Life

Six Simple Swaps to go Plastic Free with Kids in the Kitchen

In my journey to making our day to day lives and our home more sustainable and having fewer toxins, I have been trying to free our lives of as much plastic as possible. There are many reasons to want to go plastic free in your kitchen: it’s better for the planet, more sustainable… but my primary reason was to keep the toxins away from our food.

6 simple swaps to go plastic free with kids

Here are a few facts: Plastic contains a lot of toxic chemicals. BPA, BPS, Phthalates, and PVC are some of the most commonly found and the heavy hitters. These chemicals are known to cause problems with your endocrine system that can lead to hormonal imbalances, cancer, spontaneous miscarriage, early puberty, and more. The CDC found that 93% of Americans over the age of six have BPA in their urine and bloodstream. YIKES!

These were just some of the facts that put me over the edge to ditch as much plastic as I could in the kitchen – because we are in the kitchen ALL day long! Dishes and silverware come in contact with our food daily, which means it’s likely that those chemicals are going to make their way into our bodies. And since we homeschool, we are constantly at home cooking and eating. And eating and eating and eating….. because boys. ;) So I wanted to find plastic free items that were safe for my family

Just a quick sidetone… we are not perfect! We aren’t even close to 100% plastic free in our house, but we are constantly making strides in that direction. The kitchen was a room that took high priority for me, though, so I would say we are 95% plastic free here now. And disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

So here are six simple swaps we made in our kitchen to go plastic free with our kids:

  1. Plates/Bowls

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    We have two sets of plates and bowls. We have a set of Corelle plates and bowls that we keep in our cabinet. These aren’t only used for kids, obviously, but the plates and bowls are smaller than our regular dishes. They’re lightweight, but don’t break super easily. However, we do have a toddler, as well as tile floors in the kitchen. So we also have a set of stainless steel plates (that even have dividers – yay!) and bowls that we keep in a low cabinet. They’re easy for the kids to reach, plus they won’t break if they’re dropped on the floor. They will, however, make a really loud and obnoxious noise if your toddler chucks them across the room. Ask me how I know. ;) We do have a few wooden bowls that I’ve thrifted, and we used for baby bowls before I purchased the stainless steel ones. They’re great to use as snack bowls!

  2. Cups

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    We have only two types of drinking glasses/cups in our house currently (okay, and also coffee mugs… because coffee). We have stainless steel cups (large and small) and mugs for the kids, and we have mason jars for our other dining glasses. My older kids use these too sometimes, but we keep the stainless steel cups in a lower cabinet by the plates. When we swapped from plastic to stainless steel cups, I was worried we would end up washing a hundred cups a day, since they’re all the same color. So I bought these silicone cup markers that stretch over the cups (and yep, they’re totally designed for beer glasses!). Each child has their own color, so they can set their cup on the table/counter and drink from it all day. It’s made my life easier, when they remember to use them. ;)

  3. Water Bottles

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    My kids really just drink water during the day, so I want them to have a good quality water bottle. Plus, it helps to cut down on the number of cups we wash… in theory anyway. ;) I’ve tried a LOT of different water bottles, found these Safe Sporter water bottles that we have LOVED and have lasted for years! They do have a plastic spout at the top, but the entire inside of the bottle is stainless steel. They’re easy to clean and easy to use for the kiddos. We have the larger size for my older boys and a small one for my toddler.

  4. Baby Bottles/Sippy Cups

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    Bottles
    When my youngest was a baby, he had a lip and a tongue tie that we discovered fairly late. Because of this, he had some complications that ended with me exclusively pumping and bottle feeding him. I hadn’t done a lot of bottles with my other kids, so this was new territory for me. I didn’t even own any bottles! I tried a few different bottles, but absolutely loved the Joovy Boob bottles! We had them in a both five and eight ounce sizes. With the silicone sleeves, we only lost one bottle in the 1.5+ years we used them. And they were dropped A LOT. I can’t recommend these enough.

    Sippy Cups
    We haven’t used sippy cups in awhile in our house, because my youngest didn’t really like using them. But we have used a couple safer, most sustainable versions that are worth sharing. The Kid Basix Safe Sippy is one we used often, you can use it with or without a straw inside. With some of my older boys, we used the Thermos FOOGO sippy and then their water bottles, and we also had the stainless version of the Munchkin 360 cup. My youngest never took to it unfortunately, so we ended up using it without the lid as a regular cup. But I know that many mamas LOVE the 360 cup, so I love that they came out with a safer version!

  5. Silverware

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    Most of our kids just use regular silverware, but by the time my youngest was born, I had already ditched all of our plastic silverware. I needed some safer baby spoons, so I found these great bamboo baby spoons that we loved and still use, plus these “sporks” that have silicone on one end, with a wooden handle.

