Real Life with Rita: It All Passes Too Fast

As of yesterday… I am two weeks out from my due date. It’s a time when many expectant moms are ever-so-anxious to meet their little one and be done with all that comes with pregnancy.

And there are plenty of good reasons for it… Who doesn’t want to finally see the precious face of a a newborn baby–especially one that is your own? Not to mention the level of discomfort that you have at this point in the game. Having an extra 30 pounds on my midsection and a basketball size weight in my front while chasing toddlers is not exactly my favorite thing. By 38 weeks doctors tell us the baby is safe for delivery anyway, so why not hope for things to move along sooner rather than later?

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I have never had expectations for an early delivery this time around. Maybe it’s because Jacob went past his due date and my hoping/wondering if I’d go into labor those last two weeks just caused it to drag on. But I think the truth is, with this being my third pregnancy in three years, I instead realize the pricelessness of time more than ever before. Time marches on at the same beat no matter what. This baby will arrive. This baby will grow. This time will pass.

It will pass all too fast. It all passes too fast.

I see my friends posting pictures of their babies that I feel like were born a week ago, but already they are 1, 2, 3, 4 months old! What?? My nephew is nearly a year old and I feel like it was last month we were waiting on his arrival! Jacob is a full-on toddler speaking words and playing silly games with Dorothy. Dorothy is a little girl who plays imaginary games, draws pictures that actually look like things and speaks in full sentences.

I’ve been asked if I’m all “ready” and if I have my bags packed, etc. I kind of laugh and shrug saying something about, “Oh baby number three… We have stuff. We’ll be fine.” I think some take that to mean I’m not excited. It’s actually the opposite. With Dorothy’s pregnancy, I was so excited, but I didn’t know what I was excited for. It was all a mystery. The only thing I knew to do with that excitement was to make lists and try to prepare. With Jacob, he was so soon after Dorothy, I was lost in the fog of still raising the baby Dorothy was (not even walking when I found out I was pregnant) in addition to building a house. I was excited but very much distracted with so many other excitements in my life.

 

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This time, I am excited because I KNOW what is in store and that it will be over in a blink and that there is nothing I can do to slow time down. All I can possibly do is live in the moment and not be anticipated the next one. Call me crazy, but my baby has not even been born and I already get sad about how quickly it will be suddenly be ‘big’.

It’s better to live in these final moments of feeling this babe wiggle inside of me.
It’s better to enjoy the magic of hearing it’s heart beat at the doctor appointments.
It’s better to capture the opportunity to talk to Dorothy about what will happen when the baby is born and ask her questions to hear her perspective on something she doesn’t fully understand yet.
It’s better to snuggle a little longer with Jacob while he is still my “baby” and I am not being pulled away by an infant that needs me.
It’s better to fully participate in the fun of taking two toddlers to the park or trick-or-treating.

I already spent too much time in the first three years of parenthood anticipating the next thing for my children or my life. Looking for the next milestone or next development. Those things come regardless of anticipating them.

I have a close friend due about a week ahead of me. It is their first. They had an induction scheduled, so they knew it was their last night at home together sans-baby. I thought so much about them that entire night. They knew it was their last night at home, just them, but they really had no idea what that meant. You can’t know how your life will change and how YOU will change. Adding baby number 3 (I imagine) is not quite the same as the change you experience with number one when you first enter parenthood, but after 2+ years of having a ‘baby’ in my house, I do know that life right now–two toddlers and no nursing baby, is different from what it will be when this baby arrives. It’s more of a change than just having our family grow by a number. This time of just Jacob and Dorothy playing, dancing, doing activities and chores…This time will pass and be a snippet of a memory in my life. By the time this baby is at a toddler age, Dorothy will be nearly five! FIVE… Are you getting it yet? TIME DOES NOT STOP. If anything, I think it speeds up.

 

In a blink, this baby will be here and life will be completely different. And in another blink, it won’t be a baby.

 

 

It’s easy to wish this baby were here now so I could know if it’s a boy a girl and hold it and see it with Dot and Jake–and be done with the preggo belly. But what is two more weeks? It’s two more weeks of this special time with my two toddlers. It’s two more weeks of soaking in the kicks and braxton hicks and the magic that is carrying a life inside.

It’s two short weeks.

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A Scary Story With A Happy Ending

This is a fairly non-traditional post for this blog, but it’s a great outlet for me to share an event I recently experienced and, I believe, it also gives some insight to the culture and people of small-town, rural Central Kentucky.

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On Monday a 21-month old child went missing from his home. You hear about missing and lost children, but what is different here is where we are located. It turns out this was our neighbor’s child, but that neighbor is two miles away. In the city, that would likely be someone living in a completely different neighborhood. Here, that means it was the closest person to our home off our family property. (Which, for the record, is several hundred acres among the entire family.) In a more populated area, you have to worry about roads and traffic and (worst of all) abductions when a child wanders off.

