Kids' Activities, koefoe party of 5, momlife, parenting, Tips & Hacks, vacation

5 Tips to Survive Your Next Flight with Kids

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When Cole was a baby, we went on a lot of trips. Before he was a year, he’d flown to Seattle, New York, Baltimore, and Hawaii twice. And generally, it went really well. Then we had Evie, and when she was about 4 months old we decided to try a flight as a family of four. But after a 45 minute flight to Reno, we swore off air travel. It wasn’t for us. We would drive, we would cruise, but there was no way in hell we were getting back on a plane.

Until now.

As a family of 5.

Going across an ocean.

It was time to get strategic. This isn’t a simple toss a baby in an Ergo, bounce and provide snacks type of production. And lots of the tips for road tripping with kids is applicable, but a plane has all. Those. Other. People. So here are plane specific tips for traveling with your band of misfit monsters darling children.

Continue reading “5 Tips to Survive Your Next Flight with Kids”

Mama Mojo, MicroLuxuries, vacation

MicroLuxury Monday: Find YOU

It’s a little sad that this has to even be said. Because truly, the MICROEST (and yes, that’s a word now) luxury there can be is taking five minutes and finding yourself again. Not you the Mom, or you the Wife, or you the President of the PTA, the Brownie Mom, or the Soccer Mom.

Just. YOU.

The you that you were before all the other stuff. You can still LOVE the other stuff – and for your own sake, I hope you do! But that doesn’t mean that deep down inside there isn’t a part of you that you’ve lost a little.

There are parts of me that I try so hard to make sure stay present in my life. Me the reader. Me the crafter. Me the Aunt. Me the sister and friend and bowler (yes, bowler!) and roller coaster lover and dancer.  21463211_10214630619225503_4027589449378062963_n

And me the PSYCHO FOOTBALL FAN.

Oh, was that not where you thought this was going? Sorry. Because the truth is, pre-kids, from September to December Football. Was. Life.

When my husband and I got engaged in November 2010, he asked if I had any dates in mind. I immediately said, “next October 8.”  He was a little taken aback that I’d already had a date totally selected and wondered how I ever picked that so fast? My response? “Well, let’s be honest, I sort of knew this was coming and I want a fall wedding and so I checked the football schedule and we have a bye that weekend so everyone can come and no one will be checking the score all night. Plus, it would totally ruin my wedding day if we lost. So this just makes sense.”

1917057_1288549740177_4483465_nSo it was that Saturdays were spent off to the game or parked in a bar, friends house or our living room stuffing ourselves with snacks and beer and cheering until our throats were sore. Sunday was church, rinse and repeat. It was an exciting way to spend the weekend, and let’s be real, we didn’t have a whole lot of other commitments or responsibilities. The house stayed cleaner and there was way less laundry to do back then too.

Then, kids. And for a while we tried. We took each of the kids to a game or two as babies. We watched games on the weekend but had to stifle our cheers so as to not wake said babies. We got distracted and missed the big play because we were rocking a baby, feeding a baby, changing a baby. Slowly but surely, our priorities shifted.

My sister called me the other day because she needed help with a fantasy draft and I had no clue what to tell her. It didn’t happen overnight, but the realization still stung: I wasn’t a football person anymore. It was like a crushing blow to who I always thought I was. I still have all the sweatshirts, put up the decorations, and love the game. But I just. Can’t. follow it like I used to.

At this point I could either accept the new normal and keep falling farther and farther out of touch with this thing that I loved, or make a change.

I opted to change. Not completely. I still have important obligations on Saturday that mean I can’t spend every weekend glued to the screen or sitting in the stands. But I made a pact with my best friend. Once a year, we were going to pack our bags and travel to an away game for our favorite team. No husbands, no kids, just two best friends going to a football game together. Like old times.

Which brings us to today. Fresh off a plane from Oakland where the USC Trojans took on the Cal Golden Bears. I would like to tell you that it didn’t matter if we won or not. That sharing a great weekend with my girlfriend is the real win. That making myself a priority is a win in itself. Because what the weekend was really about was finding me. But guess what? If it didn’t matter, then I wouldn’t have found me! Because football is NOT about the journey. It’s about the destination – and we. are. WINNERS!!! That might not matter to Mom/Wife me, but pre-kids football psycho me? Went. Crazy. Just as it should be.

Today I’m back to being the Wife, the Mother, the person that does everything for everyone else. But this weekend? I was the psycho football fan. And I loved it.

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football
Bouncing Babies, koefoe party of 5, Mama Mojo, Married with Children, momlife, Momsquad, The Daddys, They Said WHAT?, vacation, Why We're Salty

Mama’s Going Out of Town: Reactions From a Concerned Community

When I was three years and three kids into Motherhood, I embarked on one of my most exciting journeys. A trip the HELL out of dodge. Without my husband. Without my kids. Just me, a cruise ship, the open ocean, and 9 of my best Mamas.

