See You Later Alligator

“See you later alligator. After while crocodile.”, is my toddlers current favorite phrase. It is so fitting as we head into another season where my husband will be gone for a while. For military families, deployments and long distance trainings are just apart of life. Those months apart become a little more difficult when you add children to the mix. Depending on your child’s age, here are some tips we use keep everything running as smoothly as possible.

A Daddy Doll

When I first saw the Daddy dolls I wasn’t sure my son would be interested. He never liked stuffed animals or any other doll, but I gave it a chance. I am so happy that I did! During my husbands last deployment his Daddy doll came to story-time, watched movies with him, and was in his bed every night. Even when my husband returned, the doll didn’t leave his side. Now that we have two kiddos, we will be ordering my daughter her own.

Keep on a Routine

A routine and keeping busy makes it harder to worry about your spouse being gone and it makes a world of difference for your kiddos. School, sports, playdates, story-time, day trips around town and seasonal activities, like the pumpkin patch or holiday activities, can fill you days and pass the time without it dragging on. Regardless of where you are, there is always something you can do to pass the time.

Deployments are hard, even more so with kiddos. But, deployments don’t have to be terrible. Building a routine and finding things to do, will help pass the days and even have some fun.

A Countdown

There are many different ways to create a countdown, from a Hershey “kiss” each night to a paper chain for each day. For us, our countdown is weekly. Each week has a fun activity attached to it. Some of these activities are super simple, like build a fort. Others, may be visit grandma and grandpa. Every Sunday, my son is excited to see what we are doing that week. It makes counting down not so much about getting to number one, but about the experiences along the way.

Special Books

Talking to your kiddos about their parent leaving for an extended amount of time can be a challenging topic. Thank goodness, there are books to help us navigate this difficult topic. Fly-in Fly- out Dad is one of our favorites. Also, they now make these amazing books where your spouse can record the story and your kiddo can listen to it whenever they want. Sometimes when Facetime or Skype isn’t available, just listening to their voice can help bring our kiddos mind at ease.

A Homecoming Trip

We all look forward to that magical moment where after months of being apart your family is finally whole again. But, what people sometimes don’t realize is that homecomings come with an adjustment period. For us, we like to take a trip to be together away from the daily responsibilities and stressors. Planning the trip is also a fun way to keep busy and an extra bonus to look forward to.

Old Fashioned Letters

Don’t forget about the magic of handwritten letters. If you can’t send them back and forth frequently because of location or assignment, write them ahead of time. Have your military member write a letter for each month they will be gone so that your child can open at the start of the new month. If you CAN write back and forth during deployment, even better. Checking the mailbox is a fun chore for toddlers, especially if they might get their own mail!

Make a Care Package Together

Sending a special box overseas (or to their long-term training location) is just a win-win. I have the best time picking out fun, seasonal things to include and decorating the box, even without kids! Have your kids help you shop, pack, decorate, and mail it off. Get creative! Include photos, hand-drawn pictures, and little tastes of life back home. We made birthday cake in a jar to mail off too, and what toddlers doesn’t like helping make a cake?

Record Those Memories

This activity is more for mom. It’s hard, making so many memories without an important piece of your family puzzle. How can it not be? It’s important we keep busy too, and I want to make sure my husband doesn’t feel like he’s missing out. During my husband’s first deployment our first child was 3 months old, so I made a custom e-mail account just for stories and pictures to be sent so they didn’t get lost in the mix, and he could always go back to them. You can also make a phonebook, professional or DIY, to give them when they return, capturing birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions they missed. Scrapbooks can be fun for kids to help with too if you have that kind of talent!

If you have any more tips or tricks, please let us know!

XO Kate & Elizabeth


Simple Sorting

My one year old is very into picking things up and putting them in something…a bin, a toy box, a random kitchen drawer, the garbage can. Oh yes, we find toys everywhere. She’s THAT child. So I like to make some activities for her where she can sort and store at will. Here are two DIY activities that are really simple!

