Wednesday, September 13, 2017

What's New / Let's Catch Up / Real Mom, Real Style.

Tap, tap tap. Is this thing still on? 

Shoo! I never intended to step away from this space as much as I have over the last several months. I don't even have a good enough reason for my absence other than it was summer and we were busy! I have so many things I want to write about here, things like my feelings on this article, what life is like basking in the light at the end of the tunnel of raising tiny, needy humans (spoiler alert: it's freaking fantastic), new house updates and really, just getting back to the basics of why I started this blog in the first place.

School is back in full swing now and the boys are gearing up to finish their first full week since starting right after Labor Day. It's an adjustment for everyone and I've essentially renamed September "The Month of Grace" because there's no way we're all getting through it without a healthy dose of patience, understanding and candy corn pumpkins in excess.

The boys love school though which is the most I can ask for- Collins, the youngest, wishes he could go every day and isn't that the funniest thing? I'm certain that if given the opportunity, my oldest would stay at home with me forever but it's those third babies that are so ready to grow up that they don't even think twice about leaving the nest! He just wants to be big like his brothers and do what they do. Bless it! 

A few weeks ago on Instagram I put some feelers out about what you might want to see more of from me. Surprisingly, the answer was a resounding "what do you wear because you always look so cute?" (which made me laugh because are we both watching the same snaps?) with some of you wanting to see more of the house and most of you wanting to just hear more about what life looks like now with the boys many of you have watched grow up over the last 7 years. 

Now that I have some time to myself during the week, I think I can make that happen! 

Having all of the boys in school each week is incredible. Keep in mind that Collins is currently in school for 8 hours each week so it's really only 8 hours that I'm kid-free but what a difference those 8 hours makes in terms of self-care. Mac also transitioned from 5 half-days to full day Kindergarten this year and while I miss his guts like crazy, I can get my hair done, schedule doctor and dentist appointments for myself, make it to the gym, shower, DO MY HAIR, get dressed and meet my girlfriends for lunch TWO DAYS A WEEK all without worrying about the littlest one and who I'm going to get to watch him and how that's all going to factor into everyone's schedule and how will I ever make it back for half-day pick up? 

This new routine of ours has done wonders for my general well-being but more on that in a post for another day. 

I figured I'd start off here with a peek into my closet mostly because this is probably the most I've gotten dressed up in a week since 2010. Before I proceed, however, here's what you won't see in this post: expertly staged and styled photographs, affiliate links to where you can shop my look or any type of dressing room photo. I'm all about the collective "you" doing "you" but I'll be honest, I'm just not that committed. Plus, dressing room photos, while adorable, always make me laugh because most of the bloggers I follow who do this are as big as my pinky and nothing I buy will look the same on me as it does them. 

That said, I will gladly share where I found most of the clothes I'm wearing but I also kind of feel like that's why Google and SHOPSTYLE were invented. 

While I started off strong, there's a good chance that not every week will look like this but it's certainly been fun playing the roll of "Mom With Her Sh*t Together" versus my usual typecast "Leader of the Hot Mess Express."

Next time I do this, I promise I'll wipe down the mirror first but don't those tiny handprint smudges add a little je ne sais quoi to the over all aesthetic? The weather here in Maryland has been all over the board lately- while we've had some incredible Fall-ish days in the 60's, the next 7-10 days are shaping up to be some hot ones! I just want to commit to putting away all of my summer clothes and close the chapter on shorts and sundresses, I won't lie! 

As you can see, I've got a pretty good thing going with the raw hem denim. The last three pairs of jeans I've added to my closet all have that and torn knees in common and the nice thing about it is that if you're not feel particularly committed to the hem on any given day, you can just pin roll the bottoms and voila! Bye-bye frayed edge. 

The black pair seen above are by FRAME, the blue pair below are Democracy Denim and the pair seen in the last photo are Treasure & Bond, all purchased at Nordstrom or The Rack.

I also tried out a pair of the Yummie brand high-waisted leggings and I can't say that I hate them! I love being able to throw them on with a sweater and not have to worry about whether or not they're too opaque (they're actually rather thick which will be great once it gets colder!) I wish I had gotten a better picture of the Treasure & Bond sweater- it has an asymmetrical cold shoulder and I really kind of love it. 

My printed top is one of the infamous LUSH tunics and they're truly a staple in my closet. Over the years I've purchased them in several solid colors and prints and I wear them all the time. Super comfortable and can be dressed up or dressed down.

This top is one of my favorites, given to me by my aunt from a local boutique. I love the feminine and flowy details of it and it's actually one of the few warm weather pieces I keep in my closet all year long. When the cooler months hit, I pair it with a cropped leather moto jacket which buys my an extra season of wear!