  6. Straws

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    I’m not sure why, but my kids think everything tastes better through a straw. We had some plastic reusable straws for awhile, but they seemed to get pretty gross pretty easily. So the switch to stainless steel reusable straws was a pretty simple one for us. We have some skinny straws (straight and bent) as well as some wide, smoothie straws. If you’re worried about safety with little ones, you can also use silicone straws. But the stainless steel straws have worked fine for all of us, even my toddler.

Now don’t let this list overwhelm you! We didn’t switch all of this at once. I took one category at a time and swapped them over a period of months or years. Each change you make is important for your family, as well as the environment! Having a toxin-free home is a goal that will take me years and years to accomplish, but every time I swap something out for a safe, non-toxic version, I feel that I’ve made one step toward keeping my family healthy.

If you’re worried that it’s more expensive, it’s really not. When we were using plastic cups and water bottles for our kids, I noticed they would break down and fall apart very quickly. Stainless steel lasts so much longer, rarely breaks, and doesn’t degrade in the dishwasher in the same way that plastic does. I haven’t had to replace any of our dishes (other than the glasses that have broken on the tile floor!) in years. We started using mason jars for drinking glasses, because we found them to be so much stronger than our regular drinking glasses. They are less likely to break, plus they’re multi-purpose: we use them for storing leftovers and taking food on the go as well as drinking out of them!

dsc_5646 copyIf you’re looking for more tips and ideas of how to change your habits and your home to be more sustainable for the environment and for the health of your family, I highly recommend getting yourself a copy of a book I recently had the privilege of reading. My friend Kelsey Jorissen’s new e-book The Holistic Home came out in November and it’s all about making small changes throughout your home to live a more sustainable life.

The Holistic Home is chock-full of ideas for detoxing your kitchen and bathroom, tips on composting, ideas for safer products, and DIY recipes. It’s perfect for someone who is just beginning their journey of sustainable, non-toxic living OR someone who’s been on this path for awhile, like me. I consider myself pretty savvy in the natural living world, as I’ve already swapped out all my personal care and cleaning products to natural, non-toxic alternatives, but I still learned so much from Kelsey’s book!

Kelsey’s passion is definitely sustainable living from an environmental point of view, whereas my sustainability journey has been stemmed from a desire to live a non-toxic life from a health perspective. Obviously the two go hand in hand – I’ve always been conscious of my impact on the environment, but I just tend to look at health first, environment second. Kelsey has taught me SO much about sustainability from an environmental outlook. I loved reading about composting in her e-book, because composted some at our old house, but haven’t started back up since moving a few years ago. I’m excited to use her tips to start again. Kelsey also inspired me to switch to compostable garbage bags!

 

 

 

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The Holistic Home is on sale through Wednesday 1/30, so make sure you grab yourself a copy while it’s discounted, with code newyear30.

And after you grab that,  be sure to join my Natural Wellness group on Facebook! I share all kinds of tips and tricks on kicking the toxins out of your home and helping to support our health naturally. If you’re really ready to dive in to this natural life, grab your Premium Starter Kit. This is THE BEST way to get toxins out of your house and replace them with safe, natural, plant-based products.

6 simple swaps to go plastic free in the kitchen with kids

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Five Tips for Sewing with Young Kids Underfoot

I’ve been in a season of slow, simple sewing. Have you been in a season like this? I’m a homeschool mama with five young kids, including a toddler whose favorite pastime is coloring on the walls and climbing onto everything he shouldn’t.. some days I barely have time to go to the bathroom, let alone sew an entire handmade wardrobe. Most of the projects I’m sewing lately are things I can complete in one sitting, generally a pattern I’ve sewn a dozen times, with slight variations here and there. I’ve sewn a bunch of garments recently that haven’t made it to the blog, for myself and the kids. None of them earth shattering in their execution, but all of them well-loved and well-worn.

I’m learning a lot these days about taking seasons as they come. I’ve had years and months where my sewing machine has been in constant use, and others where carving out time seems a bit trickier. Recently I was talking with some friends about how disappointed I was that I hadn’t been able to find the time to sew myself jeans, so I had to buy them instead. At first, it felt a little like a failure. I know how to sew jeans – I’ve done it several times, and before I got pregnant with my youngest, I had drafted and sewn a pair that I’ve been dying to tweak to the point of perfection. But my jean-sewing season will come back, I just need to give it time.

If you’re in a season like this, here are my best tips and encouragement for you:

1. Find a way to sew alongside your kiddos: For me right now, this means a shared space. I have my sewing tables set up in a corner of the room, the kiddos have an art table on the other side, and there are toys for my toddler and younger kids to play with as well. This could mean that you have a special bin of toys for your kids to play with only while you sew or that you give them a bucket or art supplies and let them create something alongside you. There’s something beautiful about creating together!

