As My Sensory Kid Grows Up

 

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The days have been beautiful here in Omaha, Nebraska. I have very few complaints during the warm months of the year. My entire soul shines bright, especially on the other side of postpartum depression mixed in with seasonal depression – nothing like the first summer after the longest ‘winter’ of your life, right?

So, all is good.

All is spectacular.

But – and you knew the but was coming… but, I am not Super Mom. I feel like I need to stand on the tallest building and scream it loud because so many friends and acquaintances try to slap that (annoying and crappy) label on me.  However, I’d have no voice to do this because I’ve lost it from yelling at home. I wish I were kidding, but alas, I have become the yelling mom I never thought I’d become. (I’m laughing at myself, so you can laugh at me, too.)

I’m a strong believer that my children are mine for a reason. Each one was meant to be mine – and I was meant to be their’s, and they were meant to be each other’s. Many of you know how hard it was when my oldest son was little. He struggled with Sensory Processing Disorder. I was the mother crying on the floor in Target because I was frustrated. I was the mom who had a child who would not physically move from one spot (while screaming) because he simply could not move past something. His mind just wouldn’t let him. 

He wouldn’t get his head wet until after age 4 – but now he’s on the swim team. He wouldn’t let a blanket touch him – now he snuggles tight every night. He wouldn’t wear structured clothing – this is still an issue, but he works through it and can do it fine most days now! He would kick and scream and take an hour to transition from one place to another – now he’s on every sports team, a fantastic athlete, helps me plan our road trips, and attends sleepovers.

However, the sensory issues are still present. It’s true that through diet, our amazing herbalist, chiropractic care, and age, he has grown so much. I look at him and see this handsome boy, loving, giving, brilliant, and happy – most of the time. But he struggles with the “Why ME?” attitude.  He feels as though everything bad happens to him and gets stuck in those moments – sometimes crying for an hour, even throwing himself on the floor. 

These hard moments can come if he gets hurt, doesn’t get something he wanted, plans change, etc. And the spiral is awful and all-consuming. It takes all of the energy from the room. It effects the entire day for the family. It is truly exhausting. 

The major difference between toddler-version and present-almost 8-year-old-version is that I am not the same mother. I have 5 children instead of 2. I do not have the patience to sit on the floor and hold him through these moments anymore. He has the tools to do it. He knows he can do it, but at his age now, I cannot wrestle him or walk him through it every time. 

I am thankful that these moments are not frequent. But it seems that they come in waves. We are in the middle of one right now. His body is fighting something. He has had too much gluten. He hasn’t consumed enough water. He’s not getting enough sleep. Any of these could be a trigger. Maybe his tinctures need adjusting (I already have a call in.) Maybe our camping trip triggered something – it seems that these moments have been happening since then. Who knows, honestly. And I can’t sit and play detective all day. 

As I am writing this — there is a major meltdown happening. It’s lasted 1 hour and 25 minutes. I am beyond frustrated. I have yelled. I have ignored. I have given him space. I have hugged him. But, I will not just give in and give him what he wants. My anxiety is through the roof and it makes me short with the other kids. We have lost the afternoon to this meltdown. 

I’m ready for a glass of wine, but it wouldn’t help the problem. ha. 

And just as suddenly as the moment started, he is back to his normal self. Close to 1 hour and 45 minutes later, of course. His eyes are puffy and swollen – and the baby was woken up from her nap. But we are on the other side, so I’ll take it. 

Sensory kids grow up. My sensory kid is growing up. Just when I think we have gotten through this, a hard day hits. It reminds me to stay true to our diet and lifestyle. 

So, if you are also struggling in hard moments, know that you are not alone. Know that you are strong and capable. You are loving – even when you are losing your mind. You are doing the best you can. This is all I can do right now. And while I am constantly trying to become better, for all of my kids – and myself, I also am ok with being honest. I am not perfect. I am not handling any of this perfectly. I am living these moments as a tired mom – a mom hoping that as my sensory child continues to grow, we will continue to see less and less hard moments. 

The Undiscovered Calamus Reservoir of Nebraska

If you live within driving distance to the tiny town of Burwell, NE, consider adding the Calamus Reservoir to your bucket list of places to see. 

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As our time in Nebraska is now far passed the halfway mark, we are starting to consciously accomplish our midwest bucket list vacations. Being a big family, these adventures can take a toll on our bank account, so we have to be creative when we can. John likes to keep a running list of off-the-beaten-path locations we can drive to whenever an opportunity presents itself. And after a chat with a friend, he had an itch to make something happen ASAP. 

