Author Archives: Meredith Rines

Packing Hacks for a Work Trip

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Being a working mom can be rough.  Well let’s be honest, being a stay at home momma can be rough, too.  Being a mom in general has it’s moments.  Moments where you want to pull your hair out while crying in the locked bathroom as your kid sits outside the door screaming.  It’s hard.  I’m not quite sure what this all has to do with packing hacks for a conference, but you can probably tell it’s been a day.

It doesn’t help when your little guy knows somethings up.  When he sees the suitcase being pulled out and knows Momma is going somewhere.  Not too long ago I was planning a week long conference in New Orleans.  J had to stay behind and so did our little guy.  Because though I would have loved to have taken him with me to all of my meetings, I’m sure the other business owners would have not been so thrilled.

Planning a trip away from home is hard, planning one without your family is harder.  About a week before leaving I started planning because I knew I wanted to spend as much time as possible the weekend before with my little family.  I’m sharing the best packing hacks and tips for traveling for work.  You can making traveling without your family a bit easier by creating a plan and then sticking with it.

Watch the video for my favorite packing hacks or keep reading below.

Know Your Agenda

Make sure you check out the schedule for the days at the conference, dinners and any excursions you might be doing.  Most places will let you know what type of dress attire is recommended so you can pack accordingly.  I typically dress for comfort unless the conference or group recommends dressing in business attire.  The only other time I dress in business wear is when there might be clients or prospective clients in attendance.  

Also, you should bring a cardigan with you so in case you get cold or get stuck under an AC vent you can be comfortable.

Wear comfortable shoes in case you need to walk any distance, plus flats are easier to pack.

Be Okay With Wearing Items More Than Once

By thinking ahead and planning to wear a pair of pants twice or even wear the same shoes through out the trip, you can save a lot of space in your suitcase.  Plus jeans typically weigh a lot more than other pants, so you can cut back on the weight of your luggage.  Pants are a lot easier to re-wear through out a trip than shirts are, so try to bring light-weight shirts that will easily match the pants you bring.  

Pack Only What You Need

Try not to overpack.  It makes travel a lot easier if you have a smaller suitcase to haul around, especially when flying.  Most airlines now charge for checked bags and even carry on bags.  

For our Florida vacation the airline we flew charged $25 for a checked bag and even more for a carry on bag.  You were allowed one personal item for free, which had to be able to fit under the seat in front of you.  So unless you are wearing sweats the whole time or only staying for a day then the chances of getting work attire to fit in a backpack without getting wrinkled is slim to none.  

Plan Your Outfits

Take a look at your agenda and map out what you plan on wearing each day.  Start with your pants and then match your shirts to them.  By making a list of every piece of clothing you need each day then you can make sure you don’t forget anything.  Write it all down – pants, shirts, undershirts, underwear, socks, shoes, jewelry for each day.  When packing for a work trip, your mind could be a thousand other places.  If you’re like me then you’re probably trying to make sure your kid has clean clothes for the week, food to eat, your husband has food to eat, knows your child’s schedule, work you have to finish before leaving and everything else under the sun.  By having a written packing list you can make sure not to forget anything. 

Bonus Tip: Take your list you made of your planned outfits and place it on top of your packed suitcase.  It will make getting up early for those morning meetings in a new place a lot easier.

What are some of your packing hacks when traveling for work or for fun? Write a comment below so we can all learn more!

 

Spending Freeze Recap

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The week long spending freeze is over! Woot! Woot!  Did we survive? 

I’m not going to lie, it was tough.  Just knowing I had restricted my spending made me want everything. All I wanted was Chinese food from this little local place not too far from my house.  It took a lot out of me cooking those healthy dinners instead of binging on beef and broccoli.

I will say I totally lucked out because J had some reward points built at our local gas station and scored me a free fountain diet mountain dew.  That’s love!

Let’s get back to what are next steps are after the spending freeze ends. 

Go back to spending as usual. 

No heading to the grocery store to buy twice as many groceries as you normally would. The whole point of a spending freeze is to save money, so the last thing you should be doing is spending twice as much now that it’s over.  It kind of defeats the purpose. Take a minute before walk into the store and review your list. Say a mental pep talk to keep you motivated buy only what’s on your list.

