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First off it isn’t because I don’t have enough time to read the news (which is really just partially true) because up until recently I read the news and scrolled FB and Instragram before I even got out of bed. Then something dawned on me. I really hate the news in the morning. In the first minutes of waking up you are immediately reminded why everything you are doing in your life is wrong, or unhealthy or unpopular, or that you just suck as a breathing person. Before I even take my first pee my brain is in overload trying to come to terms with the fact that the really awesome protein powder I drink every morning is going to give me gallstones (problem solved I don’t have a gallbladder) but I am still bummed over the bad rap. Great. Then its the white noise in the kids rooms that is going to cause hearing impairment. All this before I have even turned on the Keurig.

I mean who started that number criteria for being a good parent, good spouse a good person? I love numbers but I hate numbers attached to lists of why we suck. For instance, Ten things all moms should do, 6 things that you shouldn’t say to your toddler, 20 reasons to raise a polite and self-aware child that won’t talk back (Um yeah those ones), 10 things smart parents do, 10 things stupid parents do and then the 7.5 reasons why you should use cloth diapers and nurse and home school and make your own oils. I get it, but I don’t like. You can’t exactly start a great day with a big negative momma cloud hovering over you.

Anyway, I was struggling for things to give up for Lent. I gave up wine for vodka, not really very holy. I also decided that I wasn’t going to eat another Cadbury Mini Egg, so far so good, I ate them all on Tuesday. Lastly I am giving up the news. I know I won’t be completely disconnected but I’m going to try. I may spend the next 40+ days in a stupor wondering if they recalled Kid Carhart overalls or if Putin is bluffing or if those BPA free cups are really safe. I plan to enjoy my days separated from this crazed world and just focus on my family and the long long long list of why we are so awesome without all those long long long lists telling us why we aren’t. Whose in? Maybe I will even write 17 reasons why this is the best thing I can do for Lent and my family. .. said I never. 

Bittersweet Birthdays

A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated the third birthday of my little baby boy. THREE. So much has happened in the last three years, and yet it happened in the blink of eye. Pretty soon he’ll be in preschool, and then seemingly packing his bags for college before we know it. Ever since he was born, I have had this tangible gauge of time (Ben was five months when we went to Grand Caymen, Ben was fourteen months when we went to Chicago, Ben was two and a half when my sister in law got married, it was just after Ben’s first birthday when we…yadadada) and I can’t wrap my head around how quickly it is going by. Has it always flown by at this pace?? To say that I was a tad “down” on his birthday would be quite the understatement.

Rewinding to the night before his birthday, and I was a hot, sobbing mess (mind you, this was also Valentine’s Day- so you can imagine how romantic of an evening that was). I am pretty sure my husband 1. thought I was crazy and 2. got nervous that I was pregnant again (if that’s any indication of how emotional I was being). I couldn’t pull myself together. As we cleaned the house and wrapped his gifts in preparation for his big day, I was having flashbacks to his first birthday, and thinking how many milestones he had accomplished since then. Soon, my baby girl will be celebrating her first birthday (not possible!!) and I was officially no longer have an infant. My kids are growing up and there is nothing I can do to stop it. There will soon come a day when Ben no longer asks to snuggle with me, no longer asks to wear his Peter Pan costume every.single.day., no longer asks for me to kiss his booboos, no longer needs me to wipe his bum…..ugh. The horror.

Ben's Bee-day pic line

On his actual birthday, I slipped away by myself to pick up his balloons (amazing how much sheer joy a good helium balloon can bring to a two three year old!), and yet again found myself blinking back tears. I was slapping my face and telling myself to pull it together (a la Annette Bening in ‘American Beauty’); aren’t birthdays supposed to be happy?!

Of course, it gives me such happiness to watch his unbridled excitement over celebrating a birthday, CAKE, balloons, and playing pin-the-wand-on-Tinkerbell…if only we could celebrate birthdays without actually aging.

It has taken me nearly a month, but I think I am finally coming to grips with the fact that I have a three year old. But, I end this post with a question for you more seasoned mamateurs: are you children’s birthdays always so happy/depressing? Am I the only mama who needs carry around a box of tissues with me wherever I go on my child’s birthday?!

-J

In case you missed it this weekend, make sure to check out Brooke’s recipe for these awesome crack balls!

For the record I don’t call these quick eats “Crack Balls” in front of my kids. When they are around they like to call them “Yummy Balls” not sure which one is worse but anyway….

