Friday, May 27, 2016

The mifold Grab and Go Booster Review

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I'm putting the disclaimer right upfront this time, folks. I am not associated with mifold, was not paid, reimbursed, or given anything in exchange of my opinion of this product. I purchased our mifold as part of a Kickstarter campaign. 

Have you heard of the mifold booster seat? In the event you haven't, here is the quick version: The mifold is a super-small booster seat for kids age 4 and older, exceeding 40lbs. It is fully compliant with US safety standards and regulations for backless boosters (as well as several other industries, including EU), and it fits into glove compartments.  

No joke, this thing is small. When you are used to giant carseats, this is a little terrifying at first. 

Our mifold arrived the same day I noticed my older daughter's carseat straps needed adjusting, and the same day she hit 40lbs. Clearly she had a growth spurt in the night. As kids do.

So we decided to test run the mifold on the way to school, since it is less than 4 minutes away on back roads. 

The instillation was simple enough, and only took more than a minute (because, really, it isn't installed) because I read the manual front-to-back three times. I don't mess around with carseat safety. 

Here is my 5.5-year-old strapped into the mifold. She was super excited to try it out. 

It is clear that the belt is not across her hips and neck, which is great. This is how it is designed to work.

When she left for school, I folded it up. 

When I returned to school for pick-up, I had reinstalled her regular seat, now with adjusted belts, as planned. Look below and see why:

The mifold is an amazing backless booster seat. The belts are more secure and adjusted to restrain to the individual child (as opposed to raising a child up to an adult level for restraining) and the size can't be beat. However, for my child, a backed booster with a 5-point harness is still the safest seat available. Yes, she is big enough for the mifold, but just barely. I'm not in a race to the milestone finish line, so I don't mind her being in her big seat for a while longer. Check out the padding around her! I want something to protect that beautiful brain as long as I can have it. Once she outgrows this seat, we will use the mifold as her all-the-time seat. However, I'm keeping the mifold in my car until then because occasionally I'm asked last minute to transport another kid. If it is a short distance, I move the book box and jam a backless booster into the space between the carseats. If it is a ride taking more than 5 minutes or further than 2 miles, I rearrange all the carseats in a manner that makes all the passengers cry, me the most. It isn't ideal, but it is what is necessary sometimes. We've all had to make that call. I've also had to call a neighbor and ask her to take one of my kids to school because the other one couldn't stop throwing up. Now, in either situation, I have a small seat that can fit between two pre-existing carseats and be stowed in the glove compartment or my child's backpack. If we travel, I'd much rather put this in my carry-on than let airport bag handlers throw around my carseat. For the cost of the seat, it is worth the added peace-of-mind and flexibility now. When my kids outgrow their boosters with backs, this is going to be amazing. 

In short: Excellent for older kids all the time and younger kids in a pinch. Always choose the seat your kid fits in best, not what they make the bare minimum requirements for, and know how to use your seat. (Spoiler alert: carseat belts do NOTHING if they are loose enough to be pinched or the chest clip is over the belly, not the chest. It is your responsibility as a parent to be sure your kids are properly buckled in the car, even if they don't like it. Because dead kids can't whine about their belts being "too tight".)

My daughter's opinion: I like sitting on the seat because I can criss-cross my legs kind-of, but I can't see out the window and I feel like I'm sinking. I like my old seat because I sometimes fall asleep in it. I will like this one later.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

When Crayons Don't Cut It

Pin It Plane, Train, Automobile, Restaurants, Waiting In Line...

I still have at least half a dozen Disney posts just sitting in draft form, waiting for me to wrap them up  in one way or another. Part of the problem is that I bought myself a Kindle Paperwhite and the Raven Boys Cycle is eating my brain. Find me on Goodreads!

But in honor of the summer, I'm reworking some of this post to include all travel and wait time with kids, not just Disney lines. Because, honestly, we used these in every step of our trip and continue to use them at restaurants, in the car, when one kid has to wait for another. The list goes on, and kids get tired of the same old crayons and coloring books. So toss some of these into your Go Bag.

