Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Setting Sail for Blogger Bash!

I am attending Blogger Bash 2016 as an Acorn Ambassador. I received products from Care Bears at no cost, and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

There's something tantalizing about an unwrapped present, with your name on it, just waiting to be opened, isn't there?

A box from UPS sitting on your front porch, addressed to you, with a surprise inside?

Something is coming, you know it'll be great, and it's right there, ready for you?

Awesome, right?

That's how I look at Blogger Bash now. In one month, I'll be in NYC, on a yacht, meeting with other bloggers and brands, checking out what's new, and making connections.

Two years ago, in the summer of 2014. I decided to go to Blogger Bash on a whim. It was a last minute decision. I had a friend who was going, I knew that NYC was an easy train ride, and I wanted to check it out. I'd only attended one blogging conference before, and that was more educational - writing tips, photography, techy stuff. It was great - really great - and I loved connecting with other writers. All I knew was that this one was focused on connecting bloggers to brands, and that there would be an amazing expo called Sweet Suite.

Then the event happened, and I was blown away. The products! The food! The swag! The parties! The brands, excited to talk to me! Then I got home, and within a few days, an enormous box was at my doorstep, ready to keep the party going and the girls happy with the trade off (Mommy leaves for a few days = big box of toys shows up). And my email was full of companies who thought we'd be a great match.

So last year I knew I'd be going back. I grabbed an early bird ticket, planned my travel, and got crazily excited over what I could anticipate. A Care Bears brunch. A Peanuts lunch. That EPIC Sweet Suite. And the girls were basically pushing me out the door, because the sooner I left, the sooner I'd be back with all kinds of treats for them. I knew it would be awesome. They knew it would be awesome. And it was. Bigger than 2014. More "New York" than 2014.

This year I wasn't sure if I was going to go. I missed my early bird chance, and I was feeling pretty bummed. It felt like a stinky grown up decision, like when Adam and I decide to forgo Christmas presents for each other so we could get a new water tank. We needed a water tank. It was expensive. But it's hard to get excited about. Then Santa, in the form of Care Bears and Acorn Influence, swooped in, and gave all that delicious anticipation back. I am GOING to Blogger Bash, which will be on a YACHT, ready to be opened and the surprises to just pour out onto me.

To make it even better, the surprises have already started. Care Bears is a headliner at Blogger Bash, with their revitalization of my childhood favorite. Last year, the girls started seeing the bears in stores. The plushes, the blind bags, the new show on Netflix. They love them as much as I remember loving them as a kid. So when a box showed up from Care Bears...

Love it!

Bears for days!

This has to be for Adam. I'm clearly Cheer Bear.

Yeah, they're in. They've got a grand plan to make Adam into Grumpy Bear for Halloween (can you believe you can get these plush pjs at Target for adults?), and they're already deciding who gets which mug, or cup, or bag.

My girls love themselves some character swag. And I am SO excited to meet up with the Care Bears reps again.

And they can meet YOU too! And you can meet me there! On a boat in NYC. A boat. Full of toys and food and fun. Want a $60 discount to attend BloggerBash 2016 in Manhattan on July 13th and 14th? I’ve got you covered. Check it out!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Pool Days are Great Days

The pool where we spend the majority of our summer days opened on Memorial Day weekend, and with the schools out for the summer, we can now visit the pool every day. It's a beautiful pool with great guards, and it's under five minutes from home. The girls take swimming lessons, have a good group of friends, and we really couldn't ask for a better spot to spend our summer days.

We joined this particular pool when Madison was just shy of two, and Reagan was only a few months old. That summer was sort of a blur for me (for obvious reasons), but I remember feeling a bit caged in to the baby pool, with one child sitting in a bumbo under the umbrella, and another in swim diapers getting a feel for the water. I was hyper vigilant with two little ones, and felt alone, trapped in that baby pool while the moms with older kids chatted and lounged. I remember yearning for the days when I would be the one on a lounge chair, ice water and magazine in hand, chatting with friends while my kids splashed and played in the big pool.

