Five Must-Have Products for Traveling Internationally with Kids

Mifold Grab-and-Go Car Booster Seat

Traveling with babies and kids is not the easiest in large part because of all the stuff they require. One of the most annoying — yet absolutely essential — things to transport for kids are their car seats. I have heard too many horror stories about the condition of car seats at rental car places so we have never gone that route. I just generally don’t trust using any car seat but our own.

When the kids were in infant seats we traveled with the Cosco Scenera Next — SUPER lightweight and safe and incredibly affordable at under $50. Still a pain to lug around, but not nearly as bad as their regular car seats at home that are much larger and heavier. This car seat bag is a great option for getting through the airport more smoothly, or we have clipped ours onto our bags using these, too (but found that this isn’t sturdy enough to also have the kids in it like pictured so keep that in mind)

For Europe, we knew we wouldn’t be in cars much at all so we definitely didn’t want to bring their huge car seats. We opted to use the Mifold Grab-and-Go Car Booster Seat. It folds up small enough to fit in your handbag or backpack and is just as safe as a typical booster. How does it work? A regular booster seat lifts the child up to meet the seat belt, the Mifold seat pulls the belt down into perfect position for your child. Both have the same function of getting the seat belt in the correct place for optimal safety for your child, just done in different ways.

The age requirement for this is technically four-years-old, and James is only 3, but we felt comfortable using it for him because he met the height and weight requirements. Use your own discretion and do what you feel comfortable with! Now we’re so glad to have these seats for easy transport for school carpools, sleepovers with grandma, etc!

The Clutch Stroller by Delta Children

We’ve gotten through five years of parenthood with the use of only one stroller — our UppaBaby Cruz which we highly, highly recommend. It is lightweight enough that we have always opted to bring it along with us when we traveled and we used it with the kick board so we could accommodate two kids (there is no option for two seats with the Cruz, only the Vista). That said, it is lightweight, but a lot larger than we wanted for our trip to Europe and would have been an extra bag to check in or lug through an airport. I knew there was no way the kids could handle all the walking we’d be doing so I started searching for travel strollers that were super lightweight and small enough to fit into an airplane’s overhead compartment. I ended up stumbling upon the Clutch Stroller by Delta Children and it had such amazing reviews and was very similar to some other strollers that costed more than three times the price. It weighs only 11.7 pounds and has a weight limit of 50 pounds so works for older kids! Elodie was borderline too big for it, but it worked out just fine. It did amazingly well on cobblestone streets, had a nice size basket below and was easy to maneuver. Biggest complain was that it doesn’t have a full recline for napping on the go, but the kids still managed to sleep in it!

Truthfully I would have loved to have two strollers or a double stroller because there was definitely whining and complaining from the kid who wasn’t in the stroller, but that just wasn’t feasible with all the other bags we had so we just went with one and it was fine. Amber recommends the Double Zoe Stroller if you want to look into that!

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AmazonBasics 4-Piece Packing Travel Organizer Cubes Set – Medium

Before this trip to Europe we were packing cube virgins. Now after using them for just this one trip we are totally hooked and can’t imagine traveling without them. For one: they definitely give you the ability to pack more in the same amount of space. When you use the rolling method to fold everything into the packing cube you are able to fit so many more items into your suitcase. But my favorite part of the cubes is how it made unpacking SO EASY and it made everything organized and easy to find. This is especially key when you are traveling multiple places and will be unpacking and repacking a lot.

When we got to our destination all we had to do was pull the packing cubes out of our bags and place them into drawers. You have easy visibility and access to everything so long as you packed wisely. Each of us had 3-4 cubes (I overpacked!). For the kids I had one for PJs and swim stuff, one for tops and one for bottoms. Followed roughly the same approach for me but added one for dresses. I liked having all the cubes one size, but they come in packs of multiple sizes if you prefer that. Seriously can’t recommend packing cubes enough!

JetKids by Stoke BedBox Ride-On Carry-On Suitcase

I mentioned the BedBox on my last post but wanted to touch on a few more things I love about these suitcases. They fit under the seat in front of you and if you don’t need the bed portion you can buy it simply as a Ride-On suitcase (and add the bed part later if necessary). We got SO many comments in all the airports about how amazing they looked and how well our kids did with them. They maneuver well around turns and on bumps (within reason haha) and our kids never got sick of them. If they weren’t riding them they were pulling them happily themselves. One thing to note is there isn’t a ton of space for extra stuff if you have the bedding in there. We had room for a few snacks and small activities but not much else!

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World Travel Adapter Kit with Dual USB + 2 US Outlets and Surge Protection

This is kind of random, but we were so impressed with this adapter we used. It had USBs built right in so we could charge both of our phones throughout the night without having to have two separate adapters and we could ALSO plug in other appliances at the same time. I was also able to easily plug in my curling iron and loved that this has surge protection so you don’t damage any of your electronics (which I have sadly done before). And it’s under $25!

These are the few products that stood out in making our trip more seamless with kiddos. If you have any you swear by, comment below!

 

 

Traveling to Europe with Kids: Flights, Jet Lag & More

We booked our trip to Europe almost an entire year before actually taking it. It’s an adventure we had always wanted to do with the kids, but decided to wait until they were a little older so they were (hopefully) more manageable, and also so they could actually do some fun activities and perhaps even remember some parts of the trip. Obviously we’ve done a lot of travel with them other places and truly believe that traveling from a young age impacts them and shapes them, even if they don’t remember the travels, but this trip in particular we wanted to wait. I can’t speak to what it would have been like if they were younger, but it was so great bringing them along at these ages (3 & 5) and we’re really happy we took them when we did and can’t wait to take them again!

I know as I dreamed of taking the kids to Europe over the years I couldn’t get enough information on how the experience went for other people. I wanted to know how the flights went, how they dealt with jet lag, etc etc. With that in mind I thought I’d share about our experience in case anyone else was like me! Now, don’t take this post as advice. I have no room to give advice here as we’re not experts on international travel with kids (but Amber is and she did an amazing post for me that you can see here!), this is merely a description of our experience, so take it for what it is!

FLIGHTS

We knew for sure we wanted to fly direct from Portland to Europe. Multiple flights have never worked in our favor (more chances for delays, missed flights, lost bags, longer travel days, etc) and we wanted to make the journey as simple as possible. We used Land Sky See to book our tickets. They have access to unpublished wholesale airfare (this costs nothing extra to you) and they were able to find us direct flights from PDX for just over $600 each person. From Portland we typically pay around $1,000 for direct flights to Europe in the Spring/Summer, so that was an insane deal! Highly, high recommend having JJ and Soo at Land Sky See search for affordable airfare for you if you are looking to fly between the US and Europe. Once you book your flight with them everything is exactly the same as if you purchased through the airline or online. You get your confirmation number and can choose your seats, meals, bags, etc! (P.S. I wasn’t compensated in any way or given any special discounts for sharing with you — just genuinely super impressed with the service they provide and love passing along things I love to you all!) Back to the flights…

We flew directly from Portland to London, which is about 10-11 hours. Our flight took off at 6PM, and since our kids go to bed around 7:30PM, we thought it would be perfect that they could sleep most of the way over (haha! Joke was on us). 

