Thursday, June 14, 2018

First Camping Trip with a Toddler

We recently went camping for the first time with our one year old toddler. In addition, we also took our two dogs camping for the first time. It was quite the adventure - one that went a bit smoother than expected. I thought I'd take today to share a few of the things we learned during our trip.

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My MOPS group hosts an group camping trip every year. The details came out in January and we made our decision then to join in on the fun for one night. We decided to limit our stay to one night since our little one and our dogs had never been camping before.

This turned out to be an even better decision when we learned in March that we would be expanding our family by two more feet. Multiple days of tent camping at 17 weeks pregnant would have been a bit much. One night of sleeping on the floor I could deal with though.

We spent some time preparing for our trip but I wouldn't say that we overplanned. We tried to anticipate any obstacles that we could but we didn't allow ourselves to stress too much. We actually went into the trip with low expectations and figured it would be a mini disaster that we could talk about for years to come. This allowed us to be pleasantly surprised when things went smoother than expected.

Come prepared.

I already mentioned that we didn't go overboard with the camping preparations. However, we did pack a few things that made our stay a bit more enjoyable. The first is this amazing portable high chair that we bought for travel. It made meal time so much easier. The other item is this all terrain wagon that Baby Fox got for his birthday. It served as a fun way for Baby Fox to travel around and it provided us with an easier way to haul wood back to the campsite.

Bend the rules.

We have a pretty set routine at home. Meal times, nap times, and bedtime happen on a set schedule for the most part. We aren't super strict about it, but if we're at home and there's nothing odd going on, then we follow the schedule that we worked hard to create when Baby Fox was younger. Camping was one of those times when we decided it was best to bend the rules. We still made sure that Baby Fox got food and rest in order to meet his needs, but we were more lenient on what that looked like. This made everyone much happier in the long run.

Safety is important.

Camping can be dangerous. There are the typical outdoor elements to worry about - sun and bugs - and many other dangers that can be around depending on where you're camping. We were in a tightly packed campground so supervision was important. One of us was always supervising Baby Fox to insure that he didn't get too close to the fire, wander away, or play with things he shouldn't. He did get a taste of dog food, but that was probably the most "dangerous" thing that happened to him while we were there.

Go with the flow.

This one sort of falls under the category of "bending the rules," but not entirely. I felt like it deserved it's own section. It's important to go with the flow when you're out camping - especially with a little one in the picture. Things are not going to go as planned and that's okay. Simply be prepared to be flexible and change your plans as needed. Dinner happened much later than anticipated and we woke to rain in the morning, but we simply adjusted our plans a bit and made the most of the situation!

Locate the park.

Little ones tend to love the park. We were fortunate (and not so fortunate) to be at a campsite right by the park. This was nice during the day because it meant easy entertainment (with supervision) for Baby Fox. It was not so nice when I was trying to put the little one to bed and all we could hear was the noise of kids playing on the playground. I highly recommend locating the park or other fun activities for those moments when you need easy entertainment for everyone.


All in all, our camping trip went pretty well. We've definitely decided that we'll be camping again in the future. However, we might wait until our next one is in the picture to save mommy's body from the pain of sleeping on the ground pregnant. Do you have any camping tips? We'd love to hear them in the comments below!

P.S. Our dogs slept in the tent with us and everyone slept through the night! (Well, except for mommy who had to get up to go pee.) We simply positioned us between the dogs and the baby to keep everyone happy and safe.


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

From Single Mama to Married Life

I love bringing you stories from others. I find that reading stories from others is a great way to learn and grow. Today, I'm excited to share a story from Jessica Halvorsen of XXX. She's sharing her story of how she went from single mom to happily married.



Plans tend to run off course. Anyone who has tried to plan their lives would probably agree. If you are one of the lucky ones who manages to outline and have everything fall into place, then I envy you.

The Scoop 

I had been accepted to The Musician's Institute in California, getting details in order to move down there, preparing scholarships, etc. when I found out my serious boyfriend and I were pregnant.

My priorities shifted as I was aware how expensive that area of California was and a few months into the pregnancy I discovered infidelity. The first year with my first, my son, I lived with my mom and step dad and saved up for a van, an apartment with a garage, and taking online courses to get my accounting degree. It may not have been the road I paved in my mind, but the fork took me in a pretty amazing direction anyway.

The Single Mama 

Let me just say, I rocked this life. I was very organized, had great friends, family support, and was creating great memories for my son. Sure, we had bumps to manage, but I'm a pretty determined and stubborn gal.

