Staying Calm in the Chaos of Selling Your House with Kids

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Moving is a pain in the ass. It’s time consuming, frustrating, expensive, and causes extreme anxiety. These feelings are intensified when you are both selling a house and purchasing a new one. There are just so many factors that have to happen for everything to go as smoothly as possible. It’s basically just a few months of torture.

We are moved about every 3 years or so for my husband’s company. Even when we think we’ll be somewhere longer, 3 years seems to be the sweet spot. We were flown to the midwest in February 2017 to house hunt, and here we are exactly 3 years later listing that house and awaiting another cross-country move.

This time is a bit different, though. We have to sell this house (for a good amount of money) to purchase a house in Northern Virginia. The cost of living and housing prices are (shall we say) INSANELY different compared to here. This of course increases my stress levels. 

To add to it all, John was already relocated to start the project in Virginia. The kids, dog, and I are in charge of selling the house – which means that I’m flying solo with 5 kids and a dog for a few weeks. 

I guess you aren’t here to read about just how stressed out I am, though, right? You are here for the opposite. So here’s how I’m staying sane and calm throughout this entire moving process.

Tips to Staying Calm While Selling a House with Kids

Declutter and Store Things

I’m talking cut your shit in way more than half. Kids have too much crap as it is. It is time to purge! You want almost nothing sitting on shelves, actually, you want to get rid of random, chipped, leaning bookshelves – they will not help your house sell. You can get tubs to put toys, books, and random items in and then put them in storage along with unneeded furniture, etc until you move. The less ‘stuff’ in your house, the better. (Also, it is way easier to clean!)

Minimize Closets

Is it winter? Pack up the swimwear and shorts. You get the point. Make a trip to donate anything outgrown or not worth moving and pack away half of the rest. Keep just enough to make laundry easy. 

Catch Up on Laundry

Get rid of your laundry pile and then start a habit of doing a load every day. Wash, dry, fold, and PUT IT AWAY immediately. 

Do Everything Immediately

This goes for washing dishes, picking up toys, making beds, etc. Anything that will add up to more work later needs to be done now. 

Hire a Cleaner

You need a cleaner on-call. Before a day of multiple showings or an open house, your house needs to be cleaned- and not by you. Kids make toothpaste messes and fingerprint messes. windows need cleaned, ovens, and all refrigerators, too. Do not take this stress on; hire someone. You can negotiate a great deal if you have them come once a week until you sell.

Clean Every Day

Keep up with what the cleaner has done. Vacuum every day and wipe sinks out after the kids are in bed. You may only get an hour notice before someone wants to see your house, and that hour is needed for you to herd the children out the door – not clean the house.

Eat Off Paper Plates

It is not environmentally-friendly, but it will save your sanity. Eliminate doing more dishes and just throw that crap away. You need everything looking gorgeous. 

Make Simple Meals

Eating out with kids is annoying and expensive, but you can stick to simple, one-pot/pan meals at home. You are not out to impress anyone; chicken nuggets work just fine when selling your house.

Book a Hotel for Open Houses

Run away the moment your house is clean and a day of showings or an open house is scheduled. Make it a weekend getaway or a little in-town stay-cation! We found a hotel with an indoor waterpark to live at for a few days!

Have a List of Fun Things To Do

It’s hard enough to get out of the house in time for a showing, so having a list of fun things to go do can help. Go see a movie, grab ice-cream, walk around Target, visit the local children’s museum, or have a list of friends on speed dial. 

Workout Every Day

This is how I’m saving my own sanity. I have to release my anxiety with a good workout. Go for a run, do yoga, or just blast some music and dance it out. 

Moms: It’s time to check in on your pain.

Maybe it’s the high pain tolerance after five natural births, or perhaps it’s just motherhood.

Maybe it’s the ability to push through discomfort, or perhaps it’s just the craziness of motherhood.

Maybe it’s the inability to put myself first, or perhaps it’s what mothers do – putting everyone else first. 

Maybe it’s just me, and my anxiety and fears of something really being wrong…

But I know that I am not alone. For some reason, mothers tend to ignore pain, symptoms, and warning signs that their own bodies send them. It becomes overwhelming when it all is listed out:

  • Wrist pain after that 3rd baby that never really went away.
  • Hip pain after that half-marathon training that still hasn’t healed a year later.
  • Pelvic floor issues.
  • Insomnia.
  • Hemorrhoids that seem to come and go at the most random times.
  • The back pain. Oh, the back pain.

