Effing Four Year Olds, Holidays, Kids' Activities, momlife, parenting, The Salties, Tips & Hacks, Traditions

Teaching Kids the Spirit of Giving This Holiday Season

Last year at Christmastime, I had everything. I had a beautiful Christmas tree, home baked goods, the love of my family and friends…

And an entitled three year old who thought SHE should have everything, too. Everything from the Target toy aisle, anyways.

No matter how I tried, I could NOT convince her to pare down her list. Every catalog that came in the mail, every trip to Target for diapers, even phone calls to the grandparents seemed to unleash her inner Gimme Monster. On one particularly bad, trying-to-make-a-list-for Santa Claus day, this Mama had had enough. Continue reading “Teaching Kids the Spirit of Giving This Holiday Season”

Crafty Mamas, Kids' Activities, momlife, parenting, The Salties, Tips & Hacks

Achieving Super-Mom Status with a Busy Bag

This post contains affiliate links, but as always, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are our own. You can read more at our Legal & Disclosures page. Thank you!

You know those times when your kids have to just sit quietly for a really long time, and you are out of data and/or don’t have enough phones to go around and/or they’ve already watched 75 hours of TV today? Like when the doctor is running behind, or if you’re flying to Hawaii, or when your husband sends you and your two children to stand in line for a few hours at a Best Buy for a video game system at 6 am on fifteen minutes notice?

No? Is that one just me?

Well at any rate, I don’t always feel like a super mom, but the thing that is sure to make me give myself some major kudos is my fully-stocked, always-so-ready-it-lives-in-the-trunk Busy Bag. My bag of choice is the Zip-Top Organizing Utility Tote from Thirty One  (which I love because ALL THE POCKETS), but it can be done with any similar bag.

(Side Note: A fully loaded Busy Bag makes an INCREDIBLE family gift for Christmas, or when a new baby is on the way.  If you are giving this as a gift, I would definitely go with the Thirty-One Tote. It definitely gives it an extra polish, and can be embroidered. Yes, Christine sells Thirty-One. But I’m being completely objective here- it’s got Wow Factor.)

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The most crucial aspect of the Busy Bag, besides the bag, is the little tray that lives inside of it. It’s just a cheap cookie sheet from the Dollar Tree, but it operates as a desk, magnet board, flannel board, and snack tray when we are out and about. And as a bonus, it fits PERFECTLY across the armrests of my kids’ carseats during road trips.

So once you’ve got your bag and your tray ready, it is time to fill it with all sorts of cheap, won’t -break-my-heart-to-lose-it, engaging little activities for your youngsters. What’s in mine changes constantly, which is probably part of the allure of the bag for my kids. I am always on the hunt for little Dollar Bin finds to fill it with, and dollar stores are a surprisingly rich treasure trove of everything-included projects.

Here are a few of the items that make regular appearances or are permanent fixtures in our bag:

• Coloring Books and Crayons
Color Wonder Markers and Paper
• A PlayPack or Two
Playdough
• Magnet Letters and Numbers
• A few magnet puzzles, or small puzzles with magnets attached to the back.
• Beads and pipe cleaners for lacing
Sticker Mosaics
• Stickers and Blank Paper
• A Magna Doodle
Activity books
Water Wow Books
MagicInk Books 
• Non-Perishable Snacks
Laminated Eye Spy Pages, Connect-the-Dots, Finish-the-Picture Prompts, Tracing Pages, etc. with a dry erase marker
• Color By Number Pages
• A few pre-prepped craft activities and a glue stick
• Some of these Melissa and Doug “On the Go” sets
• Memory games
Magnetic tic-tac-toe
Paint-With-Water Books/Pages
• Duplo blocks for younger kids, or small bags of Legos for older kids

I’m telling you, this bag makes me look like I have my stuff together. And after the initial setup, it just takes a little refill here and there to keep it fresh and exciting. Beyond that, I am ready to look like one of THOSE moms at any time, in any place. Like while watching the sunrise in a Best Buy parking lot.