“I can do this!  I only need what’s on this piece of paper.  Nothing more! Think of my budget!”

Start thinking about your spending. 

Now that you’ve gone a week without swiping your debt card you realize just how mindlessly it was happening.  So take a second before you start back to your old habits of fast food dinners and trips to the nail salon.  Remember you don’t have to have those things and it’s better to see your debt balance go down then go up.

I want to know how you did during your recent spending freeze, leave me a comment letting me know what the hardest thing to give up?

 

Need More Help?

If you’re looking for a great tool to help keep your family on budget, then check out out my budget spreadsheet.  Each month is laid out right in front of you where you can keep track of what you budget and what you actually spend. Now you’ll know in real time how you’re doing each month.

 

Lazy Weekends

I thought it was time to do a little family update over here. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in talking budgeting, saving money and frugal living that I can overlook the smaller things – like my cute family!

This little boy has been loving Summer! I think he’s enjoyed having Mom and Dad off on Fridays to get to do fun things together. We’ve been to Grant’s Farm in St. Louis to see the fun animals and take a fun ride through the park.  He even went on his first carousel ride.  He wasn’t too sure of it, but as long as I was near he was brave enough to try.  But once the music stopped and the animals stopped moving, he was ready to get off.

J found a fun petting zoo called the Lazy L Safari Park not too far from our home, so we took a day trip up there.   It was neat.  A family had some acreage outside of a city and they turned it into a petting zoo with about 50 different species on the property.  Most of the animals you could pet and feed, except for the camels since they’re a bit mean.  Our little boy found a deer that he fell in love with.  He kept going up to him and feeding him, then the deer would follow Dent has he walked down a path.  Dent thought it was hilarious.   

You all now how much our little man loves the water after our Florida vacation a few months ago, so we were sure to fill a little backyard kiddie pool so he could splish-splash anytime.  Then when we went to a church carnival he found the one game that involved water… of course!  Dent thought it was so fun to pick up ducks, splash them down then pick up another one.  He wasn’t sure why he stopped getting prizes for picking up his ducks, but that’s because Mom ran out of tickets. 

One of the biggest days so far is when we took Dent in for his first haircut.  I thought I was going to really struggle with my baby’s little hairs being cut, but it ended up being such a great experience.  I went to a friend from high school who has kids of her own and she was able to snip his hair without any problems.  He wiggled a lot, but didn’t cry!  I took a picture of him on his trike the day before just so I could remember his sweet baby hair.

It feels like this summer is flying by.  I want time to stand still just a bit so I can enjoy my boy a little longer.  I don’t know about you, but it feels like his first year flew by and his second is going twice as fast.  I am going to savor the last few Fridays off and the rest of our Summer weekends together.  We plan on watching some fun fireworks over the 4th of July and spend some time my the pool at my parents’ house.  It’s going to be good!

Quick Tips for A Successful Money Date With Your Spouse

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What the heck is a money date?

A money date is where you set aside time to spend with your spouse to go over your weekly budget.  You also go over any bills and create a plan for spending money in the upcoming days.  A lot of spouses don’t get too excited about money dates, because it usually is a source of tension.  But it DOES NOT HAVE TO BE.  

A money date is awesome!  It gives you a chance to connect with your spouse and to spend time planning out goals.  I don’t know about you, but after a money date I always feel like J and I are on the same page.  We finally are in alignment about our checking account balance, what any debt balances are and where are money is going.  Agreeing on where you will be spending money can give you peace of mind while trying to get out of debt.  Because nothing is worse than getting to the end of the month and realizing just how much you spent eating out, running to the grocery store for those oops-forgot items or for those unplanned expenses.  That’s where the disagreements arise because your month didn’t go like one of you think it will.  

When we were first engaged I added up every time we ran through a drive-thru on our lunch breaks or the gas station for a fountain soda.  I didn’t add in the times we were together, just the times we ate separately.  It was a huge eye opener to how much money we were wasting with poor planning.  I didn’t know how much he was spending and he didn’t know my totals either.  Our lack of communication was leading us down a bad path.

But by having money dates each week or every other week, we’re finally on the same page with who is spending what and why.  