Before the flight we made sure to book seats together. Most planes flying internationally have rows of two on each side of the plane, and then a row in the middle with 3-5 seats. We took two rows of two, one in front of the other, because James is still a bit of a kicker sometimes and it was nice to know that if he did kick, it would just be one of us 😉 I called the airline a couple days before leaving to reserve kids meals for them and in hindsight I probably wouldn’t do that again. The regular plane food was actually lot better (and pretty basic in itself) and the kids liked it more than the basic sandwiches they gave for them.

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THINGS TO DO ON THE FLIGHT

In terms of things to do on the plane, we really didn’t pack much for them because we were really planning on them mostly sleeping and watching movies. Our kids get basically no screen time at home (more on that here), but while traveling, screen time rules definitely go out the window. I did pack them snack boxes, which are always a hit and keep them busy. We didn’t even open the snack boxes on the plane because they feed you so much, but they were a lifesaver during the in-between moments waiting in rental car lines and making the journey to our rental home, etc. Aside from snack boxes and sleep stuff (lovie, pillow, blanket), I did wrap a few small little dollar spot gifts for them to open in case they got really bored. I literally only had to offer one at the very end of our flight over and got to save the rest for antsy in-between moments at our rentals. The things I picked up: Slime (picked up at the Target dollar spot), travel play doh, little coloring kits and new small Paw Patrol board books. The slime was such a hit and kept them busy on the plane for so long and also as we made meals and got ready for the day, etc around home. Highly recommend! 

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JETKIDS BEDBOX

So back to sleeping. We brought along our JetKids BedBoxes and, I will be honest, as we were packing our bags and trying to pack lightly, I really worried these boxes would be more trouble than they were worth. I was afraid they would get bored of them and not want to ride them and we would be left lugging another bag through the airport while also trying to hold their hands, etc. But I truly can’t sing the praises of them enough. I don’t even know how we would have survived the trip without them honestly. London Heathrow and Amsterdam’s Schipol airport are both massive. We had really long walks to and from planes and both airports were a total breeze to get through because both kids just rode their BedBoxes and LOVED them. They are surprisingly easy to maneuver and even do well on bumps and moving walkways, etc. 

As far as the actual sleeping part of the BedBox, Elodie was a bit big to really take advantage and James is nearly too big. He was able to sleep using it and it was great, but he only snoozed for an hour until another child on the plane woke him up, at which point he preferred to be sprawled out on me. Regardless, it was really nice for them to have and stretch out on even while not sleeping so we do recommend them and especially for smaller kids who would fit better (but probably couldn’t ride on the cases, then, so a trade-off!).  

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SLEEP ON THE PLANE

Elodie totaled about three hours of sleep on the way out and James totaled around an hour or two. On the way back home (not overnight) it was the opposite and Elodie only slept an hour or so and James slept 4 hours! I totally thought they’d both sleep a lot more. We brought melatonin on the flight and everything, but there was just too much noise and lots of people watching movies and lights on reading, etc. I think it was hard for them to really settle and sleep, which I totally understand because I can never sleep on planes myself! Though the kids didn’t sleep, they were honestly incredibly behaved on the flight. James laid in my lap not sleeping or watching a movie or anything for a couple hours, which was amazing and Elodie was so sweet the whole time. They blew me away! Definitely far exceeded my expectations. When we were landing I was thinking “wow I can’t believe the flight is already over! We did it!”… I was fully expecting to feel like “oh my gosh get me off this plane!”, so I was really pleased with the whole experience. I would say going in with extremely low expectations helped!

TRANSPORTATION FROM LONDON HEATHROW

We read Lauren’s advice on the best way to get into the city from London Heathrow and Amber reiterated that after a long flight, the last thing you want to do is navigate public transportation with two kids and a bunch of bags. Man am I glad we listened to them and had a BlackLane van waiting for us. It was just what we needed to keep us forging ahead in our sleepy jet-lagged haze. We used Twelve Transfers on our way back and they were also great. I would suggest getting quotes from both places and just going with whoever is more affordable!

JETLAG (AND MELATONIN)

By the time we arrived to Lauren’s apartment in London (which we rented and loved!) it was after 2PM and we decided it was best to just keep us all up instead of napping. We dropped our bags and headed out the door to the park. We knew fresh air would be the only thing to keep us awake. I had totally forgotten how awful jet lag feels that first day. I could barely function, I felt outside my body, I was SO TIRED. I think it had more to do with not sleeping on the plane than the time difference, but both worked against me. The kids, though, man they shocked me with how well they made it through the next few hours! We just kept them busy and outside as much as possible. 

Once dinner rolled around the exhaustion was really setting in. We ate around 5PM and the kids were in bed by 5:45 and we were asleep ourselves by 6:30PM. We all took melatonin hoping it would help us sleep through the night. These are the melatonin gummies we gave the kids and this is the melatonin we took. One thing to note with the melatonin: Not all kids react the same to melatonin so I highly suggest testing it out before your trip. Our kids did great and it was a total lifesaver, others have nightmares or are extra antsy instead of sleepy, etc.  You just really don’t want to figure that out while you’re all jetlagged 😉

I fully anticipated we were going to be up for hours in the middle of the night and made sure we had grabbed some healthy snacks at the store before going to bed in case the kids woke up hungry and nothing would be open at that hour. But once again, the kids exceeded my expectations. James woke up around 11:30PM so we pulled him in to bed with us. He was back to sleep within 10 minutes. Yay! Then 2:30AM rolled around and Elodie came in. At that point we all woke up, drank some water, went to the bathroom and took another dose of melatonin. Corey went and slept with Elodie and I kept James with me. We were all back asleep by 3AM (not bad at all!) and slept until 7:30AM the next morning. Huge success in my opinion! The next nights James didn’t even wake up, Elodie did, but was always quick to go back to sleep. 

We ended up giving the kids melatonin 30 minutes before bedtime every night for the first five nights as we adjusted to the time change and I think it helped a ton. We typically aren’t co-sleepers, but when we’re traveling we are super aware that the kids are in new beds and just like for anyone, that can be weird and scary, so we spent probably half the nights starting with the kids in their own rooms or sleeping together (depending on our location) and then splitting up and each adult sleeping with one of the kids once we were ready to go to bed, and it has worked great. 

The jet lag on the way back was also not a big deal besides a few really early morning wakings, but everyone adjusted back within a week and there was never a time it felt really unmanageable or terrible! Overall we were so pleasantly surprised by how well the trip went. You know it was a great trip when instead of the trip scratching our itch to travel back to Europe, we got back and were immediately dreaming of our NEXT trip over with the kids! 

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CONCLUSION 😉 

I totally just blabbed on and on. I am not sure this was helpful or interesting, but at least for me it will be nice to have documented the trip. I know this was just our first time doing this and we happened to have had a great experience and every kid is different, but I hope this gives you the encouragement to do things with your little ones even when it seems like it might be crazy or hard. Traveling is certainly very different with them, but it was SO incredibly special to have them with us and experience it all together. If you have any more questions about the international flight or jet lag, put them in the comments below! 

I’ll be sharing details on our French villa in my next post as well as a post with all the products that made our trip a lot more manageable (like what we did about car seats!). Stay tuned for more!

