Don’t Wake Baby! 5 Tips For Creating Flexible Sleepers

Everyone is afraid of a tired toddler.  They want the cracker, they don’t want the cracker.  The more tired they are, the louder they cry.  It’s miserable when you go through the trouble and money to plan a fun trip or outing only to have it sabotaged by a screaming over-tired toddler.

Here’s my disclaimer: I am by no means a sleep expert – but I am 3 for 3 on kids who can nap on the fly.  My kids can nap anywhere – the car, Walt Disney World, an airplane, in different time zones, the airport, a water park, a nature hike – if we’ve been there – my kids have slept there. I’ve been intentional about sleep since day 1 and so I’ve compiled my top 5 tips for training your baby to be a good napper.


Teach them how to go to sleep.  I know what you are thinking, doesn’t everyone go to sleep when they get tired enough?  Nope, not true!  Knowing how to lie down, become drowsy, and put yourself to sleep on your own is actually a learned skill!  My twins were sleeping through the night (8p-6am) by 10 weeks so I am pro sleep-training from infancy.  And while I could write a whole blog post on this one subject, here’s the most important part for flexible sleepers.  Teach them to fall asleep on their own.  Probably the hardest habit to break is to not let them fall asleep eating (breast or bottle).  I followed the eat-wake-sleep model.  I encouraged them to stay awake through the feeding and after, even if it was just 15 minutes so that they would be awake when I laid them down to sleep.  This allowed them to learn how to put themselves to sleep.  If your child needs to be rocked/fed/held in order to go to sleep don’t fool yourself by thinking you can break that habit on a vacation.

Our naptime and bedtime routines are the same.  I lay them down, cover them with kisses, give them their sleeping blankets (special ones that are almost exclusively for sleeping), and say the same phrase, “Go night-night.”  Their bodies know just what to do.  So even when our environment changes, their habits don’t.



Change locations on them often.  Have them sleep everywhere.  In their crib, in the car seat, in the swing, in your arms, on the couch, in their carriers, and most importantly in the stroller – but we will get to that one later.  If your child only knows how to sleep in their crib, don’t be surprised when they won’t sleep at the hotel or on the go.  Every new surface and noise becomes a new stimulant.  Let them get used to sleeping with different noises and sounds.


Keep your schedule.  My kids go down for their nap between 1pm and 2pm every day.  Of course there are exceptions, but for the most part, I keep it the same.  The location may change, but the schedule/routine doesn’t.  My kids’ body clocks are ready to go to sleep around 1.  So no matter where we are, their little bodies are ready to sleep.

I have been known to stretch naptime later in the day if I know we will be up really late, but here’s a fatal mistake, (feel free to learn from my failures).  There’s a fine line between a very tired baby and an over-tired baby.  Over-tired babies will resist sleep in the most unpleasant of ways.  Once we had an almost 4pm (4hr) flight, with a connecting flight, and then a long drive home.  I thought it would be a good idea to push naps till take-off so they would sleep for a chunk of the long flight and be ready to face the long journey home.  But Chase was actually too tired to sleep! He cried for the first hour+ of the flight before he finally passed out.  Miserable baby. Miserable mama.  Miserable flight.

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Pick a good stroller.  I have the double CitySelect stroller.  I love that the seats can lay completely down and the sunshade can almost completely close them in which makes for the perfect little sleeping cocoon.  They’ve been sleeping in their stroller since they were infants and are quite comfortable with their set up.  I choose to travel with my stroller instead of rent one on location because my kids are used to sleeping in it.  It can be a pain to lug it everywhere because my stroller is a bit cumbersome but why mess with a good thing? If you don’t have a stroller that can lay flat and block out some of the distractions, I’d suggest in an upgrade.  Worth every penny.


Lower your expectations. There are times when my kids don’t get a full nap in.  They are children, not robots after all. I know this can result in a more challenging evening.  We typically try to schedule our most important activities in the morning in case nap time hits a roadblock.  Visiting Mickey Mouse at nap time or in the evening after a missed nap will not result in your desired Christmas card picture.   I’d re-think my dinner location, my bedtime plan, and my evening activities on days where our sleeping habits are broken.  My goal is to set my children up for success; a tired baby in a quiet fancy full-service restaurant is headed for disaster, and that’s not fair to them.  Don’t ask more than they can give.  Instead, switch it up for an early dinner on a restaurant patio where they can make noise and don’t have to sit still.


I’ve been the one with the screaming over-tired toddler and I’ve been the one with the well-rested tot whose full of wiggles and giggles, and I prefer the latter.





When Your Trip Doesn’t Go As Planned

A while ago I wrote a blog post about why we are intentional about traveling with our kids.  You can read the full post here, but one of the reasons I mentioned is to teach my children about flexibility and adaptability.  You want a guaranteed way to have a trip riddled with mishaps, write about how mishaps are learning opportunities (insert eye roll here).


