Unpacking Guide

August 10, 2018

Unpacking after a move is one of those tasks you often dread before you even begin.  Planning your new home's layout, finding space for all of your items, and figuring out what to do with all the empty boxes are just a few of the chores to contend with.  Today on Progressive's Life Lanes blog I shared a few of the unpacking techniques that I employed last year when we moved from Kansas to Hawaii with a curious toddler in tow.  It was still difficult but having a plan made it much less daunting!  Head on over to Life Lanes for the full article.

I was paid for the article I wrote for Progressive but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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2 Cute Swim Cover-ups from Amazon

July 30, 2018

white beach coverup

white beach coverup

white beach coverup

I'm all about simplicity when it comes to what I wear over a swimsuit.  Most of the time I either wear my favorite denim shorts over a one-piece or one of my two cover-ups from Amazon.  Buying clothes from Amazon makes me a little bit nervous for some reason, but since these cover-ups are one-size-fits-most I figured they would be pretty hard to mess up.  And I was right!

This white cover-up has the cutest tassels and the hemline is very simple.  It's chiffon so it's nice and lightweight too.  It comes in a bunch of fun colors, but I prefer a piece with versatility that I can wear with everything, so that's why I bought the white one.  It's only $15.99 and on Prime so if you're looking for a cute and cheap cover-up then this is the one for you!  I wore it on a solo bike ride and trip to the Fripp Island adult couple weeks ago.  I rarely get the chance to do anything alone so I'm seizing every opportunity to use my parents as free babysitters while we are together this month :)  My hat is a recent purchase from H&M but unfortunately I can't find it online.  It's my first non-floppy straw hat and is my new favorite!  This one is pretty similar though.  Oh and you can barely make out the stripes on my swimsuit but my bikini is from Lively.  I saw an Instagram ad a few weeks ago and immediately ordered this suit.  It fits really well and is very nice quality.  

I've had this pom-pom one since November and it's always a fun one to wear.  (This photo was taken back in December when my parents visited us in Hawaii.  We went out on a pontoon boat in Kaneohe Bay with my friend Kait and her husband.  It was so much fun!)  It's chiffon too so it's great in the summer heat.  It comes in a bunch of colors, but I'm partial to the classic navy and white pairing.  The hemline dips a bit on the sides so the cut is a little different than the one above.  This cover-up is only $16.99!

Have you had any Amazon clothing wins?  I always love hearing about affordable clothing options so please share if you've found something awesome!

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Flying Solo with a Baby and Toddler

July 24, 2018

I recently flew from Hawaii to Atlanta with a 2.5 year old and a 9 month old.  Alone.  I'm not going to lie, I dreaded the trip for months because I knew it would difficult.  My kiddos are sweet and wonderful, but they are both challenging in their own right (as all children are).  Jack is strong-willed and likes his freedom, and if he's on foot he will bolt and won't listen.  Caroline had never flown before so I wasn't sure how she would handle it, and she does not enjoy being put down.  My prayers must have been heard because the flight turned out to be a painless experience and both children behaved beautifully.  Here are some of the things that helped me or things I learned during the trip.  I also shared some photos and tips on Instagram Stories and saved them to my Highlights (labeled "Kid Travel Tips"), so feel free to check that out too!

Book a Direct Flight when Possible.  We initially booked a trip with a layover in LA because it saved us a few hundred dollars.  I think the Lord had mercy on us and made the first flight so late that it was a guarantee that we would miss our connection.  I woke up the day of our flight to a notification about the delay and was given the opportunity to change my flight to the direct flight at no charge.  Not having to deal with loading and unloading twice immediately removed so much stress.  If at all possible go with a direct flight, even if it's going to be long!  