FAQ: Going Back to Work

A couple weeks ago I had my first day back at work (well, traditional office work ;)) since December of 2016. I shared the news on Instagram and got a lot of great questions about my decision/new setup, so thought I would do a blog post answering! I attempted to answer through Instagram stories and realized I have so much to say on the subject that a blog post made more sense! So here we go…

What will you be doing? Are you doing the same job as before you left? There have been lots of organizational changes at Nike since I left, but I am back in digital marketing on the operations side, which is where I was right before I left. I accepted a 6-month contract, so it will be over at some point in July. That’s as much as I feel comfortable sharing with strangers on the world wide web 😉

How many hours a week will you work? I worked it out so that I have Fridays off (home with the kids). I am working on a specific project, so my hours each week will vary depending on what is happening with the project, but it will probably be around 32 hours/week give or take! Most days will be 8-5ish, so traditional working hours.

How did you negotiate 4 days/week? It is honestly just the situation I am in, I could only get one day of childcare covered a week so it was a non-negotiable. When I started putting feelers out there with old coworkers and managers I made that requirement clear since I couldn’t budge on it. There were some opportunities that didn’t work out because I couldn’t work five days and that’s okay!

After 6 months, will you have the choice to stay? The specific role I am doing is really project based, so after 6 months the need will no longer be there for that role. That said, if I do a good job and I really want to continue working at Nike, I am confident I could find another job. It’s hard to know how I’ll feel in six months, but at this point the plan is not to continue past July. I’d like to give our family the space to navigate Elodie’s transition into Kindergarten in the fall. After we’re settled in to life with an elementary schooler I am sure I will know more about how I want to proceed (or not) in the corporate world.

Who is watching the kids while you work? James and Elodie are both at the Nike childcare center 3 days a week and have been since September (Elodie has actually been there for preschool 3 days a week since September of 2017, James just started in September). I will be home with them one day, which leaves one day that my mom and mother-in-law will be covering. We are SOOOOO lucky we have both of them locally so I could do this, otherwise taking a short-term contract would have been a lot trickier!

How did you determine now was the time? I knew that life would shift after James started part-time care in September. At that point we had both kids in school the same three days each week and no concrete plan on how I was going to be spending that time. Corey knew my wheels were immediately turning, but wisely suggested I not make any rushed decisions on what to do with the 3 days/week until I had the chance to really experience them and see how life was flowing and feeling. So I gave myself until the end of 2018 to just feel things out and do some soul searching on what I wanted my next steps to be.

It became clear pretty quickly that I was not happy with that much “free time”. On the one hand I was so appreciative of the time I had to get all those things done that most people just never have time for …like keeping their house mostly clean, laundry, meal planning, grocery shopping, meal prepping, cooking, organizing closets, running errands, taking the kids to the doctor, dentist, etc etc. Yes it was glorious to have the space and time to accomplish those things …. But that got old really quick. While I loved supporting our family, I didn’t feel deep fulfillment in these tasks. And I put SO MUCH PRESSURE on myself to make every hour count, constantly questioning if I was making good use of my time. It was mentally so exhausting. I felt empty at the end of the days I didn’t have the kids. I was also experiencing feelings of extreme guilt. How many people would love to have this privilege? I felt so lucky and grateful that we had the means to put our kids in part-time care while not needing me to bring in income. But why me? I didn’t deserve this more than anyone else. I just felt bad about the whole thing. I couldn’t ENJOY the kid-free time pretty much at all, but I was also really grateful for it and totally understood my good fortune. I was feelings all the feels, basically.

So all that said, clearly I needed a change. I had a lot of people suggest ramping up my blog and Instagram or making my photography more of a business. I enjoy those things SO much asa hobbies and creative outlets, but truly feel no desire to make them my full-time business. I love the community I have created through Instagram and my blog and LOVE the companies I’ve had a chance to partner with because of that community, but that said… I never want money to be the driving force behind those creative outlets for me. Yes, I make some money from affiliate links and sponsorships, but those are just icing on the cake when sharing a product or company I truly LOVE. Even if I didn’t make a dime I would rave about these products and companies! It stifles my creativity when I feel like I am posting in an effort to gain followers or make money, etc. I find it kind of hard to explain all this, so I hope I’m making SOME sense, but basically I just have no desire to try to make my blog and Instagram any bigger than it is by pouring any more time and effort into it than I already am.

After a lot of soul searching and a visit with a life and career coach I decided that exploring other avenues of more traditional work, temporarily, would be a great solution to continue to learn more about what it is I want to do at this point in my life. That’s a really long-winded response to how I knew it was time … I just stopped feeling inspired and happy being home and wanted something different.

When you originally decided to stay home, did you think you’d go back?  I forget how much of this I shared, but deciding to stay home wasn’t something I thought a lot about as a working mother. I didn’t think it was financially feasible so it wasn’t a decision I agonized over or even thought about at all. After James was born I decided to leave Nike to take an opportunity with a small startup, heading up their marketing. It was essentially my dream job, but the realities of working in a startup environment really didn’t jive with having two young kids in daycare, including a 5-month-old who was getting sick every three days, requiring Corey and I both to miss a lot of work. It was a really hard decision to make, but I was at the end of my rope — my stress level was insanely high, I was constantly getting sick, I seriously just felt like my body was shutting down and I was not in a good space mentally, spiritually or emotionally. I needed to step back and reassess. That’s how I ended up making the decision to take a break from my career. Financially we had to pull the kids out of daycare, so it’s not like I could take a break, recuperate and then get back out to the working world. Essentially I was forced into being a stay-at-home mom, something I never thought I would be, but honestly came to love deeply and feel incredibly fulfilled by.

I spent most of the past two years I was home with the kids feeling pretty sure I would never want to go back to corporate America. I experienced life without the stress of a demanding job, I was happier than ever, ended up finding my groove with exercise, felt like our home and our family was just more balanced than ever.

Then around the time James turned two I just felt like he could use some more structured social interaction. I felt strongly that he would benefit from being in part-time care, so after we got a call that he had gotten a spot in the Nike 3-day class after being on the waitlist nearly 18 months, we decided to take it. Having the kids both gone three days a week made it clear that being home no longer gave me that amazing, happy, balanced feeling. I felt like something was missing.

While my indecisive nature tempts me to make every decision as if it will be the last decision I’ll ever make, in each of these scenarios I have tried to step back and remind myself that this is only a moment in time. Yes, I decided to quit my job and stay home with my kids two years ago, but nobody every told me I could never go back to work or never find a different way to work. Yes, I have decided to accept a 6-month contract, but that is the only thing I have decided. This new job works great for me RIGHT NOW. And that’s all I can really say. I might love it so much I can’t imagine not going back full-time in a more permanent role, or I might appreciate it for what it is and find more gratitude for the freedom I have once July rolls around and I am jobless again. I just don’t know, and that’s okay. I’m going to take things as they come.

Is this going to impact your barre3 schedule? How do you plan to balance work/life/fitness? It will definitely impact the times of day I go to class, but it won’t impact the number of classes I attend a week (3-5). My schedule is now mostly 6AM classes which allow me to get home, shower quickly and still be at work between 8-8:30AM and 6:30PM classes, which require Corey to handle bedtime. Also the weekends of course 😉 Fitness has become an integrated part of my life — it’s a habit, something I love doing and something that makes me a truly better mother, wife, employee, PERSON. Essentially it is extremely high on my priority list, so I will find ways to make time for it, even if it’s not as convenient as it has been in the last few months!