Jimmy and I had visited Grand Cayman before we had kids; so when we landed there as a family of 5 we were bursting at the seams with excitement to show our kids the island we had fallen in love with years back.  We timed our flight perfectly and landed a little before dinner anticipating the time to get our rental car and check into our hotel before needing to feed the little people.  The rental car place was packed took a little over an hour.  That’s ok, my diaper bag is fully loaded for these types of situations: surprise toys, snacks, we got it all.DSC_0132

When we get to our hotel, the receptionist didn’t even bat an eye at the TWO babies in my arms as she politely told me they weren’t able to get two cribs into my room and so we were only given ONE. Yep, you do the math.  While Jimmy was contemplating which baby would need to sleep in the hallway, I went up to the room to check it out.  I’ll spare you the details but a consultation with the hotel manager, and a couple of end tables lighter we received two cribs.  Apparently, nobody wanted to take the night shift with the extra bed-less baby.  It’s well past dinner time and fast approaching bedtime at this point.  A quick trip to the local pizza hut and it’s time for bed.  Tommorrow is a new day.


Grand Cayman gets over 300 days of sunshine a year.  If you want to do the math each day you are on the island there is an 82% chance of a sunny day.  If it does rain, it’s usually a quick storm blowing across the island that may bring an hour or two of rain but it’s sure to clear up.  Keyword there being usually.  Leave it to us to experience the unusual.DSC_0297

A Tropical Storm decided to camp out right over the island bringing torrential downpours and crazy winds.  Making it impossible for us to leave the resort property. Have you ever tried to entertain 2 toddlers and a 7-year-old in a hotel room for 3 days?! I feel like it’s similar to a hostage negotiation with a band of drunken bi-polar pirates.  Oh and I’m paying for this experience.


When there was finally a break in the weather – we were the first ones out on the beach.  When Cam’s arm started to swell that night, we remembered that rain brings out the bugs.  Turns out he had been bitten by what we assume was a mosquito and the bite had become infected.   Word to the wise – scrub those dirty fingernails! When the sun finally came out – the ocean was still upset.  Big hard waves. High-speed winds. Blowing sand. Not the ideal setting for two toddlers (or anyone) to enjoy the beach at full capacity.


Most of the excursions and activities we had planned to attend were canceled due to weather. Even when the storm passed, the winds were still very strong.  We did manage to squeeze in a couple of our planned adventures.  A trip to Sting-Ray City and the Turtle Discovery Center were definite highlights and I highly recommend both to anyone traveling to Grand Cayman (with or without kids).


I’ve heard people say, “If you want to get to know someone really well, vacation together.”  I say if you want to get to know someone really well, go on a bad vacation together.Nothing brings out your true colors like setback after setback.  It’s not that I want those setbacks, but the fact is, that life is full of setbacks and how we respond matters.


I want my kids to learn that most things don’t go as planned.  I want them to see there’s a lot you can’t control.  But there’s also a lot you can control.  My mom used to tell us life is 10% situation and 90% attitude.  This trip turned out to be learning to improvise, learning to be flexible, finding simple joys, offering apologies for lost tempers, choosing grace, and making each moment count.


Our natural bend (or at least mine) is to get cranky and sulk when things don’t go my way.  I want my kids to learn to go against that bend.  To choose to find the positive, to get after grateful, to choose joy.  So even though trips like this aren’t what we plan for, they’re important too.  There’s always something to be found – in the good, the messy, and in everything in between, you just have to look for it.


XOXO,HollyWhen Vacation





The Winning Trifecta for Road Trippin’ With Toddlers

In the words of John Hannibal from the A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together.”  And this MLK weekend was to be no exception.  The kids and I were headed to Indy to visit family.  I planned it perfectly.  The drive is an easy 5 hours without stopping.  I was going to leave at 7pm, arrive at midnight.  The kids would fall asleep shortly after departure, leaving me alone with the snack bag and my killer road trip playlist.

In typical Ohio fashion, the weather was uncooperative. It was 60 degrees and raining the day before I left.  The day of our trip the temp would drop 40 degrees and that rain would quickly turn to ice followed by a blizzard.  Icy roads, heavy snowfall, low visibility would put a serious damper on my drive.  My husband and I got to thinking that I probably shouldn’t be on the road so late at night alone with the kids in such rough driving conditions.  We decided I’d leave at nap time instead.  This is not the end of the world, the kids will sleep for half the drive.  I won’t make it through my entire playlist and I’ll have to share the snacks but this is still manageable.