Here’s what you need:

-pipe cleaners
-old parmesan cheese container
-“O” shaped cereal (optional)

Start by showing your child how to thread the pipe cleaner into the colander. Let them play with putting it in, pulling it out, and feeding it through. Even twisting it up a little bit! Our colander has different shaped holes as well which makes for fun trial and error to see where it will fit. We added a step today by threading Apple Jacks cereal on some of the pipe cleaners. My 3 year old enjoyed that part a lot more!

Parmesan cheese is pretty essential in our household and therefore I often buy the big container. Ours was almost out so I just transferred it to a new container and cleaned out the parmesan cheese shaker, which is great for sorting! We used q-tips but you can also use beans or other small child-safe objects to place in the two different sides. (I recommend adult supervision with q-tips so they don’t try to stick them in places they shouldn’t go…because kids.)

This was definitely the favorite of the two activities. My 3 year old spent more time with the colander than my 1 year old, and even took it over to her play kitchen to “make pasta” so hey, the activity that keeps on giving! They both loved putting the q-tips in and then opening the other side to try and shake them all out.

Have any tried and true activities using household items? Please share below!

XOXO Elizabeth & Kate


Little Memories

“Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favorite things.”

The Sound of Music is a childhood favorite of my husband’s, bringing back warm memories of his mother, so this song gets stuck in my head often. When I was in high school, (giving away my age here but) before the days of text messages, my friends and I used to write notes back and forth more religiously than we completed our homework. They were elaborately folded or sometimes cradled in their own special notebooks that we passed back and forth. One such notebook contained a list of our favorite things. The only one I really remember was my friend Sarah’s love for the smell of Bradford Pear trees. If you’re not from the South, where Bradfords commonly dwell, they have beautiful blossoms that tend to smell like walking into a fish market on a warm day. Not everyone’s warm and fuzzy. But something about them is a favorite to someone! And every so often something happens or my kids do something and I just smile and think, “I love that. I want to remember that. When I am old and grey, I will miss that.”

We also use Chapbooks, which allows you to pull photos from Instagram (as well as other social media and your own photo library) to make a book with captions to document daily life.

Last month we had a string of warm Spring days and we decided to go ahead and break out the backyard pool that Addie received for her 3rd birthday from Grayson. It was a bit chilly when the wind picked up, but they had so much fun. And Ella, being a bald-headed beauty, needed a little sunscreen on her peach fuzz to keep the sun away. When the afternoon was done and I carried them inside, I kissed the top of Ella’s head and breathed in that warm baby hair mixed with sunscreen and dirt and fresh air and was in heaven. She smelled like a tropical island. When Addie was a baldy, I did the same thing. I smelled the top of her head all day long, especially on those summer days. And that is one of my favorite things. If I could bottle it up I would. When their hair grows long, it’s not the same. Sometimes when one of those things catch my attention, my mind just spirals into ALL the things I want to remember. Fat baby toes, gummy smiles before teeth come in, the tiny little hairs all over baby faces. How do you save it all? How do you keep all of those little treasures for a rainy day when your house is empty? As someone who is forgetful in nature, this is something I think about almost constantly.

Whenever we get together for holidays, now that I have babies of my own, my grandmother and aunts and even my parents watch them play and it stirs up memories of raising babies for them. And I hear a lot of the same ones over and over, can anyone else relate? But it’s just how things stick with you. Some memories you always remember, and some you may laugh until you cry at the time, but it goes forgotten. My oldest has a new affinity for bugs and it has been an ever preset part of our days. In my spare time I find myself looking up which caterpillars can sting and weather centipedes are bad to hold, because these are things I need to know now. In the morning, we look for bugs. In the afternoon, we look for bugs and lizards. At night, we catch fireflies, and the first time we took her out to catch fireflies is one of those I always want to remember.