Although the boy was missing 11 hours, abduction was never the prime concern. This little boy just wandered from his home without his parents’ knowledge and got lost in the vast wilderness and back roads that surround this area. While there is peace believing he had not been kidnapped, if you have ever been in the knobs of Central Kentucky, on back county roads, you know that even as an adult without GPS or maps you could easily find yourself lost. So try putting yourself in the shoes of a toddler who has no baring of direction or location–let along dangers.

The disappearance happened around 9 a.m. and I was unaware until a text from a friend checked in with me around 4:15 p.m. She’d heard the location was near us and the toddler was not being identified in reports, so heaven forbid it was one of ours! Within an hour of her text I’d read more and heard from the Hubs, who was now on his 45-minute drive home from work because his fire department had been called in to help. He told me the search seemed to be centralizing near the gravel road that runs nearly two miles through the family property and dead ends at our house. I offered to drive his boots and jeans to the end of the road to save him some time, but found a state police officer walking the road on the way out. The child’s diaper and shirt had been found further up the road and the search was narrowed to our road and property.

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State police were present, a helicopter was flying as low as possible in search, and slowly more and more volunteers and locals showed up with whatever means they had to help: ATVs, four-wheelers, horses. The fields, roads, paths, creek beds and woods were crawling in search of this boy. It was bizarre to see this kind of activity on our otherwise quiet and untouched land. Typically, a strange vehicle comes down the road and all of my relatives are asking questions. Not this night.

Meanwhile, I could not leave my own kids (nearly three and 19-months), but sitting by idly waiting was impossible while knowing this young, lost boy was out there. He could be as close as my tree line but so confused or hurt he couldn’t do a thing. I pushed the stroller, cried, prayed and walked calling his name.

In my heart I had to believe this boy was okay. Not just because that’s obviously how everyone wanted the story to end, but because of where he was: in our Valley. Prayer and faith run deep in the family and since buying this property and moving to Kentucky 37 years ago, prayer has been present. We pray in our homes and from the knob tops and we pray for protection of our daily activities and all forms of life and happenings within this Valley. If a toddler were to be on his own in the wilderness, this was as safe as they come, and I truly felt that was the case.

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Helicopter in search as the last light fell.

But as the sun began to fall all I could think of was how hard this search would become for the next 10 hours of darkness. More and more people showed up from our community. My phone was blowing up with texts from our family who own pieces of the property but don’t actually live here. They were asking for updates and thinking of possible places to search as they prayed. It was just after 8 p.m. when a text read “they found something”. That was shortly followed by messages that it was the boy and that he was okay. He was completely naked and shoeless, but aside from some scratches, he was unharmed.

It was merely a local volunteer that found him. He’d turned up my cousin’s long gravel driveway that wound up a knob. Where the drive makes a switchback, a logging road goes straight and not far down the logging road, under a tree, sat the boy. Small towns may have their fair share of troubles and drawbacks and Kentucky may be thought of as a backward place from some viewpoints, but what really matters is the good hearts. Whether they knew the family or not, people felt connected to this boy, as though it could be their own, and wanted to help.

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The driveway he walked before wandering onto a logging road further along.

I truly believe a larger force was at work in the situation for two reasons. First, he was found in literally the final minutes of any kind of natural light. Once the sunlight was gone, I cannot imagine how difficult and impossible the search would become; not to mention the dropping temperature, the dew setting, and knowing the kid was naked and without food.

Second, he was unharmed. Just two weeks ago I came upon a rattle snake (at least 5 feet long and fat as a rat) stretched across the middle of our road. Between creatures like that, venomous and stinging bees/bugs, poisonous plants he could have eaten, creeks and ravines he could have slid into, the list of possible injuries is endless. But the level of prayer and protection and safety that has been called upon for this valley is strong, and with the amount of prayer being poured out for him during those 11 hours, I have no doubt he was being kept safe by a bigger presence.

Praying for people and causes is something most people of faith do regularly, but praying for your surroundings is equally important and makes a difference. Pray for your home and that it is a place filled with love and comfort and safety. Pray for your property or neighborhood and that it is a place of positive energy and good vibes; these things make a difference in your day-to-day life and the growth of your children. Pray for your transportation, whether it be a car, bus, bike or airplane; ask that it be surrounded by protection and the protection of those within. Pray for the places you visit in travel; you do not know who was last there or the happenings within and what negative experiences may have occurred. Pray for our country and that goodness and peace is being sought and welcomed.

Let asking for peace and protection be the first thing you do each morning.

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One Simple Change: Snail Mail and Personal Outreach

Last Month’s Review: August

Goal: Start Dorothy in a “pre-school” routine of sorts

Fail/Success? Success! Although it took halfway through the month for me really figure out what I was doing. Initially my thought was I just needed to start focusing on learning and teaching particular things and research some of the activities and ideas out there. Homeschooling is becoming so common and collaborative thanks much to do with the social networking we can do through the web. There are so many materials and such out there online. Honestly, Google and Pinterest searches were overwhelming! Eventually I realized I had to have a laid out plan. A schedule of some sort, but most examples I found were too structured for me. I get that it works and is best for many people, but on any given day our schedule is different—we have places to go or I have things to do for my work during the day. But by the last couple weeks of the month, I’d found a way that works perfectly for us: The School Fairy Box. 

