Monday, July 29, 2013

On the Road Again

The girls and I arrived in North Carolina a week ago to visit with my family.  I decided (somewhat unilaterally) that I would make this trip alone...for the first time.  Until this visit I had either had my mom fly in and drive me back with Nate getting us back home or vice versa.  They might have thought I was crazy and they definitely asked me if I was sure more then 12.23 times.  I was determined.  In our current life situation I have to be able to do most things on my own so this was no exception in my mind.  I am happy to report that the girls did great.  And once we arrived safely I got the same question over and over.  "How did you do it?"  Interpret that the way you wish.  It was probably meant in many different ways.  So, I thought I would give you glimpse of just how I did it.  I scoured the internet and Pinterest and gathered the ideas I thought would work best for my girl's ages.  As I worked on putting it all together in the week leading up to our trip, and the night before when I organized it all by the door, Man had only one thing to say, "Oh my word.  You have gone all Martha Stewart on them."  I took that as a compliment.  ;)  I am confident that this effort really did help all of us have a pleasant trip.  I will definitely do this for future trips.

From many years of traveling and millions of miles covered in a car, here is my best piece of advice.  Don't use all of your tricks in one day!  It is hard.  Especially if they run out of things to do.  So, my plan this time was to find things that took up a lot of time.  Here we go.

This box rode in the front seat beside me.  These were items that I wanted to regulate, most of them were Allye's.  Electronics were definitely with us, but were not going to be used heavily.  Turns out, they weren't used at all.  That is when I know I did something right.  See the little bunny container?  That is what you need when it all begins to fall apart.  Skittles and such.  Works like a charm.  Especially if you are 21 months old, need a nap, and haven't had lunch.

All three girls had one of these.  7 items + 7 slots = Lots of Sorting Fun!  

I timed Olivia's turn at sorting to make it more challenging, which meant I had to get a lesson on where that fancy feature was on my phone.  Man took care of that before I left.  He might have rolled his eyes when I asked him if my "smart" phone did this.  Addison simply sorted away.  Allye decorated the car with her items.  I did not care one bit.  Happy Baby = Happy Momma.  

She got the biggest kick out of the box below.

She has pulled more wipes in her 21 months then either of the other girls did combined.  Her arms are a mile long and she can get to anything.  She got a good laugh out of this one.  Then she just started opening the entire lid and pulling it all out at once.  Must work better for a younger, not so experienced wipe puller.  ;)

I hardly ever throw away a paper towel or toilet paper roll.  Lots of projects call for these free items but this might be my favorite so far.  Olivia's rolls had addition and subtraction problems written all over them.  I wrote the answers on the colored dots and she had to match them up.  Addison had to match the upper case letter on the roll to the lower case letter sticker.  If I did this again I would make two separate rolls for her.  It was too crammed and busy for her eyes/mind to be able to focus.  Her other one was just a simple shape match up with a shout out of the shape as she matched it.  Allye's roll was blank and she was handed a sheet of tiny colorful stickers.  You should see her carseat!  Happy Baby = Happy Momma.  This was her favorite activity and kept her busiest the longest. 

Then there were The Books.  I did not use these until the second day.  I made one for each of the big girls and allowed Allye to watch some of her favorite learning shows.

Each of them were given sticker books that taught them different things.  This was Olivia's.  I found them at the Dollar Store awhile back and picked up one of each type.  After matching all of the stickers there were crossword puzzles and other games, more appropriate for Olivia.  Addison matched up all of the stickers in hers and then Olivia helped her with the games.  I loved that part...the helping sisterly. 

The rest of the games I printed off were enclosed in a clear protector so they could be used again.  Above was the license plate game (their favorite).  We are still searching for a few.  Below are a few other games I found. 

This game required Olivia to write down the letter from a license plate and then create two words using those letters.  For Addison it helped her work on penmanship.

The license plate number game had Olivia write down the numbers from the plates and then add them together.  A white board marker and half of a magic eraser allowed her to quickly erase and play over and over again.  Addison simply practiced writing her numbers.

Snacks.  The thorn in my side.  There is something about traveling in a car that makes my kids think they are hungry all.the.time.  Admittedly I have programmed their bodies to need a snack as I have always taken an approach of not perpetuating over-eating at meal times.  This was the first time I have used this idea and I did it so that there were options and so I wouldn't be trying to fix snacks while driving. 

I used this little box in case there was a time I had to hand it to Olivia.  They would be contained and easy for her to find.  Beyond that this is how I did it.  I had Man create two bags for each girl, for each day of travel...12 bags for this trip.  Then I placed a sticker on each bag to represent who the bag belonged to.

For this trip, Allye's bags would have all bears, Addison's all ballerinas, and Olivia's would be marked with stylish girls.  They loved it and it did make it very simple.  They saw all of the options from the beginning and decided accordingly at each snack time.  This is the way to go.  Let me repeat.  This is the way to go.  No one is needing to see every option, hold the snack bag themselves to see what you just told them, beg for something else...etc.  This was it.  Period.  Then I wonder why a genius solution has to come almost 8 years into parenting.  Whatever.  I will take it.