When my son was two, I “met” my now husband on zoosk while taking a homework break. Neither of us had a paid account, so you could only send and receive one message. I sent my number for him to text if he wanted to get to know each other better. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Married Life 

We moved to live with Kyle, my now husband, when my son was 2.5 years old. I asked him if he was suuurreee and if he knew what he was getting into. He proposed after about two, almost three, months of living together. And three months after getting married, he adopted my son.

We have now been married for nearly four years now and there are still days I work on my mindset. Again, I was very particular and organized. My husband, not so much. Finding balance has taken time, but it helps that we both are in this for the long haul and try to be pretty logical.

 He handles my crazy very well. Also, he has taught me a lot about being spontaneous and letting some of my OCD tendencies go for the sake of sanity and time with the family. This may not have been my original vision, but I can truly say I'm grateful for the turn my life took.

About the Author

I am a thirty-something mom. With two degrees under my belt and a virtual assistant business, I find mommy-hood to be the most challenging yet rewarding part of my life. Mistakes will be made, failures will happen, but why not accept those flaws, do your best, love with all you have, and have as much fun as you can along the way? Follow alongside my family and me at Family, Fun, and Flaws.





Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Outdoor Toys for a One Year Old

Warmer weather has finally arrived and it's time to play outside with our little one. Now that he's running around and exploring, there's so many more things for him to do outside. We've started a collection of outdoor toys and he's already enjoying them when we're out in the yard. Today, we're sharing a few of our favorite finds with you.

*Affiliate links are used in this post. We make a small commission from purchases made with these links. We only recommend products that we love.*


Free play and exploration are the key to a fun time at this age. The toys for this level reflect that and we've carefully chosen the toys that will grace our yard and playtime. We've tried our best to keep them simple, safe, and fun.

Slide

For Christmas, I mentioned to my parents that Baby Fox didn't have many toys for outside. They set out to find him a gift that would be fun both inside and outside. He ended up with a slide and he enjoys it a lot. He's even figured out how to go up and down it by himself. We allowed him to play with it inside for a portion of winter before adding it to our collection of outdoor toys in the garage. (They also bought him this fun rocking horse that he really enjoys.)

Wagon

When Baby Fox turned one, there was another request for outdoor toys. This time, I told my parents that I would really love a wagon for him to use. I helped pick one out and they put it together when they came to visit for his birthday. We've taken him out for several rides in it and he loves it.




Pool

Last summer, we bought a basic pool for Baby Fox because we wanted to start exposing him to water. He enjoyed playing in it, but we didn't get to enjoy it as much as we would have liked. I'm excited to pull the pool back out this year so that he can splash to his heart's delight. I'm sure it will be more fun for him this year.



Sandbox

I haven't quite decided if we'll be getting a sandbox yet or not. It's definitely an item that I think would be a lot of fun for Baby Fox. We have wind and dogs to consider in making our final decision, but I wanted to include it on the list as an idea for others.


Water Table 

A water table is definitely on our list to buy. Honestly, the reason I haven't bought one yet is because I haven't found one I love. I know that I want one for Baby Fox though because he loves water and exploring. Plus, a water table seems like the perfect activity for a hot summer day. Water is also easy to clean up, which is an added bonus.





We're looking forward to a fun summer of playing and exploring outside. We can't wait for Baby Fox to have fun with some of his outdoor toys. Do you have any favorites that you'd recommend for a toddler?


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Summer Bucket List

Summer is quickly approaching and the weather is slowly starting to signal it's approach. As the temperatures increase outside, I've been thinking about some of the things I would like to do as a family of three this summer before we become a family of four in the fall. I thought it would be fun to share some of these ideas in a bucket list post with you.


Family of four? Did you miss the announcement we made recently on Instagram? We're expecting our second baby in November of this year (2018) and we couldn't be more excited. (If you're new around here, our little guy is currently 15 months old. So, our little ones will be 21 months apart in age.) We know things are going to change with a new addition to the family, which is why I want to make this summer and the time leading up to this transition as fun-filled as possible. (Yes, I'm going to be one exhausted mama at the end of this summer!) Below you'll find some of the big things that made our bucket list for the summer.

Zoo

We have a zoo membership to the Detroit Zoo and we love going.  It's about an hour drive and makes a nice family outing that doesn't cost us any extra money. I'd love to explore some of the other zoos that are within driving distance as well. We might have to plan that for early or late summer though when it's not as hot.