I just read an article by a mom who was swearing off the pool with her kids under five. I totally got it. The pool isn't fun when you are managing multiple preschoolers and toddlers and babies. Just. Not. Relaxing. But I wanted to comment one of those annoying "it does get better" comments. Because we're on year five, and the progression is getting there.

The summer of 18 months and 3? Not those days.
We actually refer to that summer as the summer that Reagan was determined to fall face first in the baby pool a minimum of five times a visit. Thank God that no one was obsessively posting about dry drowning that summer, or I would have never slept.

The summer of 2 1/2 and 4? Not those days.
So much running. So much crying. And one who had to stay in the baby pool WITH me alongside one who wanted nothing to do with the baby pool, but wasn't really old enough to be away from me made for some fun times.

The summer of 3 1/2 and 5? Not yet...
Put my floatie on. Take my floatie off. Put my floatie on. Take my floatie off. I want to go back to the baby pool. I don't want sunscreen. I want another snack.

The summer of 4 1/2 and 6?

Holy Smokes, I think we're there.

They still need help from time to time. They still want snacks. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied. They still want me to go in with them on occasion.

But I spent a Saturday last week, sitting with a few other moms, chatting, drinking iced tea and Diet Coke, nibbling on popcorn, and just relaxing.

The kids played, together, laughing and shrieking and jumping and splashing. They stayed cool and exhausted themselves with fun and friends. I left, feeling refreshed from all the adult time.

It. Was. Awesome.

Well, until we got into the car to go home and both girls, over tired and crabby, moaned and whined about getting into our sauna of a car, which had been roasting all afternoon while we were having all that fun.

So we're still learning. What to pack in the pool bag for an ideal, easy day. What our "pool rules" need to be, now that I have kids who are more independent. And how to keep the car cool on hot days (that one was surprisingly easy, once I figured it out!)

But pool days? They've gone from crazy days to great days. And summer is awesome again.

Thursday, June 9, 2016


The other day, someone asked me about my bug spray (diluted tea tree oil, crazy effective) and I happily shared that I'd made it myself. She looked really impressed as she said "wow, you're becoming quite the DIY queen, aren't you?"


OK, how many people who have known me, or read this blog for longer than two months just started laughing uncontrollably with me?

Yeah, DIY is not my specialty. 

At least with some things.

Ok, with most things.

I still like to buy most of what we need, from housewares to cleaning supplies to toys, but sometimes life dictates I take to Pinterest and get creative.

I was watching an old episode of Food Network Star where one of the contestants described herself as "semi-vegetarian" and I thought - that is exactly what I am in so many things. I'm semi crunchy. I'm semi homemade. And I'm semi DIY.

I'm DIY when I realize I need something, the girls are in bed, and I can't run to the store. I'm DIY when I can't grab a sale or a coupon and the store bought option is just way too expensive to justify. And I'm DIY when it just works better.

Bug spray? I'm not anti-chemical, but oils just work. 

Stain remover? The magic elixir of blue Dawn and hydrogen peroxide is amazing to behold.

Need a sunburn remedy at bedtime? Apple cider vinegar and coconut oil.

My last experiment was with a DIY version of Rain-X, and it's so easy and cheap that I can't imagine that won't find a way into my regular rotation.

What will I do next? Only time will tell!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Potty Training on the Road

Oh, potty training.

I'm so glad those days are behind us.

Although potty training in the summer has its perks (naked time in the backyard, fewer clothes to tangle up), you're also dealing with the question of when it's safe to ditch the swim diaper in a public pool (tip: wait until you're sure. Like, 100% sure) and how to handle the travel for a family vacation.

You can't just put a diaper back on, because mixed messages.

You can't just trust that your potty trainer will let you know in time to get to a rest stop, because soaked car seat.

It's just rough.

I have a friend who is currently potty training her two year old. They have a family vacation coming up in mid July, and back in January she started talking up the potty, because she was not taking diapers on this trip. They're spending multiple days at an amusement park, he's her third child, the end of the diaper road is in sight, and she's just done.

I get it.

So when I wrote this article, I had her, and all the other moms who want their kid potty trained for vacation, but are a little worried about taking a newly potty trained toddler on that vacation, in mind.

It's all about the right tools.

