5 Things I Learned From Having Twins

Life’s full of surprises.  Finding out you are having twins- that’s certainly one of them.  You can read all the books and you can plan and plan and then plan some more but when D-day comes its trial by fire; it is sink or swim.  I suppose all roads into motherhood are like that.  And quite honestly, it is mostly sinking.  And yet, in this weird twisted way, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

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The twins are 1.5yrs old now, and here’s what they’ve taught me so far:

Lesson 1:  I can’t do it all.  

When I had just one child I had gotten to a comfortable place.  I planned fun outings, I hosted dinner parties, I homeschooled, my house was mostly tidy, and I had a meal plan every week for dinner.  When I was pregnant with the twins one consistent piece of advice, I received from other twin mamas, was for me to accept help.  I would smile politely but in my mind, I was saying – “maybe you needed the help, but I got this. I’ve done the research, I’ve got the sleep training schedule, I’m not easily overwhelmed: I’ll be fine.”

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Now that the twins are here, my house is rarely clean, the laundry is always behind, I’m lucky if I get a shower and I mean do they really expect to eat every night?  Oh and this is us in a good place.  I wrote a blog post dedicated to this one topic (read it here.) but the premise was this, it is a season.  In my current season, the housekeeping and sadly my hygiene have taken a backseat to doing life with my little people.  I can’t do it all and I don’t have to do it all, and you don’t either.  Let the dishes pile up, let the floor stay dirty a little while longer, just be present.  Who knew there could be so much joy in these sticky messy places?

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Lesson 2: His grace runs deep.  

I never expected the labor to last long after birth and that remembering to breathe would become a daily task.  I didn’t realize that motherhood would drive me closer to the cross.  A constant reminder to the good news that He restores the broken, that He fills the gaps, that He makes all things new.  I’ve never needed this truth more.  I’m the one who yelled out of place, I’m the one who lost my patience, I’m the one who crushed their spirit with a harsh remark.  I’m the one who let my schedule get in the way of their needs.  I’m the one who set unfair expectations for myself and for them.

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While being a mom is one of my most treasured titles, it requires all of me and I get it wrong daily. And while they’re throwing the outward tantrums, where’s my heart in all of this?

So I live grace and forgiveness.  Grace says I’m right where I need to be, cracks and all, because it’s the Father that fills the cracks. Grace says I don’t have to measure up, grace says that even though I’ve failed them, He never will.

Lesson 3: I care too much about what other people think.  

Remember that messy house I’m currently rocking?  It bothers me. Remember earlier when I said I can’t do it all?  Well, that bothers me too.   Why?  Because while I can finally admit that I can’t do it all, I certainly don’t want you to know that.

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I have this one friend, and every time I go over to her house I’m amazed at all she does in a day.  Her house appears to always be clean and she serves her kids the most balanced meals.  Meanwhile, I’m over here like, can I count ketchup as a vegetable?  I have other friends that rarely raise their voices, some that always look adorable, and another runs like 5 miles before I even open my eyes each morning, and let’s not leave out the friend that has her homeschool lessons planned out weeks in advance.  I end up kicking myself and saying “brushing your hair in the morning would go a long way.  You really need to give the kids more veggies with their meals.  Would it kill you to run once in awhile (it most definitely would) You know, it wouldn’t hurt you to be a little more organized,” the list goes on.  It’s stupid, but I do it anyways.

Insecurity is dangerous.  It fosters the lie that we aren’t enough.  If that’s where our focus is, then we miss everything else. Lisa Bevere says “If you feel you are inadequate, worthless, or not enough, you didn’t get those ideas from God.”  Comparison is a deadly trap, don’t get caught.

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“I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God’s thought and then made by His hands is the dearest, grandest, and most precious thing in all thinking.” {George MacDonald}.

 

 

Lesson 4: I’m my own worst enemy.  

I want to get it more right than wrong.  I want to never lose it.   I want to enjoy the mess. So what gets in the way?  Me.  I get in the way.

I’m the one who gets mad at my child for misbehaving, for needing to be parented.

I’m the one who chose to spend my time doing something that will never matter in the long run instead of staying longer to rub backs and steal cuddles.

I’m the one who’s annoyed that we couldn’t get out of the house on time to keep the schedule, never realizing I’m setting the tone for the day.

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I’m the one playing board games all the while going over the to-do list in my head. They’re laughing and I’m thinking about the laundry that needs to be done.

I’m the one that bought into the comparison trap. That I need to be better.

All the while, I’m the one that’s missing the joy in these moments. I’m the one that needs to get out of the way.

 

Lesson 5: My heart is bigger than I thought. 

The other night I was cuddled up on the couch with my wild two, watching Moana for the 782nd time.  My oldest, playing on the iPad on the floor beside us. There were 40 wiggling fingers and toes poking me in all the wrong places but I literally thought my heart was going to burst it was so full.

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While it’s true, a mother loves her kids in an unexplainable capacity, that’s not what I’m actually talking about here. I’m talking about how they make me love better. It’s the example they set. It’s the unconditional way they love me when I’ve lost my cool or when I burn the grilled cheese.   Their love is relentless, sometimes too relentless – What’s a girl got to do to go to the bathroom by herself around here?

It’s seeing the world through their eyes.  It’s princesses and pirate ships. It’s believing anything is possible.  It’s saying “hi” with a smile to everyone we meet regardless of gender, race, or ethnicity.  It’s kisses when I’m crabby and laughter when I’m trying to sulk.  When my 7-year-old asks me for a couple of dollars to give the homeless man I just brushed past; my heart becomes bigger, it becomes better.