First up, dry-erase activity... things.

If you are still reading this in 2016 and have children, there's a good chance you've been invited to one or two or 98 Usborne Book parties. I have not been asked for or compensated for my honest opinion by Usborne or any of their consultants, so you know what you get here is just my honesty. Usborne has some quality activities that use dry-erase markers. We brought the Doodle Tin to Disney to use while waiting anywhere. We entertained our children and many kids around us. Every morning I just grabbed a fresh stack to toss in my bag with a few markers so we weren't carrying the whole tin. I'm ordering a few more tins for our summer bag as well as the wrap-ups for my numbers-obsessed daughter.

Here is the link to the Usborne Activities page for ideas. It is not affiliated with any representative or party, but you can easily find a party, I'm sure.

Second, Mixels.

Legos for under $5 that take more than two steps and half as many seconds to piece together? Yes, please. I save these for lines and restaurants, planes, or anything I'm not driving and can help pick up an escape piece. Mixels can also be combine with like Mixels to create a Super Mixel. Lego's website has the step-by-step directions for each series!

Third, bubbles. Everybody loves bubbles. Bonus if you are at Disney because all the parents in line will love you for keeping kids happy and bubbles make for super cute photos. Bubbles also work in the rain. Just be sure if you are tossing bubbles in your purse that the bottle won't leak. If I'm carrying a diaper bag, I put them in the defunct bottle pocket. 

Fourth, Party Play Doh. Not only are these great for Halloween or birthdays, but having a few for long waits, especially when there is a table to be had, can make for hours of fun. 

By time you make it through that list, crayons and coloring books will look new again! May the odds be ever in your favor. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Disney World Simple Stroller Review

Pin It Welcome our guest blogger, Courtney! She is an amazing wife and mom who recently visited Disney World with her family. Below is her review of Simple Stroller Rental of Kissimmee, FL!

We did it! We surprised our oldest princess for her 6th birthday with a much-desired trip to The Most Magical Place on Earth  yup, DISNEY WORLD!!! It has been months of planning and conjuring up the greatest birthday present (and surprise) for my Raquel, who deserved this trip and so much more.

Currently my husband, Dan, is stationed with the Air National Guard in our Nation’s Capital. He has been there while we’ve been here in NJ for 23 months. Yes, 23 months it feels that long too! Raquel has been an absolute God sent for me. Her sister, Charlee, was born a month after Dan left so it’s been the “3 Musketeers” for 22 months. Raquel has stepped up to the plate and done everything for me, for her sister and for our family. Things aren’t always easy for Raquel going through this roller coaster of seeing her daddy on the weekends then back to life without him but she puts on a brave face and does “Raquel” to get through the week. Dan and I couldn’t be more proud of her and thought, what better way to thank her for being herself, being resilient, always reminding me God is the boss and to rely on God for everything, than to take her to Disney World!

There was a lot of planning  geez, it never ended! I’m a list girl and love to plan every detail. I obsess over the plan until it’s done and then on to a new event to plan. The planning started with the resort, dinning reservations, FastPass+, the stroller, rental car, matching outfits for each day, our meal plan (grocery list), what we were doing on our down day and mapping out each ride we were going to do!! Whew, there was a lot of planning. My coworkers saw me each day, during every spare second, in my “Disney Notebook”. One coworker asked what I was going to do with all my free time once Disney was over?! Haha  I happily told her I’m planning a gymnastics weekend for Raquel’s state competition a week later : )

One item I planned for that I originally didn’t give much thought to, was a stroller rental. I’m a mom of two and we have 5 strollers! Yes, they all have a purpose and I use them, haha! Not really sure if my husband knows we have that many. I did sell a double stroller that was a front seat/back seat deal (that was #6)  I knew that would be a fight as to who sits where. (I saved myself multiple battles right there).

