Sunday Funday: Franklin Park Zoo + Nature's Neighborhood...

The weather has been beyond amazing lately and we couldn't wait for a sunny weekend so that we could take our long awaited family visit to the Franklin Park Zoo! London and I took a zoo trip last summer but this time, Chris was able to join us, so we were extra excited! FPZ is a little oasis and escape that be found right in Boston. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and the paved pathways are wide for exploration (and for strollers ;)

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...

My suggestion would be to park at the Zebra Entrance of the zoo for direct access to "Nature's Neighborhood," the newly renovated Children's Zoo! Lo is almost two years old (as opposed to 14-months during our last visit) so she was much more engaged and interactive! We had anticipated that "Nature's Neighborhood" would be a crowd pleaser, and we were right! We spent about three hours total at the zoo and I think she could have stayed right there the entire time. It is designed beautifully, allowing children to explore and discover the different ecosystems or "neighborhoods," including Grasslands, Woodlands, Wetlands, and Thicket. We saw some "neighbors" roaming around their natural habitats like red pandas, muntjacs, prairie dogs, ducks, cranes, and other birds! 

More things around "the neighborhood" that London loved...

There's a giant eagle's nest built around an oak tree providing a "birds eye" view of the zoo and kids can also take the winding slide all the way down from inside the nest (London loved it!). There is a grass maze, bamboo climber, two turtle ponds, and caves to explore or sneak a closer look at the prairie dogs as they pop up out of their holes. London also enjoyed "hopping like a bunny" through the thicket and climbing on the rock structures near the oak tree. I love how interactive Nature's Neighborhood is! It's definitely a place that kids of all ages (and adults!) can have fun while learning about some of the cutest animals at the zoo!

A few more places to hit...

Franklin Farm is located adjacent to Nature's Neighborhood and that seems to be another crowd favorite for the little ones. There are donkeys, chickens, pigs, goats, and minature horses - all sure to make your kiddos squeal with delight! Kalahari Kingdom features the lions, in all their glory! Lo has a thing with beards (since her Daddy has one) so she thought the lion had a pretty cool "beard," a.k.a mane! Gorillas, hippos, lemurs, and anteaters are just a few of the animals you'll see in the Tropical Forest exhibit...another one of London's favorites! There are five glass viewing stations just to see the gorillas! You'll see dozens of birds swooping through and hear the swooshing sound of the waterfall as you make your way through the beautiful rainforest. (Don't forget to stop for a photo with the gorilla statue located outside!) If you can make it past the 10,000 square foot playground, you'll run into the Giraffe Savannah to sneak a peek at the giraffes and zebras roaming about. 

Each time we visit the zoo, we discover something new and get to watch Lo discover new things as well. It's the perfect place to let your children explore let their imaginations run wild! We had such an amazing time and can't wait to go back!

If you're planning a trip to the zoo with kiddos, here are a few tips to make life easier...

  • As I mentioned above, there are a few parking lots, but I HIGHLY recommend parking at the "Zebra Entrance" (between Franklin Park Rd. and Blue Hill Ave.) for easy access to the Children's Zoo, Franklin Farm + the playground
  • Grab a map! Trust me on this one ... you'll reference this MANY times
  • There are multiple restroom locations (four to be exact), ALL which have changing stations
  • Bring your own snacks, drinks, and/or lunch for a picnic on-site
  • Forget something? Hit the Gift Shop for sunscreen, first aid needs, umbrellas, etc.
  • HAVE FUN! :)

*Don't forget to check your local library for discounted passes*

xx,  Ashley 

On My Second Mother's Day...

 

I'm a big puddle of tears. 

Being a mother is a dream come true and has exceeded any expectation I ever had. It's the gift that keeps on giving because literally every day, when I look into London's big brown eyes or hear her sweet little giggle, I am reminded of God's grace. I'm reminded that God has entrusted her to me for this time on Earth...His precious jewel and treasure. What an overwhelmingly beautiful image that is. I say "overwhelmingly beautiful" because I often feel incapable and insufficient as a mom. How could I possibly be "enough" or have what it takes to be everything she deserves?

As I sit here with tears coming down my face, I think of my own mother and what she is to me. How she used to sit on the edge of my bed and sing to me in the dead of night because I was scared. Or when she would greet me after school with snacks and always with a smile. She would laugh with me, and she would cry with me too. She taught us about Jesus and that at the end of the day, when all is said and done, "God is bigger than all of it." Most importantly, she was PRESENT; for every event big or small...for every victory and every loss. When I think of her and how she epitomizes the word "mother," my heart can rest because I know that I have had the best teacher. 

Almost two years ago, I became a mommy for the first time; I love London desperately. The wild part about it all is that somehow, the depth of my love for her grows more and more each day. I pray that she will always know and feel the love of her parents, and most importantly, the love of our Savior. Even on days when I feel like I don't have what it takes, I am reminded that LOVE is enough.

Mamas - We are all in this together! Tackling this whole "motherhood" thing is the hardest job in the world and we are doing the best we can. Our children will always remember the way we made them feel so love them, cherish them, and tell them how special they are. 

I hope everyone has the most perfect Mother's Day...thank you for coming along on this journey with me!

xx, Ashley

5 Ways To Explain "Mom Life" + Cute Mama Gear for Mother's Day...

Happy Monday! 

