My Favorite Stage

Somehow I didn’t notice. Looking back, it was obvious. I just didn’t see it. Or maybe I couldn’t see it. She transformed in a single summer. From baby cheeks to French braids. Needing help to do everything, now saying “I can do it myself!” No more crib, no more long cuddles in the morning. She’d rather sing me a song or tell me everything we should do today.

In 3 months time my little girl grew up. Her feet went up 3 sizes.😮 Her vocabulary tripled in size too. From here on out, she can tell me what she wants with words. She can feed herself, pick up her toys and fend off her brothers no problem. She lets me do her hair 90% of the time and ALWAYS wants to be outside.

My gut reaction is to cry- to mourn a season that’s past. To lock myself in a room with the last 2 years-worth of photos and sob like the baby I used to have. Why does time fly by? I should have known, being that this is my third baby to grow up. It snuck by me like my 5-year old going into the kitchen for a late night snack. Seriously how does he do it??!?

Back Into Joy

When I was a young(er) mom and had one little guy, a mom of 5 who’s babies were all out of the house told me the best piece of advice. To this day I use it and those simple words take me out of my sadness and pull me back into joy.

We were talking about how fast time goes. She was remembering when one of her kids was my little one’s age and I had asked her what her favorite stage was. She responded, “I don’t have a favorite stage. I choose to enjoy every new stage because it’s the child I’m in love with, not the stage.”

Light bulb.💡Why mourn a season past when you get to enjoy something new with the one you love. It’s not easy, but it’s important. I choose to enjoy every stage and every new aspect of my children’s personalities. Do I always get it right? Nope. There are days when all I think about is what’s next or what’s behind me instead of what’s in front of me.

At the ages 9, 5 and 2 I have a lot of “present” to focus on. So I choose to give them my attention, even though I wish my 2 year-old was still a snuggler when she’s obviously a “let’s go here, then here and then over here” kinda gal right now. The 5 year-old certainly won’t allow me to help him pick out his clothes anymore, but he does love to make forts and invites me to hide in them from time to time. Josh, the nine year-old isn’t so keen on reading chapter books together like we used to, but he wants to ride bikes with me daily. Every stage is the best, because your kids are in it.

What are your kids into right now? Do you ever miss stages that have past?




The Joys of Tee Pees

You know that excited feeling when you’re in on a secret for someone else? Try 3 someones. My kids had no idea when they came home from school this Friday that an amazing tee pee would be waiting for them! I’ve been holding in my excitement all week. They guessed what was inside the box and had a few ideas, but none this cool!

Every mom’s dream. A great new imagination tool that is easy to set up and take down. I can fit this right in my closet when we’re done and bring it back out for a rainy day! Total honesty here, I laughed out loud in complete joy when I read the tag that all cloth parts are machine washable. That’s the kind of mom I am. If it can be washed normally, I get the feels.Check out the little window with roll-up panels. Sooo cute! I’ve been wanting a little space in our house for reading and creative play. This tee pee came with a soft mat and 4 pillows to go inside. Right away my kids had to rearrange the little pillows and make themselves a “nest”.

So far the tee pee has been a book nook, camping tent, puppy house, snuggle bungalow, Peter Pan’s secret lair, and probably more I haven’t witnessed.

This is such a fun way to expand your children’s imagination. We at Sweetest Lemonade have partnered with Joy Tee Pee to give you an exclusive $20 off coupon. Simply enter sweetestlemonade20off at checkout!

Click here to see the cute patterns they have too!




My Momtra

You’ve probably run across this issue before. It took me the first 2 years of my son’s life to figure out, and now that I’m 9 years into motherhood, I feel like I’m getting it down to a rhythm.

I’m talking about my momtra. What I stand for. Which battles I’ll pick and which I’ll let by. Who I am now that I’m a mom. What I want my kids to see in me.

Have you thought about it? It’s kept me up at nights, and caused lots of over-thinking. I used to worry about it. Mostly because I realized I was a mom before I really thought about what it was to be a mom.