We own the BOB Revolution Flex Duallie stroller and LOVE it!! My biggest concern was traveling to the airport with 3 adults, 2 kids, 3 large suitcases, 2 carry-ons and backpacks for everyone WITH the double stroller in my car. Not to mention the 75lb Labrador we needed to drop off at the kennel prior to “GiGi” pick up! I have a Ford Edge, so it’s big but not full size SUV or mini van big. Even if I could have packed it in the car, the airline “baggage guys” don’t exactly take care of strollers and luggage the way I would. From experience, I watched my brand new stroller for my 12 week old baby get thrown onto the conveyor belt from the storage area underneath. If that wasn’t bad enough, her car seat base was tossed and scrapped the same way so bad that chunks of plastic were missing. After retrieving my stroller and car seat base, I saw the DAMAGE they had done that was to carry my most valuable possession. Seriously, it’s used to carry an infant and keep her safe, not a bag of clothes that can withstand a little roughness. This article is not a dig at airline baggage workers, but if you’re reading or your wife is reading  pass the message along that car seats are meant to keep babies safe!! Thanks : ) Now we use the “airplane” (single stroller, from 6 years ago) to get everywhere when traveling and keep the good ones at home! It’s mangled and rigged in all sorts of ways (so much that I’m the only one that knows how to open and close it!), but it has made airplane trips from New Jersey to Ohio, Florida, Indiana, South Dakota, California, Colorado, Mexico a few times and will continue to travel the world with us as long as it has four wheels!

On this special trip to Disney, I didn’t know what to do about a stroller because I couldn’t rent the HARD non-reclining Disney Stroller for two kiddos  AGAIN! That was horrible for my Raquel, when she was 18 months old, on an impromptu trip to Disney for 1 day. This momma has learned, promise! Not to mention, it was an expensive piece of plastic to rent. I began asking friends what they did, looked online at a bunch of different stroller rental companies that had what I was looking for. I knew I wanted the cheapest price but I wouldn’t compromise what I wanted because my kiddos would be in the stroller for days.

After crazy research of stroller rental companies, I found the ONE! Simple Stroller Rentalsit was super easy to look online for the BOB Revolution Duallie stroller I wanted and to see if they had any with their real time inventory for the dates I needed. I was able to reserve the BOB Revolution Duallie stroller (exact one we have and love, minus “Flex”) with a couple clicks and that was it! Shocking right?? No, seriously  it was that easy and I got the confirmation just as fast. Too good to be true? Not really  it really happened that way.

Since the BOB Revolution Duallie stroller is a costlier product, I’m assuming that’s why it costs a few more dollars to rent; it really wasn’t bad at all. There was a $45 initial charge, $5 each day (for 8 days), it includes the Parent Console free and the Rain Cover $10. I got the rain cover  it’s Florida, are you really going to believe it’s sunny all the time and doesn’t rain? Spend the $10, it’s worth it. I opted to purchase the Optional Damage Waiver for $20. Just in case anything was to happen, I know how much these double BOB’s cost, I wasn’t trying to buy another one! Again, spend the $20 for your own sanity. We are always looking for ways to save just like every family, but as a MILITARY family, we save 10%....woot woot! MILITARY DISCOUNT 10%. The money you spend on renting a stroller from Simple Stroller Rental is worth it and I will definitely rent from there again!

The morning of our trip, I got a text message that our stroller had already been dropped off. The next morning we were headed to Magic Kingdom, we just needed to pick up the stroller from our “main building”  it was delivery and ready to go, Super Simple! Guess that’s why they are called Simple Stroller Rental. Once my hubby strolled it out to the minivan, I checked it over  it was super clean! Dan remarked, “It looks brand new!”. He was spot on, it was clean, and in perfect condition, up to my standards! In my opinion, if I’m putting my kiddos in it, it better be spotless and no remnants from others because that’s gross!

