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.

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“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.

 

VACATIONING WITH THE KIDDOS IN PORTUGAL PT.2

In part 2 of my journey with the family I’ll be telling you about my favorite little city in Portugal, Aveiro. This little city is also known as the little Venice of Portugal and is known for it canals and it’s Art Nouveau monuments and buildings.  After we stopped in Aveiro, we took a much needed adult break in the Douro Valley. A place where pictures do not do it justice and the wine is just so fine. Finally I can’t wait to share my experience in the Algarve with you. If you are looking for some of the most beautiful beaches and a simple place to relax, this is it.

Aveiro “Little Venice”

Aveiro is not only one of my favorite cities, it’s the city that encompasses the towns that my both my parents grew up in. One parent growing up in a small farming town just outside the city and the other a ferry ride away in a small fishing village which has now become a popular tourist destination.  So you might say I’m a little biased but I would argue that anyone with a love for European culture could only fall in love with this little city.

So let’s begin, Aveiro is located about 50mins south of Porto or about 72.5km south. It is not only a beautiful city full of small alley ways and canals, it’s also surrounded by some of the most amazing beaches on the European Atlantic Coast.

When traveling with families to Aveiro here are come fun things to do for mom and dad as well as the kids. First and for most a tour on a Barrco Moliceiro will give you a quick history lesson on the city and you can get a feel of what area of the city you’d like to explore most. Kids love it and so do the adults. Be sure to bring a hat and sunglasses, on sunny days. After your ride, I’d suggest just exploring the city by foot. Every little turn down an alley you will find little hidden treasures. Either a cute little cafe or restaurants serving delicious appetizers and wine. One of my favorite little treasures is the Art Nova Museum which hold a little cafe at the bottom called Casa de Cha. Here is there site: http://www.casadechaartenova.com/default.htm

This little cafe is so yummy and has fun beanbag chairs to lounge around when sitting outside. It’s shaded so you can enjoy it even on a hot day. And then if you’re into art an history you can take a quick tour of the museum.

Once you ventured there you might want to grab a bite to eat. I can’t say I have a favorite place, but I can almost guarantee that any little restaurant you go into you’ll find some amazing food. Items to look for that I love are pica pau, which is a pork appetizer dish usually accompanied by bread for dipping or Moelas (aka chicken gizzards). These are really tasty don’t let the gizzard part prevent you from trying them. Meals that I like to get are usually anything with bacalhau (cod fish) or sardines. If you’re going to eat sardines, this is the general area to get them. After lunch you might want to stop any get some dessert. The kids will of course love any selection of Ola ice-cream but for the adults, I’d suggest ovos moles. Aveiro is the only place in the world you can find real authentic ovos moles. These little treats are an egg cream usually inside a wafer shell. But it you really love them you can buy the cream inside of mini barrels to enjoy by itself or however you choose. Aveiro is known for is sweet delicacies, now matter what dessert or pastry you try, you’re guaranteed to fall in love.

After all this the kids may start to get antsy for something to do. You’re in luck, right in the center of town near Aveiro’s mall (called the Forum) is an amazing Pirate Ship shaped playscape. It’s completely enclosed so you can let the kids go and sit by on a near bench and watch them.

After about a day or two when you’ve seen it all you can make your way to the beach. Probably Aveiro’s most famous beach is Costa Nova.  I personally have not spent much time there but it is beautiful and I know there are lost of fun things to do like paddle boarding and jet skiing. However if you are looking for something really low key take a ferry ride over to a little town called Sao Jacinto. If you haven’t driven on the ferry, you can pick up a jeep tour that will take you down to the main beach where you’ll find endless miles of sand and ocean. Try and call head, especially if it’s off summer peak season. This beach is not as heavily populated as other and there aren’t as man activities other than enjoying the sun. They do have a public restroom and a cafe near by so just bring your towels and beach chairs and enjoy a quiet afternoon. If you’re not much into sitting around and enjoying the sun, Sao Jacinto also has a large nature reserve where you can go bird watching or just enjoy the natural surroundings. Or you can check out the local pool and hang out with the kids all day. You will need a swim cap but they also sell them there. The rates are very affordable and it’s a nice day spent. For those will toddlers, the do have two little kiddy pools that are perfect for little ones. At the end of the day I suggest you try out some amazing seafood at A Peixaria, but get there early if you can because the lines go out the door.

