Our Southern California Vacation Pt. 1 Legoland

As part of our family annual budget, vacation is at the top of the list of things to save up for. Ideally we like to do a winter trip and summer trip. This year we were able to do a long weekend in Tahoe and then still plan for a great family vacation in the summer to Southern California. Now being that we live in California, it’s easy enough for us to drive a few hours and get somewhere interesting or beautiful.

So being that we are able to drive, we were able to save heavily on airfare and just put our money toward the hotel stays and fun activities. We also decided to utilize our credit card points to help ease the cost of the trip. (If you’re looking for ways to find easy money/points, check with Chase Sapphire or Capitol One, both great cards.) With that said for our summer vacation we decided to bring the kids to Legoland, Newport Beach, Hollywood and Universal Studios. It was a busy trip but we prepared mentally for it and we made sure that our stay was comfortable for both adults and kids.

Let’s first talk about Legoland. When we first began talking about the trip, we discussed whether it would be best to stay at the Legoland Hotel or stay a little further out of the way to save money. My husband and I agreed that since we were only staying two nights that it would be best to give the kids the full on exerpience and book the Legoland Hotel. And that descision was the best one we made. The kids were absolutley in LOVE with the hotel. Even more so than the actual park.

Here’s what you can expect when you book with LEGOLAND Hotel.

If arriving earlier than check-in, no problem, there is an amazing bellhop service that will hold your bags until your room is ready. You can check in and if your room is not available the front desk will text you when it is available. This way you can go enjoy the park and not worry about your luggage. For an extra $6 fee they will bring the bags up to your room so everything is in your room when you arrive. Can I get a “heck ya!”

Immediately upon walking into the hotel you will find a lego pit. Now if you are deathly affraid of germs, this may gross you out, only beacuse it’s a pit of legos that a bunch of kids are sitting in and play with all day long. If you’re like me, you’ve gotten over it and are grateful for the distraction so you can check in and get yourself organized for the day. Hey, germs builds immunity, right?!

Walk a little bit around the lego pit and you will find an gigantic pirate Lego boat with more things to keep kids busy while mom and dad sip wine next door at the cafe. What’s better than busy kids and relaxed parents.

If that isn’t enough the hotel provides a new treausre hunt daily for the kids. Kids have to look for different clues around the first floor of the hotel to figure out the code to the treasure chest in their room. Yes, there is a treasure chest that housekeeping fills with little lego treasures for the kids to find daily. The kids loved this. Additionally there are events happening every night at the hotel for the kids. Everything from dance parties to lego building competitions. It’s absolutely wonderful. Oh and let’s not forget the disco elevator, it’s a party on every ride up and down.

The rooms have to be the coolest rooms. We splurged a little and got a fully decorated room. What that meant was that the kids area, adult sleeping area, bathroom and doors were all fully decorated in Lego. I believe the other option still keeps the kids area decorated but not the rest of the room. Either way is pretty cool but I’m glad we got a little more. The kids noticed immediately that our door was decorated and that several others were not, so it made them feel special right off the bat. But I think they would have thought it was cool either way. My favortie part was that the kids had their own sleeping aread with bunk beds (and a trundle) with their own TV and night lights. It was wonderful for us parents because we were able to get a good nights sleep and really enjoy the evenings a bit more.

Then there’s the cafeteria which my kids were obsessed with. Now let me say this, we made a decision not to eat dinner there because in my family we are not big eaters and for almost $30/adult and somewhere in the high teens $$$ for kids, I thought it would be a waste of money for us. So the first night we at a the resturant just across the hall to Skyline Café. While we still paid a similar price, we ate some overall good food that was served right to the table and fairly quickly. I didn’t feel like we wasted money on food that would end up in the garbage and on top of that my husband and I were able to enjoy wine and a cocktail. In the morning, however, we did get to experience the cafeteria (Bricks Restaurant) and the kids thought it was awesome. Breakfast is free for ever night’s stay at the Legoland hotel, which is an amazing deal because they have everything under the sun for breakfast and it’s designed so the kids can serve themselves from the buffet. Normally I’d opt out of buffets but this was truly great for adults and kids alike, not for quality neccessarily but for the plethera of options. And if you’re savey (which sadly we were not), you could fill up yor waterbottles for the park here and maybe pack a small container with snacks for the day at the park. Like I said, we weren’t savey enough. We only thought of the idea aftewards. Breakfast is also loads of fun for the kids since there are people dressed up in customes making up balloon animals for the kids or singing songs for the families.

