Friday, 7 August 2015

Surviving very long road trips with kids

Our family made a recent cross-country road trip to visit some relatives. The destination? The town I grew up in where the oldest three children were born - we moved away from just shy of two years ago. It's been an emotional week for us but the most taxing part has to be the 16 hour drive each way. I do admit while my children travel very well there were still 5 of them. Here's some of the ways we made it to and from our destination with some sanity left.

First of all, relax.

It really is going to be OK. It might take a little longer than you had planned, you might have to listen to a lot of screaming, and you might feel like driving off a cliff but before you know it the trip will all be over and you'll start planning something for next summer... Don't we ever learn...

Plan ahead

As soon as you start planning the trip start a checklist of everything you need to bring. If you're leaving in the morning don't wait until the last minute to pack up the car, it's always going to take longer than you think. The night before get everything loaded into the car including blankets, toys, and anything the kids need. Lay clothes out the night before. Anything you can't bring out until the morning should be put somewhere handy so you can find it. Go over your list.

Explain your expectations beforehand

Before we even pull out of the driveway I give the kids a rundown of what's expected of them and what they should anticipate during the upcoming drive. Some of my rules include that I get to pick the movie so there's no fighting, we don't ask for snacks at convenience stores, and do not constantly ask me for food. There are also some basic stuff like no yelling, fighting, kicking, and other typical kid behaviour. I get more lax on these rules once we've been travelling for over 6 hours and they basically go out the window when I'm trying to keep everyone calm around hour 12.

Be ready to stop... A lot

Most kids will need to use the bathroom every 2 hours or so. If it's getting close to the 2 hour mark and you have a good place to stop take advantage of it - it will take less time than hunting for a bathroom later. Ideally, make your stops at parks or other areas the kids can have some space to run around. This is especially true when travelling with kids of various ages including babies so they have something to do while you feed the infant. If you're going in the winter time fast food playplaces are your friend. We also carry a potty in case our toddler must go on the side of the road.

Embrace the technology

Long road trips are a good time to make an exception on your screen time limits. DVD players, portable devices like the ipad, handheld game systems, or even electronic writing boards can keep kids occupied. Look for stuff that doesn't require your help to operate and games with lasting power. If you have a couple of kids multiplayer games are a good way to help them interact without having the space to play.

Keep the same routine

Little ones who normally need a special blanket, toy, or ritual before bed might struggle to sleep in the car if these aren't present. Make sure to pack these items and have them ready just around naptime so they can fall asleep on their regular schedule. It's also important to make sure the kids eat somewhat healthy foods around their regular meal times so help prevent the low blood sugar tantrums. Of course you'll never be able to keep kids completely on their regulars schedule so be prepared for some battles.

Have a few new tricks up your sleeve

A couple new toys, books, or games that you know your kids will be interested pulled out at just the right time can break up the monotony of a long car trip. If you have a DVD player new movies are always a hit. Older kids can also enjoy some low key games like travel bingo and filling out mad libs while the little ones might prefer something like a small tub of play dough or magnetic drawing pad. It's also not a bad idea to pack a few treats along with your normal snacks to offer at gas stations so the kids are asking for overpriced crap.

Pack extra

Take the time you think it will take to get there and pack for about double when it comes to consumables like food, drinks, diapers, formula, and so on. When it comes to things that your kids are dependent on, like pacifiers, make sure to grab a few spares for when one rolls under the seat or goes missing in a gas station. Make sure you have one pair of clothing for ever 2-3 hours of your journey especially if your kids are newly potty trained or infants.

Play with your kids

If you're travelling with two adults that makes this one a lot easier. Games like hangman can be played from the front seat and things like travel checkers and other turn based ones can be passed back and forth. You can also pick up a multiplayer game to join in on (Mario Party DS anyone?) or even read them a book. If you're driving you can still play i-spy, point outside stuff out to them, and tell them stories. Some of my best conversations with my kids were while I was driving them somewhere.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

I want to be worth a million by the time I'm 30

This morning a proudly announced to my Facebook friends I intend to be worth a million in the next 5 years. The post got a couple of likes, a few jokes were made about inflation and my husband's life insurance policy, but most people didn't give it too much consideration. What they didn't realize is that it wasn't a joke - I have set a goal for myself to be worth one million dollars by the time I'm 30.