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The twins have unequivocally rocked my world, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  To my pregnant-with-twins mamas: You got this girl, but accept the help anyway.

XOXO,Holly

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit:  Gina Felice Photography

Lessons I Learned

How To Visit Key West With Kids

I grew up in South Florida.  Hurricane season wasn’t any different than when the spring rains roll in, in Northeast Ohio.  Every once in a while a hurricane of substantial size would blow in and we’d ride it out in the bathroom at my grandparents’ house.  There are of course those exceptions.  I went through hurricane Andrew in 1992 and Hurricane Wilma required me to evacuate from my college dorm. And I can remember watching as Katrina decimated Louisana.

This year, however, seems different.  It’s been hurricane after hurricane.  And these storms are full of uncontrolled power, destroying everything they touch. We spent some time in Key West back in the Spring and had a great time.  Unfortunately, the keys were right in the path of hurricane Irma.  She rolled through and left a trail of destruction in her wake.

Many of the residents make their living off of tourism.  While donating funds and supplies definitely helps the island begin to rebuild; I’m sure most of the small business owners and restaurants would tell you the best thing you could do is to come visit!  I’m hoping this post might encourage some of you to take the trip.  If you have a couple days off and are wondering where to visit – pick Key West! You won’t be sorry!

Here’s how to do it with kids in tow:

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Stay off Duval Street:

We had some reservations about taking the kids to Key West, and most of them centered around Duval Street.  It’s no secret, Duval street is where the party starts, and I just wasn’t sure my kids were ready for all that top-notch people watching; if you catch my drift (wink wink).  We ended up staying on the other side of the island and that was a great decision.  We could spend time downtown and head out before things got too out of hand.  I’d look for an Airbnb or HomeAway property a little off of the main strip.

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Hit the beach:

We stayed right near Smathers Beach.  It’s picturesque with its white sand and blue waters.  We checked out a couple of different beaches, and most were pretty rocky or not very kid-friendly. They were fun to explore, but this is where you’d want to park yourself if you are planning for the traditional beach day.  There is a concession stand on one end and we had lunch at one of the food trucks that park near the beach.

There are limited shade options here.  Here’s the umbrella we love when we hit the beach with babies.  I also took an inflatable baby pool to fill with water for the tots to play in, which ended up being a great idea, if I do say so myself.

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Visit a deserted island:

I mean really, how cool does that sound? 70 miles off the coast of Key West is a Dry Tortugas National Park.  It’s a series of islands with the main one hosting Fort Jefferson.  We haven’t actually made it out to the fort yet because it is a 2-hour boat ride and there were just too many variables to take my 1-year old twins on the journey.   The park is known for its snorkeling, wildlife, and history.  Everyone I’ve talked to has highly recommended it, we can’t wait to check it out on our next trip.

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Watch the Sunset at Mallory Square:

Mallory Square is known for its incredible sunsets.  What you might not know is that as the sun sets the square comes alive.  Street performers, merchants, and food vendors all have a spot for your enjoyment.  Each evening hosted a number of different performers and my son enjoyed being able to participate in a few of the acts.  From magic to juggling to fire-breathing to sword swallowing you will see it all here.  I wouldn’t expect to get any breath-taking pictures here, despite all the reviews, it’s very crowded and unless you are there early, you probably won’t have a front row seat to the sunrise.

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Do the Aquarium: 

All of my kids (ages 7, 1, 1,) loved the aquarium.  It’s small, but it’s very hands on. There’s a touch tank, turtle feeding, and shark feeding demonstration to name a few. It won’t take you a full day but it’s located right downtown and there are several restaurants and shops to occupy the rest of your afternoon.

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We bundled our tickets since we wanted to visit the shipwreck museum, which was a way to save a few dollars.  I wouldn’t recommend the shipwreck museum for kids under 5.  It definitely has some interesting parts and an awesome observation tower you can climb to the top of.  However, it’s a lot of reading and history that might not keep your little ones engaged.

Grab some history at Fort Zachary Taylor:

You know I’m a sucker for a good learning opportunity.  We toured Fort Zachary and were transported back to civil war times.  There are also nature trails and a beach to visit.  We found the beach to be a bit rocky, but still enjoyed some fun in the sun.

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Get some Cupcake Sushi

Did you really think I could have a post and not talk about food, specifically chocolate?  Well, that was just silly.  At Cupcake Sushi you can order bite-size cupcakes in an assortment of flavors designed to look just like sushi rolls.  The only word going through your mind right now should be yum.  Visit early in the day, once they are out of their rolls the shop closes for the day.

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Go to the southernmost point in the evening:

You can’t visit Key West without going to the southernmost point of the USA.  My advice would be to go in the evening.  The cruise ships typically pull out around 5pm and their passengers go with them.  There’s always a line to have your picture taken, but it’s significantly shorter in the evening time after the ships leave.

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Go Fishing:

Key West is known for its fishing, and there are plenty of boats you can charter.  But we found the best kid-friendly fishing to just be off the causeway.  The water was so clear, that in the evening we could see stingrays, jellyfish, and several large nurse sharks.  My son even caught a small shark.  It was the highlight of his trip!

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Don’t forget the water sports:

When it comes to water sports, Key West has it all.  I’ve done a jetski tour of the island in the past which was really fun.  This trip I took my 7-year-old parasailing on the Fury and it was a great experience. You can see our pictures here.  You can also rent boats for the day or take snorkeling tours.  There’s a water activity available here for everyone.

