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Beat the Friggin’ Heat

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.

4. Bring out the waterworks

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!

XOXO, Elizabeth & Kate

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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:

-colander
-pipe cleaners
-q-tips
-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!

#MakeItMonday
XOXO Elizabeth & Kate

Uncategorized

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

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

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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
https://jamieluebbertphotography.com

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
https://www.hannahfoulkephotography.com

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
http://meghanelizabethphotography.me

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
http://www.aliciaqphotography.com
Hannah Foulke Photography, Jacksonville NC
https://www.hannahfoulkephotography.com

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

Uncategorized

Camping with 3 & Unders: A Survival Guide

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

-water cups

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!

Feeling on top of the world. Sunrise in October on Mt. Mitchell. Elevation 6,684ft. The highest peak east of the Mississippi River.


Now, start planning your adventure! Feel free to comment if you want to know anymore about our camp life!

XOXO, Elizabeth

Cleaning, Motherhood, toddlers

Tips for a Non-Cleaner

I am what I would consider a “non-cleaner”. I was not born (or raised) with the skilled ability to clean. I didn’t grow up scrubbing baseboards. These were not the chores I had. In fact, I’m not even sure our first house had baseboards. My childhood home was not the tidiest, and neither was my mom’s childhood home. It must be in our genes. But I don’t really remember those details when recalling early memories. I had the BEST childhood. I grew up outside, spending my time getting as tan as my shins were bruised. I ran around barefoot, playing at the pool, on the playground, in the woods. I didn’t have daily or weekly chores that ever ran on a schedule. I cleaned my room as well as any kid would, which is to say not really doing much cleaning but instead finding ANYTHING else to do instead. When I got older my chores included putting dishes away, irregular vacuuming, and my favorite…dusting. OH dusting, how I hate thee. We had a lot of intricately carved antique furniture with decorative glass and figurines, and in my teenage mind, that was the worst thing I could be expected to do. Please, ask me to do anything else. After years and years, I am realizing I am just not a very skilled cleaner. What does that even mean? Is my house in a constant state of disarray? Does FEMA need to provide some disaster relief? NO. But it means that I missed out on a very useful education that some of you had, and I work a little harder and stress a little more over cleaning-related things that I am not good at or consistent with. My (mostly) Type B personality doesn’t mind if something gets skipped, and while I have failed to make myself run on schedule, I do love organization and clean spaces. I think I am a Type B person with a Type A brain. I am always enthralled when people have their cleaning routine down to a science while I feel like I am always cleaning but never done. If you can relate, read on, and maybe this post will help a little!

One of my newer goals for myself is to always have my house what I would consider “houseguest ready.” Not perfect, but put together enough to where I feel comfortable having someone drop in at any moment. This may sound really silly to some, but it has always been a source of anxiety to me! I want my home to be welcoming and organized for so many reasons, and sometimes life (and my habits) just get in the way. I mean first off, two kids and two white dogs. Hello. Occasional piles of laundry to be folded on the couch, boxes to go out to recycling by the front door, last night’s dishes on the counter, etc. It’s not really how I would prefer my house to be on any given day. So here are some changes I have adopted that have made a big difference in the nightly and morning routines, as well as my overall peace of mind:

Clean a little throughout the day. Again, if you are “a cleaner”, this is probably the most obvious statement ever. But for those non-cleaners, let me explain. I once came across and article about things all neat & tidy people have in common, and the biggest one was that they cleaned throughout the day. It said, “you can’t expect to be a slob all day and then find time to clean everything up at once.” I realized that I very frequently made poor, lazy choices under the premise if “I’ll get to it later” because the kids were pulling me in one direction or another at the moment. I mean slob seems harsh, but yeah, maybe I was being a slob! For example, putting my plate on the counter instead of in the sink or dishwasher. Wiping toddler faces and putting the paper towel on the table instead of immediately in the trash. Folding laundry and leaving it in clean stacks on the floor to put away later. All of those little things have to be dealt with at some point. Maybe the end of the day, or maybe you’ll leave it for “tomorrow.” Mmm hmm. Just forcing myself not be lazy in those aspects has helped my nightly routine straightening up SO MUCH. Doing those things consistently have changed my habits which I have had for YEARS and make life more simple.