Together, Dorothy and I decorated a special box. Each day, only after we have eaten breakfast, gotten dressed, and brushed our teeth, we open it up to see what the “school fairy” has left inside. Typically it is an activity involving nothing more than paper, crayons and maybe glue or sometimes stickers. Every so often it is a new book, flash cards or something more unique like Playdoh. I keep each week focused on one to two concepts and have outlined ideas for the next six weeks, not going further only because I wanted to see how this routine would work before planning too far out. 

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What I got out of it: By taking the time (which honestly was only about a day or two of hit and miss time) to determine how to approach incorporating focused learning into our day, I have created something that helps both myself and the kids accomplish what I wanted. Having the box makes Dorothy not only excited to do whatever is inside, but it also helps motivate her to go through the standard morning procedure. Additionally, the box forces me to not just plan in advance, but to have something fully ready the night before. I know I cannot afford to wait until morning to put my activity together and not have Dorothy watching or asking or wondering why I have the box out. The themes for each week are a huge help in driving a concept home. 

Moving Forward: I am excited to keep going forward with this and coming up with new things to excite my children’s learning. I am a lover of lists and planning so coming up with a weekly and monthly schedule is enjoyable to me. Doing this also makes finding ideas online less overwhelming because I can search for specific activities. September will be fun. In addition to more letters, we’ll also talk about the season of fall and have an apple week (because of the local Apple Festival, of course!)

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New Challenge: September

Goal: Write letters/Send mail to friends

Motivation behind the challenge: I did this for Lent a couple of years ago and loved doing it and recently I received a nice letter in the mail from a close friend whom I am not in touch with much anymore. Were it not for social media, I’m not sure we would know much of anything about each other’s lives! Even though social media gives us an easy sneak peek into certain people’s lives, personal contact is so meaningful. Of course, I also love writing and sending mail in general, so, in theory, this will be an easy challenge for me. I do know how the days get away from me, though, and even my evenings when the kiddos are sleeping are consumed by work. I’ve already sent an anniversary card this month, but I am not counting any cards I’d send typically (unless I include an extra note.) I’m hoping to send at least one a week. 

10 Things Tuesday: ISR Swim, Usborne Books, Chocolate Zucchini Bread & New Kittens

1. ABC Crafts
I’ve recently started trying to put more focus on helping Dorothy learn her letters. She can identify about half of the alphabet (capital letters), but she is going on 3 and since I don’t do any preschool, I want to make sure I take time for meaningful activities. I found these fun ABC activity ideas. I’ve tweaked them a bit to be super simple for the materials I have on hand, but so far so good! -Rita
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2. “I Lost Myself In Motherhood”
I loved this little post by one of my favorite moms on Instagram, Christina Boyce. She was pregnant with her first babe at age 21 and just had number 4 recently and celebrated her 30th birthday. No matter your story as a mom, she has your back. -Rita
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3. Usborne BOOKS–Tonight!
I’m hosting an Usborne Books & More on Facebook tonight, through a friend from my college days. I’m really excited about it because I love giving books as children’s gifts and I love seeing all the fun, creative and interactive books they carry. If you have interest in them or just want to learn, join us at 8:30 p.m. (EST) on Facebook. The event will stay open through Friday, July 15. -Rita
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4. 5-Minute Summer Make Up Tutorial
This is a fast light weight summer makeup tutorial using only 5 makeup products! -Holly Jo

5. Kids Day At The Lake
This weekend it’s all about the kids at State Dock in Jamestown, Ky.  Bring your kids ready for lots of fun on Saturday.  The day includes contests, adventures, prizes and entertainment for everyone: fishing, karaoke, kayaking, bouncy castle and movies.  See here for the full schedule.  Note that all times are central time.

6. ISR Swim
At first I was very hesitant about putting my daughter in ISR (Infant Swim Resource, Self-Rescue) lessons. She did not like when water splashed in her face, much less going under the water. However, we have a pool and the thought of her falling in and not being able to save herself was not an option. I can honestly say ISR Lessons is the best decision we have made for our daughter. She can now swim and save herself if in a pool! -Holly Jo

7. Our Journal
Last week I came downstairs to find a hardcover book of blank pages with some blue and purple pens next to it. Inside, on the first page, was a note from the hubs. He had the brilliant idea to start a book for us to write/journal back and forth in. We will leave each other random notes at hit and miss times anyway, but he thought this was a better way to save our thoughts, prayers and correspondence over time and for our children to one day have. And you wonder why I love him so?? This is an excellent idea for anyone, but especially couples with children where it can be hard time find time for each other and slow down to share deep thoughts and personal pieces of yourself with each other. Never stop saying, “I love you.” -Rita