As far as balance — I think balance is a myth. Being back at work has required both Corey and me to reexamine the tasks that fill our days and prioritize them.Keeping the house as clean as it has been the last four months is going way down on the priority list. Family time is the highest priority, so making sure we are eating together as a family each night and being intentional with the time we do have together — meaning hyper-focused, no phones out in the morning/evening hours, etc. Time for us as a couple is also super important and nothing will change there. Time for fitness is very high for both Corey and me. Luckily he loves at-home workouts and last year we invested in a rower and a treadmill for him to have at home, so he can do an early morning workout while I am at a barre3 class on the weekdays and he likes going to Orange Theory classes on the weekends. We make it work! Things will be messier and more complicated than they were when I was home managing the household and the kids, but that’s okay. It’s just a season we’re in and having been out of the work force for two years I am now even more aligned to the things that are important to me as an individual and us as a family, and I’m just going to worry about those and brush the other things off. One thing I know for sure: I can’t do it all. Period. So not even going to try.

How do you get out of the house on time? Well, we’re only two weeks in, but the last couple weeks have gone really smoothly. The fact that Corey and I both work in the same place and our kids go to daycare onsite is HUGELY helpful, so we have that working in our favor. Otherwise, the BIGGEST determining factor of getting ourselves out of the house on time is how much we prepare the night before. Making sure coats, hats, gloves, blankets, lovies, WHATEVER needs to come with us to daycare the next day are either already in a bag together or in the car is number 1. The second biggest factor is getting up before our kids and being completely ready before they are awake. We get up around 5:45 (earlier if we are working out) and shower and get ourselves put together, get the kids’ breakfast ready, unload the dishwasher, etc before the kids are up around 7 (give or take). We lay Elodie’s clothes out the night before and she goes potty and gets herself dressed before coming downstairs for an easy breakfast. Think wholegrain waffle with almond butter and banana, a smoothie, cereal, etc. Those two things have helped tremendously!

Can you talk about meal prep as a working mom? Such a struggle! This was one of the biggest conversations we had before I accepted this new job. I think I have PTSD from the dinner/bath/bed hustle when we were both working before. It’s been pretty dang amazing to be around the house at 4PM able to get dinner started and have it ready when Corey gets home around 5:30.

Here’s what we’re trying this time around. We’ve divided the food tasks as such: Meal planning: Liz, Grocery shopping/online ordering: Liz, Corey: Meal prep on the weekends or the night before, making dinner: whoever is home earlier and cleanup: whoever didn’t cook. This week it worked out pretty good. Offering the kids a healthy snack (cashews, cucumber slices, apple with almond butter, etc) as they settle into being home after school and while we get dinner going has also been key.

I have no doubt we will probably be leaning on more takeout, meal and grocery delivery services and the like to help keep us sane, and I’m cool with that. Whatever it takes!

So, what’s it like being back?! Oh my gosh you guys… I’m only two weeks in, but it feels SO GOOD. I am invigorated. Inspired. Confident. Excited. ALLTHETHINGS. Also, it truly feels like I never left, like I just picked up right where I left off, which is such a trip! In the best way possible! Being at work because you WANT to be and not because you feel like you HAVE to be is a freaking game-changer to say the least. I also think leaving the corporate world and living life outside of Nike (I started there right out of college so it’s really all I knew) gave me such incredible perspective I am bringing back with me. Taking a little career breather so far seems to have been a very, very good idea (and one I know 95% of people don’t have the privilege of taking). Short answer is I LOVE IT. I AM SO HAPPY. And I am super curious if and how these feelings change as I get deeper into this new job!

You know I’ll be over-sharing my way through it! 😉 Any more questions? Leave them in the comments!

 

 

Mommy & Me Photos with Brittany Rossman Photography

So last Father’s Day I got Corey an amazing present. Well, I think it’s pretty amazing. But when I really think about it, it’s a gift I would have loved to receive myself. I put together a 700+ page photo book of special photos of mostly him and the kids throughout the prior year. Mostly sweet, candid shots of him playing with the kids, cooking breakfast with the kids, snuggling the kids, reading to the kids… You know, the everyday stuff. Not the perfectly-posed-in-front-of-whatever pictures, but the photos that really evoke emotion and take you back to a specific, mundane yet magical moment in time. The kids LOVE looking through its pages and no matter how many times I thumb through the pages I never get sick of it.

But here’s the sad truth: Corey wouldn’t be able to make me the same kind of photo book, not one that has nearly the same number of pages… And that’s because he just never thinks to take photos of me during those ordinary moments that make up motherhood. If I want a photo with the kids I have to specifically ask. And usually that turns into the kids running away from me or giving a fake smile to the camera for half a second then running off. Wah wah. (Let it be known that Corey is way above average in pretty much every other way as a husband and father and I love him like crazy, this is just not his thing! haha)

Photos are my love language, they hold a lot of value to me, so even though this seems kind of silly it really does break my heart that I don’t have these candid moments with the kids captured. I want to remember the way we look when we snuggle up, read books together, laugh and play. I don’t need a million pictures of me smiling at the camera holding on to them with a death grip hoping they’re making a semi-happy face ….

So you can imagine the flood of emotion I felt when Brittany sent me the photos from our mommy + me session a few months back. CUE THE HAPPY TEARS. She captured everything I dreamed of between the kids and me. Those small in-between moments of love and magic between a mother and her children. The photos that despite my constant nagging never really come to fruition from Corey. If you find yourself in the same situation I did, PLEASE do yourself a favor and schedule a mommy + me session with Brittany. She is so calm, sweet and great with kids. She is patient and kind and just knows how to get children to come out of their shell and be themselves. These photos are such a gift to me. More of a gift than any physical thing anyone could ever buy me.

Ask for the session for Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day or just because. Because you deserve to have these fleeting moments captured. You will never regret spending the money to have this special connection between you and your kids captured forever.

It was soooo hard for me to narrow these down to my favorites, but here are some of my photos from my Mommy + Me session with Brittany Rossman Photography. Seriously cannot sing her praises enough! She is hosting a special Mommy + Me event on February 9th and 16th — you can sign up for a time slot here!

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{All photos by Brittany Rossman Photography}

How to Survive Transatlantic Travel with Babies & Toddlers

Pretty much since the day the kids were born we have been dreaming of taking them to Europe — especially Amsterdam. After two years living abroad there the country made a huge mark on our hearts and I’ll never forget daydreaming of having a family with Corey and someday bringing them back to show them the city. Well, this spring we are finally making it happen! The kids will be 3 and 5 when we go — ages that felt slightly less scary and generally more manageable than ever. While we are excited beyond measure, we are also slightly terrified of the flight over and the jet lag. Not scared enough to hold us back from going obviously, but scared enough that I want to do everything in my power to prepare us! That’s where my friend Amber comes in.