I love a good t-shirt and jeans get up. More times than not, that's usually what I'm wearing if I'm not in work-out clothes! While you can't see it in the above photo, it's always a v-neck t-shirt! This one is from the new Target line "A New Day" that replaced the old Mossimo brand. They recently had a Buy Two for $14 sale and I stocked up on navy and gray! I have no idea how well they wash or wear and while my hopes aren't too high, I'm all about cheap closet staples that can be worn on repeat, especially things that can be layered for extra wear. 

You may not think this is very exciting but coming from someone who has worn more breathable spandex in the last five years than anything else, it's a pretty big deal. Even my husband has noticed the lack of athletic-attire and while I never thought about it affecting my mood, getting dressed in "real clothes" each day does wonders for a mom's sanity.

I think I can get down with this whole raising Big Kids things. We all just might be okay after all. Now, let's see if I can keep this blogging thing going... 

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Camping With Kids | Our Trip To Jellystone Park, Maryland

A special thanks to Jellystone Maryland for hosting our stay and providing
us with a lifetime's worth of memories from our very first family camping trip.

A few weeks ago I reached out to our readers on Facebook and asked them to hit me with their best tips for family camping. We were gearing up to take our three boys, ages 3, 5 and 7, cabin camping for the first time at Jellystone Park in Hagerstown, Maryland and while I initially thought I was fully prepared for the adventure, once the tips and tricks started rolling in, I realized I had a lot to learn about executing a successful camping trip!

After spending 4 days and 3 nights "roughing it," in a three room cabin out in Western Maryland, I think the greatest piece of advice I can offer is just to keep it simple. I'm so glad we chose Jellystone as the location for our foray into camping. I think it's unanimous that we as a family are no where near ready to live off the grid which is why our rustic accommodations that boasted running water and a small kitchenette were just perfect for this family of first-timers. Not to mention the hoards of exciting kid's activities that greeted us around every turn. 

Jellystone is a great place to visit with your family for a fun-filled weekend of camping and with a variety of ways to stay and enjoy the park, including cabins, campsites, RV hook-ups and even unique tiny houses, there's definitely something for everyone! To learn more about the numerous packages available when booking your stay, head here.

Each day of your stay begins with the salutation of the flag and fun, energizing exercise regime with Yogi and Boo-Boo. At check-in you are provided with that week's custom itinerary which includes tons of both free and add-on activities available to you throughout the day. The staff on-site do an excellent job of involving the kids and interacting with them during activities. 

I would say roughly 75% of the kid-friendly activities are free to enjoy at no additional cost of the camper. These free activities include meet and greets with the characters, guided nature hikes, wagon rides, miniature golf, sunset movie shows, bouncy pillow fun, Gaga ball pits, horseshoes, basketball and volleyball courts as well as several awesome and well-maintained playgrounds throughout the park. 

For an additional nominal fee, campers can enjoy add-on a la carte activities such as zip-lining, gem mining, laser tag, ice cream social events with the characters, an arcade full of games and prizes, arts and crafts as well as a ninja warrior course. Whether you choose to partake in these activities is solely a personal decision but I will say that my boys loved (L O V E D) the zip line, gem mining, ninja warrior course and our special invitation to enjoy an ice cream sundae with Boo-Boo bear.

Our Accommodations

Our luxury cabin was the perfect amount of "roughing it" and "glamping" combined. It comfortably slept our family of five with its full size bed and two sets of twin size bunk beds. Personally I don't think we would've survived without the full bathroom, toilet and shower included. While I'm all for the belief that a swim in the pool doubles as a bath, it was nice to throw the boys into a warm shower after a particularly sweaty day at camp. 

The cabin also included a gas fireplace, small kitchenette, dinette, loveseat, fire ring, picnic table and charcoal grill. As I mentioned earlier, part of keeping it simple meant no extravagant meals. For 4 days our family subsisted on hot dogs, grilled barbecue drumsticks, scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, boxed macaroni and cheese, cereal, pop tarts, s'mores, pancakes, grilled pizza, fresh fruits and veggies. This no-frills approach to cooking meals that we knew everyone would enjoy made for happy campers and full bellies at every meal.   

Stay and Play

There truly wasn't a single dull moment during our camping adventure and truth be told, our daily routine didn't stray much from what we're used to doing each day at home. The boys would wake up between 7 and 7:30am and while we encouraged them to play outside the cabin (jumping rocks, going on scavenger hunts, safely exploring the woods behind our cabin) my husband and I would cook breakfast in peace. After enjoying our meal together on our porch or picnic table, it was back inside to check out the itinerary and make plans for the day. Most activities started between the 8 and 9am hours and continued long into the evening, often culminating with an outdoor movie at 9pm. 

When a little down time was needed between activities, we would venture back to the cabin for a little quiet time that included drawing, reading, a board game or two and yes, even some television. (Even we as parents needed a little peace and quiet, too!) Don't forget the S'mores making each night!)