I Thought I’d Come Up With Everything To Prepare For My Firstborn

  • Crib
  • Baby registry
  • Decorating the baby’s room
  • Choosing of names
  • The washing of newborn clothes before he came home
  • Perfect rocking chair
  • One million baby blankets (just in case)
  • Cloth diapers
  • Books on sleeping patterns
  • Books on what to expect
  • Enough baby clothes to cover every inch of my house

That and more was done to get ready for him. What I didn’t think about was me. I remember clearly going to a friends house when Josh was 5 months old and listening to her talk about her parenting style. The topics were wide. They spanned from if she would homeschool or public school, whether her baby was advanced or not, if she was going to allow processed food near her child, and much more.

I felt like all I could do was listen, because I hadn’t thought of any of that. I had gotten as far as keeping my baby safe, playing with him and trying to talk to adults once a day. Even that was a challenge. Especially at 5 months when babies are mobile!

That’s when I realized there was much more to being a mom than keeping them alive. I had decisions to make. Big decisions that could effect my little guy’s entire future. As an already avid list lover, I began researching and writing. Making goals, talking to my husband about what was realistic and asking the hard questions about our baby’s future.

My Momtra

I searched my heart and came up with what I now call my “momtra”. It’s what I believe has helped me not only survive motherhood, but thrive while I’m in it. And boy, am I in it. Now 3 kids deep, I’m so thankful for these simple truths that make me who I am as a mom.

  1. Children are a JOY.
  2. It is impossible to OVER-communicate. Keep trying!
  3. I will teach my children that fear is not a part of their DNA. Being fearful and being wise are two different things. We will be wise in our decisions.
  4. Work is good. It feels good to work hard. Laying on the couch watching TV is not the goal, but a simple way to rest after hard work. (this is for me AND my kids)
  5. I will do life with my kids. They are not excluded from activities with me (such as housework, errands, cooking, they’ve even come to business meetings from time to time).
  6. My children have feelings and opinions that are as important as mine. I will not belittle them. If we cannot do what they want to do, I will take the time to explain why. If they are upset, I will not tell them they can’t feel them or that they aren’t justified in that feeling. I will acknowledge them and help them to move passed that feeling or emotion.
  7. No deal is too big, no event too grand. If my children need me, if there is ever a crisis or emergency- I will be there for them. There is no age limit to this. I don’t care if they are 45 and need me- I will be there.

That’s it. I know, nothing was said about what kind of school I’ll put my kids in or how I will discipline, but that’s sort of the point. Those things are decided and they are important, but they aren’t the MOST important. They never will be. I’ve noticed that those things can change with each child too. I discipline my three kids in different ways, because they are different people. My momtra is what stays constant.

Total honesty, there are still days I’m just trying to keep them alive, but this is my goal. That my children grow up to be amazing humans. That they work hard for what they love. I want to see my children enjoy kids around them and even have kids of their own someday (I hear grandkids are the best!). I want them to know their worth, and know beyond a show of a doubt that their mom has their back. I want to see them charge ahead towards exciting new ventures, without letting fear hold them back.

So, that’s my momtra. What’s yours? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

If you’re new to our Sweetest Moms Community, be sure to check our some of our top read posts Fighting Screen-Time Zombies, The Art of Caring, and The Conductor of the Potty Train. 

Join The Sweetest Moms Community On Facebook! We are a kind, fun group of moms who definitely don’t know what we’re doing all the time.😉




Valentine’s Day Round Up

Swoon. It’s that time of year again! Here at Sweetest Lemonade we’ve been planning this holiday for months. You’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re looking for homemade valentine card ideas for your kids, a special treat to make, or even the perfect gift to buy! There’s even a special coupon code at the end, so grab it on your way out!

Valentine’s Day Cards

We love homemade cards. It’s one of those long forgotten thoughtful gestures. Don’t worry though, they don’t have to take weeks to make! We found several DIY card ideas for your kiddos that can be done in one afternoon.

No “how-to” here! Grab some cute paper (maybe the paper scrap from your last crafting venture) and a little bit of paint! We think stamp pads might be perfect for littles making these. Ages 0-65 can enjoy this one!