2. Use pockets of time: five minutes here and there to put a pattern together, cut it out, and prepare your fabric. When you need longer stretches of time, sew during nap time or after they’ve gone to bed. During some seasons, late night sewing isn’t an option, though (hello middle of the night feedings and teething toddler, I’m looking at you!), so make use of times when your kiddos are content to play.

3. Keep it simple when needed: What I’ve found is that small, simple sews can be deeply satisfying in a season where it’s hard to accomplish much. Pillow covers, simple tees, and pajamas are the way to go if you need to keep it simple, but still feel accomplished. When you start sleeping through the night or your toddler is more content to play alone and not demand every second of your attention, more complicated projects will return to your table.

4. Babywear, Pack ‘n Play, or highchair: find a way to safely contain your baby or toddler nearby. I’ve definitely worn my babies and toddlers in a sling or Ergo while sewing or put up a Pack ‘n Play next to my sewing machine. I had a “duh” moment recently when my friend Jodi shared an Instagram story with her toddler eating in a high chair while she sewed – brilliant!

5. Give yourself grace and remember it’s a season: this has been a constant mantra in my mind lately, and I’ve been so encouraged by friends reminding me of this. It won’t always be like this, and I don’t want to wish away these years when my kids are at home with me. Whether you’re a homeschool mama like me or you volunteer daily in your kids classroom or you work in or outside of the home, it can be hard to fit in time for hobbies and passions when you have littles! Embrace the season you’re in and prioritize the things you love, even for just a few minutes at a time.

Whatever season you’re in, whether you’re cranking out projects or looking longingly at your serger when you pass it by, remind yourself that each season has it’s time. Be present. Remind yourself that seasons change and kids get older. Let yourself be okay with whatever sewing time life has for you right now. And be intentional to carve out more time when you can.

Some nitty gritty sewing notes: this is my go-to sewing pattern (quick and easy!) – the Alex and Anna pajamas from Peekaboo Pattern Shop. I did make a matching pair for my six-year-old (mostly because he desperately needed pajamas, and I found a pattern in that size already cut and ready to go), but he refused to comply with my adorable matching jammie photo shoot that I had in mind, so I have proof of his pajamas over on Instagram too. These are jammies are the ultimate in comfort, since they’re sewn with jersey from Raspberry Creek Fabrics. All the RCF love and heart eyes over here, y’all.

Speaking of heart eyes….

Gah!! I can’t handle the cuteness of this age, even if he does color on all my walls.

Happy slow sewing, friends. :)

 

A Journey of Wellness

Last week, I took the boys to the pediatrician for a well check. The doctor came in and commented that it had been such a long time since she’d seen us. I told her we are generally pretty healthy, so we have no reason to come in, and as she was looking over the charts, she agreed.

I don’t take for granted for one second that my boys are healthy. I have friends whose kids have struggled with health problems, large and small. Before I even got pregnant with our oldest, I started making big changes in our life. I started by dramatically reducing the amount of sugar we were eating. I slowly kicked the majority of processed foods out of our diets. I began searching for natural alternatives to the products we use in our home: cleaners, soaps, shampoos, etc. The more I learned about the toxins that are in our everyday products, the less I could ignore it. Every single thing we’re putting into or onto our bodies, all the things we’re breathing in, they have an impact on our health and wellness.

If I think back to what was inside our refrigerator and cupboards when we were first married, the difference is incredible. Not only that, but the difference in my own health is amazing. Before becoming pregnant, I was diagnosed with high cholesterol and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Many women who have PCOS struggle with infertility their entire lives. We did struggle to get pregnant early on in our marriage, which was the catalyst for making many of these huge changes. The Father blessed us so richly with our five boys (and one who we’ll meet someday in Heaven!), and I want to give them their best life: for them know how loved they are by God, to teach them how to love generously, and to keep their bodies healthy and strong so that they can live out the purpose for which they were created!

Preparing most meals from scratch, buying local and organic foods, and using non-toxic products in our home can sometimes be inconvenient.. it takes more time to make yogurt at home than it does to buy it at the store. I can’t run to Target and find non-toxic laundry detergent. Buying local and organic meats and produce costs more money, but if our bodies are healthier and we’re rarely visiting the doctor, it’s worth every penny.

Ridding our home of toxic products, laden with chemicals that are unregulated and proven to cause countless health problems wasn’t an overnight task. I tried brand after brand, DIY recipe after DIY recipe. But the so-called “non-toxic” products you buy in the store still have ingredients that I wasn’t happy with, and the DIY recipes were okay, but time consuming. And how can you DIY things like foundation and lipstick??