It was the Fourth of July, and a long weekend for John. We decided against throwing our traditional (LARGE) BBQ this year to save a bit of money, but we were not ready to sit around twiddling our thumbs. We spent the holiday at the pool with friends but came home with adventure on our minds. With every hotel in the midwest booked for the holiday weekend, we felt like our options were limited. That’s when John suggested tent camping.

I almost laughed. FIVE KIDS. FIVE. We haven’t been tent camping since before Ollie Jack was born (when we had 1, 3, and 5 year olds only). Could we even do this? Could we even fit all the shit needed to camp in my van with these five small humans? Who would watch our dog because there wouldn’t be room for her in the van? I had so many questions. 

John then pulled up pictures from the Calamus Reservoir. He basically lured me in – and I took the bait. I couldn’t believe that this place existed within a few hours of us. It was a clean lake – meaning no farms surround it, no pesticide runoff, no homes built on it – NOTHING. Just spectacular views and campsites. I decided to start packing. 

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We called in our babysitter to come pet-sit for the weekend. (Thank you Madison!)

After loading up more stuff than we could have possibly needed (including the entire pantry, all rafts, and any flashlight we could find), we jumped in the van and headed out. The 3 hours passed slowly (we need a bigger vehicle) with the kids, but they did great.

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They helped unload and set up tents, each kid having a specific job. We built two tents (one family-sized, the other a double person tent). They played games and got filthy while we decided to head into the tiny town for dinner. 

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The small town of Burwell is maybe a stop sign wide by a cattle farm long. There is one grocery store and a handful of really tiny restaurants. That’s about it! We enjoyed a meal that we didn’t cook – at the sweetest diner-style restaurant. It included a scrapbook of the original layout and the renovations completed years ago. If ever in Burwell, stop in the Sandstone Grill. Make sure, though, to grab anything you may need from their grocery store before 6pm because they close early every day! 

The kids managed to stay awake until midnight, even though we tried our damnedest to get them down by 10pm. The night was long and full of wind and rain. It’s the one downfall of camping – the weather. We stayed dry, thanks to our amazing tents and rain tarps. Our chairs and coolers managed well, too. I’m super grateful John sprung for the deluxe air mattresses, though. The one I shared with the littlest kids was just as comfortable as my bed at home! 

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Morning came fast and the sounds of camping woke Emmett up with the sun. Breakfast was prepared while I ran a few miles that took my breathe away.

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We threw on our swimsuits and headed to Calamus Outfitters for our first tanking experience.  My Florida friends – think: tubing the rivers but instead of a tube, you sit in a giant plastic baby pool (cattle feed). There are seats built in, but it’s not luxurious! However, it is something so simple that will create a mark in your memory bank forever. The kids thought we had taken them to the greatest place on earth. We floated and swam and played for hours as we flowed with the river current with not another soul. Seriously, not one other human was on the river with us. The clouds looked painted against at least three different blues in the sky. The sun kissed us and we smiled bigger than we have in awhile. 

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Back at the campsite, we munched on food before blowing rafts up and walking a few campsites down to the ‘beach.’ I will never get used to calling a lakeside a beach, but the sand was perfect and the water – breathtaking. We planned on renting a boat the following morning, but after checking the weather, we realized that an incoming storm was going to send us packing before we had expected to leave. We spent the afternoon and evening playing in the lake before starting a campfire and cooking dinner. 

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It was at this time that our tick paranoia really kicked in, and (combined with the incoming weather)we decided to start packing up. After last summer’s lyme craziness, we do not mess around with our chances. It’s ok though. We soaked in the glory that God had created out here and will forever remember the trip.

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We arrived home in the early hours of the morning and left the unpacking for true daylight. I had my van deep cleaned to ensure no ticks made the journey home with us – and I completed 4 loads of laundry. The trip was worth every load. 

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As our time in the midwest is now on the decline, it’s time we truly seek out these truly amazing trips. We have trips planned to different parts of Colorado, Arizona, Mt. Rushmore, the Black Hills, and possibly the Grand Canyon before we move again, but are looking for more ‘weekend escapes’ like this one that we can do on a budget – on any given long weekend. 

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How to Pull Off a Last Minute (Under Budget) Family Vacation

If you are thinking about a family camping trip, you can pull it off, even at the last minute.