*****

Want to see the Busy Bag in action? Head over to Facebook to watch a video that shows the bag’s features and what I keep inside!

 

 

Looking for a gift for an entire family? This thoughtful gift will have you one and done. Read more at thesaltymamas.com. #familygift #christmasgift #giftideas
Road trips, appointments, flying with kids? We've got the perfect solution to entertain your kids anytime, anywhere at thesaltymamas.com #busybag #roadtrip #flyingwithkids

 

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

5 Tips to Survive Your Next Flight with Kids

This post contains affiliate links, , but as always, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are our own. You can read more at our Legal & Disclosures page. Thank you!

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”

Bouncing Babies, Effing Four Year Olds, Kids' Activities, Terrible Twos, The Salties, The Wonderful Ones, Threenagers, Tips & Hacks

9 Ways to Play with Rocks

My kids have thousands of dollars worth of games and toys and arts and crafts and I even am not above allowing some indulgent screen time. But the fact is, at the end of the day, they love dirt and sticks and rocks. Yeah, rocks. Which – don’t get me wrong – I love. I love SO much, I want to pass that love of rocks on to you! So here are nine fun ways for your little ones to play with rocks.

  1. Paint them. Rock painting is so in right now. Seriously. It seems that it’s t22447575_10102454468377797_269538747_nhe hot kid  craft on Pinterest. And it’s hot for a reason. Because kids love to paint rocks. Whether your kids want to paint ladybugs or pumpkins or just go nuts free form, kids will love it. Plus, you can do it outside, which is extra awesome because you aren’t going to ruin your dining room table. We even have some friends whose kids love to paint rocks with WATER. I mean, you literally can’t get a cleaner craft than that! It’s. Just. WATER. And rocks. World’s easiest cleanup ever.
  2. Tic-Tac-Toe. My 4 year old is obsessed with Tic-Tac-Toe right now. Which means there are sheets of paper all over my house like confetti with scribbles all over them. So you know what’s boss? A reusable tic-tac-toe board. Even better? One that’s in my yard, that I only have to draw once, and then can use rocks for our “X’s” and “O’s.”
  3. Stacking. All three of my kids love to stack things – anything! They also love to compete with each other. Who can make the highest stack of rocks? Who can keep the tower balanced? Who will knock it over? There are so many variations even in different ways to just stack the rocks. And endless entertainment!IMG_20170826_103408267
  4. Carrying them back and forth. Okay, I know what you’re thinking, “Hey, this list just jumped the shark. These chicks think my kids will be entertained by carrying rocks back and forth across my yard.” And maybe you’re right. Maybe your kid won’t do it. But we’re here to tell you that we literally sat in Jaymi’s backyard and watched our kids carry rocks from a bucket to a pile AND BACK AGAIN for like 45 minutes last week. I think they made some sort of a secret game out of it, but they didn’t clue the adults in on the rules. All I know is those rocks were on the move in the hot little hands of our kids. Kids that got wiped out from all that rock carrying. So, SOLD.
  5. Rock Hunt. This one’s pretty simple: Do just what it sounds like. Hide those rocks and let the kids find them. As one of our kids’ friends announced the other day, “You don’t have to wait for Easter to do an Easter egg hunt!” True that, Muriel! Egg hunts are great one day a year, but rock hunts – those are a classic the other 364.
  6. Steal the Bacon. Remember sweating on the blacktop waiting for your number to be called so you could race to grab a blackboard eraser? Well, we’re fresh out of blackboard erasers at our house. But we got rocks! And whether it’s a group of kids at a playdate or just two of mine facing off head to head, a race for the rock is a big hit. More bonus points for this one being another tiring activity. With basically no setup, no cleanup and the only parental involvement being to yell, “GO!”
  7. Rocks as Cooking Ingredients. Stone soup isn’t just a classic story about a selfish
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    You can never have too many cooks in a stone soup kitchen!

    town that is tricked into sharing their soup. It’s also a culinary classic in our backyard. Stones, leaves, dirt all create a “delicious” base to be stirred with sticks. This one takes some more parental involvement (I admit I’m wayyyyyy over pretending to slurp soup and report how delicious it is) and can be significantly messier than some of the other options, but my kids are all about getting messy, so bring it on!