About five years ago, I discovered essential oils. My sister-in-law introduced me to them, and I was intrigued. It seemed like such a good fit to my sorta-hippie lifestyle. ;)

So I started my hunt for the perfect essential oil… I tried countless brands. I purchased from mom and pop shops, big name brands, and everything in between. I even bought many oils on Amazon (which I later found out was a BIG no-no… they can be easily tampered with and adulterated!). About two years ago, a friend introduced me to Young Living essential oils, and immediately I abandoned all other oils and became a member with Young Living.

The purity and potency of Young Living essential oils – especially when compared to all the other oils I had tried and been using – blew me away. I could tell a difference as soon as I smelled and applied the oils. I researched Young Living as a company, and discovered that their growing practices are amazing, their standards are incredibly high, and their seed to seal guarantee means that their oils remain 100% pure, therapeutic grade oils. I got my Premium Starter Kit, became a wholesale member for life, joined Essential Rewards to earn points back on all my purchases, and never looked back.

It’s been over two years since I made the decision to exclusively use Young Living essential oils. But Young Living is more than just oils. Nearly all of my frustrations for non-toxic products have found answers in Young Living. I know exactly what the ingredients are that we are putting on and in our bodies. Everything from toothpaste to household cleaners, supplements to makeup… it’s all free from toxins, fillers, and added junk!

Keeping my family well and being proactive about our health is one of my highest priorities. What we eat, how we take care of our bodies, and what we have in our home has changed dramatically over the years, and it’s made me so passionate about sharing our wellness journey with others! Helping other people find natural solutions and non-toxic alternatives is something that’s incredibly important to me, because I want everyone I know to live in a place of freedom and wellness!

I would love to help you and your family get started on a journey of wellness! I’m a giver at heart, and if I had the means to give oils away to everyone I meet, I would do it. But until I can do that, I want to offer you support in your journey: a community that will help you learn about essential oils, natural living, and removing toxins from your home. I also have a free gift for you!!

I’m offering you your choice for a freebie with the purchase of a Premium Starter Kit!

The first choice is an absolutely beautiful handmade essential oil pouch! My friend Beth at WeePereas makes the most amazing handmade items – I carry one of her oil pouches in my purse everyday! These oil pouches will hold all 11 of the oils that are in the Premium Starter Kit, plus there’s room for quite a bit more in there!

But if you would prefer (or if you live internationally), you could get $20 cash back on your Premium Starter Kit purchase instead!

By purchasing a starter kit, you will receive a wholesale discount of 24% on everything you buy from Young Living. There’s no required monthly fee, you never have to sell anything, and you’ll gain a community of friends who want to help you in your journey to wellness! After you purchase your Premium Starter Kit using my member number (3181679), fill out this form to receive your free gift!

*This offer is valid for new accounts only*

Grab Your Premium Starter Kit!

If you’d like to get more info or ask more questions, feel free to email me at ifonlytheywouldnap at gmail dot com or join my Facebook group for members and non-members! I can’t wait to help you get started on your journey of wellness!

 

Hiking With Kids: How to get started and what to bring!

One of our family’s favorite things to do together is go hiking! It’s something we’ve done together long before we had kids, and it’s been such a consistent part of our family’s routine that our kiddos have grown up hiking regularly. A lot of people are overwhelmed with the idea of hiking with kids, but it’s not as difficult as it sounds! Getting kids out into nature is an incredibly important part of their development and health, so I have some tips for helping you get started, including what you should bring along with you!

This post contains affiliate links

If you’ve never taken your kids hiking, you probably want to start small. Find a small trail at a local park and give it a whirl. Work your way up to longer, more challenging hikes. If you’re headed out for a short time, you probably won’t need all these supplies. But let’s face it, when we go out with little kids, it’s better to be slightly over prepared. ;) Depending on the ages of your kiddos, you might decide to leave some of these items out of your pack. Or you may add some more in depending on the weather or particular place you’re hiking.

Comfy, sturdy shoes – since it’s summer, Keens are my favorite shoes for shorter hikes. Longer hikes or cooler weather obviously require different shoes.

Baby carrier – the Ergo works nicely for us for the length of our hikes and having a small baby. It’s also great to stuff into a backpack for a toddler/preschooler who suddenly decides they can’t walk another step. If you’re going to hike really long distances or big mountains, consider getting a camping backpack carrier that gives more support.

Diapers and wipes (I like the Seedlings wipes, which you can buy here) in a pouch for easy locating in your bag

Portable changing mat, in case the ground is wet or rocky.

A baby toy or two for babies who are being carried is a nice distraction when they get antsy.

Sunglasses to protect those precious eyes!

Water bottles for the whole family.