During my recent trip to Denver with John, I was unable to hide my chronic back pain any longer. There were no children to distract me from it. There were no children to distract John from my suffering. It was four days of reality: face-to-face with my pain. John saw the way I lay on floor with my legs on the bed for hours at night. He saw me holding on to walls and stopping every 15-20 steps due to the pain when I walk. He saw me try to fake it. He also finally made me do something about it.

I was an athlete my entire youth into my early adulthood. I was a ballerina and a martial artist, competing in the ring all over the country. I trained seven days a week most of the time and lived a body-stressing life. I also loved it. But it took it’s toll on my back. In my early 20’s, my back began to hurt. I was informed that it would one day need surgery, but to have kids and avoid the operation as long as possible.

Here I am, five kids and over 12 years later. I have done the therapy. I have done the acupuncture. I have been adjusted regularly for a decade. I have eaten well and exercised daily.  I have run marathons and washed approximately 1,000,000 loads of laundry. I have birthed babies, worn babies, and breastfed babies. I have hiked mountains and carried groceries.

I have also silently cried while walking the dog. I have had to sit instead of play. I have had to miss events due to pain. 

In 2019, I began teaching a few martial arts classes. I only sparred a few times. But something happened to me. My back went into shock. The pain grew more intense and impacted me in a way that I cannot even begin to explain. I was unable to do any of the things that I loved in a way that didn’t hurt. I kept pushing through and trying though…

After an MRI, x-rays, and several opinions, I have answers. 

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2020 will be the year to heal myself. I have a bilateral fracture in my vertebrae. It is a mobile disc at a grade 2-3 spondylolisthesis, which means that no matter what position I am in (walking, sitting, laying, stretching, etc) it causes pain. I have numbness and pain from my butt to my toes in both legs throughout 90% of every day. My back feels tight and as if I constantly need to ‘pop’ it. But the leg pain… 

The nerves are so severely pinched that doctors looked at me and asked how I have managed to run at all – let alone lift a laundry basket. 

My answer: MOTHERHOOD.

My youngest is almost 2.5 years old now. My oldest is close to 10.5 years old. I am finally seeing things clearer and hearing the cries of my body. It is my time. 2020 will be hard, as spinal surgery isn’t an easy feat, and the recovery is going to take help from family and friends, but it will be the start of a happier life. I’ve been told that I can start running (slowly) again about 3 months after the surgery. They are predicting the nerves will take closer to a year or more to fully recover, though.

Here is my cry to you:

Start hearing your body. Stop putting yourself dead last. I have been terrified to pursue this because of my fears of surgery. But the truth is this: if I had listened when things got worse last year, I would have already been on the other side and healing by now. Instead, I am at a place of waiting – waiting to fit into the best surgeon’s schedule, waiting for the right month so family and friends can help with recovery, waiting on all of the uncontrollable things.

As mothers we automatically do all of the things for everyone; most of the time, we may do this to avoid doing things for ourselves. Take the time to evaluate yourself both physically and mentally this year.

 

12 Last Minute Experience Gifts for Adults

The countdown is so close that shipping cannot be guaranteed in time for the big day. If you let the days tick away while failing to come up with the perfect present for your significant other, parent, best friend, or other adult-in-need-of-a-gift, I have a list of experiences you can choose from that would make anyone excited!

John and I just got home from a 4 day trip to Denver without the kids. We had ample time to talk and reconnect. Once of the things that we continually circled back around to was how must we enjoyed just walking together. We talked about future gift ideas, trips, and (of course) all of our potential moving locations – because that convo never ends in our house!

You can use this list as a jumping off point or just take something and run with it. 

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Experience Gifts for Adults

Movie Tickets – Simple, affordable, and will never go to waste. Who doesn’t want to grab some popcorn and see a movie?

A Book – A gift card will do just fine, but if you know the genres that would bring a smile to the receiver’s face, then go ahead and pick out a book or two.

VISA Gift Card – What most adults don’t want to talk about is their financial situations. Cash can seem odd to give, but a gift card that can be utilized in any way needed will be much appreciated. 