8. Vegan Chocolate Zucchini Bread
I truly cannot express the abundance of zucchini/squash coming from our garden right now. I wasn’t out there to pick for about 5 days due to rain and kid schedules not working out. There were some MONSTER size squash out there. Needless to say, I’ve been making a lot of chocolate zucchini bread. I’ve followed this recipe to keep it Mingus-friendly. -Rita
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9. Baby Update!
You’ve probably assumed or guessed it, but I’ve decided to be no fun (for everyone else) and not find out the baby’s sex. It might be easiest this time around for whatever reason–to much else to be distracted with than just wondering. Plus, of course, I have an amazing daughter and son already. In other news, though, the baby is moving around like crazy anymore. (As I type!) Dot is in love with this baby and it is so cute! -Rita

10. New Kittens
We got two little kittens from my cousin. Having outdoor cats around is handy when you live in a field where mice are abundant (leading to snakes–eek!) Dot named them after one of her favorite TV show/books: Max & Ruby. (It’s a big sister and younger brother… SOOOO my two kids!) LouLou can’t get enough! She talks to them like they are her little babies she takes care of and the poor things are actually quite tolerant even she she has them in a choke hold! -Rita

7 first impressions of Costco and wholesale memberships

I made my first trip to Costco this past week and thought I’d share my initial impressions and thoughts. I went as a guest with my cousin after asking to tag along primarily for the purpose of stocking up on items for our vacation in a few weeks. We’ll be road tripping it to Myrtle Beach, so car snacks are crucial and even good snacks for the week at the beach are important.

I was obviously overwhelmed and had to rein myself in, but it definitely got me thinking about whether or not I want to get a membership here or somewhere similar. For the record, Costco is 90 minutes away, so weekly trips probably aren’t in the cards. Here are some initial considerations about shopping at Costco.

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Shop with a purpose

I’d advise not shopping here without a list or a goal, unless you have gotten super familiar with it. (If you’ve been frequenting one for a few years, you probably know the ropes, prices, what you use, and what is worth it, etc.) I was regularly reminding myself of focusing on vacation snacks (or things that I knew we’d use immediately/quickly–like taco chips!)

It’s not the place to experiment with too much “new”

It’s exciting to find new foods that seem like will feed your family well or will be big hits, but keep in mind the amount of something you are buying–even if the underlying price is a good deal. It’s great when the taste-testers are out and you can actually try something before buying a box of 36 and hope for the best! Example: I saw several veggie burger varieties that sounded good, but it wasn’t worth buying a bulk amount on the chance no one would really like them.

Eating healthy can be easy

While there is plenty of “junk” food available in bulk, I was impressed with how readily available the healthy and organic options were. Given, I was drawn toward things I buy or look for anyway, but I was shocked when I’d pull something off and then check and find it was organic–and that the price was still so good!

Keep in mind what you have room to store

You can buy giant boxes of things at great prices, but you have to have a place for it! This is another reason to shop with a list or focus in mind. You’ll find a little bit of everything in your cart, and then you’re trying to figure out where in the world you’ll put it all.

Fresh Produce–If you’re close!

I didn’t price out all of the produce, but I definitely picked up some blueberries and strawberries because the prices were incredible. If I had a Costco close, I’d be regularly buying my fruits here for that kind of savings.

Comparison to Sam’s Club?

I haven’t been to Sam’s in quite awhile and I have never done a real family shopping trip there, so I won’t try to give an opinion on one compared to the other. If I decide to get a bulk membership, though, I will definitely feel out Sam’s as well (and see how healthy their options are–the healthy options at Costco are a huge plus in my book). One perk in my particular situation is that there is a Sam’s Club closer than Costco. Costco is opening in Louisville, which is nice, but it’s still not closer than the Lexington option.

Membership? Yay or nay?

I honestly see us getting a membership to a wholesale store like this at some point. We already buy several items through a food co-op. (Rice, oatmeal, etc.) As you may know, frequent grocery trips can damage the budget–too many impulse or unnecessary buys–and this would help that much more. We already do a lot of dry goods through the co-op. What meat we use we tend to get through sources other than traditional groceries. Many months our vegetables are sourced through our garden. A resource like Costco could help us keep better/longer stocked on staples like snacks, cereal, frozen foods, baking and cooking needs. Not to mention… We know I love to host friends a family and buying bulk for such occasions would be a plus!

Your feedback?

Tell me your experiences with Costco or a similar store in the comments:

  • How frequently do you shop there?
  • What was your primary motivation for the membership?
  • What are you favorite things to buy at stores like this?
  • What are you Costco vs. Sam’s Club thoughts?
  • How close to your home is the store?