I typically recommend to others to have your money date when you’re planning out your meals for the week.  You’re already looking at your calendar to see what nights you are going to be late or which nights you want to eat out, so you might as well talk money too.

If this is your first time for a money date, then start tonight.  Don’t put it off!  There really is no need to put off doing a money date with your spouse and right now during our spending freeze, now it’s a great time to get started.  Once you’ve had your first money date then you can start having them on the nights your meal planning.  We meal plan for two weeks at a time, so we get together every other Sunday to plan out our next two weeks.  We talk money and make sure we know what each other has going on.  

Now if we are traveling or have an unexpected expense pop up then we’ll talk finances in the middle of the week.  It doesn’t have to be that big of a deal to sit down, look at your calendar, look at your budget and plan out your spending.  

Check out the quick video on my best tips for a successful money date with your spouse:

Know Next Week’s Schedule

Use your money dates as a time to plan out the next week.  By knowing what your family has going on during the next week will help you be prepared for any expenses.  For instance, summer school for your little one starts on Monday, which means the final amount for the class will probably be due.  By taking a look ahead then you won’t be caught off guard or forget when a bill is due.  

Bonus Tip: Add a reminder in your calendar for any bills that are due.  Now you won’t forget about them and can plan accordingly.  

Don’t Wait Until You’re Too Tired

One of the biggest reasons couples fight during money conversations is because they do it when they’re exhausted.  After chasing kids all day, tackling laundry and finally getting the house cleaned you’re wiped.  That’s not the best time to sit down and talk money.  You should do it earlier in the day or before the day gets too chaotic.  If life happens, which it does and the day has slipped away from you then just wait until the next day.  It’s better to wait than it is to start a fight over something small that wouldn’t even matter with a clear head.

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Plan Your Week and Meal Plan At the Same Time 

As I mentioned above, you should be able to have your money date while you are planning meals and your week.  It’s so easy to multi-task because by looking at your week you’ll know what you have going on each evening.  This will help you plan out your dinners, which nights you’re eating at home or when you have an event to attend.

Listen With An Open Mind

Make sure you never accuse or blame your spouse for something.  That’s how fights get out of hand.  Make sure you try to place yourself in their shoes.  Listen as they explain their reasoning or desire for something specific.  If it’s something that is important to one of you then by working together you will be able to plan to reach your goals.

Being open minded also means compromising for the sanity of your marriage.  This is why we finally separated out our miscellaneous funds.  J can do whatever he wants with his funds and I can do whatever I want with mine.  No questions are asked and no one is made to feel bad for their choices.  Now, we don’t do this with the big chunk of our checking account, but it’s possible with smaller amounts. 

Look Ahead To Birthdays, Anniversaries and Other Gift Giving Events

There is nothing worse than realizing your forgot about a birthday party and have to run out to buy a gift last minute.  You always end up spending way more than you wanted to.  To prevent this, look at the month ahead to make sure you know of any parties, birthdays or events you’ll need a gift for.  Give yourself plenty of time to plan ahead, shop sales and get a good deal.  Buying a gift last minute usually means you’ll spend more money than you wanted or get a gift you aren’t proud of.  So take a look at the next month or two to plan out gift ideas and time frames to buy them.

There you have it.  The best tips for having a successful money date with your spouse.  Before long you will be having productive talks with your spouse and be on the same page with where your money is going.  

What are some of your favorite money date tips?  Leave a comment letting me know!

 

Need More Help?

If you’re looking for a great tool to help keep your family on budget, then check out out my budget spreadsheet.  Each month is laid out right in front of you where you can keep track of what you budget and what you actually spend. Now you’ll know in real time how you’re doing each month.

Join the Spending Freeze Party

how to do a spending freeze

Today is the day, friends!  It’s time to get this spending freeze started!  On Friday I shared how to do a spending freeze and why in the world I’m willing to commit to not spend any money for the next 7 days.  

This past weekend J and I sat down and did a little meal planning to make sure the dinners we were going to have this week used what we already had on hand.  I tend to check our pantry, fridge and freezer while meal planning, but this week I checked it before I started making our plan.  This way I knew what meats I had on hand, what side dishes were going to be easily made and ingredients I already had.  I didn’t want to plan for a dinner then realize I was missing an ingredient or two. 