Spa Credit – Don’t believe that a man wouldn’t want to be massaged. Find a great co-ed spa and book a men’s package for him. As for a woman in your life, the sky is the limit here: facial, hair, nails, massage, body wrap.

Airline Credit – Did you know that you can purchase gift certificates to airlines? You can! Even if it’s not enough for 1st class, this gift will at least help a vacation or family trip take place.

A Hotel Stay – Sometimes self-care is as simple as spending one day alone (or with a partner) without children or teens to be fed or looked after.

Theater Tickets – Going to the theater feels like you have arrived in life, right? Look for a great musical to purchase tickets for.

Museum Tickets – Museums often hold extraordinary exhibits that are a once in a lifetime experience. they tend to sell out if you wait to buy tickets close to the opening day. Do a quick search to see what will be coming near you this year, and consider gifting the experience!

Rock Climbing Gym – Rock climbing gyms have popped up in every major city across the country. They are fun and promote a healthy lifestyle, but they also encourage friendship and teamwork.

Art – It’s a bit late to have a framed piece under the tree, but you may get lucky if any local restaurants or cafes display artists’ work for sale! You can also contact a local artist to see what they have on hand.

Concert Tickets – It doesn’t matter when the concert is, but grab those tickets online now!

Sports Tickets – If a favorite team is going to be within driving distance, select some great seats as a gift.

A New Year’s Tradition – Since your order can’t arrive in time for Christmas, consider gifting for New Year’s instead. You can have a case of champagne delivered or 100 oysters flown in. New Year’s Eve and day should be celebrated in a way that brings happiness and love into the home. You can easily help make that happen!

When You Think You’ve Changed Your Mind

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Isn’t life a funny, unscripted shit-show? 

At least in my family it is.

I’ve been a bit MIA because I’m a true rollercoaster of emotions over here, but this post isn’t meant to just be a rambling of my crazy circus-style life. It is meant to help others who may find themselves changing their minds and feeling almost insane because of it. Perhaps my methods may help you sort out your back and forth…

Over the recent months, I have finally started feeling like my normal, motivated, genuinely happy, pre-surprise-baby #5 self. Maybe it’s my hormones finally balancing out. Veda is barely nursing anymore; my cycle has started back after 11+ years of pregnancy and breastfeeding (literally, no cycle for over a decade). I think my body is reclaiming itself – with my mind becoming the star of the show.

It’s quite freeing to feel like me again. 

Along with the fog completely clearing, I am finding myself at a crossroads with our upcoming move. I have fought the midwest for 2.5 years. I have built a wall around myself, guarding from deeper friendships, and disconnecting from so much here. I blamed the winter. The winter is brutal, and my Florida blood just doesn’t enjoy it. I have Raynuad’s disease (autoimmune) where my fingers and toes lose circulation and experience incredible pain when they are cold. It happens even at the grocery store, so the extreme temperatures here have made my love of the outdoors turn into a fear of any temperatures below 50 degrees – which of course is more than half the year. More than the winter, though – my attitude is probably mostly to blame. But, there is beauty everywhere here. There are genuinely good people who I would love to welcome into my life on a regular basis and not just as friends in passing. We have built a life here, and it is wonderful. Our children are thriving in all aspects, too.

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This leads me to a new place. This leads me to wondering what it would be like if we stayed longer.

When we were in Virginia, we wanted to stay forever. We knew moving was what was needed, though, for John to continue his upward career growth. However, in Omaha, there is potential for many projects to continue that growth. 

I’m torn, you all. I’m torn.

So here I sit, my mind pulling me in a direction I have sworn off for the past 2 years. 

When You Think You’ve Changed Your Mind

My husband thinks I’m riding the crazy train right now, but here’s what I’m doing to sort out my thoughts on our future… Perhaps my methods may help you figure out your confused state. 

Personal Pro Con List

Selfishly, I am starting here. I have to sort out what I like and dislike about this situation.

Family Pro Con List

I will then recruit my kids and ask them to create a list of their own. While most big decisions fall on the adults, it’s nice to at least include the kids and hear their thoughts. 

Family Getaway

We are packing our bags and taking a quick road trip this weekend. It’s time to start exploring a bit more out here, and some quality family time is needed to stay connected and focus on the most important parts of life. 

Getting away with your kids can be a great distraction from the weight of your decision. It can remind you to live in the moment and have fun. It can bring you back to the reality of it all – that in the end, this family is what’s important.