Accept Help.  I went into the trip knowing I needed to swallow my pride and accept all help when it was offered.  Gate attendants held Jack's hand while I folded up the stroller, a flight attendant held onto my suitcase while I got us situated in our seats, fellow passengers played with Jack, kept an eye on him when I went to the bathroom, held Caroline while I installed Jack's carseat, helped me with my overhead luggage, another flight attendant held Caroline while I got our stuff ready after we landed in Hawaii, etc...I was all about accepting help because I knew I simply didn't have the hands to do it all myself.  People are often more willing to help than you'd expect, so don't be afraid to ask a nice looking person for help or accept help when it's offered.

Bring a Car Seat for your Toddler.  I know many toddlers do great in an airplane seat, but Jack is the kind of child that needs to be restrained on a plane.  I knew that I needed him to stay put while I went to the bathroom or if I had my hands full with Caroline, so I am a firm believer in bringing a car seat onto a plane.  You have to make sure your car seat is FAA approved though, and there is often a small airplane logo on the car seat letting you know if it is or not.  (This is the carseat we have.)  Jack has always been great in the car seat when we're in the car, so that familiarity helps out a lot on the plane.  He was able to sleep about 3 hours in it too, which I know is often a complaint for people traveling with toddlers in regular airplane seats.  I knew that I couldn't carry one more thing so I strapped the car seat to a small carry-on roller bag using this strap (under $20 and it's a total lifesaver!).  

Bring a Simple Stroller that you can Push with One Hand.  I debated long and hard about which stroller to bring: our beloved Uppababy Vista or the double BOB jogging stroller.  The double BOB isn't my stroller of choice at home (unless I'm running) because it's bulky and a bit unwieldy when you try to fit it in a small sedan, but it was a lifesaver in the airport.  It's easy to maneuver through people with one hand (my other hand was pulling a suitcase with a carseat attached to it), and it's all one piece which made folding it less of an ordeal.  The Uppababy Vista is an amazing stroller, but it would have ended up in 3 pieces once folded and I knew that that would be difficult to manage while wearing a baby and trying to keep a toddler from escaping.  I thought the double BOB would hard to get through security because it's so wide, but it was a total breeze.  It's also much better on the beach now that we're here at Fripp Island so I'm still really happy with the choice.

iPad.  I'm so thankful we had the iPad because I wasn't able to pull up the in-arm tv due to Jack's carseat.  I loaded it up with free Amazon Prime downloads that he had never seen before, as well as some of his favorite shows.  With Prime Video you can download things to watch offline, and as soon as you start watching something you have 48 hours to watch it before it expires.  Once you connect it back to the internet though the 48 hours resets, so it's not like you have to download it all over again if you want to watch it offline once the time expires.  It was super handy!  I had Cars 3 (I purchased this because J loves the Cars series), Doctor MacWheelie (a little odd but great for a kid who loves vehicles), Peg + Cat and Super Truck of Car City.  I think I'll add Brain Candy TV to the next flight because he seems to really love that right now.  This is the iPad case we have, and I love that it can stand up on a table and it also has 2 handles that are easy for a toddler to hold.
airplane bassinet

Bulkhead Seat and Airplane Bassinet.  The tray tables and TV screens are different in bulkhead seats which made things more difficult, but the extra floor space was a lifesaver.  I was able to put Caroline down on the floor in front of me when I needed to, and was able to let Jack stand up or sit on the floor as a quick break from his carseat.  I also didn't have to worry about Jack kicking the seat in front of him, since there wasn't one.  We had a big issue with him doing that while sitting in his carseat on the way to Hawaii, so it was a relief to eliminate that stresser.  Not being able to put a bag under the seat in front of me also made things more difficult, and the seat pocket was tiny so it didn't hold much either BUT this is the only seat that you can get the airplane bassinet, and that thing was a true God send.  Caroline slept 5 hours in it which left my arms free to entertain Jack and sleep a bit more comfortably.  From what I've gathered, many long haul/international flights wait to assign the bulkhead seats until right before the flight in order to accommodate for families that may need it.  It's always worth a shot to ask!  I called the airline before the flight and they put the request in my reservation notes and then I mentioned it again to the ticketing agent when we were checking our bags, and then by the time I got to the gate the gate agent called my name and handed me tickets that were bulkhead seats.  I was shocked it actually worked out.  I had to ask the flight attendants for the bassinet and they set it up once we were in the air.  Caroline was almost at the length and weight limits and it's not ideal if the child knows how to pull up.  But I was able to nurse her to sleep and then place her in it without any issues.  The safety straps on the bassinet must always be latched when a child is in it and the cover was about half an inch from her face. (See photo below)  Only wide-body aircraft (the ones with 2 aisles) have bassinets (and they don't always have them), but if you can get one if you're flying with an infant it will change your life.  We flew Delta, by the way, and they call it a SkyCot.  Not sure how it works on other airlines.