Library

The library is an item that has been on my list for quite some time. I would love to start taking Baby Fox to their weekly story time. He loves to read and he loves meeting new people, so it seems like the perfect combination. We also need to a get a library card - that's something that's been on my list for way too long.

Park

Winter in Michigan is harsh and getting outside is near impossible with a baby. Now that the weather is warming up, we're starting to explore the area and letting Baby Fox explore the many parks that are around. Some are more age appropriate than others. I would love to see how many parks we can find to play at this summer.

Splash Pad

There's a fun little splash pad at one of the local county parks. We discovered it last year when we went to the 4H Fair. At the time, Baby Fox was still too young for something like that. This year, he's the perfect age to splash around in some water (with proper adult supervision of course). It'll be the perfect way to cool off on a hot summer day!

Trails

There are lots of trails near us and most of them have gone unexplored by us. We're looking to explore many of these this summer with Baby Fox tagging right alongside us.


Festivals

There are so many festivals that happen in the area around us! I could spend time listing them all, but let's just say that if you can think it up, there's probably a festival to celebrate it. After all, the city closest to us is known for it's Bologna Festival that happens every year.

Beach

I grew up near the ocean, so when I think of "beach," I typically picture an ocean. There is no ocean nearby, but there is a beautiful lake with beaches of it's own. I am sure we'll explore at least one or two of them this summer. I'd also like to introduce Baby Fox to the wonders of a pool as well. You're never too young to start learning about water safety.

Fireworks

We put off a few small fireworks of our own last year for the Fourth of July. Baby Fox was slightly intrigued. This year, I'm hoping that we can take him to an actual show so that he can enjoy them in all of their splendor. After all, there's a different fireworks show almost every weekend.

Drive-In Movies

Last year, we discovered that there was a drive-in movie near us. We actually pulled off going to the movies with a four year old in the car. He slept through most of the movie and we got to see a couple of movies that were on our list. We're hoping to check out the drive-in again this year, but we're sure it will be a completely different experience with a one year old.

Cookout

Last year, we bought a grill and enjoyed meals on it quite a few different times. This year, I'm hoping that we can use it even more. There's something special about meat and veggies that have been cooked on the grill instead of indoors.


Camping

This one probably should have been first on the list, since it is happening soon. This year, we'll be going on a camping trip with my MOPS group. It will be our first time camping with a toddler AND our first time camping with two dogs. It should be an interesting learning experience for us all.


What's on your bucket list for the summer? We'd love to hear about it in the comments below! Who knows - you might just inspire us to add something new to our list!




Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Ten Ways to Stay Busy During a Deployment

Deployments are a very real part of military life. They can also be a very lonely and stressful time as a spouse. During our first two years of marriage, we spent more time apart than we did together. Starting our marriage with a string of deployments was a good lesson in how to find independence and happiness outside of marriage. Today, I thought I'd share ten things I did during our various deployments to stay busy and happy. Trust me - the time goes much quicker when you're a busy bee.


Before we get into the list of things you can do to stay busy, I want to point out that not everything on this list is going to appeal to you and that's okay. It's a matter of finding what works for you and committing to it one hundred percent. I like to make a deployment bucket list to insure that I don't run out of ideas while my husband is away. Below you'll find a few of my favorite ways to stay busy during a deployment.

Workout

I have a love-hate relationship with working out. There are days where I absolutely love it and then there are other days where the mere thought of working out makes me upset. I did find that working out - specifically in group classes - was a great way to stay busy during a deployment. Group classes allowed me to meet new people and helped me stay committed since there was a schedule and money involved. Pole fitness, bootcamp style workouts, yoga, and barre are just a few of the workouts I tried while we were living in California.

Declutter 

One of my favorite things to do during a deployment is to declutter and organize the house. When I organize, I tend to make an even bigger mess because I remove everything before putting it all back into a space. This giant mess is much easier to deal with when my husband isn't around. I was careful to make a pile of his questionable belongings so that he had the final say before I got rid of them. Please don't get rid of your husband's stuff while they are away! That typically won't end well.

Make something

I love making crafts, but I don't always take the time when my husband is around. I found that crafts were a perfect way to kill some time while he was underway. I would often visit my Pinterest boards and find those items that I pinned but never got around to doing. (Let's face it - that's 90% of the stuff people pin.) Without a husband around to distract me, I was able to invest some time in these crafts.

