Let me start off by saying, I am by no means a baker, but I do love cookies. When I found this super easy recipe, had to give it a try. It looked pretty fool proof and it turns out it was. The cookies came out so good and stayed soft and chewy for over a week. So, lets get started!
Birthday cake mix
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/3 cup oil
Start by preheating your oven to 350°F.
While your oven is heating up, combine the cake mix, chocolate chunks, oil and eggs. Mix until they are combined.
If you have a melon baller, use that to form the cookie balls. We don’t have one, so we used our hands. Right before the cookies go in, garnish them with sprinkles!
Pop the cookies in the oven for 12-15 minutes.
Just like that, you have delicious cookies for everyone to enjoy.
This recipe yielded 24 cookies. I stored mine in a Ziploc bag with a piece of bread to keep them soft!
As we came inside to take a break from playing in the rain, I noticed all the colors dancing around our playroom. I realized that the toys we play with day in and day out are, in themselves, a learning tool. So, we went on a treasure hunt, well, a color hunt. You’ll see what I mean.
What you will need:
Two toilet paper rolls or one paper towel roll cut in half.
Grab your big piece of paper and divide it into equal sections. I did 9 squares, but you can use as many or few based on what is best for your child. Next, write down the names of the colors using the corresponding marker.
While making the grid, have your child color the toilet or paper towel rolls. Once they are done coloring, take some tape and tape the rolls together. Now, you are ready to go on a color hunt!
Place the piece of paper in the middle of the room and let your kiddo go to work. Have them look around and find anything they can that matches the colors in your grid. Gray loved looking through his binoculars to find each new item.
Some colors can be a little tricky, like those teal puzzle pieces. He switched them between the green and the blue a few times, but either would be have been correct. Let your kiddo problem solve and search without interference, unless they ask for help of course!
Gray looked around the playroom for almost an hour, adding and taking away things as the grid filled. This is something that we will do again in the near future.
If you want to add more literacy, this fun art project pairs well with the book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear. It is one of our favorites and a great way to explore color learning.
Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive a small affiliate commission. Regardless, we give our promise that we only recommend products or services we would use personally and believe will add values to our readers.
A friend of mine recently shared an article on Facebook about moms getting burnt out, and how a self-care moment here and there isn’t enough. And in her status she said, “So what’s the freaking solution?! Tired of feeling like there isn’t one.”
And you know what. Me too. I didn’t know how to give advice to my fellow mom friend because I am that mom too. I don’t know the answer because I also face the problem. I don’t feel like this everyday, but some days, of course I do! Is there anyone that doesn’t? She mentioned just not wanting to get out of bed and do it (aka parent today). My only attempt at advice was that it’s totally okay to let yourself feel that way. We feel like we should’t feel that way for some reason, but it’s 100% okay to FEEL. Sometimes I don’t want to mom either. Sometimes my kids want to read a book or play a game that I just don’t want to. I don’t even want to fake want to. Do you want to wear this necklace? Not really. Want to play doctor with me? Please no, not again, because spoiler alert, I always give the wrong diagnosis to the same exact symptom and have to start over! I think that’s incredibly normal to feel this way. So why do we feel bad about it? What do we do?
I often thank the stars that I went to high school before social media. THANK. GOODNESS. Kids have it so hard today! And in many ways, moms do too. I love sharing photos on Instagram of my children with family and friends who live far away from us. I love following high school and even elementary school friends on Facebook and watching their success. I love following local pages and finding events. I love this blog and hearing from other parents, like you! What I don’t love is seeing other people compare themselves to the homes, children, and mothers online. I don’t love seeing snarky, imposing comments on my friend’s public Instagram accounts. Not to toot my own horn, but I think I have a fair amount of self-confidence and a good filter. It is pretty easy for me to be optimistic and happy for someone, yet tell myself that’s probably not their everyday. I understand Instagram. I understand it’s highlights and collaborations and pretty snippets. If your house is spotless every single day, I’m not even jealous, I don’t even want that much cleaning in my life! I also want the best for people. I really do. I have no desire to say something that would in any way diminish the picture you want the world to see. It’s your life. But some people apparently do! I truly believe that moms are letting STRANGERS get to them, making them think they should do more with their kids, work less, be cleaner, buy more things, not sell things on social media, take trips, be home more. This is adding to the burn out.