Afterwards we filled our cars with gas and paid any bills that were going to be due this week.  I said in my first post last week that any bill or emergency is find to spend money on, but I am trying to plan ahead.  For instance our daycare.  I work full time and our little guy has to be in daycare.  So I went ahead and paid that in advance so I don’t have to worry about it.  But I wont’ be doing is hiring any outside babysitter to watch our little man during the evenings.  I typically don’t do that anyway, but I just wanted to clarify. 

Remember the whole point of a spending freeze is to not spend any money for the next week. 

Being prepared is the best step in getting ready for your first spending freeze.  Honestly it doesn’t take a lot of prep work, but it’s nice to know you’re ready.

Alright, friends so for the next seven days (that’s a full week!) we will not be spending any money.  We won’t be putting gas in our cars (unless it’s an emergency, but we all filled our tanks this weekend), we won’t be going out to eat or spending money on any non-emergencies or non-utilities.  Let’s get started!

If you’re looking for a great tool to help keep your family on budget, then check out out my budget spreadsheet.  Each month is laid out right in front of you where you can keep track of what you budget and what you actually spend. Now you’ll know in real time how you’re doing each month.

How To Do A Spending Freeze

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Alright y’all, I’m finally breaking down and committing to a spending freeze.  I realized a quick little no spend week would be just what the budget doctor ordered.  I wanted to go over exactly how to do a spending freeze, what a spending freeze is and what I’m hoping to accomplish.

Check out the quick video below for more details and tips on doing your first spending freeze.

What is a spending freeze?

It’s exactly as it sounds.  For the a specific period of time you do not spend any money.  None.  Absolutely no money, unless there is an emergency.  What that means is you have to get creative and use what you have on hand for the next week to feed your family and entertain them.  

Why do a spending freeze?

Committing to not spending any money will help reset your thought process.  You will be forced to tell yourself no on those impulse purchases and those easy-to-fall-into dinners where you grab fast food or take out on the way home.  Think about the amount of money you and your family spend each week between lunches out, dinners, movie rentals, the gas station sodas, and so on.  For our family  three that could be upwards f $100 a week.  ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS A WEEK!  Crazy!  

A spending freeze is a great way to zero back in on your budget.  Get your spending in check.

If you add up how much money you can save by doing a spending freeze then think about what you could do with that money.  For us it would be paying a little extra towards a debt, putting the money aside for a future trip or just having a great time the next weekend we want to have some fun.  You can do whatever you want with the savings!  Sky is the limit!

Just think if you commit to do a spending freeze every other month and save about $100 that would be $600 for the year.  You could use that money on a nice little family getaway or even on Christmas for the family.  If you have a larger family or really like takeout you could be saving close to $300 or more by committing to a spending freeze for just 7 days.

What are the rules to a spending freeze?

Simple.  Do not spend money during the spending freeze.  

  1. Check your pantry and fridge now to make sure you have the essentials before we start on Monday.  
  2. Fill the car up with gas to make it through.
  3. Can you use gift cards that you have?  Yes, of course.  If you have a gift card to a restaurant then go ahead and use it.  But make sure yo realize a spending freeze includes tip and tax.  So if you have to dig in your pocket for a tip then save it for later.
  4. Go back to spending normally the week after the freeze.  Don’t think you have to go out the week after it ends and buy twice as many groceries.  The point is to use what you have on hand and then continue as business as usual.  
  5. Utilities and emergencies don’t count.  I do not suggest to you or to anyone not to pay your bills during this week.  If you typically pay your utility bill or cell phone bill this next week then please go ahead and take care of those.  Make sure you’re not skipping any bill payments, debts or loans amounts during this next week.  The same is true for any emergencies you may come across.  If your little one gets sick and you need to take them to the doctor knowing there will be a $20 copay then please pay the copay.  

What doesn’t constitute an emergency?