Extra change of clothes for baby (especially little ones who are prone to blow outs!) During colder weather, you might toss in hats or gloves, long sleeved shirts or sweatshirts, or other warm clothing.

Burp rags – these are obvious if you have a baby who spits up a lot, but I toss them in even after we’ve passed the baby stage. They’re great for wiping up messes or big scrapes. Baby wipes are great, but these are so nice and gentle!

Snacks… because kids want to eat eleventy billion snacks a day, so they’re obviously going to be starving the moment you hit the trail.

Insect repellent, sunscreen, itch spray (the Lavaderm after sun spray is perfect for this), waterless hand purifier – all of these can be found here

Band-aids for the inevitable scraped knee, tweezers for slivers or ticks, and all the oils! These are my must-haves when we’re out for a hike:

KidScents Owie oil (for all those bumps and owies on the trail)

KidScents TummyGize oil (in case someone’s tummy feels icky)

Purification/Geranium (great for helping to keep away the creepy crawlies – add some to hair or shoes)

Basil (for those nasty stings!)

Deep Relief (for any aches and pains that happen while you’re hiking)

Lavender (to help calm any irritated skin)

Valor (for the inevitable meltdown … from you or your littles!)

*All these oils can be purchased here

I have to give a shout out to my girl Beth who has an amazing shop. Weepereas sells amazing oil pouches, baby shoes, and toddler backpacks. They are incredibly well made, and I carry my oil pouch with me all the time. It holds more than just oils too!

Not pictured: hats (especially for babies), baby bottles or sippy cups. I bring ours in a small cooler that fits in the bottom of my backpack. I usually toss some cheese sticks or other small snacks in, depending on how long our hike is. Then I also have an ice pack in case we need one on hand.

Pack it all in a backpack that’s comfortable enough to wear for a long time:

Now go off and enjoy the adventure!

What do you take along when you hike with your family? Happy hiking, friends!

Want to learn more about essential oils? Join my private group on Facebook!

When Motherhood Isn’t What You Expected 

Anytime you bring a new baby home, your life is going to change. Most of those changes are so, so good. And many are just as difficult. But babies grow and (eventually) sleep through the night, and what was hard yesterday isn’t so hard today.

So when we brought home baby boy five, I expected certain challenges. I knew there would be countless sleepless nights ahead of me. I knew there would be crying – from both baby and mama. I knew there could be some rocky days as his brothers transitioned to this new person in our home. I knew that I should expect the unexpected.

photo credit: Brooke Collier Photography

But this most recent season of motherhood has been more exhausting and more challenging than I was prepared for. In the nine plus years since I became a parent, I’ve been a proud breastfeeding mama. Not in an “I’m better than you if you don’t breastfeed” kind of way, but in an “I’m willing to work as hard as I can to make this work, because this is what I believe is best for my baby.” And it has been hard work.

So of course, I expected the same for our newest babe. After all, fifth babies come at least with the blessing of experience – every little thing isn’t new and confusing, as it was with my first.

photo credit: Brooke Collier Photography

In the beginning, it was easy. He nursed like a champ, and we had very few problems. We settled into a groove and everything was going well. Until it wasn’t.

At a well-check, we discovered he wasn’t gaining weight. Even though I thought he had been nursing so well, he wasn’t growing like he should have been.

This felt personal. I’m the one responsible for this little life. I’m his sole source of nourishment. I’m the reason he’s not growing.

It took awhile to find the cause of his lack of weight gain, and in the process, we began to supplement. I cried when my husband gave him his first bottle. Not because formula was going to ruin my baby, but because I felt like I had failed him. I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to do – what I was made to do.

Through my own persistence and refusing to simply believe that my milk wasn’t “enough” we discovered our little one had a significant lip and tongue tie that had been over looked for months. Once we began down the road of supplementing (which was necessary, even if it was heart wrenching), baby decided he didn’t want to nurse anymore. Who could blame him, really. He hadn’t been physically capable of getting all the milk he needed when nursing, so when we introduced a bottle, he didn’t have to work so hard to fill his little belly anymore.

So my life revolved around feedings – pumping, attempting to nurse only to be met with screams and tears – his and mine, and bottle feeding. I felt like all I did was feed and pump, feed and pump.

My free moments were few and far between. When the baby was sleeping, I was pumping and homeschooling and trying to keep up with the daily tasks of mothering a small army of children. I was spending every second of the day – and throughout the night – caring for a child. I put all other things on the back burner – sewing, exercising, self-care. It was a hard and difficult season.