Our morning routine typically goes something like this:

-kids get up and come into our room and demand something
-said kid(s)then follow me into the bathroom so I can pee.
-kids picks out clothes, brush teeth, dad in shower, mom up next
-kids dressed and watching Wild Kratts (don’t judge, there is nothing better than being able to drink your coffee…alone….in the shower)
-next up breakfast

This is where it usually falls apart. We decided that we weren’t going to be short order cooks for our ankle biters, but it took a year to figure that out. This was hard to maintain especially when you have a kid who makes Buddy the Elf look like an amateur maple syrup user. He loves waffles. It was time for adjustments.

I’m putting it out there. I’m being an honest Mamateur. I was that over achieving breakfast bitch that made eggs and sausage and pancakes and waffles and cereal and smoothies and yogurt and well pretty much anything that they wanted. I would slave over that meal and no one would eat it. Then we would be running late and I still wouldn’t have a bra on.

I scoured Pinterest for quick substitutes for on the go quick bites. I found these peanut butter protein packed hippy Bon Bons to be a great addition to our already hectic breakfast battle. I don’t suggest this being the only thing they have for breakfast -although some mornings it might be (believe me they just want you to think they are starving) After all it is the most important meal of the day…blah blah blah. I get it, but sanity is important.

I can truly say our morning routine is a tiny bit easier now that I have a limited menu to offer my kids. I am still a sucker about letting them make choices but I am not the same meal maid that I once was. Besides those little early morning feet running into our bedroom screaming for “Yummy Balls” is quite entertaining. You have to see the humor in parenting it makes it a whole lot easier to get out of that warm bed in the morning.

Peanut Butter Protein Balls/Crack Balls/Yummy Balls

1/3 Cup Natural Peanut Butter
1/4 Cup Honey
3 tablespoons of golden flax meal
3 tablespoons of dark chocolate morsels
1 scoop of vanilla protein powder

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and roll into little balls. Put on a tray and freeze overnight. I typically double the recipe. Pictures should be reversed but I’m sure you get my drift. I ate too many tonight and now I feel like a drug mule with a belly full of crack balls. They are that good.

Enjoy and let me know what your kids decide to call them;)

-Brooke
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I love to plan, having a detailed calendar is my favorite accessory. Also, getting out of the house with my feisty 3 year old, keeps us both sane. By the way, I also love bargains- those are thrown in here too!  Here are a few of our favorite outings, activities & classes (for a steal!):

  1. Winter: Cochrans Ski Tots- This was a fabulous program! (https://www.cochranskiarea.com/ski-tots) The class requires parent participation, but the instructors are helping with each child during the 2 hour class. You can come and go, warm up, hot chocolate, 3 snacks, potty break etc as much as you want. We can’t say enough about the experience. We leased skis from Ski & Snowboard Express http://www.skiexpressvt.com/. $99 from and the lease runs October- May.

  2. Winter: Honorary Mention- Smugglers Notch (aka Smuggs) (http://www.smuggs.com/pages/winter/skiride/lift-ticket-rates.php) – with 2 Magic Carpets, and children under 5 ski for free- this is a great spot for a few hours of fun. We recently purchased an Edgie Wedgie for ourselves (http://www.amazon.com/Ski-Teaching-Products-LLC-Wedgie/dp/B0071NOLEU $7.99) to avoid the lines at the rental counter

  3. Kids Workshop at Home Depot- (http://workshops.homedepot.com/workshops/kids-workshops) The Williston Home Depot runs these events on the first Saturday of every month. We went pretty early in the morning, and the space wasn’t very crowded. Everything is included in a little kit (precut wood, nails, glue etc) and then they provide an apron and paint for the project. This is free, and a great hands on craft/woodworking project.

  4. Echo: Most of you have probably been here, great spot to spend the day with the kids. http://www.echovermont.org/getinvolved/membership.html We love going here, but most of all we love the perks that being a member provides. A one-year membership includes free admission to 325+ other museums and science centers through the Association of Science and Technology Centers. We have been to the Boston Children’s Museum and Museum of Science (Boston) through this exchange program.  Check out this list! http://www.astc.org/members/passlist_about.htm

  5. Local Recreation Departments: The rec department in our town always has some options for younger children. Take advantage of the low prices (ie. 8 swimming classes for $50) this summer and even if you attend 5 classes you have gotten a bargain- and loads of fun! We have taken swimming and Intro to Sports. We are looking into Soccer & Swimming for this summer. Online registration can be quirky, but I always find the recreation administrator very helpful.