  8. Story Garden. A story garden is the perfect way to bring your kids’ imaginative play outside. This one’s a two parter, but worth it! First, see #1 and paint those bad boys. You can paint anything you want on the stones – houses, animals, boats, foods, cars, bugs, rainbows, shapes, people – you name it! Then, make stories! The possibilities are ENDLESS with what you can create! Here’s a few ways to play with them compiled by The Artful Parent and we’re partial to this cute Hungry Caterpillar set which is perfect for retelling.
  9. Rock Toss. Only to be played if you trust your kids won’t chuck the rocks straight at your head, their siblings heads, their friends heads, etc. Once that’s established, my kids dig this one. We use a hula hoop as the place to toss rocks and we start a foot or two away from the hoop. Each kid gets to toss a rock into the hoop. After they make that shot, they step back. And back. And back. And back. Until they miss at which point we start over. My competitive little kids love the challenge of this. Once the hula hoop has been mastered, you can always make smaller targets with anything you have around the house!

Now go find some rocks, and have some fun!

#rocks #paintedrocks #stonesoup #pretendplay #childhoodunplugged #toddlers #preschoolers #kids #outdoorplay #imaginativeplay #getoutside #letthembelittle
Get outside and have fun with these EASY ways to play with rocks – that your kids will LOVE!

 

Kids' Activities, momlife, parenting

Get Outside

This post contains affiliate links. The Salty Mamas may receive a small commission from items purchased after clicking the links.  Additionally, we’d like to thank SourceBooks for providing a book, “15 Minutes Outside,” for a giveaway. Thank you for supporting us!

Are your kids getting enough time outside each day? Find out here, along with a list of great ways to play outside with your kids!

According to experts, kids are supposed to spend at least two hours a day playing outside.

Stop and take that in for a second. TWO. HOURS.

Now this may seem crazy when you think about the amount of time your kids are at school, or the amount of time you are at work. But when you think back to when you were a little kid, it might not seem that ridiculous.  I remember getting home from school and taking off on my bike with my friends. Or exploring the creek next to our house for hours.  Or playing endless pretend in our backyard, or gardening with my mom, or swimming in our (above-ground) pool. There was SO much time outdoors, that it wasn’t even a thing. It was just something that we did. Do I think my mom worried about meeting the required two hours each day? Uh, no. Because that was not a thing back then. You just sent the dang kids out.

And we (I’m talking societally here), just don’t do that anymore.  Even when you talk about going “screen free” or unplugged, it usually means board games and books and hours of playdough play.  It’s not considered safe for kids to roam around on their own, and our green spaces are kind of being eaten up.  So we have to make up for it somehow, as forced as it may seem at times.  Because yes, it is another “requirement” of childhood, but from a scientific perspective, it is crucial (check out this article from the New York Post if you want to read more about this). Kids who spend more time outside are less likely to be obese and are less likely to be diagnosed with attention-related disorders.  Time spent in green spaces is good for anxiety and depression, and reduces stress-and that goes for little kids and grown ups alike. We were biologically just meant to spend time outside, and we have to make sure that’s happening for our little ones, and our bigger kids, too.

 

IMG_20170730_131845132I recently read a book called “15 Minutes Outside” by author Rebecca Cohen, that gives hundreds of concrete, easy examples on how to get your kids outside. And most of the ideas aren’t even that big of a deal. Take a basket of books into the backyard on a blanket and read there. Or eat your dinner at the local park. Take a nature walk through your neighborhood, or go on your balcony and make wishes on the first early stars.  I tend to think of outdoor play as an adventure, requiring prep and large stretches of time, but this book really helped me to see that those little stretches can add up over time and make a big difference. Not only in the amount of time you spend outside, which, obviously. But also in the amount of quality time spent together as a family.

So let’s all make an effort this week to get up, and get our kids out. Start small, and make a concerted effort to get out for just a little bit longer today than you usually do. The change of scenery may just do everyone some good.