Snacks.  Jack is super picky so I brought a bunch of snacks with me.  Apple sauce is his favorite food so I packed a bunch in a plastic baggie (they're smaller than 4 oz. so no trouble getting them through security, plus I believe TSA makes an exception for baby food).  I know eating when you're bored isn't the best, but in order to survive a 9 hour flight with a toddler easy and healthy snacks are essential.  I tried to choose things that weren't very messy, so applesauce pouches, graham crackers, Goldfish, and raisins fit the bill.  Although Jack did end up eating the brownie that came with my meal, so he inevitably ended up covered in chocolate anyway.

Keep Wipes Easily Accessible.  I made the mistake of not taking wipes/diapers out of the diaper bag before I put it in the overhead storage bin.  Digging for them overhead while wearing Caroline was pretty tough, and Jack got messy as soon as he ate his first snack so I wish I'd had wipes stashed under my seat.

Bring Your Quickest Baby Carrier.  For me that is my Wildbird Ring Sling.  (I have two of the solid linen slings and brought both of them with me.)  I like it so much better than a structured carrier because I'm not dealing with velcro or clips and I can put it on in about 1 second.  I like it better than anything that requires tying because I can keep the sling fully threaded and just tighten it a bit once I put Caroline in it.  I wore her while boarding the plane, while walking around during the flight, when I went to the bathroom, etc...so there was a lot of on and off.  You definitely need your carrier to be quick and I would hands down recommend a ring sling to every mom.  Plus they fold up nice and small when they're not in use and I was able to roll it up and use it as a pillow during the flight.  (My pillow was used to cushion the bottom of the bassinet.)

Wear Comfy Pants with Pockets.  Comfy, elastic waist, pull on linen pants with pockets saved my life on this trip.  I always either had one or two children with me when I went to the restroom so being able to go quickly without much trouble was essential.  Jeans are way too uncomfortable for a long flight, and yoga pants (which I normally love) don't have pockets, so this cheap pair of pants from Old Navy was such a great impulse purchase (they come in lots of colors too which is nice).  The pockets were really handy for stashing pacis, cars, plane tickets, or tissues and there is a good chance that these will be my new go-to travel pants.  Also, wear comfy shoes that are easy to take on and off.  These are my favorite white slip-on sneakers (although my exact pair with brown laces is old and no longer available).

Wear a Comfy Nursing Tank.  I always recommend this nursing tank to every nursing mom.  It's more comfortable than a bra and hides your belly if you have to pull your top up when you nurse.  I own three of these (two white and one gray) and they're the absolute best!  I wear it almost every day.

Bring Sweaters and Socks.  Planes are often freezing so I brought all of us sweaters and socks to wear once we were settled in our seats.  I also ALWAYS travel with my lululemon Vinyasa scarf.  It can snap so it can be used as an infinity scarf/nursing cover, but you can also leave it unsnapped and it works great as an extra blanket.  I love that it has a little stretch to it and it's super soft.  Mine is 7 years old and looks brand new.