  6. Local Library: We try and go once a week. My daughter has her own laminated library card that she covets. We play with the toys, feed the fish, get some hand stamps and pick out 4 new books to read. I love the holiday selection, and the children’s librarians have been so helpful in finding books with relevant topics- potty training, Chanukah, swimming etc. And our local library has no late fees! Jackpot!

This is a great start, activities and planning can get overwhelming, even for a planning addict ;-)

Way back when we were really good at blogging we started sharing our favorite things. Without the five things below I would definitely scare more than just the young.

1. My Clarisonic- Okay I really really really love this thing. Who has time for facials?, not me! This little betty makes me feel like I exfoliated all the hardships of the day off in less than three minutes. I’m convinced I come out of the shower looking refreshed. Get one, you won’t regret it.

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2. My Drybar Hairdryer- Okay before you judge about the price be aware that I got it as a present. Ask for one. QVC has them on sale now. No regrets. I have a lot of hair like borderline too much hair. In fact I just chopped off 7 inches. Anyway for me I can get away with washing my hair twice a week, every three days to be exact. What stinks the most about my really thick hair is how long it takes me to dry it. Ain’t nobody got time for that! That was until this love of my life appeared on Christmas. This power device dries my hair in half the time and makes it shine. I love it and it is one of my prized possesions (next to my children of course)

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3. My Laura Mercier Eye Basics- Basically this is supposed to act as an eye primer for shadow but don’t kid yourself I don’t wear eyeshadow. This stuff alone makes me feel like I slept longer than I actually did. Okay that is a lie but hey it helps to look like you did. Goes on smooth and stays put. Takes the red out of those puffy lids and gives them a nice smooth finish. It is the one thing I have in my bag at all times. Just be sure that you know the difference between the LM eye tube and your LM lipgloss, just sayin’. Buy it, love it, thank me later.

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4.Vega one shakes- I admit I fell hard into the smoothie fad. I almost bought a Vitamix last week. That Costco gal can almost hyponotize you with those yummy shakes! I have a NutriBullet. Does its purpose and has become our go to breakfast mate. I was introduced to Vega from a doctor friend and I have been hooked since. It has all the “things” you need in it so you don’t have to buy all the veggies and fruit to mix in. It tastes awesome either way. I tell my kids it is ice cream. Winner!

VegaOne-All-in-One-Graphic

5. Aveda Rosemary Mint Lotion- I have been using this stuff for years. I always make sure I ask for a few travel size ones for Christmas so I can have one on hand at all times. Living a Vermont winter wreaks havoc on your skin especially your hands. This is the one stuff I lather on every morning. I am one of those people whose cuticles look like the crypt keeper this time of year. This stuff fixes that and it smells delicious!

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What are some of the Momma must-haves that you love?

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. I am going to wash my hair on Sunday.

Brooke

Since returning from our week long Disney trip a couple of weeks ago, I’ve had lots of people ask for any advice, recommendations, tips, etc. for planning a Disney trip. I guess it’s pretty indicative of what stage in life a lot of my friends are at ;) To think: 5 years ago we would have been planning beach vacations with lots of tropical drinks….ahhh…the good old days.

But back to Disney- in addition to our two kids, we traveled with my sister, her husband, and my niece and nephew. So, 4 adults and 4 kids…still playing man-to-man, not too bad. Our trip was filled with RAIN, a couple of vomiting incidents, lots of meltdowns, cold RAIN, a sprained ankle (me), wayyyy too much food, and RAIN…and it was a blast! All part of the experience Russ! I hadn’t been to Disney in well over a decade (so needless to say, my first time traveling there with kids), and I will admit, a Disney trip DOES require significantly more planning that your typical family vacation. Here are a few things that I learned that will hopefully make your trip easier:

1. MagicStrollers.com – a.k.a. thebomb.com Seriously, this site is the shiz. Rather than renting a crappy stroller from ca. 1960 at the park, you can rent from this website, and they deliver it directly to your hotel. Our sweet double stroller was waiting for us when we arrived (which was super helpful because our resort itself was pretty large, so we used it just getting around the resort). When your stay is over, just leave the stroller with bell services, and the fabulous people at MagicStrollers.com pick it up- it’s so flippin’ convenient! PLUS, the strollers are infinitely better quality, yet cheaper to rent than the stroller rentals available in the parks. I think it cost us a total of $90 to rent a City Mini double stroller for the entire week: best money spent the entire trip! Speaking of which….