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Earnest Hemmingway, who had a house on Key West, sums up the island perfectly when he said, “Live in the full life of the mind, exhilarated by new ideas, intoxicated by the romance of the unusual.”

Hope to see you down in the keys soon!

XOXO,Holly

 

 

 

theadventureintheeveryday.com

Hiking with Babies and Toddlers

Cam was 4 years old when we visited Yosemite National Park in California, which needs to be on everybody’s bucket list by the way.  This particular hike was a 2-mile hike to the top of a waterfall. As a novice hiker, it wasn’t until about halfway in, that my burning thighs helped me to realize going to the top of waterfall meant we would be hiking uphill for the majority of the journey.

I didn’t intend for it to be this pivotal parenting moment, but there we were, a quarter of the way from the top and Cam wanted to quit. To be honest, we all did. It was hard. But Diakandrus never quit and so we pressed on, tears and all.  Afterall the best views come after the hardest climbs, right?  Most definitely.  For days, both my aching muscles and my little man would say, “Remember when we didn’t quit mom?”  “Remember when we made it all the way to the top, mom?”  Oh, I remember little one!

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I think it was after that trip that hiking started becoming our go-to family activity.  While the views of Northeast Ohio can’t compete with the views of Yosemite the benefits for us remain the same.  Hiking teaches endurance and perseverance. We push through when it is hard, and we take each hike one step at a time. It allows us to get away from the hustle and bustle as a family and just be.  And if you’ve read any of my other posts you probably know that I believe time spent matters more than anything else.  I also believe in building healthy habits for your kids.  Hiking instills a habit of exploration while keeping your body moving.

Each hike leaves us with a growing appreciation for our Creator and this beautiful planet we’ve been given.  We see His details in everything, from the leaves of the trees to the stripes of a caterpillar to the changing of the seasons.  We study the plants and creatures we come upon.  We talk about respecting the environment and encourage our kids to follow what inspires them.

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When the twins were born, everyone told us our hiking days were over.  You can’t possibly take two infants into the woods.  Wrong.  You absolutely can, you just can’t be quite as spontaneous.  Preparation is required.  The twins went on their first hike at about 4 weeks old, and at 18 months now they haven’t slowed down.

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Here are a few tips for hiking with the littles:

  • Consider your timing.  When the twins were babies we were very specific about our hiking time.  We liked to feed the babies in the car before heading out on a hike, that way we knew they were full and we didn’t have to rush through the trail.  They slept a lot in their carriers when they were really little too.
  • Bring snacks and water.  I always have snacks.  If I could write a parenting book, I’d have a whole chapter dedicated to the importance of snacks.  We always have at least one water bottles in our pack, but I started also throwing in a granola bar or baggie of pretzels too.  On a long hike, a little snack break goes a long way.

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  • Leave the diaper bag in the car.  It’s heavy and you won’t need it.  Throw one diaper and a few wipes in your carrier.
  • Have the right carrier.  I started with the Classic Ergo.  But quickly upgraded to the Ergo 360.  I found that the babies enjoyed looking out at the trees and colors of the forest instead of always facing me.  Now that they are older we use a Kelty carrier.  Don’t limit them to the carriers.  Take time to let them out, let them explore, wander, and learn too.
  • Dress them appropriately.  Kids tend to get cranky when they are hot or cold.  Layer them so they can strip down if needed.  Don’t forget if you are wearing them, they will get pretty warm in the carrier quickly as they are up against your body.

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  • Have a change of clothes and towels in the car.  If you are anything like me, your first instinct is probably to tell your kids to stay out of the mud and water.  Resist it. Instead let them get dirty, like really dirty and have a change of clothes when you get back to the car.
  • Research your hike.  Know the intensity and duration about what you are doing.  Keep it short while they are little, up to 2 miles max.  There are a ton of websites and blogs with specific details so you know what to expect. Google is your friend. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
  • Let them explore.  Let them swim in the rivers, dig in the river bank, hunt for bugs and climb trees.

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Local friends here are 5 great hikes for children under 5:

  1. Henry Church Rock Trail (Formally known as Squaw Rock).  If you have older kids, pack bathing suits (if weather appropriate), there’s a place to jump and swim under a waterfall.  (South Chagrin, Ohio)
  2. Cascade Valley Metro Park  has a few different trail options depending on how adventurous you want to be.  (Akron, Ohio)
  3. Twinsburg Ledges Trail @ Liberty Park is a GREAT hike for little ones.  The loop leads to a cave and nature center, as well as a nature-made playground area. (Twinsburg, Ohio)DSC_1579
  4. Brandywine Gorge Trail.  We like to veer a little off the trail and head under the bridge to throw rocks.  You can often see chickens and goats on this trail, as you pass an inn that has both.  You will pass over the top of the falls toward the end of the hike. (Sagamore Hills, Ohio)
  5. Rocky River Nature Center is a new favorite of ours.  The nature center is phenomenal, it’s free and has so much for kids of all ages.  There are several different trails to choose from.  We made a day of it, visiting the nature center, packing a lunch, and then finishing with a family hike.  (North Olmsted, Ohio)

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“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” (John Muir).  Adventure on, friends.