Why set the bar so high? I've always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I'm starting my own business and am working to establish multiple revenue streams so eventually my husband can quit his job and work with me. The business income is necessary to fund my other projects - real estate investment. The goal is the purchase low- and mid-tier housing and flip them cosmetically for a profit. The first few we'll sell but as we accumulate more cash flow I plan to keep a couple on as rentals. Real estate investment is where I plan to have the bulk of my net worth to come from.

The business I'm starting is just me branching out as a freelancer in the industry I already work in - web design. We're in a position where there really isn't any competition in our area and a lot of small businesses to draw from. Barring extreme circumstances it's a pretty safe bet that we'll have some success in our area, mostly because I have 6 years and my husband has 8 years of professional experience in the industry.

Then there's this blog which I am really working towards updating more. Writing is a passion of mine and I hope to make this hobby into something more. I don't intend to get rich blogging but it's a nice way to unwind so I will keep doing it regardless.

These goals are extreme on their own but much more so with 5 kids, 2 of which being newborn twins. They occupy a lot of my time but they also motivate - I want to be able to give them everything. The next step is to write out a practical plan to make this happen. Nothing is impossible! Being self employed and an entrepreneur are two lifelong dreams of mine and nobody can make those happen but me.

If you read this please leave a comment with your dreams and if you're working to achieve them. If you have a link to a blog post on it even better! Or tell me I'm crazy.
Sunday, 5 April 2015

Preparing Your Toddler For a New Baby

Someone recently asked me for advice on how to prep their toddler for a new baby. Having already done this task twice they assumed I might have some kind of intimate knowledge to ease the transition.

Preparing an older sibling, especially a toddler or preschoooler, for a new baby can be one of the most stressful tasks parents face. Not only are they fretting about their newborn, they also have to mange the needs of a child who has up until now been given all the parental attention. Even with this experience I'm still worried about how my two year old will react to the arrival of the twins.

The truth is, every kid is different and there's no amount of preparation that will guarantee it to work out. Some children adapt quickly, others become difficult and act out to seek attention. There's no right way to handle the situation but there are a few things that might help.

Here are some things you can try to ease the transition for both you and your toddler:

Before the baby

Explain the baby in an age appropriate way. It's a difficult concept for small children to grasp but showing them things like clothing for the baby, the nursery, and pictures of them when they were a baby might help them understand. There are also many books on the market to introduce babies to an older sibling.

Don't make it all about the baby. While it's important to discuss and prepare for the new arrival, don't make your entire life about the baby. Try to stick to any established routines, avoid sacrificing time with your toddler in favour of baby prep activities, and open baby gifts away from your older child.

Accept that you can't do everything. It's important to accept now that you will not be able to do everything you did before with your older child. Pregnancy slows you down (or in my case hyperemesis gravidarum left me bedridden,) newborns require a lot of care, and your attention will soon be divided trying to manage both children.

When the baby is born

Have the siblings exchange gifts. Ideally, have a family member take the older child to get the baby a gift to bring when they visit you in the hospital. Likewise, have something small to give in return from the new baby.

Don't push your older child to be interested in the baby. Some older children refuse to acknowledge the baby or even their mother just after birth. Don't take this personally or assume it will set them up for a lifetime of resentment, chances are they're just not sure how to feel about the situation. Offer but don't force.

Encourage them to have fun. Have whoever is caring for your older child while you're in the hospital do some fun activities with the other child to keep them distracted while you're absent.