Here's a fun little "mommy" post for you, with Mother's Day right around the corner :) There are so many things that I expected motherhood to be, and while it's exceeded my expectations in more ways than one ... there are definitely ups and downs. Today, I'm sharing a few ways to explain what "mom life" really means...plus below you can find some last minute gift ideas for the mama's in your life! The shirts are adorable, and the mugs ... come on, every mama needs a mug :) Enjoy loves!

1. Emotional. SO MANY EMOTIONS and feelings! Ha! I cried yesterday because London will be two in just a few months. I can't handle how fast the time goes by...and it makes my heart hurt. I want to bottle this age up and keep her here forever! It's also emotional because HELLO toddler :) She's discovering her independence and finding her voice which is exciting, but also an overwhelming time for her...trying to deal with all of the feelings that come with that! 

2. Rollercoaster. One second we're singing Disney songs together and the next she's rolling around on the ground because she decided she actually DOESN'T want me to sing with her. We're happy and we're sad. We're happy then we're mad. I mean....there really is NO consistency. Nowadays its difficult to determine what could set her off. Thankfully, these tantrum moments are just that ... moments. She is easily distracted (for now), however, I'm not sure how long the distraction technique will work. I know we've got a super determined and strong-willed little girl, which I love, it just makes it a little bit daunting to think about the "threenager" year that I hear so much about! Eeek! 

3. Melt downs. Still learning how to manage these as they come, but "mom life" nowadays definitely includes them! I absolutely LOVE being a stay at home mom...and being here for every moment (good or bad), but that doesn't mean it's not mentally exhausting or difficult. By the end of the day I try to reflect on how I can deal with certain situations better and it's a work in progress. Finding patience and understanding when my sweet baby is rolling on the floor screaming for no reason is definitely something I'm trying to improve on :)

4. Laughter. No matter how many melt downs or tough moments we have in a day, we are never short on laughs. She is a little rascal who will do anything to garner a laugh from me :) I love watching her personality come out - she's a little spitfire! 

5. JOY. There's literally NO ONE else I would rather hang out with than Lolo (and her daddy of course). She is so much fun to explore and learn with...and even though she has her moments, the laughter + love that she brings to my life is more than I could even imagine. She's articulate, curious, sassy, strong and gosh, she's funny. She's given life a deeper purpose, and I'm so happy I get to be her mom.

 

xx, Ashley 

 

 

Mother's Day Gift Guide...

 

Mother's Day is upon us and it's always been such a beautiful holiday because I think my mom is basically superwoman. I've been on the search for the perfect gift to give, and here are some of my favorites :) 

xx, Ashley

Monthly Mommy Update: 21 Months...

 

Favorite Food: Watermelon, corn, "salad" (loves lettuce), tomatoes, greek olives. I also discovered at our Easter dinner that she loves brussel sprouts! I had never given them to her because I just assumed she wouldn't like them! Jokes on me I guess! P.S. I'm so excited for warmer weather because we have been using the grill lately and just eating lots of fruit! It's amazing!

Favorite Thing To Do: Go on the swing at the playground. This is new development because she never used to love the swing...all of a sudden she stays on for about 30 minutes. The difficult part is, she doesn't like giving other kids a turn...she thinks it's her swing (oops...toddler problems). She also LOVES her new water table that a friend gave us! I bought some cute water toys at Target and she loves to splash around with them! Here's one I found for under $35!

Most Aww-Worthy Moment: Watching her chase down eggs during the Easter egg hunt was pretty amazing for me. She was SO competitive and was frantically trying to gather as many as she could. Being that my husband and I are sports people ... you can understand why this would be an "aww-worthy" moment for us (LOL!) I love to watch her competitive little spirit come out!

Most Exciting Thing She Did: Goodness...what's NOT exciting these days. The fact that she says something new nearly every day is pretty freaking exciting. The other day, I asked, "honey, are your shoes too big?" to which she replied..."no, they're great!" Oh my heart. I about fell over. I LOVE having conversations with her and I know this is only the beginning but I never want to forget these little feelings or moments with her! I try to jot it all down in her little baby book...so we can reflect later :)

Fun Things We Did This Month: London and I hosted a little Easter party for her friends, which was super fun. We made cupcakes, did crafts, had an egg hunt, and watched some Frozen of course :) I loved watching Lo look for Easter eggs ... she was SO excited. We celebrated Easter day by going to church and doing a nice dinner with my in-laws! (You can see photos from our day, here) We took a visit to my parents house for a long weekend and had a really fun time. Lo loves to ride on the four-wheeler around the farm and visit the chickens! I can't wait for strawberry season and consistent warm sunny days ... then we'll REALLY never want to leave Grammy and Grampy's!

Biggest Thing I've Learned: I've noticed that Lo is more independent lately. She wants to try to put her shoes on, read books by herself, and feed herself EVERYTHING, etc. It's a tough adjustment for me as a mom because I'm so used to doing things FOR and WITH her (which I love to do!) and now, all of a sudden, she wants me to give her space. Wahhhh! I'm thankful that she can play solo and entertain herself...but when I sit on the floor and she tells me "mumma gonna sit on the couch" a.k.a. away from her ... it stings a little bit! I have been letting her have extra t.v. time just so I can sneak cuddles and be close to her, is that bad? I just feel like she's growing up so fast and I want to hold as many moments as I can...motherhood can be a real B sometimes. Actually, not motherhood...TIME; time can be a real B.

xx,  Ashley 

Mother's Day Gifts Under $25...