As the forecast continued to rain on my parade (quite literally), We decided we needed to get out of town much earlier than planned.  I needed to leave first thing in the morning to avoid the worst parts of the storm. How I went from a quiet drive with my favorite tunes and plenty of chocolate to myself, to a drive where every everyone would be awake and needing something I’m still not sure.

I’ve gotten a few messages asking how I prep for a successful road trip with two 1-year-olds and an 8-year-old.  Here’s my winning trifecta:



ORGANIZATION.  The last thing you want to be doing is trying to remember where you put something in its moment of need.  Know where everything is and have a purpose for where you put it. I have a cold bag, an electronic bag, a shoe bag, you get the point.  Every bag is packed intentionally and placed in a strategic location in the car.  For instance, our blanket bag goes behind my seat.  When it’s nap time, Cam can reach it and pass them out. Since I was traveling solo, I needed to have everything in its place and within my reach.  I use a laundry basket filled with everything I might need: snacks, DVD’s, sippy cups, diapers, wipes, chargers, and toys + books for my twins.  I keep it on my front seat so I can access it at any time. Since I’m driving, I don’t want to be messing with zippers and searching in a bag I can’t see.  With my basket, I can see where everything is and get to it easily.


ENTERTAINMENT.  Before every trip, I always grab a couple of new toys/activities for the kids.  For Cam, I hide them in his backpack so he finds them periodically throughout our trip.  Cam’s old enough to manage his own belongings. I have found that with the twins they get overwhelmed by the choices and end up not wanting anything.  So with them, I pass them an item/activity one at a time.  When they finish with that one, I’ll give them something else to do.  I resist the urge to give them anything new until they have exhausted what they are playing with.

My car has a built-in DVD player, which is great for Cam but the twins are still rear-facing so it doesn’t help them.  This trip I used my laptop as a DVD player and set it between their two seats (see the video below for more details).  We usually hit the library before our journies to get some new movies.  New movies can be dangerous with little ones.  I haven’t quite figured out the secret as to why they’ll watch some movies and others can’t keep their attention.  So I bring some new movies and some of our favorites too.


SNACKS. Duh.  Who road-trips without snacks?  A few things to consider when shopping.  Avoid things that are messy, sticky, melty.  Because I was traveling by myself, I can’t reach back and clean hands and mouths.  There is, however, one exception. I always have a reserve of lollipops should I anticipate a melt-down of some sort.  Yes, they end with sticky hands but desperate times call for desperate measures.  I use snack bins and cups to divvy up goldfish, pretzels, and things of that nature instead of letting them eat out of the package.  This way I control the quantity and if we have a spill, it’s not the whole box.

I didn’t want to have to stop on this 5-hour treck, so we ate our lunch in the car.  Depending on how long your drive is you may want to consider packing your meals or going through a drive-thru.  Eating in the car eats up time. And when you’ve got little people, every minute counts!   There are a lot of tips out there that would say stop a lot, let them stretch their legs, but I’d have to disagree.  I’ll stop if it is needed, but if everyone is happy and entertained I’ll keep on pressing on. The less we stop, the sooner we get to where we are going.  We didn’t stop on either leg of this journey and my kids did amazingly well.


Here’s a quick video of our weekend with some of my favorite people. I’ve never met people like this.  They are people who walk in as others are walking out.  People who love my kids in the best way.  They are people who speak truth but walk grace. People who lean in when life gets messy.  They are people who encourage impulse buys for tickets to see Shania Twain in Nashville (yep, I’m going!).  People who always have chocolate ready for you. They are people who show up, no questions ask. People who love with all they have.  I hope you know people like this.  Here’s to life-long friendships and friends that turn into family.








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Surprise Weekend At Universal Studios

The promotion to big brother is kinda like exercising for the first time in a while.  It sounds like a good idea until you can’t get out of bed the next day.   The promotion to big brother of twins is really more like a demotion if you think about it.  There’s 2x the crying, 2x the poop, and about 1/10th of the attention.


IMG_8131It’s near impossible to share my attention equally between my 1-year old twins and their 7-year-old brother.  No matter how you slice and dice it, Cam comes up short.  This fact, coupled with the challenges of a December birthday, had us wanting to do something special for Cam’s 8th birthday.  Cam and I have been reading the Harry Potter series together.  He’s enamored by the magic and mystery and wanted to have a Harry Potter themed birthday party.  So Jimmy and I got to scheming.  What better way to have a Harry Potter birthday than to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter located at Universal in Orlando?



The day before Cam’s birthday we casually told him he could open his present from us a day early.  We built it up, saying it was the best present we had ever gotten him.  When he unwrapped the Hogwarts t-shirt he did his best to hide his disappointment.  It only took a few minutes before this letter and a Hogwarts Express train ticket fell out with the following message from Minerva McGonagall.

