Road Tripping…with an Infant…

We recently took our first true family vacation. Some wonderful family friends loaned us their home in Seaside, Florida as a belated wedding gift. And I, in all of my naïve motherly wisdom, thought a 12 hour car trip to Seaside, with a pit stop in New Orleans, was the PERFECT thing to attempt with a fresh one year old. For the record it didn’t go nearly as poorly as people anticipated it would. I’ll walk you through our little adventure and somethings I learned along the way. Probably a lot of things I wish I had known before leaving as well. 

Going to the beach with a kid can be as daunting as the actual travel itself. How do you keep a one year old, with the attention span of a goldfish, occupied? Clearly that meant I needed to pack his entire toy collection for our 7 day journey. While that’s not entirely true, I did feel more comfortable driving with all of the gear I did bring than packing it up and hauling it around the airport.

The good news is leading up to the trip I was rehearsing for a little ballet recital, so I didn’t have time to panic. I made a packing list for me, a list for Bode bear, a list for the car, and a list for the beach. We won’t go into my list because it’s embarrassing. However, here is an idea of what I packed for the little one, the car, and for the beach itself:

Bode: Diapers, Wipes, Pack n’ play, Butt Paste, Baby Tylenol, two outfits for each day (OVERKILL), pajamas, swim diapers, swim trunks, rash guard, hat, spoons

Car: Toys, ipad, dvds, pouches, goldfish, nilla wafers, yogurt chips, sippy cups, wipes, diapers, easy to reach change of clothes, lovey

Beach: sunscreen (adult and baby), aloe, towels, sand toys, baby float

I tried hard not to over pack but…LOL. We didn’t pack chairs because there were some at the house for us to use. The first day we brought them down with us, but honestly, we just ended up renting chairs. To me, that was worth every penny. Not having to tote chairs on top of everything else, just made life easier. The chairs were set up for us in the morning and taken down at night. We had to do nothing but show up! #worthit

I had my recital Saturday night and we were set to leave Sunday morning. Also a smart move, start that drive totally exhausted. We woke up, walked the dogs to starbucks. Here I hopped my kid up on sugar in hopes he would crash in the car…Ethat decision was a success! Plus its #vacay so who doesn’t need to start the trip off with a treat? Here Bode is trying his first Vanilla Frapp


When we got back home it was time to pack up the car. Talk about a way to test your relationship, this should be a test they offer at the engaged encounter weekends. In addition to our bags, the pack and play and the “stuff” we also had to grab my mom’s bags (she and my aunt flew and met us in New Orleans the next day). This detour to pick up the bag led to my parents informing us we are amateurs and totally mispacked the car. Delay number one…

So finally we get on the road. Things are going great! We are New Orleans bound, baby is sleeping, broadway show tunes pumping (my husband is a saint). Off we went. Things were great for approximately four hours and 28 minutes. That’s about how long it took to get to Alexandria, Louisiana. Here we proceeded to get off the highway for food. Turn left I said! This would take us into the downtown area. Delay number 2! we drove all over looking for open food places and they didn’t exist. We later discovered that had I turned right there would have been a multitude of options. At this point the baby is screaming bloody murder but we thought there would be food soon. We could not have been more wrong! Life lesson don’t assume anything!!!!

Bode rallied. We played at least an hours worth of peek a boo and I even resorted to using the bubble gun in the car. Two hours later we hit Baton Rouge, where we relived our law school restaurant of choice…Chili’s. #classic. This was followed by stopped traffic…delay numero tres. We finally made it to New Orleans around 10:45 p.m. Hooray! Good news, they didn’t have our crib ready and all of them were in use. Pack n’ play to the rescue. (Pro tip: don’t let a vacation be the first time you try to set that thing up). You’ll probably be shocked to hear that Bode didn’t want to go to bed at this point. After being packed In the car for 7+ hours who can blame him. My classical music Pandora station helped settle him down and we could finally rest.

Note: We found that getting him fresh milk and a snack any time we stopped (AND CHANGING HIS DIAPER!) were keys to our success that day.

Monday morning rolls around and we are off again to pick up the ladies. Hubs had never been to New Orleans so we couldn’t just pass through, and I certainly wasn’t going without a stop at Café Du Monde. Bode was super skeptical of the doughy greatness, but he caught on fast.

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I think my greatest parenting moment this trip was strolling Lil’ Dude down Bourbon Street. On a positive note, since it was only 10 a.m., he wasn’t exposed to all of the area’s glory. We hit Acme Oysters for lunch where Bode promptly melted down. Perfect timing because we were about to hit the road yet again.

So off we went, but armed with two additional entertainers. The stretch from New Orleans to Seaside was fairly short, only made longer by a surprise stop at the Dirt Cheap of Gulf Port. If you don’t know what the Dirt Cheap is you are missing out. I LOVE DEALS! and this place has the greatest ones. It deserves its own post at a later date.