 

Be social

Spending time with friends is my favorite way to pass the time. It kills away the loneliness that can creep in with a deployment and it gives you something to do. If you don't have friends in your current area, then I recommend getting out and meeting some new friends.

Redecorate 

This one goes along with decluttering and organizing. I listed it on its own because you can definitely redecorate a room without decluttering and organizing. During my husband's first deployment, I finished decorating our bedroom with an Arkansas Razorbacks theme. This is his favorite team, so he was quite happy with the result.

Netflix

I want to preface this section by saying that I don't recommend watching Netflix all the time during a deployment. It will only add to the loneliness. However, I do recommend using a deployment to enjoy all of the girly shows that you might not watch as often when there's a man in the house. Binge watching can be a great way to pass some time when used sparingly.

Try out new recipes 

I love trying new things - especially when it comes to recipes. I fond that trying new recipes during a deployment was a lot of fun. If the recipe was a bad one, then no one else had to know about it. However, if I stumbled upon a great recipe, then I had something new to share with my husband when he returned.

Explore

I discovered many of our favorite places while my husband was underway. I would get out and explore the area with friends or by myself and make note of anything I thought he would enjoy. Then, when he returned to port, I was able to show him the new things I discovered. Having these places to share gave me something to look forward to, which is very helpful during a deployment.

Work 

This one definitely isn't the most fun on the list but it is a very effective way to pass the time when you're separated. During our first deployment as a married couple, I was working full time as a teacher and it definitely took up a lot of my time. If you are in a position to work, then it's a great way to pass the time during a deployment. Even a part time job can make a difference in how fast time moves.

Visit family 

This is one of my favorite things to do during a deployment. I would always plan one trip home while my husband was deployed. My family lived on the other side of the country at the time so trips home were few and far between.

These were some of my favorite ways to pass the time during our deployments. Do you have a favorite way that's not listed? I'd love to hear how you pass the time during deployments in the comments below!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Ten Tips for Your Next Move

Moving is a regular part of military life. Some branches of the military move more than others. Most military families will experience at least one move. I say "most" because my dad is retired Air Force and we never moved. We were a rare exception though. I'm making up for it now as a military wife, with two moves in four years of marriage. I love learning new tips for moving, which is why I'm excited to bring you some awesome ones from Susan at Logical Living.


Being a military spouse, moving happens more often than you would like for it to happen. It can be hard and stressful to think about moving. You are leaving behind friends, jobs, and a lifestyle; yet we still manage to look forward to the move since it means new beginnings. Be positive and open minded for your upcoming move. There is never a right way to prepare for a military move, but there are some tips for how to make the move less stressful.

Start to prep your current living situation.

If you need to list your house find a realtor, get the house ready for pictures, and get it listed; the sooner the better! Talk to others that have been through it to find the best realtors in the area and find out what you need to do to make this process go smoothly. If you need to give a notice, make sure you give that notice as soon as you get orders.

De-clutter your house.

De-cluttering is something that most people hate or don’t want to do. The thing is you have a lot of stuff that you don’t need and when you move you are adding extra stuff to unpack later. Have a yard sale and get rid of things that you haven’t used in years; this will help take the pain away of unpacking excessive stuff you don’t use.

Hire people to move you.

A hiring people to help you move are the best thing ever, are the biggest thing and is honestly a time saver. The military pays for you to move, so why not take advantage of them doing it? You have enough on your plate. They will have the supplies and resources for the move so you can sit back.

Take photos of everything and keep receipts for big items. 

This is a must and is the biggest thing ever. Things can get damaged, or even lost, so make sure that you have yourself covered. Visit the new location before the move so you can become familiar with it: If you have time and are open to it, go make a visit and check out the place. You will want to check out local schools, houses, things to do, and even nearby stores and attractions. You will feel a sigh of relief knowing that you feel comfortable with the new move.

Pack bags for each kid/self to have with you.

First, make a list of all the items that you need to pack and bring with you before you get your stuff. It can take a while before you get your stuff, so ensure that you have anything you need! Pack everything that you need to live off (and then some), so you don’t need to run around purchasing things.

Don’t buy extra things before the move. 

This seems like a no brainer, but is a must. Find ways to use up the food that you have. Also, if you have windex, or other cleaning supplies make sure to pack those for you; the movers will not pack it. If you have a ton left of cleaning supplies then you will want to bring them; this will save you tons of money instead of going out and buying new stuff when you arrive.

Make sure to keep ALL receipts. 