Inflatable Split Ring Float in a Boppy Cover.  I know most people bring Boppy pillows on long flights so that their babies have a place to sleep that is relatively comfortable.  I thought about doing this but really didn't want to lug one extra thing with me.  I ended up buying this cheap inflatable split ring float and inflated it partially (not allowing air to go to the animal head on the float) and it fit PERFECTLY inside the Boppy cover.  I ended up not having to use it since we had the bassinet, but I tried it out at home and it worked really well.  I think this is a great way to avoid having to carry the full Boppy pillow, since it fits nicely inside the diaper bag when it's deflated.  If this is hard to picture check out the Kids Travel Tips I saved in my highlights on my Instagram Stories.  I talked through what I did and showed what it looked like.  I probably won't be able to get the bassinet on our return flight so will definitely use this little trick on the plane.  

CozyPhones.  Aren't these headphones genius?  They're way more comfortable than traditional headphones and provide less distraction for an inquisitive toddler.  I'll be honest, Jack ended up just watching the iPad in silence most of the time because he's not crazy about anything on his head, but CozyPhones headphones work really well if your child if your child will actually wear them!  One downside is that they are fleece so they'd probably be hot if you used them in the summer or not on a plane, but for a chilly plane they are perfect.  I'm so glad an Instagram follower recommended them to me!  

New Toys.  I brought a set of small construction vehicles and surprised Jack with a new one whenever he would get antsy.  He drove them up and down the sides of his carseat and loves those things.  I also traveled with a new box of crayons and a blank notepad but he wasn't able to really use it because the tray table could not open due to the height of his carseat.  (Note to self, bring a clipboard next time.)  Water Reveal Pads are also great and we swear by them, but sometimes the pens leak in your bag and they can easily roll under the seat if you're not careful.  

Pacifier Strap.  I confess, Jack still uses a pacifier occasionally.  It helps him chill out (he does not have a mellow bone in his body so I need this for my own sanity), and it also helped him handle the altitude changes on the flight.  He hasn't used a pacifier strap in about a year and a half but I decided to bring one for this trip anyway.  I'm so glad I did.  I knew I wouldn't have a whole lot of mobility on the flight so I didn't want to have to pick it up off the floor whenever he'd drop it.  The strap saved me from bending over and searching for it under the seat.  Even if your child is beyond needing a strap I'd definitely use one for a flight in order to save yourself some trouble.  (And yes, we will wean him from it eventually but with his developmental delays he doesn't fully comprehend what we say a lot of the time and he wouldn't understand why it was suddenly taken away.  Plus we have to get back home to Hawaii at the end of August and I'm not about to risk flying without it.) 

If you have any travel related questions, ask away!  I learned so much from this flight alone with the kids and am happy to share any tips that may help you on a future trip.

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A Walmart Clothing Revelation

July 20, 2018

my top (sold out) | denim shorts | Jack and Caroline's outfits are from Smocked Auctions

I'll be honest, I've turned my nose up at Walmart clothing for as long as I can remember.  Even just the thought of going to Walmart has given me anxiety for years because it's such a massive store, it's always packed, and in the past it simply hasn't done a great job with branding and creating a positive shopping experience (like Target does).  But then I flew home from Hawaii and my mom was there waiting for me at the airport.  Looking adorable.  In a high neck striped swing dress from Walmart.  I was immediately intrigued.  I knew that she had been buying bras and workout clothes at Walmart for years but I didn't realize she had started wearing real Walmart clothes.  And I didn't realize they were actually cute.  Unfortunately the dress is completely sold out and I'm so mad she didn't tell me about it earlier!  Ok, not really mad, but bummed I couldn't add such a cute and affordable (under $10) striped dress to my wardrobe.

We went to Walmart a few days later to get some groceries and I couldn't help myself.  I just had to scope out the clothes.  And you know what?  I found some adorable stuff!  I've since made 2 or 3 more trips to different stores and have found something every time I've gone.  I've noticed that the smaller sizes are typically pretty picked over in stores and online, but if you catch an item when it's relatively new, or if you scope out a few different Walmart locations you can often find some real stunners.  