 

Mother's Day is just around the corner so I'm starting to share my guides with you all! First up is for those on a budget! These adorable gifts are all under $25 and just a sweet way to let the special lady in your life know that you're thinking of her! I think the pineapple print mug is so so cute and only $13 so you can double up on another inexpensive gift (like this mini potted succulent) and still keep it under $25!

I'll be sharing more Mother's Day gift ideas over the next few weeks so keep an eye out! To shop any product, click on the pink square beside each picture!

xx,  Ashley 

My Definition of Being Fit + Healthy....

 

If you were to ask my definition of being fit and healthy just a few years ago, my answer would have been super different. My "pre-baby" self would have neglected to touch upon being fit mentally and just how important that is to one's overall well being. I would have talked mostly about the physical aspects such as exercise, stamina, weight-training - but left out how critical it is to practice self-care. It's SO difficult to make time for myself without feeling mega-guilty, but in the past two years, I've realized that it's critical to survival. Dramatic? Not really. If I don't make time for myself, I get overwhelmed and feel a bit suffocated a.k.a. I end up freaking out and it's really not good for anyone ;) ...At first I thought there was something wrong with me, but then I realized that it's completely normal and all a part of life. Do I still think exercising is important? Sure I do, but my life has evolved and so staying mentally and emotionally "fit" is just as important to me. 

So...I'd say that my definition of being fit and healthy is really feeling like I have a sense of balance in my life; physically, mentally and emotionally. Taking time for myself, even though it's difficult, is definitely a big part of keeping me "fit" mentally and emotionally. Setting attainable fitness goals and getting to the gym at least three times a week helps me stay focused without feeling overwhelmed. I used to be REALLY hard on myself...I never took many days off from working out and held a pretty strict diet. Nowadays, it's just not feasible to get to the gym 6 days a week so I set my goal for three and that usually works out. I'm definitely more laid back when it comes to my diet ... mostly because I don't want London to be a stress ball when it comes to food (as I've been in the past, thanks for pageant life!) Plus, it's pretty freaking fun to stop at Starbucks for a treat with Lo, so I just do it. Life's to short to stress about eating a scone (or two!) ;) 

I wanted to share a few ways that I practice self-care. I wish these things happened more on a regular basis, but such is life. Things come up, kids get sick, demands are hight ... so you just roll with it and squeeze things in when you can, or if you're like me, when you feel like you're near the verge of a breakdown ;) ...Kidding (kind of). 

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1. Find a gym. If you don't feel like working out, go anyway. Sit in the whirlpool, take a nice long shower, do your makeup and just relax. Sometimes all you need is an hour to yourself to feel refreshed for the day! (I've linked my gym here for all of my Boston ladies!)

2. Book a massage. This is HEAVEN, am I right? Try to schedule this once a month. It's something to look forward too and trust me, your body will thank you!

3. Grab coffee with a girlfriend. Hit up your local coffee shop, secure a spot in the corner and gab away! It's really cheap therapy :)

4. Treat yourself to a mani/pedi. This is one I haven't done in awhile and I'm definitely due! It's so relaxing and somehow I feel like I've got all of my "ish" together when I have my nails done ;) 

5. Practice yoga. It's good for you; mind, body, and soul. Flow through this practice to soothing music and a calm atmosphere. Hello heaven!

What are some ways that you guys practice self care?

xx, Ashley 

Easter...

 
Photo taken by my friend, Hailey (Isn't it adorable) 

Photo taken by my friend, Hailey (Isn't it adorable) 

My Outfit: Dress: Victoria Beckham for Target (only $35!) | Shoes: Steve Madden | Purse: Aldo, similar styles here and here


We had the most amazing Easter Sunday! To start, it was 85 degrees ... which always makes for a good day, but we also had such a fun time hosting family and playing outside with our girl. She was so excited to tear apart her Easter basket first thing in the morning and was most excited about her new children's bible and bubbles! Of course, I had to let her steal a Reese's peanut butter cup right away because, well, EASTER! We filled some eggs with yogurt bites and goldfish for a little egg hunt as well, which she loved! For dinner I made a pot roast in the crockpot with carrots and onions (you can find the recipe I used here) and for sides we had brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes, apple cheddar biscuits, and deviled eggs! Dessert was a double-decker chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream frosting, which I added green food coloring too as "grass" so I could top the cake with mini cadbury eggs! Lolo thought it was pretty cute ;) Funny story ...  I tried to get a head start on dessert the night before so I baked the cake and then realized that I hadn't put the eggs in! #EasterFail

What did you guys make for dinner? We typically do ham, but broke away from that this year and it was pretty nice to stick a roast in the crockpot and forget about it for 10 hours! May have to make that a new tradition :) I wanted to share some photos from our day ... and also my dress which is only $35 from Target. It's from the new Victoria Beckham line ... she has designed so many cute pieces! I also loved this orange one-shoulder shift dress too, but ended up going with the pink because it matched London a little bit better :) I think it would make a great wedding guest dress too! You can shop it above but make sure to check out the photos from our day, below! 

xx,  Ashley 

How to do Disney with a toddler...