These Lego Valentine’s look like so much fun! We estimate these could take 2-4 hours including prep & printing. If your kids are helping, ages 4-10 are perfect.

Want something that looks cute but didn’t require any real crafting? These bubble valentines are cute, simple and affordable! Ages 1-6 would love these, especially if you print the labels out on sticker paper. Easy-peasy 😉

Something for the girly-side of life. We cannot handle these little tu-tu valentines! Ages 1-8 can really get into the adorableness of these. 👸🏼

Romantic Recipes

These homemade chocolates are just what we like so see this time of year. Easy, quick to make and delicious!

Planning more of a Valentine’s brunch? Try these gluten free quiches. Complete the meal with mimosas and a fruit salad!

We can’t get enough of this lemon herb roasted chicken. It’s the perfect main dish and so flavorful! Plus, lemons are in season right now.🍋🍋

Planning a romantic dinner at home? Try this pomegranate cheesecake! A beautiful dessert for your beautiful evening.❤

Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

Buying your special someone a gift can be tricky. You want something original, not overdone. Something that will make him/her know just how much you care. Whether shopping for your children, loved one, or even a best friend-we’ve found some treasures you’re not likely to find anywhere else.

Holy Toledo. If my 4 year-old saw this he’d go bonkers. Just think of the endless entertainment with a dragon/dinosaur tail!

This is the hottest couple’s book out right now! 31 Creative Ways To Love & Encourage Him/Her books can be purchased together as a set. What a fun way to get closer to one another!

This breathtaking necklace is everything. Jewelry can be so over the top, but this piece holds its own as a single silver strand with a small gold heart. The best part? Enter the coupon code LEMONS and get 20% off!

This wooden sign from The Homemade Farm House is just what you need for your special someone. They have lots of signs, and even personalize if you know exactly what you want to say!

 

We hope you enjoyed this Valentine’s Day Round Up.

Follow @sweetestlemonade to stay up to date on the latest recipes and parenting articles!




The Conductor Of The Potty Train

Potty training. A stage that can cause us moms to feel like superheroes, or to an extra glass of wine before bedtime. 🙄🍷

I think we can all agree that while none of us have the only answer, we can share what’s worked for our kids. Some of us have tried everything under the sun. What we really need is a mom friend who’s been there and can shed some light on the subject. We all know potty training is possible- I mean you got potty trained somehow, right?? So take a moment to get some coffee and sit with us. I asked our amazing mommas from the Sweetest Lemonade community to weigh in and give us some advice. They had some great tips and tricks, some I’ve never even thought of!

Advice From The Sweetest Mommas

 

“Cheerios make great floating and flushable targets for boys when they begin standing.” -Kari C.

How funny and clever is this idea??!? Having two boys myself, I can assure you this momma knows her stuff. Boys love to shoot and will turn anything into a target. 😂😂Kari has 3 children, ages 18, 15 & 6.

“The best reward for “trying” is a little bit of juice or Kool Aid. It leads to more practice!” -Sue D.

Practice is definitely key when potty training. We all know how much kids love rewards too. Great idea Sue! This sweet momma just so happens to by my mom! She has me, age 29 and my little brother who’s 26. Thanks for being the best mom in more ways than just potty training. ❤

“My daughter loved princesses so when she had a good week of potty training she got to call a princess! (A relative) and tell the princess how her week was! She loved it! Also I never wasted $$$ on pull ups…I would pre-fasten a diaper and slip it inside the underwear and have them step into it just like it was just underwear…I told them they were bed time undies or bye bye undies.” -Jennifer M.

Jennifer really has our heart with saving money and including family members to get the job done. It really does take a village and we love that Jennifer is part of this one! Jennifer has 2 boys and a girl, ages 14, 12 & 10.

Free Printables

“I always had a sticker reward chart. Easy to track and we went during summertime so bare bottom or without undies (and only a dress or just shorts) made it easier and faster when we had to go.” -Candice P.

Sticker charts are magical when teaching little ones new skills. In fact, they are so helpful we linked some free printables just for you! I love this site because they have stickers to print off with the charts too. Click the picture below to take you to tons of options for sticker charts. Find something your little one will love! Fantastic advice Candice. This smart momma has 4 kiddos, ages 11, 9, and 4 year-old twins.