XOXO,HollyHiking With Babies & Toddlers

Infertility Takes So Much, Don’t Let It Take Your Marriage Too

I was 22 when I got married.  I stood before family and friends and made this outrageous promise to love a man through thick and thin, sickness and health, good times and bad, for richer or poorer.  I didn’t realize then, the gravity of what I was saying. I couldn’t have.  Now, almost a decade in, I sometimes wish I could redo that day.  Partially because, Pinterest, hello! But more so because I’ve begun to understand the significance of what I was promising.

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You can read the details of our story here.  But we’ve walked along the mountaintops and also spent a chunk of time in the deepest of valleys.   Infertility rocks you to your core.  It reaches places that you just can’t understand until you’ve walked it.  I know that not every marriage experiences infertility but I have yet to find a marriage that hasn’t been affected by hardship or tragedy.

The divorce rate in the US hovers around 50% – that means you have a 50/50 shot at making it.  One study showed that couples who experience a season of infertility are 3x more likely to call it quits.  Yikes, those odds aren’t in your favor.

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Before we go any further.  I have to give credit where credit is due.  That decade of marriage, It’s not because Jimmy and I did it all right.  Because if we’re being honest we were probably more wrong than we were right.  But’s God’s grace has flowed freely and I’m ever so thankful.

We meet more and more couples opening up about the toll infertility has taken on their marriage.  We’ve been able to spend some time reflecting back on some of our challenging seasons and have come up with some tips we hope can be helpful to others who are still in the trenches.

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Talk About It & Don’t Talk About It

No that isn’t a typo.  You’ve all heard communication is key.  You won’t hear me argue with that.  You need to talk about everything, your dreams, your hopes, your fears, and yes even those deep dark ugly feelings.  You can’t assume that the other person knows those feelings because they don’t.

But then make time to not talk about it, whatever that “it” may be.  Go to dinner, take a walk, but talk about everything else.  For us, that “it” was infertility and it became all-consuming.  Take time to breathe and remember who you two are as a couple.

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Resist The Urge

I’m not going to lie, this one is hard.  Crisis brings out the ugliest in us.  Resist it.  Resist the urge to blame, to shout, to wound. Resist the urge to stay angry or have the last word. Instead, dare to be different. Choose to build up instead of breakdown.  Choose to walk as partners instead of adversaries.

Overuse I Love You

Seriously.  Say it all the time.  Say it when you don’t want to.  Say it morning, noon, and night.  Nobody gets sick of hearing those three words.

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Search For Joy

There’s a theory that you can only feel one emotion at a time.  Replace feelings of fear, anxiety, anger, despair with joy.  Joy is a decision, a brave decision about how you are going to respond to life.  Live beyond the “what if’s,” find joy in what is.  Choosing joy is being able to see God’s goodness even when life is hard and messy.

Be Spontaneous,

Take the trip.  Eat cake for breakfast. Take off work and catch a matinee.  Surprise each other. Book a local hotel.  Try a new food.  Break up the ordinary. “Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow.” – Vincent Van Gogh

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Don’t Lose Hope

There’s not much left after hope.  I know because I’ve spent some time here.  It’s a dark place you don’t want to go.  I’m not talking about the kind of hope you see in the movies. But real hope is forged.  It’s fought for.  It’s believing that He can and that He will.   It’s risky and radical.  It defies logic. To hope beyond what you can see.

“Too often we try to avoid that scary place where we love so deep, so much our hearts could break.  But without the bitterness, we could never appreciate the sweetness.  Real hope opens us to see Jesus as He really is.  Wild. Uncomely. And radiant.” – Sara Hagerty

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Pray

This one is listed last, but it’s really the most important.  Remember those promises I made at 22?  What I didn’t know then, is that I actually can’t love someone in the way I promised, not alone anyway.  So I pray.  I pray for my marriage, I pray for my husband, and I pray for myself.  I wasn’t always this way, and so I’m hoping you can learn from my mistakes.  Pray when it’s good, when it’s bad, and when it’s really ugly.   “Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath.” – Psalm 116:2

“Your marriage vows are the most important when they are the hardest to keep.” (Dave Willis).  Stay the course friends.

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I couldn’t end this post without saying: Jimmy you had my heart a long long time ago, it was yours then, you still have it, and you’ll always have it.  I’m forever yours.

XOXO,Holly

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Gina Felice Photography

Tips to Protect your marriage during infertility

Day Adventure Guide: Museum Scavenger Hunt (Free PDF Download)

If you have learned anything about me by now, it’s probably that (1) I don’t like to sit at home and (2) I’m obsessed with showing my kids this beautiful planet.  And since I haven’t convinced Jimmy to sell our house and all our possessions in order travel the world for a year (I’m working on it!), I still want to be intentional about exposing my children to different parts of this big world, both past, and present.

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So when we aren’t off traveling and exploring a new place, we are still trying to be intentional about constantly teaching our kids about…well….everything! Some days it’s studying trees during a hike in the woods; other days we head to a museum for more formal information.  Museums are a great way to learn about people and places without traveling far.  Their galleries become classrooms to educate and inspire.  

There are art museums, science museums, children’s museums, all kinds of history museums, including one of our favorites the Museum of Natural History.

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The Cleveland Museum of Natural History is an AWESOME museum.  It’s very hands-on.  It has rotating exhibits so there is always something new to investigate and explore.  There is also an entire outdoor section complete with a canopy walk and several animals to study up close. It’s great for kids of all ages, my 16-month-old (at the time) twins had plenty to see and do, and my 7-year-old was completely engaged the entire visit.  There is also a kid’s discovery center in the basement that is one of our favorite parts of our visit each time.