Memorial Day Camping in the Knobs of Central Kentucky [VIDEO]

I bet you thought the holiday weekend (Monday) had me all messed up and I forgot about my regularly scheduled Tuesday post? Wrong!

I’ve actually been hard at work to get this non-traditional post up, but it took a little more time than usual. We celebrated Memorial Day in the same way I have my entire life: camping on our land with friends.

I decided to put together a special edition vlog on the event, as it has been 15 years since the first time we camped in our traditional campsite on the family property. Our “family” of friends keeps growing and before we know it, we’ll have young campers wanting their own fire circle like we had growing up.

A tradition that began many moons again with my uncles and their friends, turned into a tradition of my older brother’s and his friends… That evolved into college friends and extended to include my friends, then my younger brother’s friends… Now new husbands and wives have been added and even babies and kids.

We are truly blessed to live in such a beautiful world and I am even more blessed to call central Kentucky my home–it truly is a spectacular creation and it’s awesome to spend a few days disconnecting and enjoying the simple things like, green grass, rocks in the creek, cool breezes and good food. As someone pointed out over the weekend: You almost don’t even notice the lack of electricity! (Real showers are nice, though!)

I do sleep at the house now that we live a matter of meters from the campground, but… Can you blame me?? (Especially with two littles!!)

Here’s a look at what the great outdoors in the Bluegrass looks like as summer truly begins. (Plus some awesome footage from a recently purchased drone by my older brother…!)

10 Things Tuesday: Summer shoes, Water Play, Aloe Plants & Day of Giving

1. Infant Self Rescue
Summer is just around the corner and that means swimming pools will be opening sooner than later! Lots of fun, however if you have little ones and they are often around pools you should look into the Infant Self Rescue (ISR) program. The instructor teaches the child how to float and yell for help if he or she accidentally falls into the water. This program could save a child’s life and we plan to start the class this month. -Holly Jo
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2.Creek
It was our first VERY warm weekend–sunny and temperatures in the 80s–so with lots of little cousins together there had to be some fun in the creek! Sure, everyone loves the pool, but I am telling you, there is something whimsical and amazing to youngsters about a creek bed full of cool, running water and lots of rocks. -Rita

2. #GiveBellarmine
From today at noon until tomorrow at noon, Bellarmine is having their annual “Day of Giving”. They are aiming for 419 donors this year, and you better bet I will be one of them. To begin putting into words what my college experience brought to my life is not really possible (especially on a 10 Tuesday post), and I may dread paying my student loans every month, but what I gained at BU was worth every penny. I am grateful for those who gave before and helped get it where it was for me, and I want to pay it forward.
Click here to join the action! -Rita
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4. Summer dresses FTW!
I’ve decided I may keep Dorothy in dresses all summer long–they are so easy! For one, it’s one item of clothing instead of two. Secondarily, I’ve gotten a slew of them at next to nothing prices second-hand, which is perfect for play around here. Third, she loves them so it makes dressing her easy. She’s always excited to put one on. I highly recommend keeping summer wear simple for your toddler girls and having plenty of dresses for all occasions. -Rita

5. Water shoes for toddlers
What kind of water shoes do you keep on your toddlers for the lake/creek/rocky terrain? I have a pair of hand-me-downs Dot is wearing and they are great–once they are on. Getting them on is the battle, though. The openings are SO tight we’ve had to use a butter knife as a shoe horn to get her feet in! Once they are on, though, they are perfect for staying on her foot, giving her grip and protection, and keeping rocks and whatnot out. Do you have a preferred water shoe for toddlers that is perhaps a little easier to take on and off? -Rita

6. Flip Flops Galore!
Wal-Mart has the cutest flip flops for little girls and they are only $0.98!  The smallest size is a little big for Sadie Jo, but she loves them nonetheless and for under $1 you just can’t pass them up! -Holly Jo
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7. Diaper Clutches
I’m hearing more and more moms who love carrying a diaper clutch. Super cute and just big enough for the must-have diaper-changing items. This way you don’t have to bring the ENTIRE diaper bag into the store with you on every run. Those pictured below came from this shop-Rita
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9. Jamberry Autism Awareness
Continuing on the theme of Autism Awareness Month… Last week I shared a way to support through a jewelry purchase; this week, here’s a way to get your Jamberry Nails fix AND support autism awareness. I’m not sure if this link to the Facebook event will work, but here is the direct link to the party. -Rita
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10. Burn Relief: Aloe
Summer, pools, warm weather!  That means there could be the possibility for sun burns.  Hopefully you wear enough sunscreen.  But if by chance you or your little one gets a little too much sun it’s always great to have an aloe plant at home.  My mom always had one and there is nothing better than fresh aloe gel on a burn.  They are super easy to maintain and bring a little green to your home. -Holly Jo
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I challenge you…

Yesterday was Mingus Man’s 30th birthday—the start of a new decade. I’m sure, whether you’ve hit this milestone or not—or if you’ve far surpassed it—you feel the same way in that time has flown and it’s also hard to believe how much you’ve experienced.

