Hi, I'm Jess! I'm a work-at-home mama, an Air Force wife, a woman consumed with wanderlust, a foodie who loves cooking up something scrumptious, and a morning person driven by that first cup of coffee. I'm so happy you're here!
Summer break is officially here, and this is the last summer I have before my oldest runs off to college…I mean, kindergarten. And if there’s one thing I’ve already learned from the whole week I’ve had all three of them home all the time, it’s that the summer days are long (so, so, so, sooooooo long). So to keep us all sane, we—as a family—came up with our 2018 Summer Bucket List.
The majority of these things will be weekend activities when my husband is home to partake with us. During the week we’ll hang out with friends, and lounging around the house for far too long in our pajamas.
Our 2018 Summer Bucket List
I’m actually pretty curious how many we’ll get to cross off and accomplish this summer. All of them, I hope, but I know real life kicks in, and even though the days are long, the time will go by extremely fast.
Obviously this summer bucket list is specific to living in San Diego, California, but if you’re looking for some ideas this summer, maybe you’ll find a few on here to help jazz up your days.
I’ll update here as we do things!
go to the Zoo and the Safari Park (we have a membership, so these will for sure get crossed off)
hang out at the beach
have lemonade stand (my husband is currently building them a stand!)
picnic at the park
take bella to the beach (bella is our dog, just in case you’re wondering)
camp in the backyard (this is building up to an actual camp out or glamping)
have a movie night
swim in pool
play at the splash pad
eat breakfast at the beach
watch the sunset at the beach
watch clouds go by
go fly a kite
check out the fair
go on a nature scavenger hunt (I need to find a cool one on Pinterest for the kids)
go fishing (any local ideas for fishing are more than welcome!)
check out the natural history museum
What’s YOUR Plan for the Summer
Since we already went on our summer vacation, this is pretty much our plan for the next few months. What are you up to? Any ideas I don’t have on our list that are great for young kids? Share them below!
After we booked our Disney Cruise, I did I did what 30-year-old women do: I researched the heck out of our trip. Only “research” today means I scrolled through Pinterest. So, basically, I spent a lot of time “researching.” That’s where I discovered Disney cruise door magnets, and after the first mention, I was hooked!
It turns out that when you cruise with Disney, people decorate and personalize their cabin door, because the whole door is metal. Also because, why not?
Pumped with the idea of customizing our cruise door, I started scouring Etsy for some fun ideas. If you’re crafty you can make some DIY versions on your own…I didn’t have the time or patience for that, so Etsy came to my rescue.
Of course, there are all sorts of fantastic shops out there with great ideas, but I kept coming back to the same one: Disney Cruisin. I’d like to thank Lovie, the shop owner, for her guidance, fun personality, and her generous offer of gifting us with our Disney cruise door magnets. And she’s being generous to you, too. Read on to find out what she’s offering!
So the magnets: the designs are printed right onto the magnet (as opposed to a printed picture of something and then sticking a magnet on it), and I loved the unique and customizable sets she offered.
Lovie’s been an artist all her life, and once owned a sign shop, but needed a little extra…magic in her life. She stumbled on the Disney cruise door magnet-making business about five years ago when her daughter’s family planned a Disney Cruise and told her about the secret world of door magnets. Since she’s been drawing before the Internet (her words, not mine), she set out to make some magnets for them.
Selling her sign shop, but still putting her skills to good use, she found her Disney Cruisin home on Etsy. “I can’t find a more fun thing to make,” she said, while at the same time admitting that she still loves making Disney cruise door magnets just as much now as when she first started.
When I asked her if she could pick her favorite design she said that was almost an impossible question. “Choosing a favorite Disney magnet or even a favorite Disney character, to me would be like choosing a favorite color! I have never been able to settle on just one, or 10. I like them all; I like each new design that I create, and really have fun with it until I’ll create another new one, then it’s my favorite.”
Speaking of favorites, my daughter was looking over my shoulder one day when I was browsing her designs, and she kept pointing to everything, saying how much she wanted it. I mentioned to Lovie that I was having a hard time picking, because they were all so great, and she suggested we pick one set for each day we’re on the cruise.
Say what?! With that extra freedom to pick, we had some fun choosing our sets…and even more fun when sprinkled our Disney cruise door with fun magnets every morning.
First Day of our Cruise: Captain Mickey
We plastered classic Mickey up on our door the first day. I mean, Captain Mickey is pretty much running the show on the ship, so he deserved to have the first day devoted to him!
I loved, loved, loved the “baby” with the pacifier. Too stinkin’ cute. Plus, she customized the bows for the girls!
By the way, did you know that on Pirate Night you’ll get free bandanas on your bed after they clean your room? That way, if you didn’t bring anything festive for Pirate Night, you can still “dress up.”
Did you know that each Disney ship has a character statue in its atrium? The Disney Wonder features Ariel, which just so happens to be my girls’ favorite Disney princess.
Plus, Little Mermaid just works so well with a going on a cruise, don’t you think?
This day was Julia’s favorite day, and she went crazy over it when she first saw it the Ariel theme. In fact, she insisted (and actually asked politely) if she could “be the dinglehopper.” I somehow got talked into being Ursula.
(Side note: we totally have Ariel’s head on upside down here. I insisted that it went above the porthole, but Julia was adamant that her tail needed to be on the bottom. Some battles aren’t worth fighting, but I regret not sneaking in a picture with it the “right” way.)