Going out to eat because you’re too tired to cook.
Buying that new shirt because it’s on sale.
Digging for change to get your gas station fountain diet mountain dew fix.
Treating the office to donuts on Friday morning because you’ve had a hard week.
Getting a sitter so you and the hubs can enjoy a night out using gift cards. (Now if you can swap those services with a friend where she watches your little one and next week you watch hers then go for it!)

How long does a spending freeze last?

It can last as long as you want.  I recommend a week.  It’s simple and quick.  You can do just about anything that lasts a week, right?  The longer you make it then the more likely it is you will not be successful.  I’m wanting to start your family and my family off on the best foot possible.  So just keep it short and sweet. If you want to do 5 days then do 5 days.  It’s up to you.

When does the spending freeze start?

We’re starting on Monday and going for 7 full days.  Take the weekend to do some meal planning by checking what you already have on hand, look at your milk and bread and fill your car up with gas.  I like to pack J’s lunches and I usually eat the night before’s leftovers.  So I am going to make sure we have enough lunch meat to get us through and then will just to make sure to cook a little extra at night for my lunch.  I’m not going to go out and buy more lunch meat if I don’t have enough, but I will get creative – tuna, canned chicken, chicken wraps, etc.  Whatever I can do to stretch what we already have.

Alright, let’s do this!  Happy spending freeze friends!  Check in over Instagram this week for more ideas and tips during our spending freeze.

Need More Help?

If you’re looking for a great tool to help keep your family on budget, then check out out my budget spreadsheet.  Each month is laid out right in front of you where you can keep track of what you budget and what you actually spend. Now you’ll know in real time how you’re doing each month.

How to Keep Your Toddler Healthy and Growing

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I’m a pretty slick ninja over.  I love finding new ways to sneak good, whole foods and ways to keep our boy healthy.   Especially since he’s in an in-home sitter’s care during the day around other kids.  I think it’s important to keep his immune system up (I know it still has a lot of developing to do) and keep him as healthy as possible.  I am very fortunate because when our little man is sick I can stay home or take him to work with me, but I know most parents aren’t as lucky.  So I keep that in mind knowing that not everyone can take off when their little one has a cold or running nose.  Now my sitter is great because if anyone is too sick or has a fever then she has a policy that they can’t be there that day.  And she’s not afraid to call and say you need to pick your little one up.  I know because I’ve gotten the text about him being sick, so she’ll do it.

I created a quick video sharing all of my favorite tricks and parenting hacks on how to keep your toddler healthy especially when the weather changes.  You can watch the video below or keep reading to find my favorite ways.  

Disclosure:  I am not a doctor so some of my ways may be different than yours.  I will explain why we use certain items and medicines for our little guy but all of the medicines came from our pediatrician’s recommendations.  So you need to consult your doctor before adding any supplements or medicines.

Fluoride Tablets

This was a recommendation from our son’s doctor.  He doesn’t get city water (he never has) so we used store-bought gallon sized drinking water for his bottles and sippy cups.  Our home is on a well, which means we don’t get any of that added flouride most cities put into their water system.  The doctor recommended a fluoride tablet to make sure his teeth develop safely and are healthy.  So each day I crush a little tablet and mix with one of his bottles of milk.  He won’t need to be on this forever, but for now we’re sticking with our doctor’s plan so his teeth come in nice and strong!

Change Their Sheets Weekly

It’s so easy to forget to change the crib sheets, right?  There is so much going on and you usually remember when you’re placing your almost asleep toddler into bed.  Ugh!  Little ones drool and snot all over their sheets at night, not to mention how they may pee through their onsies during the middle of the night.  By keeping clean sheets on their bed you will cut down on the germs they face plant in.  If you’re little one gets sick or a cold then you should be changing your sheets every few days to stop the circulation of germs.  However, once a week is enough for a healthy toddler.  I recommend changing them first thing in the morning.  We keep our extra sheets in his room so each Friday morning I strip his bed down and pop on a new set.  Takes less than five minutes to get fresh, clean sheets on his bed.  