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If it’s your first time heading to a museum here are a few things to consider:

  • Visit the museum’s website ahead of time: see what is allowed and not allowed.  I’d hate for you to get there and find out you can’t bring in bags (lots of art museums have this rule), or food, or sometimes even a stroller.  Better to be prepared ahead of time.
  • Go cheap the first time:  Lots of museums have specials or “free-days” or discounts days.  Pick a day where your costs will be low, so if for some reason it is a disaster, you don’t lose much when you decide to leave.  National Museums and several art museums are always free of cost for entry.
  • Expand your idea of a museum.  Think outdoor sculpture garden, old ship tours, or farm tours.
  • Know your limits.  Your child might only last an hour or two before they have had enough.  Don’t push them to spend the whole day if they’ve reached their capacity.  You don’t want their first museum experience to have a negative connotation because you’ve pushed too far past naps and snack time.

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People seem to have this notion that museums are a don’t touch-be-quiet kind of place. I think you will find that most museums are going to great lengths to encourage curiosity and engagement from young children.

If you think museums are boring, I’m telling you: you are doing it wrong. You are in charge at a museum. You can spend as much or as little time at each exhibit. Follow what your kids are drawn to.  “The best museums and exhibits give you the feeling that, hey, this is interesting but maybe I could do something here, too” (Paul Allen).  Engage in your child’s curiosity.  Bring up the tough questions. Challenge them to think outside of the box.  Inspire them to learn, create, and explore.

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All of my kids really enjoy museums, but since we had been to this particular museum before I was a little worried that my oldest wouldn’t find anything new to spark his interest. Silly me.  But nonetheless,  I had this idea to make a game out of it. Anything is better in game form, am I right?  So I created a scavenger hunt to keep him engaged on our trip.   I had hand made the hunt that morning, but I took some extra time and saved you a step.  You can find the free download for the PDF here: Museum of Natural History Scavenger Hunt.

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The morning of our adventure to the museum I gave Cam the scavenger hunt, a blank notebook, and this message:

WISHING YOU A HAPPY

 

You don’t have to make extraordinary outings for your kids.  My goal is to take common occasions and make them great.

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I love how each time we go to a museum, even if we have been there before, it is a new experience.  The exhibits and our interactions shape our conversations for the day and can challenge our thought process.  It encourages my children to ponder and ask questions.  And I’ll be honest, sometimes I don’t know the answers – but it opens up the door for a genuine deep conversation about a number of topics that wouldn’t be brought up without the time spent at the museum.

“It is so important to introduce children to museums because museums open up a world of imagination and exploration.  It is even more important to introduce children to museums at a young age because our youth is our future and museums broaden our knowledge of the world.”  –Jennifer Peters, Director of Exhibits and Education, Muncie Children’s Museum.

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What are some of your favorite museums to visit?  I always have a running list of places we need to visit, and I’m always looking for places to add to it.

XOXO,Holly

Why I Make My Kids Ride Roller Coasters

One of the biggest things I want to teach my kids is to live courageously.  Courage doesn’t mean that you become fearless, it means you don’t let your fears stop you from living.

Life is full of scary things; following a dream is scary, moving to a new place is scary, making friends is scary, taking a new job is scary, getting married is scary, getting a diagnosis is scary, losing a loved one is scary, raising kids is scary, the list goes on and on. And while I can’t teach my kids to live without fear, I can teach them to live in spite of fear.  

Here are 3 things we do in our home to encourage fearless living:

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We let them fail.

When it was time for Cam to learn to ride his bike, he was eager to to get going; until it came time for me to let go.  He begged me not to let go.  But in the end, it was probably harder for me than for him.  You see, I wanted to hold on a little longer. I wanted to make sure that he was completely ready, I wanted to ensure he wouldn’t fall. But life doesn’t work like that, does it?  In order for him to really soar, he had to overcome his fear of falling.

Fear stops us from dreaming big.  The fear of failing starts as a child and I’m not sure it ever really ends.  What I’ve found is that my house is the best and safest place for my kids to fail.  It’s a place where their acceptance and love is not earned by their success and performance.  I want them to fail under my roof so I can help them learn to get back up again.  When I let go of Cam’s bike, I knew he would most likely fall a time or two.  So I waited, band-aids and ice pack in tow.  And he fell.  So I patched up those knees and wiped the tears, and then I made him get back on that bike. Over and over again, until he got it.  And oh man, you guys should have seen his face when he was finally pedaling down the street on his own.  Pure Joy.  That is one of my favorite moments.  Once you know you can fall and get back up again, your fear becomes smaller and your dreams can become bigger.

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We always tell the truth.  No matter what. 

I tell my kids the truth. Always. No exceptions.  When Cam was 3, he was terrified of getting shots at the doctor.  The nurse suggested I distract him and she would quick poke him and it would be over.  I declined.  I looked Cam right in the face and told him it was time to get a shot. He asked me if it would hurt, and I said yes. He screamed of course and I ended up having to hold him down in the end. The nurse was seriously annoyed.

But the trust between Cam and I stayed intact, and that was the most important thing.  I tell them when the shots are coming or when the medicine will sting or when something will be uncomfortable.  This way when I look them in the eyes and tell them something is completely safe, or that I’ll catch them, or that they are brave and strong they will believe me; because they know that no matter what – mom always tells the truth.