Adults’ Only Getaway

Next month, while we have family in town, John and I are going to escape for a few days. It will give us more than the few minutes we get at home of uninterrupted conversation.

A quick trip together can be fun, of course, but it can also grant you the time you need to breathe and absorb your thoughts – and your partner’s thoughts. 

Exercise

If you are anything like me, sweating it out helps everything. 

Prayer 

There are times to be selfish, and times to look deep at why you are being selfish. This is a time for me to let go and learn about myself. I find myself praying for peace and trust in what choices we make. There is no wrong answer for our family, but that doesn’t make it less difficult. 

I have no idea what will happen in the near future, and it has been eating me up — but I’m hoping I can come to a solid state of peace about it all… but for now, my pro-list is greatly outweighing the con-list.

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The hardest part.

We love adventure.

We have made the unknown our lifestyle for over a decade now, and have had 5 children born in 4 different states, with our oldest living in 5 states before she turned 8. Life is definitely anything but boring over here.

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Here is what I love about this life:

Our marriage. Moving brings John and I closer, as it reminds us that a house is only a house, but we create the home for each other. We can tackle just about anything together, and exploring new places always gives us a rush.

Our family’s bond. I am biased, but these kids of ours are pretty darn cool. They are supportive of one another, look out for each other, and are truly best friends. Watching their relationships develop as we move is inspiring and makes my heart sing.

New friendships. I believe that people are brought into your life at certain points for certain reasons. I have collected several friends who I will cherish for all of my life – but I never would have met them if it weren’t for being relocated every few years. 

New houses. I can’t lie, it’s fun to reuse furniture and decor in a new space. It makes everything feel new. It’s also fun to find new pieces for each house to make it feel like ours. We love putting our touch on each place while also creating memories. We’ll eventually frame a picture of each house we called home.

Purging. We have about zero attachment to many tangible items. We purge things easier than most. Art projects? trash. Toys? gone. 

Freedom to start over. Do you ever just wish that you could start fresh? We actually get to every 2-3 years. This freedom comes with so much happiness, just as you would imagine. 

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Here is what is hard:

Packing and Unpacking (Selling and Buying). Yes, movers move us, but it doesn’t come without crazy amounts of organizing things. And just like any trip the worst part is unpacking. Trying to make a new place a home as fast as possible is hard. 

Friendships. Finding friends as an adult is HARD. Mix into that my natural-minded stance on life, homeschooling 5 kids, and working from home, and most women run away from me. 

Kids’ Friends. As hard as it is for me to find new friends, watching my children leave their friends and try to start from zero again is heartbreaking. I know that it makes them strong and confident. They know no different and love having friends all over, but it doesn’t make anything easier.

Kid Sports. I am devastated over moving away from Emmett’s club soccer team here. They have played together for over 2 years and have become an unbelievable family (and force to be reckoned with on the field). When we move, he will be at the age that he will be trying out for travel/club teams that have been playing together since age 5/6…  Then there is winter wrestling, spring baseball, basketball, dance studios, and every other sport these kids want to play. 

Other Activities. I have to find new speech therapists, enroll kids into the school system to receive free therapies, find scout troops, musical theater groups, homeschool coops, museums, memberships, etc.

Miscellaneous Crap. New doctors, chiropractor, dentist, happy hour spots, grocery stores, shopping, etc. EVERYTHING is new.

Finding a Babysitter. This is almost the hardest part of moving when the kids are still at babysitting ages. 

But the hardest part… the hardest part is:

Anxiety.

We have no idea when we will be moved or where we will be moved to. The entire United States is a possibility for us. This is extremely exciting, but a small town BFE town in poe-dunk, USA is NOT where I want to be… I want a say, and I don’t really get one. I suffer from the high highs of adventure, but also from the lows of knowing that time is up but having no say over what is next. I am the one who handles 98% of life at home and the stress is REAL for the 6 moths before an inevitable move occurs….

Can you tell that we are within that move window?

Well, we have about 6-8 months left with no idea what is next.

Scottsdale: A Bucket List Add-On to Your Girls’ Trip Weekends

Many of you know that I flew away (much like running away, but much more glamorous!) to my first girls’ weekend since having kids. That’s over a decade… and previous life was rice-and-beans bank account, so there wasn’t much traveling then, either! One of my nearest and dearest friends had been begging me for a weekend away, but my mom-guilt kept me from saying yes. However, once Veda turned two, I was ready and willing to leave for a few nights. (Yes, she’s still nursing. Yes, I had to pump. Yes, it was worth it.)