When I turned 30 this past year, more than anything, it again made me count my blessings for what an amazing life I’ve led so far. Sometimes I’m in awe over the opportunities I’ve had, the friendships I’ve made, and the kind of family I’ve been blessed with. 

I think we all know how easy it is to desire “more”, despite how blessed we are. The internet has us ruined, as we see so much “good” that others have and, naturally, we compare. Does our home look that nice? Do our clothes measure up? Are our kids as well-behaved? As smart? 

Take a moment and reflect on your life and what is WONDERFUL about it. In particular… Think about TODAY and how much you should be grateful for… Ask yourself these questions and let your heart be filled with whatever your response may be…

  • Where did you wake up today?
    Be grateful it was warm and dry.

  • What did you eat today?
    Be grateful you are nourished.

  • What are you wearing today?
    Be grateful you are clothed for the season.

  • Who was the first person you talked to today?
    Be grateful for the people in your life.

  • What method are you using to read this?
    Be grateful for the resources you have in your life.

  • What’s something you are going to do today?
    Be grateful for the freedom to do so much any and every day.

  • Have you bought anything today?
    Be grateful for the money you had to spend.

  • Did you work today?
    Be grateful for a job–whatever kind it is.

  • Did you tell someone you loved them today?
    Be grateful for the love in your life.

  • Did you go anywhere today?
    Be grateful for a means to go places, to do things and to see people.

My challenge for you over the next week is twofold…

First, take a minute to run through these questions every day. Be grateful for every answer you come up with.

Second, find something spontaneous to do each day. Maybe it’s jumping in the car and going somewhere; it could be dropping what you’re doing to play a game with your kid; it could even be a random night out (for some that means drinks with friends—for some (like me) it means leaving the hubs home once the kids are in bed and doing some shopping!) Either way… Make your day an adventure. That’s what life is about.

6 Top Tips for Road Trips with Kids

Road trips with kids? No problem–if they sleep the entire time.

Living four hours away from Jon’s family meant we had to learn to travel with kids right away. And that whole thing about putting the baby in the carseat and driving to get them to sleep? Nope, definitely never worked with Dorothy. She just screamed. But we’ve come a long way since our first long trip with her at a month old. I even took my first solo trip with both kids in tow about six months ago.

The key points to remember are to plan and prep wisely, don’t expect to make “good time,” and roll with the bumps along the way.

ToddlerTravel

1. Clean the Car

Prep is key to a long trip in the car, but I’m not just referring to deciding what to bring for the kids. Let’s be real here for a minute, mamas: your car does NOT always stay so orderly. (That’s putting it nice for me: MADNESS EVERYWHERE is more like it…) That’s life as a parent. But if there is ever a time to tidy it up and get things in order, it’s before for your long road trip. 

  • Get out the stuff you don’t need. Even things you typically like to have in the car. For example, I keep a back-up diaper bag, but when we are packing a bazillion bags—including ones for the kids—it’s really not necessary.
  • Vacuum. If you haven’t cleaned it out in awhile… Just do it. You know there are crumbs and O’s everywhere, and when you have a lot of hours to be spent in there, start with a clean slate. 

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2. Pack wisely

This is in regard to both how you pack your bags and how you pack your car.

  • Pack early–as much as you can. There are always things you have to wait on–like all their special sleep items they will need through the night before you leave. But if you want to have a semi-smooth departure, plan to pack the car well in advance of the time you plan to load the kids and actually head out. It really cuts down on stress.
  • Keep important bags within arm’s reach. The snack bag and diaper bag come to mind—I keep those close to my seat, as well as any kind of activity bag.
  • Make sure not to bury the bags you might need to access even if you don’t plan to need them. You never know when extra clothes, diapers or food may be required!
  • Speaking of, pack bags accordingly. Keep items close to the top you are more likely to need in a pinch. Definitely keep some pajamas handy. It’s nice to get those kids in their cozy clothes if you will be rolling in somewhere late.
  • I have made sure to keep our travel potty somewhere easy to set up or pull out when stopping. 

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3. Snacks are Key

I don’t think I’m alone in that my kids LOVE to eat. Food and toddlers usually equate to a mess, but I’ll take a mess of crumbs over whining and crying any day.

  • I have ziplock baggies ready to go with snacks along with some that I just buy in individual packets.
  • The fruit/veggies squeeze pouches are also handy and make you feel like they are getting something nutritious on the road.
  • Bring extra baggies. Whether it ends up being for snacks you brought or something you buy on the drive, it’s handy to have something to put a snack in you weren’t planning.
  • Keep a trash bag in the car. A plastic shopping bag will do. It will keep the car from becoming a complete disaster and if you bring a small stash of them, you can throw them out during gas stops to keep the mess somewhat under control.

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4. Plan for long stops.