~Like how clean this stroller is?!~

Our trip was great with the BOB Duallie; I’m used to the big stroller. We couldn’t go smaller or more confined like the City Mini Double that so many rental companies offer. It’s not us and I sure wasn’t going to experiment during our visit to “The Happiest Place on Earth”! My oldest just turned 6, no she doesn’t need a stroller but honestly, she’s six, needs a little more space to feel comfy and it comes in handy. She will sit, nap or I can just keep moving when I need to do something fast and don’t have the time to let her move at her sloth like pace. When she wasn’t in the stroller, I would use her side for my backpack, cooler bag and sometimes GiGi’s backpack. There were times when both girls were in the stroller and we had backpacks and the cooler on the front, not to mention rain cover and ponchos underneath!

~Chars and her Cinderella’s Castle Wand~

~Raquel will sleep anywhere but Charlee FIGHTS it!
Finally, she gave in. My Sleeping Beauties~

~Rain Cover is a MUST! My babies needed to be dry~

After a week of a great vacation, it was time to return our stroller. Protocol was the same as pick up. Dan dropped it off in the “main building” where we picked it up, and someone from Simple Stroller Rental came to get it. Doesn’t get much easier than that! Simple Stroller Rental thanks for making our stroller rental easy and enjoyable. I’m a momma that suffers from anxiety over every little detail. Everything was taken care of with no stress from me about the stroller! Praise the Lord!

Don’t forget to make your rental stroller stand out! We used a giant HOT PINK bow and a Minnie Mouse shaped tag that I hung on the handle bar with our name on it. The sea of black strollers are everywhere  but there’s ours! Can you find it?

Face it, we’re moms doing everything and trying to do the best for our kiddos, why reinvent the wheel when this momma already did the work for you??!! Just use Simple Stroller Rental and move on to the next detail to make your Disney trip perfect!

Momma Karla allowed me to write for her blog  Thanks Girl!!

***I received a free week of stroller rental in exchange for an honest review of the company and stroller.***

Monday, April 18, 2016

Squirt Gun Painting!

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Happy Marathon Monday!

Life has been insane lately. I will catch up on all the half-written drafts later. For now, here is a fun-in-the-spring-break-sun idea. 

It is simple: mix Crayola kid paint with water, and pour it into squirt guns. 

Easy, fast, no clean-up. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Disney World Autograph Book - Update

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They. Are. Amazing. 

My girls were really into meeting all the characters and collecting signatures. 

The pages from the Junior Encyclopedia of Animated Characters are bright and perfect for signing with a Sharpie. We brought every color marker under the sun, and the characters all made a big deal out of their pictures and the colors they chose. 

Spiral binding them was also perfect. Even if you don't add in the extra pages, the spiral allowed characters with bigger hands to hold them with relative ease. It also made it easier for us, the parents, to open the books while in line. 

I have started to sort through pictures and place some in the books. As of right now, I only have small prints of the characters. There are a few that I want to have as larger prints, so I've been skipping around the book. It is a work in progress. 

I made a few embellishments with my Cricut and purchased a few stickers to decorate the pages. I'm going to caption a few moments, too, like the one below. The girls offered the Mad Hatter some coffee. 

My original plan was to purchase an Epcot Passport for each girl, but they were perfectly happy with Duffy the Bear. We were chatting with a lovely woman helping with the Kidcot station in Norway who noticed their autograph books. She offered to sign those in lieu of the passports. This may be my favorite page overall. 

With just enough space left for a picture of the girls at a Kidcot station or somewhere in Epcot! If you go this route, I highly recommend adding a white piece of cardstock for Epcot.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Tagalong Cookie Brownies

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These brownies have been circulating the internet for years under many names. But now I have children and calling them by what I first knew them, slutty brownies, isn't exactly appropriate. I also don't like calling them simply brownies, because then my kids will think this is the base model for a brownie. And it should be, but that is an argument for a different time and place. 

Anyway, the concept behind these treats is simple. The original recipe is to press a tray of break and bake chocolate chip cookie dough into an 8 x 8 pan, arrange Oreos atop that (I only ever used Double Stuf) and add brownie mix to the top before baking as per the instructions on the brownie box. (I usually take them out a few minutes early, to keep the brownies fudgy.) Easy. Delicious. Potentially deadly. 