“We are pleased to inform you that you have a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. You will be traveling to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando.

Please find enclosed all of your travel information. We eagerly await your arrival.”


I wish I could have caught his face on camera the exact moment it sunk in. He kept saying “when?” and I kept saying “now!”  We immediately left for the airport.  When our flight arrived we grabbed our rental car and headed to Universal’s City Walk to have dinner and check out the lay of the land.  The next morning we had birthday donuts at the hotel before heading to the parks.


IMG_8230Universal did not disappoint Cam.  It exceeded all his expectations.  From Harry Potter to Marvel to Transformers it is everything that would peak a little boy’s interest.  You should know by now I’m Team Disney all the way, but even I have to admit that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is pretty amazing. Here the magic of the stories come to life in excessive, detailed, interactive, splendor.


If you asked me, I’d have to say my favorite part has to be the train ride between the parks.  It’s a clever transition that keeps you lost in your favorite storybook as you travel from King’s Crossing Platform 9 3/4 to Hogsmeade and back again.  Cam’s favorite was the interactive wand we purchased upon arrival to Diagon Alley.  He could have spent all day turning on lights, spraying fountains, and making the window displays come to life.


I knew going into the weekend that there wouldn’t be a lot for my little tots to do. There’s plenty to walk through and look out, but only 1 ride between both parks for tykes smaller than 36.”  Unfortunately for us, the play areas designed for toddlers are water playgrounds and the weather wasn’t warm enough for me to let them get wet.  Jimmy and I took turns riding with Cam and entertaining the littles.


The next day, I woke up feeling like I had been unfaithful to my true love and so we promptly headed to Disney Springs so I could make amends.  Christmas time at Disney is unparalleled.  We spent the day enjoying the decorations in the sunshine including my personal favorite: the Trail of Trees.  Each tree along the path is decorated with a theme from a favorite Disney movie.  There is Christmas music playing and even fake snow falling to really put you in the Christmas spirit.


I was reminded this weekend that the unexpected moment is always sweeter.  There’s something to be said about a true surprise.  Cam, my love, my lap may be fuller this year but there will always be room for you. Thanks for graciously scooting over to make space for the twins.  You are better than my best dreams.   Happy 8th Birthday, I love you more than words.







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10 Travel Hacks for Staying in Hotels with Babies & Toddlers

It’s so fun to have a baby in a hotel – said no one ever.  Hotels should stand for adventure, excitement, a break in the ordinary.  But bringing a baby or a toddler anywhere new (or anywhere really!) can be a bit overwhelming.  Here are some of tips, tricks, and travel hacks to make it a little bit easier for you.  IMG_6982

Move the furniture. Most hotel rooms are small.  And every inch counts.  The first thing I do when I get to a hotel room is assess the space to see how it will work for my family of 5.  I’ve been known to rotate desks, scoot beds, or even stack end tables in the corner to maximize our space.

Most hotels will provide you with a crib(s) or pack n play upon request (free of charge).


Don’t forget the tape.  Believe it or not, tape is your best friend. It’s the quickest way to baby proof a hotel room.  It will cover electrical outlets, keep the phone receiver in place to avoid long distance phone charges, and keep the lid on the toilet.

Don’t get stuck with dirty diapers. If you mess up on this one, you’ll pay the price.  Don’t make the mistake of leaving a dirty diaper in the trash can after housecleaning has already made their rounds.  Always take your diapers to an exterior trash can.  If you can’t, make sure to use the ice bucket liner or plastic laundry bag to contain the smell.

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Bring an inflatable tub for the tub. Not all hotels have bathtubs.  Many hotels have traded bathtubs for the sleek modern look of a walk-in shower.  An inflatable tub allows you to still have bath time, even if you’ve only got a shower.   Even if you have a bathtub these work great for smaller guys who aren’t sturdy enough to sit alone in a big bathtub of water by themselves.  Addi could sit up before Chase, I used this tub at home in my own bathtub until I had two study babies that could play together in the bath.

There is no such thing as too many snacks. One day I’m going to write a post where one of the tips is not about food.  But today isn’t that day.  If someone doesn’t eat a meal, or they get hungry before bed your snacks are better than the $3.25 candy bar in the vending machine.


Bring toys. Bring things for your kids to do in the room.  A couple of their favorite toys or maybe a new one that can keep them entertained for a little while. Here’s a fun idea I plan to try next trip: Car tape + cars.  Boredom is not your friend.

Do a curtain check (binder clips).  The last thing you want is that little crack of sunlight coming into your room and giving the baby the impression that it’s time to get up.  I’ve found my kids tend to sleep-in, in a hotel if I can keep those curtains shut.  Use a binder clip for those stubborn thick curtains that refuse to cooperate.