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We make them ride rollercoasters 

Yep, it is exactly what it sounds like.  You can’t rationalize yourself out of fear. Sometimes the fear won’t go away -and so sometimes you have to do things even though you are still afraid.  So I make them do everything once – ride the coaster, parasail, snorkel (after watching shark week, yep major mom fail), zip line, whatever it is that has them stuck in fear.  We acknowledge the fear and then we overcome it.

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Our fears might change from monsters under the bed to the uncertainty of life as we get older but some things don’t change.  Fear tells lies.  Fear tells you that you are too small, too weak, and that you are not enough.  Fear tells you that you are all alone and that you can’t.

The last thing I want is for my kids to believe those whispers.  My hope is that when my kids find themselves in a situation crippled by fear that they will remember standing on the roller coaster platform with me, telling them “You CAN do this.  You are braver than you think.”

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But more importantly, I want them to remember the words of the ONE who holds all things in His hands.  The author and giver of bravery and courage.

“For I am the LORD, your God

who takes hold of your right hand and says to you,

Do not fear

For I will help you.”

(Isaiah 43:13)

Afterall, what is there really to fear when the giant in front of you could never be bigger than the God beside you?

XOXO,Holly

7 Must Haves For Traveling with Babies & Toddlers

I did the math the other day, the twins, at almost 18 months, have been on 28 flights.  I’d like to say I’ve become this traveling expert and that I could guarantee you a smooth and peaceful flight but then I’d be lying.  I’ve had flights where everything went perfect, and yet the 28th flight was probably the worst one of them all.  That being said, I have compiled a list of 7 things that will give you your best odds at a successful trip.

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A few thoughts before you book.  Typically when I book I’m looking at price. But If I have some flexibility I would consider two things.

First would be getting your toddler their own seat, even if they qualify as a lap baby (under 2).  Having the extra space for your little one to sit, stretch, and stand makes a world of a difference.  Lots of people recommend bringing your car seat, and I might be inclined if that didn’t mean carrying two giant car seats with me through security and the airport along with everything else I already have.  That is just not possible for me.  If you are flying an airline with assigned seating you can request to be moved next to an empty seat, if there is one. Most airlines are accommodating and this gives you extra room at no cost.  However, if it’s a full flight, you are out of luck.

Second would be the time of your flight.  If you pick a flight over nap time or bed time, the chances of your little one sleeping through the flight increase.  In this case, don’t forget their favorite blanket or comfort item!

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Ok, on to the must haves.  I would like to specify that my diaper bag is a backpack and I would highly recommend this to anyone.   This is the one I use, and I love it.

1. Snacks.

Seems easy enough. But think it through. Take a variety, and take something special; a treat of some sort.  Here’s my new favorite: smarties.  They are cheap and easy to pack. And I dish them out one at a time, so now that roll of smarties took 10 minutes to eat. Listen, folks, every minute counts when you are at 30,000 feet.  I’m not sure you could ever have too many snacks. But be careful with a cracker-like snack, bags tend to get crushed and then all you are left with are crumbs.  I put our crushable snacks in a portable spill-proof container like this one.

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2. Electronics.  

Whatever your screen-time rules are, throw them out the window. You can pick them back up when you reach your destination.  If you are a Netflix user, you can now download movies on your device and play them without a wifi connection. The twins are currently in a Moana phase, so you better believe I have that on digital download as well.  Amazon has a bunch of toddler headphones that have limited volume for ear protection.  But I’ll warn you, the volume is so limited, it’s a little difficult to hear at times on a noisy plane.

Apart from movies, we like the Fisherprice Apps.  They are free learning games for toddlers with bright colors and music.  Both of my toddlers will sit and play them for a pretty lengthy amount of time.

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3. Extra Essentials.

However many diapers and wipes you think you need in your carry on, bring more.  The last thing you want to deal with is a delayed flight and a shortage of diapers, wipes, or bottles.  Plus I use wipes for everything, dirty bums, sticky fingers, runny noses, and even cleaning tray tables.  Throw some plastic bags in the bottom of your diaper bag in case someone has a blowout.  I find if you plan for the blowout, nothing happens, but that one time you forget extra clothes and supplies… well you know how that story ends.  When the twins were little babies, I’d bring extra white onesies and just throw them away if they were soiled.

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4. Travel Toys.

One thing I always do is to pick up a couple of surprise items for my kids.  These are things that they have never seen before.  Think lightweight and interactive.  Resist the urge to show them everything in your bag.  Give them one item at a time, when they start to fuss, then and only then do you bring out the next one.  If you have to read the same book 100 times, so be it.  Here are some of my favorites for the twins:

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5. Something to Suck.

This is one you will probably hear over and over again: make sure they are sucking when you take off.  And I’ll admit, the first time I flew with the twins they were only 8 weeks old and I was very concerned that their ears would hurt them on take off and landing.  I followed all the advice and gave them a bottle during ascending and descending, even though they had been sleeping.  Now I want to scream at my inexperienced self.  No. No. No.  Never wake a sleeping baby!  Just be prepared if they seem to be in distress.  Nurse them, offer a bottle, or a sucker if they are older.  I’ve only noticed a few times some discomfort and it usually coincided with a head cold or a teething baby.

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6. A layover.

I’m probably the only person who is going to tell you this.  So take your finger off that scroll button and just hear me out! If your flight is longer than 3 hours I would suggest a layover.  I know it makes your travel day longer, and I know you just want to get to where you are going.  BUT you will be surprised what a break will do for your kids and your patience.  I find that letting my kids walk around, stretch their legs, and take in a change of scenery almost completely resets them for the second leg of the journey.