 

Looking for more ideas on how to get out with your family and play? Here are six easy ways to get started.

  1. Take an Art Project Outside, like our friends at Little Mama Jama with this fun Minion footprint art. Read the instructions for this project here, or take any paints/crayons/chalk outside and create under a shady tree.
  2. Get Some Open Ended Toys. Here’s a list of really cool, open ended outdoor toys from Real Mom Recs. Most of them are fairly low-maintenance, low-prep ways to get your kids out and having fun.
  3. Put a Twist on Water Play. This little “fishing” game is the perfect way for your kiddos to practice learning to spell their name while they are getting wet outside.  It does take a bit of initial prep, but once you have it made, you can bring it out any time you need to change up your water play.
  4. Go On a Nature Walk. My kids had always been reluctant to amble around the neighborhood, until we put this fun twist on the standard stroll. Go on a nature walk- give your kids bags to collect items in nature (think flowers, leaves, etc.) and look for wildlife. You can even find printable Nature Scavenger Hunt checklists here to add some more fun and structure to your walk.
  5. Play some old school games. These little games have been around forever- and for good reason! Here is a list of old school games you can play outside with your children (or that they can play with the neighbors while you sit on the porch with a glass of wine lemonade. I’m just saying).
  6. Looking for even more outside fun? Imperfectly Perfect Mama has come up with a list of 50 fun and simple ways to get your kids outdoors.

 

Want to win your own copy of “15 Minutes Outside?” Share this post on the social media platform of your choice (buttons below!) and comment “Shared” here.  Giveaway is sponsored by SourceBooks, the publisher of “15 Minutes Outside.” Open to US and Canada only (sorry, International Salties!). Giveaway will close on Friday, September 29 at midnight PST and the winner will be announced by Sunday, October 1st. Good luck, and happy playing!

Our giveaway has closed, and our lucky winner is Lauren from explorermomma.com. Congratulations, Lauren! We’ll be contacting you soon to find out where to send your copy of 15 Minutes Outside, courtesy of SourceBooks. Thanks again to all who participated, and happy playing!

Effing Four Year Olds, koefoe party of 5, momlife, The Salties

Summer Send-Off

The Salty Mamas reflect on their summers, and they made you this sweet little printable so you and your family can record your summer memories too!

Summer may not officially be over until September 21, but let’s face it: It’s over for us. The kids are in school, the lifeguards are working their last weekend at the beach, and there’s football on the TV today. For all intents and purposes, it’s fall. But before we put on our cozy scarf and grab a pumpkin spice latte, we have a tradition of sitting down as a family and doing a Summer Send-Off.

And now, you can join us! Snag this printable and take a few minutes to capture the best, worst, and most memorable events from your summer!

Record your family's summer memories with this sweet, free printable!

What’s your favorite vacation memory?

Jaymi: We spent an amazing three days at a cabin on some remote coastal property in NorCal. The road trip there was intense, but man was it worth it. No TV, minimal internet, no work, not even toys… Just our little family and our friends, spending the days hiking, rope-swinging, roasting S’mores, and playing at the beach. Pure, unplugged magic.

Christine: On a whim, we decided to go down to San Diego for a night to go to the zoo. They were going to have bands and lights and a special bubble show off this giant bridge and it all sounded like fun. But all my kids wanted in the whole world was to see the hippos. So we walked around, we did the bus tour, but still no hippos. They were on the very very very far side of the zoo through very steep and windy paths. And we were pushing a thousand pounds of stroller. I really wanted to shut it down. We could see them next time. But the kids were insistent. We had to see the hippos. So right before the zoo was closed, we made our way to the right path. And it was DARK. This isn’t like some amusement park where they light everything up – no, this is like the wild. And it was a little spooky. And there were animal noises everywhere. You could barely see. And then we came upon the hippos. And there was no one there. Just us and one beautiful hippo swimming back and forth and back and forth. And my kids were the happiest I’ve seen them in a long time. I was so glad we went looking for the hippo.

What’s something from summer you’d like to forget?