If there were ever a friend of mine I consider an expert on transatlantic/long haul trips it’s Amber. We met through our mutual friend Lauren (you might know her as Aspiring Kennedy) and she is truly as sweet as they come. She and her husband have been living in London close to ten years. They have two adorable little girls and they travel EVERYWHERE with them — from London to Hawaii like it ain’t no thang. They recently traveled to Mauritius with their girls. Their list of countries visited as a family is extensive and they are often doing the flight home to the Pacific Northwest, so yes, Amber is certainly an expert on surviving transatlantic trips with kids. She kindly agreed to divulge all her wisdom, which I’m hoping will make our trip a little easier. Her tips are approachable and honest and I am so grateful she took the time to share her secrets! Without further ado:

Transatlantic travel with kids

  • Entertainment – after years of long haul flights (and lots of anxiety/stress that goes along with them!!) I’ve finally started to pick up some tried and true tricks:
    • Follow Their Lead – Don’t entertain kids unless it’s needed. For so many trips, I found myself shoving activities in front of them in anticipation of someone getting antsy, but ultimately kept jumping the gun and my resources ran out so quickly! Now when we get on the plane (or to a restaurant, on a train, etc) I try to just let them chill for a bit, take in their surroundings, we chat through the day (i.e “when you see the seatbelt sign light up, that means we all follow the rules and buckle up – do you see where it is?”), let them flip through the on-board magazines, play I Spy, buckle and unbuckle the seat belts, etc. It’s shocking how much time this buys!
    • Activities – a few things we love:
      • play doh
      • water painting (these are great)
      • lightweight/small books
      • stickers
      • washi tape/post-its
      • small figures (cars, dolls, animals – make roads with the washi tape! write dolls letters on post-its, etc)
      • window clings
      • a baggie of cheerios/fruit loops + string to make necklaces
      • paper dolls
      • origami kits
      • lacing cards
      • scratch art activity books
      • magnetic books/puzzles
      • small magnadoodles
      • coloring/activity books
      • play school kit
      • dry erase cards / books
      • busy bags (etsy can be a great resource!)
    • Extras – I always like to have a few extra tricks up my sleeve — it’s easy to plan for the obvious plane time, but there can be so many other parts of the travel day you might just need to pull out some quick entertainment to avoid meltdowns or antsy kids. Think about the other less obvious times you might need something in a pinch to help overtired kids. For us it might be: standing in lines (security, customs, car rental, etc), the drive to/from the airport, or if the plane gets delayed on the tarmac (keep several things within arms’ reach!) to name a few.
    • Ipad/Tablets – all of our screen time rules tend to be put on hold for long travel days. For us, it’s just not worth the fight and we know once we arrive in our destination they will be so busy doing other things that a little extra screen time to make the journey smoother is worth it (and kid-friendly headphones are great too!)
    • Snacks – a mix of healthy things plus a couple treats are a must (never underestimate the power of a gummy bear!!) I pack lots of snacks because we tend to go through them and although I generally steer away from using food as an activity, it can be helpful to buy time. Also, if you’re on an international flight, there’s usually an easy way to request a child meal for free which is so convenient and usually more fun for them (generally 24 hours notice is required)
  • Divide + Conquer – Before we leave, I pack individual zip locks to accommodate each leg of the trip. For instance, if I know we are on an overnight flight, I pack each child a large baggie (labelled with their names) with pj’s, a couple pull-ups, toothbrush/paste and their blanket packaged up and ready to go. I love this strategy because it not only makes you think through each scenario so you don’t forget anything, but also keeps things organized when you’re in a small space.Pouch 2.jpg
  • Emergency Kit – I always try to pack a small bag with a couple things you hope you won’t need, but just never know. I typically include anti-nausea medicine (for adults and kids), empty plastic bags (for wet/dirty clothes) pepto-bismol tablets, pain reliever (both adults and kids), melatonin, a couple band aids, finger nail clippers, hair bands, earplanes (to help with little ears on the flight), hand sanitizer, cough drops, tampons, benadryl – and any other things specific to you (i.e I throw in an extra set of contacts/case/glasses)
  • Schedules + Jet Lag –
    • Direct if you can – If you can swing it, paying a bit more for a more direct flight can be completely worth it, and so much easier on everyone.
    • Schedule – On the plane, we roughly try to stick to their normal schedule which is hard when there’s so much going on – but trying to avoid overstimulated/overtired kids is the name of the game. We’ve found that it’s easier to adjust to new timezones anywhere except on the plane.
    • Be Flexible – Once we arrive in our destination, depending on the time of day, we make the call to take a quick nap or power through. If we land in London at noon and are barely able to keep our eyes open, we nap for an hour and then try to get out in the fresh air to stay awake and start to adjust.
    • Clean Up – It’s shocking how much of a difference it makes for adults and kids to take a shower or bath when you first arrive. Somehow it feels like hitting the reset button and instantly puts everyone in a better mood (but also cleans off the icky feeling of long plane rides) Seriously, try it!
    • When all else fails — melatonin. I’d check with your pediatrician, but ours is extremely supportive as the long flights can be a bit cruel to kids – we like the all natural gummy ones you can find at any drugstore (don’t forget the adult version too!)
  • Playing Fair + Expectations – let’s face it…most adults find travel uncomfortable and exhausting, so it’s fair to anticipate our kids will feel that way too.
    • Pre – Flight – Allowing enough time at the airport to let the kids run out some energy (so many airports have play areas now!) helps everyone before boarding a long flight
    • Eye on the Prize – They might cry non-stop for hours, people might say mean things, you might bicker with your spouse, you will most certainly think “what were we thinking?!” — but then you arrive and it’s all over and you’re giving your kids an opportunity to see the world in a way they wouldn’t have otherwise. You’re giving them a priceless gift to taste new foods, hear foreign languages, see things and experience the world in an amazing way. Some people argue that they won’t remember it, but we will and having them part of those memories is worth it (to us!) 🙂
    • Give + Take – we find that planning ahead to find kid-friendly activities, hotels, rentals go a long way. We spend our day doing things for them, and then arrange a sitter (through the hotel or local agency) for a couple nights to go out after they are in bed. It not only allows us to spend time experiencing the city in more of an adult way, but also takes some of the pressure off your kid-centered days. Win, win!

Amber I can’t thank you enough for imparting your wisdom on us! There were so many great tips in here I am definitely going to us for our trip! Make sure to follow along with all of Amber’s travel adventures through her gorgeous Instagram and awesome blog!

15 Crowd-Pleasing Thanksgiving Salad Recipes

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Somehow, in all the years of Thanksgiving feasts, I’ve never been tasked with bringing a salad for the holiday! So naturally, when this was our assignment for our upcoming Friendsgiving next weekend, I turned to my trusty Instagram followers to find a winning recipe to bring with us. And they did not disappoint! I was overwhelmed with responses and also many requests to share the love, so here they are! 15 mouth-watering options for Thanksgiving salads.