Now onto the park itself.

The park itself is cool enough. I’d say that while I did see some kids in their teens, I’d argue that this park is really geared for kids 5-11. Most rides were great for my youngest who is under 48″, he was excited that he could essentially go on almost every ride. Ironically though, my kids were not as intersted in the rides as they were in building cars with legos in the club house (I believe that’s what it was called) and racing them or walking through the miniature park. Either way they loved it. While we didn’t go on many rides we had full days exploring the park.

Day 1: We explored the park, went on a few rides such as the new 3D Ninjago Ride (which was Awesome!). Then in the later part of the day before dinner we hit up the aquirium which was small but really cool. Again this was another perk of the package and was included in our ticket price.

Day 2: We had early entry into the park but none of the rides we really wanted to go on were open. Luckly Ninjago was so we did that again and then we decided to take the boat ride called Coast Cruise around to see all the monuments and mini cities created in legos. By the time that ride was over, the park was officially open and we went straight for the rides that we wanted to really do before the lines got crazy. It turned out the Adventerer’s Club was way cool and the kids loved the Pharaoh’s Revenge.  I’d say if you get to the park right when it opens, you can probably do the whole park in a day, probably. But my kids, had other plans and to them they wanted to spend time in the waterpark, so that’s what we did. Lego has done an amazing job with this area. While it was an extra fee for the Waterpark, it was worth it. The Chima area was absoltely well done and was a load of fun. They had cabanas for anyone who wanted to rent them which included a small pepsi fridge full of cold drinks. It was pricey and I didn’t feel it neccessary for our family, but if you’re traveling with another family it might be worth spliting the cost and going for it.

The wave pool in Chima is really nice as well. The water is really clean but kids under 48″ must wear a life jacket. That did not boad well with my youngest so needless to say we did not spend much time in the wave pool.

All in all two days at Legoland was more than enough for us. Perhaps a 3rd day might have been ok too but I honestly felt that we did what we set out to do in the two days and it was enough.

Now that you’ve read the novel above here’s the “Cliffs Notes”:

Arrive early on day one and leave your baggage with the bellhop. Pay the $6 and get your luggage delivered to your room so you can enjoy the park. Check in and the front desk will text you when your room is ready. Because you paid for the bellhop your stuff will be waiting for you in your room.

Do enjoy the included breakfast and be savey if you can about taking some ziplockbacks or contains for snacks and water. [get my drift ;)]

Do splurge on the waterpark.

The aqurium is open later in the day so do that last. Something to do before dinner.

Two days is really enough, but 3 would probably be the maximum.

The park is probably too young for a 14 year old but just right if you have 5-11 year old.

P.S. if you reading this in 2018 things may have changed since the new Lego Castle Hotel opens in 2018 (you may want to check that out insted.)

If we are able we will definatley do this trip again. The memories were priceless.

Everything was awesome!

 

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FabFitFun Spring Box Unveiling

Here is my blog video post for this week. It’s the unveiling of the Spring FabfitFun Box. I’ll add the info for some of the products I’m most excited about below.

FabFitFun: https://fabfitfun.com

“I Love Myself” Lip Products by RealHer: https://www.realher.com

Briogeo Rosarco Milk: https://briogeohair.com/products/rosarco-milk

Karuna Hydrating + Face Mask:  https://karunaskin.com/collections/face-masks/products/hydrating-face-mask

LUV AJ: https://www.luvaj.com

Please also let me know in my comments if you’d like me to do the Dr. Brandt giveaway? If I get enough interest, I’ll come up with something fun and creative. So like and comment please. 🙂

To Home School or Not to Home School, that is the question.

Jaquline This week is all about homeschooling. I’m going to let this article speak for itself. My beautiful friend Jacquline does an amazing job with her introduction and in all the details of homeschooling.

If you’ve ever thought of homeschooling or have friends who do, this article will give you extreme perspective on what it’s like and what it takes.

To Home School or Not to Home School… by Jacqueline Wood. 

It’s close to midnight on a Thursday and I thought to myself, it’s either sleep or writing this post. Consistent sleep and rest have not been a part of my life for over six years. Why? I chose to homeschool two boys that are radically different from each other, emotionally, intellectually – collectively. Rosalie has been my good friend since Day 1 of their lives so she’s seen me, a woman of several roles, change and morph into who I am today.