When I got hooked on “Girl Wash Your Face,” like many other women out there, it was not in her inspirational stories (of which there are many) that drew me in, but her real life admissions in the very first chapter. Why? Because it reinforces the thought that IT’S NOT JUST ME. I am not the only one. She’s a great mom, and she falters too. I can’t imagine the scrutiny she has faced, the DMs and emails she has had to read, just because people disagree and feel the need to let her know. Why do people have the urge to criticize? A healthy debate is one thing, but making someone feel wrong or less than is completely different. And comparing your life to someone else’s online life is ridiculous. Comparison is the thief of joy, so just plain DON’T!
So, like my friend asked, what’s the freaking solution? I think the solution is truth & a filter, but that’s easier said than done. One of the best things we can do as moms is be ourselves, share our truths, and have the confidence to not care what others think NOR care if their life seems a little shinier. Assume that people feel the same way when they see your life! You would be surprised how many people think the world of your parenting skills and the things you do for your kids. Assume that people are sharing their highlights, their best moments, because who really wants to remember the bad ones? Don’t let what someone else does affect your mood or your parenting for the worse, only for the better. And for goodness sake PLEASE HAVE A FILTER. Not only in what you see, but in what you say to others.
I say all of this because her comment really struck a chord with me. For one, she was not someone I would have believed to be struggling. She is a wonderful mom, a kind and genuine person, and runs her own business. It was refreshing, to see her admit this instead of posting a shiny picture. Like reading that book, it made me feel like I’m not alone on the days I feel like this too. And now I hope you know you aren’t either.
Here are some of our truths, from both Elizabeth & Kate, to let you know we may have clever DIY ideas and take our kids on fun adventures and seem patient AF, but we are often boring and messy and super impatient:
-I hide ice-cream in my coffee cup during the day. If my kids get suspicious I tell them it’s coffee yogurt and get no more questions. -My kids DO watch TV, and sometimes way “too much,” but they don’t mind, I stay sane on those days, and they won’t be worse off later in life. They really won’t. -We eat chicken nuggets and frozen pizza and Easy Mac on the reg. Healthy meals that everyone loves make me feel like a supermom, but they don’t happen every day. -About those healthy meals, sometimes I bribe my kids to eat them. “If you finish your plate, you can have a cookie”, is said probably a few to many times around here. -I do yell at my kids and only sometimes feel bad about it afterwards. My oldest usually laughs at me, so I don’t think she will be scarred for life. I am an imperfect person, and emotions sometimes get the best of me. -We go on car rides just for my sanity’s sake. When everyone is having a meltdown, we hop in the car and good ol’ Starbucks drive thru here we come. -I don’t dust. I just don’t. And sweeping and mopping are rare. Dog hair is a way of life around here and the four of us are okay with it. -I don’t always want to play with my kids. Sure, building a tower can be fun, but after 10 or so times I’m over it. -We listen to 90’s rap music and dance around the room. Disney is great, but sometimes you just need to bring back the oldies and skip the kid music. -I watch trashy TV to wind down instead of being productive. Often. I too see those “supermoms” who raise 5 kids and run a business and sew their matching clothes and then craft on their vinyl machine. Or spend their downtime reading current events. Nope, not me. I don’t have the energy left at the end of the day and just want some mindless “me” time. -Which brings me to the fact that I BOUGHT a vinyl machine and barely know how to use it. It’s okay to not be crafty. -I worry about how people will take what I say and I am a classic people-pleaser, but I also try to be true to myself and teach my kids to be respectful, but strong. We are all just doing our best!
Share one of your mom truths in the comments below. It’s freeing, I promise! And we definitely won’t judge. Thanks for reading!
It has been HOT here in North Carolina, so we have been eating a ton of popsicles. As my kids sat there devouring their sugary treat I couldn’t help but wonder how I could make it a bit healthier. I don’t know if its just my two kiddos, but they have a ton of energy all they time. Feeding them basically frozen sugar water wasn’t doing myself any favors.
So, I hopped on good old Amazon and ordered some popsicle molds. Thanks to prime, two days later they arrived on my doorstep. You would have thought I would be googling recipes while I wanted for the molds, but nope I didn’t. Of course, my son was so excited when they arrived we needed to make popsicles immediately or so he told me.
I found a few recipes on Pinterest, but didn’t have nearly enough ingredients for any of them. So, we created our own!
This is not an exact science and you can add or substract whatever ingredients you may like. We did not add sugar and I think the popsicles came out pretty sweet. Bonus, my kiddos loved them as well.
How to make them:
Chop up some watermelon and throw it into the blender.
Juice about a half of a lime and add that in as well. *This is where you’d add the sugar, if wanted. *
Once everything is smoothly blended together pour it into the molds. Leave about a half inch at the top for the popsicles to expand when freezing.