The unnecessary stress I put myself through. I get too worked up over things that are supposed to be all fun and get caught up in the details. I need to try to relax a little!

The Great Potty Training Debacle of Summer 2017 – wherein my 2 year old, who we thought was ready to potty train due to one successful declaration of “I need to pee!” She was NOT apparently because upon us making the effort to train her she decided to go on a two week stint where she would poop consistently – and EXCLUSIVELY – in a pool. Not cool.
 
What will you miss most about the summer?

I am going to miss all the opportunities for free or cheap kids’ activities. Cheap movies, wading pools, late evenings at the park, days at the beach. Anything that got me out of the house and having fun with my kids! And I think I’m going to miss having Lila home with us everyday (I mean, you never know. I could be like, “Thank God It’s Monday” on the regular. Only time will tell!).  Having her home gave us so much flexibility, and so many opportunities for fun, that I know that I’m going to miss her. But summer will be here again before we know it!

I’ll miss our pool being warm enough to swim in everyday. Poop incidents aside, the pool is our favorite thing. And this year I had the added bonus of the big kids both being completely confident swimmers so I could sit on the side and watch them have a great time – and get hella tired. Early morning swims as the sun rose, hot midday swims while the baby napped, sunset swims where I had to beg them to get out to eat dinner and late night y’all should be in bed already swims. Soon the pool will be too cold for us to swim whenever and I’ll sure miss it.
 
What was your best moment of the summer?

 An evening at the wading pool. Hands down. So simple, but I was already nostalgic for it while it was still happening.

Is it so absolutely terrible if my best moment totally did NOT involve my kids?? During our staycation, we had the genius idea of getting a babysitter at the hotel. Vacations are wonderful, but all that togetherness and kids and hotel rooms and everything that makes it into a trip can be forgotten for one brief shining night when you get a babysitter! My husband and I went to Disneyland and went on rides and ate food without managing the needs of the tiny people and had conversations without interruptions and it was the kind of night that makes you realize why date nights really are that important. Which is why over after dinner drinks and some chocolate bread pudding that was bomb.com we decided we needed to make date nights a “thing.” So we did. And I definitely credit it to that one perfect summer night.

 

Now it’s your turn- download the printable and spend some time with your family talking about your summer highs and lows, and then share a little with us in the comments below!

Effing Four Year Olds, Kids' Activities, momlife, parenting, The Salties, Tips & Hacks

10 School Readiness Skills (That Have NOTHING to Do with Academics!)

 

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This post includes affiliate links, which means we’ll earn a small commission off of in made by clicking through. Thanks for supporting The Salty Mamas!

The school year is rapidly approaching, and for the very first time, I am preparing my own little girl for going “Back to School.” As a former teacher, there are soooo many things I want to teach her before school starts- and believe it or not, letters and numbers are the least of my concerns! Here’s ten things that you can teach your kids that your Kindergarten/TK/Pre-K teacher will LOVE you for.

1. How to Write Their Name
This is a really, really hard thing to teach whole group. Spend a little time having them trace their name before having them move on to writing it solo. And feel free to leave the paper and pencil approach until later- check out Practical Name Writing in 12 Fun Ways by Hands On As We Grow.

2. Cutting on a Line/Curve
Similar to the skill above, scissor skills are really tricky to teach when you’re no longer one-on-one. Show your kiddo how to hold the scissors, to use them safely, and to move the paper (not the scissors) as they cut. You can draw lines on paper for them to practice with, or buy this colorful activity book that gets progressively harder with each page.

3. Coloring Skills
Now listen, we LOVE a kid who colors outside of the lines. BUT, there are times when coloring inside is important, too. Help your child to learn the difference between coloring for fun and coloring on schoolwork. Help them to decide when to use “realistic colors” versus when they can go rogue. Any coloring book can be used for this, but this fun book really narrows in on these skills.