We made it to Seaside and naturally started our time there with food. But it was late and we had had a long 48 hours, so we did a little loop around the town and called it a night. Bode was definitely ready for that. He’s a pretty easy kid, but I soon realized I needed to be paying more attention to his cues (mommy lesson).

The weather in Seaside was beautiful! There was no rain the entire time, not much seaweed and almost NO Jellies! A perfect way for Bode to meet the ocean…aka the home of his people.



Unfortunately, Bode did not agree that the circumstances were perfect. He was a GRUMPY GILLS from the moment we set foot on the sand. He wanted nothing to do with the sand and definitely nothing to do with the water. I was devastated!!! I suppose I had it in my head that this kid would take one look at it and fall in love. It’s easy to forget how big the world seems to them and how overwhelming and over stimulating it all can be. That’s one of the biggest lessons I took with me: to remember that this is new, big, and scary. I’ve seen it before and he is living it for the first time. It’s a lot to take in!

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No need to fear! Later on that day he was feeling better and by day two he was ready to take on the beach no sweat. We settled into a pretty nice routine that involved sleeping, breakfast, beach, lunch/snow cone, beach, nap, dinner bed. This is a little unlike me as I prefer to be on the go 24/7. But for Bode I think it helped him to be on a schedule the whole time.

Of all the toys we brought/bought the plastic sand shovels were by far the biggest hit. So our next step was to get him into the water, which (Spoiler alert!) he did NOT love either. Thankfully the water was fairly calm, but poor baby beluga was terrified, and it didn’t help the water was a tad cold. But one run through of our swim class song “The kids in the pool go…[insert splash, kicks, up and down, etc]” he did great! THANK YOU Jim Montgomery Swim School!!! We also found him a toddler float at the dirt cheap. The float worked great until he got pummeled by waves, it was HILARIOUS….he disagreed with that assessment and was officially done for the day.

(BTDubbs did y’all know about this infant float? I swear it didn’t exist last summer, but I’d keep it in mind for the baby babies. Infant Pool Float)

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Leading up to the trip I wondered what we would do at night. Bode’s bedtime is typically, though not always, between 7:30 and 8:00. That’s quite a bit earlier than parental bed time. On this trip, we were lucky enough to have my mom who allowed us to have “date night”. But I had done some research ahead of time and there are several agencies or locals who can recommend babysitters for you. I have found that this service is available in many locations around the U.S. It makes me a little nervous to leave my child with a stranger, but our local online yard sale, for instance, was full of recommendations for many areas. Check for that on your next trip because you and hubby deserve some time too!

The town of Seaside is beautiful and we thoroughly enjoyed our time eating and beaching, but as the end of the week neared I was dreading our trip back. The goal was to attempt the full 12 hour drive in one day so everyone had a day to recover. This stretch we had my mom and aunt the entire way, which we seriously could not have done without. We took turns rotating driving and entertaining the baby. He did sleep quite a bit, but this was length of time was significantly harder on him. We tried to give him breaks and stopped to eat twice. But by the time we hit Tyler, Texas and needed to stop for dinner he was D-O-N-E. He was feisty at dinner and did not want to get back in his car seat. Ultimately, I let him crawl around, yes on the ground, for awhile and that seemed to help to let him stretch his legs. I imagine this is easier on you if your kid can walk!!

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We made it home in one piece and all in all the driving wasn’t terrible. Bode had his moments, and there were stretches of screaming/crying that were almost unbearable. But I think It was worth it in the big picture. And now we have all of these memories to share! If you are thinking about road tripping with an infant don’t be afraid! But definitely be prepared emotionally and physically :). There will be tears, there will be giggles, there will be screams, but there will also be sleep. Take your cues from the baby and be prepared to be flexible. You’ll do great. From the pictures below you can tell the baby was really scarred from his time in the car 😉

Happy Summer and good luck on all your summer adventures! Do you have any tips for traveling with kids? We’d love to hear them!

xoxo, T


Kids Birthday Party Gifts

With Bode’s 1st birthday right around the corner. T has had many questions surrounding birthday parties, gifts, etc. This is likely going to lead to several posts, but we decided to start with the birthday party gifts. Or as M likes to say……….

Stuff, Stuff, and More Stuff.

M: I’m sure you have figured out by now that I am generally a party pooper.  This is pervasive in all aspects of my life.  Probably comes (in part) from the fact that I am pretty much exhausted all the time and, yet, always adding more to my schedule.  In any event, here is another area in which I could be perceived as a party pooper – birthday party presents.

T: For somebody who consistently tells me I am from the “grouchy family” M can sure be Oscar the Grouch.

M: *eye roll* This post isn’t mean to be about family birthday presents –  we are talking about presents at a birthday party.  I have often been at Target looking for a reasonable gift for a child I do not know at all (and do not know the parents either).  I’ve gone to birthday parties with my child only to see 40 – no joke – birthday presents for the 2 or 3 year old.  Seriously, who wants that much stuff?????  Even when they are 5 and in school, do you really want your child to get so many new things at once?  Do you want that stuff in your house?