To make things a little interactive with the guests walking by our room, I put a dry erase board out with a little question of the day.*
Someone thought they were clever, though and wrote down the title of a Star Trek movie. And if I’ve learned one thing from being married to my geeky husband, it’s that there is, actually, a big difference between Star Wars and Star Trek.
*When I go again I’ll make sure I get a lighter dry erase board, because even though this one had magnets on it, it was too heave to stay on the door; I “propped it up” with magnets with hooks I brought for our cabin.
This was my middle one’s favorite day, but also my least favorite day, only because I knew it was the last full day on our cruise. When Madilyn saw me pull these out she got super excited since she’d been eating Mickey Bars for dessert for the whole trip. I, on the other hand, loved seeing Minnie; she’s just so classic and timeless.
These were awesome, and truly one of my favorite days, although I think I’ve said that about all of them. Lovie is right; I don’t know how you can pick a favorite.
Just like on our “Star Wars Day,” I put up our dry erase board again and asked guests walking by our room to vote on their favorite: Mickey Bar or Dole Whip.
I was actually a little surprised by the results! I totally thought Mickey Bars would win (although, I’m totally a vote for Dole Whip.) By the way, did you know you can get Dole Whip (plain or with alcohol) on the Disney Wonder? Find it at Sulley’s Sips for an extra charge. And get your Mickey Bars for dessert at dinner or ask for it delivered right to your room with room service.
Pretty much everything can be customized. And since we had two rooms on our cruise, my mom went ahead and bought Disney Cruise door magnets just for her room, too! This one is the Minnie Mouse Personalized Name magnet.
If you know what you want and need them now (you do, by the way!), then use the code JESSICALYNNWRITES to score 10% off your entire order.
Also while you’re window shopping, be sure to pin your favorites from her site and you can get an even bigger discount (message her before you place your order with links to your pins), and she’ll hook you up.
So here’s the thing: I swear we’re not crazy for taking three kids under the age of five on a cruise. There was a somewhat planned out method to our madness, and it started one day when I looked at my San Diego bucket list and remembered I wanted to go on a cruise while we’re stationed here. I thought about how fun a Disney Cruise would be, so I looked it up.
Lo and behold, there were a few that fit the bill (not literally, though; I’ll talk about how much they cost in a bit). There were several traveling down to Mexico, and then one caught my eye that made me book a room on the spot.
Literally. I called Disney to talk to them about it, and about 15 minutes later I had a placeholder for not just one, but two rooms…without talking to my husband first or my mom first. (But I promise I’m not crazy).
How I Booked the Cruise (Without Actually Booking it First)
The voyage I found was a “repositioning” cruise from San Diego to Vancouver, BC. The Disney Wonder—that’s the ship we went on—was wrapping up it’s southern trips and heading up north to start its Alaskan trips, so it had to get up there somehow.
We wanted to see as much of California as we could before we move again, and I’ve always wanted to visit Washington and Oregon, so like I said…it was perfect. So perfect that I called my husband after I “booked it,” filled him in on the magic we were getting ourselves into, and held my breath as I waited for his response.
“Go for it,” he said!
(I’m not gonna lie; I didn’t think that would be his response.)
We actually had 48 hours to decide if it was really something you want to do. When you call Disney you can have a placeholder on a room(s) before actually booking it. No money down or anything like that—they didn’t even take my credit card number. They simply gave me prices and I gave them my name and email to hold everything.
Get this, we booked it through Disney, but then actually transferred our reservation over to Costco Travel, so we ended up getting Costco’s travel incentive (a gift card to Costco).
Party Of Six
I mentioned my mom earlier, and she’s an integral part in this, because we have three kids under five years old, and cruise rooms are teeny tiny. Of course, we love having her with us, but it’s also always especially nice having extra pairs of hands and eyes for the little ones.
We booked two verandah rooms on our Disney Cruise, which is a fancy word for the fact that our rooms had balconies. We also made sure that they were connecting rooms so we could meander between both. Not only did they connect on the inside, but we could also take the partition down on the outside to make the balcony into one long deck instead of two.
Another bonus to having a second room? The girls slept in my mom’s room, and then we had Logan in our room. It worked out perfectly.
Too Much Fun for the Kids
Speaking of the kids, they had a blast. I’m going to dive into what they did in a future post, but until then, here’s a quick look at the kids’ scene on board a Disney Cruise.
We called it “kids’ club,” but it’s officially called the Oceaneer Club and the Oceaneer Lab, and it’s for potty-trained kids ages 3 to 12 years old. They do have really cool looking places for the older crowd, too (Edge for tweens, and Vibe for teens). Essentially, they can stay and play in there from 9 am until midnight, and they’ll even feed them lunch and dinner. This is all included in the cost of your cruise.
Beyond just playing in there, they have classes, activities, and even story time for them, and Disney characters make appearances often throughout the day.
Getting them in and out of their kids’ club is really secure, so it was like a breath of fresh air to have them play in there and not have to worry about them.
As for Logan, since he was only a year old and definitely not potty trained, he stayed with us the majority of the time. Since there were three adults, this was never a problem. We still gave him naps in the room during the day (thanks for watching him then, mom!), and he went with us to different activities.