If you’re looking for something a little more dynamic  you might also want to try Torrerira. While it’s technically not part of Aveiro, it’s still a great little beach town with lots to do, but it’s definitely more touristy.

Here we are on a tour through the canals of Aveiro.

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The Ferry Ride to S. JacintoIMG_5094.JPG

Morning coffee and sweet croissant at the local bakery.

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Taking a much needed adult break, we got a sitter (aka my mom) and took a trip down the Douro Valley. The only work that comes to mind when I think of Dour is “Breathtaking.” I highly recommend that if you can find a sitter or have someone along to help with the kids that you take a break and go check out Douro Valley. I also strongly encourage you do it with a tour guide because it can get overwhelming to decide where to go and it’s a bit scary to drive around. We used a company called Viator who hooked us up with an amazing local tour guide. We had the most astonishing time and we got to experience smaller family owned wineries instead of the usual big names. The experience felt personal and unique. It gets very hot in Douro wear so lots of sunscreen. I also recommend take the 20 min tour boat tour in addition any of the tour options. We picked up our tour from Porto which was about  2 hr drive so keep that in mind should you be coming from the Porto area. On our way back we stopped Villa Nova de Gaia and had dinner at the restaurant inside Graham’s Winery – Vinum. A must to order here is the prosciutto on their starters menu. It’s the best I’ve ever had. It’s so delicate that it melts in your mouth. If you have a chance or time to do a tasting, I suggest the vintage tasting. We didn’t get to do it this time around but we did a few years ago and it was so nice. This part of our trip was literally a whole day we left our apartment in S. Jacinto at 7am and did not return until 11pm so prepare yourselves for a full day’s adventure. So worth it if you ask me.

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It was so awesome to drink directly from the barrel. Something I’ve never done before. IMG_5013.JPG

Having a blast with our tour guide here. IMG_5019.JPG

A night time view of Porto from Graham’s in Villa Nova de Guia. IMG_5027.JPG

Moving down the coast our next major stop will be the Algarve, specifically Lagos.  But before we get there I wanted to include one more destination that I have not mentioned before. If you’re into history or medieval times, you’ll want to stop in Obidos and check out their medieval fair. It’s really fun for you and the kids. You can also eat there so forget the local restaurants surround the castle. They aren’t very good and extremely overpriced. If you are going to get the experience, you may as well get the whole experience. Also a quick tip, I do NOT recommend touring the very top of the castle along the wall. It’s usually open to the public but people have fatally fallen there and therefore I do not recommend it. IMG_5140.JPGIMG_5151.JPGIMG_5168.JPGIMG_5177.JPGIMG_5210.JPG

Now finally we have reached our final destination, the Algarve.

Our family got together with 4 other families who we love and decided to make this a trip of a life time. We rented a house through Airbnb and had the most fabulous time. First off let me just say that with large groups anything can happen so plan a little and be a lot open minded. In Lagos the city we stayed in we found that many restaurants were very small so if you plan on going with with group or a have a larger party with you I’d say to plan ahead and plan out your dinners out. If your up to staying home, there are several supermarkets in town including an Aldi. Most of the food is reasonably priced although I found the Algarve prices to be a bit more pricey then many other parts of the country. This is no surprise since the Algarve is such a tourist area.

