Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Birmingham Zoo

It was such a beautiful weekend here in Alabama that I definitely wanted to spend our days outside. Yesterday we did just that by going to the Birmingham Zoo. Since it was MLK Jr. Day, we got half off the entrance fee by bringing a canned good. Easy!! Such a great way to save money. We arrived at the zoo around 1 and the kids were definitely ready to see all the animals.

Silly girl!

One reason I love this zoo so much is that there are big animals too. A zoo we often visited in California had a few larger animals but mostly small animals like monkeys. We got to see lions, tigers, a gorilla, rhinos, a hippo, elephants, giraffes, zebras and more. It was awesome!! The kids had an amazing time and so did we!

Madison loved the tiger and kept saying "kitty, meow!" It was probably the cutest thing I have ever seen.

Family photo on the train! We got both kids to look and Uncle Ethan in the back couldn't manage to get his eye to the camera. Figures!

The double jogger was perfect!

Birds bigger than them!

The sea lions were probably their favorite. There were two of them and they were having a great time playing. Swimming all around, making noises, jumping up on the sides. The kids thought they were hilarious!

I really would like to get a membership to the zoo. Its $120 for a family of 4 for a whole year. Thats not too shabby and then I could take the kids all the time. Hopefully we will be able to get that membership soon.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Plane Prep!

We will be heading to California in just over one week and I will be doing this solo (well, with the kids too of course!). This makes me VERY nervous. I have never flown with just me and the two kids before and its proven to be a challenge even when there is another person helping. Brayden is now 3 1/2 and Madison is 1 year 4 months. Probably the hardest ages to fly with and we will have a stranger next to us so I really need to keep the kids calm and behaving acceptable for the public. You know, not kicking the seat in front of them, not yelling, no crying, etc. Basically not being annoying to the people sitting near us.

My main concern is Madison. Brayden can be bribed and can really entertain himself either with books, stickers, DVDs or the iPad. Madison on the other hand, doesn't sit still for any length of time (unless she is eating) and definitely lets me know when she's upset by screaming. Lovely.

To help us all live through this experience, I have been asking friends for tips and searching the internet and of course Pinterest for ideas.

Here is my plan:

1) Lavender essential oil. I use essential oils on a daily basis and lavender has amazing calming effects. I will be putting some in a roller bottle, diluted with fractionated coconut oil, so I can rub it on the kids right before we get on the plane and then again if they start getting fussy and restless.

2) Bribery. HA!! So I typically don't bribe my children to get them to do what I am asking. I don't think this is a good message to use on a daily basis. However, I would practically do anything to get through this plane ride without a meltdown by the kids. I have purchased several small gifts for them from the dollar section at Target. I bought books, stickers, coloring books, and little sketch things. I plan on giving them to the kids throughout our trip but not until after we are actually on the plane! (I haven't bought them yet but I am also going to get retractable crayons. Two packages. Sharing crayons is basically out of the question so I am not even going to attempt to deal with that on the plane.)

3) Snacks. This is kind of obvious but when kids are hungry, they are pretty evil. Just my kids? Cool. Anyways, both kids love goldfish so those we definitely be making the trip with us and Madison still enjoys squeeze pouches so those will be coming too. Water cups for each of them will also be necessary since drinking out of a cup is out of the question. I spill on myself every time I fly and I am an adult that has been drinking out of open cups for about 23 years. Okay maybe I am just messy and clumsy but whatever.

4) Entertainment. We also purchased a new DVD at Target and we already have a portable DVD player. I am going to get a few new apps on the iPad the night before we leave so they are brand new and exciting. The only thing that makes me nervous about this area is the sharing. Brayden is really horrible at sharing the iPad but maybe with the bribing, I can get them to share nicely for the duration of the plane ride.

All of this will be going in my Petunia Pickle Bottom Abundance Backpack along with a blankie for Madison. Brayden will have his own small backpack to bring his Toy Story friends and green blankie (all of which he sleeps with).

If you have any other necessities that you bring for your kids, please leave a comment below! I would love all your ideas and anything that could make this flight go as smoothly as possible!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Organized Home: Toy Solutions

We are currently living with my mother-in-law until we get our house and things are a little hectic. Clothing for all four of us is in one room, Maddie sleeps in the same room as me and hubs and Brayden is sleeping in a bed that's not his and surrounded by stuff that isn't his. Oh and all six of us living in this house share just one bathroom. Call us crazy but it really hasn't been too bad, however, one part of this whole situation is really getting me the most. Toys.

We kept at least half of the kids' toys in storage and we brought the other stuff here. The problem is, I don't have an organized way of dealing with it all. In our old apartment, I had bookshelves and bins and everything had a place. Here we have a huge toy box, a smaller toy box, and then a bunch of crap piled on top. All the Christmas presents they got didn't help the situation either.

So to keep myself thinking positive, I have been thinking and researching ways to organize everything when we get into our house (hopefully very soon!). Here are a few ideas I have in mind (with links to where I found the info).