4. Glue Skills
Let’s save the poor teacher some mess, yeah? Can you imagine cleaning up after thirty kids with glue bottles? Let’s don’t do that to him or her. Work on squeezing the glue bottle just a little (we use the phrase “Dot, dot. Not a lot!”). This exclusive, Salty Mama printable can help your kiddo to practice this skill, along with a few others on the list. Also work on using gluesticks. Need more help with gluesticks? This cute little craft kit  will give your child plenty of practice- and they won’t even know they’re working on school readiness skills!

School Readiness Printable
You can work on several school skills at once with this fun printable craft! Get yours here!

5. Pencil Grip
I don’t want your child’s teacher to have to run around to each student and show them how to hold a pencil. Think of all the time wasted! Have your child practice using a functional grip (on or two fingers on top of the pencil, with the thumb underneath). Is your child struggling? Use shorter pencils or crayons, which eliminates some of the other, less useful grips. Need more tips on how to help with this? Head on over to Living for the Sunshine to read more about ways to practice.

6. Folding a Paper in Half
Okay, this is a weird one, but there are a LOT of school crafts that involve folding a paper in half. Practice folding length-wise and width-wise (like a “hot dog” or a “hamburger,” if you remember from your school days). You can have them practice their scissor skills on their folded paper by tracing a half-heart and letting them cut it out.

7. Workbook Skills
I am no fan of workbooks personally, but there are going to be plenty of them at school. Grab one from the dollar store or the Target Dollar spot, or order a fun one here. Kids can practice valuable school-skills like circling an object, drawing lines from one item to another, and finding the line where they should write their name (or writing on the top right-hand corner if there isn’t one).

8. Putting Things in and Out of Their Backpack
Can you imagine the first-day-chaos if none of the kids could do this? Practice opening and closing backpacks with your kids, and make sure they are able to open any containers/packages that you plan to send to lunch with them. There’s not a ton of time to eat, and you probably don’t want your kid waiting the whole lunch period for it to be their turn for the lunch aide to open their Pirate’s Booty or juice box.

9. Taking Off/Putting On Their Own Sweater (Shoes, Etc.)
Big kid school is not like little-kid-preschool or daycare- there just aren’t enough grown-up hands to assist with these tasks! Help your child to become independent with their own zips/ties/snaps. And avoid sending them to school in shoes with ties until they can retie them on their own!

10. Wiping Their Own Booty (TK and Up, at the Least)
I mean, I’m just saying.  I can almost guarantee that wiping booties was not a part of your child’s teacher’s credential program, and someone’s gotta get it done. It’s gonna have to be your kid, so get to work on this one- stat.

Want to make sure you never miss out on exclusive Salty Mamas content (including more free printables like this one)? Click the link in our sidebar to the right to follow us via email!

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Kids' Activities, Mama Mojo, MicroLuxuries, momlife

It’s Fun to (LIVE) at the YMCA!

birthday party
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Now, let me preface all this by saying I don’t know what the YMCA is like where YOU live.  It might be just a gym. It might be a shady place where you wouldn’t dip your pinky toe into that grimy pool. It might be more of an afterschool place, where the kiddos in your neighborhood can hang out and play until their parents get off work.

But in my neighborhood? In my neighborhood it is HEAVEN and I LIVE THERE.

I mean, first and foremost, it’s a “gym” and I “work out there.” They have “treadmills” and “barre classes” and “boot camps.” I mean, that’s what I hear anyways. But the gym is like one tiny part of the experience.

The outdoor pool is sparkling, smells like chlorine instead of pee, and is always a toasty 86 degrees. They have puddlejumpers my kids can use so they can just kind of bob around in there like a couple of rubber ducks while I supervise and perfect my doggy paddle.  They have a hot tub that, while filled with other people most of the time, still feels a little bit like a massage, and if I close my eyes I can kind of pretend I’m at Glen Ivy. Sort of.  And there’s even a sauna, where I can sweat in peace because no one else is crazy enough to want to sweat on purpose, I guess except someone who is trying to hide from everyone in absolute silence for ten minutes (I’m telling you. It’s the DREAM.)