And who am I, really?

Well, I WAS a workaholic who consulted on the East and West Coasts for every possible industry. I made lots of money, helped my family when they were down and out and financed my own wedding with all of that money. Then I fell in love with my soul mate, moved to Northern California and had two boys. One who is phenomenally sharp and the other who has developmental delays. So I did what 75% of those warrior mothers did – I stopped blaming my children’s educators for lackluster results and coupled my design thinking with my mommy drive into designing curriculum for both boys who exist on different levels.

It is my purpose in life and I firmly believe that all of my experiences in life led me to this point. From research development, creative process, client management, the diplomacy, troubleshooting…all of it prepared me for this adventure. And this mindset of shedding old skin for the new, I believe, is what will truly propel a parent to sacrifice all the free time you’ve ever had and shove that energy into the children, the family and then and only then should you homeschool. Of course, you can “try it out” and “take it day by day” but after meeting tons of families in this realm (those that tried it and reverted) and knowing what worked for our boys, I can honestly write that you almost have to believe that you’ve gotten all that “Me Time” out of your system because that will save your soul from experiencing your own meltdown mid-day.

There are enormous benefits of being with your children each day, don’t get me wrong. Benefits that will stay with them and you until they’re well into adulthood, but if I can share some “Tips from a Girlfriend” about the Who, What, When and Where aka Signs that You May Qualify to be a Teacher Mom, here are several that come to me late into the night:

  1. You know you should homeschool when you’ve laid awake too many times at night bitching to your husband about your child’s teacher or “that kid in class.”
  2. You know that you could teach your child better than their teacher.
  3. You do not agree with the teacher’s disciplinary style with her students.
  4. You are satisfied with your accomplishments as a wage-earning professional and are done daydreaming about that “online business” to take on an overtime job with no wages (Why? Because the last thing you’ll want to do after a day of HS is touch your computer)
  5. You have a natural curiosity about child development.

3 out of 5? Great! You may be qualified. So how?

  • Start your children out early to condition their acceptance that you are their mother AND educator. Just like training their food palettes, start them early and you yourself stick with the commitment.
  • Be flexible with the curriculum. Grab a grade-level workbook from Target, Walmart, or any retailer and gauge where your child is. Use it as an informal assessment, then observe and analyze for weeks or even months.
  • Get connected with a local Homeschool chapter. California is abundant with local park days and there are websites that can get you started. There are even “Ambassadors” that take your calls if you are new and do not know where to start.http://www.californiahomeschool.net is a wonderful website to begin your journey.
  • Check with your local school district if they offer a Homestudies or Distant Learning option.
  • There are three notable homeschool co-ops in the San Jose area that are super popular and serve different purposes:
    • Academic Antics & A-Team: secular, play-based and hands-on courses for PreK to HS
    • Pioneer Family Academy & Live Oak: Christian-based co-ops that emphasize academics but are super intimate and teachers are passionate. Classes are only T/Th
    • Google local resources! There are tons!

We are three years into alternative education and it’s been a one-way road – we’re in it for a lifetime. I can enjoy our children night and day and we’ve become best friends. My husband and I never alienate their presence or thoughts and share as if they were little adults. They are empathetic, passionate beings that lead me to satiate their curiosity with as many resources as I can afford! I relive my youth through them. They learn how I WANT them to learn. I take art classes with them. I dig into Photoshop with them. I cook alongside them.

So, Rosalie asked how I maintain this AND keep my husband happy and lusting after me (I hope!)? I remember crossing the street in NYC during my Sex and the City days where I didn’t have a care in the world outside of my own satisfaction and I thought I had discovered how to keep a man. Mind you, during those days, there was a 5:1 ratio of women to men in the City. I realized that if you brand yourself as unique and powerful and portray to the man that you don’t NEED him, but you’re with him because you WANT him, it keeps the relationship lusty. And I still carry that sentiment with me today. As tired and exhausted as I am at the end of the day, I still make sure I make sound investments (to increase shared assets and income), I manage the money in the household and that my man knows I can get it done with or without him. As hard as that may sound, Rosalie requested I be honest. I hold back my bitchings of my exhaustion and if necessary, I just peel myself away from the prime-time rumble for a bath. But I try to keep the boys rolling toward bedtime with peace in the household until they slumber, and then and only then do I dip into a hot bath, write in my journal or read my devotional before I sleep.