I walked outside after sunset on a warm May night and noticed the treeline behind our house was just lit up with fireflies. I mean it was mesmerizing, like a distant lightning storm or seeing the first Christmas lights. And it was only May! Didn’t fireflies usually come out in the summer? I was amazed. I grabbed my husband and my oldest (the youngest was already in bed) and dragged them outside. Then the three of us ran around trying to catch hands-down the biggest, fastest lightning bugs I’ve ever seen. We caught two, and were trying to find one more as they drifted into our yard from the trees. Addie and I were standing together, looking, when all of a sudden my husband comes speeding up behind us and basically pounces on the ground, trying to catch another firefly which, to his surprise, was the jar. Addie and I were cracking UP and inside I was just beaming with how hard her dad was trying to collect bugs for her, all the while feeling like a little kid myself. It was a great memory. It was a great day. And it warmed my heart to watch her go to sleep with a jar of fireflies by her bed as a nightlight. Even if there were only two in there.

All of these little memories I want to remember. I know it’s not possible, but every time someone tells me my kids will grow up before my eyes and I will wonder what happened, I just want to scream “No!” These feel like the best years, and I want to be able to tell them these stories when they are older, even if they roll their eyes at me the whole time. One of the best little gifts I have gotten for myself are Line A Day memory books. The ones I picked out for my girls capture 5 years of memories, one line a day. I’ll admit, it’s sometimes a challenge to keep up with, and I am currently a little behind. Sometimes at the end of a long day I don’t remember to write in them before I crawl in bed, so I text myself a memory that I can write in later. When I decided to get them, it was because I wanted to catalog all of those cute little things. Not just for me and my husband, but for my kids. There is something about me as a mom that just really wants to capture the years of my kid’s lives that they won’t remember. These tiny years are SO SPECIAL, and everything is new and exciting, and they won’t remember much, so I just have this urge to help them remember one day. Maybe I will gift these books on their wedding day, or when they have their first baby, or maybe I won’t be able to part with them at all!

How do you keep up with childhood memories? I’d love to hear what other parents do!

XOXO, Elizabeth & Kate

crafts, outdoors, Uncategorized

Bubble Foam Sensory Bin

Bubble foam is extremely easy to make and clean up is a breeze. It is the prefect “how are we going to make it through today!?” type of toddler activity. The best part, it uses things you probably already have at your house.

What you will need:


Grab a little helper and let’s get to making foam! The ratio I use is 2:1, two parts soap to one part water. To make the batch pictured I used 1 cup of tear free soap and ½ cup of water. We added blue food coloring, but this is completely optional. Once we got everything in the bin, we used the hand mixer to whip everything up. We mixed until we had stiff white peaks, you will know when its ready!

We started inside, since we had to use the mixer, but as he got into playing we quickly moved outdoors!

With the warm weather coming we spend most of our day outside. So, sensory bins that we can do outside are always a win. This soapy foam sensory bin was the activity that kept on giving.

What I had thought would be a look and find for hidden cars, turned into foam handprints, race tracks and then a car wash. To say this activity lasted longer then I thought it was is an understatement, and not in a bad way!

When you are ready to clean up, just spray everything down with a hose! Easy to create and easy to clean up!

Hope you enjoy this fun and easy sensory activity!

XO Kate

Motherhood, toddlers, Uncategorized

Keeping it Clean

In life, there are a few things that are harder then we anticipate. Keeping a clean house seems to be one of them for many of us. Because of children, pets, and daily life, keeping a clean house can seem like an impossible task. Like most things in my life, I decided to tackle this problem with a list and routine.

List most of us, I made myself a New Years resolution. My personal goal was to decrease stress in my life. A messy house creates a messy mind, which in turn creates a stressed out me! So, the brainstorming took hold. I knew I needed a structured plan to get the cleaning train moving. I also knew the more I kept on top of my cleaning routine the faster the daily process would be. Think about it, if you clean your floors once a week, there is less dirt to scrub off then if it’s been a month. And just like that a cleaning schedule was born.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your home can’t be 100% cleaned in one day either. Let’s be honest, your home will never be spotless, because that’s just life. But, you can keep your house clean and yourself sane by breaking down your cleaning into more manageable tasks. I break my tasks up into two categories: daily and weekly. This helps me stay on top of things, without spending hours a day cleaning.