So far I've purchased: 

3 peplum tops (red gingham, black gingham and blue stripes...they're sold out now, unfortunately)

a pair of white jeans (under $17 and they are now my most favorite pair of white jeans ever.  I'm wearing a size 2.  My top isn't from Walmart but it's cute and affordable so here is the link.)

2 striped athletic tanks (under $5!  I think it looks cuter in person.)

an awesome simple v-neck tank top (I have the solid white color but am interested in the ombre blue color)

2 striped button down dresses ($13 each, I bought the red one as well)

a striped tie-waist sweater (I tied it higher and differently than it's done in the website photos and I think it looks way better this way.)  I'm also wearing the white jeans from Walmart in this photo.

a striped baseball cap (only $1 right now and similar to my beloved J.Crew seersucker cap)

and a solid colored baseball cap (I bought the white one but this light pink one looks exactly like mine from Urban Outfitters from last summer.  It comes in many other colors too.)  

Can you tell I'm hooked?  It's like a treasure hunt for me!  I guess that's always why I also love thrifting so much, it's such a rush finding something good in unexpected places.
I also love these bow slide sandals (under $7 and they come in a couple cute colorways) and this striped gingham ruffle sleeve top, but haven't purchased either of them yet. 

I got a pretty big response after sharing some of my finds on Instagram, so I knew I had to compile a blog post to share more of my finds.  My favorite brand there is Time and Tru.  While the photos on the website don't do many of the items justice, and you really have to wade through some not-so-pretty things before striking gold, I have been so impressed with the cute things I've found.  Unfortunately their sizing runs large, in my opinion, and I think the size Small tops are a bit too big on me and they don't offer an XS.  (I'm 5'5" and 125 lbs.)  I've gone with the size Small though because you just can't beat the price! 

If you love a bargain but have previously turned your nose up at Walmart like I have, I suggest you give them a look!  They offer even more options on their website and that's where I found the striped dresses.

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How to Style High-Waisted Shorts

July 18, 2018

shorts | t-shirt | sandals (similar) | bag (similar)

This weekend I finally wore a pair of shorts I've been dying to wear for months.  I'd put it off though because I couldn't figure out what top I should wear them with.  They're high-waisted seersucker shorts with an adorable scalloped hem, so I didn't want the top to be too intricate, but I also didn't want to pair it with a boring white t-shirt.  Enter the flutter front t-shirt (the one I referenced in this recent blog post). 

High-waisted shorts are great because they accentuate the smallest part of your torso, but finding the right shirt to wear with them can be a bit tricky.  They read as a bit more formal than your normal mid-rise shorts, and I think this flutter-front t-shirt from J.Crew is the perfect compliment to any pair of high-waisted shorts.  It looks a little dressed up because of the vertical ruffles but it's comfy like a t-shirt.  Perfect for a summer day!  This shirt also comes in a pretty blush color and a light blue stripe, and at only $20 I'm considering buying both of them.  For sizing reference, I normally consider myself a size Small but bought this in an XS and it fits perfectly.  This shirt would also look great paired with a high-waisted skirt.  I have this scalloped hem skirt in the olive color and can't wait to wear them together when I get home.

Here are a couple iPhone photos taken at the house my aunt's family is renting this week here at Fripp Island.  It has the prettiest view of the river!  Also, I love this last photo with my mom in it.  I hope I age half as well as she has.  Caroline is wearing this top from Old Navy that is so similar to mine.  I'm such a sucker for matching my sweet baby girl!

If you don't want to wear a tucked in shirt with high-waisted shorts then opt for a shirt with a tie at the waist.  These shirts are often a bit more cropped (they don't show your belly though) so they look really cute paired with high-rise shorts.  This button down version is adorable and I'll probably wear it with the shorts the next time I wear them.  I think it looks better with the sleeves rolled up one or two more times than they are on the website photo.  Rolled sleeves make button down shirts look more casual, so that's typically how I wear them.  Plus they're great if you're nursing a baby like I am.  This tie-waist t-shirt would also look great paired with this style of shorts. 