Now if you’re looking to splurge a little and would love a unique experience I suggest hiring personal chef. Yes, a personal chef! It was the best thing we did for almost the same we’d cost of a restaurant, our only regret was not hiring them for multiple days. When I did my research there were lots of personal chef options, however not many actual cook traditional Portuguese food (ironic isn’t it.) But I did find one gentleman and his wife who do an amazing job. If you’re looking for traditional Portuguese cuisine contact the The Chef Affairs. Roberto and his wife are just spectacular and the food is like a delightful party in your mouth.  We did the BBQ option and his chicken was juicy and delicious and the sardines were cooked to perfection – probably the best I’ve ever had. And the best parts that they clean up after you. Score!!!

While I love talking food, I must move onto the local beaches. First off, it gets really hot in the sun so plan to bring an umbrella or pay for a lounge chair. All the beaches in Lagos have options to rent a chair for the day but if you don’t want to spend the money, make sure to bring your own and pay attention at the beach. Most beaches are divided so you’ll have to pay attention as to wear to put your umbrella. I also found that most beaches had a cafe with food and bathrooms, which was really nice especially with kids. We explored different beaches but our favorite was just down the road from where we stayed, Praia Porto De Mos. It’s a small beach but it was near by and it was beautiful. On the calm days, the water was like a lagoon and we could go out ver far however there were days with rougher waters and the waves did scare me but that was on any beach. Just be careful the undergoes are dangerous. But when the water is calm, you can rent a waterslide and life jackets and bring them out to the water. It looked like fun and I’d recommend for an older crowd probably not for little kids. But we did have boogie boards which the kids loved.

Two other beaches that were really nice was Meia Praia and Praia Dona Ana. Media Praia is smaller but has amazing photo opportunities. The waves can get a little rocky so take caution as always.

Praia Dona Ana, is very large and you can rent a cabana bed and some bean bags for about 20 euros. It’s a pretty beach but felt like something you could experience in the USA.

I’m not sure you can go wrong with any of the beaches in the Algarve but these were the ones we explored.

Lagos also has a cute little downtown area. There are lots of cafe’s and shops if you’re looking for something to do after hours. I even noticed that some restaurants had jumpy house to keep the kids occupied. Unfortunately we noticed those at the end of our trip. In the middle of the downtown square is a carousel which all the kids really loved as well. I just find Portugal in general to be so family friendly but I’d say Lagos was especially.

If you’re going a while and don’t thing the beaches will be enough for you, about 30 mins east you will find several water parks. We tried out ZooMarine.  To me, it was just ok. It’s not super big but for kids it does the trick. They have a sea lion show and you can swim with the dolphins. We thought swimming with the dolphins was a bit pricey because the kids couldn’t go alone with an instructor, an adult had to accompany them so we opted for the next best thing, petting the dolphins. LOL!  The kids were so excited to touch a dolphin and get their pictures taken. They said the dolphins feel rubbery (so cute.) All in all I wouldn’t go there again but it was good for the kids after a long week at the beaches.

In terms of the night life, sadly I don’t know what it’s like. Our house was so amazing that we stayed home most nights. We did go out to dinner a few times and that usually completed our night. One quick note, dinners in Portugal start later than we are used to in the USA. Don’t expect many places to be open for dinner before 7pm. With that said, going to dinner was often like a night out. By the time we were done it was usually pretty late, especially with the large group we had. Sadly I’m having some trouble remember the places we ate at. But we used trip advisor for recommendations and in some cases we just stopped in where we saw they could accommodate our group. We had good experiences everywhere we went so I’m sure you’ll be able to find some amazing spots to eat.

Portugal is amazing little country with so much to see and do. My blog doesn’t even begin to touch on the vast options of things to do and cities to see. Perhaps another time I can tell you how amazing Lisbon is and the beauty of Viana do Castello.  But for now I leave you with my 2016 Portugal experiences and encourage you to visit this beautiful little country.

If you found this helpful please let me know. Or if you have any other questions relating to Portugal, I will do my best to answer them based on my personal experiences.