M: So what should you do? We have dealt with this in a few different ways.  First of all, we don’t have birthday parties until they are in school and actually KNOW some of their friends.  Even when one daughter turned 4, we had one special friend go to one special place with us.  It was much more meaningful and fun.

T: I feel like most of my birthday parties were limited in the number of guests invited. But now it is so common to invite the kids entire class to the party: a) that’s a lot of gifts and b) what do you buy for a kid your kid doesn’t know or play with often. At that point you end up having to buy something totally random and hope for the best. I know it shouldn’t be about the gift but the thought, but that’s part of the problem. There is NO thought going into these gifts.

M: Exactly! For us, we often give the kids a choice of a big birthday party with lots of friends and no gifts or a smaller party with close friends and gifts are acceptable.  Once they have good friends, buying gifts makes a lot more sense.  Your child has an idea of what their friends like or want and they WANT to give them something that’s picked just for them.  I will sometimes “bribe” my kid with an extra gift from us (the parents) in exchange for a bunch of gifts from friends (when they want a bigger party).

T: Lately I have seen a lot of parties where the kids donate the toys or ask for donations to something in particular. That may be more of the parents forcing that issue but it’s a great lesson for the kids! In the alternative, prior to a birthday you could ask your kids to find toys that they no longer play with to donate. For instance, if your kid is turning 7 they have to find 7 things they no longer play with that can be donated.

M: We have definitely gone this route. We have had parties where people bring a book to be donated to a charity – and, of course, the donation is optional because I don’t want people to stress out before our parties.

T: I think that’s a great alternative

M: Here is another problem with so many gifts, thank-you notes. We are thank-you note writers.  (OK, so I am and I force my children to be because I believe in holding on to some semblance of etiquette, though I know it’s waning.)

T: Me too!

M: Either my kids dictate the note to me and I write, or they painstakingly write the note themselves.  We are not doing those pre-printed ones either.  To me, if someone spent their money on a gift for me or my child, the least we can do is acknowledge it in writing.*

(*footnote – I have a child who is the world’s worst speller and I do allow him to type his thank you notes.)

T: For me I would expect Bode to hand write them, but honestly I would just be happy they got sent no matter what form they were in. Birthday parties, presents, and thank you notes are overwhelming to think about! I want Bode to have that fun experience and get the chance to open presents and stuff like that. But I also just think it’s a lot and I’m worried that it hurts people’s feelings who want to do something nice.

M: Hmmm….I have never worried about people’s feelings getting hurt because I say no gifts. In fact, some people bring a gift anyway and I’m totally fine with that. (Though my kids HAVE complained when they have to write a thank you note after saying no gifts!) I personally love unexpected gifts from people and love to give unexpected gifts – especially when you find that perfect gift or you lift someone’s spirits with something small.  I just think the gift giving at parties can be meaningless and excessive which isn’t good for the gift-giver or gift-receiver.

T: And it’s not to say that they can’t give a gift if they want to, you’re really just asking them not to feel obligated true?

M: Haha i mean when I say no gifts I mean no gifts ;). But true, I would never make my kid turn down a gift because I had written no gifts on the invitation.


Humble Parenting

M: I feel extremely lucky to have already had numerous nieces and nephews before I had kids.  I got to see my siblings’ struggles with parenting and some of their successes and failures.  We all still laugh with my sibling over their decision to say “it’s best that we not” instead of “no” to their kids.  That lasted about 2 weeks. One child reaching for an electrical socket with a paper clip?  Yeah, “it’s best that we not” didn’t have quite the effect of screaming “NO!!!”

One of the biggest things I gained from watching my siblings with their kids was to realize that there is a lot of luck involved.  Sure, we have an influence over our kids – I am not arguing that you don’t – but each kid is different and a decent part of it is just the luck of the draw.

T: I have to agree with this. Although I am the first of my generation (in my family) to get married and have kids, I have 16 first cousins on M’s side alone and am the oldest of 4 kids. I am certainly no expert but I do feel I have been exposed to way more than most first time moms have.

M: If I hadn’t had the experience with my nieces and nephews, I would have thought I was mom of the year with my first born – and possibly with my second as well.  I would have been preaching all kinds of advice for other people.  We are amazing parents! Look at us!  This parenting thing is not so hard at all!

T: Wait….I’m not mom of the year? 😉

M: Luckily, we both know better.  Some kids are easy, some kids are more challenging, some kids have more “personality” (I’m being nice here), some kids are more difficult from the day they are born.  We can help to try to sway them and we can certainly help by using rules, discipline, etc. (a free-for-all rarely turns out well when it comes to raising kids).  But if you have a difficult kid, it’s likely not your parenting that is making them that way.