My shorts are sold out in many sizes but these high-waisted seersucker shorts with a ruffle at the waist are so adorable and are really similar.  As are these solid colored scalloped hem shortsHere is another version of the shorts too.

Oh and this bag I'm carrying is my mom's but I love this straw basket tote as well as this cute one I found on Amazon!

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Questions to Ask Before Signing a Lease

July 16, 2018

I always get overwhelmed before signing a lease.  Anyone else?  There are so many thing to take into account and it can be difficult to remember to ask all the pertinent questions.  Today on Progressive's Life Lanes blog I shared 7 important questions to ask your landlord or property manager before you enter into any rental agreement.  Head on over to Life Lanes for the full post!

I was paid for the article I wrote for Progressive Insurance, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Monogrammed Seersucker at the Beach

July 11, 2018

outfit details:

my swimsuit (top and bikini bottom version, high-waisted version is sold out) | my monogrammed hat, Caroline's bikini, Jack's swim trunks c/o Princess and the Pea | turkish towel (similar) | Jack's shoes

Aloha from Fripp Island!  I'll be honest, our trips to the beach do not look like this unless I make a point to take semi-staged photographs before we even get to the water.  Such is life with a busy toddler and a mobile baby! 

If we took photos once we started swimming it's a guarantee that Caroline would have sand in her mouth and be covered in sand from head to toe because she still prefers to Army crawl everywhere, I'd have folded over swimsuit pads because they always inevitably get messed up while nursing, and Jack wouldn't be in the photos at all because he has no time for such nonsense.  I love this phase of life so very much, but things are definitely more challenging than they used to be!  Soooooo, here are some photos we took in our matching seersucker and monograms before we made it to the water.  

Courtney of Princess and the Pea, an adorable monogramming small business owned by a momma of two, was so kind to send me the monogrammed suits for the kids and my monogrammed baseball cap, so I had to do them justice and take photos before we started playing in the waves :)  If you need anything monogrammed, she's your girl!  I love matching my babies and my unofficial motto is "monogram all the things!" so these swimsuits (plus my hat in my beloved navy and white) were a match made in heaven.

These days we travel pretty lightly when we go to the beach, unless we're planning on staying for a few hours like we did on the 4th of July (see my Instagram post here for a bunch of photos in case you missed it).  We also get there very early most days so we don't have to deal with an umbrella or tent (although I recently bought this striped Cool Cabanas beach tent that I'm obsessed with and it's so easy to put up!).  Right before these photos were taken I had actually just finished running (hats are a lifesaver for hiding sweaty hair!), so everything we had for the beach was in the bottom of my stroller.  We typically play for about an hour and then head home once Caroline needs a nap or if Jack starts getting uncooperative...and I'll be honest, we can't go anywhere without having an issue with Jack these days.  I can't remember if I've mentioned it here but we found out that he has fluid in his ears that is likely preventing him from hearing properly, thus causing his speech delay.  He will likely get tubes once we get back to Hawaii, and I'm so anxious and ready for it to happen.  He is very difficult because he doesn't listen (likely because he hears us like he's underwater) and he and Caroline almost sound the same these days as far as babbling goes.  He does have about 40 or so words right now and he really is trying to say more things, but most of his words are incredibly mispronounced and I often find myself translating for him.  It's heartbreaking to listen to him because I just want to help him but I can't.  He's a sweet, loving boy but I'm praying that some of his behavior problems are resolved once he can hear better.  But I digress...  

Beach trips these days are far from relaxing but it's so fun watching my children discover the magic of Fripp Island, a place I've been visiting since I was Jack's age.

Later today I'll be doing a giveaway of a monogrammed hat with Princess and the Pea, so be sure to follow me on Instagram for your chance to win!  

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