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While we have traveled as a family, there is so much to consider when traveling solo. The mother-anxiety is strong. What if I die on the plane and my kids grow up without me? What if something happens while I’m gone? 

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Although, packing is fantastic. I had an entire suitcase TO MYSELF. I filled that thing with things that I knew there wasn’t enough time to wear! I didn’t care, I just wanted to fill it with MY THINGS. I packed heels, sneakers, sandals, flip flops, and flats. I packed pool dresses, multiple swimwear, shorts, dinner dresses, and running gear. I packed a sun hat, a straightener, a curling wand, and all.the.makeup. Why not, right? 

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Nicole and I are about 17 hours or so apart these days, and we both still have toddlers at home. We needed to find a great location that would be an easy flight. Scottsdale was an obvious choice. I had never been, and the resort looked like a slice of heaven. Little did I know just how heavenly it would be.

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If you are considering a weekend away, JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback should be added to your potential destination list. From the moment we arrived, we were escorted on golf carts to our room, which had 360 degree views of the mountains. With a small balcony to sip champagne on, and a second (unbelievably large) patio with lounge chairs, outdoor tables, and privacy, and a sunset unlike anything I have seen. The sky is just different out there. 

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After popping champagne and locking ourselves on one of the balconies, we were rescued, got glam’d up and headed out to explore. We enjoyed ample amounts of wine – and had no one take care of for 2 days. The food on site was perfect, and the resort is large enough to spend days at without leaving for much. 

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I decided to wake up before the sun and run the few miles to the base of Camelback Mountain. It was a spontaneous decision that John had planted the seed for, as he has hiked the mountain and described it as a must-conquer experience. With people being helicoptered down every few hours, it was a bit intimidating, especially climbing alone, but once I approached the start, I knew I couldn’t turn back. There were other people hiking – some slowly, others at a pace that screamed ‘I do this every Saturday!’ I was in awe of all of them. The hike was something you need to experience. The views, the trail, the solitude (or company if you want to do it together) were all exactly what I needed on this trip. I had hours to focus on myself and where I am in life right now. I absorbed the moments hiking that mountain and had passing thoughts of:

  • I can’t wait to do this with the kids when they are older.
  • I wish John were here with me.
  • This is too hard.
  • This is freaking unbelievable. 
  • I am a badass.

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And then I realized just how happy I am right now. I work hard. I mom hard. I wife hard. But my personal cup is constantly full, too. Life is not easy, but it is wonderful.

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After running out, hiking, and running back to the resort, it was time to be pampered. Nicole and I settled on having honey and oats dripped and rubbed over us in our morning treatment. We retreated poolside with friends afterward, where we enjoyed the frozen peaches compliments of our amazing pool boy. (I’m not kidding) We drank, swam, chatted, laughed so hard that we cried, and drank some more. And then, Nicole and I walked (still sans makeup from our first spa treatment) back to the spa for Round 2! This time, we received massages that sent us into deep relaxation. Room service was in order for dinner after that experience. Can you imagine? I ran, climbed a mountain, and received detox massages all in the same day.

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We slept like the queens that we are, in the most comfortable beds, with the doors open and the Arizona air blowing in. The weekend was too fast, but it was much needed. 

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Every mother needs to retreat somewhere at sometime. Even if it is a decade after becoming a mother. Even if it means anxiety creeps up. Even if it means you leave 5 kids behind and consider skipping your flight back home and extending the trip for another week, or two.

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10 Ways to Save Money for a Trip

I recently wrote about why it’s so important for me to pay off our trips before we even go on them. It’s the only way I can relax and have fun – and NOT think about how much everything is costing! But I realized I didn’t explain HOW I save enough to actually pay these adventures off! 

Don’t get me wrong, this budgeting thing is not easy. We are not growing a money tree over here, either. We are in the thick of childhood – and only have 3 of the 5 kids in year round sports so far. We pay a mortgage payment (more!) in healthy foods each month – and if you think homeschooling is free, think again. The way we are doing it, it’s as if we are paying for private school! So yes, money is tight. It’s always tight. We have to triple think every purchase before it is made, and always consider savings accounts first. 