If you have been following my Facebook page, you knew this post was coming! We decided on July 4th to pack up the kids and throw everything in the car to take a long weekend trip together – the next day.  The problem( other than the crazy last minute rush)? We already have a large week-long trip planned at the end of the month – followed by 3 August birthdays, and several other trips on the calendar. The money wasn’t going to fall from the sky, that’s for sure! But, we still wanted to do something we’d remember forever. AND WE DID.

Everything was booked full. There wasn’t a hotel to be found throughout the midwest. Camping was the only option – with 5 young kids. 

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If you are thinking about a family camping trip, you can pull it off, even at the last minute.

Necessities:  We used REI’s camping list, but here are the most important items we used…

  • Reservation (Preferably in a spectacularly unknown location)
  • Tent (or camper)
  • Air Mattresses
  • Air Pump (battery operated)
  • Pillows
  • Sleeping Bags (or sheets)
  • Chairs
  • Water Jugs (and reusable cups)
  • Food (just empty out your pantry and prep cut the dinners you were planning to make that weekend)
  • Coolers (large and backpack style)
  • Cast Iron Skillet (and plates/utensils)
  • Towels
  • Toilet Paper
  • Lighter
  • Lanterns/Flashlights
  • Travel Potty (tiny toddlers or not)
  • Toilet Paper (and baby wipes)
  • Camping Stove (and propane)
  • Bug Spray and First Aid Kit
  • Tweezers and a Plastic Bag (just in case a tick shows itself – send that sucker in for Lyme testing – you’ll read more about that later.)
  • Clothes
  • Plenty of trash bags (for trash, wet/dirty clothes, anything)
  • Outdoor Toys/Games

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I hesitated when John suggested this trip. A 3 hour drive and two nights in a tent? Sounded less than fun, but I am so glad that I caved and agreed. 

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We had to call the morning of our trip to see if walk-up tenet camping reservations were available. So, the night of the Fourth, we started packing in hopes we’d be traveling. I literally emptied the pantry into baggies and packed it all in a huge tub. I prep’d the weekend dinner (potatoes, sausage, veggies) and had it ready to dump over the fire. One duffle bag held five kids’ worth of clothes. Each child grabbed a backpack full of ‘fun items’ they wanted to bring. 

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I reserved a house/pet sitter (our amazing babysitter) to come to the house while we were gone.

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John loaded the van up – and we started googling everything to do if we made it to our destination. Keeping our (small) budget in mind, we decided on ‘tanking’ down the river, spending a day at the ‘beach,’ and renting a boat.   

Calamus Reservoir had 10 walk-up spaces available. The trip was a GO. 

Our one major fail? We didn’t look closely at the weather. 

As we were driving, we realized there may be bad weather heading for us, but we ventured on. It was only a 40% chance, so we crossed our fingers. The skies were blue and the air became more breathable the farther from the farms that we made it. As we arrived, my heart sang out loud. The lake was beyond anything I had imagined. We scored a great camping spot and started setting up. 

A note: Make sure you give your kids jobs to do while setting up. This is to prevent the pestering and questioning that will cause frustration and anxiety. We handed kids hammers and stakes and taught them how to stake the tents. They set up the sleeping bags on the air mattresses and found twigs for the fire. 

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Don’t plan on cooking within a few hours of arriving. You will be done with ‘doing all the things’ and want to relax. Hop in and explore the closest tiny town. Eat somewhere local. Grab a beer and take the experience in. (Make sure you grab a few scratch off tickets while you are out. It seems that there are always winners sitting in these tiny towns.)

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Break out the glow sticks and flashlights. Play a few games and read some books together before calling it a night. Plan to be up with sun because kids will be out of their element sleeping in nature. Spend the next 24-36 hours soaking in everything beautiful around you. Unplug from the normalcy of life and just exist together.

If the weather turns (like it did for us in the middle of the night), make sure you have your rain tarp up. It was a windy and rainy few hours that made sleep a challenge, but having a great tent proved invaluable! 

You can do this. You can do this on a minimal budget. You can do this with young kids. You can do this as a couple. The key is to find someplace worth seeing and then just do it.

Where have you explored that you think others should know about? Let’s share our hidden vacation spots and start exploring more.

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Planning a Road Trip Birthday

Hello world! I have missed you. I have so much to say, which is a wonderful feeling of freedom. Anyone who has ever suffered from seasonal depression (immediately following postpartum depression) can understand exactly what I mean by saying that I feel free.