I was excited and apprehensive and happy and nervous and all the emotions. To be honest, I love to WATCH a Mom vacation a la Real Housewives of Every Single Franchise Ever, but there was always a part of me that was like, “why do they want to go out of town without their families so often???”

Now, I know.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Because unlike the Real Housewives of Everywhere, the drama surrounding my trip happened entirely before we set sail. Basically, the moment I told anyone I was going somewhere. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me, “Who’s watching the children?,” I could probably have paid for the entire trip. If I got another dollar every time someone had to pick their jaw up off the floor when I answered, “Uh….their father,” I could have covered my bar tab. Which, for the record, ended up being a very significant total. But I digress.

The people around me were VERY concerned with me going on this trip. Offers to assist Chad flew in from every corner of my universe. I could leave confident that no one would go hungry, because the neighborhood was going to band together and bring a collection of casseroles and baked goods. His arms would never ache because the biddies at church all volunteered to come over and “just hold the baby” while he tended to the other children. Other people got fancy with their plans. “I’ll take Evie, we can do something fun! Then see if your Mom can take the baby, that way Chad can just hang out with Cole! Guy time!”

Basically the message was this: If Mommy was irresponsible enough to just go and LEAVE her children with a practical stranger their Father, then my village was going to step in and provide backup.

Perhaps this leaves a questionable perception of my husband. By all accounts, he’s a pretty hands on Dad in every day life. He changes diapers, he plays and reads, he knows his way around a onesie.

But I get it. Three days is a lot of time with the kids. He isn’t as used to doing everything day after day after day. Alone. Let’s be real, three days would be a lot for anyone.

Know how I know that?

BECAUSE MY HUSBAND HAS TO TRAVEL FOR WORK AND I DO THIS ALL THE FREAKING TIME.

When he went to Wichita for three days, where was my casserole???

When he went to Utah for a week, who was coming over to hold my baby???

When he left to Connecticut for two days when our third baby was TWO WEEKS OLD who the EFF took the reigns and doled out my other children so I could focus on the tiny ball of NEED???

Yeah, crickets.

So I stood there, patiently listening to all the concerned voices and when they felt like they’d said their piece, I told them all the same thing, “Thank you, that’s very generous, but he’ll be fine.”

And guess what?

He was.

With a little help from my Mom 😉

Mamas going on vacation
Effing Four Year Olds, koefoe party of 5, Terrible Twos, vacation, Why We're Salty

How to Have a Successful Day at Disneyland

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As I sit here in our staycation suite, thanking the little baby Jesus that I somehow – finally – MIRACULOUSLY got all three of my spawn to nap at the same time I can’t help but reflect on the past couple of days…and how freaking good they went. Sorry, this is going to be a straight up BRAGFEST up in here. Because my husband and I just spend three days at “The Happiest Place on Earth” and it was actually the Happiest Place on Earth. At least most of the time. Which got me thinking – why???

What did we do to deserve this? Was karma just on our side? Had we had enough shit shows at Disneyland that we were simply due? I felt like I HAD to pin down the reason – hopefully to replicate it! As I reflected on our day, it came down to three things:

  1. Attitude
  2. Parenting
  3. LUCK

Attitude. Yesterday we were in line to meet Mickey and behind us was the grumpiest 20624061_10214214203175362_318810456_nperson in Disneyland. Yes, Grumpier than Grumpy himself. She grumbled all through the line to see the Mouse about how terrible the day had been. Someone asked her if it was the people? The crowds? No, it was EVERYTHING. Well listen, we go to Disneyland a lot. And yes, it was hot as hell and it was crowded and I’ll give you that it ain’t cheap. But it surely couldn’t be that everything is terrible. Take a minute to enjoy something. That place is CLEAN. Like, a first time Mom that’s a germaphobe could probably let a baby eat a cracker off the floor kind of clean. And there is such a meticulous attention to detail there’s lots for your eyes to enjoy everywhere you go. Chad could spend hours just checking out the plantlife – but he’s a nerd like that, so I cede that isn’t everyone’s jam. I just don’t know how someone could HATE absolutely EVERYTHING about Disneyland. So I’ve got to assume this chick needed an attitude adjustment. If you’re grumpy and miserable, nothing’s going to make you happy – not even a corn dog or a pineapple Dole whip!

Parenting. Okay, this may be controversial. But YES, parenting CAN have an influence on how your kids behave. It would be lovely to think that it was all a crapshoot and we were never responsible for our kids bad behavior, but tragically, it’s not true.