But because this was my fifth baby and not my first, I knew that it was just that – a season. Sometimes I would pump in my sewing room and look at my stacks of fabric, and my mind would fill with ideas for what to sew next. I would spot the half finished projects sitting on my sewing table, and wonder how long it would be before I could get to them. And then I would remind myself that it wasn’t always like this – and one day, it would get better. I would dust off my sewing machine and we’d pick back up like the old friends we are. This season was hard, but it wasn’t going to last forever.

About a month ago, I chose to stop pumping. Instead of feeling guilty for not nursing a full year or more like I had with my other kiddos, I knew that it was the right choice for me. I needed to step out of that hard season and create a little more margin in my days. My milk supply had been dwindling, and I knew that my body and my soul needed some restoration.

I’ve since returned to my trusty sewing machine and finished projects that I had begun months ago. My brain made space to create something new. I still have days or weeks where my sewing machine sits untouched. The dishes pile up and must be washed. The baby learns to crawl, gets into everything he shouldn’t, and suddenly I’m trading sleepy snuggles for chasing him around the house. Summer comes and we spend hours at the park.

Motherhood always brings the unexpected: joys, tears, adventures, and challenges. But I always come back to sewing, even if it comes in 15 minute increments, because this is my self-care. When life throws something at you that you weren’t expecting, the small moments of taking care of yourself become even more important. I know that if I don’t take care of myself, there’s no way I can take care of these littles of mine. When the season changes, I’ll have a renewed appreciation for an uninterrupted hour spent with my sewing machine. Here in this season of sleepless nights and countless bottle feedings, though, I’m okay with slow sewing with a side of baby snuggles.

Thanks, Jodi, for inviting me to be a part of the Ease Into Motherhood series.

Planning a Family Vacation Without Losing Your Mind (plus FREE packing list printable!)

                                     
Summer is here! Schools are letting out and everyone starts thinking about pool days, park time, and family vacations! When you’re planning a vacation with kids, it can be easy to stress about lots of details: where to sleep, what to eat, what to bring, etc. I have a list of ten things to help you plan a family vacation without losing your mind (plus a free packing list printable, so keep reading!)

1. Don’t overplan.

Kids are unpredictable. You may arrive at your destination only to find that your kids are content with doing one activity the entire time you’re there! Have a few preplanned outings or activities, but keep your schedule loose and allow for flexibility.

2. Bring snacks.

This is basically a given when you’re traveling with kids, but it will make your life easier. Rather than having to search for food to eat when those inevitable hangry meltdowns occur, pack some healthy snacks that your kids enjoy. It also helps for those “You want me to eat WHAT?!” moments that happen a little more often when traveling. ;)

3. Schedule nap/rest times.

When you’re away from home and filling your days with activities that aren’t the norm, your kids are going to need some down time. And let’s face it – so are you! Plan to spend at least an hour each day (or more, depending on the ages of your kiddos) resting and doing quiet activities like reading, card games, or taking naps. This will help everyone to recharge and have more energy – and fewer meltdowns!

4. Pack light.

Unless you’re vacationing in a remote village somewhere, you probably don’t need to pack everything you own. Many hotels and water parks have laundry available, so you don’t have to worry if baby goes through all five outfits in the first day. When my kids were younger, I would pack lots of toys for them to play with, only to discover that they were so excited to be in a new place, they barely looked at their toys! So bring the bare minimum and know that you can always grab extra supplies at a nearby store if you find you absolutely need them. You’ll be happy to carry fewer suitcases!

5. Pack a few familiar comforts.

Whether it’s a lovey, an essential oil diffuser, or a cozy bathrobe for snuggling in after swimming, everyone likes to feel at home when they’re away. I always let my kids chose one stuffed animal or blankie to have on long car rides or in hotel rooms. That familiar feeling tends to help everyone sleep a little better!

6. Make a list.

I just looove lists. Whenever we take a trip, I make a huge list of everything I need, so we don’t forget anything. I really adore checking off boxes. :) I have a great packing printable for you free at the end of this post!

7. Choose a kid-friendly location.

Not all vacation spots are made for kids, so choose wisely. We love vacationing in the Wisconsin Dells, because there’s something for everyone. The Kalahari Resort is family friendly and has activities for all ages. They have both indoor and outdoor waterslides, so you can have fun even when the weather isn’t that great.

The Kalahari Resort here in Wisconsin recently added an awesome new outdoor waterslide, which just opened this Memorial Day. The new ride “The Smoke That Thunders” looks amazing! You can pile on these big rafts with your family and friends and thunder down the epic waterslide. I can’t wait to try it!

