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Achieving Super-Mom Status with a Busy Bag

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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

 

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

momlife, parenting

A Relaxing Trip to the Cabin

Laughing already?

I am too.

Once upon a time, Chad and I used to spend lazy summer weekends at his family cabin in the Sierra’s. We would pack up the car, drive a pleasant few hours, and plant ourselves in hammocks. I’d bring a stack of library books, eagerly anticipating lounging in the late morning quiet by the small river, devouring each book one by one. We’d live off chips, beer and s’mores. We’d take casual hikes through the giant majestic trees surrounding us. And we’d be completely cut off from communication with the outside world. No tv. No wifi. No cell service. Just one old rotary telephone in case of a dire emergency.

As I sit here today, I find myself wondering how the HELL that paradise became the four day trip that has me so anxious I want to cry/vomit/run away. Why is it that all I can think of now is how fast the river is running this year, how bad the mosquitoes are, will any of the kids get carsick on the windy road, how there have been rattlesnake sightings on site. Rattlesnakes. And all. That. Prep.

The lists in my head are ridiculous. The food, the toys, the clothes, the repellent, the sunscreen, the medicines just in case because there’s NOWHERE to buy anything, the diapers, the wipes, the snacks (very different from “food” of course), the car activities, the STUFF. Endless, endless stuff!

But of course, I know why. Kids. They turned the vacation into a trip. On vacation you wp-image--1013931929.lounge and eat what you want, when you want, where you want – preferably at a restaurant or somewhere you don’t have to clean up afterward. On a trip, you’re still cooking for everyone. And doing dishes. And hunting down a thousand water cups for tiny hands that have misplaced theirs. Because apparently kids can’t live off chips, beer and marshmallows alone – though to be fair I haven’t tried…..

On a vacation, you go on a hike, taking breaks where you want and you sit and take in the beautiful views. You can walk at your pace because there’s nothing (no one) slowing you down and nothing (no one) to chase. You bring a book because you might find a perfect spot to spend the afternoon. On a trip you have one kid strapped to you and two more running in opposite directions. You have to bring a thousand snacks because they can’t go five minutes without food. One of the walkers decides halfway that they’re going to die and throw themselves on the ground saying they’ll never walk again.

On a vacation you bring that thick 600 page book that you’ve been waiting to crack into, because you know you can dedicate all the time to getting hooked on it. You spend the rest of the day falling further into the fantasy world before you. On a trip? Bring a magazine. Maybe. Or something that hooks you right away and is only about 150 pages. Nothing with confusing characters or plots or you’ll spend most of the time re-reading pages you already read because you were interrupted by cries of, “Moooooooommmmmm! I neeeeeeeed youuuuuuuu!”

And did I mention THERE’S NO WIFI???

So maybe for me it will be a trip. But I can still keep it a vacation for my kids. Read them all the books. Let them hike and get dirty and find bugs and explore. Make them eat real food, but also go nuts on the s’mores. Help them make memories so they’ll one day talk about the awesome vacations they went on.

And then, after I’ve sufficiently worn them out, tuck them into bed, grab my book, go out on the porch, grab a beer and sneak a few minutes of vacation before morning.