each of these ties to their respective sides of the waistband and iron the ties so they lay like the waistband (raw edges folded under 3/8″ and then folded in half lengthwise).

8.  Finally, topstitch close to the open edge, all the way down to the end of the ties so they’re closed up.  Then fold under short raw ends and topstitch those too.

9.  Finally, try your skirt on by wrapping the left side over your body first, then the right side over it.  Figure out where you want your left tie to go through the waistband on your right side; add a buttonhole there.  Again, this placement is very flexible since you can tie your skirt as tight or as loose as you like.  Finish by hemming your ruffle and voila!  All done!


I hope you love wearing your flouncy flamenco-like skirt and showing off your mad skills.  Comment and let me know what you think of this ruffle-mania trend going around and if you’d wear a crazy number like this one!

Washed Clean

Happy 8th birthday and baptism day to our sweet Juliet!

Today is Juliet’s 8th birthday!  We love this little girl so much and are so proud of who she’s turning out to be.

When kids turn 8 in the Mormon church, they can choose to be baptized which is what Juliet did.  We gathered with friends and family this afternoon and Luke took her into a font we have at church (like a giant bathtub) and immersed her in the water after saying a prayer.  Then we had a program with a few talks and some music and then she received the gift of the Holy Ghost.  You can read more about LDS baptisms here!

If we had to describe Juliet with one word, it’d be joyous.  She embodies excitement, happiness, eagerness and passion for life and we love her for it!  It’s never easy watching my babies grow up and I try not to cry my eyes out at big milestones like this, but I couldn’t be happier to have this sweet girl in our family.  We love you, Juliet!

(Her baptism dress was made by lengthening the Infinite A-line dress pattern and inserting an invisible zipper in the back instead of a button placket.  The lace is from Joann Fabrics)

All photos of Juliet in her dress in the grass are by Lindsey Joslin Photography

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!

Protecting the Perfect Purse

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

Guys!  I’ve been looking for a new bag forEVER and even though I keep telling myself it’s ok to spend some decent money on a handbag I use day in and day out, I just haven’t been able to pull the trigger.  I finally decided to see if I could DIY one that fit all my criteria (i.e. big but not huge, pockets but not super segmented, room for a billion diapers and lipsticks, etc.), and I DID!

I’ve only bought one bag pattern before (the super tote from Noodlehead) and I loved it so much that I decided to see if Anna had another tote pattern that might work for this project.  I snatched up the Explorer tote pattern this time and love it just as much!  It was a lot of fun to make using this southwestern-y home decor fabric and some vinyl for a sturdy bottom and straps.

I’d been meaning to make a bag out of this black and white geometric print for months (years??) and now that it’s done, I’m so happy I used it!  The only problem being, it’s mostly white.  And I have kids.  Like a a whole passel of them.

Enter, Scotchgard™ Fabric & Upholstery Protector.  When I was a kid, my mom used Scotchgard™ Products on everything. I’m the oldest of 5 kids, so my mom knew all about never having nice things.  Since I added the vinyl to this bag, I knew throwing it in the washer wouldn’t be an option, so I grabbed some Scotchgard™ Fabric Protector at Lowe’s (in the cleaning supply aisle) and gave my bag a once over!  You can learn about all of the Scotchgard™ line of products here.

And it was super easy!  I just followed these simple instructions:

  1. Went outside in the yard to avoid spraying anything else (but if you do accidentally, just wipe it off quickly).
  2. Shake the can well.
  3. Make sure your fabric is colorfast: spray on an inconspicuous area and then rub with a white cloth.  If any color comes off, don’t use it!!
  4. Hold the can upright, about 6″ from the fabric surface. Use steady, sweeping motions and overlap slightly.  Two light coats are better than one heavy one!
  5. Let dry between coats.
  6. Be sure to reapply the product after a cleaning, every 6 months or sooner depending on amount of use.