Vitamins with Iron Supplement

Our little guy tested low with his iron at his 12 month appointment.  Our doctor recommended adding in a daily vitamin with iron.  We use the Enfamil Poly Vi Sol Vitamin with Iron because we used their formula and felt confident with their products.  Now I fully know our doctor will retest his iron at his next appointment and may say to stop using these drops.  We also have increased the amount of iron-filled foods he consumes (or at least try to, but he’s one and is pretty picky). 

snacks for baby

Smoothies

I also create baby smoothies for our little guy on the weekends or lazy days around the house.  He thinks he’s getting a special treat (especially when I put it in the fridge and let it get cold), but I know he’s getting a nutrient packed smoothie.  I tend to use a specific sippy cup for his smoothies, too.  That way it’s extra special.  I got these Munchkin trainer cups during one of his showers and I love them.  They don’t leak and are super easy for him to hold on.  

How to Keep Your Toddler Healthy

Mix Pureed Fruits and Veggies Into Other Food

Is your toddler a picky eater?  Mine is.  One day he loves something and the next he treats it like it’s the most disgusting thing in the world.  It’s frustrating.  He does this a lot with fruits, which I think is a texture thing.  He loves the flavors of most fruits like blueberries, strawberries, and melons, but as soon as you give him a piece to eat by itself he will spit it out.  Usually they end up all over the kitchen floor with the dogs trying to get to them.  So after a few attempts I came up with a backup plan.  Just puree the fruit or veggie then mix with their other foods.  

Sleep

This one is huge!  There is nothing worse than an overly tired toddler, am I right?  It’s exhausting trying to soothe a child who is so tired and still refuses to sleep.  So you need a bedtime routine and to work on sleep training your little one.  Sleep is vital for their development and their health.  Here is a chart for how much your little one should be sleeping at night and during nap time.  We aim for him to be in bed by 7:30-8:00 most nights.  Now we hope he sleeps until 7:00 the next morning without waking up, but it doesn’t always happen.  But I’ve noticed when he sleeps regularly and has a routine he does a lot better and he seems to bounce back when other littles have a cold around him.

What parenting hacks do you have to keep your little ones healthy?  Am I missing anything?  Leave a comment to let me know!

How To Keep Track of Your Baby’s Milestones On Your Phone

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As a first time mom I wanted to make sure I kept track of all the firsts for our little guy. The first time he rolled over, sat up and stood. I even wanted to get the not-so-fun moments since our little guy was in the NICU I wanted to make sure I tracked his weight and growth. I’ve talked about a newborn baby app I loved. It helped us track when he ate, how much he ate, when he pooped and more. It even had a nifty growth chart so I could track his weight and other measurements.

As a Mom you probably want to be able to keep track of and remember all of those firsts.  First time they roll over, sit up on their own, stand, and their first steps.  However, you don’t want to miss any of those moments.  You take pictures and videos to share with family and friends, but you want to know the date.  The specific date and sometimes time your little one conquered something new.  At least I did.  

If you’re like me then you’re a slacker when it comes to craft projects. You probably dreamed of creating a beautiful baby book filled with pictures, milestones and memories to pass down. But then life happened. You got busy with work, raising your child and managing your home. The pictures and keepsakes are collecting dust in the dresser drawer and you were worried about forgetting those precious memories.

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I bet you don’t want to miss any of those firsts though.  You need something that is at the tip of your fingers, something easy to jot down so you can get right back to being in the moment.  

Here’s what us moms want:

Something quick and easy to use
Something we (more than likely) won’t misplace
Something we can backup for safekeeping

As a first time mom, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing a great new app (which I’m sure exists) or some sort of journal idea, but I couldn’t find anything.  After some trial and error, I figured what works best.  Today, I am going to share with you how to keep track of your baby’s milestones for free on your phone.  

Use Your Memo Feature in Your Phone

That’s it.  Using your memo feature to keep track of baby milestones is the easiest way to remember those important dates.  It’s super simple to use and more than likely you already have your phone with you either taking pictures or video of your baby learning something new.  

 I created a memo called “Milestones” then I pinned it to my home screen on my phone (I have an android so I don’t know if you can pin a memo to your home screen in the iPhone).  That way I can click the memo on my screen and it automatically opens to update.  I keep the listings super simple and to the point.  