Well, there you go.  This is what kept my girls busy this time and it worked very well.  I would almost stick my neck out to say it was the best trip in the car we have ever had, but then that would mean I will have the worst ever in another week.  So, we will go with this was a v.e.r.y. good trip.  So, so, so  good I pulled off and we toured the Coca Cola store twenty minutes before our hotel.  Allye enjoyed it the most.

Enjoying Life!

--The Traveling Mama

Monday, July 15, 2013

Friends, Fireworks, & Fun!

Here is what I love about summer.  I make big plans to get so much done because now I have all of this extra time ;) and then we just start having so much fun I forget about everything else and enjoy the ride with my kids.  We are truly having a great summer and so many wonderful experiences as a family of 5.  Man said it right the other night...he met us at the beach one evening after work and he said there was a moment when he took it all in and thought, "This is the life."  We truly feel blessed to have each other and these wonderful girls.  Here is what we have been up to this month.

We were hosting a July 4th BBQ so I had Man set up the beach cover so we wouldn't melt.  Turned out to be a great cover for some pool time.

I was home in March and went to visit this little fabric store that had been recommended by more then one person.  One of those people happens to be my cousin.  She has taken up sewing and can out-sew my pants any day of the week.  It made my day that she walked through the door while I was there!  We had great girl talk and picked out some fabrics together.  One set would become July 4th outfits for my girls.  However, at that cost we would be choosing fabrics that did not so much scream JULY 4th!  I really stepped out on this one and made three entirely new patterns.  If you sew, you might realize this was slightly crazy...especially if you knew all of the other sewing that was getting done at this same time.  I was quite pleased with the end products.  Allye's was very special as hers was made with a pattern that my mother passed on to me that she used when I was 2.

When the final products were done we took the girls into these beautiful woods.  It was quiet and peaceful...until Man started trying to make them smile.  Now that is something I wish we had on camera!  He is such a gem.  It is because of him I came home to more than 150 pictures of my girls...with more then just one of them smiling.  Here are a few of my favorites.

He might have had the help of a few Skittles...

July 4th came in with rainy weather altering our plans for a big beach morning with the best neighbors ever, but that was not slowing us down.  Instead?  Breakfast in our pajamas at their house.  She "threw" this together.

It was wonderful!  We played and hung out until lunch when we walked home to start the preparations for the evening.

With a break in the rain we took a quick picture.  But it was a very good thing Mama M brought in back-up.  She came up with some really neat games for the kids to play...

With a small break in the torrential rains our men set up our Smores campfire and drink stand for the neighborhood crowd to join us in the circle.  It was so sad to see so many people "posting" that they did not have any fireworks due to cancellations for weather.  We did not have this problem.  We may or may not have had our own "over the ocean" worthy fireworks show at the bottom of our hill.  It was truly an amazing site from the top and I am so thankful for this experience.  What a sight to see all of the kids running wild with sparklers and pops and smores and the house, out of the was a crazy kind of fun and we can't wait for next year!  We finished off the night with wish lanterns.  We will do these again!

Next up we had Allye's first dentist appointment.  I was terrified about how this would go so I did not take my camera for fear she would somehow destroy it during my moment of "let's preserve this memory."  Homegirl does not like anyone to touch her mouth.  Period.  Of course I give all of the warnings and she lays back perfectly, opens her mouth, and has only a slight moment of uneasiness...which was easily cured with the selection of her first dentist toothbrush.  

Since she seemed to be handling the big girl duties so well we moved her to the table.  I cannot begin to tell you how this really feels.  All of these moments make my heart weak.  I want to slow this down.  I am truly grasping every single moment with her.

We had another big first last week when Mama M and I let the girls have a sleepover.  I took the two bigs and she took the two littles.  

They were so excited!  That got to eat dinner with each other, watch movies, and play.  There was very little sleep happening in either house.  I will save the details for a full post.

A couple of weeks ago I signed Allye up for Parent's Night Out at her church school.  I had a secret plan to take Olivia and Addison on a girl's night out.  They were thrilled when we only dropped Allye off and drove across the street to the movies.  After munching on popcorn, candies, and drinks we went to eat....appetizers and desserts only!  They thought I lost my mind!  It was awesome!

I took this time to talk with them and show them how I felt about each of them.  This was their favorite.

I let them order any dessert they wanted.  We couldn't finish.
 And finally, a moment I have been working towards for a few months.  Addison announced to me towards the end of school that she wanted me to teach her to read.  I was very ambivalent about this and put her off until she just wouldn't let it go.  After deciding on the method I was going to use we got started.  Because I chose a 100% phonics program it has taken quite awhile to get to the reading part of reading.  I have been amazed, intrigued, baffled, frustrated, ready to quit, happy, sad, name it, I have felt it during this process.  BUT, the reward came tonight when she sat down and read her first book.  The light in her eyes when she realized that she was "doing it" was more then I could hardly stand.  I showered her with kisses and high-fives and Olivia was beyond proud (she has been just as determined to teach her as I have).  That moment is something I will share with her forever.  I am so thankful for every good and bad moment of this experience so that I could witness tonight and be a part of her accomplishment.

Living and Loving Life...

--The Mama

Monday, July 8, 2013

Project 365

We are knee deep in fun here in Florida.  Rain too, but we aren't letting that get us down.  Enjoy the photos and I will get an update out soon!

--The Mama
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