This was the hardest part for my son, put them in the freezer for at least 4 hours. I am pretty sure I heard the question ” Are they done yet?” at least 20 times that day. So, in retrospect it may be best to make these at night and skip the “Are they done yet?” question.
Once they in fact were done, the verdict was in and they were a success. We can’t wait to try out different flavors this summer.
What are some of your favorite popsicles flavors? I would love some ideas for next time.
It is 100 degrees right now as I sit down to type this. ONE HUNDRED DEGREES. In May! That is not something we are used to here in North Carolina. Also, we have not gotten rain in a couple weeks, which is nearly unheard of at the Carolina coast. There are toddler chalk drawings on my patio and fence that I have stared at for way too long. I have had to work watering bushes and outdoor plants into my nightly routine and bring several things inside that have literally started to shrivel, as I would if I had to be outside for any length of time. So let’s talk about some ways to beat the heat and not go insane from your overly-energetic children!
1. Revisit local attractions
It’s easy to feel like you’ve been there and done that, but try taking a look at some favorite indoor attractions near you to see if anything has changed. We have a Children’s Museum that opened up within the last year, and while we have gone a few times and not made it back, but Kate noticed today that they have added new attractions! One of which is meteorology center that this weather nerd can’t wait to play with. I mean, have my kids play with. Last summer our aquarium added a dinosaur exhibit that my daughter LOVED, I think we went 3 times while it was up. Businesses really hone in on kids being out of school and parents looking for indoor activities, so be sure to take advantage! Next week Kate & I are taking the kiddos to a planetarium show sponsored by our county’s government center. So see what is new near you. Also check Facebook for local events. That is a GREAT spot to find out if the random farm or coffee shop is hosting a kid-friendly event.
2. Stay in(side)
I take “outside” for granted. We have a big fenced in backyard and plenty of outside toys, so it is SO NICE to just let my kids out to run around and explore. When it is this hot and the UV index is literally 11 on what I thought was a 1-10 scale, we stay in. Sometimes it seems like challenge to stay indoors and limit screen time, but here are a few suggestions! –Paint with water colors (or just with water, for younger kiddos!). Have a theme. Paint bugs or dinos or princesses, whatever your child is into. Paint a story. Make a picture book where you write the words. Painting keeps my toddler occupied for a good while! –Play-doh is amazing stuff. We have collected a few kits so there are plenty of play-doh toys, and I love watching my kids get creative with how they use it. You can also make your own play-doh or modeling clay, or use kinetic sand which is awesome too. But don’t underestimate the power of the classic Play-doh! –Make a fort. Didn’t you LOVE making a fort out of couch cushions, mom’s big comforter, and anything else you could find? It was the best! So join in and help your child build one too. –Cook together. Make lunch or prep dinner, even make freezer meals for later! Kids enjoy sorting, cutting, spreading, sprinkling, and all those fun cooking verbs. So let them help out and check some things off your to-do list while you are at it! –Make cleaning fun. Go through a closet or their old toys and keep them involved. Maybe a clean closet means a fun hide out, or getting rid of old toys means picking out a new toy? Kids may not enjoy doing stuff like this every day, but remember that deviating from the ordinary can be magic for kids, and who knows what treasures you may uncover! –Have a tea party. This was one of my FAVORITE things as a kid. I had a small crystal (Gasp! Melissa and Doug would never!) pitcher and cup set and I would fill it with water and have tea parties with my parents or my toys. Set up a picnic and let your kids have a tea party too! Make lemonade and cookies or just play pretend!
I know these may not seem like groundbreaking new ideas, but sometimes I myself just need a little reminder of all the indoor crafts and activities we can do to switch our routine up on day 6 of a heat wave.
3. Make a cold treat
My sister-in-law visited with her family over Memorial Day weekend and she made the best homemade ice-cream. I’ll include the link to the recipe she used below. Not only was it amazingly delicious, but the kids had to shake the ice-cream for 10-15 minutes which is a win-win! One important tip: splurge for name brand ziplock bags to avoid leaks! I also may or may not have a dozen homemade popsicle recipes pinned to try with fresh fruit and juice. And did you know you can add ginger ale to jello to make sparkling jello? YEAH! Start googling and making because adults can enjoy these cooling treats too.
Fill up the pools and water table and bust out the sprinklers. Sometimes you just have to slather on the sunscreen and brave the heat…with the help of some cool water sources. There are some great inflatable pools at Amazon and Target for a $30 price point, so turn your backyard into a wet & wild haven. I love a good beach day or day by the pool, but this way you can skip packing all the snacks and nicknacks and just start playing, then quit whenever you’re ready.