They’ve got Karate and Ballet on the cheap, and each session is something like eight weeks long. So when my daughter dreams of becoming a ballerina forever, and then on week three of class decides she hates ballet and the tutu is itchy and the bun is too tight and SHE DOESN’T WANT TO PLIE EVER AGAIN? Well, I don’t let her quit, because Torrezes don’t quit (obviously). But I only have to carry her crying into ballet class five more times. So that’s something like a win in my book.

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But the real kicker, the absolute number one reason I love the YMCA- the Kids’ Room.  For one beautiful hour, my children can enter a kids’ playland, filled with toys and books and an outdoor playspace, and experience high quality childcare while I do anything else but watch my kids. Maybe I leisurely stroll on the treadmill while I talk to Christine.  Maybe I sit in the lobby and work on my bullet journal without someone trying to steal my colored pencils.  I might swim by myself, or relax in the hot tub. I might sit on their gosh-darned patio and read a book with a warm latte in my hand. Because, as I tell myself, this place is supposed to be a wellness center, and that stuff? That stuff is what makes me WELL.

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So find yourself a little slice of heaven. Maybe it’s at the YMCA, maybe it’s one of those kids’ places where the kids play and the parents can sit and passively watch them. Maybe it’s in your own backyard. It doesn’t matter, really. Just find your place, pack your bags, and move in. You live there now.  At least for one glorious hour a day.

Chick-Fil-A, Kids' Activities, momlife, The Salties

Our Love Affair with Chick Fil A

Collage 2017-08-05 09_42_04.jpgLoving Chick Fil A? Yeah, that’s one of our deeply held, core beliefs. There has been MANY a day where the only thing that gets us through is the promise of a trip to Chick Fil A…and I’m talking about the Mamas, not the Little Salties. So what is it about Chick Fil A that we love so much? We’ll do our best to put it into words.

Jaymi: Diet Coke. Limitless, endless Diet Coke.

Christine: Cherry Coke. ALL the Cherry Coke. And one for the road.

Jaymi: Abe is finally old enough to go into the play area. Lila takes him into it and helps him through the structure and tells off any kids that mess with him and it makes my heart BURST.

Christine: The play area is SOUNDPROOF. Like, I can only hear the most extreme of screams, when it’s probably getting real enough in there that I should pop my head in anyway. But the regular playful squeals that are the soundtrack of my life? Gone for a blissful few minutes.

Jaymi: My grown-up-size Chicken Nugget meal is big enough to split with Abe, so Lila doesn’t have to LOSE HER MIND when I suggest she share the french fries she was never gonna eat anyways with her brother, and I still only have to buy two lunches.

Christine: LEGIT fruit cups. Yeah, this sounds like a sort of dud reason, but I have to buy my Gremlins 2 kids meals and with one I get a REALLY nice fruit cup. And I look like SUCH a good Mom y’all.

Jaymi: There is a stool for my daughter to stand on while she washes her hands, so I don’t have to hold her awkwardly while holding Abe and hearing her yell about how she’s never ever ever gonna wash her hands.

Christine: Two words: Mobile ordering. Step one: Download the app. Step two: order from your seat while the kids play in the play area. Because let me tell you, wrangling three kids in line for food is a nightmare. Plus, I earn free food using the app, so cheapskating for the win!

Jaymi: Those disposable placemats for the kids. I’m not opposed to putting his food straight on the table, but I get to avoid the comments from other people who ARE opposed when I use these bad boys.

Christine: Seasonal milkshakes. Specifically peach milkshakes during the summer. I’m a sucker for a limited time offer like all things pumpkin in the fall, and their milkshakes are BEYOND.

Jaymi: They let you trade the kids’ meal toy for ice cream, so A.) The kids get ice cream! We get to prolong our stay! and B.) I don’t end up with junk toys scattered all over the house.

Christine: Everyone else loves Chick-fil-A so when I’m desperate and alone and need another grown up to witness my day, it’s pretty easy to get a partner in crime.

Jaymi: My best friend Mark works there. He is only my best friend because he works at Chick Fil A, but STILL.

Basically, Chick-fil-A is our everything. Our watering hole. Our recharging station. Our happy place. So go ahead, take all our money. It’ll be worth.every.penny.

How to Handle
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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