But there are a few things that I have learned throughout the last few years. I have found these small things add up to big trips for our large family! 

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10 Ways to Save Money for a Trip

Take extra cash out when grocery shopping and save it. 

Even if it means you put back a few ‘treats.’ Withdraw $20-40 each week to stuff inside of your travel account. This can include all change you are handed back when paying in cash, too.

Automatically transfer money to a vacation fund.

Our paychecks are direct deposited, and I have $100 immediately taken out and transferred to a vacation account. If you set it up to automatically do this, you won’t even realize that money is gone.

Cancel/put on hold any memberships such as the gym or audiobooks.

Most families are paying for things they aren’t using, or things they could do without for a little while. I found that I was paying an annual subscription for several educational apps ($30-50 each for a year!) that my kids maybe toyed with here and there. Those were cancelled immediately, and we put our crazy expensive gym membership on hold whenever we need to save quick. 

Create an actual budget so you know where your money is going.

This is key so that you know where your money is going. It doesn’t just disappear, you (and I) spend it. Create a spread sheet with the last 12 months on it so you can see your trends. You’ll be shocked how much you spend on Starbucks.

Stop spending money on unnecessary things…

Such as fast food, restaurants, expensive (or cheap) coffee, happy hour, lavish date nights, or even just bottled water—- pack food, reuse cups, eat at home, etc.

After you’ve looked at your spending habits and created a realistic budget, you’ll naturally want to cut out this excess spending. Fast food is junk, and it adds up fast! Those coffees, happy hours, and quick errands will put your vacation on hold. 

Second guess yourself before spending money, and hold yourself accountable.

This is where my Target trips come in. I have to ask myself if it is even necessary to walk in those doors? Is it a need or a want? Stop yourself before running out for that ‘one thing’ that always leads to $50 blown. 

Shop consignment stores for kids clothes.

If you look regularly, you’ll get the newest stuff! I would guess that 80% of my kids’ closets are previously owned items.

Meal plan and stick to your list.

Take the time each week to plan our your dinner menu, utilizing similar ingredients to save money and buy in bulk. Cook larger batches to roll over into lunches, too. 

Make money on the side.

Babysit, wait tables, take an extra shift.

If you are really trying to save large funds, consider taking on extra money-making hours. Sleep is still needed, but you can find a way to make a couple hundred dollars by selling items/toys/clothes in your house, picking up a weekend serving job, babysitting, or even taking those cheesy online surveys.

Get your kids on board. 

If the entire family understands why you are saving money, they will be less inclined to asking for additional money. My kids host lemonade and cookie stands, car washes, and ask neighbors to pull weeds to earn a few dollars to contribute.

Watering Your Garden

It’s an interesting thing, a vegetable garden. We plant one every year, at every house, in every city, in every state that we live in. We reinvest our energy, time, and money in creating a solid foundation to grow beautiful plants full of organic, beautiful foods. We have learned that different foods grow better in different areas, and sometimes the soil isn’t right for some. We have used raised beds and in-ground beds… potted gardens and patio gardens. We have adapted to our environment with each move because a garden is important to us. 

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But, do you know what happens when you start to get comfortable? You can forget to water your garden. It becomes another chore or task that can be easily forgotten because it is no longer new or exciting. We generally skip this part, though – as we are moved so frequently, but I realized as I was watering our garden today just how easy it would be to completely forget about it alongside of our house. We are comfortable here, now. We are well over the 2 year mark. Life has fallen into routine. We have grown to love our neighborhood and friends. We have grown to handle the temperatures (as well as can be expected), too. But we have learned how to have a very successful garden, and I do not want to take it for granted.

As you can tell, I’m not solely writing about our garden; although, it is worth it’s own post. I’m writing to remind myself -and perhaps you- that after becoming comfortable with where you are in life, it can be very easy to stop watering all the things that need watered. These things may include filling your own cup with self-happiness, appreciating your children for who they are right now, taking time to reconnect with your partner, or continuing to build friendships. Comfort is a beautiful and time-sucking thing, isn’t it?

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“The Simple Life” is a motto well known around these parts, and it is one that I understand and question often, but I have come to appreciate just how much people water their gardens here. You will find grocery store conversations lasting longer than coffee dates, and the dinner table is a place that is always sat at. 