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7. A Tough Skin

This one’s important, because like I mentioned at the beginning: sometimes you can do it all exactly right and they still cry.  My most recent flight was a disaster of epic proportion for my Chase.  He had an allergic reaction to something during our time in Texas that caused him to break out in hives, which in turn meant he hadn’t slept well the night before.  My little guy was over-tired and not feeling well when we boarded our flight out of San Antonio.  There was no combination of snacks and toys that could counter-act how miserable he was,  He pretty much screamed the entire two hours and 18-minute flight  (but who was counting?).  You are going to get the looks, the whispers, the stares and you need to let them roll right past you.  You are doing your best mama, a crying baby isn’t a sign of failure.

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The more you do it, the easier it gets.  For you and for them.  My 7-year-old is completely self-sufficient on an airplane and has been for years.

Don’t miss out on an opportunity to go somewhere new or to visit family because you are worried about flying with your little ones.  What’s the worst that can happen?  The baby cries the whole time? Been there, done that.  When it’s over, it’s over. You still get to where you are going in the end, and you will never see those people on your flight again.  Well, hopefully not!

Adventure on, friends.

XOXO,Holly

Don’t Skip The History: Mount Vernon Travel Guide

I did something crazy (I know, I know it is becoming a reoccurring theme).  I wanted to visit a high school friend of mine that lives in North Carolina.  Jimmy wasn’t able to take the time off work; so I decided to make the 8-hour drive by myself with the kids. Like I said, crazy, but I’m so glad I went!  I’ll admit, I was a little nervous so I decided to break up the trip rather than make the drive straight.  On our way home, we made a pit stop in Alexandria, Virginia and visited Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate.

Originally I wasn’t sure if this would be a good place to take my young kids to.  I knew I wanted to take Cam but wasn’t sure if the two tots would get in the way of him learning the history and being able to enjoy the estate.  But I was very pleasantly surprised at not only how kid-friendly it was, but how much there was for kids to do there.

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Here are some things to note before you plan your trip:

  • Consider the weather.  We went in the end of July and it was HOT.  Like hot hot. Think melting popsicle hot, only you are the popsicle.  I spent a fortune on cold water bottles and was constantly on the look out for shade. It’s a lot of walking, which coupled with the intense heat had me constantly worried about the littles getting overheated.  I definitely want to go back and think fall or spring would be amazing.  There are several gardens on the property that would be just stunning in full bloom.  Rumor on the travel guide scene is that spring is the most popular and most crowded time to go.

 

  • Dress accordingly.  Most of your day will be spent outdoors.  Also, don’t forget to wear comfortable walking shoes.  You’ll be on your feet for several hours.

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  • Plan for a whole day.  It’s a BIG property.  Beyond the mansion, itself are the gardens, slave quarters, working blacksmith, ice house, trails along the Potomac river, the Washingtons’ tombs, a slave museum, an old-fashion working farm, the George Washington education center, and you can also take a shuttle over to his distillery for additional tours.

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  • Download the Agent 711 App.  It’s an interactive Spy-based scavenger hunt through out the grounds.  You are an undercover spy for General Washington and must complete activities, solve puzzles, and search for clues to decode secret messages.  You can also rent a smartphone there to play too.

 

  • There is also a paper adventure map that has some puzzles and scavenger hunt on it as well.  We opted for the electronic version since my Cam is very into all things spy related.  Both are really well done and keep the kids engaged through out your day.

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  • Think through your stroller options.  You can take your stroller but most of the grounds are not paved so it was a workout, especially with my double stroller. The tombs are quite a bit a way from the rest of the property and I definitely regretted the extra donut I snagged at the continental breakfast as I huffed and puffed all around; specifically on the uphill trek back.  Did I mention it was hot?! That being said, I couldn’t imagine not having my stroller either.  The property is BIG and it’s a TON of walking.  Just be prepared for rugged terrain.

You actually can’t take your stroller into his house for the mansion tour.  I didn’t know that and wasn’t prepared to take 1-year old twins, unconfined, through the historic mansion.  Let’s just say I’m not sure we will be invited back anytime soon.

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  • You can’t take outside food or drink in.  They do have a little food court, but you may want to including buying lunch in your budget.

 

  • Plan your visit.  Check the calendar before you go so that you don’t miss anything. There are kid friendly activities, crafts, a peddler band, farming demonstrations, forensic lab workshops, and a 4-D movie that are all time specific

 

  • Don’t skip the education center.  It is interactive, interesting, and definitely worth walking through. Apart from the spy app game, this was Cam’s favorite part of the day.

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  • Purchase your tickets online.  You can save a couple of dollars on each ticket by purchasing in advance.  You will save money and skip the lines.

 

  • Bring extra money for the gift-shop.  It’s one of the best I’ve ever been to, and believe me, I’ve done my fair share of gift shops.

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There is an intentionality behind our travel (you can read the specifics here) but I think stops like these are so important.

“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything.  You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.” – Michael Crichton

I know some of you might be saying, “but history is so boring!”  Well, I’m certain you must be looking in the wrong places.  A day at Mount Vernon was rich in history in so many ways – American, culture, civil rights, heritage, and it was anything but boring.

Adventure on friends.

XOXO,Holly

Easiest Slime Recipe. Ever.