Tips For Your Next Visit

  • There is a Starbucks and an Olive Garden within a 10 minute ride from camp, just in case things get dire. 
  • There is also a camp store on site where you can buy a hot cup of coffee, groceries, RV supplies, wood, charcoal, snacks, souvenirs and more! This is great for moments when you might have forgotten to pack the graham crackers for S'mores!
  • No matter where you stay, bring a cheap floor mat for right inside your accommodations. While we pretty quickly got into the habit of leaving our shoes right outside the door of our cabin, I wish we'd brought a cheap, small door mat for directly inside our front door. This way dirty, damp, muddy feet wouldn't traipse throughout the cabin!
  • Golf Cart rentals are completely worth it. Our cabin was located at the far side of the campground which meant we would've had quite the trek to enjoy most of activities. Little kids and tons of walking don't always go hand in hand so it was nice to be able to conveniently zip from one part of the park to the other. 
  • Tons of families brought their kids' bikes to camp! While there isn't a ton of paved access-ways (most paths are rocky gravel), we watched tons of families travel to and fro on bicycles. 

Will We Return?

Absolutely! We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in our luxury cabin. The amenities were top notch, our campsite was beautifully secluded and well-maintained and the boys really enjoyed all that the park had to offer. Even with their varying ages, all three of them found things to entertain themselves at every turn. 

We've already started looking into a Fall weekend getaway with some of our friends! While this was a far cry from our typical family vacation, it was the perfect way to unplug and spend some time with the boys before school starts back up. We all woke up each morning eager and excited to explore and try activities that I never thought in a million years the boys, specifically, would entertain the thought of doing. I think I'm most proud of the big boys for the incredibly big leap they took, both figuratively and literally, as they jumped from the platform of the zip-line. It was so fun to watch our youngest bust out some pretty amazing ninja warrior moves during Boo-Boo's Bootcamp and above all else, there are just no words to describe how much it meant to our family to make these memories that will undoubtedly last a lifetime! 
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Friday, August 18, 2017

Family Matters: You're Never Too Busy To Eat Together.

Let's face it, we're all pretty busy people. Busy parents, busy kids, sometimes being busy together, but mostly being busy with our own self-serving schedules. We as parents are dialed-in, over-worked, volunteered-out; dedicated to making sure we raise well-rounded, contributing members of society, a society that, to no surprise, glorifies busy, too often making it feel as if our worth is measured by our level of "busyness." 

The truth is, no matter how busy we think we are, we all have time for things that are important to us. 

Growing up my family always ate dinner together. Always. Which in retrospect, makes me wonder how my mother ever did it. How she managed to be the class parent, the school board volunteer, the chauffeur between sports practices, the cheerleader at all our games and the maker of a delicious dinner on the table every single night. While I swear she had super human parent powers, she too clearly realized how important sharing a meal together was and so she made it a priority each night where the four of us came together and connected as whole. 

They say the kitchen is the heart of the home. I say it's where my heart gathers. Although we may not make it to the table every night for dinner together as a family, we have, as a family, made it a priority to eat at least one meal together each day. Some days it's during the breakfast hour that we gather around the table as a whole- on nights that we aren't juggling a sports practice (or three), it's dinner that brings us together. No matter when we come together, while it's rarely Pinterest-perfect- juice is spilled, pancakes are burned and someone always has something less than savory to say about the menu- it's always deeply savored. 

Why? Because there is so much beauty in this mess. 

Conversation is unpredictable. Tiny, raspy morning voices clamor to tell jokes, recant dreams and fight over the last cinnamon roll. Sometimes at the end of a long day we need an icebreaker to get the stories rolling but once we do, it's even more difficult to get our boys to stop talking long enough to take a bite of food.

It's our hope as parents that by sharing family meals, our boys understand that the kitchen table is safe space for them to open up and share their feelings. In a busy world with super schedules and the bombardment of technology at our fingertips, this screen-free zone allows us to come together as a whole, power down to connect and invest in ourselves as a family unit.

While I'm not saying a casserole has the powers to transform a family dynamic (wouldn't that be amazing?), it's the interpersonal moments shared among us over a meal that will hopefully create stronger connections between our family away from the table. 

Dinner tables have always been the focal point of kitchens and ours is certainly no different. I have such fond memories of our kitchen table growing up- whether we gathered around it for family dinners, family game night or at the last minute to complete a school project the night before it was due, that table became synonymous with my childhood. 

I want our table to be that same safe, remarkable space for our boys. I want it to be a place where they gather around to tell me about their school day. Their winning goals. Their science fair failures. I want them to bring their friends over, littering that table with pizza boxes and candy wrappers and one day, inviting their very first girlfriends over to join us for dinner at that table.

I know one day too soon I will miss this beautiful mess. The spilled juice, the food on the floor, the incessant reminders to use manners and clear plates but it's these moments and all of the small moments in between that I am truly, deeply grateful for and it's with gratitude and hope that I look forward to many shared family meals around our table to come.

Dining Table Furnishings c/o Wolf Furniture
Sources: Concrete Table | X-Back Chairs | Upholstered Side Chairs
Runner, Candlesticks: HomeGoods

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