I started running longer distances again. I took a hiatus for awhile there throughout the unexpected baby #5, unexpected cross-country move, mid-western winter, and postpartum depression time of my life. I did, however, find yoga then. And now the two have found a significant balance in my life. Doing these great things keeps my own garden watered. Whether you sew, cook, read, dance, or sing – find some time to do it. 

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Finding a connection that is not the general parental role with your child(ren) can prove challenging. My 10 year old and I just started watching Gilmore Girls from season 1 together. I didn’t realize just how much fun it would be to have this thing that only we share. It can be so simple, so easy to create and strengthen these connections, but also so easy to blow past the opportunity to do so. There are great similarities when comparing my garden to my relationships with each child. My garden produces well-grown, healthy foods when maintained, suffers when neglected. My children are balanced, connected, and happy when I take care of that relationship. Again, I’ve learned how important it is to water my garden.

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The most overlooked area of life always seems to be the marriage or foundational relationship within the family. It is the most comfortable spot – the worn in couch cushion. It’s the strawberry plant that comes back year after year, generally more fruitful each time. But it still needs watered. The love and appreciation is always there, but the watering may not be happening much. The leaves may be wilting, and the harvesting isn’t happening near enough to keep the plant healthy and happy. It doesn’t take more than brushing arms as you pass each other – pulling in for a true kiss, or dancing in the kitchen to an old song. These things will keep the garden growing.

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Between juggling work, kids, marriage, house, food, calendar, and life – how does one even have time to start a garden, you may ask? If it’s time consuming enough to remember to water the fictional hypothetical garden in your life, how can you ever plant a real one? Well, it takes a little bit of time, a lot of love, and the helping hands of those around you, but you can do it. Will it be a huge success? Yes – if only to bring you all closer and remind you to water your life daily. 

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A Week in Denver: Our Daily Itinerary

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I can’t tell you enough about our latest adventure. We had the greatest week, and I truly owe it to creating an itinerary for us to follow. There were no moments of arguing or trying to figure out where to eat. Everything was already decided. The beauty of this itinerary is that you can play so much by ear! Switch restaurants or add in an additional hike, whatever makes you happy!

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We decided to cut the drive in half on the way out there, but we would not do it again. Just suffer through and get to Denver – at least if you are driving from Omaha. The hotel was awful, the town was obsolete, and the food was appalling. (The lake was gorgeous, and the jet skiing was a blast, though! But something you can do on another lake in a better area.)

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Day 1

  • Bring snacks/lunch
  • Check in to hotel in Ogallala, NE – Lake McConaughy
  • Travelodge by Wyndham Ogallala (Think motel not hotel, here folks. We would skip this stop next time and head straight to Denver!)
  • Jet ski rental $85 for an hour/ $135 for 2 hours — reservation is 3:30-5:30 (308.355.5555 Big Mac Marina in Arthur’s bay)
  • Play at the beach all afternoon
  • Eat dinner @ Urban Farmer

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Day 2

  • Up, eat, and go. (3+ hours drive)
  • Check into hotel in Greenwood Village (Sheraton Denver Tech Center)
  • Lunch at Mediterranean Place across from hotel— Quick and easy!
  • Drive 35 minutes to Roxborough State Park – Hike – This was GORGEOUS!
  • Stop at any local lake you find to skip rocks and play.
  • Dinner @ Breckenridge Brewery in Littleton (10 minutes from hotel) Reservation was at 6pm – What an amazingly fun brewery!! They have live music, food trucks for those eating outside, and SO MANY BEERS. We played until 10:00pm because it was so much fun.

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Day 3 

  • (pack lunch/snacks/waters)
  • Hiking at Red Rock Ampitheater and Morrison Castle Trail (Castle Trail, Morrison, CO 80465) or Maxwell Falls Lower Trail (easy trail to a waterfall) – Note: Red Rock takes at least 2 hours! Make sure you run the stairs at Red Rock (if you are a running geek like me – it was a bucket list item!)
  • Hike Dinosaur Ridgway!
  • Bear Creek Lake – Kayaking and Beach Play – $10 entrance fee for the park — paddle boarding at Rocky Mountain Paddleboard. This lake is small with little beach area, but it was a great way to spend an afternoon.
  • Horseback riding at Bear Creek Stables 1 hour $40/each person. We sent our 5, 7, and 9 year olds solo with the guide. She assured us they would be safe. They had an adventure that they will remember forever!
  • Dinner @ Sazza Pizza (Get there for happy hour!)