What does that weekly schedule look like? Well here it is:

Monday: Bathrooms: my least favorite thing to clean on my least favorite day. I do bathrooms first, so I can get it checked off the list.

Tuesday: Downstairs floors. Vacuum and mop all the floors on your main floor.

Wednesday: Declutter: Wednesday is trash day, so I go around and collect all trash, recycling, and giveaway items. This is a great way to reduce clutter in your house as well.

Thursday: Upstairs floors. Vacuum and mop all the upstairs floors.

Friday: Catch up: Use this day to check up on anything you may have missed over the week.

Saturday: Clean out the fridge & Meal plan! Create your weekly meal plan to make your grocery shopping trip a breeze.

Sunday: Relax!

With my weekly tasks, come my every single day tasks. These activities do not take long, but help move everything along smoothly.

Morning tasks:

  • Empty the dishwasher: put away all the dishes from the night before.
  • Reload the dishwasher with left over dishes.
  • Throw in a load of laundry

Evening tasks:

  • Load and rerun the dishwasher.
  • Wipe down all the counters.
  • Scrub the sink.
  • Put away laundry.
  • Take 15 minutes to clean up.

Helping clean up the playroom.

This cleaning schedule has saved me so much time and stress. I check things off as I go and I don’t have the feeling looming over me that I should be cleaning. I can spend my free time making memories with my kiddos and relaxing.

The goal here is to keep your house clean, while spending less time actually cleaning. Remember, your house doesn’t have to be spotless because you and your family do live in it. I hope this cleaning routine saves you time that you can use to build and grow those precious memories with your family.

XO Kate


Sidewalk Chalk Paint

This may be our new summer time go to activity. It’s simple, cheap, and my kiddos love it! Making our own sidewalk chalk paint only takes a few ingredients, that you probably have laying around your house!

What you’ll need:

  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • Food coloring
  • Muffin tin
  • Paint brushes
  • A whisk/ spoon to stir

Find a little helper, and let’s get to creating. My son LOVES helping, so he jumped right in.

First, we mixed together the water and cornstarch. Have your kiddo stir until the cornstarch dissolves. (I did have to help him get some of the cornstarch off the bottom of the cup.) Once everything is mixed together, set that aside and put a few drops (3-5) of food coloring in each muffin tin.

Now it’s time to fill the tins. As you divide the paint mixture into the muffin tin you will see the colors appear. This was pretty neat, and like a little magic trick right in front of our eyes.

Since the entire activity only cost about .50 cents, I don’t have to stress about them ruining expensive paint when the inevitable color mixing occurs (Grayson’s favorite thing to do).

Grayson stayed outside painting for over an hour. This is a huge win for both of us! He really did have a blast! The paint did stain his hands a bit, but washed off his clothes with just soap and water. A little blue on his hands, was worth the hour of fun!

If you have any fun and easy summer activities we would love to hear about them!

Happy painting!

XO Kate


A Little Guide to Great Family Photos

Spring flowers, sandy beaches, even (gasp) autumn on the horizon. ‘Tis the start of family photo season! And whether you prefer waiting for the colorful leaves, or you’d rather let the ocean be your background, we have some great tips for make your family photos the best they can be.

Jamie Luebbert Photography, Fayetteville NC

Before I wore a mom hat, I wore a photographer hat. When my husband joined the military I decided to turn my long-time hobby into a business that could travel with me. I photographed families, babies, military homecomings, elopements, and weddings. And I love it! With deployments and babies, it has taken a backseat, but I still dust off my lenses every now and then! I also feel that puts me in a great position to give tips for planning your own family photo session, because I have taken photos OF kids and WITH kids.

Find a photographer that is good with kids. Many photographers do family photos, but some will actually choose not to take on those type of sessions because they aren’t their strong suit, or simply because that just isn’t where their passion lies. I really respect photographers who are able to say it’s not their thing. Newborn photography is NOT my thing. I am not good at it! I let photographers with that special ability capture those memories for me. So scope out your photographer. Don’t fall in love with some dreamy engagement photos and assume you can add two toddlers to the mix and get the same result. No. Look specifically at family albums and make sure you like them. Being able to makes kids (and sometimes husbands) genuinely smile is a gift you will appreciate tenfold.