 

Where to stay...

We went to Disney with a total of six adults and 3 children, so we were all about renting a house. We went through the Windsor Hills Resort in Kissimmee, located only 10 minutes from the Magic Kingdom parking lot. We LOVED it. For those who want to stay at a monorail-friendly Disney hotel, I've stayed at the Contemporary Resort five separate times and it's fabulous. Very kid-friendly and I recommend trying to book a "character" dinner at Chef Mickey's if you want a great meal and more importantly, if you want you kid(s) to meet Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Donald, Goofy and Pluto without having to wait in line :) 

Helpful Tips...

1. Schedule character "meet and greets" ahead of time (see above). Pay the extra money and BOOK IN ADVANCE for a character dinner or breakfast. The characters will come to your table while you eat ... it's definitely worth the money. If you book the character meet and greets at the park ahead of time using your Fast Passes, you should be all set too! 

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2. Invest in a good, "easy to use" stroller. We used the BABYZEN YOYO+ and it was amazing! It's so easy to unfold and fold (you can do it with one hand) and also fits in the airplane's overhead bin. It comes with a shoulder strap so you can carry it just like a purse, and weighs just 15 lbs. I also love that while it's super compact, it has a great storage area underneath. Oh, and did I mention it comes with a rain cover?! It's basically the perfect travel stroller, and you can check it out here

3. Schedule in nap time. We wanted to make sure that Lolo still got her naps so we purposely didn't schedule anything from 12-2:30pm. Actually, we rented a house just a few miles from Disney, so we would leave the park and do lunch/nap at the house. It worked out really well for a few reasons...1. We never had to deal with any toddler meltdowns because she got her normal rest time, and 2. We skipped the hottest part of the day! She did fall asleep one day in her stroller before we could make it to the car so we just walked around with her for an hour or so, and she was fine :) 

4. Bring a backpack as your diaper bag. Trust me on this one, you need all hands on deck not to mention a million snacks, sunscreen, water, your phone, wallet, etc., so you'll need lots of compartments! We love our Skip Hop Chelsea bag, and Skip Hop also makes a pretty awesome backpack for under $60! I also love this one from CoolBell too because it's super functional and has an insulated front pocket to keep a bottle or snacks cool! 

5. Plan Fast Passes in advance. Have a plan of which rides you want to hit and do your fast passes online in advance so you don't have to waste time trying to figure it out at the park.  We made the mistake of waiting to figure out the fast passes once we got to the park and by the time we did, a lot of the rides we wanted to hit were booked up and the wait was insane. The second and third days we planned the night before and it was MUCH smoother. 

6. Bring snacks/lots of fluids. One thing I appreciate, is that Disney allows you to bring your own snacks AND water into the park. (Also, if you pay the extra for preferred parking, they'll give you cold bottles of water before you park the car, which is nice to know!) I brought lots of options for Lo in separate snack bags like grapes, goldfish, harvest snap peas, yogurt bites, apple sauce pouches, and raisins. 

7. Utilize the Baby Care Center. If you need a break from the heat, a sink, microwave, or a clean place to change your baby the Baby Care Center is a great resource! You can also find snacks, diapers, sunscreen, rockers and more! (There are locations in all 4 theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios)

 

General Park -Touring Tips + a few of Lo's favorite rides/shows...

If you're planning a 3-day Disney trip, I recommend two full days at Magic Kingdom and one at the Animal Kingdom. If you've got 4 days, go with 2 full MK, 1 day at AK, and 1 day at Hollywood Studios. If you're going for a toddler-based trip, I'd choose Hollywood Studios because they have SO many amazing rides and shows for kids (Beauty and the Beast, Frozen, Toy Story, etc.) We didn't get a chance to go, but definitely will on our next trip! 

Magic Kingdom: It's a Small World, Peter Pan, Under the Sea; Country Bear Jamboree, Swiss Family Robinson Tree House, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise; There are also shows running every few hours or so on the stage in front of the castle. We caught one in the afternoon which included Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, and the Frozen characters! 

Animal Kingdom: Kilimanjaro Safari, Festival of the Lion King, The Boneyard, Pangani Forest Exploration Trail (walking trail)

Epcot: Meet + Greet with Anna and Elsa, Finding Nemo, Spaceship Earth (it's dark so could be scary for some kids, but Lo loved it), Frozen (it was broken when we were there, but I'm assuming it would have been a fave ;) 

                    Walking trails at Animal Kingdom 

                    Walking trails at Animal Kingdom 

  Elephants on the Kilimanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom

  Elephants on the Kilimanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom

xx, Ashley

Disney World...

 

Our trip to Disney last week was absolutely magical! We used to go all the time as a family when I was little, but I hadn't been back in 14 years! I was so excited to share this experience with my husband and daughter; it was just as special as I knew it would be! Watching her face in utter amazement, literally the entire time, is something I will never forget and just gave me all of the feelings I remember having as a kid! There's something about Disney that makes everyone feel giddy and filled with so much joy. 

Walking up and down Main Street, watching the street performers and listening to the music was super nostalgic. I made sure that we visited my favorite ice cream shop, which I have fond memories of ;) There were performances at the castle featuring Mickey & friends as well as the Frozen characters (London was freaking out!) Fantasyland, Frontierland, and Adventureland all had something that London could enjoy!