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Day 4

  • Waterworld ALL DAY LONG. Pre-purchase tickets to save money.
  • Dinner @ Homegrown Tap & Dough – Washington Park location. Note: This is a MUST to entertain the kids. They have a FREE arcade and patio full of games! (Not to mention, they have great beer and food.)

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Day 5 

  • National Ballpark Museum
  • Rockies Baseball Game
  • Eat Dinner Downtown by Union Station Splash Fountain! The kids get to play and get wet while you enjoy happy hour and appetizers/dinner.

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Day 6 

  • Switch Hotels and head downtown! (Hyatt Place Denver Downtown!)
  • Children’s museum and explore downtown – The museum is fun, but it was so packed that my anxiety was on high. The ropes course was a blast, but again, they need to cap the amount of people allowed in each day.
  • Walk the outdoor mall and pick up some Denver shirts!
  • We were exhausted and the rain chased us all the way back to the hotel, so we opted to order dinner in and go to bed early. (We had planned to eat by Union Station at another restaurant, though.)

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Day 7 

  • Walk around downtown
  • Enjoy chocolate and cupcakes (of course)
  • Pack up the car and jump back on the road for the drive home

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I could have filled several weeks worth of Denver-Fun for our family, and I cannot wait to head back sometime to continue exploring!

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Packing Tips for a Family Road Trip

We have seven humans in a car that has seven seats. 

Our road trips can be a long weekend, an 8 hour drive and a week long stay, or a two month adventure with multiple hotels, cities, and states. Packing can present a few challenges, depending on the purpose of each trip, and we have tried -and changed- many packing methods. We have a hitch that can hold a luggage trailer and a rack on top of the van. However, I’m not a fan of using these if John is not with us on a road trip. I need to get over it and put on my big girl panties her here, but until then, I’m bound and determined to get everything inside the van.

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A few things I have learned over the years traveling the highways with the kids:

Consider utilizing storage bins instead of luggage. They are easy to stack inside the car or on a trailer, and can be consolidated into categories: everyones’ hotel items, the clothing for a specific city/stop, things to bring to an area with water, etc. 

When changing hotels or packing to return home, consolidate luggage and turn one bag into the family laundry bag. It stays in the car and you will bring less into your next hotel – and when you get home, the clean vs dirty items are already separated. 

Snacks are key, but portioning them before hand is even better. Use ziplock baggies (forgive me, I’m a total natural minded mom, but sometimes, you have to do what’s easy) to portion healthy(ier) snacks like fresh popcorn, trail mix, nuts, energy bites, dried fruits, organic jerky, and anything else your kids will eat. You can toss a bag back and pray it doesn’t end up all over the floor.

Hang trash bags. I hang them from every arm rest in the van. It helps to make pit stops faster – I just dump them and scoop up anything big enough from the floor while kids are stretching their legs.

Kids have to pee – a lot. You can train your boys to pee in a bottle if you are brave, or you can just invest in a travel potty and pull over the nearest exit and let everyone pee into the wind (or squat on the potty). 

When packing clothes, sort them into matching outfits and roll them together. Everyone gets their own duffle bag or ziplock baggies inside of the containers. You want the ease of grabbing and being done without a second thought.

Pack minimal shoes for everyone. A pair of flip flops, sneakers, and possible a sandal/boot/dressier shoe should be enough for even the longest of trips. You can find a Target if a shoe emergency arises.

Don’t use the seats for storage. It’s tempting to use every free space inside the car, but the more you put near the kids, the crazier the car situation will get. Dvd’s, pads, pillows, blankets, snacks, and books are enough – don’t force the kids into any uncomfortable positions with 5 coolers, backpacks, and luggage under their feet. 

Invest in books on CD, audiobooks, and podcasts – for the kids and yourself. You can mandate headphones for some of the drive, so don’t forget to find something you will want to listen to.

Always have baby wipes, burp cloths, napkins, and plastic bags on hand. These things have nothing to do with babies – and everything to do with humans in a car.

Car Sickness Help. We give our sick-prone kids Dramamine before jumping in the car, but sometimes a drop of peppermint oil is enough to keep their stomachs calm.