My life before children was socially-charged, maddening, fast and a bit too much if not toxic. With all that behind me now, my mantra is to know that my kids heal me and not taketh away. And with this lifestyle, comes peace and ways to maneuver it all.

 

Country Living March 2017 – Spring in February.

country-living-graphic Happy March everyone. Today I’d love to introduce you to my wonderful S.I.L Jen. She is a wonderful friend and the best Martha Stewart in my circle of friends. She’s always coming up with fun and creative ways to host a party, decorate her home or make an amazing meal. With all her talents, I decided to reach out to her to see if she’d like to participate in my blog. She has kindly agreed to do a Country Living segment which I’m really excited about. While I do live in a city, I always crave the comforts of the country just because I like the quiet and miss the stars. When ever I have a chance to visit Connecticut I love the drive to her home as well as many of my friends because I get to see endless roads filled with trees and occasionally some beautiful historical buildings or farms with happy animals.

Thank you Jen for doing this. I’m very excited about your contributions.

Spring In February

by Jen Fino

60-70 degree temps in February?  Yessssssssaaaaahhhhhh!  I don’t know about you, but the first official sign of spring for me is when I see the green shoots of a crocus peeking through a blanket of snow or the cold, hard ground.  They say “Hi, I’m here.  I’m cute, I’m tough and spring is here. .”  I mean really?  Are we going to allow a groundhog, a calendar or Maui to get in the way of this feeling?  (I just watched the movie with my girls, okay?  And he was kind of cute and funny.  YOU’RE WELCOME!)  I’m not going backwards.  It’s officially Spring in my book.  Plus, I’ve already rolled all the windows down in the car, opened the sunroof and sang out loud to hair blowing in my face and sticking to my freshly lacquered lips.   In your face, Winter!

With spring comes an abundant feeling of rebirth, growth and vitality.  Personally, I feel more invigorated by spring than I do with an upcoming New Year.  It is this stimulation that got me thinking about planting a garden.  At my father’s place the other day I found myself looking out into his sunny backyard where my eyes were drawn to his bare garden beds.  There they sat waiting for the warmer days of spring when my father would prepare the soil, plant the seedlings, water them consistently, mulch, eliminate weeds and control pests until harvest.  Then and there I was inspired to grow my own garden. Now, this is not a new adventure for me.  I’ve attempted to grow a garden before.  “Grow zucchini” they said, “it’s the easiest vegetable to grow” they said, “you’ll be making zucchini bread for weeks” they said.  Wrong.  ONE!  One zucchini! That is so not cool Maui.  The thing is, we live in the woods.  This isn’t like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves woods.  We have about an acre of land surrounded by beautiful trees and unfortunately, we don’t get enough direct sunlight in the backyard to grow a bountiful garden. Of course, I could just move it to the front yard where it’s sunnier longer but I’m not too keen on the idea of an all-you-can-eat buffet for bunnies in my front yard.  The other thing is, well, my green thumb is a little more brown than green.  IMO I take issue with the fact that Mother Nature can’t water, weed and shoo the bugs away herself.  The crocuses didn’t need any help.  Isn’t this supposed to be natural, and easy and natural?  “They” said you can’t go wrong with zucchini’s.  I went wrong with zucchini’s!  (I’m somehow thinking of my painful experience with breastfeeding…you know where I’m going with this).

Contemplating all of this and thinking about my options I thought “why not grow a garden here.” So, in a sweet, daddy’s little girl way I asked my father if I could borrow a small slice of his heaven to grow a garden.  I’m growing a garden y’all and I’m taking you along on the journey! I’m terrified but excited.  There’s research, and planning and scheduling to do but I’m determined and ready to do whatever I need to do to make this successful.  I’m going to squeeze this into my crazy life.  I’ll stop in between dance and softball drop offs and pick-ups, I’ll weed with freshly manicured fingernails and hoe (?) in pencil skirts and heels if I must (with girls in tow)!  As Maui would say, “It’s time to muscle up buttercup!”  What is your first unofficial sign of spring and how has it inspired you?

flowers-in-the-snow

Have Triplets Will Travel.