When you're at home

Encourage the older child to help out. Most toddlers enjoy doing small tasks like throwing away dirty diapers, fetching things, and so on. Having them pat baby's back while you're burping them or giving them a kiss when they cry are some of the ways to help the siblings bond. Again, don't force participation and understand most toddlers will probably lose interest quickly.

Have activities ready while you're breastfeeding. Simple busy bags can be put together to keep toddlers busy. Think playdough, puzzles, colouring, stickers, and so on. This will allow you to have some special time to bond with the baby without your toddler feeling left out.

Encourage time with other family members. Especially if you're breastfeeding you'll be spending a lot of time caring for your newborn. Arrange for other family members, especially your partner, to take the toddler out for some one on one time. Don't be alarmed if your toddler seems distant from you for a bit after birth.

Keep your routine. It's very important to keep your toddler on the same schedule to help them feel more secure. It may seem tricky at first to manage both but it will make life much easier as baby falls into a routine. Even if you can't do as much with the toddler as you did before, try and keep one or two things that you did pre-baby. For example, a nighttime book, dinner together, an evening walk, etc.

The biggest thing to remember is that you can't do it all. Be patient, especially if your toddler acts out or regresses from the transition, and understand that this difficult time will soon pass. 
Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Why Staying Home With Kids is Easy

I swear she does not watch TV all day... But she does love Frozen!

Being home with kids, that is it being your full time job, isn't a walk in the park. Sometimes you do walk in the park and sometimes that's magical, yes, but that's not your every day.

No, every day you are responsible for vulnerable little people who can't even wipe their own asses. You cook them food. You pour them drinks. You clean up the mess that you told them not to get out in the first place. 

You might go out, do crafts, learn something, bake, spend that quality time together.

You might scream as they destroy the folded pile of laundry, the 5th one you did today.

It's definitely not the stressful days that remind me it's easy. Those days, all on their own, are sometimes mind numbingly difficult. They're the days you sit and cry and wonder if you will ever be a good parent and know what the hell you're doing.

It's not even the good days that remind me it's easy. Sure we laugh and smile together and I might even actually enjoy my time with my kids, but I compare these days to the difficult ones and I wonder why can't I be a good parent all the time.

No, it's the days where I am the worst parent in the world. The ones where nothing gets done, my kids watch cartoons for eight hours, where I fall sleep and stay in bed all afternoon. The ones where my HG is acting up or I've contracted an illness or they have kept me up all night or all three. The ones where I feel my life has no value - when my job is homemaker and parent and I do neither. 

On those days I notice my 7 year old who has caught me with my eyes closed shuts my door. On those days my 5 year old sits next to me and strokes my arm. On those days my 2 year old wakes up at my side in bed, hungry from missing lunch because we fell asleep, and smiles sweetly at me. 

Being at home with your kids is not relaxing, it's not a way to be a better parent, and it certainly isn't glorious from day to day but it is something that no other job can ever do so well. 

It's forgiving.

And that forgiveness, when I don't even know how I can forgive myself for not doing enough or yelling too much or laying in bed, is what makes this job easy.
Thursday, 8 January 2015

5 common organizing mistakes

Are you not getting anywhere with your organizing? Does it seem like no matter what you do the house always winds up right back where you've started? Make sure you're not making any of these common mistakes.

  1. You're not cutting the clutter first.

    When a hoarder stores everything neatly in bins it's called organized hoarding. Don't just have well organized junk - get rid of what you don't need.

  2. You don't have the correct systems in place.

    Having a can dispenser in the fridge that you never use isn't going to help you at all, neither is using the wrong sized boxes or baskets for your belongings. Plan the system to the space and what needs storing, not the other way around.

  3. You're too focused on form over function.

    Sure, those baskets may fit gorgeously with your décor but if they are too cumbersome to use you wont bother. Nix the pretty lidded jars and other traps if they don't work for you.

  4. Everyone isn't on board.

    There's nothing more discouraging than everything having a home and the rest of the family not putting things back in their place. Make sure they know where things go and when in doubt use labels to help the transition go more smoothly.