I plan to do a whole separate post on how to do Disney with a toddler ... because there are a few things we would have done differently in terms of planning the day out. One thing I will mention is that I highly recommend getting a stroller that's compact to maneuver through the crowds, and one that also has some sort of storage compartment. We lucked out with the BABYZEN YOYO+(pictured below) which also came with a rain cover (thank goodness, because it kept Lo dry at the Animal Kingdom during a morning thunderstorm!) I'll do a full review on this stroller in my next Disney dedicated post :) 

We also spent half of a day at Animal Kingdom and half at Epcot. To be honest, I wish we had dedicated a full day to both! There is so much to see! I don't know who was more excited for Animal Kingdom, London or my husband :) Chris loves animals, and while we only made it through the "Africa" portion of the park, we can't wait to go back and see the rest! I highly recommend going on the Kilimanjaro Safari! We must have gone at the perfect time (9am) because we saw EVERY animal! They were all out feeding .. so maybe morning is the time to go! We all loved the Lion King show also. It was only 30 minutes and kept London's attention with the music, acrobats, and animals! As for Epcot, we had sort of a disappointing morning because the Frozen ride was broken ALL DAY. We waited in the heat for 2.5 hours, but it never reopened! They did comp us some fast passes for Soarin' - which isn't a ride for little ones - but if you get a chance to go, it's amazing! There is, however, a Finding Nemo ride that is great for kids! We could have used a full day at Epcot to visit the 11 countries featured in the World Showcase. For another time I guess! (Side note, we ate at the Coral Reef restaurant and really enjoyed it! The food was good and there are huge fish tanks in the restaurant which kept Lo entertained!)

I wanted to share all of the photos from the trip! We tried to capture each aspect ... of course, I feel like I didn't take enough (but my husband would argue otherwise, I'm sure :) I hope you enjoy them! 

xx,  Ashley 

 

This post is brought to you by Disney. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Feature: Sugar Shacks Teepees...

 

Playing "hide and seek," building forts with blankets and pillows, reading books, and having tea parties ... These are a few of London's favorite things! When she was about 18 months, we went to a friends house and they happened to have a teepee that Lolo discovered and NEVER came out of. She was obsessed, so I knew we just had to get her one of her own. When I started to research "play teepees" online and on Instagram, I came across the most BEAUTIFUL designs from Sugar Shacks Teepees and instantly fell in love! They're so delicate and detailed + I also loved that they were neutral to fit into any space in the house! Anyone who knows me well, knows how much I love lace - so that was a large reason why we chose the Isabella Teepee! It's just so gorgeous and sweet. 

It took us about 60 seconds to put the teepee up (so easy!) and we couldn't wait to decorate it! Sugar Shacks also sells these adorable flower toppers which add a little something extra to the top of your teepee. You can see mine in the photos above and below - the pink floral garland :) We also added our own pillows and a blanket to make it extra cozy. (You can shop Sugar Shack's teepee mat here!) London loves her new little space ... I think she feels like it's her special spot. She brings all of her stuffed animals inside and reads to them, or even her tea set so she can have tea parties. It's really adorable to watch. She uses it so often, that the teepee is in our family room, but I don't mind because it's so gorgeous that it only adds to the room! 

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You can shop for your own Sugar Shacks Teepee here and make sure to check them out on Instagram! Thanks for stopping by! 

xx,  Ashley 

8 Tips For Flying with a Toddler...

 
Lolo asleep on our flight from Charleston...

Lolo asleep on our flight from Charleston...

(Disclaimer: Mamas, please know, I do NOT consider myself an expert on traveling with kids, and I know, I only have one child - but I simply wanted to share some things that helped us along the way in hopes that they can in turn help you!)

Airplane or no airplane, traveling in general is very stressful. It feels like you literally have to pack your entire house up even for just one overnight and if you're going away for multiple nights, forget it, you should probably pack your life away! Sometimes it seems easier to just stay home. I know for me personally, I am always happy to have a change of scenery though, and yes, while it is stressful - I'm super excited once we reach our final destination! London and I are very used to road trips. We have been road warriors since she was just two weeks old when her Daddy would go on work trips and we'd head three hours north to Maine. Flying, however, we've done much less of. Lo has been on five flights in her short lifetime, but all have been actually quite smooth and (dare I say) FUN! I am definitely a "plan ahead," type-A mom, so I did my research before her first flight + since it was a success, have followed the same sort of "protocol" in preparation for each trip.

Here are a few of my top tips for flying with a toddler. If have a young baby, I shared a few helpful hints on that last year, here

1. Book non-stop. Even if you have to pay a little extra ... it's a small price to keep your sanity! Once you're on the plane and settled in with all of the 'ish' that you brought, the last thing you want to do is MOVE. Trust me on this one, if you can swing it, it's worth it!

2. Make sure one of your seats is an aisle seat. This is super important. If you're flying solo, just go ahead and book the aisle seat because you definitely don't want to feel trapped by the window or like you can't get up and down as needed! I walked the aisles for basically the entire three hour flight to Florida last year and while it was exhausting, London was happy and most importantly, quiet! 