Shredded Brussel Sprout Salad with Hazelnut Crunch by Martha Stewartshredded-brussels-sprout-salad-with-hazelnut-crunch-103107138_horiz

Thanksgiving Lentil Salad by The Kitchn174e4fcac666f93884127056deb4f8da6b4dff56

Butternut Squash Salad with Pomegranates and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds by Pamela Salzmanbutternut squash salad

Shredded Brussel Sprout Salad by What’s Gaby CookingWGC-Shredded-Brussels-Salad-copy-3

The Fall Salad You Won’t Be Able To Quit by Simple Real HealthProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

Winter Burrata Salad by Camille Stylescamillestyleswinterburratasalads

Roquefort Pear Salad by The Girl Who Ate Everythingroquefortpearsalad.jpg

Fresh Citrus and Cranberry Salad by Better Homes and Gardensfreshcitrusandcranberrysalad

Lemon-Garlic Kale Salad by The New York Times07COOKING-GARLICKALESALAD2-articleLarge

Roasted Squash Salad with Crispy Shallot and Balsamic Reduction by Minimalist BakerAMAZING-Roasted-Squash-Salad-with-Nut-Cheese-and-Balsamic-Reduction-30-minutes-10-ingredients-BIG-flavor-squash-glutenfree-dinner-vegan-salad-minimalistbaker-recipe-6.jpg

Autumn Chopped Salad by Espresso and Creamautumnchoppedsalad-1-1.jpg

Fall Harvest Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette by With Whit & SaltFall-Harvest-Salad.jpg

Roasted Cauliflower, Feta and Orzo Salad by Chrissy Teigen {photo by Savor Chic}1466611117102.jpg

Feel-Good Fall Salad by Gimme Some OvenAutumn-Harvest-Salad-Recipe-with-Sweet-Potatoes-Avocado-Cranberries-and-Pecans-1-1

Kale and Brussels Slaw by Sprouted Kitchen1448295911394

 

How We Quit Screen Time

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Photo: Brittany Rossman Photography

Yesterday in my Instagram stories I mentioned in passing that four months ago we cut out screen time pretty much completely and the response was OVERWHELMING. I was immediately flooded with questions wanting to know how we did it and if I had any tips to help others achieve the same. I decided the best way to answer the questions was through a blog post that can easily be referenced in the future, too. 

First, it’s worth mentioning where we started. I would say that the kids got on average around one hour of screen time/day, give or take. Some days it was more if we watched a movie, some days it was less if we were out of the house most of the day. I mostly used screen time when I needed to get something done like cook or clean. It was the easiest way for me to preoccupy the kids so I could get stuff done. There was also a period of time we used it during dinner time because James seriously would not eat if he wasn’t distracted by the TV. This is something I would have TOTALLY judged someone for prior to being in the situation myself … But alas, that is what worked for us and I decided it was more important to me to have a peaceful mealtime where my baby’s belly got full instead of a nightly battle where he ended up not eating much at all.

Elodie got virtually no screen time until age two. She would watch the occasional Elmo video here and there but nothing crazy. Then James came along… And we had two kids two years apart … And lets just say that TV came in handy! Haha! This is where our perceived dependency on screen-time started. And because Elodie was getting more screen time so we could survive life with a newborn and a toddler, eventually this meant James was watching TV at a much younger age and frequency than Elodie ever did. Honestly, looking back I have no regrets. We did what we had to do and felt was right for our family at the time to get through a really freaking hard period in our lives. The TV served its purpose and I am grateful for that. I wish I could say I did it without guilt, but that would be a lie. I wish I had given myself more grace and not judged myself so hard for it, but that’s just who I am. If you are in this situation.. If you are pregnant or have a tiny baby or are home full-time with your kids and need screens for sanity and to just get s#&% done. DO IT. And don’t feel bad about it. Own it!

So, all that said, lets fast forward to this past June. James was 26 months and Elodie had turned 4 a few months prior. Seemingly out of nowhere I decided I wanted to do a screen-free day with James (Elodie was in preschool three days a week). I had gotten to a point where I just felt like I was using it as a crutch. If I needed to get something done, I turned on the TV. If I needed them to stop fighting, I turned on the TV. At the end of that first day without screens I felt so accomplished and happy, and I found that it was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be. So the next day when Elodie was home I decided to try for another day without screens. And that is where our journey began. 

There are a few things that I believe have made these screen-free months possible. 

>For one, I started a week before Corey went on sabbatical and was home with us for six weeks. I had an extra set of hands to help entertain the kids and we had tons of fun plans while he was off work, so that kept us super busy. 

>It was summertime, which meant we got outside a TON.

>The kids’ ages. They were both now old enough to truly play together and their attention spans were longer than 5-10 minutes. 

>We only had three weeks between the end of Corey’s sabbatical and James starting in school three days a week. So these days I am only on my own with the kids two full days. The fact that I am able to get most chores and cooking/shopping/errands/meal prepping done on the days I don’t have the kids makes it a LOT more manageable to go without screens while they are with me. 

Now on to the frequently asked questions I got from followers on Instagram:

Did you go cold turkey? Yep. 

How did you explain the change to Elodie? This is probably going to sound bad, but this whole idea kinda came out of nowhere so I didn’t exactly have a grand plan. So I just told the kids the TV was broken. It worked! Even now when we watch something it is a movie and we make it into a super special thing and set up our projector in the playroom, so they never see the TV on.

How long did it take for them to stop asking for screens? Hmmm I wish I could remember exactly. It was probably in the vicinity of 1-2 weeks. Because I told them the TV was broken I think they had the notion that at some point it would be fixed and at that time they would be watching shows again. So it wasn’t a huge deal to them. There weren’t any epic tantrums. There was some whining but I just would distract them with an activity and they would forget about it. After two weeks for sure they just stopped asking altogether. I’m not sure if they got tired of asking, didn’t care about the TV or just knew that it wasn’t going to happen, but either way after a couple weeks it became a total non-issue.

What do you do with them when you need to get something done? At this point I really don’t need to do much, they have learned to just play together and mostly preoccupy themselves with our toy baskets or a game of cat family. That said, if they are having an off day I will often sit them down with a healthy afternoon snack like fruit or nuts that will take them a little while to eat while I prep dinner or tidy up. I won’t lie and say I don’t get interrupted my arguing or someone needing help with something while I am cooking or cleaning, but I am fine with it, it’s rarely so much that I feel like I need to give up on what I am working on.

Does no screens mean no iPads or iPhones at restaurants or on car rides? Yes, these were the two I wast MOST skeptical we could do without screens. We would always start meals out or car rides with no screens, but inevitably as soon as one of them got antsy we took our phones out at dinner or gave them an iPad on a car ride. 

It has taken more preparedness on my part to make sure I have activities for them to do while we’re out to dinner or going on a car ride (love the Target $ spot or $ store for these) but honestly they are just so much more focused on whatever activity we give them now it has been a non-issue. A coloring activity used to keep James’ attention span for three minutes, now he stays focused for MUCH longer. That said, if we were doing a longer road trip — say, more than three hours — we would absolutely be fine bringing the iPads along. And for us, anything goes on airplanes, so we’ll see if we can make it through our 2.5 hour flight to Southern California in a couple weeks without screens. I’ll report back!

What about apps? We really didn’t use any apps to begin with, it’s just not something we ever got into. We were recently starting to work on sight words with Elodie and did find an app that could help her learn letter sounds and practice them (Montessori Crosswords). We let her do that for 15 minutes at a time a couple days a week if we think of it, but we just don’t even have the iPad around so often forget!

Do you feel like you need to come up with more “stuff” to keep them busy?100% yes. There is no way to get around the fact that no screens means more work and focus for mom and dad. As I mentioned earlier, this is okay for me because I only have two full days on my own with the kids and the two weekend days with Corey so this feels manageable. I honestly don’t know if I could do this if they were both home with me full-time. So give yourself grace and if you use screens to keep your sanity and run your house, don’t feel bad about that for a second!!

What are your favorite screen-free activities? Where do you get ideas for things to do with the kids? I love following my friend Meghan @craftandboogie for fun and easy crafting ideas for young kids. She sells the most amazing craft kits that Elodie LOVES (James is still a little young for them). I also love following @busytoddler for activity ideas — she has great ideas for kids in that really trick age between 12-24 months where they need constant entertainment, but a low attention span. We do a lot of magnatiles (amazing Christmas gift!), legos, puzzles, we have a train table the kids love as well as a little play kitchen that they love.