These are my go-to dessert for a crowd. I buy the giant log of Nestle cookie dough (it is DF, because everyone should enjoy these), press it into a 9x13 pan, and then proceed as usual. However, there were Girl Scouts outside the grocery store on Friday, and they had Tagalongs. 

Tagalongs, for those unfamiliar, are the cookies that are layered with peanut butter before being covered in chocolate. You see where this is going.

I'm torn between finding the Girl Scouts and buying every last box of Tagalongs they have or keeping this as a once-every-year treat. Because these are really dangerous. Really, really dangerous. 

Want to make it even better/potentially artery clogging?

Not only is this ice cream amazing on its own, but on top of these brownies? You don't need to take my word for it. You need to go to the store, get the ingredients, bake them, and find some friends to share in this experience. (Please do not try this alone. I worry.)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Stitch Fix review by a SAHM who loves yoga pants

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My first goal every day is to get my comfy pants back on. This may happen at noon, it may happen at 9pm. But my end game is always comfy pants. I don't go out in yoga pants and my 15-year-old hoodie that is more holes than woven cloth (okay, I actually have THREE of these...) so this is something I really look forward to every day. I think most humans operate the same way.

It is weird to post about Stitch Fix right after going KonMari on my wardrobe. I was a bit nervous about this incoming fix, my third one. What I realized is having such organized clothes helped me see where I have gaps in my wardrobe, and where I have way too many of any one thing. I probably don't need another white teeshirt. Or a grey one. Or a black one. In fact, I'm well covered in the tee department. My wardrobe is pretty much teeshirt, jeans, cardigan or sweater. Repeat.

And I'm tired of that. 

I don't need to be that mom at pickup. Which is fine if you are, but sometimes I like to look like I have my sh*t together, for my own sake. I volunteer in four different roles at our school. If I'm in the office or with kids, I want to look closer to teacher and further from kiss-and-go line. As much as I love my yoga pants and fluffy socks, I knew comfortable fashion was a thing I just wasn't connecting with for some reason. Getting rid of all my old teaching clothes (I've been out of it for 4 years and another kid now... none of that was coming back or fitting like it did...) and things that were not making me happy has helped make space for a few choice items I could really use.

Onto the fix. 

This is my third Fix. The first two were pretty good. Just remember it is a learning process for you and your stylist. I'm trying to figure out what I want, like, and need. Haley is trying to deal with my hot mess while making me happy. I try to give helpful feedback on each piece I receive (the app makes this super simple) and keep my Pinterest board in order. My stylist does a great job listening and giving personal feedback.

Right now, I have monthly fixes set up. You can pick the frequency and date of delivery online or through the app, and as long as it hasn't shipped, you can alter the date. I had to rearrange the last one to fall between Disney and my trip to see my family. It took less than a minute to do. 

What did I get? 

The first item was a cute necklace. I did not keep it, but only because I have something a bit similar and I need to do a better job mixing up and using the jewelry I already have. 

The other four were clothes. Each comes with two ideas on how to style the piece. I study these cards like it is my job, since I have no clue what I'm actually doing when it comes to fashion. 

I kept the knit top and the jeans. They are ready to be tried out! As for the other three items, Stitch Fix wants to be sure their items are cared for properly. They include a prepaid envelope to put all the pieces you don't keep into and send back. It can go in any US mailbox! Again, I love the easy.

I still come home and change into yoga pants. That is going to happen. But I also feel great when I'm not in my favorite sweater(s) and fluffy socks. I don't need to spend time at a store trying on things that don't work, someone who knows how this stuff works is helping me pick out stuff I can use and will work, and if I don't like it instantly, it goes right back, no fuss no penalty. What isn't to love?

If you are thinking of trying Stitch Fix, please consider using my link. I get an amazing referral credit and you get to know you helped a mom stay away from Keds and mom jeans.