Nobody loves being in a car for extended hours–how can we honestly expect our little ones to be OK with it? Think about how active those little boogers are all day… And now you want them to be OK with being locked in a seat for hours on end? It’s not fair to expect them to understand, so don’t try to make great time where you only stop when required and make it as short as possible. Know your trip is going to have some long stops, and instead enjoy those stops.

  • Let the kids run when you make food stops. Yes, everyone needs to eat, but plan to let it be a relaxed meal, not rushing to get back on the road.
  • Look for a ‘kid friendly’ place to stop. In bad weather, look for somewhere that has a play place. If the weather is nice, I like to just park somewhere that has a grassy area and less cars/traffic so they can run and get some fresh air.
  • If you can afford to, research any fun locations or venues on your route and plan a stop so the kids can look forward to it mid-trip.

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5. Pack and plan activities.

No matter what time you leave, the odds of your kids sleeping the entire ride are not high. You will need entertainment in the car. I listed a few of my suggestions, but for a more thorough list try this article or this one.

  • Buy a few new toys or activities at a dollar store. Maybe even put them in a “prize” bag for extra excitement when you need to pull one out.
  • If you are planning enough in advance, stash away a few car-friendly, but favorite toys or books. Choose a few you know they love, but have kind of fallen to the bottom of the toy box and forgotten. An old toy rediscovered can sometimes bring for better entertainment than a new toy.
  • Books and drawing pads are great car toys.
  • Kids can survive without screen time. We grew up without it, right? But don’t feel like you’re a bad parent if you use a dvd player or iPad in the car. I still advise limiting how much it is on, only because the novelty of it will wear off if it is expected to be playing nonstop.
  • Keep music they enjoy in the car. Sometimes their favorite songs are just as exciting to my kids as movies or tv shows.

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6. Pay attention to the signs.

There isn’t a magic equation, because your kids have their own formula. Think about how your children behave on regular drives in the car and at home in general.

  • Think about whether your kids will travel better through the day or the night. I initially thought leaving in the evening was best so the kids would sleep, but my kids don’t sleep well in the car–even if it is during their normal sleeping hours. Turns out, it works better to leave in the morning and drive during the day and they get in some extra naps and are less grump when awake.
  • Keep their favorite comfort items with them or nearby. For me, that means having pacifiers and they each have a special car blanket.

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*BONUS: Items to bring for the stay*

I didn’t want to focus on items to bring for once you arrive at your destination, but there are a few I have to mention.

  • Umbrella Stroller: Unless you really need your giant stroller, get a small one that packs well and is easy to bring out on your trip.
  • Carrier: If you have a baby and don’t have one of these, they are super handy and worth having. Prices and styles vary drastically so I’ll leave this up to you. I have both an original Baby Bjorn and a Beco Soleil, but there are also cheaper off brands if you are getting one for minimal travel use.
  • Pack & Play: Even if your hotel says they have cribs, they may not be available and you don’t know their condition.
  • Travel toddler bed: My sister-in-law has one of these we use when we visit and it’s perfect for Dot. Plus it’s inflatable, meaning it takes up little car space. This is great if your tot still isn’t comfortable in a normal bed, but beyond a crib.
  • Travel Potty: I mentioned it above, but either a small travel potty that can be set up anywhere or a seat that can be used on regular toilets will help keep a freshly potty-trained youngster on track.
  • Hook-on Booster: My mom has an ancient version of this and I cannot tell you how much I have used it. Never worry about having a high chair or booster seat in a restaurant. You don’t even have to worry about where you are eating for that matter. It can be handy for eating in a hotel room or elsewhere.
  • Tip: DON’T feel like you have to buy enough diapers for your entire trip if it is a long one. It’s a lot of car space. More than likely you are going somewhere you can stock up on more as needed.

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Traveling by air instead? No problem. Jo is the expert there! She’s got airport and airplane experience with two little ones and she can fill you in on the way to survive on the vlog

Safe and happy travels to you all this year! Make lots of wonderful family memories!

Real Life with Rita: Snowed-in with the Littles

Jo and I are wrapping up each month with a look into everyday, real life with us. Jump over the the YouTube channel to check out her busy January. Seriously. She went from snow storm to sunshine at the poolside lickety-split!

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Let’s start with some honesty: Today (1/28) has been a struggle.

I’m sure it has at least SOMETHING to do with the fact the kids and I have not left our middle of nowhere valley in…ooh, let’s see… 12 days and counting? And we have not even left the house in three straight days–eek!

Ok… Before you start thinking I’m some kind of insane hermit… Let me explain…

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The last time I was out was Saturday, January 17. It was a family of four venture to run errands, hit mass, and grab some dinner. Good times.

Ironically, it was all in an effort to have a relaxing Sunday where we could sleep in rather than get up for church and then we could just be home all day.

Like most Mondays, we spent the day with my mom at our Grammo’s house. (She also lives in our Valley, for the record).  Tuesday was the usual day at home.

Wednesday the “fun” began: SNOW!