2. GET A STROLLER- Even if your child has not sat in a stroller in years, GET A STROLLER! There is SO much walking (my Fuelband [nerd alert!] was registering 15,000+ steps a day, and that wasn’t even picking up when I was pushing the stroller); your 10 year old will want a ride by the end of the day! Seriously, there were four kids in total on our trip and we had just rented one double stroller, thinking they would rotate using it throughout the day. By 5:00 p.m. on the first day, my sister had logged on to MagicStrollers.com from her iphone and rented a second double stroller for the duration of our trip. There were lots of tired little feetsies!

Disney stroller

3. Book your dining reservations in advance….and then be prepared to wait for your table- Holy shnikes people! Dining at Disney is quite the production. We just so happened to book our trip almost 6 months to the day before our arrival. Within a couple days of booking, I was on the Walt Disney World website checking out our dining options and I was SHOCKED to see find out that we couldn’t get reservations for a number of restaurants already. I had no idea. I mean, really, am I dining in Cinderella’s Castle or the White House? Apparently, you are able to book reservations starting 6 months from your stay- and trust me, you need to do it, especially for the character meals! We ended up getting into a number of great restaurants (O’hana at the Polynesian was our fav), but fair warning: even when you have a reservation, be prepared to wait about 20 minutes to be sat. Planning your dining in advance kind of forces you to pull together a game plan for your stay as well. For instance, if you have reservations at The Crystal Palace, you’ll want to do the Magic Kingdom that day, rather than having to hop on the monorail or bus and head out to a different park.

Chef Mickey's

Chef Mickey’s

4. Use a travel agent- Yes, you can plan a Disney trip on your own. BUT, be prepared to spend a LOT of time online researching. Our agent also saved us a boatload of money by finding a special promotion for us, weeks after we had booked. She ended up cancelling our reservation and re-booking at the promotional rate…it was awesome: kind of like going to buy a pair of shoes and when you bring them to the register they ring up for 30% less than you were planning on paying. Your agent can also help you get dining reservations at some of the sought-after restaurants and offer age-specific recommendations for things to do, etc. We had a great experience with our agent; feel free to e-mail me and I can pass on her contact info!

5. Pack a rain jacket- Or risk having to buy and wear the Disney poncho ;)

6. Stay on the property- I can’t imagine NOT staying on the property for the sake of convenience. Really, all the Disney resorts make everything so easy and accessible and all the buses and/or monorails come very regularly. Disney has resorts for all price points: they rank them by “value”, “moderate”, and “deluxe”. I believe the biggest difference between the value and moderate hotels is the pools and hotel amenities (the size of the standard room doesn’t vary all that much), so if you plan on spending a lot of time at the pool, you’ll want to take that in to consideration.

7. Diapers.com- Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably already familiar with Diapers.com. I had all of our diapers, wipes, baby food, snacks, and some other essentials shipped right to the hotel for us. I was even able to ship my niece’s special dairy-free milk :) I can’t imagine how much our suitcases would have weighed had we packed these items. Diapers.com has free 2-day shipping if you spend over $50, and Disney hotels will accepts packages for you up to a week prior to your stay. Of course, this isn’t exclusive to a Disney trip: I’m not sure why I have never thought to do this before.

8. Bring your own food- As I mentioned above, I had a bunch of snacks delivered to our hotel. Ben was a couple of weeks shy of his third birthday at the time of our trip, so while his admission was FREE to all the parks, he also didn’t have a meal plan like the rest of us. By packing some snacks each day, we were able to save a ton of money- and he had a lot of healthier options. I saw a number of families parking themselves on benches and busting out pre-packed pb & j’s and other homemade sandwiches too. Plus, let’s be real: sometimes a little guy just wants to be pushed in his stroller and snack on some cheddar bunnies!