1) Toy Rotation. I think the kids do so much better when they only have a few things to play with at a time. They aren't overwhelmed and they actually play with the toys rather than just making a mess with everything. I am thinking something like this : http://mothersniche.com/toy-rotation-saving-time-money-and-simplifying-your-life/

I love that she rotates toys from several different areas of the home depending on how often they are used. She also links to a few other blog posts with toy rotation ideas. 

2) Everything has a home. This one is really important for me because I absolutely hate clutter but I need the kids to be able to clean up after themselves. The only way they can do this is if they know where things go. And I don't mean just throw everything in a huge toy box. That doesn't work for me. I despise toy boxes. I already use clear bins that are labeled for sets of Brayden's toys (Cars, Toy Story, Mickey Mouse, and regular cars) and I plan on getting a little more organized with more clear bins. This blog post has great ideas! A mom of NINE that homeschools her kids shows how they stay organized in just 1100 sqft. Really great ideas that would work in any home. 

They aren't cute or fancy so they would work best in a closet but I like that the bags and bins are clear so the kids can see what they are getting. They don't have to open it and dig through the whole container to find what they are looking for. That is also diminished when "like" items are put together.

3) Book storage. Yikes!! Books are a huge problem for us mostly because we have so many. I am not willing to get rid of books only because I think they are so valuable and I love to see my kids just pick up a book. We read to the kids every night and I want to make sure they are book-lovers. One important thing is that they are accessible but our system right now (on a bookshlef) doesn't work because they all come down at the same time. I am hoping that with using the Ikea spice racks, the front covers will be visible and only the books they want will be taken down. We will see how it all works out  but anything has to be better than what we have going on right now. And they are adorable!

She painted her's grey so I like that we could personalize them for each room. I think we could also do another set even higher that are books I don't necessarily want them taking down on their own. Maddie has a problem with ripping out pages so that would be the place for books that she needs supervision with or books that we only read at night.


So those are my ideas for our toy storage organization for when we get our own house. I can't wait to be organized again and I think it will help keep all of us sane. Brayden has been watching too much TV lately and I know that is partially because of weather but it's also because all the toys are a mess. He can't decide what to play with because so much is out at the same time. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Restaurants with Kids

Going out to eat with young kids can be a challenge but the other night was a complete disaster. Usually the kids are pretty good and we can get through the dinner without getting glares from other patrons. This was not that night.

Maddie was just not having it. I knew she was hungry but since the restaurant serves cheese biscuits, I figured she would be fine. NOT. Our serve was terrible and didn't even bring us plates for the biscuits so the kids ended up eating them off napkins. Maddie was still grouchy. She's also discovered a new game she like to play. She screams, I cover her mouth, both kids laugh, she screams again. Truly a horrible game when in a restaurant.

There was a table close to us and the young couple had two even younger kids than ours. Very close in age and they were quiet as could be. That made the situation even worse on my part. I kept comparing my kids to theirs and wondering why their kids could behave and mine were being so loud and crazy.

Then I remembered this. My kids are 3.5 and just over 1 years old. They aren't meant to sit still. They aren't meant to be quiet. They aren't meant to not laugh when they think they are playing a game. They don't understand. Well Brayden does and he was fine, just a little needy.

I know we need to keep taking them to restaurants so they do know and learn how to behave there but honestly, it might be a while before we go back out as a family. The next time we do go out, I also plan to have an arsenal with me to make sure the kids are happy and entertained. I found this on Pinterest and I definitely need to create something like it to help the kids while we are out to eat. 

Here is the link to the blog with the description of everything she put in it: http://blueistyle.blogspot.com/2013/11/RestaurantKitDiningOutWithKids.html?m=0

I love the wipes and silverware but I love that she added her own box of crayons and small coloring books. Some places don't have stuff for kids to do and that basically makes it impossible for a kid to sit still and be entertained while at the restaurant. I would add a sticker book or something since Maddie isn't always a fan of coloring.

I will most definitely be whipping up one of these kits before we head back out. I was not a fan of those glares from other patrons and I know my kids are better behaved than a lot of other kids so they just need the tools to help them accomplish that.

What are your tools for keeping your children quiet and happy in a restaurant?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Rainy Day Fun!

It rains here a lot more than we were used to living in California so we are making the most of it. Personally I love the rain but it can make it difficult to get the kids outside to release some energy when everything is wet. It dried up enough to go out and have a little fun and I got to take some cute pictures.

Of course she found mud as soon as we stepped outside.

We love our rain boots!

Although it can be hard to get these kids outside every day, I certainly try. Sometimes its too cold and sometimes its too wet but when the sun comes out and the kids are hyper, we are sure to head outside. We are slowly but surely figuring this cold-weather thing out.

Friday, January 2, 2015

How Essential Oils Changed Us

I started using essential oils back in July when my kids were getting sick ALL THE TIME! I was sick of them getting sick and since they are so young, traditional medicines were out of the question. My friend from college had been posting about essential oils so I finally asked her about them. Little did I know, I would be hooked and they would have such a huge impact on our lives.