Daily laundry and dishes. For whatever reason, I always had “laundry days.” I separated out all of the laundry for all 4 of us and did load after load, then folded it all, and put it away. This was intense. I don’t know why that made sense to me, but I found another pearl of wisdom among some other cleaning article I got lost in and it mentioned the importance of daily laundry. Instead of 5 huge loads one day a week, I bought some Shout Color Catcher and at the end of each day I wash everyone’s things together. Towels, toddler clothes, work out clothes, etc. The color catchers work wonderfully at keeping colors and whites bright and the laundry loads are small and manageable. Folding and putting them away is easy! Same with dishes. Dirty dishes go immediately in the dishwasher and are washed each night, so every morning we put dishes away and start all over. Making my husband and toddler do the same is…a work in progress…but even if they don’t, it’s less mess for mama. Here’s my kitchen on a normal day now:

Have a “goodbye” spot. This is a place in your house where things can go before they are put out to pasture. Have it be tucked away, but not totally inconvenient or totally out of site. Mine is in a certain part of our garage. Having a designated place for things to be stored until you have enough to run to Goodwill, host a yardsale, etc. is great for lessening your household junk. It lets you think about whether you are ready to part with it, and it’s out of sight so it doesn’t bug you, but not hidden so you forget about it. Plus, in somewhere like the garage I can just load up the car and drop everything off when I’m ready. Easy peasy. If you find it hard to Marie Kondo things, try this method first. It’s like Marie Kondo with a safety net.

Clear couches, comforters, & counters. CCC. One of my ultimate pet peeves is having things where I want to sit. My husband has this bad habit of emptying his pockets on the back of our couch, or spreading his things out on the couch beside him if he’s working on his laptop. If I come into a room with two couches and a chair and nowhere clear to sit down, I loose it. Keeping seating areas clear, as well as beds and tables, it a great goal to have. A clean kitchen counter is my happy place. This keeps your down time relaxing, and opens up space for starting new tasks.

Make it a game. Encouraging little kids to help is great on so many levels. Toddlers LOVE lifestyle play. That’s why Melissa & Doug toys are genius! Instead of getting something where they can only pretend to clean, let them help out a little! Wipe windows, unload the silverware from the dishwasher, sweep the kitchen. Lately my 3 year old LOVES folding laundry, and I taught her to fold shirts. She’s pretty good at it! Win-win! She’ll also take a mower ride whenever she can get it.

Phone a friend. There is no shame in not enjoying cleaning, or not being good at it. I know several moms who pay someone to clean weekly or deep clean monthly. If you can do that- go for it! But if you’d rather improve your cleaning skills and efficiency yourself, ask a friend what they do. I asked Kate this very thing, which led to the inspiration for this blog and the one to follow (so stay tuned!) Kate is a cleaner. She has a routine, which keeps her household running like clockwork. I asked her for her weekly schedule she sets for herself. Other friends have found genius Pinterest hacks which save time too, so don’t be afraid to ask how your friends clean!

Give yourself time. If you have a tendency to be messy, don’t expect to become a neat-freak overnight. You can’t change a lifetime of habits overnight. (And if you can, please write a blog!) Set achievable goals, take it one day at a time, and strive for consistency. Try to make each day better than the last. Slowly you will find yourself with less work to do each day, which means you can dive into another project or start organizing those drawers or closets you never find time to get to.

When Kate and I started this blog, one of our primary goals was to be honest, not shiny. We are not perfect and neither are our houses. Just like (almost) everyone else. So, I say all of that to say it is OKAY if your house is always always always a mess. It really is. Even the cleanest of people, I’m sure, wishes things were a little more clean and tidy. Just think, when your kids are grown and the opportunities to make memories with little people has come and gone, your house can be clean. I would rather my house be messy and my kids be happy. When I’m 90 years old and recalling my greatest memories, I can ASSURE YOU I will not be picturing my clean house. So find a balance between messy & clean, don’t stress over the opinions of people who don’t live there, and be happy.

Any quick cleaning tips or habits hat have made a difference for you? Please don’t keep them to yourself! Share below!

XOXO, Elizabeth & Kate