Don’t forget the sound machine. My kids use a sound machine to go to sleep at night so I always bring mine.  But even if your kids don’t use a sound machine to go to sleep, white noise will really help with naps.  There are lots of apps or YouTube videos you can play on a loop.  The sounds of people walking up and down the hallway, shouting, opening and closing doors can be muffled with some good old-fashioned white noise.

Nobody puts baby in a corner BUT she can go in the closet or bathroom.  Think about it.  The bathroom or closet are usually the best choices for a baby to sleep.  It’s dark and quieter than the main room. Plus it’s isolated (to an extent) from the people that don’t need to sleep.  Because I have twins, we don’t usually have a bathroom or closet big enough for both babies; so we reverse it.   Jimmy usually takes Cam to the pool or for a walk while I put the babies to bed in the main room and hide in the bathroom till they fall asleep. I usually take a book or my laptop.  It’s not ideal but it could be worse.  Sleep is worth more than diamonds to me and my kids are usually asleep in 20-30 minutes and then I can transition back into the room.

You want to keep bedtime the same, as much as possible.  Whatever your routine is at home, do your best to keep it in the hotel.  Don’t stress.  I have a friend that puts the baby in the car, drives till they fall asleep, and then transitions them to the hotel crib.  Whatever works people.  You won’t find judgment here.

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Use the appliances.  Double check what amenities your room has.  Most rooms have at least a mini fridge which works great for milk storage and breakfast items so you can eat inexpensively before heading out for the day.  The coffee maker also makes a great bottle warmer.  I recently saw a post from a fellow traveler who used the ironing board as a table for her kids.


Growing up y parents were known to book a hotel for a night just to mix it up, we would swim, order room service, and stay up late watching movies.  While I’m sure it was a hassle, I only remember the fun.  So don’t skip out on an adventure because you’re afraid of the hotel stay.  They won’t remember what goes wrong, they’ll only remember the fun.

Got a hotel tip or travel hack?  Leave it in the comments!


The Names Of God Advent Calendar (Free PDF Download)

I call my daughter “Little-Bit.”  That right there should tell you something about her.  She’s a tiny little thing.   She’s almost two and is 25 pounds soaking wet.  My brother earned the word “Esquire” after his name.  That title could lead you to know more about my brother.  He worked hard to become a lawyer, he’s intellectual, he values education, he likes information, and he’s also very hard-headed and stubborn.


Names and titles tell us about people.  They give us insight into who they are, what they value, and their character.  Our God is so vast and so big – one name can’t be used to describe Him.  The Bible uses dozens of names and titles for Him.  Each name describes a particular characteristic or attribute of God.  They help us understand more about who He is: more about His power, His might, His love, His grace, and the depths of His heart.


One of my favorite names of God is El-Roi, which means “The God, who sees.” There have been times in my life when I’ve felt alone, forgotten, tossed aside.  It’s a reminder that God sees me during times I’ve felt hidden from the rest of the world.  He sees the depth of my pain, of my joys, of my fears, of my hopes.  He sees all the sides of me and loves me the same.


Advent is the idea of preparing for a notable event.  It has become synonymous with the month of December and the days leading up to Christmas.   What better way to prepare our hearts for the birth of Jesus than to get to know the One who sent Him. I created this advent calendar about 3 years ago.  I wanted something interactive for my kids but also something that would point us toward scripture and keep our focus on Christ during the holiday bustle.


I’ve taken 24 ornaments and written a name or attribute of God on each one.  We keep them in a vintage glass jar near our fireplace. Starting on December 1st, we pick an ornament each day to hang on the tree.  There’s no particular order, but before we hang it on the tree, we read the corresponding scripture and talk about what that specific name tells us about God and how we’ve seen evidence of His hands in our family over the past year. These ornaments are a different color than the rest of my ornaments so even though they are small they still stand out.  On Christmas day we wake up to presents under a tree filled with the awesomeness of God.


You can find a list of the names and verses here.

This tradition has grown with us over the years.  When I started it Cam couldn’t read and we spent a lot of time defining the words.  Each year, we add another layer to the principle and what it says about the heart of our Heavenly Father. This year, Cam will look up and read each verse for us.  My hope is that as the years continue to pass our conversations will continue to get deeper and our faith will continue to get stronger.


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The Grandparent Gift Guide

Is there a grandparent lotto?  If so, I hit the jackpot with my 4.  My grandparents have never missed a milestone: from birthdays, graduations, showers, my wedding, vacations, athletics, to big school performances, they were always there.  Oh, and did I mention they all live 1500 miles away?  Yeah, they showed up.  My grandparents provided an abundance of a lot of things: unconditional love, support, encouragement, humor, comfort, patience, life lessons, and most importantly treats.  There were (and still are!) always treats.  I’m 32 years old and when I just went to visit my nana she made my favorite meal and slipped me cash as she left.  I’m blessed to have 3 of the 4 still with me and have loved watching as they now play the role of the great-grandparent too.