Keep receipts for food, gas, lodging, just about anything. Typically you can get money back for it, or you can also deduct it from your taxes since this is all considered a moving expense. Double check with your accountant or travel expense company.

Realize your finances will be messed up for a little bit. 

Moving is not fun for anyone, no matter what. When you move things add up and you will be spending money and it will be hard to budget for quite sometime. This is when saving before moving comes in hand. If you set aside money 2-3 months before you move you wont have to dip into savings.

Relax, drink wine, and unpack.

Now that you have finally moved in you get to unpack and deal with all the other fun stuff. Relax and have a drink or two.. Hopefully you also remembered to get the ulities set up and turned on by a specific date!


Moving takes a toll on anyone, but especially when you are moving to another state or even country. The military is pretty wonderful and takes care of the move, and tries to make it go as smooth as possible. If you ever have any issues make sure to have the right person to contact so that they can make things right.

About the Author

Susan is the blogger behind Logical Living, a blog about life (DIY, frugal life, lifestyle, fashion, and parenting challenges). Logical Living is a parenting blog that shares the many things that go into the daily lives of the Liberatores. Head on over to Logical Living to learn more about Susan and her family.



Friday, March 9, 2018

Asparagus and Potato Soup

Saint Patrick's Day is coming up! What better way to celebrate than with a green potato soup? Today, we've got a delicious dairy-free soup that you're going to enjoy! Honestly, you don't even notice that the cheese is missing! It's a much healthier alternative to your traditional baked potato soup.



Last year, we went soy and dairy free because the little one was sensitive to these items. Now that he's older, he's outgrown his sensitivities, but we've kept many of the dairy and soy free recipes in our menu rotation. One of these is the Asparagus and Potato Soup recipe that the husband discovered and perfected. With it's green color, it's the perfect soup to serve on St. Patrick's Day! We also love having it on a hot summer day!


This soup is filled with all the hearty goodness of your traditional potato soup, but it's quite a bit healthier since we have removed the cheese and heavy creams that are found in traditional baked potato soups. Coconut milk is used in place of milk or cream.





Two potatoes are used which gives it the delightful potato flavor that you'll love without being too overpowering in the carb department. We used Russet Potatoes for our soup but you could probably experiment with other varieties as well.


I'm not going to lie - when the husband first made this soup, I was quite skeptical. I'm not a big soup person and the thought of asparagus in a soup just didn't sound appealing. (I love asparagus - I just couldn't picture it in a soup.) The soup surpassed my expectations in every way. We've also served it to a non-asparagus lover and he enjoyed it as well. So, even if asparagus isn't your thing, I'd still recommend giving it a try!


By removing the cheese and adding in asparagus, this soup is a much healthier option than your traditional baked potato soups. The bacon could easily be replaced by turkey bacon or even left out to make this soup even healthier. I can't wait to have it again and I might just be adding it into the slot for St. Patrick's Day!



Healthy Potato Soup
Total Time: 45 minutes

Kitchen Items Needed: pan, pot, knife, cutting board, blender

Ingredients:
- coconut milk (2 cups)
- asparagus (one pound)
- russet potatoes (2 medium)
- coconut oil (1 spoonful)
- bacon (third of a pound)
- nutritional yeast (1/8 cup)

Directions:
1. Put 2 cups of coconut milk in the pot and let it simmer down.
2. Trim asparagus.
3. Chop up 2/3 of asparagus (set aside the rest).
4. Add to the coconut milk. It should be on medium high to high. Be careful not to scorch the milk.
5. Peel the potatoes and cut them into squares.
6. Add to the pot.
7. Chop leftover asparagus in half.
8. Add one spoonful of coconut oil.
9. Allow the pot to simmer (not boil) until the potatoes are tender. While you're doing this, fry the bacon in a separate pan. (Keep the grease in the pan!) Chop and set aside to use as a soup topping.
10. Once the potatoes are soft, remove from heat and let it cool.
11. Fry the remaining asparagus in the leftover bacon grease. Set aside to soup.
12. Pour the potato and asparagus mixture into a blend.
13. Blend until smooth.
14. Pour back into the pot and heat it once again.
15. Pour a small amount of water into the blender and turn it on to rinse the blender. Pour this into the soup to lighten consistency.
16. Once the soup starts to bubble again, it's ready to serve.
17. Stir in the nutritional yeast and top with bacon crumbles and the extra asparagus.

This healthy potato soup would be the perfect addition to your St. Patrick's Day dinner!