Recently, I decided to reach out to some friends to help get them involved in my blog and provide us all with some of their tips and tricks on parenthood. All my mommy friends are rockstars so it should be no surprise that I’d want to highlight them. Watch out ladies, I might be reaching out to you next. 😉

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Now let me introduce you to “Mrs. Worldwide,” my dear friend and past roommate, Jennifer. She is a rockstar momma of triplets who is as determined and passionate as ever. Before we get into the topic of today I want to give you a little background. Jennifer and I became friends through our now husbands, we became roommates for a short time and we have managed to continue a very familial friendship even after I moved 3000 miles away. Jennifer has always been someone who I’ve looked to as being smart, savvy and extremely goal oriented. She sets her goals on something and she goes for it. She has traveled the globe from Asia to Europe and to South America. Even now after kids she is determined to travel. This is something I admire about her because we all know that with kids it’s hard enough to make a trip to the grocery store let alone another continent with toddler triplets. For this reason and more, I though Jennifer would be the perfect person to talk to us a little about time management with kids and how to save your pennies so you can still travel or do some of the extra curricular things you loved to do before kids.

While Jennifer and I spoke, she explained to me that before kids she loved to travel and was always trying to find ways to travel great distances (many times to meet her husband on his business trips) and to do it in business class when possible. She would always know a year or more in advance where she wanted to go which always gave her enough time to strategize, save and prepare.

Also before kids Jennifer mentioned that she learned to cook core meals that she could do by heart regularly that both she and her husband liked. She experimented and tested out new things until she found the recipes that would end up being the foundation meals of their life and generally help them save time and money.

These are just two habits that helped Jennifer prepare for the adventures of motherhood. So let me explain. In her desire to travel to some of the places she did and with the frequency she did all while still purchasing homes and maintaining her daily life, Jennifer had to plan a head and learn how to get creative with her money & time. She did her home work and learned how to position herself to be able to attain her goals. That meant sacrificing things that were of less value to her for the things she found of greater value. It also meant planning and preparing with enough advance time and most importantly it was about staying focused on the end goal and knowing her values.

Fastforward to today, Jennifer has taken these tools and applied them to motherhood.

Let’s first discuss money and how to save. Now imagine being given the news that you are having triplets or any multiples. WOW! Holy shizzel, my nizzel! I think I might pass out.

As we all know having children has a big financial impact on our wallet. It means, diapers, wipes, daycare, formula/or breast pump, clothes that is constantly having to be replaced, co-pays for doctors appointments, baby food, milk, college fund, etc etc… The list goes on and on. So when you have all of that times three, it has to make you anxious and nervous. I mean how can it not. But Jennifer and her husband handle it like pros. They are focused and determined to give these kids the best life possible.

Here’s how they do it:

  1. Plan, plan & plan ahead whenever possible.
  2. Get creative with your dollars & cents.
  3. Know your values and your goals. 

Working backwards, let’s start with point #3 Knowing your values & your goals. For my dear friend as well as many of us, now that she is a mom her values are still similar as before but perhaps a little modified. While I haven’t explained this before, Jennifer has very strong family and friend values. She is very close to them and it’s important to be able to see them when possible and expose her children to them as well. Her immediate family, obviously being the most important now. Here children are her world and her focus is to make sure they are fed healthy food (organic included), that they are never short of diapers and that they are stimulated by being around other kids/people. Travel is still on her agenda and something she and her family do travel. This past year Jennifer took her family to Portugal and to Florida. That is not an easy task but it was important for the kids to see family and so they traveled to where family was. Perhaps Jennifer may not get to the Great Wall of China again any time soon or go snowboarding down the Swiss Alps but she will vacation with her family and she knows that one day there will be time for more exotic travel & fun.

In addition to travel it’s been important to have her children surrounded by family and friends. So that is what she makes sure happens. She is NOT afraid or shy to ask for help. She recommends asking for help. Don’t be shy. Doing this has allowed her children to have the attention they needed to help develop motor skills, verbal skills, and so on. In fact her children understand 3 languages. If you have a premie or you know any families of multiples you know that these children are monitored by their pediatricians for their developmental skills even more closely than the average child. Sometimes, families of multiples see some sort of delay in things like walking or talking in one or more of their children, so additional therapies maybe needed. Now, this is not always the case but Jennifer has informed me that this is something pretty common that she sees in her mommy groups of multiples. She believes having people come help and spend time with her kids along side of her has helped them progress & develop at an average pace as compared to the single child. Now this is her theory but it does make sense to me. So if you need help, even if it’s for one child, ask for it. In my opinion, even one child could feel like a challenge. Everyone’s experience is different and everyone has different challenges.

