Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Dreamy Vacation? Not Sure Yet . . .

You know how sometimes you have a miserable time somewhere but then some time passes and you see photos and you think, 'That wasn't so bad. . . ' ?

Well, that's starting to happen with our road trip to Louisiana.

Months ago, my mom gave me The Happiness Project and I Loved It, especially the chapter on kids.  
And yet, this trip was an example of me completely forgetting everything I read and going into stress-ball-survivor-mode.

I had worried about the drive there but the car ride turned out to the easiest part of the trip and it was Not easy.

It's been a month and now when I look at this photos I think, 'Look how happy everyone looks!' and mostly, 'I need to lighten up.'

Remember how on the way over we stopped at McDonalds for an hour with my parents and the kids had fun eating and climbing all over Poppy?

Then we arrived at my perfect In-Laws bucolic home in West Monroe  and we played badminton and volleyball and ate  ice cream. . . That should be heaven, right?

(And why I thought I could pull off an all-white dress on a trip with the kids is ridiculous - and not just because Lil' Dude had an accident on my lap.)

My In-Laws street is the prettiest road in all of WM, LA.  Why wasn't I awed by that beauty and just insanely happy?
(Look at this these two Californian grandpa's and BFFs.)

The kids loved seeing the Bayou (which looks so different from the first time we visited) and so did my parents.  

We even created a 100 foot long Slip'N'Slide.  100 feet!  If that didn't make me love the trip than I don't know what would.  

And there were so many lovely moments like CC catching fireflies and the girls building towers of blocks and a freaking pinata!  A PINATA!  That's all I usually want to do in life - parties with pinatas!

And on our last night we even launched a paper lantern!  Someone needs to seriously punch me - why was I so miserable?

Maybe this is why:
Vacations with 4 little ones isn't a vacation for the parent.

Being a Step-parent is the hardest thing I've ever done. 

Constantly being 'On' and trying to keep an eye out for 4 little ones, making sure they're safe, fed, not hurting another kid or themselves is the most tiring and unrewarding thing I've ever done.  

And having someone pooh in your lap doesn't help either.

Lesson Learned:  When you're miserable take lots of photos, it'll help you forget how you actually felt and trick you into thinking it was a relaxing, grand ol' time.

But you know what?  

I wouldn't change a thing.

These little ones just make my heart melt.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Dreamy DIY Or How My Mom Saved the Day

Last year we flew from MS to CA and even though I had planned and planned (it was my 1st time traveling with not just a child but 4 children) in the end, on a scale of 1- 10 it was Really Hard.
The bags I had filled with snacks and crayons and a notepad were depleted within 20 minutes.  

So when we started to plan our road trip to Louisiana (6 1/2 hours without kids, 8 with kids), I did a ton of research on how to make the drive fun (or just tolerable).  A lot of suggestions for games were either too pricey or had a lot of small parts and I was not going to deal with a million tiny toy parts all over our car because I'm mean.  

To start, I bought a pack of 4 small canvas bags from Michaels ($7) and drew little things that sort-of applied to each child.  

CC is obsessed with unicorns and Lil' Dude doesn't really care, so their bags were no-brainers.  Annie loves the song 'Take a Walk' (thanks radio) and the Little Mermaid, so her bag sort of reflects those two things.  Brinx likes everything, especially the color purple, so I decided to subtly push an appreciation for Prince on her.  

I made sock puppets without looking up directions (glue gun, old socks, pieces of felt and a permanent marker) . . .  

. . . And they looked awful, but the kids liked them.

The girls' bags had two books (1 from our library, 1 from Dollar Tree), a card game (3 for $1, again Dollar Tree magic), Road Trip Bingo (4 for $8), 
and the real splurge, but totally worth it, Crayola's Color Wonder kit. 
I got these at Walmart for $8 each, along with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Color Wonder coloring book and extra markers to hand out only when the girls got bored. It was pretty pricey, especially since our budget was $0, but lent itself to quiet time, which is worth $Priceless.

Lil' Dude's bag had books, a puppet, bingo and Dollar Tree toys and he was super content.

At the last minute (like pulling out of the drive way last minute) I threw in some pocket Etch a Sketchs which also bought more quiet time.

Magic Man rigged up our portable DVD player with some rope (maybe 10 minutes before we left, we love last minute) so everyone could see.  It made me love him.  

But here's the Real DIY and why my Mom saved the trip:

This adorable, perfect French company, Lale came out with a Travel Kit as a collaboration with the website Babyccino Kids.

Ugh! I wanted them so bad for the kiddies, but at 50 EUROS each and with 4 kids it would have been around $275USD. So I decided I'd make them for free - or a less-amazing version of them (minus the doll, that's just too hard to make).  

First I pillaged my fabric box and also used old sheets.

I drew patterns on regular paper but my mom (an expert sewer) suggested using tissue paper next time for a more accurate cut.  The eye mask turned into a Kitty Eye mask and the knapsack was more like a drawstring shoe bag. 

I used 'coordinating' fabrics for each side of the mask and put a layer of felt in the middle to help block out light (my mom's suggestion).  Mom had extra elastic for the straps and helped me sew since I didn't look up a How-To-Guide (master sewer, I tell you).

And of course, my mom knew how to sew a quick blanket (which is similar to This Tutorial).

I cut a horseshoe shape for the neck pillow but next time I'll look up a real pattern because the neck part was too thin and a little funny-shaped once we filled it (we cut up a regular pillow for the batting).  

Here's how it turned out. . . .
(My mom made up the pattern for the drawstring bags - she's my hero! - but These would work too)

Turquoise for Annie:

Royal Blue for Lil' Dude:

Purple for Brinx:

'Pink' for CC (or the closest thing I had to pink):

The best part?  
The kids actually used/loved them.

 After hours and hours (too many!) and seeing the results, I was happy that I had followed through with this and SO grateful for my mom's help.  

However, if I had tons of Euro to drop, I would buy the ready-made bag that comes in beautiful French fabric AND has a doll so fast.  

At least the kids used them again for their sleepover at Grandma and Popa's house (and we used Lil' Dude's in the hotel to make him a bed using linens I trusted).