Over the years, my family has traveled to the Wisconsin Dells many times, and the Kalahari Resort is perfect for families with multiple ages. Since there’s such a wide variety under one roof, you don’t have to get in your car to go elsewhere unless you want to. One-stop vacationing is my jam. Because once I’ve gotten everyone out of the car, I really don’t want to get back in unless we’re going home! Mom can hit up the spa (um, yes please!!) while the kids are playing arcade games, then we can all meet back at the waterpark. There are water activities appropriate for every age level, so no one feels left out. That’s important for a big family like mine. ;)

Since there’s so much to do in one spot at the Kalahari Resort, you really don’t need to pack much. They have towels, food, fun activities, arcade games, and more. So you just need to pack a few personal items! I’ve made a free printable to help your packing go a little smoother.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE PACKING LIST PRINTABLE

If you’re not close enough to drive to the Wisconsin Dells Kalahari location, be sure to check out the Sandusky, Ohio location!

What packing tips do you have to help keep your sanity?

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15 Sewing Projects to Help You Get Organized!

Happy New Year! I love when things start fresh… new years, new seasons, new school years, new notebooks. As we’re starting 2017, I’m doing a huge purge of my house. We moved into our new (old) home last February, and in that time I’m realizing all the stuff that we don’t need – or want – encroaching on our space. I’m also looking for pretty and functional ways to organize the things we do have. So today I’m sharing 15 sewing projects that will help you get organized!15-sewing-projects-to-help-you-get-organized

Floor cushion with hidden storage

This floor cushion was an easy way for us to store stuffed animals and other soft items when we needed to corral them. We’ve simplified the stuffed animals collection, so I think we’ll repurpose this one for blanket storage this year.

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Nesting Baskets

I was eyeing up some fabric baskets at the store the other day, when I realized I’d rather have handmade ones! These from Jess at The Sewing Rabbit have a free pattern, so I’m going to use some of these to corral toys and baby blankets.

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Puzzle envelopes

I love these puzzle envelopes from my friend Jodi at Sew Fearless, and I think they’d work great for organizing some of our homeschool supplies.

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Essential oil travel case

I need to make a few more of these essential oil travel cases, because one just isn’t enough for the oils I want to carry with me out of the house!

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Zipper pouch

This is my current favorite type of zipper pouch to make and use. I’m finding them so handy that I need at least two more.

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Rolled camp kitchen

I’m not a big fan of junk drawers, but I need a place to put miscellany – items that don’t seem to have a home, but should. I think this rolled camp kitchen from Sabra at Sew a Straight Line would be great for hanging in the closet and collecting those items.

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Trading Card carrier

I made this carrier for my boys’ football cards last year, but I think I need to make a similar one to hold playing cards and other little card games. It would make it super easy to grab when I know we’re going to need a distraction at an appointment or when we’re headed away for the weekend.

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Fabric Tray

I hate how dresser and table tops are stuff collectors! I want to make a couple of these fabric trays from Anna at Noodlehead for our night stands and other places that seem to collect all.the.things.

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Clothespin Bag

This clothespin bag from Melissa at Melly Sews is the perfect solution for housing plastic grocery bags in our basement by the laundry!

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Simple tote bag

A lot of our reusable grocery bags have gotten dingy and just need to be tossed. I’m going to sew up a few more of these tote bags to replace them!

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Gym bag

New year must mean new health resolutions, right?? Everyone and their mom is heading to the gym. This baby weight isn’t just going to melt away. ;) I love this gym bag from my friend Melissa at Sew Like My Mom!

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Bedside pocket organizer

My boys love to take books to bed, and I think this bedside pocket organizer from Sew Can She will help keep them from becoming a giant pile next to their beds!

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Wet Bag

I need to make a larger version of this wet bag. I still use this one in my diaper bag (SO handy to have, along with this changing mat!), but my large wet bag has seen better days and needs replacing.

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Vinyl Lego Organizer

Any other moms have a love-hate relationship with Legos?? Okay really, we love Legos in our house. They provide my boys with hours of creative play. But organizing them… YIKES. I love this vinyl lego organizer from Emily at Nap-time Creations, and I think it could be a great solution!

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Crochet hook case

Okay, so I don’t actually crochet (ha!), but my mom recently taught my oldest how to knit, and my knitting needles aren’t very accessible. I want to make a case like this one from my friend Delia at Delia Creates to put all the needles, so he can get to the ones he needs on his own, without me digging through a bin in the basement!

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Here’s to getting organized in 2017! Happy sewing!

Holiday Traditions: Throw a First Snow Party (and a giveaway!)

We recently had our first snow of the season! And wow, it was a beautiful one. It was the kind of snow where it sticks to the trees and comes down in big, fluffy flakes. It looked like we were living in a giant snow globe! It was also the kind where you didn’t really have to shovel, hehe. The kids had a blast playing in it. Since this is our first full winter in our new home, they were over the moon to sled down our hill and traipse through the snow-covered woods. There’s something magical about the first snow (I know Lorelei Gilmore would agree with me on this), so we like to celebrate by throwing a First Snow Party!
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I love holiday traditions, and since becoming a mom, that’s something I’ve really enjoyed sharing with my boys. I can tell they love having things to look forward to year after year. Plus, traditions like this are just FUN!

