Friday, December 31, 2010

Healthier Eating For 2011! Bring ON The Snacks!

We have fallen into some bad habits this year in my household.  You want m&m’s, kiddo? Sure!  You want ten pb&j sandwiches? Go on, eat!  I blame my Eastern European genetics and my incurable sweet tooth.  But after a year of poor health and a lot of laziness, it’s time to focus on making sure this family eats healthfully.  When I talked to the husband, he was on board.  He’d been feeling as bogged down and sluggish from our bad habits as I had.

That’s the thing that we all fail to realize.  The Snickers bar only packs so much punch.  But the carrots dipped in natural peanut butter or easily homemade hummus?  We’re happy and content for hours.  We can function, we don’t fall prey to the low blood sugar blues, and we can keep on playing and laughing hard.

I tried some new tricks to get more fruits and veggies into the kiddos diet.  Number one time to get them in? SNACK TIME.  My kids were sorely lacking on their intake of yogurt, fruit, and veggies.  So their options got to be the same as mine, because I wanted them to see ME eating better stuff too. Snack options? Things like: celery or carrots with homemade dip, yogurt with berries, or fruit and wheat pretzels.

Next thing up is water.  You know you need to get in 10 cups a day. According to the MyPyramid website, kiddos need about 6. So snack time is ALWAYS water to drink.  My older gal is starting to enjoy decaf fruity flavored green teas.  I let her have that to get more water in once a day too.

Meals time. The husband and I had a serious talk about this one.  We’re hard core desserts addicts around here.  So we decided, “We’re cutting our sweets in half.  We’re both eating 2 veggies with both lunch and dinner.  We’re eating whole grain cereals and fruit, or eggs on whole grain toast with a glass of juice or piece of fruit.  The kiddos will see us eating better and they need to too.” We’ve stuck to it, they are eating and sleeping better, and all of us are feeling better.

It’s easier thank you think to get some more of the good stuff into your diet and your kids’ as well.  Make it a priority, make it available, and keep your eye open for sales on produce.  Let your kids see you eating and enjoying it.  Then steal this tip from the lovely Nigella Lawson that I did. “Before meals, put out a tray of dip and an assortment of veggies.  Everybody snacks on that before and during the meal too.”  

Check out the MyPyramid site. It's got great guidelines, tools, and printouts to help you balance what you and your kids eat. Also check out Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution- it is life changing. If that isn't enough, take a few to watch The Future of Food on Hulu. It is also life and mind changing! Let’s all have a healthy, happy, elegant New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

January Diapapallooza!

Diapapallooza is the time for those who live near and far to sell those pre-owned diapers that you no longer use! Pass on the fluff Love Baby!

Are you looking to purchase pre-owned diapers? Take a look at the awesome diaper stashes we have for sale, pick out what will work best for your family, and then pay through Elegant Mommy. This is a wonderful opportunity for you to check out lots of different kinds of diapers for only a little money!

If you are selling diapers or natural parenting products, you must RSVP! When you do, we will contact you! We are doing things a little different this month, we are having the event on Thursday night and Saturday morning. We are allowing families to drop off their diapers (labeled with prices) anytime before the event so it is not required to stay with your diapers now! Sellers are allowed to sell cloth diapers, accessories, or other natural parenting products. 

Because we are not requiring sellers to stay with their diapers, we can accept consignors who live outside of the Sioux Falls Area! Same rules apply, simply stuff all of your diapers into a flat rate box and we'll get them sold for you! Whatever doesnt' sell you either donate to local non-profits or you can pay to have them shipped back to you!

Do you enjoy chatting with others? You are still more than welcome to come and stay and talk with the others looking to purchase your diapers!

Sellers are required to label their own diapers with description and prices (a list on paper is sufficient and we will put store tags with your diapers). Customers will pay for their diapers through Elegant Mommy and at the end of the event, you will receive a check (minus 10% to cover our credit card fees) for whatever you sold! Easy Peasy!

Time: Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 5:00pm - Saturday, January 8, 2011 at 1:00pm
Place: Elegant Mommy!
Any questions, please call us at 605-338-0228

Monday, December 27, 2010

Work It Out! Active Family Tips!