Summer is here, and after the worst winter Omaha has experienced in over 30 years, I could not be any happier. I realized this past weekend that I was finally back to my pre-baby #5 happy self again. I have been up every morning running or doing yoga, cooking all the whole foods, and conquering days (even bad ones) with a good outlook. John and I both know now just how important it is for me to escape this winter. No worries, that trip is in the works, and I will be starting to walk you through the in’s and out’s of an 8+ week long road trip with 5 young kids soon!

But, back to the point of today’s ramblings. I have three August babies. The 5th, 12th, and 20th. We end up spending astronomical amounts of money on big gifts and at least one LARGE backyard birthday party. We scrub the house, invite over 30+ kids, smoke pork, beef, chicken, sausage, and all the other meat-groups. I prep sides, bake desserts, create sangrias and adult beverages. We have the greatest time – we really do. We watch the sun go down with great friends and play under the stars.

This year though.. this year needs to be different. The kids need a laptop for homeschool work, but that’s not really a fun gift for an 8 and 10 year old! What could we do that they would love AND appreciate? They have nothing on wishlists (other than more legos, of course – shoot me) and are in need of nothing. So it’s time to HIT THE ROAD!

Did you hear me in the back?

WE ARE HITTING THE ROAD!

I just booked a week in Denver, Colorado for the entire family. We will be celebrating birthdays at Water World and then hiking some spectacular trails together. Other than our Greenwood Village area hotel and the water park, I’m still planning the days out. Send me some great family-friendly ideas if you have them.

We’ll be driving the 8-10 hours all together, yes – John will be with us on the way there. The way back, though – I’ll be back to my single mom driving days! We plan to break the drive up with an overnight somewhere, too. There is a huge first happening on this trip. We had to book two hotel rooms because of our family size. Gone are the days that we can squeeze into one. This trip will be a great confidence booster (because it is going to go well, right?) before my two month long, cross-country drive with the kids AND THE DOG next winter.

As far as birthday gifts go this year, other than the laptop, we are gifting them each theme park tickets to be used while on our next big adventure! Do you think they will be as excited as I am? I sure hope so!

I’ll keep you updated on everything to do in between Omaha and Denver – and the fun you should book for your own family adventure!

Why We Parent With Expectations

We have never treated our kids as anything other than the good humans we expect them to be.

We are far from helicopter parents over here. My oldest three kids (ages 9, 7, and 5) have the freedom to bike the neighborhood without an adult with them. I can let all five kids (the youngest are 3 and 1.5 years old) play outside in the field behind the house together while I pop my head outside every so often to check on them. I can leave my oldest two at home alone while I run errands.

Friends often ask how I can have so much trust in my kids. Strangers comment daily about how respectful, kind, and considerate all of my kids are. I generally laugh it off because the strangers don’t see the regular fighting and messes that also happen here. But the truth is that my kids ARE trustworthy, helpful, and giving. (They also understand boundaries and rules.)

While there is still a lifetime ahead of us in child-raising, looking at our children thus far has me realizing that we are guiding GOOD people.

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I yell. I yell a lot at this stage of motherhood. I’m in the thick of it all, and I know it. I can see the light though – having an almost 10 year old, independent thinking, amazing kid allows me to see that these last few toddler years will pass quickly. But that doesn’t make them any easier, right? Even in these moments, I apologize, regroup and explain how imperfect I am, though.

I’ve been watching and listening to how my husband is living this stage of fatherhood. While the toddler side is exhausting, he is thriving. As a kid comes down the stairs, he always greets them with, “Well hello there, my friend!”

My friend.

Those simple words have made me see that our children are growing and blossoming because of how we have treated them. They never had to earn our respect and we never had to earn theirs. We have never treated them as anything other than the good humans we expect them to be.

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This mindset led us through a mix of attachment parenting and gentle parenting, but it also created a balance containing parenting with expectations. Yes, WITH expectations. Go ahead and blast me with how wrong we are to ‘expect things’ from our children…. but then look at them close and watch them make appropriate choices, treat others with respect, and find the beauty in everyone.

Let me explain further…

Our kids make mistakes every single day. Stupid mistakes. We expect them to. We also understand that they are capable of learning from these mistakes if we help them learn. We expect them to fail again. and again. and again. Each time, though, they grow and become more capable of controlling their actions and considering their options.

Most parents justify their children’s actions with, “It’s age appropriate! It’s ridiculous, but it’s funny. He/She is just immature still – they’re just being a kid.”

We don’t roll that way over here.

Someone commented recently that our kids probably don’t ever have fun… and that it sounded like a crappy childhood. I don’t need to compare my children to others to know how wrong that is.