We used their “It’s a Small World Nursery” two hours every night after dinner for him to sleep there while we did the nighttime activities. They were delightful and so thorough with watching over little ones.
More coming on the kid’s scene soon!
How Much it Costs:
As for the cost, let me first share what’s included so that the sticker shock isn’t as jaw dropping.
First: all the food you can eat. Seriously. With the exception of alcohol (which you can BYOB, by the way), and a fancy restaurant on board, everything you want to eat is free. Room service is free. Ice cream or pizza at all hours? Free and free. Three appetizers and dessert for dinner, or two main courses and all the dessert you want? Free, free, free, free.
You’re also paying for transportation and a place to sleep. Most cruises are round trip, so if you live near a port you don’t even have to think about renting a car or transportation. In this case, our Disney Cruise took us one way up to Canada, and then we rented a car and drove down the coast back home.
As for our room and board, we were there for five nights, so that was five nights of a “hotel” included in our price.
And by the way, the housekeepers clean up your room twice a day, which was one of my favorite parts of cruising. They clean it in the morning, and then again for the turndown service before bed. Talk about a dream come true!
If you go on a Disney Cruise your cost also covers entertainment like outstanding live, Broadway-style type shows, first-run Disney movies, classic and favorite Disney movies playing by the pool and on your stateroom TV all the time, and of course, all the Mickey, Minnie, and other favorite character signings. They also have all sorts of fun onboard to keep you busy and entertained: Towel folding classes, pub quizzes, dance parties, BINGO (but you do have to pay for that), fun tours and trivia games, and so much more.
So, for two rooms and six people (including tax, vacation protection plan, and tips for everyone on board), it came out to $10,000, which came out to $600ish per person/per day. Keep in mind this was for TWO balcony rooms. We had four in one room which came out to around $6,000, and the other two people were technically in the second room for around $4,000.
Can you go on cheaper cruises? YES. You can certainly find deals out there, and you can even get cheaper rooms on the Disney Cruise, but I also knew my kids would really enjoy this one. And they totally did!
You Can See The World
Another awesome benefit to cruising is that you can see the world. During our Mediterranean cruise I visited different parts of Italy, Greece, and Turkey, and I probably never would’ve visited there if it wasn’t for cruising.
This time we went to San Francisco and into Canada, and for our next cruise (spoiler alert: we booked another Disney Cruise for next year), we’re going to Mexico!
Cruising is just such a fun way to travel, and I love that the majority of the planning is done for you. They have excursions planned for you that you can take (for an extra charge), or you can simply get off the ship and do your own thing.
More to Come From Our Disney Cruise
That’s a pretty brief overview for our Disney Cruise; I have several more posts planned and coming soon, but hopefully that’s enough to whet your appetite for the moment. If you have questions about specific things, let me know, and I’ll either write a post about it, or make a whole new post about it.
We truly had the best time, and I’m going through cruise withdrawal now that I’m back on land and don’t have the amazing Disney magic popping up around every corner.
Have you been on a Disney Cruise before? What was your favorite part? Do you have questions about cruising with Disney? Leave them below and I’ll answer them in a future post!
Mamas, admit it: if we could have any two super powers they would probably be to magically keep the house clean, and be able to snap our fingers and have dinner appear every night without having to lift a finger.
At least those would be my two genie-in-a-bottle requests…along with an unlimited gift card to Target and Chick-fil-A, for all tantrums to sound like giggling, and for their poop to actually smell like roses, of course. But I’m getting away from myself…
A few weekends ago I helped my friend Elisabeth, who is also a mom-to-be, become a super hero when it comes to dinner. We put together a mini freezer meal baby shower workshop where her friends and family all gathered together and made her 10 freezer meals right then and there.
The best part is that she literally didn’t have to lift a single finger; I looked over at her a few times and saw her chatting with her guests, munching on the delicious food, and enjoying herself.
Actually, I’m lying. I had her lift the meals and put them in the freezer…all for the sake of a picture, because before we knew it, there were 10 delicious meals getting stacked in her freezer for later.
She also had each friend who made the meal write their name and a little note on the bag, so when her family eats that meal, she’ll know who made it for her.
But Wait…That’s Not All!
Her shower was awesome. Or, I suppose I should call it a “sprinkle” since it’s for her second baby, but truly, her friends showered her with love.
Love, and delicious treats and sweets.
Having a mini freezer meal baby shower workshop is a pretty genius idea all on its own, but my mama friend got wind of our mini fluted pan and asked if we could have a Mini Bundt Bar, too.
Heck yes, she could!
Baby Got Bundt (Cakes)
Because it was easy to put together, and everyone loves cake, we created a do-it-yourself mini cake bar! So 36 “baby” bundt cakes later (it only took three boxes of cake mix, by the way), we had the makings of a our bar.
Chocolate, lemon, and funfetti “baby” bundt cakes graced the table, and there were nuts, candy, chocolate, and fruit in the Cool and Serve, and of course, lots of frosting.
Throw in some fun toppings, and some treat boxes for the cakes, and each guest got to take home their own DIY baby bundt for later.
How to Have a Freezer Meal Baby Shower
Freezer meals are just the bees knees, and if you’ve never been to a workshop before I highly encourage you to try one out. The beauty of a freezer meal workshop with me is that I take care of all the hard work. I send you an exact grocery list, and the meals are spelled out and ready for you in recipe, so you just get together with your friends, prep everything, toss it in the bag, and you’re good to go. Feel free to join my Facebook group so you can know when I’m having my next Freezer Meal Workshop!