5. Try getting ON the water
We have a hand-me-down canoe that has seen it’s fair share of adventures, and living about 10 minutes away from a public water access allows us to get in the water and paddle around easily. For some that’s a lot harder to do! But look into your local lakes, parks, ponds, and even campgrounds around rivers to see about rentals. You can rent kayaks and canoes inexpensively, or just pay a small fee to float down the river on a raft and be shuttled back. If you are a military family, check on base to see what rentals are available to you! You’ll still be in the elements on a warm day but we all know life is cooler on the water. When all else fails, hit the beach (or lake) if possible. You’re guaranteed a good nap time!
We have all summer to keep these kiddos busy, so please share your favorite activities with us! We would love to try some of them out!
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!
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!
“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.”
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!
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.
With my weekly tasks, come my every single day tasks. These activities do not take long, but help move everything along smoothly.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Last summer, my husband got a wild hair about getting a camper. With him being an avid tent camper and huge fan of roughing it, and me not, I got on board pretty quickly. This would be like glamping! We decided a used pop-up camper was the way to go, just in case it wasn’t for us we could re-sell and not be out a huge investment. My husband searched daily and found one pretty quickly. Living the military life and having two little kids (and two dogs) doesn’t make it easy to travel, so our goal with the camper was to take little adventures and make the most of our time together, while traveling affordably. We brought it home, cleaned it out, and took inventory of everything we had and what we might need. We actually lucked out and got a lot of freebies thrown in with our camper, so we decided to be ambitious and take a trip right away!
Between last summer and now, we have learned a lot. I’ll admit, there have been days where I wonder WHY in the world we thought this was a good idea and I swear we aren’t taking another trip ANYTIME soon. But then, much more often, there are days where I just feel bliss, and soak up all the memories I possibly can, watching my kids experience things and creating ways to play that they never would have at home. Last week I rocked my youngest to sleep in a hammock under the last light of day, listening to crickets and birds, in the middle of a National Forest. Just take a second to appreciate how cool that sounds! We’ve seen lighthouses, mountains, and waterfalls all just in the past 9 months. Every single time we pack up, I am so so so thankful we took the trip, no matter what tiny struggles we may have had. So, if you are thinking of camping, in a tent or camper (we have done both with two babies!), here are my words of wisdom:
Start somewhere close. When we planned our first trip in the camper, we went an hour away from home. We tried to anticipate all the things that could go wrong and decided that worst case scenario, we could drive home at any hour of the day. We also chose to go to a KOA, which as new “campers” we learned stands for Kampgrounds of America. What is great about these is the amenities, and their consistency. Almost every KOA has the same amenities and they are AMAZING for kids. Bathrooms, showers, pools, little convenience stores, dog parks, and rentals, among other things. Since we were worried about keeping little ones entertained, a KOA sounded like a great first trip! We also watched several videos on YouTube to make sure we had everything our camper might need, like proper electrical hookups for example. When we planned our first tent camping trip, my oldest was 15 months old and I was 3 months pregnant, so we also decided a local-ish trip was the way to go and picked a National Forest campground near my parent’s house. Having home close by is a good safety net and stress reliever in my opinion!
Toss expectations out the window. Coming on strong with #2 on the list, I know, but let’s just get it out of the way. Parts of this are going to be challenging. While camping with kids, at some point you will STRUGGLE. When campgrounds are by a river or covered in huge boulders and you can see that spark in their tiny toddler eyes, your brain may short-circuit for a minute while you wrap your mind around how to keep your child from seriously injuring themselves. That’s okay. Just agree up front that you are going to be as “go with the flow” as possible. This is new, and new things come with a learning curve. Our first trip, we forgot coffee. This was DETREMENTAL! The second trip we remembered coffee but forgot cream and sugar. Better, but not ideal. We had a coffee curse! But now, just having completed our last trip this past week over spring break, packing and grocery shopping came relatively quick and easy. You WILL get the hang of it, it WILL be worth it, and your kids WILL have fun (and you will too.) Don’t stress over if they are eating enough fruit or if they get unbelievably dirty, or if you forget to pack a couple things. Treat it like the vacation that it is and try to make the best of what you’ve got! One thing that helps calm my nerves when going new places is to research the campgrounds and look for photos online of what to expect. I do this by using good ol’ Google and also by searching hashtags on Instagram, either of the campground name or park name. That way I can set expectations accordingly.