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I wish I’d captured on video Dorothy’s reaction to seeing the ground covered in snow for the first time this year. At the same time, it’s a treasure I’ll hold in my heart forever that is all mine. I suppose it’s comparable to a kid’s excitement over Christmas morning. She was talking nonstop (mostly jibberish), running to get her boots and snow pants, and go straight out the door in her PJ’s!

We only had 3-5 inches.
It didn’t even pack well.
It didn’t matter.
Dorothy has been going on about the snow for a solid two months (thanks to Daniel Tiger), so she was thrilled. I made the smart decision to take her out while Jacob slept. Getting one kid ready for snow is enough work. We made a snowman by simply mounding up some snow. Later her older cousins came and took her sledding and we called it a day.

Fun times in the snow…!

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The next day is when it got interesting.

The forecast called for ice and snow that night. When you live where we do, winter storms can be pretty threatening… Ice often translates to long lasting power outages. Mingus actually took a half day off work in order to help make sure we were fully prepared for not only being snowed in for a number of days, but being snowed in with no electric. I made sure all the laundry was done, dishwasher was empty, back up water was stocked, the wood stove ready to go, plenty of fuel for generators and chain saws, and I pre-cooked food like soup and rice that is easy to heat up..

Well, the snow did not disappoint: we had 18+ inches dumped on us in 24 hours. The ice was very little, so the power was never an issue. Win-win!

But going outside in snow snow THAT deep with a one and two year old? Not a winning situation. Sounds like fun until you’re halfway through dressing them and one is crying, because you’re insisting she wear gloves while the other is fighting with all his might to not put his arm in the jacket…. AAAAND you still have to get your own boots on!

We actually only went out on Friday because we were walking to my parents’ for my dad’s birthday. The snow was so steady (and deep) it wasn’t exactly a play day.

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The Good: Getting to enjoy mom’s homemade apple dumplings and hearing Dorothy rename them “Grumplings”.

The Bad: Realizing your phone is missing after being home for at least 30 minutes… Knowing the last time you used it was to take a picture out in the snow… And the snow is still coming down…and it’s dark. Eek!

Mingus insisted it had to be inside when it kept ringing, saying the outside temps would cause it to shut down as a safety feature. I insisted it was buried in the snow because we’d looked everywhere in the house.

Not only did hubs go out in the falling snow and search, but I bundled up and DUG in snow on my hands and knees in the dark until the knees of my purple snow pants had soaked through. No dice. No phone.

I finally decided if God wanted me to find it I would have by then and it wasn’t in the cards and I needed to just enjoy the night with my husband while the kids slept.

Sure enough, Hubs-the-Hero saved the day in the morning. He found the phone while shoveling the packed down footpath by the house. (For the record: I did dig there!) Amazingly, it was unharmed and it still working just fine. Good job, Otterbox!

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Saturday we did some sledding with the kids. It was still so cold and deep, though, it was hard to enjoy with them. The best day was Monday when the temp got up to the 50’s. With that much snow, the melting did little damage, but it was much more comfortable for the kids and they had a blast. Dorothy even made her first solo trips down the “big” hill in the sled.

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Between Mingus’s shovel, my dad’s tractor and my uncle’s backho, the gravel roads got cleared enough for trucks to make it out for work on Tuesday, so things have been “back to normal” the rest of this week.

EXCEPT…. I’m still trapped.

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I could make it out, I’m sure. I could even find a way to get back, but the snow is still covering and deep in the areas that don’t get sun, including our driveway/road. My mom hasn’t even been driving her Camry out either, so the Mom-Van is better parked safe in the driveway. I also haven’t bothered to tackle the chore of dressing both kids and myself for snow play. That means we’ve stayed cooped in the house.

So here we are… Day #3 trapped inside the house. Thanks @BusyToddler for a little sanity help with a recipe for bath paint. That helped a little today, but I am ready for a change… Whether that is getting out (NOT in the snow), driving somewhere for an adventure or even having someone come play.

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But this is part of the “job” of motherhood, and being a stay-at-home working parent as well. I know the reality is that this is just like a teething spout. It’s a rough in the moment, but nothing big at all in the end. In another day, week, month… It will be forgotten and the only thing I will remember are the things that matter…

I’ll remember our first time painting in the bath.
I’ll remember Dorothy talking constantly about “Crosty” the Snowman.
I’ll remember Jacob coming closer and closer to taking his first steps.
I’ll remember watching them play dress-up together after fighting over the same toy only moments before.

We are so blessed by the little moments, it’d be a dirty rotten shame to let any frustration or impatience ruin it.

What a blessing to be able to spend 12+ straight days in a beautiful place I get to call home with none other than my family.

February brings special thoughts and feelings of love. I challenge you to use the month to find love in all moments, even the frustrating moments. Find love in everything and you’ll be better for it.

-R.

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See what’s happening in Jo’s world on the Vlog! (And a quick snippet from yours truly!)