Side story: My husband does storytime with the Bigs before bed while I’m dressing/diapering/feeding the baby for her bedtime. Recently, I’ve overheard him reading “The Berenstein Bears Get the Gimmies” and talking to them about the Gimmies (“gimme this toy” and “gimme that candy” type of stuff). I was always like, “Hell yeah! Teach the kids to knock it off with the Gimmies!” Then one day my kids asked me to read the book. And, spoiler alert, it’s totally the parents fault that Brother and Sister Bear have the Gimmies in the first place! SO, moral of the story: Parenting. Dang it.

Back to Disneyland…The most commonly used four words to end a sentence at Disneyland? “….Or we’re going home!” As in, “knock it of or….” and “stay in the stroller or…” and “stop licking your sister or…..” And guess what? The kids know that it’s all BS! Cause you’re not gonna do it. So your threats mean nothing. Find a threat you can stick to. There with multiple adults? How about “….or you can’t go on X ride.” Yep, cause let me tell you, you only need to make Evie sit aside and NOT ride The Little Mermaid about once before she realizes you’re not playing. My kids will never remember where they left their shoes, but they will never forget that time their siblings got to ride without them.

Luck. Look, it may have seemed like I talk a big game back there in the ol’ “Parenting” section. But let’s be clear. I don’t actually know what the F I’m doing.  I also know that you can be a black belt ninja in parenting and still have the world go against you. Good parenting cannot make sure you get the exact color Teacup your son will die without getting. Good parenting does not prevent your daughter from spilling her brand new popcorn all over the place. Good parenting does not help when your 2 year old is to small to go on all the “good rides” her 4 year old brother is going on and the ONLY thing in the world that will make it better is riding on The Little Mermaid ride – again – and it breaks right before she gets on. In that case? You’re just screwed.

Use all your tricks, bribes, food, distractions and pray you can turn that juju around, because luck is definitely the most critical component for success.

But, if you have a great attitude and you find your inner parenting blackbelt and karma is on your side, maybe just maybe you can get a great day at Disneyland.

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Bouncing Babies, koefoe party of 5, momlife, parenting, They Said WHAT?, vacation, Why We're Salty

Panic at Panera

Road trips are always a huge endeavor, especially when you’re traveling with a bunch of little ones. You spend more time prepping for the trip than you’ll probably spend at your final  destination, making sure you have everything you could possibly need for every possible scenario: illness, peed pants, owies of all shapes and sizes, snacks – OH GOD THE SNACKS. Every possible book that will be required to get the kids to sleep at the end of the night and every toy that might be needed to get someone to stop crying/fighting/fussing/etc. I started getting ready on a Friday and a year and a half later we were packed, loaded and on the road.

Later that day, we found ourselves in the middle of what we thought was a seven hour drive – which ended up being over eleven hours – and were all in pretty good spirits. My husband and Dad were in the front row, chatting away, seemingly oblivious to the chaos of the back two rows. The kids were mostly singing songs from the major motion picture Moana and playing games they made up like “Guess the Animal,” where Evie gave charming clues like, “The animal I’m thinking of is a mouse.” It was cute, but freaking A man, was it LOUD.  We had strategically positioned the carseats so that no one could touch each other, so at least there was that. But even cute wears off after a few hours.

Then something happens and cute is a distant memory.

And when you’re trapped in the third row of a Ford Explorer with your very talkative20503897_10214160697637757_1520894625_n three year old sitting right next to you and your very hungry 7 month old screaming as she stares you down from her second row spot, the Panera off the highway might just look a little like heaven.

The second we parked the car I started yelling to the Daddies in the front row, “Please, please get the kids out so I can get out of the car, PLEASE!!” I scrambled over seats and literally fell into the parking lot, the black pavement scalding hot, but I was on LAND. And there was going to be food.

We went in, ordered and that’s when the fun began.

If you know anything about eating with kids, it’s that seat selection can make or break your meal. When in doubt DO NOT SIT NEXT TO THE NICE LOOKING OLD LADIES IN PANERA. This may have been a one off,  but just in case. Heed this warning.

We all sat down and started to eat. The baby – a staunch refuser of all things pureed – was sitting in her high chair enjoying one of a baby’s major food groups: the Mum Mum. Yes, it looks like I’m feeding my baby a bird treat but she loves it, so I’ll keep ripping open package after package as long as she likes. Being a baby though, she drops food. All the time. In quick succession she dropped not one, but TWO of the coveted Mum Mums. I chastised her playfully saying, “Silly baby, you’ve got to stop dropping your food!”

It was at this point that Lil Biddy #1 decided to mumble, “Of course she’s dropping it, it’s WAY too big for a baby….how can she possibly eat it….ugh….grumble grumble.” Uh, excuse me? I shot over a look, equal parts, “I’m sure I just heard you wrong” and “Nosy bitch says what??” Okay,  maybe not quite equal parts.

Resume meal.