Here’s how a workshop works in a little more detail:
1. Gather Some Friends
Whether you want to sprinkle a new mama with a freezer meal baby shower, or just make freezer meals for your own freezer, it’s best to have at least a total of four people who want in on the awesomeness.
2. Pick a Menu
As the host or mama-to-be, you get to pick what menu you want. I have dozens of menus available, so we can find one that fits your family’s needs. Looking for paleo-friendly or vegetarian meals? I have you covered. Want to take advantage of the lovely summer weather and grill some nights? We can do that, too. I have kid-friendly, classic comfort foods, and everything in between. With the exception of the grilling meals, they’re all made for cooking in a slow cooker, Deep Covered Baker, and some people are using them in their Instant Pots, too.
3. Buy your Pantry Package
Once you have your menu picked out, it’s time to buy your pantry package that comes with all the spices you need for your meals. If you’re thinking, “Jessica: I have a cupboard full of spices. I don’t need any more.” Well, I’m right there with you. Except for the fact that I’m willing to bet most of your spices are expired. And, while they may give you some flavor, I can almost guarantee you they’re not as flavorful as the ones from Pampered Chef. Trust me…they’re really good!
4. Buy Your Ingredients
Once you’re ready for the workshop, I send you your Grocery List. That’s right, I send everyone a customized grocery list so you know exactly what they need to pick up—down to the Tablespoon of flour—for each meal. That also means that you can be as thrifty or organic with your shopping, but typically each meal comes out to around $2 or $3 a serving. Technically our meals serve four people, but you can easily get double that out of one meal.
It’s also super helpful to have the spices unsealed and ready to go. I get baskets from the dollar store to hold all of the spices (not necessary, but nice to keep things all together), a couple buckets for trash and waste, and then larger bowls/baskets to hold the Ziplock bags while you dump the ingredients inside.
6. Prep Those Meals
If it’s a workshop (and not just a shower), everyone brings a cooler along with their ingredients, you get to work prepping the ingredients (chop, dice, cut, open cans, etc.) for each meal. If you’re local (currently in San Diego), you use my tools and I’m your sous chef—helping you peel, chop, mince, slice, whatever you need; I also do all the cleaning if I’m there with you. Talk about easy, because before you know it (about 2 hours later) you have 10 meals ready for the freezer!
7. Enjoy Dinner Without Lifting A Finger Later
This is the best part. The night before you want to eat, put the freezer meal in the fridge to thaw, and then pop it into a slow cooker the next morning. Didn’t thaw it in time and want it for that night? Place it frozen in a Rockcrok, defrost it in the microwave, then move it over to the Slow Cooker Stand.
Bam. Dinner’s done!
Want More Info?
Feel free to join my Facebook group so you can know when I’m having my next Freezer Meal Workshop, or if you’re not in San Diego and want to have one with your friends, and we can chat about setting one up!
Wow. Wow, wow, wow. Here we are. One year. That first birthday is such a milestone, isn’t it? 365 days of being alive on this Earth. So much growth, bonding, learning, failing, and living done in a year.
A few days before his birthday I got overwhelmingly sad thinking about my dad. It’s like the mark of Logan turning one meant that it really has been more than an entire year without him. There’s this whole new person that he never got to meet.
The very beginning of Logan’s life started with my dad (totally random and awkward, but he was conceived on my dad’s last birthday), and my dad was one of the first people we told I was pregnant. I have a video of it, and I’ll cherish that forever.
But Logan? Logan came into our life during a time when I needed him the absolute most. I never thought I wanted a boy, and he’s captivated my heart in a way I never thought it could happen. His sisters love him to pieces, and he fits in our family perfectly.
As sad I am that the baby stage is over for this part of our lives, I’m actually pretty excited to see this little dude grow up into a boy and then into a man. Every day I remind him that he’s smart and kind, and I pray he’ll remember that as he grows up.
We were actually home in Albuquerque for his birthday, which meant we could actually celebrate with family. Family flew out for the girls’ first birthdays, but we didn’t have a single thing planned for Logan’s big day, so this was extra special.
I’m so thankful for the impromptu party his grandparents put together on short notice. As a military family we don’t get to celebrate often with family, and since my husband wasn’t even around for it, this party was icing on his little cupcake.
Keep scrolling down for more pictures of him enjoying his first cake!
Likes: dancing, trying to sing (which is just a loud screech), playing with his sisters, eating (specifically, mac & cheese, oatmeal, veggie straws, and quesadillas), watching the girls clap (he’s so close!)
Dislikes: being over tired, having a poopy diaper, and when everyone leaves him and blocks him in baby jail.
Milestones: He got another tooth (5 total now), and we moved him into a big boy car seat (still rear facing, of course). He also went on a long road trip back to NM and rocked the trip.
Weight/Height: 22 pounds (54th percentile) and 2′ 6″ (30 inches; 23rd percentile), so he’s on the shorter side, and pretty average for weight.
Clothing Size: 12 months. I need to clear out all of the 9 months, because it’s just a pain to have to try to button them!