T: Not going to lie I am absolutely terrified of having a second. I know that the second child could be great, but the second in my family was a terror. And my dad is the second….also a terror. But my 9 month old has been such a chill baby that it can’t possibly be this easy a second time around.

M: Well hold on! None of this is not to say that you just throw in the towel.  It’s important to pay attention to the different needs of each child. I have found that each of my kids needs a different type of parenting.  My first born is a rule follower.  There is no need to yell, no need to harp on mistakes, no need to be overly strict.  She listens to advice (so far), believes in moderation in all respects, and worries about her future.  (When my daughter was about 8 years old, she asked her brother why he didn’t save his money.  She asked “aren’t you worried about things like taxes, insurance, and other expenses?”  Where do kids come up with this stuff?)  Others of my kids are not affected by yelling, are ready to push the rules, and need to have emotional breakdowns.  I don’t have them all figured out and don’t know what to do with each one – I just know that they are different, they each need different things from me, and when they are being more difficult, it’s likely not my fault.  I’m just trying to do my best for each one.  I also know that I’m likely messing up some of the times.  That’s OK. There is no perfect way to parent and no one way to parent.  Do your best and take the pressure off yourself.

T: You always make me feel so much better about messing up. I think one of the best things I’ve learned from you and the other moms in our family is to not sweat the small stuff. I’m still getting to know my son and he’s getting to know me and there are going to be a lot of bumps in the road. And knowing those bumps will be continuing for the foreseeable future…probably more like ever…helps keep me humble. But it does also make me feel good to know when I get things right and can say “Man I #crushed parenting today.”

M: And that’s great! All this is really to say, enjoy your successes – you need them to feel better about the failures.  Just don’t get cocky.  When things are going well, be humble because you never know when another kid will be ready to knock you off your parenting pedestal.  We are all in this together and almost all of us will have our issues with our kids at some point.

T: I also think this is really important to keep in mind as you look at the moms around you. Everyone is in the SAME boat. That meltdown at Target is not their idea of fun and they aren’t letting their kid cry on the plane just because it’s fun. They are trying to figure it all out as much as we are. When my angel baby smiles, waves, and flirts with all of the girls at the restaurant I enjoy it…and also privately brace for a meltdown that could occur literally at any moment…with no notice…because I didn’t serve him bean dip fast enough (#truestory).

Hang in there mamas. Without the bad days you wouldn’t appreciate the good ones. And when you are really at a breaking point just know that it’s a moment and it’s not forever. Do what you can, hope for the best, and try to enjoy the ride!

Happy Parenting

Xoxo, T&M

Organized Chaos

M is constantly being asked how she does it. How could she possibly manage her house with 5 very involved kids. T isn’t quite there yet, but her schedule is far from empty. Both of us use a calendar through Cozi . We both love it so much we wanted to share this gem with you.

Scheduling is a constant challenge.  M often says that it is her least favorite activity of the year. Figuring out the fall after school activity scheduling is exhuasting.

M: I have 5 kids, all of whom do too much, and one driver (my husband and I both work).  We are also at 4 different schools right now, which just doubles the fun.  I use Excel quite a bit, but my favorite scheduling app – hands down – is Cozi.

T: M got me hooked on Cozi and it has already helped keep everything on track! Especially because it allows me to let my husband know about doctor’s appointments, plans, etc. When he looks at it that is….

So why is Cozi so great? Cozi is an app for your phone or tablet as well as a website.  You can use a free version, which gives you all of the basics, or you can pay $29.99/year to get upgraded features like contacts and birthdays. Once you decide to join, you create a family password and anyone you invite can create their own login to the family calendar. As individuals add events, all of your devices sync together.

The app itself has a ton of features! Some highlights (and our most used features) include:

  • Calendar
  • Shopping Lists
  • Meal Planning
  • To Do Lists

Calendar: Let’s focus on why the Calendar is so fantastic for a moment. Each member of your household can be assigned a color. When you click to add an activity, all of the colors come up.  You then select who is involved with the activity, the date and time (including the option for recurring activities), location (if you want), and any notes that might pertain.  You can set up reminders and email notifications, though both of us are looking at our calendars so frequently that there is little need for reminders. Another great feature is that single events, or events that are out of the norm, are marked in bold so you know something is different that day (for example, early release from school).  You can view the calendar in daily mode (with color coding), monthly mode, or a scrolling weekly mode.

M cozi schedule

M: I prefer using the calendar in weekly scrolling mode. On top of all of this, I absolutely love that my calendar is emailed to me weekly (you can also print it out at any point).  I print the week for my caregiver, so she can keep track of any changes to the schedule.  It also gives the kids something to look at if they want to see activities.

T: Most of my calendar is in bold because We don’t have as many of the weekly recurring activities. But for me the best feature is the syncing of the calendars. Whenever my husband asks what’s going on I immediately ask if he checked Cozi…he usually hasn’t. BUT I have now said it so many times that he has started to look! AND he even adds his own stuff so I know when he’s not available. It is super helpful to me to know when he can’t be around or if he’s going out of town, etc.