And the preparation.

And low expectations.

Good luck!

Here are a few of the best things to have when you're taking your freshly trained tot on the road!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Hidden Danger of Seatbelts

I just read a story that scared me. It was something that I never thought of worrying about, and the story

I don't like fear-mongering, but sometimes, you share something because you didn't know. And knowing helps.

THIS HAS NOT HAPPENED TO ME, but reading the stories is enough to get me thinking. Sometimes just being aware of a situation in the back of your mind is enough to keep you from letting it happen. For me, the close calls get to me. Because it's the universe reminding us to wake up.

You hear a horror story about a close call with a hotdog, and you remember to keep an eye on your kids as they eat them. And you slice them for your little ones.

You hear a horror story about a close call with furniture, and you make sure that your anchors are secure.

For me, these horror stories don't make me think "bad parent! bad parent!" They make me think "there, but for the grace of God, go I."

So anyway, after all that build up, here's the story. A mom was pulled up at an elementary school in her minivan. She was parked, her van doors were open, the car was off, and she was chatting with another mom while her daughter frolicked around in the backseat, amusing herself happily while her mom chatted.

And suddenly, she wasn't frolicking.

In her movement around the backseat, the seat belt had gotten tangled and wrapped around her neck. And because of how seatbelts work, both moms couldn't get the seatbelt loosened. Every move they made, every move her daughter made, pulled the seatbelt tighter around her neck. They were able to work fast enough, find strong scissors, and cut the belt, and her daughter was fine. Scared, with deep mark from the belt, and crying, but fine.

Now, judging by the comments, there were two types of reactions.

1. What kind of mom lets her kids play in the car?? She was probably gossiping and totally ignoring her. I hope CPS was called. I know I have taught my kids how to behave in the car. They would never, I would never, what's wrong with this generation, blah, blah, blah.

2. Oh. My. God. I do this all the time! We did this today when we picked them up! The kids sit in the car and play while we catch up! I had no idea! I am going to make sure I get a seatbelt cutter in the car TODAY and I need to remind the kids not to play with the belts.

Which reaction is more useful? The "this could only happen to a bad mom and never me" or the "I'm so glad I know what to do and how to prevent it"? I don't know about you, but I'm going with number two. I reminded my girls not to play with the seatbelts, no matter what, but since I know kids can be kids, I put a seatbelt cutter in my glove box.

Kids will be kids, hidden dangers are everywhere, the words "I would never" are basically a dare to the universe. But awareness might just be the tool you need to stay vigilant, and to keep a bad decision from becoming a tragedy.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

All Things Games

The girls have entered this hyper competitive stage lately. Everything is a race. Everything is a contest. Everything is for a score or a ranking or some other way of determining the winner.

On one hand, I love it. Racing to go upstairs and get ready for bed, or to finish dinner, or to clean up, is a win/win situation for me. They get to be crazy and competitive, and I get them to complete their tasks without dragging their feet and piling on the excuses.

On the other hand, when there's a winner, there's a loser. Not everything ends in a tie, and despite the lessons on being gracious in both victory and defeat, there are usually tears and gloating. How many tears or how much gloating is usually tied to how tired they are, how hungry they are, or how desirable the outcome for the winner is, but regardless, tears and gloating aren't great.

So now I'm trying to channel the spirit of competition into other avenues. It's not worth the rush to bed if we're going to be crying and fighting when we get there. Best to find a better place for it.

Enter games. We love games. Reagan is finally starting to move beyond the toddler favorites of Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders, and all of us can play board games together.

Madison has a new appreciation for card games, which is so much fun for us. She's loving Go Fish and Crazy 8s, and we're moving on to Uno and War. I love how easy those are to carry with us.

And speaking of taking games on the road, we're also enjoying those classic road trip games. They aren't quite ready for a true license plate game - especially since we're usually driving around in state - but they're loving I Spy, and, even more than that, the car scavenger hunt. Like everyone seems to do, we have our own family twist on the rules, and it can keep them happy and occupied for what feels like ages.

Even better? It seems like since this game is in a perpetually unfinished states, there's no worries about winners and losers...yet.

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