Knowing her values I believe has helped direct her focus on what’s important in her life and what she is really out to achieve.

pink-piggy-bank
On to point #2 “Get creative with your dollars & cents.”

Having triplets means diapers, diapers & more diapers. And lets face it in most cases of multiples formula supplement is needed. So now we are talking formula, formula and more formula. Do you see the dollar signs going out the door? Is the picture starting to get clear? Kids are expensive!

When Jennifer first had her triplets she went on the quest to figure out how to get to most diapers for her dollar. What she figured out is that diapers are on average $0.22-0.26 per diaper so it was her quest to figure out how to do better. After looking around she found that the Honest Company had a promo that for every email you sign up with you get 50% off your order up to 3 bundles and the best part is that the diapers come with he wipes. After all was said and done the diapers come out to $0.15 per diaper. That is about a 40% savings. So Jennifer took it further and signed up her husband, sister-in-law, mother, mother-in-law, and anyone in her family who was willing. Now that is savvy if you ask me and every penny counts. Jennifer says that the deal has since changed and you can only get up to 2 bundles now but the point is, that she though out of the box to figure out the best price per unit to get a deeper savings.

When it came to formula, Jennifer found savvy ways here too. If you don’t know formula can cost upward of $40/per can. One can may last you a just a few days (less than a week) so it could get pretty costly especially x3. So Jennifer had to once again get creative. She noticed in her local mommy groups there were people who were transitioning  from formula to milk or having to change formulas and would have extra cans to give away, so Jennifer always tried to get those to help with the expense. This is not the first I’ve heard of this in fact, when my kids were younger there were lots of moms exchanging formula, diapers and wipes when they transition to the next phase. I remember myself giving away diapers and formula. So look into your local mommy groups and see what people are parting with. You never know. You may also want to check with your doctor. Doctors often get promos and samples of formula that they can give away. So you may want to check and ask.

Now that the boys are older, another way Jennifer finds ways to save is by eating all their meals at home. This takes a bit of work and preparation but her family eats healthier and they save money this way. As mentioned earlier she has meals that she has mastered so she always has at least 5 meals per week in her back pocket and she ensures that she always has the ingredients on hand. She has also figured out how much money each meal is per person. So on average is only spending $3-4  per person, I believe that’s cheaper than McDonalds and it’s all healthy and organic.

Now onto travel and how save up to do it. Now this is a tip that Jennifer gave me last year and it came in really handy.

  1. Know at least 1 to 1.5 years ahead of time where you want to go.
  2. Research and apply for the best credit card with points that can get you there.

A little over a year ago when my family and I were planning to travel over seas and I was taking yet another trip to the east coast for a friend’s wedding, I was trying to figure the best way to maximize my $$$. At the time Chase Sapphire was having a promo and guess who told me about it? Yup, my home girl Jennifer. The promo was spend $3000 in 3 months and get 50,000 points and in addition no annual fees for the first year. Now since I was buying tickets to Europe for my whole family I knew I would spend at least $3k or more for my family so why not get the points for it as well. So that’s what I did. My trip to the east coast was completely on points and I was able to rent a car on points as well plus I had points left over. That was a deal if you ask me. The biggest thing with the credit card is know what you have to spend on anyway and use the credit card for that. It’s not meant as a tool to over spend. You should only be spending on what you know you have to spend and you pay it off. When you’re done with the card close it. When you’re ready to travel again, you do it again. Note, most credit cads will require you to have a closed account for at least a year before you can apply again for any new promos with their company. So you keep that in mind. Also if you’re worried about FICO scores lowering because of opening and closing cards, well I’m not sure how it impacts your credit. Jennifer says she checks her score every year and it’s always the same, it hasn’t changed. This year she told me about a deal with Jet Blue that she is using. I’m likely going to close my Chase card and look into the Jet Blue card.

Another tool she told me about was following the Points Guy, he has a website and he’s also on FB. He is constantly providing tips and tricks on travel and travel promos. We also used one of his recommendations last year and our whole family traveled from California to Europe in business class for about the same price of a coach ticket.

