Monday, September 19, 2016

Easy Photo Books for Kids (Perfect for Vacations and Show-And-Tell!)


We've had some pretty great summers these last couple of years. The summer of 2015, hands down, was probably one of the best summers I'll ever have in my life and while there was nothing outwardly phenomenal about it, it was chock full of family moments and memories that I can't help but think back on and smile from ear to ear. It was just so good. 

I went into this past summer with low expectations. After all, there was no way we could top all of the fun we had the previous year and I'll admit that I was feeling pretty down about it. That probably sounds a little ridiculous but it's true! However, knowing that it was the last summer we'd have together before we sent TWO of our boys off to school, I was determined to make it a memorable one.

Now that our summer is over, I look back at all of the fun we had and laugh at myself for ever thinking we'd have less fun than the year before. Sure the summer of 2015 was special in its own right but this past summer was one that I'll always remember for its own bunch of unique reasons. 

Take for instance, for the first time in six years my husband and I were actually able to take all three boys to the beach and sit down while they played in the sand and the surf. Do you even know how monumental that is? 

Not only that, but we also had the chance to witness our youngest boy practically growing right before our eyes as he became one of the "big boys" and kept up with his two oldest brothers with every step, jump and leap. 

Whether it was an evening spent roasting marshmallows and playing make-believe in the backyard fort or embarking on one of the many family trips we took together such as Hershey Park, Wild West City or Fenwick Island, one thing's for sure: 

We had a ton of fun and we did it all together. 


As we jump head first back into a new school year, I want the boys to be able to look back on all of the really great stuff we did over the summer and recall just how the sand felt between their toes or the rush they got chasing down the bandits at Wild West City. 

Memories and moments such as the ones we made are much too precious to live on the computer and what better way to relive them than with photo books sized perfectly for their little hands?




Best of all, these photo books were created right from my phone using the Kodak Moments app. While the thought of sitting down to create a photo book may seem daunting, the Kodak Moments app truly takes the guess work out of the process and allows you to quickly and easily import photos from various collections right at your fingertips. 

Whether you choose a 4x6" or 5x7" book, your photos will print with stunning clarity and quality. It honestly took me less than 8 minutes to create each of these books and better yet, they were ready for pick-up at a local kiosk the following day. 

They're the perfect size for little hands and can easily be tucked into pockets or backpacks to share with friends. I love listening to the boys as they flip through the pages reliving all of the fun they had together. It's a special kind of something to hear them recount their adventures in their own words and I swear, each day they remember something different about something they did or somewhere they went.

Most of all, I love that these books will be something they have to look back on for years to come. 


To see some other ways I've used the Kodak Moments app in our every day life, check out these two posts here and here and be sure to download the app for yourself. It's a great way to capture the moments, big and small, that you'll want to remember forever.  

The app is available for download by both Apple and Android products. If you download it, look me up- I'd love to see what moments mean to the most to you! 
(Username: Ashley Paige) 

This post is brought to you by a partnership with Kodak. 
All opinions expressed above are honest and my own. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

What No One Tells You About The First Week Back to School.



If you're at all privy to social media during the start of a new school year then it's no secret that your feeds are full of "first day" pictures. From the second week of August (a nod to all of my Southern friends) to the first week of September, my feed was chock full of happy, smiley-faced kiddos with sheer joy radiating out of their ears, all holding the same or similar signs denoting what grade they would be entering and who wanted to be a fairy princess, fireman or dinosaur when they grow up. 

It's all pretty stinking cute, if you ask me but what those same social media feeds don't show you is what happens to those smiley, joy-faced children in the days that follow. The first week of school is a huge transition, one that I was completely unprepared for and by the third or fourth day back to school, I was questioning exactly what happened to my angelic, mostly mild-mannered offspring. 

I'll tell you what happened. School days Daze happened. 


Thankfully through hushed whispers in the school pick-up line, I'd heard about this phenomenon and considered myself forewarned. Elementary school is tiring business and on top of that, this would be the first year that we had two kids in school, which would quickly escalate to double the tired, exhausted, over-stimulated small-ish humans. 

I first started noticing it in my four year who has the reserve of a British soldier. You know the kind, with the fancy furry hat and the stoic facade? That's him. He doesn't cry unless he's bleeding and, unlike my first and third children, he isn't one to throw himself to the ground in a fit of rage over anything be it big or small. 

Suddenly, on or around the evening of the third day of school, he was beside himself over an imaginary boo-boo on his shin. When I offered him a band-aid, you would have thought I offered to amputate the extremity. With tears streaming down his face he sternly told me to "go away!" and "find a new boy!" Fifteen minutes later he was sound asleep on the floor of the playroom. 

I knew right then and there that we would only survive this first week back to school on a wing and a prayer. Tempers are shorter than usual. Bright eyes are red-rimmed and puffy from exhaustion. Brothers are especially fight-y and prone to nit-picking and prodding at each other until they explode in fits of "he breathed on me!" and tears. 