I spent that afternoon truly watching my kids enjoy life. They jumped on bikes and tore through the neighborhood, built a fort with friends, read books together, made crazy messes and cleaned them up. They looked pretty damn happy to me – and didn’t have to disrespect anyone’s personal space to do so.

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We believe in natural consequences. We believe in respecting public spaces and places of business. We believe our children are capable of so much more than what is deemed ‘okay’ for this generation.

It’s amazing to watch our kids choose friends, and see how they gravitate to other fun, intelligent, and respectful kids. They stick up for others. They speak up when others are disrespectful. They are confident, happy, and true to themselves. Watching the oldest two solve problems and address their mistakes, as our 5 year old is on the cusp of doing the same grants us such excitement.

We are excited for every future age and stage of life with our kids. There will be crazy hard lessons they learn – and we learn as parents. We are hopeful that we are setting good examples and sharing real life with our kids. We don’t hold much back from them because we always want conversations to be open and available without hesitation.

All of this to say – You can hold your children accountable for their actions without spanking them. You can also parent gently while also laying out expectations. You can fail and teach failure. You can yell and apologize; you can be friends with your children while also guiding them.  You can let go and trust when your children are able to naturally understand expectations.

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How to Execute a Quick Winter Escape.

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The depression is real over here in the midwest right now. We are knee deep in our 2nd full Nebraska winter, and let’s just say that we aren’t built for the cold. Although, this winter is apparently the worst winter in the last 30 years here, so everyone is basically over the gray skies, massive snow days, and deathly windchills.

In true Floridian fashion, I was going insane. I was unkind, unhappy, unmotivated, and consumed with leaving this ‘Arctic Hell’ (as Scarlett calls it). We were planning on spending the winter vacationing this year, but I thought I could brave a winter – I mean, maybe I was just being a baby about it all last year. I did pretty well, if I can compliment myself. I survived miserably until February before John pulled the trigger on shipping me off to the ocean.

If you are in a similar state of winter depression and need a quick escape, I highly recommend spending the next few days searching for the cheapest flight that leaves within a few hours drive of you. You can spend a day traveling to your destination and a day traveling back. Fitting everything into one checked back and giving your kids a backpack for the plane filled with new knick knacks will make the travel more bearable.

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Once I decided I wanted to take my oldest two kids along with the youngest and I, ticket prices were in the scary price range for a long weekend getaway. I’m talking $500+ per seat. Well, we aren’t rich over here, so my beach dreams began to fade…. until I extended my search to the airport 3 hours away.  BINGO. Tickets were half the price. I jumped on plane tickets, paid for a bag, booked a parking spot, and started packing.

I contacted as many friends as I could because I wanted my days to be filled with hugs, laughter, and wonderful conversations. Because I grew up in the area, I had family to visit, too. There were too many people to see with too little time to do it all, but I knew that the beach was calling…

Thanks to an old friend, I was reminded that the trip was truly about getting our fill of sunshine, warmth, and ocean waves. I booked a night at The Hollywood Costa Resort in Hollywood beach, right behind the ‘broadwalk.’ While it was a splurge, I needed 24 hours  of beach in my life, and staying with family wouldn’t get me that. It was worth the splurge, as a dear friend drove in from out of town and stayed up late into the night while the kids ran on the sand and margaritas were poured. Nothing beats a big white resort bed either.

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Find your connections and reach out to old friends – or even friends of friends. You may be able to make your quick trip even better by adding in something you normally wouldn’t do.

The first travel day was excessively long, between driving and flights, but having my dad waiting with an SUV for us made it easier. My mom reserved a carseat for Veda, and we invested in MiFold boosters for the big kids (I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THEM).  After a late bedtime, we headed to the beach as the sun rose Friday morning. Friends joined us, as did my mom. The sun was breathtaking, so was the warmth, although our skin had not seen an UV ray in over 6 months, so we were hurting, even with sunscreen.  But the ice-cream shop helped everyone feel a little better.

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The kids and I headed to my dad’s pool for a chilly dip and some wine with wonderful company before seeing more family at dinner. Saturday morning was yoga-filled before devouring a Publix sub, more pool time, and finally heading to the resort. A second day of ice-cream was in order, as were hats and rash guards in the sun. The rooftop pool was hopping, and the margaritas were on point. We stayed up until well past dark and dove into the waves as early as possible the next morning. Several lifelong friends arrived with their families, and my kids had about 15 instant Florida friends. Of course, more ice-cream was in the cards.