81/365 - The Family That Walks Together . . .Image by oblivion9999 via FlickrFeeling the blubber and sluggishness of over-indulgence these last few months? Me too, in fact, I was in a sugar coma this last week from the hundreds of cookies, candies, and heavy meals we ate and made. Today, I find myself thinking about getting back on track, slowly and surely. I want to make a priority of being physically active, both for myself and my kids, during the new year.

I think that exercising with your kids is the very best way to teach them about a life of physical activity often means a life of better health and more happiness. In fact, my parents taught me this, and I am really grateful for it. After dinner, rain or shine, we went for a light walk before we tidied up the kitchen and set about things like homework, TV, reading, bedtime routines, etc.

As I got older, I learned yoga with my mama, something she and I both still practice in our own lives. We went on family hikes, swims, and nature walks. My parents encouraged me to learn how to cook and eat healthfully, and they were never disappointed to hear if I went for a walk, to dance class, or the gym. That kind of encouragement is exactly what kids need these days.

I actually really enjoy exercise with my kids. I love family walks, doing yoga, and teaching my older daughter ballet. I danced and taught dance/yoga/Pilate's for a long time. Last year, I had the pleasure of being back in the studio teaching again and this year, I spend two evenings a week dancing with my daughter.

My husband is great at this too. He has no qualms about turning up the music and grooving with the kids, or taking them outside to kick or toss a ball around. We decided in the New Year, to learn Tai Chi together, and our daughter wants to join in after watching The Last Airbender and seeing the kids in it doing it too. We also are saving up for a treadmill.

In my opinion, there are lots of little ways to teach your kids about being active. It doesn’t have to be grandiose and huge efforts. It can be as simple as a walk together after dinner, going roller-blading, playing games together, or even teaching them things like yoga or a new sport. The important things are that your kids see you being active and that they are involved too.

There are tons of workout DVDs that are user and kid friendly. In these cold winter months, try one or two out, or if you’ve got other ways to be active with them, please do! You are teaching your kids a lifetime of healthy habits and spending a few more precious minutes together.

Here is a list of fun, family friendly DVD's, books, and sites, for you to check out for the New Year!

These two Yoga Kids DVDs are Awesome, with a capital A.  You may just like both the first and the second DVDs!
-Really great yoga mats for the parents and the kiddos! (We have them, and they really are awesome!)
-A non-intimidating book on raising fit, active kids.
-A book about yoga for kids, parents, AND grandparents.
-Yoga Games? For kids? Yes, please!
-A workout DVD for the whole family.
-If you've got a Wii- Nickelodeon has a cool fitness game that got great reviews and it's just for kids!
-A great DVD that is chock full of pre and post natal yoga workouts that are gentle yet challenging.
-If you're a runner, this site is all about how to get the kiddos learning about this great, heart pounding workout.
-Other ways to get your family healthy and active this year!
-More ways to make being active fun for every one!

How do you get active with your kids and how do you plan to in the new year?
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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happiest of Holidays!

Here at Elegant Mommy, we cannot say this enough.  Our greatest gift that we receive is you.  Your patronage, your welcoming us into the community of Sioux Falls, and most importantly, your support as we continue to bring as many different services and products as we can.  We are blessed, we are grateful and we are humbled. Thank you, from all of us to you!  We count you amongst all our wonderful blessings.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Homemade Christmas- Part 4

Our Christmas Miracle!

Oh yes.  We have a pink tree. We also have pink wrapping paper.
Out of nowhere, despite the fact that we asked for no help as we faced down our first completely BROKE Christmas, several miracles occurred.  Do you believe in miracles? Santa? A higher power listening?  Because after this week, I certainly do.  We really didn't want people to feel sorry or obligated towards us, so we've kept how financially strapped we are fairly quiet.

We let it be known that we wouldn't be spending a lot and that we'd much prefer to do homemade gifts.  But, even as I knitted, baked, and spent time with the kids to help them make presents, there were times I felt really sad.  Sad, mostly because there are people who deserve SO MUCH MORE than we could give this year.  People who have lent shoulders or been such constant sources of love and care, that I just wished with all my might that I could do more.