At some point, Izzie ran out of Mum Mums and it was time to bust out the canister of Puffs. Both food AND fine motor skill enhancer, Puffs are pretty much the perfect food for a baby on the go. Sure, she can spill them EVERYWHERE, but the cleanup is pretty easy. What could someone not like about PUFFS????

Enter Lil Biddy stage left! This pushed her straight over the edge. “That’s it. I can’t stay here and watch this anymore. Those are too small! That baby is going to choke and die and it’s all that Mother’s fault!!!”

She, no joke, STORMED OUT OF PANERA. Lil Biddy #2 chased behind her crying, “I mean, I think those are actually made for babies….” but it was too late. She was dust.

In the moment, I actually thought it was funny. Me, feeding my baby food, that was made for a baby, was such terrible parenting that it drove two ladies from a restaurant. Are we in the twilight zone? It was honest to God laughable. In fact, my whole table laughed. But the more I thought about it, the more it chapped my ass. Who do these people think they are that it’s okay to just comment on every parent that comes in their wake? Because make no mistake. This was not unique to that day, to that Panera. Chad thought it was funny as well, and commented on how random it was which is when I realized that it doesn’t happen to him. It happens to the Moms. Our jobs are open to feedback and criticism and judgement, from anyone, anywhere.

Whether you’re in the grocery store, or an amusement park, or Panera.

And it’s BS.

So we won’t even get started on what happened at the next rest stop where….but Evie looked like this. So use your imagination…18697898_10213434533244101_1156915492_o

Kids' Activities, momlife, parenting, vacation

Road Tripping

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So I’m not trying to brag or anything, but…well I totally am. I’m shamelessly going to proclaim myself the queen of road trips, because everyone has gifts, and this may well be mine. My family ROCKS at road trips.

No, I’m totally just kidding. I’m currently writing this while draped over my crying one year old, making shushing sounds in his ear. So for sure I don’t have it all figured out.

But I will say that my kids have been road tripping since infancy. We drive two hour stretches very often, like monthly. And we’ve taken many, many 9+ hour trips, from when we had one tiny baby to today. Like, TODAY today.

Anyways, so I’m not an expert, but I am very experienced. Here’s a few tips, so you can gain from my wisdom learn from my mistakes.

Phase One: prep within an inch of your life (your sanity may depend upon it). Bring so many more snacks than you ever dreamed (fruit and cheese for early on, then goldfish and pretzels, and chips and fruit snacks. You’ll want options). Bring drinks. They shouldn’t be alcoholic, though you’ll wish they were. Raid the dollar store, or more than one if you have time. Buy self-contained projects, toys, candy. Buy stickers, crayons, dry erase markers, magnets and a cookie sheet, window clings. Buy everything, because on hour nine you would pay ANYTHING to keep the kids from crying and/or screaming. $1 is the bargain of a lifetime. Also pack quarters and dollar bills, in case you need to bribe them reward their good behavior.

Phase Two: Do nothing. For as long as possible. Look out the windows. Try not to entertain your kids in any way. You might (hopefully) be surprised. Our last road trip, this phase lasted an hour and a half. Valuable time when I wasn’t using up all my pre-prepped stuff.

Phase Three: move on to classic road trip games. 20 questions for the older kids, I Spy for the littles. Take turns counting (you say 1, they say 2, and so on) or saying the alphabet. Play Peekaboo. Sing all the songs.

Phase Four: bust out the most boring activity you brought. Probably a book or coloring. Draw it out.

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Phase Five: time for a more exciting activity, like sticker mosaics, magnetic games, or a sticker book. Or maybe a new toy. Whatever you think will give your kids some hope on a dark, dark day.

Phase Six: start doling out the snacks. Puffs, Little Crunchies, and pouches for your solid-food-eating babies. Pretzels, raisins, and granola bars for the older kids.

Phase Seven: try to cycle back through the other steps. Pray it works. Cry a little when they aren’t looking. Regroup.

Phase Eight: electronics. Time to bring out the apps, the DVD players, and the downloaded shows. Now is not the time for high horses. It’s the time for survival.

Phase Nine: try and cycle through the tips. Again. You’re almost out of tricks, and you’re not. even.close.

lollipops

Tip Ten:  I hope you brought alllll the candy. And did not tell the children about it, or let them see it. This candy was to be secretly reserved for an emergency. Now it’s an emergency. Draw it out. Make them guess what the surprise is before you show them. Make them pick a hand. Spend ten minutes where they keep not guessing the right hand and they giggle (hopefully). When you finally produce the goods,  dole out one piece at a time in exchange for answering trivia questions. Or as prizes for who can keep their eyes closed longest. Or whatever you can think of. This is your last hope, and you’ve got to make it last.

Or rather, I’VE got to make it last. For the next hour  or so. We’re on hour ten of an eleven hour trip, and I’m fresh out of candy… And patience. Wish me luck.

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