Pack familiar things. Nearly everything you are about to do is going to be different. One saving grace for me was bringing a travel high chair. When my youngest daughter was 9 months old, we went to the Outer Banks. She couldn’t walk, but MAN could she crawl. And if you haven’t been inside a pop-up, crawling is a little worrisome! So being able to strap her in her seat for snacks and meals, even to play with toys while we cooked dinner, was a lifesaver. Also be sure to pack favorite stuffed animals, blankets, or whatever comfort items you would usually pack for your kiddos, because camping does bring along unfamiliar places and noises! I suggest pack-n-plays or dock-a-tots for little ones so that they can nap/play easy. Monkey Mats also come in very handy for being able to play anywhere.
Bring along layers. Packing clothing for you and your kids is a little tough, because while you want to pack light for a tight space like a tent or camper, you also want to have enough clothing. When we went camping in the mountains this past October it was our first time “dry-camping.” That means that while our camper has hookups for electricity and water, we camped on a campground without. That also means no heat or AC. The first day we were in t-shirts and long pants, loving the fall weather. The last night, we experienced 60+ MPH gusts which shook our entire soft top camper, I was convinced a huge tree was going to crush us, and the wind chill was in the teens. Sleeping under lantern light and no heat with a 2 year old and 10 month old. Insane right?! But we made it and we agree it was our best trip ever. It’s funny how challenging or uncomfortable things sometimes form the fondest memories. Make sure to pack layers, rain jackets, etc for any possible weather. And a FEW duplicate clothing items, because kids.
Keep toys simple. Time to go back to basics! Staple toys for us, no matter the destination, include a bucket and a shovel. I also have recently started including a little Tupperware container for temporary critter observation (lol). For my youngest, I like to throw in a few toys from home that keep her entertained: something to read, something that makes noise, something to chew on, and something to stack/build. At the age they are now (3 and 16 months), I include play-doh and crayons/paper for some crafting, and the iPad in case the weather is bad and we need to watch a movie until the rain passes. The iPad also doubles as a sound machine for daytime naps! When selecting what to pack to keep kiddos entertained, try to find the balance between pushing them to be creative and explore their surroundings, and you staying sane. Remember why you want to take them camping in the first place and try to be creative yourself, and make the most of your time in the wild as a family. Play can be ANYTHING.
Push yourself. Also during that aforementioned mountain trip, we arrived to our campsite at 1:30am, set up in the dark, and went to sleep around 3am. We then woke up at 5am to make a 30 minute drive and see the sunrise on Mt. Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi. Hiking up that short trail to the summit with nature completely silent around us and being alone on top of a mountain watching a new day?! Oh man. We ALL did it with smiles on our faces and it was a breathtaking experience. I’ll never forget. Camping is adventure, so make sure you bring your adventurous side. See the sights, eat the food, make the drive. We hiked to see a lighthouse and sweated through our clothes. We tent camped by a river and were eaten alive by bugs. We snuggled in one bed as freezing wind shook our surroundings. These are the stories we write together, as a family. The good laughs and fond memories come from experiences that stand apart from all the rest.
Some of our must-take prodcuts: Cutter All Family wipes are amazing, and probably worked the best for us! We snagged these Para’kito wrist bands and clip for the babies from Walmart. They are baby safe (all natural ingredients/essential oils) and work well as a back-up, but wouldn’t recommend them being your only insect repellent. We also use Thermacell repellants and citronella candles around the campsite if it’s really bad. Coppertone Water Babies works best for us, we love the whipped sunscreen, but Babyganics makes great products too.
My packing list for the kids: -sunscreen -bug control -thermometer & baby tylenol, along with first aid kid -hats -For warmer months: light jacket or rain jacket, for colder months: layered clothing up to a heavy jacket -basic toys -iPad (sound machine or a bad weather day) -diapers, wipes, potty -plastic grocery bags for dirty diapers, wet clothes, etc. -towels & baby shampoo -kid-safe antibacterial hand sanitizer or antibacterial wipes -pillows & stuffed animal -bedtime story -baby carrier (I bring my Tula and my WildBird sling) -bathing suit, water shoes, and foldable pool for warmer months -Monkey Mat
Remember, camping doesn’t have to be roughing it. One of the reasons we got a camper was to ultimately save cost on vacations. Many theme parks, national landmarks, and other attractions have designated camping areas (even Disney!) where you can stay and sight-see. We haven’t been able to do this yet, but it’s on our bucket list. Since getting our camper, we have slowly added upgrades to make traveling further more attainable, such as a composting toilet, outdoor canopy, and gated fence for our dogs (and kids, lol). We love dreaming up all the places we will go!
Now, start planning your adventure! Feel free to comment if you want to know anymore about our camp life!