Neither of us have used Google Calendar, so it’s hard for us to say how Cozi differs from that. We just find Cozi to be very user friendly and very intuitive.

M: I’m a GIGANTIC fan and consider to the key to our making it to (most) events and activities on time (OK – well, close to on time, sort of).

T: For what it’s worth, I have friends who have used Google Calendar and, when I referred them to Cozi, said they were happy they switched.

The Shopping Lists: We use the shopping lists almost as much as the calendars.  In this section you have the ability to create multiple lists:


M: We have lists for groceries, Target, wholesale, drugstore, pet store, etc.  (My husband created many of these and I’ve gone with it since at least he is using it!) It’s easy for any of us to add items when we run out.  If my husband goes to the grocery store, I can be at the house adding items to the list as he drives and shops.  It syncs that quickly!  If I happen to be near a store, I can pull up my list at any time and figure out if we need an item.  It’s a lifesaver.

T: I love lists! We have a grocery list, Target list, Lowe’s list, Buy Buy Baby list, a Pets list and an “other” list. It’s so helpful because nothing gets forgotten, and I don’t hear this “UGHHH I wish I had known you were going because I need x, y, z” upon my return.

Meal Planning: M uses this more than T does, so T will defer to her. M: I am not a huge cook, but with our big family and lots of activities, I’ve found that I need to have a plan for the week.  You can store recipes on Cozi (which is helpful, though I don’t have many I’ve put on) and you can list your meals for each day.  One of the best features is that it will pull up your calendar as you do this so you can figure out which days you can cook a “nice” meal (one that doesn’t necessarily involve the crockpot), when you need to order pizza, and when chicken nuggets will have to do.

To Do List: T uses this more than M, so she’ll talk about that one. T: I LOVE THE TO DO LISTS!!! I have to do lists written everywhere. It is literally the only way I will remember to do anything at all (is that sad?). Much like the shopping lists you can have multiple To Do lists. I have a personal to do list, a shared to do list, and a “Honeydo” list for Braden. I put all kinds of stuff on there, even if it doesn’t need to be done immediately, so I don’t forget to do it. When I’m out of town and I KNOW Braden wants to do all of the chores, I can kindly refer him to his list :). It is an excellent tool to keep track of what needs to be done.


Cozi has additional features including: a journal option, contact list, and birthday calendar.  We have only briefly, if at all, ventured into these realms, though we are confident they are well done!


In case it’s not clear, we are HUGE fans of Cozi and recommend it for any busy household.

M: For me, I can’t imagine life without it – and that’s no exaggeration!

T: Ditto what she said!

xoxo happy organizing!




Christmas Gift Strategy

We are closing in on the final moments of the Christmas shopping season and the last hours of the miracle that is Amazon Prime. As we see the boxes and boxes of things being delivered to our home and offices it makes you wonder if it’s all just too much? But then you think of how magical the season is and how you actually WANT to give your child the toys they have spent the last 364 days begging for. So T&M decided to take a look at their own habits and also looked at what some other moms have done.

We will start with what we do.

M: Christmas and gift-giving.  Always a challenge for me even after buying for kids for 14 years now.  We still go overboard (compared to some) but I’ve definitely pared down over the years.  Every year, I try to figure out what is enough and what is too much.  Many years, while the kids are opening presents, I hit a point where I think – I wish we could just stop right now.  I could put these wrapped presents away and return them, save them for birthdays, donate them, anything – they just don’t need any more!!

This starts when the kids are little and toys are fairly cheap and easy to buy.  And it’s all so cute!  I would pore through all the catalogs that came in the mail, dog ear pages, rip them out and carry them around, and then buy way too much.  These days, for the most part, I just throw the catalogs out and buy more classic gifts and, with older kids, a few pricier items instead.

T: This is my son’s first Christmas and I am SO excited to share it with him. But I have to remind myself that while he is learning more and more every day he has no concept of Christmas….or toys…or Santa. So I tried really hard not to buy too much (and I was moderately successful!) But as an avid Target aisle walker I struggled. The boxes scream at you to BUY ME BUY ME!!! I’m not sure how I am going to manage when he is older, but it’s something I’d like to think about now.

M: The truth is, when the kids are little, they don’t need that many gifts.  It’s the honest to goodness truth that they will likely enjoy the box more. (T: or an empty chip bag). Once they get a little older and understand “toys” they also will want to play with each gift the minute they open it.  The adults have to pry the toy away and shove the next present in their hands to be opened – all the while the kid is crying because they want to play with the one toy they just opened.