Products We Love

“Consistency, consistency, consistency! Prepare to spend the first few days at home. I used a reward system for using the potty at first, double reward for pooping. That was hard for us at first. I also kept a potty in the living room for convenience. My kiddos didn’t like being away from the action, so this was helpful. I’d slowly move it closer to the bathroom to phase out. We used big boy/big girl panties as an incentive. At first every request to go potty was taken seriously and handled promptly. Especially when around the town.” -Nicole K.

Potty training is a commitment for sure. Sometimes you need to take the potty with you everywhere. Here’s one you’ll love for “on-the-go” training. 😉 Nicole is a brilliant momma to 3 kids, ages 9 and 6 year-old twins.

 

“I really liked the book Diaper Free Before 3. It worked amazingly for both of my boys who we had potty trained soon after 2.” -Sarah T.

I’m one of those moms who will research the best tips for whatever my kids are going through. Sarah, you must be too! Sarah has two boys, ages 7 & 5. Thanks for the hot tip friend!

Read The book Little blue little yellow…. and then put blue food coloring in the toilet and when they potty it turns the water green ” -Dawna P.

What a creative idea!! Dawna has been a preschool teacher for over 12 years and knows what she’s talking about. Grab the book for only $5 and start potty training!

“Let them drink absolutely anything they want, then set the timer for every 20 min – after that you pray for patience.” -@stokercharlie

Timers have helped me as a parent in so many ways, and here’s one more! If you’re new to the world of timers, here’s one we love. It’s cheap, simple and gets the job done. Prayer and patience are a definite must when potty training too. @stokercharlie has three kids, ages 8, 4 & 2. She’s currently potty training her youngest. Good luck momma!

I want to thank our Sweetest Lemonade Moms who took a moment to share their expert advice! We need each other to get through these ages & stages!! Do you have thoughts that will help our sweet mommas become the conductor of the potty train?🚂 Share them in the comments!

Find more of our sweet moments and recipes on Instagram 👉@sweetestlemonade 👈

Check out our most popular “Mom Files” here! Just click the picture!👇




The Art Of Caring

It used to be the most common thing. Caring for others was just what we did. My whole childhood is filled with memories of caring for people. I can remember spending all afternoon making jam with my mom only to give as gifts to our neighbors and teachers. If we met someone with a need, we did what we could to meet it. Just before Christmas, we would select Angel Tree presents for children whose parents were in jail. One year I asked Santa to get a porcelain doll for my friend. She had told me her family couldn’t afford to get her one and she loved playing with mine. Santa came through and brought her a porcelain doll for Christmas. I was so excited to give it to her the next day.

Caring: How Do We Get There

Now, caring is an art. Something to be attained. To be completely honest, I’ve been treated like a fool for caring. Somehow we’ve become very confused. We think caring for others takes away from what we get-and that’s true. The thing is we see that as a bad thing.

Being a caring person is an attribute we all have. It’s instilled into our core. From an early age, I see children wanting to care for others without any thought as to what that means for them. I’ve seen children give their favorite toys to friends. So many kids ask if they can give their fast food meal to the man standing on the corner holding up a sign “Anything helps.” I’ve seen kids look at new babies and instantly want to give them their most valuable treasure-usually a stuffed bear or blankie.

Sadly, we as adults tend to view caring as a moment instead of a lifestyle.

The art of caring is ingrained in us. It’s who we are by default, but as a whole we have become overwritten with new programs. Ideas that say, do what benefits you. Help yourself. Or even, help others until it starts to affect you. Pay for a friend’s coffee, but don’t try to help them with their real problem-getting their kids to school while they’re down a car.

Heaven forbid you give so deeply it makes life uncomfortable for you. That’s unwise. Insert heavy sarcasm if you didn’t pick up on it.

I’d love to see the art of caring become a new normal. Start implementing in your children the art of thinking of others. Lead by example. This is the perfect season to start!