It’s been fun to watch my parents and inlaws make the transition into grandparents too.  I’m convinced something happens in your brain when you become a grandparent.  When I was growing up my parents played by the rules – now it’s candy before dinner and board games past bedtime.

I take my gift giving pretty seriously.   If gift giving was a sport, I’d be on the ‘A team,’ no question.  I train all year for Christmas gift giving, making list, compiling ideas, saving cash.  When November rolls in, it’s open season.  Grandparents can be hard to buy for, at least I think so.  I mean how many handprint art pictures can they really want?

So here are 10 gift ideas for the grandparents in your life.  As you will notice, I tend to err on the side of sentimental.

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  1. Photo Books: There are so many different ways to go with this one.  You could do a book for the year in review, to celebrate a milestone (wedding, baby’s birth), or one that focuses on just pictures of grandparents and grandkids through the years, “grandpa and me.”  Shutterfly is my go to.  It’s user-friendly, they have tons of style choices, and you can often find a 40% off coupon.
  2. Photo Blankets: A couple of years ago Cam gave me a photo blanket for Christmas.  The blanket had just photos of me and him and when he gave it to me, he said: “this way you can always cuddle me, even when we aren’t together.” ( If your heart didn’t just melt a little, it’s probably made of stone.)  It’s my go-to blanket for sentimental reasons, but also because it’s super soft! Jimmy ordered from PrinterPIx.  There is currently a Groupon where I think it will cost you $7 before shipping.  (Groupon expires 11/18 at midnight – so no time to waste!)
  3. Keychain Artwork: Did you know you could have your child’s artwork made into a keychain?  Well, you can, and it’s pretty cute.  Here are three Etsy vendors that will make custom pieces for you, all with a different style. Option 1, Option 2, and Option 3.   My advice on Etsy is to order early.  If a vendor receives too many orders, they will close their shop to catch up and you could miss the Christmas ordering deadline.
  4. Silhouette Necklace:  This is a custom necklace, made from your child’s silhouette.  Unfortunately, the store I purchased from no longer makes them.  But I found two different Etsy vendors that offer them.  The first is a glass/metal pendant and the second is made from wood and has several different styles and color options.
  5. Handwriting Bracelet: You can have a bracelet made with a phrase or name of a loved one written in their handwriting.  It’s hard to picture, so here is the Etsy link, where you can see all the different varieties of this.  I’ve actually given this gift twice for two different reasons.  The first time I gave it to my grandma after my granddad passed away.  I took his signature from a card he wrote and had it put on a bracelet for her.  Last year, Cam wrote “I love YaYa (that’s what he calls my mom)” and I had that engraved on the bracelet.  Both were a hit.
  6. Updating Photo Frame: This is a twist on an old classic: the digital picture frame.  The problem with digital frames is that it plays the same pictures over and over again.  This particular product from Nixplay lets you upload pictures from social media, iCloud, or Dropbox remotely.  This is perfect for family members that don’t live locally.  You can upload pictures weekly/monthly and they can see what you and the kids are up to.
  7.  Family Tree Artwork: Grandparents leave a special legacy.  What better than a gift where they can see the fingerprints of that legacy?  Here are two of my favorites: Option 1 or Option 2.
  8. Initial Necklace: Sentimental and trendy – you know I’m in.  This is a great gift for moms too! There are lots of vendors that make these, you can find my favorites here and here.
  9. Grandchild & Grandparent Activity Set: From Uncommon Goods.  The cool thing about this gift is that it turns into a keepsake.  This card set has fun activities for grandparents and grandkids to do together and then reflect on the experience.  Once the entire pack is completed you are supposed to trade cards with each other and see what the other person said about the adventure.
  10. Letter kit: This gift is for grandparents who live a distance away.  It’s a monthly set of postcards with prompts for the grandchild to write old-fashioned letters to their grandparents.  It asks a few simple questions, has some fill in, and a place for a photo.  You can find them here.

Hopefully, this helps! Got another good idea? I’d love to hear it.  I’m always in the market for a good gift idea.  Happy shopping!


The Non-Toy Holiday Gift Guide (for all ages)

First off let me say I love toys.  My house is bursting with toys.  I’m not against toys.    I love watching my children explore the world of play.  That being said,  I also want my kids to know that there is more to gift giving than just toys.  Time spent and experiences have value too!  I love to give non-toy gifts to family and friends, I like the element of surprise, I like that it’s different from everything else they will be getting.  And I like that it last beyond Christmas or a birthday.