Here’s what my listings look like:

Smiled at Mommy 5.16 (meaning May 16, 2016)
Outgrew Preemie clothes 5.1
Rolled from tummy to back 7.11
Sat up on own 9.15
First step without holding on 3.3

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You can even use this memo to keep track of your child’s growth from their wellness visits.  I know some day I will finish (or actually start) his baby book so I want to keep track of his milestones between.  I would be so upset with myself if I forgot when he took his first steps or when he said “Momma” for the first time.  I don’t want to forget any of it, but I know life is crazy and hectic right now.  So even if I tell myself I’ll remember this day, the chances are it will start running together.

Every few weeks or so just email the memo to yourself.  I use google and gmail for just about everything (the calendar feature and as a check register) so by emailing the list to my gmail account I know I will never lose it.  I can search for it by his name and it will pop right up.  I just keep updating myself with the new list every few weeks.

You don’t want to forget these special moments and there is no need to over complicate how to keep track of baby milestones.  What do you use to keep up with all of your little one’s firsts?  Leave me a comment, I love to know!

 

Flying with a Toddler {What To Bring With You}

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Flying with a toddler or an infant can be stressful.  

Like really stressful.  I don’t know about you, but I never want to be the parent who’s kid is running around like crazy or worse – screaming the entire flight.  We all know most people are understanding and you’re never going to see them again, but for those hours in you’re in the air it’s torture. No matter how long your flight is your little one will probably not want to be held the entire time, which can be hard to deal with.  Or maybe their ears will pop with take off and landing, which can be hard to comfort them.  Or because they are a toddler they could just be unhappy because of no good reason.

Let’s talk about what you can do to make flying with your infant or flying with your toddler less stressful for them and for you.

Okay, a few weeks ago we traveled to Florida for our family vacation. We flew from St. Louis down to Orlando then had to get in a rental car and drove to Daytona Beach.  It was a long morning, even though the flight was about 2 hours and the drive was less than an hour.  But Moms you get it when I say it was still a long day.  But the 3 hour overall travel day was a lot better than the 12 hour drive it would have been if we didn’t fly.  So I’ll take it.  We drove to St. Louis the night before and stayed with my sister who took us and dropped us off at the airport (hello! No parking fees!).  Staying with her was great because we were able to follow our normal nighttime routine with our little man, which meant he was going to be rested before the flight.  We also picked a pretty early flight hoping we could catch our little guy’s nap time to make it easier on him and us.

flying with a toddler, traveling with a toddler, flying with a baby

flying with a toddler, traveling with a toddler, flying with a baby

Here’s what I recommend you prep before flying with a toddler:

Do Your Research

Check the TSA guidelines when traveling with children to make sure no changes have been made since I’ve written this post.  TSA does allow you to travel with breast milk, formula, and snacks for your little one.  Since our little guy doesn’t breastfeed and is now on milk, I just poured milk in a bottle and went through.  I had no issues and no question if it wasn’t formula or breast milk.  

You will just have to be prepared to have them taken out of your bag to be scanned by the X-Ray machine.  The worst thing to happen is to have spent time to prepare food, drinks and snacks for your toddler just to have the TSA worker throw it out.  So make sure you follow the guidelines.  For any liquids you’re traveling with they will test it for explosives.  Which means they will probably have you unscrew the bottle, hold a test strip over it and then test it. 

When we were leaving St. Louis the first test came back positive, so after two more negative tests we were good to go.  Not sure how my test came back positive, but oh well.  

flying with a toddler, traveling with a toddler, flying with a baby

Pack Only What You Need

Try to avoid overpacking so you aren’t trying to wrestle a huge bag that’s spilling over while trying to wrangle your toddler.  Pack only what you need or  think you will need.  I personally hate having a huge diaper bag that’s super heavy filled with items I know deep down I will not need.  Try to keep things light and easy on travel days.

Here’s what we packed in our carry on:

1) diapers and baby wipes
2) one small toy (that didn’t make any sound to be respectful for the other passengers)
3) iPad
4) snacks – see below for list of the snacks we took
5) milk
6) change of clothes
7) blanket

My carry on was my new diaper bag I bought off Amazon.  I love, love this bag.  It worked perfectly.  It zips close, which is great for putting it under the seat in front of me on the plane.  It can be easily carried as a backpack or cross body bag, which was super nice to have.  Plus it has the stroller straps so I could hook it onto the stroller through the airport.  