10 Ways To Care

  1. Help your kids go through their toys and donate what they don’t play with. I know you paid over $50 for that cool remote control car, but if your kid doesn’t play with it-let someone else have it!
  2. Make an entire meal for a neighbor or elderly person in your community. Don’t skimp!
  3. Offer to watch someone else’s kids. Sure it might mess up your house or inconvenience you, but think of what it could mean to someone else.
  4. Pay for someone’s groceries. Not just $15 worth, but the whole thing.
  5. Stop and listen to that friend of yours who can be a bit of a time sucker. You know who I mean. The one you try to politely avoid because they seem to only talk about themselves and their problems. Try listening for once. Give them your attention.
  6. Find something to give that takes work to put together. Maybe you can chop some firewood and deliver it to homes with fireplaces. Or offer to haul someone’s old mattress to the dump for them. You could even offer to clean someone else’s house. I know-I’m talking crazy here!
  7. Buy a couple kids coats that you can either donate or pass on if you know any families in need. Shoes are another thing that can bless a family.
  8. Write a thoughtful letter to a friend that you haven’t had a chance to connect with in a while. This is a great one to do with your child. Let him/her think about who they want to write to as well.
  9. If you know of a family in need, take them Christmas shopping. Or find a local church or halfway house to find a family that can’t afford presents this year. I know Salvation Army usually has a list going of families in need too.
  10. Buy someone a Christmas Tree. It’s amazing how many families can’t afford something like this. While it’s a small thing-it can mean the world to them. We’ve bought quite a few trees over the years whenever we find out there’s a need. There are a lot of elderly people who need help hanging lights around their house. I got a call last year after Christmas from our neighbor telling me she was so happy to look at our lights out her window because she wasn’t able to get her own lights up. Can you even imagine?? I wanted to cry!

So take some time to practice the art of caring. It’s more valuable than you think.

Let me know what you try out of this list or if you do anything different to spread some love!

Comment below or tell me by email at the.sweetest.lemonade@gmail.com




Is It Christmas Yet?

I love the holidays. I’m sure you do too. Especially once you have kids; you get to experience the magic through their eyes. The last 8 years of being a mom have made each holiday hold more weight to it as well.

I find myself planning months before. My Pinterest board fills with a million cute ideas I see all over the web. Family portrait outfits, new hot cocoa recipes, how to cook the perfect turkey, and the best homemade costumes are all my mind thinks of once summer is over. Don’t even get me started on that elf on the shelf business.

Downsizing

Then reality hits and I’m quickly overwhelmed and unprepared. I start feeling this need to impress my kids. That they won’t be happy unless I do every cool idea I had. As if Christmas will be ruined if I forget to buy them their traditional matching pj’s! Honestly, someone just shake me the next time I say something crazy like, “I have to run into town to buy my kids more stocking stuffers so they are full.” What is that???

This year I’m working on enjoying the moments. Sitting with them watching the lights around the tree instead of compulsively running to grab something that will make the memory “better.” I’m actually planning to not plan. If you know me, you know that struggle is much too real for me.

I’m downsizing my own expectations on myself.

My goal is to take my normal “holiday to-do list” and cut it in half. We’ll still make homemade cookies for our neighbors, but only 3 kinds instead of the normal 6. 😆 We will go cut down our tree, but we might not try to decorate it on the same day. For Thanksgiving I’m bringing a side dish-and that’s it. I usually offer to bring more, but I don’t need to. Who wants to spend their days preparing for the holidays only to look up and realize they missed it?!?

Rori is fascinated with the tiny lights.
Rori is fascinated with the tiny lights.

Do you need to downsize your expectations this year? Maybe you struggle like I do to make Christmas the best time ever and find yourself stressed instead of joyful. Try my method. Write out what you want to accomplish and cut it in half. If you need to, ask your spouse or family to help. I’ve found things on my list I thought the kids cared about-but when I asked them they really didn’t.

Perhaps you’ll cut out enough tasks that you can actually sit through an entire movie night without getting up to do something or “pin” any more ideas on your phone. 😉

Want to see what a “downsized” Christmas looks like? Follow me @sweetestlemonade on Instagram!