M: I remember many years ago when my niece (who is now 21) was around 3 years old.  My sister had told me to buy her a ball.  That’s it – just a ball.  I saw my niece open a much nicer gift and get so excited.  I was concerned about my gift and wishing I’d gotten something nicer.  Soon enough, it was time for my gift.  Well, my niece’s face lit up just as much over the ball as it did over the expensive gift.  Worry for nothing! And, chances are good that the ball was played with more than the expensive gift.

Now that I have five kids, I can’t go too crazy for Christmas.  It’s too expensive, too much time, too much stuff, and too unnecessary.  But I still worry about it and try to find a system.  I worry about their expectations as well, since I have overbought in the past.  But really, when I look at some of their lists, they aren’t looking for big ticket items.  I’M the one worried about it and they are just happy to get some new things! I’m also focusing more on “experience” gifts when I can. For example, when the grandparents have asked about gifts, I’ve suggested Medieval Times tickets or a similar experience that the family can enjoy. The kids love it and we get to have more family time. Bonus that it doesn’t take up any more space!

T&M: So what’s the answer? Quality over quantity? Stick to the basics? Just one gift? We aren’t really sure there is a right answer other than to do what is right for you. That being said you should take some time to think about what you and your kids really need, what you have storage space for, and what will make them truly happy.

T: I’ve been reading a lot about other people’s traditions trying to find some version that works for me. Here are some interesting traditions I have found:

  1. The Big 4

These families focus on 4 areas for their kids: something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. This is a great system for minimizing all of the “stuff”. T struggles with the idea of getting her son just 1 toy, but that’s sort of the point! This would greatly cut back on your stress and you can put your time and energy on something your child really wants. With that you can still modify it how you want. You could do this as what you get from family members and then they would of course receive another special gift from the big man in red 😉 (we can talk about him in another post)

  1. The 3 Wise Men

This one is SUPER interesting. My favorite phrase was if it is good enough for Jesus it’s good enough for you! In this method the families are scaling back on the gift giving and also reinforcing the point that Jesus is the reason for the season. In this method the child receives 3 gifts, and each one represents the gifts the Magi gave to baby Jesus. First, the gift of gold. This gift is something of value to the child or something precious to them. It can be a high dollar item or just something that they want more than anything. Second, the gift of Frankincense. This gift is meant to be something spiritual or healing. This could be religious based or not. Perhaps a book, or a class, or something that helps them on the road to better themselves. Third, the gift of Myrrh. This gift is something for the body. It can be something physical such as sports equipment or work out clothes or it could be something like bath salts, make up, etc. An interesting twist on this was that Mommy and Daddy each brought the kids 3 gifts and Santa brings 3 gifts. So each child got 6 gifts 2 of each. This allows you to do a little more while also keeping it within reason.

  1. Donating before Christmas

This suggestion has less to do with managing the gifts given at Christmas and more to do with teaching your kids the spirit of giving and decluttering BEFORE Christmas. These families spend some time helping their kids go through the toys they have and pick out a few (or many) items that they don’t play with anymore to give to other children. Of course this kindness definitely puts you on the nice list, but it’s more than that. Teaching your kids now about the spirit of giving will hopefully instill a lesson that will stay with them for many years to come. The Patriarch of our family is one of the most giving people we know, and that has been passed down through the family. We hope that our kids learn that as well.

For both T&M, the holidays will continue to be a struggle of determining how to gift give, but we hope that some of these ideas resonate with you and help you determine your own method of gifting at Christmas. Do you have any other methods? We would love to hear them!

Merry Christmas!



Trusting your “Mom” Instincts

What are mom instincts? Do you have them? Do you learn them? Do they magically appear during pregnancy?

M & T share the same pediatrician (who also treated T when she was younger!). He loves to say “what does your heart tell you?” WELL I DON’T KNOW THAT’S WHY I’M ON THE PHONE WITH YOU! It’s hard to know what the right thing is. If only your babies could talk to you!


He does address a valid point though. Nobody knows your child better than you do. So you are in the best position to evaluate the situation. The problem here is that babies don’t come with instruction manuals, and you are thrown straight into the deep end the second you leave the hospital doors. Most of us aren’t medical professionals either, so how do we know when something is wrong? How do I recognize these supposed “instincts” I have? Does my baby have a cold or is it an ear infection? Is baby motrin enough or does he need a prescription? He’s not eating, am I starving my baby? Navigating the waters of a happy healthy baby, and worse the waters of a sick, grumpy, angry baby, is H-A-R-D.

You hear stories of moms who knew something was wrong with her baby even when doctors kept telling her everything was fine. THOSE mom’s had strong instincts and fought for their babies. (M says – or do they always think something is wrong and they just happened to be right this time?) So where are my instincts? Will they come if that situation presents itself? Those moms always seem like super heroes, am I a super hero somewhere deep down?

From T’s perspective she’s parenting in a new world of technology and helicopter parents. It can be hard to find, and then trust, these instincts. With the onslaught of information available to her and the constant “shaming” from other moms, it is easy to lose sight of her gut feeling and start second guessing herself. To be fair most everyone has the babies best interests at heart, but with several people giving you advice (often unsolicited) it can be hard to trust yourself or to know what is right for you and your baby.