To start, here is a little information about Essential Oils in general. What are they: essential oils are oils derived directly from a plant source. Sometimes its the leaves, sometimes its the seeds, sometimes its the bark. They are potent liquids that are all natural and have MANY uses. How do they work: In nature, essential oils protect the plant. They help to rebuild an eaten leaf or they play a role in pollination. They help people in the same way. They help to regulate a digestive system, heal wounds, rid of aches and pains, boost the immune system, etc. How are they used: there are three main ways to use essential oils: aromatically, topically and internally. Aromatically is simply smelling the oil. Topically is putting in on your skin. Internally is taking it in either through a drink, food or in pill form. (For more information on what essential oils are and how they work, visit www.doterra.com.

Here's how essential oils have helped us:

-Getting Sick: like I mentioned, my kids were getting sick every other month. Fever, congestion, cough. The whole shebang. Since using essential oils, especially the immunity booster OnGuard, they are sick way less often and I think Brayden has had ONE fever. Even if they do get sick, or I get sick, we can get rid of it in just a few days by using a combination of OnGuard, Breathe, and Oregano. I feel so much better knowing I am not giving them medicines that will have adverse affects.
*Note: it is VERY important to always dilute essential oils when using them, especially on children. Use Fractionated Coconut Oil to dilute the essential oils before putting them on children. 

-Headaches: I used to get headaches all the time and it wasn't because I was dehydrated or hungry. I would either suffer all day and be in a bad mood or I would take Ibuprofen. I threw away the Ibuprofen and we have replaced it with Peppermint oil and the roll-on blend PastTense. Both are amazing for headaches and I haven't taken any type of pain reliever since starting oils.
*Note: Again, you will want to dilute the Peppermint oil. It is very potent and it can cause your eyes to sting and water if placed on your forehead without diluting it first.

-Mood & Energy Level: As a sleep-deprived mom, I am often tired, sleepy and sometimes grumpy. That is not how I want to spend my days with my kids. I want them to know me as being happy and energetic. I used to pump coffee in me all day long but caffein is just a temporary fix and would actually give me those headaches I mentioned above. I started diffusing the oil blends Elevation and Citrus Bliss and putting the Lemon oil in my water every morning. I find myself to be happier and more productive all day long. If I start feeling tired or I need an extra burst of energy to get the house cleaned, I put some oils in the diffuser and get to work.

-Stress: By the end of every day, I was ready to bite someone's head off. I was stressed and beyond ready for the kids to go to bed so I could sit in silence. That doesn't exactly make for a fun bedtime routine for the kids. After dinner, I started diffusing Lavender or Serenity and it has made a huge difference for us. It not only calms me down and reduces my stress, but it calms the kids down and gets them ready to go to sleep. Going to bed has become less of a fight and therefore, less stressful for me. The kids are calm and ready to lay their heads down. And once the kids are sleeping, I can just sit in the silence with the diffuser running and get myself to a calm place. It has been amazing for the whole family.

-Nausea and Stomach Issues: Hubby always seems to have a stomach ache and he used to use Pepto Bismol to help. It never really helped enough and so I was thrilled to learn that doTERRA has an oil for just these specific issues. DigestZen is awesome! You literally just rub it right on your stomach and in just a minute or two, you start feeling better already. Hubs has felt so much better by using this particular oil and it's definitely one we always keep on hand.

So those are the main reasons we use essential oils and how the oils have helped us. I have no doubt they can help ANYONE with practically any issue you can think of. The reason I love essential oils so much is that 1) they never expire 2) you can use all sorts of combinations to combat whatever ailment you are experiencing 3) they work wonder for kids that can't take traditional medicine. Just remember that essential oils, while all natural, are still very potent and should be used with caution. You'll want to test them on your skin (diluted) to see if you react well to them. Obviously if you are allergic to grapefruit, you don't want to use grapefruit oil or any blend that has grapefruit in it. Oils still need to be treated like medicine and it's especially important to dilute them when using on children. They have more sensitive skin than adults and therefore need less of the oil to do the job.

This is the Family Physician Kit which is what I started with. It includes the membership so you get the oils at wholesale price (25% off retail), the introductory kit, 10 5mL bottles of the most popular oils, bottle stickers, and a bottle of Slim n' Sassy. It's a great way to get started using oils!

These aren't the only products I use either. I use the OnGuard toothpaste and house cleaner, shampoo & conditioner, face products and I continue to find new products that I love and use daily.

Have you used essential oils? What is your favorite?

If you're interested in learning more about oils, just let me know! I would love to share my knowledge and get you started on a medication-free life. You can also visit my personal doTERRA office at www.mydoterra.com/stephaniesentelle to order products at retail price if you aren't interesting in becoming a member and getting 25% off the products.

Disclosure: I am not a medical professional and I am not giving any medical advice. I am simply stating what has worked for my family. I suggest asking a doctor before starting any new medical routine.

In the future, I plan on posting recipes I use for oils like the kid-friendly OnGuard roll-on bottle of oil I use on the kids daily. I also have a few recipes for relaxation and one to kick a cold in it's butt.