I feel like every post I write is a result of me testing my own sanity.  And it’s becoming a habit.  Cam and I have been wanting to try a new slime recipe we saw online.  He assumed we would do it one afternoon during nap time.  That’s a safe assumption, seeing as the main ingredient is glue.  Only today it was raining and everyone was getting a little stir crazy so I thought, what the heck, let’s all do it.  What could go wrong by letting my twin 1-year olds play with glue?  See, what I mean about questioning my sanity?

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Well we,  and by “we” I mean me, the kids, and my house; we all survived.  And it was pretty much disaster free.  Here’s a the recipe (from Elmer’s glue):

6oz bottle of glitter glue.  (Or any glue – glitter adds some more fun)

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

1 1/2 tablespoon of contact solution

 

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  1. Empty the glue into a bowl
  2. Add baking soda, mix well
  3. Add contact solution, mix well
  4. Knead it.  Play with it.

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Make sure you have everything ready to go.  Leaving the babies with a bowl full of glue while I helped Cam measure out the rest of the ingredients was the closest we came to absolute disaster.  But once the slime is complete it’s pretty much mess free.

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Like I said easy, peasy.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  You can make any day an adventure-filled one.

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If you try the slime, leave a comment below and let me know how your slime-venture went!

XOXO,Holly

To The Mom With A Messy House

 

There is currently yogurt dried on my wood floors that I’ve been meaning to clean up for three days now.  My kitchen table is the picture perfect definition of sticky.  There are little fingerprints on each and every window. And don’t even get me started on the laundry situation. Yikes.  Up until recently, I used to think I was really missing the mark.  After all, I’m a “homemaker” by trade; I think it’s safe to say that includes keeping the house clean. But instead, everything is a mess – my hair, the bed, my kids: one big wild mess.

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A couple of months ago, my dad sent me an email with a FaceBook post that went viral.  It was written by a woman who went to visit her aunt and was envious of her perfect vacuum lines.    Here’s an excerpt:

 

“As we strolled into the dining room, I remember thinking to myself, “oh my gosh! Her vacuum lines are still in her carpet probably a week or more after she vacuumed!! What I wouldn’t give to clean my house and have it stay magazine perfect for more than 5 minutes!!” I couldn’t wait for the day that I would be able to do that and not have it messed up by sticky little finger prints on the perfectly waxed dining table, or Legos hiding under the table, or walking in to discover Ryan’s latest art creation had so carefully been designed on the wall with crayons.

 

Here’s what I didn’t know at that time: that to have all of this picture perfect cleanliness, the kids would have to be gone. You see, I wanted those things because the everyday struggles of 5 loads of laundry, toys everywhere, mouths to feed, meals to prepare, beds to make were overwhelming to me, and the beauty of a pristine home was something only dreams were made of. Hell it took me 20 minutes in each room just to find the floor before I could vacuum it.

Then one day I woke up, went to clean my house, carefully placed vacuum lines in my carpet, looked at my beautiful dinning table with a perfect wax coating and zero finger prints and realized it would stay that way for days…..and that’s when I realized that vacuum lines are lonely.”

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My first reaction to the email was “Oh.my.gosh. My house is SO MESSY, that my father is sending me articles about messy houses.  Mental note: do a deep clean before my parent’s next visit.”

But then it hit me.  The point wasn’t that I needed to clean my messy house, it was that their house was clean. My youngest brother left for college last fall and they officially became empty nesters.  They have vacuum lines.  My dad wasn’t telling me to be a better housekeeper, he was giving me the grace to cherish this season.  Because that’s what it is, a season; and seasons come and go.

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It dawned on me, maybe I had it backwards .  Maybe I wasn’t failing at all.  My days spent playing, exploring, and creating with my kids aren’t wasted days, even if the day ends with a sink full of dishes.  After all, the shaping of little hearts is really the most important thing.

That being said, I can only run to Target so many times to buy more underwear before I actually have to do some laundry.  And the dishes can’t wait forever because then you will get ants and nobody wants ants.  So today I opted for a stay-home day so that we could have some clean clothes to take on vacation and so we didn’t have to spend extra money on an exterminator.

 

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But just because we stay home doesn’t mean it has to be a boring day.  You can make adventures right where you are at with the time you have.  Today we had the simplest of adventures.  It was the kids and I and a bucket of sidewalk chalk.  Creative imaginative play at its best.  It was unscripted and unplanned and full of giggles and sunshine. There are some really fun and easy things to do with chalk.   We drew an obstacle course and a city road for my transportation loving baby.  My oldest and I got creative with some our story telling.

 

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Before I had kids I would go over to people’s houses that had kids and each time after I left I would say “When I have kids, I’m going to keep my house in a way where you won’t know I have kids until you see our family pictures.”  Yeah, no.  As soon as you walk into my house you will see toys exploding from every corner, two high chairs around my kitchen table, and you are bound to touch something sticky as you venture in.  I’ve discovered this thing called balance.  Well, let me rephrase, I’m discovering this thing called balance.  It’s a work in progress.  Some days we get lost in the woods all day and the dishes don’t get done.  Some days we stay home and the dishes get done. BOTH kinds of days are time well spent.

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In this season of life, the housekeeping has taken a back seat to living life with littles and I think that is ok.  As the littles grow to bigs I anticipate that struggle between the two will ease.

I love these words by Jen Hatmaker, “You will never have this day again with your children.  Tomorrow they will be a little bit older than today.  This day is a gift. Breathe and notice.  Study their little feet and faces.  Relish the charms of the present.  Enjoy today mama, it will be over before you know it.”

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So to the mom with the messy house, you are right where you need to be.  Vacuum lines are overrated.

XOXO,Holly