It was hard to say goodbye to the ocean, and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t cry a bit. The salty air, the palm trees, the memories, knowing that it wasn’t where my kids were growing up… it stung a bit. But I am so grateful for the escape.

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Traveling home was hard. We missed John, Lyle, and Ollie so much, and I regret not spending the extra money to have everyone come. Landing back in the midwest to more snow than we had left behind was also hard. Emmett asked if the plane would just take us back to Florida.

The tans are fading and the snow is still standing,  but our memories are strong.

If you are debating a quick winter escape, jump on the cheapest flight and do it. Feeling the sun on your face and the salty air through your hair will be worth every penny spent.

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InstaCart and Aldi? Run Away. FAST.

Oh, ya’ll. I am on FIRE.

It was just a typical Wednesday here, full of therapies, classes, writing, and keeping humans alive. I was so thankful to have my weekly groceries delivered this afternoon. I greeted the delivery gentleman and tipped him well (in cash). I put away my groceries and sat down to look at the receipt.

I have been trying out different grocery delivery options the last few months, looking for the best deals, best produce, and best service. Yesterday, I learned that Aldi delivered.

I’ve never been inside of an Aldi, and it doesn’t sound like the place I want to enter with 5 young children in tow. But, I’ve heard such great things about their organic selection – AND THEIR PRICES. And in true giddy fashion, I was astounded by what my total was going to be with a cart full of 50 items — About $145! OMG!

Just as all grocery deliveries go, the price is not set until the shopping is complete and you sign for the delivery. Right?

I signed for the delivery after asking for the total, and being told that the receipt was in the bag. Seeing as how my 2 cantaloupes and large yogurt weren’t available, I assumed my total would be even less than the expected $145.  And I was right — that receipt read $134.94.  BINGO! SWEET! OMG YES!

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Here’s where things get dicey. Aldi uses InstaCart… (as does Costco and several other large stores). I received an e-mail with my charged total of $164.80.

 

 

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WTF.

Okay — Service fee $7.39, Delivery fee $3.99, Bag fee $0.56, Tip $5.00. —— and a subtotal for the food alone $147.86.  (What happened to the $134.94 that is printed on the physical receipt in my hand?)

I’m about to scream here.

One. I tipped in cash at the door. Who is providing this extra $5.00 tip?

Two. My first Instacart delivery fee was suppose to be $0.

Three. MY FREAKING RECEIPT FROM THE STORE is less than this subtotal by EXACTLY 10% —- like almost to the freaking penny, they overcharged me by 10%.

My happy little self called up InstaCart right quick and Kindly was passed to a manager who informed me that customers should never receive a paper receipt. (WHAT?) I was repeatedly told this over and over – that a paper receipt is confusing because the online prices are higher.

When I ever-so-kindly mentioned that I didn’t order for groceries to be shipped from online, that the entire point of grocery delivery is to have another human walk into the store and get the same MOTHER EFFING PRICES that I would get if I were to walk into the store, the manager told me that the online prices are higher, but said she would wave my already shouldn’t be there delivery fee. I laughed. I then asked her why the prices were more for the exact same in store items – that were purchased IN THE STORE.

She told me that Aldi increases online prices, but that they wouldn’t refund my money. She said, “Aldi will just tell you to call InstaCart.” My response? “Well, Hello! I’m so glad that I skipped that part and called you first.” She continued to tell me that she could not refund the difference.

Here’s what I learned from the call, and what you should know before ever using InstaCart:

There is a 10% increase to your in-store price, and you will never know because you should not see your paper receipt. This is NOT a fee that is given to the shopper or the driver (I asked). Those fees are added afterward.

You will be charged a tip, and it is your responsibility to go onto the app and remove that tip immediately after your order is delivered.

When you call and complain, you will not be refunded or credited because, as the manager stated, “It says in small print that the online prices may not reflect your local store prices.”  —– Which SHOULD mean that your total will be reflected at the checkout, as every other grocery delivery service does; however, it is basically a legal way for them to get away with taking an extra 10% of your total and pocketing it.

It’s hard to know if this is on InstaCart or Aldi because they each are passing blame to one another, but I know that I will not be utilizing the service again. Check your receipts guys… NEVER let someone drop off your bags without that white printed paper.

 

What Comes After a Crappy Year?

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What comes after a crappy year?

It’s no doubt that this year was not my favorite. By the looks of social media, I’m not alone. 