Here are 10 non-toy gift ideas:

  1. Memberships:  At first I was worried that my kids would get bored if we went to the same museum or zoo over and over again. But I’ve found that to be completely false.  Each time we go, we find something new or take something we’ve seen before to a deeper level.  Museums challenge our thinking and inspire us to create/invent/change.  I’m a big museum fan – you can read more about it here.
  • Kids: Zoo, Aquarium, Children’s Museum, Museum of Natural History.
  • Adults: Gym, Costco, Amazon Prime, Thrive Market, Netflix

2. Subscription Boxes:  The gift that keeps giving.  My mom got a Kiwi Crate subscription for Cam a few years ago and it was a HUGE hit.  Each month he received a box with instructions for two age-tailored activities.  He loved it.  Nowadays you can find a subscription box for almost any interest – crafts, science, building, reading, traveling, cooking etc.  Don’t tell, but TWO members of my family are getting subscription boxes this year.

3.  Monthly One on One outings: There really isn’t anything that has more value than time spent.  It can be time spent with you or with someone important in their life.  I recently gave a bride & groom 12 pre-planned and paid for dates, one for each month of their first year of marriage.  The dates ranged from a coffee gift card to game night, to a Master Chef kitchen competition.

  • Kids: Movie dates, dinner dates, game nights, ice cream dates
  • Adults: Pre-planned date nights, coffee dates, dinner dates

4.  Classes:  Encouragement is one of the best things you can give someone but it can be tricky to show sometimes.  An easy way to encourage someone is to buy them a class to pursue something they are interested in or good at.

  • Kids: Dance, art lessons, musical instrument lessons, horseback riding, cooking classes, carpentry lessons.  There’s a class for everything.
  • Adults:  Same as above!

5. Family Board Games: There are too many to list.  Some of our favorites include Headbanz, Sequence, Catan, Ticket to Ride, and of course all the classics.

6. Experiences:  One of my most favorite gifts I’ve done was when I took my oldest for his 7th birthday to see How the Grinch Stole Christmas on Broadway for his birthday.  We both loved the show and it was such a special afternoon of just the two of us.

  • Kids: Tickets to a musical or show, Disney on Ice, amusement park tickets, plan a family camping trip, take a class together
  • Adults: A favorite concert, a show, rock climbing, skydiving

7. Magazine Subscription: Yes this is still a thing! And people still love getting mail!

  • Kids: Ranger Rick, Highlights, Ask – there are so many depending on what your kids are interested in.
  • Adults:  There are too many to list.  What is the recipient into?  I one time got my brother a golf magazine subscription.  And don’t forget the classics: Better Homes and Garden, Martha Steward Living, House Beautiful, Cooking Light.

8. Nature Up Close:  My mom gave Cam an ant farm recently.  I can’t tell you how many times I would catch us all just watching the ants work.  It was really so cool to see them build tunnels and move food.

  • Kids: Butterfly Kit, Ant Farm, Microscope, a bug hunting kit
  • Adults: Bird feeder + seed, Telescope, a bee house

9. A Gift to Charity: This one is age specific.  It would be hard to replace a young child’s gift with a charity donation but there are several organizations that donate to charity when you purchase their product.  It’s a gift with a purpose.

10. Homemade Coupon Book:  Everybody likes to feel a little power now and then.  Giving a coupon book, lets them hold all the cards – literally.  Letting kids stay up an extra 30 minutes, have a coffee date with just mom, choose tonight’s dinner, an ice cream run – be creative!

Do you have non-toy gift ideas?  Comment below so we can have the ULTIMATE list!



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What’s in my Disney Bag?

I’m headed home from a week-long stay at one of our favorite places. Yep, you guessed it Walt Disney World.  We love taking our kids to explore new places, but at the risk of sounding cliche, there really is something magical about spending time at Disney World. I’ve shared this before but my love for Disney started with my grandparents.  My granddaddy loved Disney and was there the first year it opened, and each consecutive year after that.  He took his kids and then his kids’ kids. We lost him 9 years ago but that didn’t stop the pattern.

So now I take my kids and Lord willing, I’ll take my kids’ kids.  In a world that is full of heartbreak and loss, Disney is a place where good always wins, where the impossible is possible, and dreams have no limits.


We’re open to close people.  We rarely head back to the hotel during the day, so when I leave in the morning, I take everything with me that I’ll need for the entire day.  My kids nap REALLY well in their strollers so we don’t typically head back to the hotel unless something is wrong.  If you are go-back-to-the-hotel-for-naps kind of people, you have the luxury of restocking.