Sleep: Eh. My kids just stink at sleeping. He’ll have a couple decent nights, and then he’ll just want to be picked up, snuggled, and then put back. On our road trip we were sleeping in the same room, so we snuggled most of the night. The boy is my favorite snuggler out of all the kids, but I don’t sleep well when he’s in the bed with me. But oh, how I adore his little body against mine.
Random Tidbits: This is getting to be my favorite part of this age, because they can start communicating with you. And watching him play with his sisters? Oh gosh, it’s priceless.
How are Mama and Papa Doing? I solo-parented again for half of this month, and did pretty good. Kenny missed his birthday, but that’s life in the military for you. On the bright side, watching Logan’s face light up when he sees pictures or videos of Kenny is ADORABLE. He squeals and tries to clap. He just gets so excited!
*I’m a month late with publishing this, but since he turned one he now takes a few steps, claps when he’s excited, and is sleeping through the night more often than not. Life is good!
Happy birthday, little dude! I can’t wait to celebrate many more with you over the years.
This past Saturday was one of the best days I’ve had in a really long time. My husband was away for work during the entire month of April, so it felt like a luxury and a treat to have him home with us. He’s here for a while (woohoo!), but just having him back made our family feel whole again.
I try really hard to keep myself and the kids busy so we won’t miss him too much, but words can’t even express how complete he makes our family.
But back to Saturday. We had plans, and then those plans changed a few times, so we rolled with it, and decided to make lemonade out of lemons.
When we got there we strolled along the long Oceanside pier. There were fisherman (and fisher-ladies, too), all along the sides, and now the girls want to go fishing.
Since that will last all of five minutes, we’re going to put that idea on hold until they’re older.
After the long pier walk (both girls were whining and complaining by the time we got back), we said they could go down and play in the sand.
Mind you, we had absolutely zero change of clothes, let alone beach attire with us (because of said plans changing). And anyone who has kids knows they don’t just dip their little toes in water and be done with it.
Nope. They want the whole shebang when it comes to checking out the beach. Not that I can blame them; I love the beach!
I let my guard down, and we let them have some fun.
Thankfully I had sunscreen in the van, so I slathered them all up and down with it, and once we realized Logan wouldn’t just sit contently in the stroller, we practically stripped him down to his birthday suit and let them all enjoy it.
The water was cool and refreshing, the sand had specks of gold in it that shimmered like glitter, and the kids all had a blast; it was one of those moments where my heart swelled looking at my family and being thankful I get to call them mine.
Thankfully, this beach has a playground, so we lured them away from one fun place to go play at another one. We left in stages, so there were minimal (actually zero) tears when we actually did leave.
We could have made an entire day of it, but since we didn’t even have towels with us, I think we spent the perfect amount of time there.
Our day continued when we had the most delicious lunch at this hole in the wall about 10 minutes east of the beach. Miramar Fish Tacos and Beer—that’s the actual name of the place, and since that’s exactly what we were in the mood for, we tried it out.
Holy pan-fried potatoes, batman; it was fantastic.
I started with a michelada that was so good and perfect not just because it was Cinco de Mayo, but because we had just been hanging out in the sun, and it was cool, tangy, and refreshing.
The kids got fish sticks, and they each devoured three of them, which was delightful in and of itself, and we got a kid’s quesadilla that the boy gobbled up.
Kenny picked the California Burrito, which was perfection wrapped up in an oversized tortilla.
It was filled with fried fish, grilled fish, smoked tuna, French fries, and avocado, and the different flavors and textures in it worked so great with each other that every bite was exciting. Topped with some of the house salsa and, YUM!
I picked their street-sized tacos, because I love that you can taste a variety when they’re on the smaller size. When I asked for a recommendation, our waitress didn’t even hesitate: “Octopus,” she said. Done.
That octopus was unbelievably flavorful and tender (it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite things to eat from the sea, by the way), and it’s the taco I started with end finished with. I also ordered a jalapeno shrimp that packed a lot of heat, and I was thankful my husband’s burrito came with some beans to cool things down. Their smoked tuna taco—also recommended since that’s what the place is apparently known for—had a really great texture and flavor to it, almost like it had been smoked for hours. And last, but not least, was the arrachera steak taqueso taco, which was easily another favorite of mine. The marinated steak was cooked with some cheese that left this nice frico surrounding it, and it enhanced the flavor all around.
Gosh, it was good! I don’t know when we’ll need to go back up there again, but we both decided we’d love to taste our way through the menu, because we have a feeling everything on there would get two thumbs up.
We rounded out the day with attempting naps (one out of the three slept), and then a mini family photo shoot that afternoon.
My friend Chrissy Walther offered her talents as a fundraiser for our MOPS group, and I jumped at the opportunity. I’m all about family pictures, and there was no way I’d pass it up.
Our time with her was so much fun, and to see the kids run, play, and laugh outside is always something I love experiencing. We saw a few back-of-the-camera shots, and I am seriously sitting at the edge of my seat waiting for her to send us more pictures, because I am in L O V E with them.
These are the only official ones I’ve seen so far, but not you can see why I literally can’t wait to see more. Words can’t even express how stinkin’ adorable this is. I want to laugh, cry, and snuggle him all at the same time—she captures moments you want to cherish forever, and I’m so thankful.
Don’t get me wrong; I LOVE the Terracotta pot I got last year for Mother’s Day. I mean, I actually cried when I saw it for the first time, because it was so stinkin’ thoughtful, and my husband got all three kids’ hand prints on it (including our less-than a month old baby). I’ll keep it with us, wherever we move, from now until forever.