We have so many toys and activities and before being screen-free they would play with their toys for ten minutes and then get bored or antsy. It drove me nuts! All these toys and all they wanted to do was watch TV. But I realized it had become THEIR crutch too. It was easier to just sit and veg in front of the TV than get imaginative and creative, so their attention spans and ability to focus were shorter. It’s so different now. We can sit and play in our playroom for easily over an hour, then we’ll read books together, then we’ll bring out some play-doh or rainbow rice or something else. It is totally manageable.

Another thing that is a MUST is getting out of the house. This makes the time go by so much faster and takes the pressure of needing to find things to do around the house. We go to parks, to the library, have play dates with friends, visit family, take rec center classes (they are cheap!), run errands together, etc etc. 

How do you handle it when your kids go to someone else’s house and the TV is on?Honestly this hasn’t been a huge issue for us. When we go to friend’s houses we are getting the kids together to play so nobody really turns the TV on. Both sets of our parents know that we have cut out screen time so they know not to turn the TV on at their houses. That said, if we walked into a friend’s house and a TV was on we would just let it go. We’re not going to be that crazy strict about it! 

What motivates you to keep it up? Is it worth the extra work? We are 100% motivated by their behavior and improved attention span and increased imaginative play. I thought I was just imagining it myself and mentioned it on my Instagram stories a couple weeks into being screen-free and I had near FIFTY messages saying that no, it is actually a studied and proven fact that screen time affects behavior and later in life even depression and suicide rates.

I don’t think an hour of TV a day means your kids are doomed for life. I think finding a balance is what is important. This is what is working for us right now. Do I think we will be screen-free forever? Heck no. Do I think we will always be making conscious choices to limit screen-time in favor of sports, reading, time with friends and more? Absolutely. I think you need to do what feels right for you and your family!

How do you manage your own screen-time when your job involves a lot of phone use? How do you model good behavior for your kids?

This is such a great question and something I am always working on improving. I will admit I am far from perfect here. I try really hard to have my phone in a place that is away from the kids so if/when I am checking it and posting to Instagram or answering DMs, emails, etc. they don’t see me on it. This means I do most of my posting in the morning before they are awake, during naps and on occasion in the evening. I also try to protect my time with Corey and at least a couple days a week I like to turn my phone off around 8PM and not look at it again until the morning. Do I fail at this a lot? Yes. But when they see me on my phone I try to verbalize what I’m doing: “I am responding to a text from grammy, can you be patient with me for a minute?”, “Mommy is answering a work email, I will be able to give you my full attention in five minutes”, etc. I think it helps them understand how and why I am using my phone. 

Practically everything we do is on our phones these days. It’s where I meal plan, communicate with friends and family, it’s how I make a small income for our family…. so my kids not seeing me on my phone is completely unrealistic. I think being open and communicating about its uses helps a ton and it also keeps me in check so I am not just sitting on my phone scrolling aimlessly while my kids are with me!

———–

I think that covers the vast majority of the questions. Trust me when I say the fact that my kids are mostly screen-free does not make me better than any other parent and certainly doesn’t mean I have my ish together. Yesterday I had the kids home with me and Corey walked in the door at 5:30 to me still in my pajamas and robe, James with no pants on and a really wet diaper that needed to be changed and Elodie in her halloween costume … Toys strewn all over the place, dinner not started … I am far from perfect so don’t you dare put me on a pedestal 🙂

This felt SO IMPOSSIBLE when I started back in June. I am honestly shocked we’re here. And I have no idea how long it will last. We will continue to reevaluate and fine-tune as time goes on! Hope this was helpful! Feel free to leave additional questions in the comment section and I’ll make sure to answer!

Tips For Stress-Free Family Photos with Young Children

Tips for Stress-FreeFamily Photos withYoung ChildrenA few months ago I wrote a heartfelt Instagram post all about why I prioritize getting professional family photos at least once a year. Especially at these ages they are truly growing so fast and they are such different little people each six months. The thing about family photos is we do them for the end result, but it is certainly a big financial investment, and aside from that, we know that it can be a somewhat stressful experience. From trying to find the perfect outfits for the whole family, to worrying how the kids will behave for the session, it’s not exactly anyone’s preferred way to spend an afternoon. BUT, it’s ALWAYS WORTH IT.

Since we’ve done this a time or seven and I take family photos myself, I thought I’d give you my expert opinion on how you can temper the sting of family photos and give you my best tips for stress-free family photos with young children.

Let go of the “perfect” smiling photo: If you have ever tried taking photos with young kids you know it’s nearly impossible to get a photo of everyone looking in the same direction at the same time, let alone have everyone giving their best/cute smiles all at the same time. A photographer can work some magic, but they can’t turn young kids into obedient robots, so don’t go into the shoot thinking about just getting that ONE GOOD smiling shot. Not only is it far fetched, but to be honest, those photos are boring. Who wants everyone smiling perfectly at the camera when you can have this: 9982

Let them be little: The best photos are the ones that capture the spirit of your family. The only way you are going to get these shots is by letting your kids run wild and free, be themselves, play, giggle and smile. The less direction you give them the better, because the more direction you give them the more they really don’t want to follow those directions anyways 😉

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Don’t be above bribery: There will be times where you need your kids to cooperate to a certain extent (come sit on mommy’s lap, give your brother a big hug, etc), for those times, don’t be above a mess-free bribe like a jelly bean or a smarty (don’t use chocolate or anything else that has the potential to get their clothes and hands super messy). You can also plan to go do something fun after, like get ice cream, as a reminder to be on their best behavior during the photo session. Bribery is not my typical go-to parenting strategy, but I have no problem using it in desperate times!

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Stress less: Kids can FEEL your energy. If you are stressed and frazzled and clearly not enjoying yourself because all you’re worrying about is your kids listening or looking a certain way or doing a certain thing, they will pick up on that and all of a sudden taking family photos is going to turn into a really NOT FUN experience. Seriously, just take a deep breath and trust your photographer to capture your family in all their crazy glory. You don’t need to worry about your kids being super well-behaved or perfect listeners, they’re kids, they’re not going to be perfect sweet angels! Your photographer doesn’t expect that and neither should you. Just go with the flow!

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HAVE FUN! Truly, genuinely have fun! Go into it telling your kids they just get to play and have fun, and then follow suit yourself. Family photos don’t need to be stressful. Find a photographer who is good with kids and families, who will set the vibe for a fun session and bring out the best in your kiddos 🙂

{All photos by Fiona Margo Photography, who is based out of Bainbridge/Seattle and truly could not recommend enough. She blew us away with the photos she got, the process was painless and fun and our kids — and us parents! — had a blast with her!}

 

Five Go-To Meals in the Denfeld House // Part II

We’ve all hit those meal planning lulls where you just feel like you can’t think of ANYTHING to make for dinner that week and if you have to look at one more Pinterest food board your eyes might start bleeding. I love hearing what other people are cooking up for dinner and this post has been one of my most popular, so I thought I’d do another installment with the dinners we’ve been loving lately. These are all recipes we’ve made at least twice and are a hit with the whole family. Hope you love them as much as we do!