Disclaimer: I’m not going for lightweight.  I throw mine in the bottom of the stroller and leave it for the day so heaviness really isn’t a factor for me.  You can find my current Disney bag here. I also snagged these adorable reusable bags (found here) to hold the snacks and misc small items so they don’t get lost in the bottom of the backpack.


  • Snacks.  Always snacks.  I usually have an arsenal of fruit snacks, granola bars, goldfish, and peanut butter crackers.  Ain’t nobody got time to be hangry when you’re at Disney World.
  • Typical baby items, your diapers, wipes, and baby food (pouches for the win).  Don’t skimp on the wipes, they are perfect for sticky hands and faces after a classic Mickey Bar.
    • If you run out of baby items, Disney has a spare for you in their Baby Center (in each park).
    •  If you don’t breastfeed, bring your bottles empty so you don’t have to worry about keeping the milk cool.  I put the formula in the bottles ahead of time and just add water when it was time for them to eat.  Now that they are older and take just one bottle before bed, I buy two cartons of milk at the park when it’s time for them to have their bottles.   DSC_0770
  • Like I mentioned, my kids sleep really well in their stroller.  They use the muslin blankets for sleeping, so I throw those in for nap and bedtime.  I don’t try to make my kids stay up or skip naps.  Tired toddlers are cranky toddlers. You can see more of my general Disney tips for babies and toddlers here.
  • Baby spoons and forks (here).  My twins are 18 months and just learning how to feed themselves with utensils.  They struggle with the size of a standard spoon/fork with their little hands and mouths.  I find letting them use smaller utensils makes them more independent at meal time and often keeps their attention longer so the rest of us can eat.IMG_6593
  • Portable charger for your phone.  Your dining reservations and fast passes are managed by an app.  That same app (My Disney Experience) provides you with wait times, restaurant options, and mobile ordering throughout your visit. This seems to be the most common type. I’ve chosen to invest in the apple charging case (found here) which literally allows my phone to last for days without charging.
  • Small wallet.  I’m talking like change purse here.  I throw my credit card and picture ID in.  That’s it.  Neither of which I’ve had to use since it is all linked on my magic band, but just in case.  DSC_0308
  • Tylenol.  For adults and infants.  It’s a long day of walking and standing and lifting kids in a noisy sunny place.  The last thing you want to be dealing with is a headache or aching back.  When Chase started cutting a tooth in the middle of our Disney trip I was glad I had the baby Tylenol too.
  • Sunscreen.  Did you know you can get sunburned on an overcast day in Florida?  Don’t ask me how I know! Ouch! Put sunscreen on in the hotel when you are getting everyone dressed and then bring a small bottle for reapplication.  I love the sticks for applying on faces and my little people (here).  DSC_0513
  • Small toy for keeping kids occupied during long waits.  If you want a good spot for a parade or a show it requires getting a seat at least an hour ahead.  Having a few cars, figurines, or the coloring packs (from the dollar section at Target) will help that time pass quickly.  Same goes for waiting for food at a restaurant or even a long attraction line.
  • Bibs.  My color coordinated outfits don’t seem to match as well when one of the twins has ketchup all over him.
  • Autograph book and pen for characters to sign.  My oldest recently got into the pin trading.  So his pin lanyard and extra pin backs have now found their way into my backpack too.  DSC_0706
  • Camera.  This is the only thing that doesn’t stay in my bag.  I typically wear this around my neck (strap: here)so I’m ready to snap a pic at any junction.  I’m a bit of a photo fanatic.  I have a pretty nice camera and don’t want to risk anything happening it to while I’m on a ride.  My current camera: here.
  • Depending on how little your kids are, a change of clothes is probably a good idea.  When the twins were babies I would bring their pajamas so when they fell asleep in the stroller I could transfer them right into their cribs back at the hotel.  Now that they are getting older I have an extra pair of bottoms for each of them for the case of a blowout.  DSC_0263

What’s not in my Disney bag

  • Ponchos unless forecasted.  Download the app Dark Skies and you will have an accurate forecast that will let you know if rain is likely.  If there is rain forecasted then I would definitely purchase ahead of time to avoid paying Disney’s steep cost on ponchos.  The thing about Florida is that it rarely rains ALL day.  It will rain for like an hour or so and then the sun usually comes back out.
  • Water.  Any Disney vendor will give you ice water for free upon request.
  • Selfie Stick.  Disney does not allow selfie sticks into the park anymore.  They will confiscate them at security and you’ll have to claim them at your departure.  IMG_6591

I’ve lived in several different places and by now you probably know that my family is pretty spread out too.  Disney’s been a constant in all the moves and all the changes of life.  There’s something about Disney that just feels like coming home.




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.


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.”


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?


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.


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.


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.


“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.


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.


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.


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.






Photo Credit:  Gina Felice Photography

Lessons I Learned