3. Plan your flight during nap time. We do this as best we can and when we have flown during London's nap, it has worked out well for us. As soon as the "fasten seatbelt light" goes off I walk the aisle with her and rock her to sleep. Just recently, she slept the entire two hours from Charleston. Also, I think the hum of the plane's engine kept her asleep longer! Score!

4. Bring all of their favorite snacks...and I mean ALL of them. If you want to know the way to a toddler's heart, it's with yummy snacks! Here's a list of what I brought on our recent trip: Raisins, goldfish, grapes, Ritz crackers, applesauce, graham crackers, and string cheese. Thank goodness I have the world's best diaper bag from Skip Hop that has a million compartments, all of which were used on this trip! (I love their backpack too!) 

5. Download your kids favorite show and/or movie. My rule for traveling is: THERE ARE NO RULES. Whatever keeps them happy or satisfied (as long as it isn't harmful) is basically fair game. The iPad was my best friend on our flight from Boston! It ended up taking longer than expected, so the fact that we had Frozen and Mickey Mouse ready to go really kept Lolo happy and me, sane! If you need children's headphones, Amazon sells some really cute ones for kiddos! 

6. Buy a small new toy or book for the trip. I recommend waiting to show them their "surprise" until you're on the plane. We bought Lo a Frozen microphone that plays the songs from the movie, and she loved it! It was perfect because it was small and easy to pack. Any book with flaps is a good idea and if you can find one with a lot of pages, even better! Karen Katz books are always a hit; we love this one and my mom bought this one along on our latest trip.

7. Have a sippy cup or chewy snack ready for take-off/landing. I was really worried about the altitude and how it would effect London's ears, but she seemed fine. I gave her raisins, which I figured is the next best thing to gum and she went to town ;) I also had her sippy cup filled with apple juice, which is a treat for her. 

8. Bring a stroller for the airport and check it at the gate. I don't think we could have survived without our stroller; this is really a must! We love our Graco Fold Jogger because it has a big compartment underneath to hold all of our stuff - but if you're looking for a smaller one that may be better suited for travel, I've heard great things about the Quinny Moodd stroller and the BABYZEN YOYO+ stroller as well! The BABYZEN YOYO+ is just 13 pounds, easy to fold up and carry with ONE hand. We are traveling to Disney World in a few weeks, and I think we're going to bring this one along! 

Thanks for stopping by! 

xx,  Ashley 

 

 

Monthly Mommy Update: 19 Months...

 

Favorite Food: CARBS. Basically what I hear all day is "I want more crackers!" ... this little chick could eat a sleeve of Ritz and be perfectly happy with life. Please tell me this is normal! I also introduced her to bagels and cream cheese (oops!) and that's what she wants for breakfast everyday. Bagels and pancakes. WHAT HAVE I DONE ;) ...I can still sneak some oatmeal and fruit in there too, thank goodness! 

Favorite Thing To Do: Our mommy friend just gave us their toy kitchen and London is obsessed! She loves all of the pretend foods and it's so cute to listen to her as she "cooks" and puts things in the fridge. Her favorite things to "cook" are couscous and corn! 

Most Aww-Worthy Moment: She loves to say "hi gorgeous" to everyone, and it's so sweet! I've posted a few videos on my Instagram via my "instastories" because it's just too adorable! When I say she says this to everyone, I mean it! The cashier at the grocery store, our waiter at breakfast, and a random lady at Dunkin Donuts. It's totally her go-to line because she's figured out REAL quick that it almost always gets a pretty stellar reaction ;) 

Most Exciting Thing She Did: London has started to go down the stairs on her own! (Does that count as "excitement" in mommy world?!) Ha! We have baby gates at the top and bottom of the staircase, but just in case I ever forget to close the gate at the top, we've been trying to teach Lo to slide down the stairs on her bum. Sure enough, one day the gate was open and I heard her say "go down on bum!" and when I ran out of the bedroom, she was sitting on her bottom at the top of the stairs waiting for me. My first thought was sheer panic BUT then I was just so happy that she decided to sit as she had learned to do rather then plummet head first. Mommy win ... and Lolo win I guess - because no one wants to take a tumble down our wooden stairs! 

Fun Things We Did This Month: Honestly...this month has been ROUGH. Lo got sick starting February 1st and wasn't really feeling well until the 20th! Three trips to the doctor and one ER visit later ... she had croup coupled with a double ear infection, then bronchiolitis and was dehydrated in there somewhere! It was insane! She had really high fevers and didn't want to do anything but just lay and snuggle with me. It was hard to get her to eat or drink + I hated that she felt so terrible. We spent most of the month resting, recovering and watching WAY too much Frozen. I felt guilty about that for a hot second but...then I didn't. It was the only way to get her to actually rest! We are looking forward to warmer temperatures on the way! 