9. Don’t forget to check out your hotel pool- With all of the sensory overload of the parks and ongoing entertainment the entire trip, the kids were so happy when we took an afternoon to chill at the pool. In fact, it was probably one of their most favorite days :) We stayed at a moderate resort, and it had a couple of pools, and kids’ pool that the anklebiters LOVED. I wish we had planned in an extra day just to hang at the pool. Then again, that would have necessitated the sun making an appearance…

Disney pool

10. Get a meal plan- the dining plan is more food than you could ever eat in a day, BUT it saves you a TON of money. We would have spent an arm and a leg on food at Disney had we not used a dining plan. Our meal plan consisted of 1 snack per day, 1 quick service meal per day, and 1 table service meal per day. This may not sound like a too much food- but trust me; it is! A lot of the table services meals are actually family style or buffets, so it is a TON of food. A quick service meal is still a FULL meal (i.e. burger and fries, drink, and dessert), so you don’t need to worry about going hungry at Disney.

11. Pack practical footwear- Ladies, ditch the vanity and wear sneaks. Or Toms. Or something of the like. I totally rocked my mom sneaks all week and was soooo happy to!

12. There will be no boozing with Mickey- The Magic Kingdom does not serve alcohol (the other parks do).  Not so much a tip…but just an FYI. Word on the (Main) street is that the Magic Kingdom’s newest restaurant, Be Our Guest, serves alcohol- but otherwise the park is dry. Kind of a bummer for a tired mama who just wanted a glass of wine with her dinner. BTW- Be Our Guest was one of the restaurants that I tried to get reservations for, but couldn’t. Hmmmm….I wonder why….

13. You’re kid is never too young for Disney- Okay, well maybe that is an exaggeration. We did have a lot of people telling us that taking Ben- just shy of three- was silly because he was too young. NONSENSE people! This was such a great age to travel with him: he 100% believed that everything was truly authentic, and Disney does such a good job catering to kids of ALL ages. The Toy Story ride in Hollywood Studios was a big, big hit with the little ones. Other fan favs were: the Flying Dumbos, Pirates of the Caribbean (kind of surprised by this one), Peter Pan’s Magical Flight, meeting Cinderella, and the Muppets 3D show at Hollywood Studios. Another perk: admission for kids under 3 are free to the parks.

14. Use the My Disney Experience app- Download this before you go! It will save you a TON of time. You can sign up for your FastPass(es) and check wait times for every attraction from your phone. It is SO convenient, and will revolutionize the way you tour Disney ;)

15. You’ll need a vacation after your Disney “vacation”- Holy shnikes! Disney is exhausting. I was back in VT for 3 full days before I felt like I had regained my energy. If you’re going back to work: build a buffer day into your vacation. While we had a BLAST, we were pretty drained by the end of the trip.

Finally- on a totally random side note: if you’re traveling with someone with food allergies, Disney is AWESOME about accommodating to them. My niece has a dairy allergy, and she even got to eat dairy-free pizza at one of the restaurants, which was a huge treat for her! When you make reservations, they ask you if anyone in your party has allergies, and then when you order, a manager has to come out and sign off on the order for whomever has the allergy. I was very impressed with how they handled allergies :)

So- that’s it! All of my tips- hope these help! Any other Disney travelers have some good tips?!?!

-J

beaded candy canes

I know, I know, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet…but sometimes the holiday spirit strikes a bit early ;)

Buddy the elf quote

This EASY, relatively low-mess, and inexpensive craft was a HUGE hit with my 2 1/2 year old, so I wanted to pass it along. (By “huge”, I mean it kept him occupied for a solid hour! An hour! That’s like 2 episodes of Jake and the Neverland Pirates! Word on Brooke’s street is that this project kept Will occupied for TWO hours! Mamas- are you sold yet?!) You can use your candy canes as ornaments, or embellishments for gift wrapping :)

beaded candy cane ornament

We’ve done beading activities before, but I think the reason that this one was such a favorite was due to the fact that the pipe cleaners were easier for little hands to bead than the flimsy string that we have used in other beading projects. (I also found it easier to cut the pipe cleaners in half- which seemed to be a more manageable size for my little elf.)

Ben making beaded candy cane

Please ignore the jammies and bed head- we like to craft at the crack of dawn ;)

The supplies are minimal, and those needed are cheap! Sold.

beading- supplies

I’m constantly looking for “big kid” activities that Ben and I can do together while Hannah is napping- and this was perfect; the little guy felt so grown up and special. Plus, he was really concentrating on keeping the pattern- so cute to see that head thinking so hard!

If candy canes aren’t your thang, you can always make some wreaths!

beaded holiday wreath

If you aren’t sold on this project yet, I will leave you with this pic of Will:

Will beading candy canes

I mean, honestly. Don’t you just want to squeeze that?

Enjoy!

-J

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