M has this to say: Just wait until they get big and then you REALLY doubt yourself! I have been close to tears when a child was falling apart because I just wanted to know what to do. I wanted a child psychologist in the car with me to tell me tough love was the way, or a big hug was the way, or a day off of school was the way.  The truth is there is no one way and we are all messing up all the time. You just hope your mistakes aren’t the giant ones. Kids are resilient – even little bitty babies. I think most everyone has an instinct, but in the age of information, it’s hard to trust yourself.  So, ask around, gather information, and then do what YOU feel is right.  Generally a decision does not have to be made on the spot, so don’t worry about taking some time. (NOTE – there are some decisions where time is of the essence, but that is a conversation for another day.)

Really, for T it’s going to come down to practice and getting it wrong and, at times, even getting it right. She’ll learn from the failures and be emboldened as a mom by her successes. She’s not sure she fully trusts her instincts, but they are there and she’s learning. Most importantly she needs to trust herself and not apologize for disagreeing with family and friends who think she should care for her son differently. You have to do right by you and your child because it is the only way you will be happy at the end of the day. GET THE ADVICE! It never hurts to hear other perspectives, and it helps you learn. But, at the end of the day you make your OWN decision and stand strong.

After 5 kids M doesn’t worry as much about the health issues, it’s more the parenting struggles and decisions. Luckily, M is generally not a worrier, which helps a lot. Of course, having 5 kids helps because who has time to worry?! 

Both of us (and ALL parents) are really just making it up as we go. You’ll learn to trust yourself along the way, and find what’s right for you! Until then, we will continue sharing what we’ve learned and hopefully putting you at ease knowing you aren’t alone in this. EVERYONE is struggling with parenting in some way ( or all ways 😉 ).

xoxo, T & M

Annual Family Games, a Tradition

The holiday season is full of family traditions. Our family has done practically the exact same thing for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter and Birthdays for as long as we can remember. And we really wouldn’t have it any other way. But about 6 years ago T came up with a brilliant idea… host an Annual Family Games competition! What an excellent tradition this turned out to be.

Our family is naturally quite competitive, so she knew everyone would be on board. To be fair, this isn’t so much a Thanksgiving or holiday tradition as it is an annual event, but this years games fall on the Friday after Thanksgiving! (We try to alternate between summer & winter games) So, it’s the perfect time to share with y’all.

How did this all begin? Well, T was reading Martha Stewart Living and Martha suggested some fun family games to do over the Fourth of July. It was just a few games, but T thought this was something she could work with. It had been a hard year for our family, as we had recently lost T’s sister, so what better way to lift spirits and bring the family together than some friendly competition!

This quickly turned into more than just your average family get together. T researched minute to win it game rules and included games she remembered from her elementary school Field Day. We made posters with “sponsors”, we decorated, we bought all of the supplies….and then it came time to draw teams. M is one of 7 kids, among them are 20 grandkids ranging in ages from 3-30 and 1 great-grandkid. We divided the names of the adults among four teams and then the names of the grandkids among the four teams. The Teams have really gotten a life of their own. Originally, the teams were four colors. Now the four team names are themed (for example: Christmas themed, Disney themed, etc.) The teams have also gotten into the spirit as the team “captains” order or make “uniforms” to show their team spirit.

Of course with the announcement of the teams comes loads of complaints. Some even made trade offers. But once the teams are set it’s time for some friendly banter and preparation for the games.

The game day schedule is as follows:

8:00-8:45 a.m. – Breakfast of Champions and team flag decorating

8:50 a.m. – Running of the torch/lighting of the Flame

9:00 a.m. – Opening Ceremonies and the Parade of Champions

9:15 – Games begin

Noon – Lunch and Crowning of the champions

Breakfast of Champions consists of super healthy foods like Lucky Charms, Wheaties, and cinnamon rolls. All that sugar will get your energy up so you are ready to go. Honestly, most of the families don’t make it for this part (it’s an early start so we are done before football games start). During this time, each team is provided materials to make a flag to carry during the opening ceremonies. 281241_823298511130_356885_n

Moving on, what are Family Games without a torch run? Using a cutout of a torch, we take the younger kids down the block and spread them out along the way. When it’s time, the first kid takes off and hands off the torch as they reach the next kid. This continues until the last kid carries the torch into the house where our master of ceremonies is ready to turn on our gas fire place the moment the Flame is placed at its base. The flame lighter is typically, but not always, the youngest competitor.