Biggest Thing I've Learned: This month has been a real DOOZY. I'm ready to say goodbye to February and HELLO to spring and some warmer weather. When Lo is sick it really throws EVERYTHING off and makes each day seem extra long. With a husband that works long hours and travels a lot - it can make life pretty near miserable to be quite honest and maybe THAT'S what I learned this month. That it's ok to be HONEST about motherhood and how it can really suck sometimes. I don't want to sound ungrateful - because trust me, I know how blessed we are to have an overall healthy baby girl ... but some days just aren't all that glamorous. Most of this month was spent in sweatpants with greasy hair and no make up. Blogging was a struggle as it's hard to feel inspired on little sleep and when life gets stressful. So, mamas ... it's OK to admit that motherhood is hard, often draining and sometimes just plain sucky. It doesn't mean you aren't appreciative for this life or blessed to be a mother, it just means you're going through a tough season. Remember, it will pass and you'll come out stronger :) 

xx,  Ashley 

Monthly Mommy Update: 18 Months...

 

 

Favorite Food: CHEESE. Goldfish. Yogurt bites. She basically asks for these three things full time ... and she mixes in the occasional ketchup request. A new one to add to the list is olives ... GREEK olives that is. She absolutely LOVES them so we make a weekly trip to Sophia's Greek Pantry in Watertown to stock up :)  

Favorite Thing To Do: Sing! She sings ALL the time. She loves the songs from her Music Together class (I wrote all about it here) and a few of her other favorites are: "Twinkle Twinkle," "You are my sunshine," and "Jesus Loves Me." Too cute! She's also really into imaginative play right now - she pretends to change her doll on the changing pad...gets a diaper out and asks me for a wipe :) Then I'll hear her say "have a good day" while she carries an empty shopping bag and pushes her shopping cart. 

Most Aww-Worthy Moment: She loves to fold her hands and pray, which she randomly does throughout the day. I'll hear her saying "Thank you for an amazing day, for Grammy, for Lolo, for Daddy...Amen!" It's pretty adorable and it makes me happy that she's absorbing what we're teaching her :) 

Most Exciting Thing She Did: She can count to 15! One day she counted to 10 and I was SO excited then she randomly kept going! I had no idea she could count that high, but I'll take it! 

Fun Things We Did This Month: At the beginning of this month we celebrated a belated Christmas with my husband's side of the family. It was really fun to have everyone here and especially his brother, who flew in from Wisconsin! Chris has been traveling a lot for work, so London and I have taken a few trips to Maine this month as well. Last week, we all went to a "baby farm animals" event at the Little Lovage Club in the South End. London got to meet and pet baby goats, bunnies, and pigs. We had so much fun and even went to a fancy Italian dinner after, where Lo was an absolute dream. 

Biggest Thing I've Learned: I'm trying to stop putting so much pressure on myself to be the perfect mom. I've just come to the realization (only took me 18 months) that there are going to be days when I'm not feeling well and it's OK to put Mickey Mouse on in order to get 20-30 minutes of relaxation. Also, London will be ok if one-two times a month she has to eat mac n'cheese. I think sometimes as women, we put SO much pressure on ourselves to be perfect. It's so much easier to just stop pretending that we've got it all together and realize that we're all just doing the best we can! So, go pour yourself a glass of red, park it on the couch, and watch some trashy TV - you deserve it! 

Also, when do we stop counting in months?! I don't wanna be THAT mom that gets asked how old her kid is and says "33 months" ...I'm thinking after two? Help me out! ;)

xx,  Ashley 

10 Things I Swore I'd Never Do When I Became a Mom...

 
Photo: Kivalo Photography

Photo: Kivalo Photography

I was pretty much the best mom ever before I had kids. Apparently reading Dr. Oz's book, "Having A Baby" can turn you into a real expert on the art of parenting (insert eye roll here). I'll be the first to admit that I was real judge-y pre-child bystander and now I'm totally punching my own self in the face because of it. Soooo many things I swore I'd NEVER do have already been done and were probably done in the first week of my daughters life. Let's be honest ... we're all just trying to make it through the day alive, am I right? I hope you enjoy this post as much as I enjoyed writing it! 

1. Bribe

I'm not sure what I was thinking before, but bribery is actually the best thing ever. These mini transactions don't happen daily, but I'm not above a good bribe every now and again. It's amazing how far one m&m or a lollipop can get you! 

2. Let my kids watch TV

This was one of my major "pre-mom" rules. No TV before two because the doctor says so and because my kid isn't going to be completely mesmerized by technology. Oh really? Nope. If I'm being completely honest, this "rule" went out the door pretty quickly (like, around 4 months in). Lo would get super fussy around 5:30-6 every evening so we would put "Baby Einstein" on for 20(ish) minutes and it was pure magic. Fast forward to today (18 months in) and I'm like, "honey, you haven't watched Mickey yet today - do you wanna watch an episode?" And I refuse to feel badly about it. 

3. Let my child leave the house without looking anything less than their best

You guys, I try. I really do. But some days I'm just not up for wrestling her into a dress or pinning her down to get the cute little bow on her head. If she's got socks, pants, and a shirt on (preferably all clean) then we're good to go! 

4. Feed my child anything but well-balanced meals

This is a great mindset to have, but then this little thing called life happens and the next thing you know your kid is eating pasta for the third night in a row. You're bound to have at least one day/night a week of food mayhem. Typically it happens for us when I need to do groceries, but naturally haven't yet. I try my hardest to make sure she's getting balanced meals with fruits, veggies, protein, and good fats all sprinkled with gold flakes (HA!), but sometimes London asks for pizza on a night when my energy is low and I just go with it; mostly because it's like she knows when I'm vulnerable and takes advantage ... that level of manipulation deserves to be rewarded my friends! 