Killer Ketchup

I killed it this morning. From errands to parenting to the kitchen; I reigned supreme. If you’re in the middle of “the parenting years”, you know just how sporadic these days can be. That’s why I’m celebrating!

My Killer Morning

We were out the door on time-cutting it close but still on time. Kids were dressed, snacks packed, swim bag ready to go and invites to our Friendsgiving party in the mail box. Well, most of them. I secretly fist pumped as I left the driveway.

We arrived at swim class on time and I was a strong 95% focused and dialed in on my kids. This is one of my struggles. Either I get caught up talking to other parents or I get distracted with a text and end up on my phone more than I wanted to be.

Driving up to Dutch Bro’s and the barista adored Rori. Always a win when the young coffee sellers view your kids in a positive light. She even asked what they were for Halloween! We flew over to Costco for a quick return and the littles were absolute angels. I’m saying they actually were hugging and kissing each other in the cart as we went in and out. No one threw a fit or asked me for special treats. To make it even more clear this was an amazing moment, a lady stopped me in the parking lot as she was driving away just to tell me how much she had been enjoying my kids interacting with one another and how sweet they were. Double fist pump, just not in public.

My crew pulled into the Library for 20 minutes of fun and checking out some new books. This has been our new routine. I’m weaning my kids off of treats being rewards. We back-slid a little and are getting on track now.

Last we made a stop to the new little food stand everyone has been telling me I “have to try”. It was hard to keep the kids occupied waiting for food since the food stand is literally in the middle of a parking lot, but they were real troopers considering how tired they were. Food was bomb and we made it home by 1pm.

killer-ketchup3

For a killer morning like this, I think it’s only appropriate this ketchup gets a proper name.

killer-ketchup1
Exactly how this will look when it is done simmering.

Full of flavor, rich and thick, this ketchup is fantastic. I can’t wait to try it with my homemade chicken nuggets.

killer-ketchup2

Stop telling yourself you don’t cook very often because it takes too much time. This sauce takes 10 minutes to make. That’s it. No more excuses. Get in the kitchen and make it happen!

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:50]




The Place With The Ears

A trip to Disneyland with three kids?

My head is spinning just thinking about it.

It’s daunting and exciting all at once!

Here you’ll find the best aps, sites to get Disney apparel, and places to stay for your next trip to “the place with the ears”.

I can’t believe the moment is here. This trip has been planned for nearly a year. Now it’s only 5 days away!! I’ve learned that the trick to keeping a big trip like this secret from your kids is to treat it like fight club. Don’t talk about it. If you’ve thought about what it would look like to plan a trip to Disneyland for your family, I have the best tips and tricks for you.

disneyland-clipart

First off, I am a huge fan of finding the right ratio of kids per adults when vacationing. My kids are 8, 4 and 1 1/2. In Disneyland, that means three different activity levels, events and rides my kids are going to be into. My oldest is tall enough for the “big kid” rides. The four year-old will be insanely jealous if he has to wait in long lines with his brother only to have one parent take the oldest on the ride. Rori, the one and a half year-old will be thrilled if she spends her days meeting the characters. For us, we chose to invite my parents plus the godparents. That gives us one set of adults per kid. Plus we love hanging out with them. They’re pretty cool people.

Where To Stay At Disneyland

With our big crew going, we looked at hotels and package deals. We decided to rent a house through airbnb. Not only does this give us more space, but it gives us the opportunity to cook full meals, let the kids play in the backyard, and have a nice big living room where we can all hang out. The cost of the house split between 3 families came out to just under $150 a night for each of us. That included a cleaning deposit and taxes. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me! To try airbnb, click here for a $35 credit! We booked a house that is within walking distance to the park, and you can see the Disney fireworks from the backyard. Although hotels are nice, they don’t always accommodate for families.