What Mama REALLY Wants For Mother’s Day
But this year I want stuff for Mother’s Day. I’m fully admitting that I want fun things for me. Is that wrong? Yes, I love those handmade gifts (and have actually requested a homemade card and anything else my daughter’s want to create), but I also love me some presents. I could certainly just go buy these things, but where’s the fun in that?
Mother’s Day is already on my husband’s mind—he asked when it is (May 13, 2018), so here’s my Mother’s Day gift guide for him this year, and I’m sharing it with you in case you see something that you need to send to your other half, too.
The first time I sipped this wine I actually stopped sipping it started to almost chug it. Totally unlady-like, I know, but Oh. My. Gosh. This wine is smooth…like, well, you guessed it: like butter.
Here’s the best part about this chardonnay: you can get it at Costco for $25. Come to mama!
Also, this is a little lame to admit, but that double bottle from Costco will probably easily last me six months. Twenty-year-old me is probably laughing her head off, but I’m such a lightweight after having babies!
Speaking of drinks: I don’t need these things (because I already have and love them), but maybe you need them:
I’ve been out of the fashion sense for about three decades, so I don’t know if this is a fad everywhere else, but here in San Diego, you’re one of the cool kids moms if you have a trucker hat. Well, this mama wants to be cool…or at least fake it with a fun hat.
I love me some Chip and JoJo, but now that Fixer Upper is all said and done, I need another way to get my fix of the Gains Family. This new cookbook, Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering, looks amazing, and I need it in my life until I can make it to the actual Magnolia Table in Waco.
Oh, how I get a kick out of some of the matching mom and me clothes out there. I have the onesie for my son already, but I need to build up my collection and get one for each of the girls and one for me.
These shirts are what dreams are made of, by the way. SO comfy and flattering!
This will forever be on my Mother’s Day gift guide list, because there’s nothing better than having a little rest and relaxation, aka, an entire hour in a room without someone saying, “MAMA,” over and over and over and over and over again.
Honorable mentions that I’ll always love:
Breakfast in bed
Pictures and cards from the kids
A clean house
Dinner made for me that night
What do YOU really want this Mother’s Day?
Come on, mama, be stingy, greedy, and a little materialistic. What would go on your Mother’s Day gift guide?
Going on a Disney cruise is pretty darn exciting all on its own, and simply uttering the words, “We’re going on a Disney cruise!” is enough to make my inner five-year-old freak out and get all giddy.
We’re officially less than THREE weeks away from our five-night Disney Cruise on the Disney Wonder, and the excitement over here is building by the hour. I mean, how could it not?! This all-inclusive vacation is filled with Disney magic around every corner for five days straight! All the food we can eat, all the M I C K E Y we can handle, all the childcare (yesssss), amazing entertainment, and complete fun at our fingertips!
But just in case you have little kids around who have zero clue for what they’re in for, here are a few things you can do to bring them some Disney magic before you set sail.
How to Build Excitement for your Disney Cruise
The best part about this list is that almost everything is free. And free is my favorite when you’re paying an arm and a leg for a Disney cruise.
I’d love to hear how you build excitement for your family-fun adventure on a Disney cruise! Tell me all about it below.
Make a Disney Cruise Countdown
I really wanted to be crafty and make something fun for our countdown. I scoured Pinterest and found fun things to go on our fridge, and I liked those cool paper chains, but when it came down to it, I needed something a little more practical and simple.
This free printable was perfect. I popped it in an old, unused frame and bought a dry-erase marker, and we were in business. I actually had every intention of being a little crafty and painting the frame red, but that clearly didn’t happen. You can do that, though, just to add a little extra magic to your countdown.
My daughter’s been keeping track of the countdown, so she gets to practice writing out her numbers and counting down. Thanks, Disney, for making this an educational experience!
Watch more Disney
This might sound like a no-brainer, but if you don’t already have your boob-tube on Disney or Disney Jr., change the channel now. My kids love watching PBS and Nick Jr., but when we booked the cruise I started flipping it over for some Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and popping in some classic DVDs like Little Mermaid, Cinderella, and The Princess and the Frog.
I want the characters aboard our ship to be familiar when the girls see them, and I point out that they will get to see them on the cruise.
Buy Disney Apparel
You don’t have to go crazy for this one. Some of my recent favorite Disney clothes are from Walmart, because the prices are excellent considering the kids will grow out of them by the end of the season anyway.
The girls both got matching Minnie Mouse swimsuits for their birthdays, and some Minnie tops and bottoms to wear. We also found some Minnie flip-flops at Old Navy, and I got the baby some outfits from Walmart, too.
Target has some fun women’s Disney T-shirts, and so does Walmart online.
Our phone call is scheduled to ring a week before our cruise, and I know the girls are going to go crazy when my phone rings for them. I’ll post an update here on how it goes.
Watch Cruise Videos on YouTube
This is my daughter’s favorite thing to do right now. I know those unboxing videos are all the rage for kids, but my daughter is obsessed with watching Disney cruise YouTube videos. We’ve actually learned a lot from them, and I get more and more excited every time I see one with her.
If you watch Disney YouTube videos, I’d love to hear about your favorites!