I should also note that I'm that person who takes in sick strays and nurses them back to health and have been burned a few times.  But the people that matter the most to me, those are the ones who I wished and wished that I could just do more for.  Especially my babies, they deserve the world!  I know that Christmas should not be all about buying up truckloads of the latest and greatest things, but I just wanted a few more things under the tree for them.

Then, as bills hit from out of nowhere (New tires, anyone? Vehicle breaks down, natch? A sudden, out of nowhere, bill that needs paid asap!), I started getting panicky and considered ideas like selling my wedding ring or taking on 16 extra part time jobs.  Then, both suddenly and slowly, miracles started floating down on us, like snow flakes.

When my daughter was a baby, my husband adopted her shortly after us marrying.  Her biological father is still active in our lives, we were just headed in very different directions when I became pregnant.  We have worked hard to have the friendship that we have and he is incredibly supportive of Nolan and I as parents.  First, he sent us a Walmart gift card a few weeks ago.

What glee!  We bought a few small gifts for the kids and then things like cat food and toilet paper.  Just keeping it real! :)  Then, we found out that we had been anonymously entered into a few angel tree giveaways and presents came for our babies!  I have never been so excited to write thank you cards EVER.

Then, out of nowhere, we received gifts of money from a few donors who wish to remain anonymous.  They wrote that they knew we were struggling and just wanted to help.  I have never truly FELT such holiday spirit as I did, knowing that people loved us enough to quietly say, "Here.  Take this gift. No need for thanks or even a gift back.  Take care of yourselves!  Put something under the tree for those lovely kiddos!"

Honestly, when this happened, I started openly crying, which was probably a huge shock to the kiddos, because I rarely cry in front of them.  We could afford to pay those bills!  We could have a nice little Christmas!  We could pick out a few small things for each other, which in the brief five years of my marriage, we have never been able to afford.  We could get a few people and our kids a few special gifts to show our gratitude and love!
A close up of some of the cool decor on our tree!

We also treated ourselves to eating out at a nice restaurant!  This is a huge deal for us.  We keep a really tight budget right now as we finish out some schooling, licensees and as I get more into freelance writing.  Reason being is that, we want to have money to use when we do move for my husbands career, and because we want a future that includes things like taking the kids on nice vacations, a house, and being able to help some with their college or post high school choices. 

We nixed things like eating out, extra spending on things we 'want' but don't 'need', etc., and a whole host of other things. To be totally truthful, we also had a history of being irresponsible that we decided to grow up and actually deal with.  Both my husband and I are guilty of irresponsible past spending and then we both got hit with identity theft.  We are still paying for our mistakes but I want our kids to see that we made mistakes, learned, took responsibility, and grew from there.

I say repeatedly that Christmas is about giving, rather than getting.  But it was nice to know that someone had been watching us struggle and said "I want to give them a better Christmas."  We believe in the importance of paying forward gifts, so some of the financial gift(s) we received went to and the American Red CrossDonors Choice was really special because we were able to pick local groups that needed assistance and help them out a bit.

I had no idea that anyone would help us so much this year.  In my book, it was a real miracle.  The financial comfort of knowing that there are a few less bills hanging over our heads is so nice.  The fact that we could pick out a few special gifts for people means so much to me.  But most importantly, the fact that we were able to use a bit of it to help other people who are in desperate need, well that is the biggest gift to my heart.

Though we stuck to our homemade Christmas plans, the gifts we received this year of miracles and hope did more than I can put into words.  I believe my heart 'grew three sizes', much like the Grinch, and I was reaffirmed of the idea that people do LOVE and CARE about each other.  So, while I can't name the people who helped us so generously, I can say than you.

Elegant Mommy is a perfect example of the commitment to giving back.  We want the families of our community to feel like they have a place to seek support, help, and things that they need the most.  Have the merriest of Christmases.
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Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Homemade Christmas- Part 3.