Isn’t it funny how life’s pendulum swings that way? How everyone seems to have great years, mediocre years, or shitty years all in similar fashion?

Two years ago, on New Year’s Eve, we found out we were unexpectedly pregnant with baby #5. Two weeks later, we found out we were moving across the country to the mid-west for work. Three weeks later, we were flown here to house hunt, and another 3 weeks later, we were packed and moving. That was a hard year for my family. But, then 2018 came. While life settled down in many aspects, it also sucked ass in many others. Hell, I write about our traveling adventures on this blog, and guess what we didn’t get to do in 2018? TRAVEL like normal. We were landlocked here. There were health issues, more health issues, and health scares, and surgeries. But I digress…. I don’t need to vent it out here – you understand.

Waking up to a new year seems to always bring hope and excitement, but after a mediocre or flat out crappy year, it can bring anxiety by the boat loads. It can be hard to break free from the stress and actually enjoy the possibility of a better year ahead. But, remembering the path of a pendulum, the year ahead will be better.

Instead of sitting around waiting for things to go your way, it’s time to take action. Find a few hours to map out your hopes for 2019.  You can list them, vision board them, doodle them, or blog them. It’s all about putting them down so you can revisit them throughout the year. 

Yes, you can resolution your way into a healthier pantry and refrigerator, or learn a new language. You can save money, pay off debt, and get a massage. Just know that the idea about making 2019 great is to play an active role in fulfilling your goals, overcoming obstacles, and pursuing your own happiness. 

What’s on the cards for Our Lucky Seven in 2019? I’m so glad you asked….

2019 Plans:

Puppy Boarding School: Indie is being shipped out for a 2 week obedience school in January. She should be trained well enough to take camping, RV’ing, or even for a walk without pulling ,y arm out of the socket when it’s over.

A quick girls’ trip to the east coast. My toes need to touch the sand and breathe in the salty air. Veda has yet to see an ocean (HEART BREAKING) and Scarlett is basically a mermaid. We need a vacation without the boys.

A possible weekend trip this summer. 

A 2-3 week RV roadtrip with the whole family this fall. We’ll be heading through national parks out to Cali and back.  This will be a trial run to see if RV’ing works better than hotels for our family. At this point, we’ve become a 2 hotel room family…. Or a $2,000 flight anywhere. Perhaps an RV may work in our favor.

Christmas 2019 is still up in the air. We had a large gift-giving 2018 and would like to vacation this year, but it is still to be determined!

From Business to Pleasure: Turning Your Work Trip Into a Couple’s Getaway

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As you know, it has been a long year here with little travel.  My tiny blog about life and adventure hasn’t been full of much adventure lately… unless you count every day survival and keeping five children alive an adventure. (Which, I do – most days)

Let’s just say that John and I were in need of an escape.  However, our calendar was booked, the bank account was allotted to holiday spending, and time seemed to never slow down enough for us to plan anything. There’s always the issue of a long term babysitter, too. Can you relate?

Then a tiny opportunity fell into our laps and we ran with it: A WORK TRIP.

I know many couples who travel for work and leave it at that – work – a business trip. But in a world that doesn’t seem to slow down, pay enough, or allow time to reconnect, a business trip can be the opportune time to plan an adventure together. 

The dates were set, and the company provided airfare for John and myself.  Still having a nursling, we brought Veda right along with us, too. The destination: Colorado Springs, CO. My mom flew in from across the country to watch the oldest four kids, and we were ready. After speaking with the company, we learned we could extend the trip at the same hotel rate they were paying, rent a car, and utilize all the employee perks for an extra day. 

So we packed, we left, and (minus my anxiety of dying on a plane and leaving my kids) we were on our way! I spent a day writing, editing, and working after a workout and bubble bath in a gorgeous tub. I drank champagne and ate chocolate covered strawberries while doing so. I attended a cookie decorating class, window shopped, and ordered a few last minute Christmas gifts on-line. I got ridiculously fancy for the formal party night, and then slept in the next morning like a mom with only one child! The next day we ventured out on our own to celebrate our birthdays and 11 years of marriage — or you know, just to have a day of fun! We hiked, took pictures, ate, and drank. It was fantastic.

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Although, it reminded me why we are a moving family. We move to explore. We move for work. But we move for the journey. This earth is fantastic. 