5. Use the "sucker thing" 

Goshhhh, it's gross but I found out REAL quick that my unofficial job title would be "booger extractor." Somehow my skills trump my husbands in this category so he gets a free pass (eyeroll). BK (before kids) I swore that I would never use the "booger sucker" and I'm over here using it basically every other week ... essentially a professional. UGH. Seriously though, the Nose Frida is pretty much the best invention of life, can I get an Amen?! Who even uses the bulb sucker thing? IT DOESN'T WORK. 

6. Give up "me" time 

Ummm...come again? I'm not sure what "me time" is considering I don't even pee alone these days. I definitely underestimated what a time-suck having a child is...and I mean that in the most loving way ;) I do miss sleeping in on weekends and going to brunch without rushing home for "nap time" or even shopping alone. Who knew that doing groceries solo would sound like such a treat! The truth is, she takes all of my time and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

7. Formula feed

BK: "Surely my child won't have difficulty latching...she'll just snuggle right up to me and know what to do!"

My gosh did I underestimate how difficult breastfeeding would be. It was stressful and disappointing when I finally decided to start Lo on formula; I felt like a total failure. Once we got into a groove it was fine and I realized that she was super happy and thriving - which is what ultimately matters most! 

8. Use food to reward good behavior

I should have known I would never be able to stick to this considering eating is one of my favorite past times ;) It's REALLY fun to be able to say "London, let's go to Target and then we can go to Starbucks for a treat!" The truth is, I get pretty fired up for a Starbucks run and I love that I can share it with her. Is that so wrong?! (Don't answer that). 

9. Call my husband to excitedly discuss our kids poop

I'm kind of embarrassed at how many times this has happened, but isn't it just delightful when your kid FINALLY gives you a soft bm?! It's totally worth a phone call, am I right? And who better to call than your hubby whose been patiently waiting on the edge of his seat! (Come on, please tell me I'm not the only one who does this?!) 

10. Make plans to fit around nap or bed times

"I'll never miss Chris's games - I'll just bring London with me!" or "London will just nap on the go, wherever we are!" Yea right. I'm basically a slave to London's sleep schedule. Not only have we missed every single one of my husband's 7PM basketball games (due to London's bed time) but I make sure I'm home for every CRIB nap. I value sleep (and a schedule) way too much to chance messing it up. Yep, I'm THAT Mom and I'm actually ok with it these days. 

 

 

Cutest Baby Footwear...

 

I've been drooling over baby moccasins every since I found out we were pregnant because, let's be honest, how adorable are those itty bitty feet?! Honestly, I never purchased a pair because they all seemed to be too pricey, but that was before we discovered BirdRock Baby! We are absolutely in LOVE with London's new baby moccs - which are the softest ever! She even wears them around indoors because they're so comfortable. We call them her little "house shoes!" They also go with SO many of her outfits! The best part, if you're frugal like me, is that they're completely affordable! (Can I get an Amen?!)

We ordered two pairs; one in "ruby red" and another in "espresso." As you can see, we chose a size large or 6.5, which fits her and still leaves her a little room to grow as well! 

You can shop the moccasins here! Hope everyone has an amazing day! 

xx,  Ashley

Mama + Me Class: Music Together...

 
London playing the guitar with Lenka, our Music Together teacher! 

London playing the guitar with Lenka, our Music Together teacher! 

Since I stay home with London, I think it's very important that I integrate classes and activities into our schedule! Let's be honest, classes are great for kids but they're pretty necessary for us mama's too :)

After doing my research and reading parent reviews online, I decided to register for a 10-week Music Together class. Arriving bright and early on a Monday morning we received a warm greeting by the teacher, Lenka, as well as the other parents. London was a little apprehensive and spent a majority of the 45-minute class just observing and taking it all in. I'm not going to lie, I felt a little out of place also, as I didn't know any of the songs! After the first session though, we received a CD containing 25 of the "music together" songs as well as a music book. This was SO helpful for both of us to become familiar with the songs and we played it at home as well as in the car! 

By the second class I noticed that instead of sitting in my lap, London was dancing, clapping, playing with the instruments and even mimicking the hand motions to some of the songs! I couldn't believe it! Over the course of 10 weeks, I watched her soak up more and more. One day at home, she even slapped her knees while singing "hey jim along jim along josie, hey jim along jim along joe!" (one of the music together tunes!) It's incredible how proud I felt! I've also noticed that she has started trotting around the house, which is something that she has seen the older kids do in class. 

MT3.jpg

Our teacher Lenka did a wonderful job of making our meetings feel intimate and inclusive. She kept the children engaged by singing their names, dancing all over the room, playing instruments, and even using props such as flowy scarves. She also strongly encourages parents to participate, which is great for the kids to see! We enjoyed our "Mixed Age" class which included babies as well as some children that were almost 4 years old! London liked watching and learning from the older kids and I think the older kids like to show the younger ones how it's done :) 

The new winter session is beginning next month and we are so excited to join for another 10 week session! I can't wait to see how London grows even more musically! Classes are offered at various times all week, but I like to go on Monday mornings ... it gives us something to look forward too :)

If you would like to sign up, you can do so here OR try a demo class first with no obligation to sign up! Happy Singing!

xx,  Ashley