Hannah Foulke Photography, Jacksonville NC

Ask about what you’re getting. Session packages can range from sitting fees and paying for prints to getting select digital images to getting to choose your own digital library. Make sure you ask upfront what to expect (and what timeframe to expect it in.) Some photographers offer mini sessions if you are just looking for a pregnancy announcement or Christmas card, so keep that in mind as a more affordable option! But always clarify what you are looking for an what you are getting so both parties win.

Photo credit: Hannah Bogaski

Coordinate, don’t match. The days of white t-shirts and jeans for all are a thing of the past. Don’t ALL go for the same colors, bring a few into the mix. You want to make your wall-worthy photos to be genuine and visually interesting. Just as you would decorate a room, select a color palette for your family. If you are going to be taking photos in a colorful location, such as a flower field, less is more. If you are taking your session at the beach, bring on the color! (Read to the end of this post for some fun color palettes to plan with!) Also, be sure to select colors that are flattering to both your skin tone and your surroundings. For example, if you are fair-skinned like myself and it’s really warm out, you may want to avoid red because it will bring out the red in your face as well. Or if your photos are in the woods or an open field in the springtime when everything is vibrantly green, you may want to avoid greens or yellows. If in doubt, ask your photographer for their opinion. They want the photos to turn out just as beautifully as you do, so they should be more than willing to help!

If you DO feel more comfortable sticking to a certain color for the entire family, play with pattens and shades, and mix tops and bottoms. Especially for larger groups. It gives photos more character while keeping everyone in sync.

Meghan Elizabeth Photography, Baltimore MD

Go with the flow. We all love the perfectly captured picture where everyone is all smiles, but more often my favorites from our family sessions come from genuine moments. Mom smiling at dad, the kids making funny faces, or caught mid-laughter. Because these are the moments that give people a glimpse into your real life. So of course, pose for a few photos, but enjoy the in-between and find a photographer that can capture those candid moments too. Even if babies fall asleep.

Alicia Q Photography, Jacksonville NC
Hannah Foulke Photography, Jacksonville NC

The art of distraction. Odds are, your kids are NOT going to love an hour of getting their photo taken. Parents often try to stop their kids from being kids and get them to focus on something they could literally care nothing about. This is one of the biggest tips I have to offer…I always encourage parents to let their kids play a little, within reason. Not in a mud puddle, but play in the sand a little. Run in the park. Lay in the grass. Make silly faces. I just follow along and take that chance to capture their kids loving life. And when they have gotten to do what they want to do, they are more willing to reel it back in for a family photo. If you are lucky, you get some adorable candid moments on film too! And if you’re okay with it, treats definitely don’t hurt. Just go for something that is quick to eat, and won’t melt or ruin outfits. I once gave my 1 year old M&Ms which she ate painfully slow and led to a blue mouth in a couple photos. Oops.

Don’t dress trendy. Do you ever look back at your childhood photos and think OMG, WHY?! Keep this in mind. Jumpsuits are adorable now, just as bell bottoms were once. You want to love these photos forever and not cringe at them in a few years time. So if you only get family photos done once in a blue moon, add depth to classic outfits with textures or patterns instead of trendy pieces. Lace is timeless, as are small patterns, stripes, and polkadots. If you get family photos done every year (or more), then rock all the trends you want! In fact, it would be kind of neat to see year-by-year how you dress your family.

Elizabeth Sherrill Photography, Jacksonville NC

Try not to stress too much about family photos. I do it to. You are paying for them, there are rarely do-overs, you want everyone to look and act their best, but regardless, the end result is well-captured memories. Even if it rains, even if you sit on a bumblebee (I have done this), even if you child will not smile to save his life. It’s okay. So as you plan those ever-important outfits, here are some fun color schemes to play around with:

Have any helpful family photo session know-how? Or even a funny photo story for us? We all have them! Comment below!

XOXO, Elizabeth & Kate