And that’s it!  It was super simple to use, didn’t have any horrible smell and it really did leave my purse feeling exactly the same.  No stiffness or sticky residue.  It can also be used on decorative pillows, couches, curtains, clothing (!), backpacks, ball caps, upholstered dining chairs, and more.  I’m seriously gonna take this stuff to my entire living room since I’m so sick of yelling at kids for eating on furniture they’re not supposed to mess up. #momlife

I’m really happy with how the entire bag turned out and can’t wait to put it to good use.  I’m also dreaming up a more colorful version in the near future!

If you’re tired of cleaning up the messes of life, get your buns over to Lowe’s and grab some of this Scotchgard™ Fabric Protector for your nice things.  And don’t forget to take along this coupon deal for $1 off!

A Curvy Girl’s Guide to Jeans

There’s no reason to settle for gappy, ill-fitting jeans anymore. Find the best denim to fit your curves!

Top: J. Crew Factory (on sale!) || Jeans: Joe’s (similar) || Heels: J. Crew Factory (on sale!) || Sunglasses: Amazon || Watch: Michael Kors

If you’re a woman, and you wear jeans, then at one point or another, you’ve probably found yourself in a poorly lit dressing room, amid a giant pile of discarded denim, feeling really really crappy about yourself.

You’re not alone! And it’s not you, it’s the jeans.  Like I talked about in this post about premium denim, most “affordable” jeans are designed and manufactured quickly and cheaply, with little thought to fitting the myriad of different feminine bodies out there. But I believe there’s a great pair of jeans for every woman, no matter the size or curviness!

And by the way, I know the term “curvy” has basically just become a euphemism for “fat” but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about those of us with thighs and/or a chest and possibly a booty that won’t quit. There’s a reason runway models are all super skinny: because then designers don’t have to worry about fit! It’s much harder to design clothes that fit curves.

The following 3 tips will help us all find that magic pair of pants that we never want to take off:

1. Figure out what usually bugs you about jeans.  Do they always gap at the waist? Give muffin top? Slide down? Show bum crack? Tight in the calves? Too short? Too long? Not enough stretch? Make a list of what features your dream pair of jeans would have!

2. Do some research! One of my favorite way to find good contenders is by reading reviews. Amazon and Nordstrom are good places to start because they almost always have a plethora of reviews.  Despite what the media would have you think, MOST women have a hard time finding good fitting jeans, so if a pair gets consistently great reviews, they’ll probably be worth a try.

Another great way to find the perfect pair is to see what fashion bloggers are wearing and loving. A quick little warning here though- find a fashion blogger who’s built like you before you take her recommendations! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run out to try on an amazing pair of jeans I saw on some cute girl, only to pull them on and realize that we’re not built at all alike!  Don’t torture yourself by trying to make some other person’s perfect pair work for you.  If you’re in need of some amazing, curvy bloggers to follow, check out these ladies!
(There are a vast array of very thin bloggers as well as plus-sized fashionistas out there…but for this list, I’ve included mostly curvy or athletic women who fall in the upper ranges of Misses sizes: i.e. 8-14).
Kyrzayda || Girl with Curves || Color Me Courtney || Style Me Curvy || Putting Me Together || Alicia Fashionista || Kendi Everyday

3.  Set aside a decent chunk of change and several hours to shop and head to a nice quality mall or shopping center.  Or, better yet, order a few pairs online!  Nothing beats being able to try on jeans in the comfort (and nice lighting) of your own home, without the pressure of time or salespeople.  I like to try on the same pair a few different times, at various times of day, to make sure that I really do love them.  Although I’ve found that with my best finds, I know pretty much right away that they’re winners.  The perfect pair of jeans should make you smile, admire yourself from every angle and feel like taking on the world!

Lastly, it’s better to spend $150 on 1 pair of jeans that you’ll wear for 5 years, than $30 on a pair of jeans that will have to be replaced in 6-12 months.  It’s just too hard to get a perfect fit with cheap jeans, so don’t give yourself a hard time about investing; just think about the cost per wear (and wait for a great sale!). You’ll reach for a perfect pair of jeans over and over again, probably more than any other item in your closet.

Remember, the jeans were made to fit the girl, not vice versa.  You deserve to look and feel amazing!