Here’s my recommendations on the snacks for your toddler: keep it simple.  Try to pack foods that can be easily closed or could be put into a sandwich baggie.  Try no to bring anything for the plan that will melt or be too messy.  Also think about the sticky factor.  You know which snacks your little guy probably loves, but he ends up a sticky mess after eating.  If he ends up sticky the changes of you getting sticky are pretty high.  

The snacks we brought:

individual bags of cheese sandwich crackers
multi-grain Cheerios
sweet potato puffs
baby food pouches
apple sauce pouches

We did bring more snacks and foods with us in our checked luggage to save money.  This vacation was planned on a budget using a technique that helps us save for anything we want.  So we didn’t want to overspend once we got to our destination.  I knew baby food and snacks were going to be a lot more expensive at the beach in Florida than it would be in Southeast Missouri.  We used freezer bags to make sure if anything was busted than it wouldn’t get over everything.

Gate Check Your Stroller

Did you know most airlines do not charge for checking a stroller?  You can strap your little one in and quickly make your way through the airport, which helps a lot when you have a suitcase to get from the baggage area.  Just make sure you put a name tag on the stroller to be safe.  The airline will put their own tag with your name and flight info, but as we found out the hard way that tag can easily fall off.  So by having our name on a bright orange luggage tag we were able to quickly identify our stroller.

Check your Car Seat

Again, most airlines don’t charge for checking a car seat.  You can gate check them, but we just put ours with the luggage.  Actually, we bought a cheaper one that wasn’t as heavy since we knew we wouldn’t be in the car that much during our trip.  Our chicco car seat is amazing, but it can be pretty heavy.  They make car seat travel carts that looked pretty neat, but we just went with the easier option of checking it with our luggage.  

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You have to check your airlines reviews for traveling with a car seat.  Some handle them really well and others are a bit more careless.  I had read some horror stories of people traveling with their expensive car seats just for the airline to destroy them.  The airline is obligated to replace any seat that is damaged, but most of the time they give you a cheap version and call it good.  I didn’t want that happening with our big one, so we just packed a less expensive one.

This system worked great for our flight out.  Our little man passed out before our wheels left the ground and slept the entire flight.  We used the same technique on the way home, but our little guy wasn’t tired at all.  Luckily J and I were able to sit in aisle seats so we could let him stand between us. 

 

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Summer Family Activities for Free

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It’s summertime!  Oh how I love Summer.  When I was younger Summer was my least favorite season.   When I was in middle school through high school I would have to help my parents in the yard on summer weekends.  It was always so hot and so miserable.  We would have to pick up sticks on their 5 acres, burn leaves and work around the yard.  I hated it.  I used to beat my sister for volunteering to stay inside to clean the house.  I would much rather have cleaned the entire house and made lunch for everyone than having to sweat outside picking up sticks.  As I’ve gotten older and the yard we have is much, much smaller I don’t mind summer yard work nearly as much.  Now don’t get me wrong I would much rather be having fun on a hot Saturday morning, but I’ll take a hot summer day over n ice-filled winter one. 

Now that I’m older and have a family of my own I like to save those hot days for finding free and fun stuff to do.  I’m bringing you my complete list of free activities you can do with your family this summer.  You may have to be a little creative, but you and your kids can have a blast checking these items off.  In case you missed it, not too long ago I created a list of free activities to do during the fall, but I figured it was time for a season update.  Plus it goes perfect with our spending freeze we’re currently doing.

I love finding fun things to do as a family especially when they are free!  

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Here you are – a complete list of free summer activities for your family:

  1. go swimming – around here most public pools are free or you could always befriend someone with a killer backyard pool!
  2. go to the zoo – we’re lucky because the St. Louis Zoo doesn’t charge for admission and if you get there early enough then parking is free too!
  3. head outside for a picnic
  4. scavenger hunt in the backyard
  5. sprinkler fun!
  6. have a game day where you play board games inside
  7. go to the local park
  8. camping
  9. checkout an outdoor movie
  10. museum free days
  11. explore the public library
  12. host a summer reading challenge

You can print off a PDF of the summer activities, too.