The Tickets

The second thing we did was buy the tickets directly through Disneyland.com. I did my research and the only great deals were with a hotel package, which is not what we wanted. For a 4-day pass, I got the price down to $70 a person a day. Every other site I looked at that could offer a better price was not reputable and I couldn’t distinguish clearly if they were legitimate Disney tickets. I am NOT going to be that person who arrives at the gates of Disneyland only to find out my tickets aren’t authentic!

disney-group

Plus, if you buy directly through Disney.com, you can link the Disneyland ap to it and scan your tickets right from your phone. No more printing out the tickets and freaking out that you forgot them somewhere!! I’m not the only one who does that right?? The Disneyland ap also lets you reserve a restaurant directly from your phone, check height requirements on rides, and lets you know about events happening that day.

The second ap I highly recommend is MouseWait. This ap tells you about the wait times for rides!!! I can’t even believe this one. I remember going as a kid and my mom had the AAA travel guide for Disneyland that told us the best time to get on Space Mountain was at 6am. We woke up so early! I was grouchy and super “unthrilled” about Disneyland that day. This ap will not only save you time, but will help you have happy kids who don’t have to wait in long lines all day!!

disney-clipart-mickey-clip-art-2

Souvenirs and Apparel

As for the apparel and random souvenirs that come with going to a place like this, we chose 3 strategies.

  1. We bought each of the kids a Disney shirt through Amazon. Partly this was our fun way of surprising the kids. We had them open the shirts as presents so they could find out where we were going on vacation. Second, now they have a shirt to wear for the first day there! I didn’t do the whole matching shirt thing for everyone, but I did want them all to at least have a Disney shirt on for the first day so we could get a group picture!!
  2. I bought each of my boys a Disney gift card. This is for them to get something fun at the gift shop, but with a limit. I know how tempting those shops are and while I’m fine with us coming home with some souvenirs, I am trying to avoid the “gimmies”. You know what I mean, the attitude and whining that comes with every passing shop because your child saw something new and shiny that they must have. I really want to enjoy this trip, and hopefully not have the kids melting in a pool of selfishness over some Star Wars toy they need in their life causing us to miss a parade or something.
  3. We decided that the kids can get one snack a day at the park, but other than that we are eating a snack we bring in our backpacks. This will do two things for us. One, it will keep our spending under control and two it will help us avoid getting sick. Our family eats real food and while we don’t mind an occasional treat, it will definitely not feel good if it becomes an entire week of exceptions. I plan to grocery shop when we get to LA. We will be cooking turkey burgers, crockpot pasta sauce, rotisserie chicken with rubies & rice side dish, and tuna patties for the dinners. For breakfasts we’re making lots of eggs and toast, cassava waffles, pancakes and bacon, and oatmeal. Lunches are just left overs or sandwiches.

Rolling Through The Park

How about maneuvering through the park with kids? We researched all kinds of ideas and purchased this stroller attachment. It’s a great way to allow for another kid to get a ride without having to invest in a double stroller. It can be a seat or a standing board. My boys are in love with it! We tried it out before the big trip. It works best for my 4 and 1 1/2 year old. Since we own a Baby Trend Jogger, this is a huge benefit. This specific jogger can actually hold our 8-year old if needed and our 4 year-old can sit on the front (he’s pretty little). Rori can sit in the attachment! So if we do get stuck in a long line our kids can rest their feet for a bit. We can also easily interchange Rori and Sam between the front and back depending on who is the most tired. While we did spend a little over $100 for the attachment, I know it is a great investment, and will make our trip much more enjoyable!

There you have it! Our trip has been paid completely and we used all cash. No credit cards or debt. We set aside money each month, looked up the costs of things early and knew what to expect. We are a one income family, but since I started this website I’ve turned it into a business! So while my husband’s job paid for most of this trip, my job paid for some of it too. How cool is that??

Vacationing is so fun with a big group. More than that, we find it is necessary to our health. If we don’t plan get-aways regularly, we seem to feel “blah” and less focused what’s going on around us. Allow yourself to rest, see some neat places and change the scenery! Don’t believe me? Here is an entire article about why traveling is good for you.

Follow me on Instagram @sweetestlemonade and on Facebook . I’ll be posting pictures of our trip and some new recipes too!




5 Creative Activities To Do With Your Kids After School

Well, you did it. You survived the summer. Somehow you managed to keep the kids busy while getting a few moments of fun in with your grown up friends too. I call that a successful summer! Now let’s talk about how to keep doing fun things with your kids even after summer ends!