Set a Potty Training Goal
If you’re going on a Disney cruise, chances are you’re going with a young child…so if that little one of yours is still wearing diapers, this idea is for you.
This past year I’ve joked that our middle child was going to still wear diapers in college, because I seriously didn’t think that potty training would ever happen for her. Until we booked the cruise.
I had a goal in mind, and through some Jedi mind trick, we helped make our stubborn girl see that she had to be potty trained for the cruise.
Here’s the thing: I wanted it to be her idea. We talked about the cruise and the awesome kid’s area, the Oceaneer Club, so much and basically told her that if she didn’t go pee and poop in the potty, they wouldn’t allow her in there. (This is true—kids have to be three years old and potty trained.)
Slowly but surely, it worked. She wanted to be a big girl and not have to stay with her baby brother in the nursery (where I told her the babies will just sleep the whole time). She’s about 95% potty trained right now, and ridiculously excited to join her sister in the Oceaneer Club. I’m calling that a giant win.
There are a few things I’ve been getting in the mail for our trip, and talk about exciting—they’re going to make our trip so fun! I’ll share more about these must-have items soon, but if you want to see a sneak peek, check out my highlights section on my Instagram profile from your phone!
If you know anyone with a AAA membership, you can have them pick up some fun reading material on the cruises. My girls flipped through the catalog, so they enjoyed that for a little bit. If you’re Costco members you can find some Disney travel info in the stores, too.
Okay, now I want to hear from you! How do/did you build excitement for your Disney cruise?!
“Do your boobs hang low, do they wobble to and fro? Can you tie ’em in a knot, can you tie ’em in bow? Can you throw them over your shoulder like a continental soldier? Do your boobs hang low?”
As funny as my tweaks to that classic song are, I totally feel like it’s 100% true. I started my nursing journey more than five years ago with barely there “A” cups, and let’s just say that I’m moving down the alphabet in terms of cup sizes the more I nurse my babies.
I’ve collectively been nursing for four years. That means four years of having my boobs change drastically, and literally having tiny humans suck their life-giving milk out of me. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it.
Since I’ve been there, done that, and my third baby doesn’t seem to have any intention on stopping anytime soon, I wanted to share some breastfeeding tips and secrets I’ve learned over the past several years.
This is a sponsored conversation on behalf of The Breastfeeding Shop via SoFluential Media. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Stop, Slow Down, and Enjoy It
This one’s going first, because I’m nearing the end of my breastfeeding journey, so it’s on the forefront of my mind lately. You may be at the beginning of the road and it seems like all you’re doing is nursing. It can literally be a time-suck, and I get that, but just know you won’t always be feeding your little one every 2-3 hours (or more…cluster feeding is so hard).
As your baby grows, they’ll start needing less of your time, which will make your time with them even more precious. Try to enjoy it. Pick out your favorite features as they’re in the comfort of your arms. Stroke their hair, their ears, or rub their back.
You’ll hear it time and time again, but these days of giving everything you have to them are so, so long, but the years are short. Before you know it you’ll be down to only nursing them once a day, and then—BAM—one day it will end, and you’ll wonder how it happened so quickly.
Especially as they get older and especially as you have more kids, it’ll be so easy to want to just stop a nursing session early, or try to hurry them along, but stop and soak in their baby-hood, because one day it will all be over and you may just miss it.
Get a good nursing bra
I’ve mentioned this before in a post with all the things you need to breastfeed, but finding the right nursing bra is vital in my book. You want one that’s going to be comfortable and can grow with you, and will last and hold up. I get the same new bra for each baby, and it’s just so comfortable. I actually need to start bra shopping again for a non-nursing bra, and I’m absolutely dreading it.
Skip the Nursing Cover, Breastfeed in Public, and Still be Discreet.
Okay, this tip is for when your little one is still little and not wanting to play gymnastics all over you during a nursing session. Fancy covers out there are excellent, and if they float your boat then go for it. But if you want to ditch the nursing cover, wear a long tank top under your top, and then use your shirt (the one on top) as a way to cover your exposed boob.
Once your baby starts getting mobile and curious about the world he may start popping on and off and looking everywhere, so just be prepared for possible boob exposure when that happens. But when they’re actually nursing, their head will most likely cover whatever your under shirt and over shirt isn’t hiding.
If you’re not sure about this method, try it at home and practice before doing it out in public.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, all you need to nurse are boobs, but really, a few more things are quite nice to have around. Like a breast pump, for example.
Even if you’re nursing exclusively, don’t write off the idea of having a pump just yet. They can be AMAZING. Having a little stockpile of frozen milk isn’t just nice for when you’d like a nursing session off (say, at 3 am, for example), or maybe when you want to go on a date, or possibly later down the road and you need to use some of your magic milk to help with something like pink eye. It’s just nice to have.
And if you’re a military spouse, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t have one, because Tricare doesn’t just cover them—they give one to you at absolutely no cost. Getting one is easy…like, ridiculously easy. All you have to do is upload your prescription to The Breastfeeding Shop, pick your pump (there are more than 9 to choose from), and they’ll take care of the rest.
This is like night and day different from how I got my first pump years ago, and I highly recommend you take advantage of this opportunity. You can get your prescription for a pump from your OB doctor or some pediatricians will also write one for you. The Breastfeeding Shop can also obtain it for you if you provide the right info (this is the route I took since I knew I’d probably lose the prescription.