It’s hard to envision a business trip being pleasurable, but I assure you it can be.  Before flying out make sure to:

  1. Lock in your hotel rate at the same price your company is paying. Extending the trip early or late by 1-2 days will be on your dime, but at a significantly lower rate than other guests are paying. As you check-in and check-out, remind the front desk what portion to put on your personal card.
  2. Rent a car. Again, this probably won’t be covered, but it will make your adventure more fun. Having access to a vehicle means that you can explore on your terms.
  3. Make reservations for meals together.  Throughout the day or two of mandatory work obligations, it can be hard to spend time together. Don’t stress about those missed moments, instead ensure that the meals you will have together are delicious, romantic (if desired), and worth every penny! Don’t get caught in a 1-2 hour wait time.
  4. Plan something for your spouse. Sometimes companies provide activities and speakers for the employees’ partners to attend, but typically your spouse will be on her own. If you have a child with you, it can be a low key day at the hotel pool, or a fun adventure outside of the resort. If your spouse will be solo, she can have a day of pampering, or simply work from the room.
  5. Know what you want to do together. Spending an extra day at a resort seems perfect in your head, but you should take advantage of everything around you. Research before your trip to know what you can do with a day’s worth of time during the season you will be visiting. A quick day on the slopes, a winery tour, a sports game, or a round of golf, there will be something intriguing!
  6. Grab a souvenir. Always bring home something small to remember your quick trip together. We typically purchase an ornament for the Christmas tree!

Things to see and do in one extra day at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado:

A short drive to Garden of the Gods Park! You can drive through and park at the top to hike the shorter trails, or you can park at the bottom and hike an hour up into the park. Either way, you won’t be disappointed. The sites are breathtaking. 

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After grabbing a late lunch at a local cafe, park your car and grab the shuttle up to Seven Falls. The walk up to the waterfalls is beautiful, and the 300+ stairs you’ll climb to the top will count as your exercise for the trip. After you’ve experienced the falls, stop into the restaurant 1858 at the top of the trail for a hot cocoa or glass of wine. Enjoy a quick bowl of chili or appetizer of French fries, too!  

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After hiking back and shuttling to your car, head to the old school house turned brewery for a cold beer and game of shuffle board! It is the cutest and most fun place! You can do dinner there, or head back to change and get glam for one last fancy meal! 

You can either venture out for dinner or head to the Golden Bee for a delicious dinner!

Yes, there are so many other things to do and see there, but for a single day, this will make you soul happy! 

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It’s Okay to Buy Christmas Gifts

 

I feel like, somewhere along the way, people started seeing me as the mother who had it all together. I have been pulled aside, messaged, and flat out called out in front of a crowd for this blatant lie. 

I, in fact, have nothing together more than anyone else. Actually, I gave up having it all together after Veda was born. That baby #5 really rocked me. But, that’s when (more than ever before) people would confront me wanting to know how I could do it all — It’s as if my letting go and giving in to this stage of life really allowed me to relax and become a confident hot mess.

We are always late (or really early); my kids never have on matching socks – or any socks. I swear the crumbs in the van reappear within 38 seconds of me trying to vacuum the freaking thing out.  

All of that to say this: If you do believe that I am doing a good job over here, then know this:

You are allowed to not take your family on a magical trip for Christmas. 

You are allowed to buy them everything on their wishlist (and more). 

You are allowed to stick to the want, need, wear, and read rule.

You are allowed to jet set across the world for Christmas.

You are allowed to spend Christmas on the beach, in the snow, or sleeping under the stars.

You are allowed to make this YOUR family’s Christmas – not someone else’s.

I have focused a lot on why you should consider experiences over all.the.junk. I have written about our own experiences. It is true, my kids did not miss a damn plastic package while we adventured last year – and it was glorious, BUT – BUT – BUT – this year? 

This year, I am buying all.the.gifts.

Why? I’m not exactly sure.  We aren’t doing a big trip – possibly postponing my cross-country winter drive until spring, even. It will be our first Christmas morning in this beautiful house, maybe that’s playing into it?  Maybe it’s just that my oldest will be TEN next year, and there aren’t many ‘Santa Years’ left? Or, maybe, I’m just in the mood to have a big Christmas!

Buying a bunch of presents doesn’t ruin my kids. It doesn’t make me a bad mom. It doesn’t make our family any more ridiculous than we already were. We just live in a society that judges everything.

Guess what? It doesn’t matter my exact reasons – just like it doesn’t matter what you decide. The kicker, though, is that you just need to be happy with whatever you decide! Go big, go little, go outside, travel, bake, sleep… just make sure that you (and your family) are happy this Christmas!