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This signals the beginning of our games and the opening ceremonies begin. Music is played as the teams parade around the pool waving at each other and all of the “spectators”. This is perhaps the silliest, but also T’s favorite, part of the event. 13198518_10101384585785890_2442499038042389559_o

Now it’s time for the games. We have a master of ceremonies who directs everyone to each game station. (We will do a post about the specific games after this week’s 5th Annual Family Games.) But, they are typically minute to win it games or games you would find at a kid’s field day. We have games such as: watermelon seed spitting, pin the face on the potato head, leisure diving, relays, junk in the trunk, pyramid building, word games, etc. Really we could do several posts on the specific games. M’s parents (a.k.a. grandparents, and great-grandparents) serve as additional referees if needed.

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The games get very competitive and there is an endless onslaught of trash talking. But you can tell everyone is having a blast the entire time. There may even be some mild “cheating” going on. The point is for everyone to be together having fun, so who cares! The Master of Ceremonies keeps score and an alleged winner is announced. Nobody just “wins” Family Games because they will perpetually be accused of cheating, having a stacked team, or getting the rule book ahead of time.

The Annual Family GAmes has been such a great activity to bring family together, get kids and parents outside, and have old fashioned fun. It can be extra hard these days to pull them away from phones, TV, video games, etc. But if you can just get them out the door they will forget all about the shiny electronics (at least until the games end).

We will be sure to fill you in on how the 6th Annual Family Olympics turns out. What are some of your favorite family traditions?

Happy Thanksgiving!

T & M



So you’re pregnant? Now what?


Finding out I was pregnant for the first time was AMAZE BALLS! I could hardly contain my excitement. Just a month earlier I had been pretty sad to take a negative test, which made this time even more joyous. I pretty much wanted to tell everyone right away, but I knew that’s not what most people do. So when is the right time to share the news?

Obviously you need to tell your spouse fairly quickly… Let me tell you a little story about how I totally botched this part. I adore whales, and my husband knows that. I frequently refer to myself as a whale (moderately condescendingly) and to our future child as Baby Beluga (lovingly). After I got a positive pregnancy test I ran to Target to find a beluga Tsum Tsum. I had decided to put the “baby beluga” in a box and give it to my husband that night. Of course Target had sold out of the beluga Tsum Tsum, so I had to come up with a plan B. Naturally, I thought it would be a good idea to text hubby and ask if he had a minute to talk. Rather than responding “yes”, as I had hoped, he called me directly, foiling my “perfect” plans. I said “No no no! Call me after you get my next text.” I then proceeded to send him two pictures: 1) a picture of a beluga mom and her pup, and 2) a picture of the positive test. LOL looking back I cringe at how terrible that was. He, of course, called me immediately to discuss with a tone of 1 part excited 2 parts terrified.

I often think about that day and how poor my choice was to tell him like that, but I also was SO excited that it didn’t really matter how I told him. So, is there a right or a wrong way? I don’t think so, but I would say there are BETTER ways. Some of you will want your husband with you when you take the test, others will make a big production out of it, and others might say “oh crap, what do we do now”. All of those are perfectly fine choices.

Shortly after I told hubby, I told M. She’s my go to at the office. Being friend and family (and a mom to five already), she is uniquely qualified to be in on all of my secrets and to be a source of endless knowledge. We discussed whether to tell other people or not. She pointed out that it’s sometimes better to wait awhile because if something were to go wrong it can be challenging to then share that with all of the people you told. But, this really depends on the individual. Some people wouldn’t mind then sharing the “bad” news, while for others, it would be painful every time someone asks about it. For me, I’d really like to have the the support of everyone if I ever had to cross that bridge.  She also pointed out that HARDLY ANYONE CAN KEEP A SECRET! So you might think you are only telling your parents, when in reality you are telling your parents, their best friend, their best friend’s friend, their best friend’s friend’s daughter who happens to be in school with your brother, etc.  So, you really have to know your audience! M’s parents are not talkers, so a secret is no problem. My parents on the other hand…let’s just say that word got around!

What you choose to do should be up to you and your partner and nobody else. If you are comfortable telling people GO FOR IT! Just be prepared to talk about everything else that goes with it. And if you want to wait, that’s perfectly fine too! Ultimately, I told a small handful of people (who then told another small handful of people) but it was ok. I was prepared to discuss the good, bad, and ugly with whomever.

After you get over your initial excitement, there is one more person you definitely have to tell: YOUR OBGYN! Go ahead and give them a call to make your first doctor’s appointment! Many doctors won’t want to see you until 6-8 weeks along because so much can happen before then. (And, believe it or not, the test they give you is pretty much what you’ve taken at home! M just might have taken 3 tests at home on her first pregnancy just to be sure.) At your first appointment they will do a sonogram and confirm that you have a healthy little peanut…or blob… in there. It really doesn’t look like much at that first visit. But it’s your blob and it’s the best feeling. We will talk more about sonograms in a later post. But that is definitely one person who needs to know pretty early in the process!

Who else to tell and when to tell them is a surprisingly stressful decision. Just know that whatever you choose is right for you and that’s what matters. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

xoxo, T