But wait! That’s not all!
Tricare will also pay and cover additional accessories for your pump, and let me tell you: this is incredibly amazing, because even if you don’t use your pump often, you should still change out your parts. Click that box on the form so you don’t miss out on getting pump parts shipped right to your door.
Talk About It
Here’s a huge breastfeeding tip: If you’re struggling with nursing and want to continue, talk about it. Find a trusted friend who’s been there and done that, and talk about it with her. Search for a lactation consultant and set up a session or two. And if the two of you don’t jive for some reason, find someone else.
There may be a movement to normalize breastfeeding, but no matter how much attention breastfeeding gets, nursing is hard, and it’s definitely not easy—especially at the beginning. So if you have questions or concerns, chat about it with someone who can help.
We aren’t meant to do this mom thing alone. Find a breastfeeding group, or heck, just start up a conversation with a mom at a park. If there’s one thing new moms love to talk about it’s about our labor stories, our boobs, and our kids.
Did you know that when I got married I could barely boil water?
That’s a funny little ice breaker I say at my Pampered Chef parties, but it’s also pretty true. I couldn’t cook to save my life. In fact, I got a book called, “How to Boil Water” at my bridal shower. (That book, by the way, is still one of my favorites for how-to do simple things that one should know how to do, but might not.) I could make a fantastic quesadilla and guacamole that turned heads, but that was truly it. Everything else I tried to make failed in a really big way.
Before I got married my mom and I actually spent a good month making enchiladas and taco meat over and over again, just so I could have something to feed my new husband besides quesadillas.
Slowly but surely, I learned how to cook. Yes, my husband could cook for himself, but as a new stay-at-home wife, The Pioneer Woman became my best friend during the day. Her blog posts took every direction step-by-step, and soon, I was actually making edible food.
I also realized how easy it was to make a meal. I learned how to use real ingredients and herbs to make meals that would explode with flavor in your mouth.
I also have Pampered Chef to thank for a lot of it. I picked up a Mix ‘n Chop at my very first party, and it literally changed the way I looked at cooking. It was easy and fun.
I bought that because I wanted to buy something at my friend’s party, and the price point ($13) wouldn’t set me back much since I didn’t spend much time in the kitchen. As much as I love our awesome cookware and higher priced items now, that little tool is still my favorite thing in the whole catalog.
Flash forward about five years later. I was a mom of two, and I wanted out of the house. I also wanted to do something with my life. I was a writer with a fun blog as a hobby (ahem, this one!), but I missed bringing in money. I wanted to buy my own Starbucks, or go shopping at Target without having to dip into our joint funds.
I thought about all the things I could do, but a little voice in my head kept reminding me about how much I loved that darn Mix ‘n Chop. Then I heard something that really resonated with me: “Enriching Lives. One Meal and One Memory at a Time.”
That’s Pampered Chef’s cornerstone. Yes, Pampered Chef is a direct sales company, and yes, we do sell things, but it’s so much more than that.
We celebrate mealtime and realize that it’s more than just putting food on the table.
It’s how we transform relationships, where we create traditions, and literally where families come together to mold memories. The time-saving tools truly do save time so you can spend those extra minutes with your family.
It makes cooking, which could be looked at as a dreaded chore, fun and exciting!
I signed up with the company two and a half years ago, and I’m so thankful I get to share the tools, recipes, and memories with so many people.
We live in such a fast-paced world, and with a drive-thru on almost every corner it’s easy to forget about what cooking a meal at home actually means.
My kids may scoff and not eat everything I put in front of them, but I truly believe that just by actually making food (whether it’s from scratch, semi-homemade, or out of a box from the freezer), I’m helping their future. Not just from a nutrition perspective, but how they’ll view food and how they’ll contribute to their own family.
Then, the company itself is giving us more than I ever could’ve imagined.
I love that I’m going to take my mom on an all-expense paid vacation to Florida later this week, and that I’m working on a trip to Hawaii for next year with my husband. I’m so thankful that I could pay our Georgia mortgage while it was in between tenants last year, and I love that I can pay our utilities out here.
In fact, because we have extra money coming in now, we can take a Disney Cruise up the California coast later this month. And this is on top of all the kitchen stuff I get for free, the friendships I’ve made along the way, and of course, food that actually tastes delicious.
And they’re giving. So giving. Pampered Chef offers fundraisers year round, and regularly contributes to Feeding America and the American Cancer Society, and products also have a certain amount that is donated to these causes.
So many great things. We actually made some comfort blankets at our conference last year to give to patients going through chemo, and they had a canned food drive there, too.
We have so many options for parties: fundraisers, home cooking shows, fun Facebook parties (they’re fun, I promise!), freezer meal work shops, wedding registries, and more!
Don’t worry, I’m not going to push you to have a party or sign up with me; I just couldn’t keep quiet about my passion for this wonderful company that’s been around for more than 30 years. Of course, if you want to know more about anything, I’m just a comment, Facebook group, or an email away!
I just had to share, in more than a few words, about what this company means to me. It allows me to work from home with my three kids literally right by my side, help pay the bills and for vacations, and it literally helps me put food on the table. You just can’t beat that!
Do you own any Pampered Chef? Have you been to or hosted a party before? Have you heard of the company? I’d love to hear how PC’s been in your life (if at all)!