There are several cards out there just willing to give money away either for travel or to give money back. You’ll have to do some research but there is one out there for you. You may also consider looking online to websites who provide point value analysis. Pinterest is a site you can use by simply searching credit card points and the Points Guy also provides points analysis.

As you can see from what I’ve written so far most of these things require time so that is where point #1 comes in to play, plan, plan & plan ahead whenever possible.  Planning usually takes a little time on the forefront but it will save you time and stress in the long run. If you know you want to go somewhere, start planning a year or more in advance so you have time to save money or points. You know you have to eat everyday, so pick one day a week to meal plan and you’ll be thankful the other 6 days of the week. Planning ahead can apply almost any situation. Even if you don’t think you can do it, just try. Start small and then grow your self. Planing ahead helps you manage your time better and will help you actually achieve what you have set out to do. But you have to stick to it. Believe me staying consistent is the hardest part…well at least for me. When I do stay on tract, I find the reward to be glorious.

Now with all of this there are some sacrifices that Jennifer and her husband have had to make.

  1. No recreational shopping. You only buy to replace what you need and that’s it.
  2. No dates nights.
  3. Not abusing costly outings with friends.

These are just some of the things that have been adjusted in their lives. This is always where your values come in to play. Jennifer and her husband have had the conversation of setting expectations and have a clear understanding of each other and their own needs. That’s why they are ok with no date night. They understand that they will have time for that once the boys are older. It is important for them to spend time with friends so this is in their budget. For you perhaps it’s the inverse, it really just depends on what your priorities are and your values, everyone is different.

But it’s not all sacrifice and not play. Jennifer mentioned that recently she and her husband were able to go to a wedding in Houston without the boys. She said she went on points and she flew her mom up on points to watch the boys. So she was able to get away with her husband buy asking for help, and being creative with her money. So you see she and her husband do find time together but it might just look a little different than for the rest of us.

Overall I hope what you take away from this, is the impossible can be possible with kids. It take a little work but you too can get there. Having a clear understating of your values helps immensely and being on the same page with with you partner is important. Remember everyone’s values and priorities are different so if travel isn’t your thing perhaps you work your way to a spa day, a shopping spree, a theme park adventure, a weekend at the beach or whatever your heart and the hearts of your littles desire. Don’t be shy about asking for help from your loved ones. And be creative with your time and money but most importantly have fun with your family and enjoy this short ride.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

jen & kids.jpg

“Mean Dumb Mommy”

How many times have you felt so unappreciated in your role a mom? Seriously, it’s the most thankless job that we all love to do. My next question is, how many times have you caught yourself sounding like your own mother and cringed? Or better yet, how many times have you heard your kids speak those terrible words to you? You know the ones that you so clearly remember feeling about your own parents and swore to yourself that you’d never make your kids feel like that one day? Here’s a hint, Love is not included in any of the sentences.

Eek!!!!

So it happens to the best of us because kids are kids and parents are parents. Kids are not always going to like what we say or want to do what we tell them to, so inevitably they are going to think parents kind of suck sometimes. Yup, even if they aren’t saying it there is a big chance they are thinking it. I mean really, don’t you think the same about your boss when he/she makes you do something you think is pointless or not within your job description. We’ve been there as adults so kids are people too and they have the same emotions. This is what I try to tell myself so I don’t take what they say to me so personally sometimes.  Yes my kids say things like:

“I wish you weren’t my mom.”

“You’re the worst mom.”

“You’re a mean dumb mom.”

“Mom is so mean.”

“She is so dumb.”

They mostly say this when they think I’m not listening but they do say it to me as well. It usually comes when I tell them something they don’t want to hear, such as:

“We can’t go visit our friend if we don’t clean up and I’ve now asked you to pick up your clothes and toys at least 10 times.”

“If you want screen time we you have to earn it by doing the things on your chart, i.e. brush your teeth, be ready for school on time, be kind, make your bed, etc…”

“You didn’t stop fighting so now you will loose a privilege.”

The list can go on possibly forever. I will say my kids usually have to be in a not so great mood when I say these things to have the “I hate you mom” reaction but they have it none the less. Personally I think that if I’m simply asking you to be a decent human-being and contribute in our family, I don’t (nor does anyone) deserve to be treated with such distaste and disrespect. It’s simply life.

Like many, I often feel my kid are spoiled. I do almost everything for them and they can want for nothing because they have more than what they should want or need. I’m sure our parents felt the same about us. So, with all this said I decided to give them a taste of what “Mean Dumb Mom” is really like. Here’s how it went.