Most of us have our kids back in school now, and have relished those quiet moments. Even when you have one or two left at home, it’s amazing just how serene a household can be those first few days the older ones are back in school.

While I love the summer time, I’m a sucker for schedules. They center me. I’ve found they do the same for my kids too. That being said, I feel that I am actually more fun during the school year for my kids. Having moments at home to clean, write, make a new recipe and connect with friends allows me to be fully engaged when my boys come home from school. I am totally up for playing legos for an hour or going on an impromptu bike ride as fall sets in.

During the summer, I found I got distracted easily with the to-do list in my head. Texts needed to be sent and I had those little clutter piles in all corners of my home. You know, the ones that take forever to clean up!

So long summer!
So long summer!

Am I speaking your language? Does this weigh you down too, when all you want to do is have fun with your kids?

Don’t worry. Us moms have to help each other out! Here are 5 creative activities to do with your kids after school or after nap time if your littles are still at home. My 1 1/2 year old is home with me and my 4 year old is in preschool 3 days a week, so if that’s you I totally feel ya. We especially need ideas like these on days when we want to love on our kiddos, but don’t even have the brain capacity to come up with new material!

An epic army man & robot battle
An epic army man & robot battle

5 Creative Kid Activities To Do After School

  1. Play Store. Even my 3rd grader still loves the concept of running his own store. I buy those brightly colored price stickers at the dollar tree and we bring out anything they want to “sell”. Then we set them up nicely (usually just on the couch in the living room) and they have fun putting price tags on the items. Usually the baby get put up for sale too 😄 One of us is the cashier while the others shop. Sometimes we throw in the role of a “bagger” when little brother doesn’t want to shop because he wants to do whatever his big brother does. My oldest usually gets out his calculator so he can accurately add up the items and sometimes he’ll even write out a receipt!
  2. Reverse Roles. This one’s great if your kids come home with a bit of a ‘tude and don’t seem to be respecting you so well. Sit on the couch like you’re on vacation. Announce to the “crowd” that you are switching roles with them. You are now the kid. They are the parents. Set the rules of the game. No leaving the house. No doing anything illegal. Tell them they get to do what Mom would do. In my experience it gets funny fast. I usually sit on the couch asking for snacks and telling them I want dinner (I’ll be honest, I whine about it too). They typically try sitting on the couch with me until they have to start doing the parent roles. Sometimes they make sandwiches for dinner, or decide to take a relaxing bubble bath (which is definitely a mom thing I do). After a while I either call it quits because they broke a rule or they call it quits and decide being mom is boring and that no one listens to them.😂 See what I did there? Parenting wrapped up in a game. I’m a genius, I know. You can thank me later.
  3. Dress Up Extravaganza. This one is so fun! Pick up your kids after school and tell them you’re going shopping! Take them to some thrift shops and let each of them pick out some new dress up items! My boys love using their imagination and finding random articles that can go together. I can get away with spending about $10 and my kids come home jazzed and ready to play!
  4. Moving Dinner Party. If it’s a Friday or a no homework day, take the kids to a moving dinner party! Pick a place to get your drinks, main dish, sides and a dessert. If you have littles you might want to make a rule that it has to be a drive-thru option. We like going the farmer’s market and doing the same things with the various food trucks! One time we ended up with a lavender iced tea, bbq pork fries, some fresh fruit, a big salad and gluten free cupcakes for dessert. So fun!!
  5. Chef For The Day. You know me, I had to throw in one idea about cooking! I own little aprons for all my kids. They love wearing them when we do this. It’s a great way to show you honor them and their ideas. I ask them what they want to make, and if I have the ingredients we make it. NO MATTER WHAT. Why not have donuts before dinner? Cupcakes with a spider made out of frosting? Sure!
The point here is to enjoy your kids. Stop the rules for just a moment and play with them! I know you're busy. I am too. We both decided to have children though. No job, household chore or appointment is more important than them. I propose instead of always saying how much you love your kids-show them!

What activities do you love to do after school with the kids? I love hearing new ideas to try with my crew!