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We pull out all the stops for our First Snow party: holiday treats like ice cream, cookies, egg nog, hot chocolate with homemade whipped cream (or a peppermint mocha for mom!), and some popcorn thrown in for a salty fix. ;)dsc_8700-copy

There’s also something so special about holiday foods, and Kemps Candy Cane Ice Cream, Peppermint Bark Moose Tracks, Egg Nog are perfect for this tradition. I think they almost taste even better because you know that you’re not going to be able to eat it year-round.

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My boys seriously went nuts for the Kemps Candy Cane Ice Cream, but the Peppermint Bark Moose Tracks was my fave. They kept thanking me over and over for the special treats. You know something is a hit when they are literally licking the bowl!

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I also discovered that my boys had never had Egg Nog before. What?! Don’t worry, that’s been corrected. It went over like gangbusters, in case you were wondering.

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See how much fun my kiddos had in this video:

(Click here if you’re having trouble viewing the video.)

I just love the holidays!! Sharing these traditions with my family is such a blessing, and I’m so excited for all the memories we’ll make this year, our first Christmas in our new (old) farmhouse and our first Christmas with our new baby.

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And in the spirit of Christmas, I get to give away some of this yummy goodness! Five winners will each receive a coupon for free Kemps products, so you can try these delicious treats for yourself and make memories with your family!

To enter to win, leave a comment answering the following question:

What holiday traditions do you have in your home? How are you celebrating the Christmas season?

*please leave your email address if it is not connected to your account, so I can contact you if you win!

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You can find out more about Kemps by visiting them on Facebook or Twitter.

Something New is Coming….

Or rather, someone. ;)

Blog Baby Announcement

This October we will be welcoming baby number five into our home! We are so excited to bring this new little miracle into the world. We’ll be finding out the baby’s gender later this month, but I’ll refer you to this post if you’re wondering my thoughts on possibly having a fifth boy. ;)

So get ready for more teeny tiny baby sewing!

Finding the Lovely in the Chaos

Motherhood is a chaotic business. Each day is filled with noise, lots of messes, and countless challenges. The days can be monotonous and exhausting. When faced with all the chaos, sometimes it can feel anything but lovely.

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Some days it’s easier just to focus on the challenges. To simply clean up the messes, change the diapers, and do the same things over again the next day.

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But every day has something lovely. Every moment. Even in the midst of a tantrum-throwing toddler, there is something lovely. The tear-stained hug when the crying stops, the laughter during the tickling that diffused the moment, the triumphant moment of standing your ground and not giving in to the kicking and screaming.

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“There is a correlation, I’m finding, between beauty and perseverance. It feels like beauty might be knots in the rope you are climbing, gas stations along the cross-country journey, the water stations strategically set up on a racecourse. Beauty is what makes it possible to keep going. And beauty is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? It’s not just in the things everyone sees, but it is what YOU see, what sticks out to you, the unique moments God gives you to collect up and hold and draw strength from.”
-Annie F. Downs, Looking for Lovely
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Motherhood is a long-distance marathon. A test in endurance. An uphill climb. When you’re in the middle of the race, you feel tired. Your feet hurt. You can’t breathe. But as you keep going, you see the beauty in the persevering. You find your stride, you get your second wind, you drink some water and feel refreshed.

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Annie F. Downs recently released her latest book, Looking for Lovely. It is, in every sense of the word, lovely. I read it in two sittings, absolutely unable to put it down. This book reads a little like a memoir, as Annie shares her struggles and the loveliness she fought to find in the midst of them. Because sometimes you need to actively pursue the lovely. You have to ask the Father to show you all the good gifts He has put in your life, to open your eyes to what’s around you that you maybe haven’t noticed yet.DSC_6251-2 copy

That doesn’t mean that the chaos disappears or that suddenly life and motherhood become a walk in the park. Or that the messes are magically cleaned and the kids will never fight with each other. But looking for lovely can give you – give me – the change in perspective you need to embrace the chaos.

I don’t know about you, but I can always use more lovely in my life. Looking for Lovely is all about collecting the moments in your life that matter. In these days when I’m knee-deep in motherhood, I would much rather set my mind on what matters – the lovely, not the chaos. The snuggling on the couch, the basketball in the driveway, the “I love you” scrawled across the heart-shaped paper.

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Will you look for the lovely with me? Check out Annie F. Downs and her new book Looking for Lovely. I promise, you won’t regret it.

I received this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.