  5. You're not prepared for the upkeep.

    Organizing is not a one and done situation. You have to continuously utilize your systems and either stop bringing in new items or purge what you have with each new addition. 

Remember, any house can be big enough if you have the right amount of possessions! 
Tuesday, 6 January 2015

40 Bags in 40 Days

This is part one on my upcoming series unofficially titled "we have way too much crap in our house" where I will be feverishly attempting to eliminate said crap in the house.

This is one I've seen all over the internet and presented in a variety of ways. That means it must be good right?

When I first set out on this quest I had a lot of questions. For example, should I use one of those giant Costco trash bags or a kitchen bag or a grocery store bag? Boxes? What is the cubic volume of the bag? Truthfully it doesn't matter what your clutter receptacle is as long as you're happy with it. For me it's medium size black trash bags that I had laying around and a few boxes for breakables. There will also be times where there will be large pieces that can't count as bags. Don't be a slacker and choose tiny bags but also recognize there will be times you simply cannot fill a bag. Just try. If you get hung up on the details you'll get stuck and never accomplish anything.

Anyway. What do you put in the bags? Well that will depend on you!

You can download this handy chart I've created to keep track.

For now just start jotting down, in any order, places you know need a little visit from a trash bag. Don't be afraid if there's actual trash to throw out, that's clutter too!

Here are some ideas. Keep in mind you may need more or less bags for each task. I'll bet we could easily fill 3 bags of toys!

  1. Kitchen - Plastic stuff
  2. Kitchen - Appliances
  3. Kitchen - Fridge/Freezer
  4. Kitchen - Everything else
  5. Kid closets
  6. Kid rooms
  7. Master bedroom closet
  8. Master bedroom
  9. Bathrooms
  10. Blankets and linens
  11. Living room
  12. Office
  13. Craft stuff
  14. Purses/backpacks/bags
  15. Junk drawers
  16. Coats/outerwear
  17. Shoes
  18. Board games
  19. Holiday/seasonal décor
  20. Books/magazines
  21. Kids books
  22. Toys
  23. Laundry room
  24. Garage
  25. Furniture
  26. Paperwork
  27. Garbage
Don't worry about completing your list before starting, just get a few ideas down. You may come up with ideas as you go! Leave a comment if you have any locations to add or to share your results. 
Friday, 28 November 2014

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

We have twins due May 31st putting me over 13 weeks pregnant at the time of this post. For the past 8 weeks or so I have been dead to the world, barely able to get out of bed let alone function as a normal human. I'm suffering from a pregnancy condition called Hyperemesis Gravidarum - often describe as acute morning sickness. Yes the one that the princess has.

This is my fourth time being sick during pregnancy. Vomiting daily was to be expected but in the past I had always been able to pick up and keep going - no debilitating nausea weighing me down. I took medication in only one of my three previous pregnancies. It sucked but I continued to work, cook, clean, and care for my family. The sickness improved around 14 weeks and was gone by 20.

Now I throw up multiples times a day with no relief. If I miss a dose of medicine I can't even eat. In the past month I lost weight and am still just hovering around what I weighed at my last doctors appointment. I force myself to eat and do everything in my power to hold down what I do. This would be considered a mild case of Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Many woman spend weeks in the hospital and eat nothing for months.

I have managed to stay out of the hospital, although there have been a few times where I should have gone in and didn't.

The worst part isn't the unbearable nausea, the vomiting, the dehydration, the soreness, or the headaches - it's the guilt. I've been completely useless to my family, can't spend any time with my children, and my husband has to make up for everything I'm unable to do. I spend a lot of my day laying on the couch or in bed. Movement will most often lead to vomiting.

I'm just ready to eat, to feel normal again. I know it can't last forever which helps but I  don't know how to tell people that I've been sick. They think I'm dramatic or just have morning sickness. This is also why the blog updates abruptly stopped.

Now excuse me while I go lose my lunch.


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