It's because of the big transitions that all of us are facing these first few weeks that I've purposely relaxed the reigns on our normal routine and allowed room for these bumps in the road that will no doubt eventually work themselves out. Because honestly, if I didn't? I'm not sure how we would survive otherwise. 

I've accepted the accidental car naps that will undoubtedly make bedtime a headache because I know how badly they need to rest and re-energize. I've let typical mealtime shenanigans slide because we're all learning how to balance this new normal. 

Despite finishing every bit of their over-packed lunches, the boys are returning home from school famished which often leads to an earlier-than-normal dinner time and snacks on the side. While I'd love to all sit down as a family for these meals, it's just not going to happen when they're begging for food at 5:30pm and I know my husband won't be home until 7.   

On this final night of our first week back to school, I may even let them eat cupcakes before dinner as we celebrate SURVIVING our foray into elementary school, dual-schedules, drowning in paperwork and packed lunches. 

One thing that has helped us remain sane during this week of huge transitions is a consistent bedtime. If there is any advice that I can offer parents in a similar situation, for those school age kids who may be struggling at the end of each day, throw them into the bath and get them to bed around the same time each night. 

They may protest that they're not tired (they are!) and they may need a little extra coddling to settle in (a new water cup, an extra story, a back scratch or two!) so if you can, placate them. Give in to their new neediness (within reason!) and be sure to let them know that you understand how overwhelming and different this new schedule can be. By validating their feelings you're reassuring them that these new feelings (of anxiousness, tiredness, etc.) are expected and you'll work together to alleviate them and settle comfortably into a new routine. 

Hell, reassure each other! As a brand new parent of a school-age child I've never felt so overwhelmed as I have these last few days of school. Between rigorous pick-up schedules and feeling like we live in the car most days, I've had to do a little soul-searching and grace-seeking myself. It's a daily struggle to remind myself to have a little bit of extra patience when it comes to mothering (and wife-ing!) and I know that both my husband and myself could use a little extra reassurance and a pat on the back for getting our family to where we are today. 

After all, we're all in this together. Only 35 more weeks of school to go!
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Building A Backyard Play Set: One Dad's Perspective


Immediately after we tell someone that we just added a backyard swing set to our repertoire of "Things Parents Do For Their Kids," we're always met with the same question:

"How bad was it, really, to put together?"

While I did lend a hand here and there, the brunt of the assembly work was done by my husband with the occasional help from one of his brothers. That said, I figured the best way to give you a true perspective on the whole assembly process would be to sit him down for a little interview, you know, once the feeling returned to his fingers and he'd mostly forgotten how grueling the entire process was.



1. How long did it take you to assemble the set, The Charleston model, from Big Backyard Play and how many helpers would you suggest to have on-hand?

"Between battling poor, wet weather conditions in late June and then stifling hot days the following month, it probably took several weekend days to put this set together. It comes in what feels like no less than 2,000 pieces. While daunting at first, once the process got rolling, it was easy to keep the momentum going. 

I'd say I worked about five to six hours each day on it for three to four weekends in a row. While having just one extra set of hands around to help would be beneficial, I would say you shouldn't need more than two or three helpers. It moves pretty quick with just one extra set of hands!"

2. What was the hardest part of the process?

"Hands down, the tube slide. It came in almost 14 pieces and with ultra-tiny bolts, it was just a pain to put together. I was also doing it solo so there's a good chance it would've gone much smoother with an extra set of hands, or two. Thankfully the instructions were fairly easy to follow." 



3. What would you do again differently if given the chance?

"I think I would've tried to do it all in one day. It was annoying to have to put everything away after each day that we worked on it. Keeping track of the individual screws was the worst part! I think I would've tried to be better at that."



  
4. Will you take this set with you when you sell the house?

"Yes, absolutely! While we never planned to live in this house forever, we knew how much our kids would love and appreciate a backyard swing set. Now that I've assembled it, I can see how easy it would be to disassemble into just four or five large sections that could easily be transported to a new location by pick-up truck. We'll definitely be taking this with us when we leave!"

5. How much do your kids love their Big Backyard clubhouse and swings?

"They are obsessed with it and I don't mean that lightly. While I love seeing them swing on the swings and chase each other around the slides, what I love most is seeing them use their imagination and "sell things" in their little store. Beneath the clubhouse is a little kitchen-type area and they boys have already sold lemonade to their friends under there and made up a fake restaurant named "Fork and Spoon and Plate" where they create mud pies and grass patties to serve to their loyal customers."




6. What's your favorite part of the whole playset?

"The tube slide, for sure. I never had one of those as a kid growing up and that was always the best slide at the park playground. The fact that my kids have one in their own backyard? They'll never realized just how lucky they were and how good they had it!"



Many thanks to my husband for sharing his thoughts on the backyard swing set installation process. In case you missed it, you can read here about how we selected the perfect backyard play set for not only our backyard but also the season of life that we're currently in with boys ages 2, 4 and 6 years old. There's more that goes into choosing the right set than you think!

Disclaimer: This post is the second in a three part series as a Brand Ambassador for Big Backyard. I received a play set for free in return for sharing my honest, upfront opinions on our experience! 

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