Brown Butter Brussels Sprout Pasta with Hazelnuts: Admittedly this isn’t the healthiest dish on the list, but let me assure you it is worth every single calorie. YUM. My kids happen to LOVE Brussels sprouts, so this recipe really works in our house! You could easily add some grilled chicken to it to get some protein in there!Brown Butter Brussels Sprouts Pasta with Hazelnuts Recipe on twopeasandtheirpod.com This pasta dish is amazing!

Creamy Chicken and Buttermilk Dumplings: This recipe is so comforting and if you get the Mirepoix from Trader Joe’s already chopped up it is crazyyyy easy and quick to make! This is definitely a fan favorite for the kiddos and perfect for the fall weather upon us.chicken + dumplings I howsweeteats.com

Creamy Polenta Bowl with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes and Zucchini: My kids happen to be obsessed with polenta so this dish is a hit in our house! I either half the butter/Parmesan or omit completely and just sprinkle Parmesan on top at the end. The addition of the pesto really takes this recipe to the next level. It’s a winner!

Stuffed Cypriot Chicken from Jamie Oliver’s 30-Minute Meals: Our French friends in Amsterdam made this dish for us when they had us over for dinner one night and it made such an impression on us we looked up the recipe and have been making it ever since. It’s actually a pretty simple dish that seems impressive, so a great one to do when you have guests … But we make it all the time! I highly recommend watching the video if you’re a visual learner. The use of wet wax paper to help the chicken get crisp on the outside but stay soft and juicy on the inside is so easy and was new-to-me!

Perfect Herb-Grilled Chicken: This recipe is out of Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook (which I highly recommend!) and I love making the seasoning blend in bulk then freezing in individual baggies so we can whip it up easily anytime (and none of the herbs go to waste this way!). Everyone who has tried this when we make it is totally impressed and asks for the recipe. It’s not only easy and incredibly flavorful but also super healthy! Image result for gwyneth paltrow it's all good

Potsticker Stir-Fry: This is an amazing, simple weeknight meal to make! It comes together really quickly and our favorite potstickers to use are the cilantro chicken wontons from Trader Joe’s! Corey is especially a fan of this ones and the kids gobble it up. 

{Seven Podcasts for 30-Something Women}

98A4DA45-1ACF-4B9C-8E63-146406D70E7D.pngThis is going to sound dramatic, but it’s 100% honest: Podcasts have changed my life. They inspire me, motivate me, give me hope, enlighten me, teach me … They’re truly incredible. If you’re a friend of mine in real life you have probably heard me quote a podcast or reference a podcast at least once. I am sure it gets annoying, but they are really that great! 

I often get asked how I find the time to listen to all the podcasts I listen to … It’s easy! I listen to a podcast when I get ready in the morning, while I clean the kitchen during nap time, while I prep dinner, while I cook dinner, while I fold laundry, while I edit photos, while I’m driving alone … Pretty much any time I am doing something that doesn’t require my mental attention (and when the kids aren’t around), I’m listening to a podcast. 

The thing about podcasts is that there are SO many out there, it can feel overwhelming to figure out where to begin. That’s where I come in. Below I’ve outlined my absolute favorite podcasts, why I love them and pointed you to a few of my favorite episodes of those podcasts. If you’re a podcaster, I hope you find at least one new one to listen to! And if you’ve never dabbled in podcasts… Get ready for your life to be changed!

I’m also always in the market for new podcasts, so if you have one to recommend please leave it in the comments! I’d be forever grateful! 

Goop Podcast: This is a must listen, especially if you are a 30-something woman! 90% of the episodes completely blow my mind and make me think about life in a totally different way — whether that be how I eat, exercise, mother, work, etc. Pretty much every episode is my favorite episode, but if I had to pick my top three for you to start with it would be:

Postpartum Anxiety & The Motherhood Shift

Lessons From The Other Side

What Turns You On

Dear Sugars: This was one of the first podcasts I ever started listening to. It’s sort of like Dear Abbie. Listeners write letters to the hosts, Cheryl Strayed (author of the book Wild) and Steve Almond, and ask for their advice. I find Cheryl and Steve to be so open-minded, thoughtful and smart with their responses. One series that has stuck with me since I first listened to it over a year ago was their infidelity series (a topic I am really intrigued by because my dad cheated on my mom and left our family and I grew up to experience several romantic betrayals myself). The series gave me perspective on infidelity I would have never had and gave me a lot to think about. The Dear Sugars podcast also introduced me to Esther Perel who I now have a total girl-crush on. Literally every sentence that comes out of her mouth is crazy profound — I could listen to her forever!

A few other favorite Dear Sugar episodes:

Emotional Labor: The Invisible Work (Most) Women Do

The Power of No With Oprah Winfrey Part 1 and Part 2

Sibling Rivalry

The Inevitable Guilt of Motherhood

Coffee + Crumbs: This is a really easy listen each week on the topic of motherhood. It feels like you’re sitting with a group of friends chatting about the good and hard times that come with becoming a mother. The girls make me laugh, cry and nod my head in constant agreement. A few of my favorite episodes:

The One With All The Birth Stories

When Love Feels Heavy

The (Working) Girl Next Door Parts 1 and 2

Motherhood and Loneliness

The Lively Show: This is a relatively new-to-me podcast that I found through Sydney Poulton. I have really admired how she has grown and changed over the years and consider her very centered and wise. She recently recommended this podcast covering the basics on the Law of Attraction and I have been hooked ever since. This podcast is so inspiring and enlightening. After I listen to it I feel empowered to chase my dreams and goals and truly feel like I have the capability to achieve anything I put my soul and mind to. I highly recommend you start with this episode then go from there. I also found this episode on the science behind crystals SUPER fascinating — and of course ran out and bought my first five not long after!

Oprah’s Supersoul Conversations: Do I even need to provide a description here? It’s Oprah for crying out loud! In this podcast she sits down with notable authors, celebrities, artists and more and each time she speaks to someone she really pulls out some profound life lessons, as Oprah does. You can’t go wrong with any of the episodes but some of the most life-changing for me have been:

Dr. Shefali Tsabary: Conscious Parenting Can Change The World

Sheryl Sandberg How to Build Resilience and Find Joy After Loss

Maya Angelou: Part 1 and Part 2

The Longest Shortest Time: This is another parenthood podcast that I really enjoy. I would say it’s less touchy-feely-mushy than Coffee and Crumbs. There’s a huge range of topics and I love the host Hillary Frank. They say it’s the “parenting show for everyone” and I would totally agree — no matter your parenting style/beliefs/preferences there is an episode you will love and relate to. A few of my favorites: 

The Accidental Gay Parents series 

The Fun & the Chaos Part 1 and Part 2

Terry Gross on Not Having Kids

How I Built This: Not being an entrepreneur myself it might be surprising just how much I LOVE this podcast. It tells the stories of how companies like Warby Parker, Spanx, WeWork, Barre3, Lululemon, Starbucks and so many others were started. It is so fascinated to hear the twists and turns that eventually lead to these incredibly successful businesses. Listening to this podcast makes me feel like with enough hard work and persevere, passion and commitment, you can achieve the things you set out to. A few of my favorite episodes are:

Spanx: Sara Blakely

Barre3: Sadie Lincoln

Patagonia: Yvon Choinard

Warby Parker Dave Gilboa & Neil Blumenthal

Zumba: Beto Perez & Alberto Perlman

Airbnb: Joe Gebbia

Instagram: Kevin Systrom &. Mike Krieger