This little experience as “Mean Dumb Mom” went on for about a day and a half. One night before bed, I had just finished asking my kids to brush their teeth for what felt like the 100th time and yet I just find them in their room physically fighting with each other. Ok, it was more like wrestling. An angry wrestling. I was so frustrated I said (well maybe I yelled), “Enough, I’ve asked you to brush your teeth so we can read a book before bed and now I’m done. Everyone to bed right NOW!” Of course they became upset and even more so when I said we are not doing prayers because we are not behaving. Oh, well, that set them over the edge. They went pouting and stomping but they went to bed. As I closed the door I hear whisperings of “she’s a mean dumb mom” and “I wish she wasn’t our mom.” Well that was it. I opened the door and I let them have it. In a slightly elevated angry voice I said, “oh yeah, is that what you think?! Well tomorrow you will see what ‘Mean Dumb Mom’ is really like. When you wake up, don’t wake me up! Don’t ask me for breakfast! Don’t ask me for snack or lunch! If you want those things you’ll have to do them for yourself. You’ll get yourselves ready for school on time. I will not help you at all. If you want ‘Mean Dumb Mom’, you’ll get her.” All of a sudden they unexpectedly both started to cry. Oh my goodness, I was completely caught off guard. Of course my heart crushed but I didn’t let it make me back down. I simply closed the door to their room and walked to sit on the couch. I took deep breaths and sat quietly sad and bothered. Feeling guilt about yelling and bad about my parenting skills. Within a few short minutes I heard little foot steps come out and my youngest appeared in front of me and proceeded to hug me quietly. If you know my youngest you know he’s not a hugger so I was a bit surprised. After the hug he says, “I’m still mad at you.” I can laugh about it now but in that moment it made me realize that while he felt bad he hadn’t learned his lesson.

The next morning, I did as I said I would do. I said I wasn’t going to help them and I didn’t. I know they are capable of all the things I normally do for them because when they want to do them, they do. My youngest made his own cereal while the oldest made his snack. The oldest decided not to eat breakfast (his choice) and the youngest fussed around about getting dressed so he never made it in time to make his snack or lunch. That day it also happened to be raining so I decided that if I really wanted to be “mean mom” I’d make them walk in the rain. So that’s what we did. The only problem was getting my #2 to get dressed and out the door on time. So dad was roped in and I walked my oldest to school in the rain (more like a drizzle) while dad waited around for my youngest. As we walked to school Logan began to ask, “what can we do to get nice mommy back?” I simply told him that he and his brother had to be nice to me and to each other and prove to me that they can do that all the time. I realize this was a lot to ask but I wanted to get my point across. So we continued quietly on. When we got to school I spoke to each of their teachers because I was afraid of meltdowns or them getting distracted with hunger or the fact that they didn’t have snack. They understood and supported me so I felt really good about it. Both my kids were smart enough to get hot lunch and my youngest went as far as to buy snack. My youngest got to school late and was mad because he had to get a tardy pass but it was a lesson he had to learn.

“Mean mom” continued into the next day which was Saturday. Several times throughout Friday night and Saturday morning I was asked how they can get the “old mom” back and I continued with the same answer “be nice to me and to each other and don’t name call, ever. You need to prove yourselves.” Halfway through Saturday (after everyone helped to clean the house and do the laundry) I felt my message had been heard and we sat down and talked about it. I explained that it really hurts my feelings when they say those things. I asked “how you feel if I said I wish you weren’t my kids?” My oldest began to get sad and my youngest said he wouldn’t like it. We discussed how it’s important to be kind to each other and to others and it’s not ok to say hurtful things even if we are really really mad. It felt good to talk and feel like my message was heard. I knew that they would probably do ok for the rest of the day and maybe the next day but I knew it would only be a matter of time. Of course, they are kids I can’t expect miracles. But since that day I now ask if they feel they’d like “mean mom” back, they quickly answer, “No.” Sometimes when they don’t do things I ask, I say “why is it that you do these things for ‘mean mom’ but not for me? Is it better to have ‘mean mom’ here?” They usually get the message . I obviously can’t always use “mean mom” as a default and I can’t keep beating a dead horse but as with any parenting strategy, I hope I did a good thing.

Again the goal is to raise good people with good intentions and lots of love.