Our gifts to the majority of people on our list were of four kinds.  We baked goodies, I knitted, and my husband burned Cd's and DVD's for people.  The kids worked on art work to give too.  We baked approximately 10 dozen cookies, 9 loaves of different breads, and made different kinds of holiday candy barks.  Now, I understand that the stuff that goes into baking can get rather expensive.  I try to offset this by collecting coupons and stalking up slowly on baking supplies from September onward.

There's a little history behind all this baking.  Not so many years ago, I wasn't a bad cook or baker, but I honestly didn't know HOW to do either.  Can you believe it?  However, I am really passionate about great food and baked goods.  I firmly believe that the best cooking and baking in the world can be done in your own kitchen.  IF you are willing to try and fail, eventually the successes come!
Turtle brownies, anyone?
I really am not trying to brag, but I love spending my days in the kitchen!  I love making food that makes my family bust out ear splitting grins, and I love giving baked goods to people.  It's so much nicer to receive a freshly baked loaf of bread as a gift than, say, a box of oreos.  (Not knocking oreos- we eat them by the fistful here in this house.) Here is a list of the recipes I used to bake with this year:

Goodies!-Molasses Gingerbread
-Pumpkin Bread
-Molasses Spiced Cookies
-Nutmeg Sugar Cookies
-Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies
-Holiday Bark

I do know that sometimes, there is just NO TIME to bake.  So, please don't feel like your gifts are lessened!  Christmas is about giving, period.  Whether it is homemade or store bought, just the fact that you are taking the time and energy (and money) to let someone know you appreciate them is more than enough.  Never lessen yourself by thinking less of what you can or can't do.

Moving on, I knitted a TON.  I learned how to knit about two years ago, when I was still pregnant and on bed rest with our son.  It took time, trial and error, help from friends, books, videos, etc. I am so happy I learned how to knit though!  I love thinking of things that are just for different people, whether it's a set of potholders in their favorite colors, a toy for a kiddo, a blanket, etc. 
The beginning of Eva's cupcake purse.
I knitted each of our children a couple things.  I knitted them hats, scarves, and gloves.  I also knitted a couple toys, including a cupcake purse for my daughter. She's going to freak out in delight because she has wanted a cupcake purse OR hat forever.  It's in her favorite shades of blues and lavenders and I put a pair of cool knitted socks in it for her.
YARN! Yarn for potholders, hats, scarves galore! Eva's rainbow hat!
Over these two years of knitting, I've amassed a huge stash of yarn by watching for sales, using coupons, and also because a lot of friends have gifted me their leftover yarn.  So I had a rainbow of colors to work with for gifts for people.  I use a lot of patterns from Ravelry and I have used them with huge success. Also, Amy Gaines makes well written, thorough patterns that are incredibly user friendly.  Check out her cool books on Amazon too!
I use a lot of patterns from Ravelry and Amy Gaines. Her site is-
Nolan and I have a huge library of DVDs and music.  We love movies and we both have really varied tastes on music.  So, as corny as it may or may not be, we made people mixed Cd's, burned them DVDs we knew they wanted, and just used what we have to be able to give more!  Luckily, most of the people on our gift giving list also love music and movies, and have the same tastes as we do, making our job easier!

One of the coolest gifts we made this year, was a book for each of our children.  I made each of them a simple picture book, literally put in a binder.  I'm no great artistic talent but we both can draw and paint a little.  I just made each page about Eva or Owen, things they like, their families, things we hope for them.  What kid wouldn't want a book all about them?

We had also both received a few gift cards and gifts we just honestly couldn't use or knew we wouldn't use.  I know re-gifting seems to be a huge faux pas, but honestly? If someone else has better use for a gift cards to Batteries Plus (or wherever), why NOT give it to them?  We received two games for the kids we already had.  We decided to go ahead and donate or gift to other kiddos we knew didn't have them.
Oodles of snow flakes that we made together!
Eva got to do something very special this year.  Eva really wants to be an artist, so I had her draw and paint original 'art' on canvases I found for less than a quarter at a yard sale to give to people.  She had also received a cool friendship bracelet making kit for her birthday, and she and I got to spend time together making a few bracelets for her friends.  It was a great way to spend time together and make something personal for her pals!

When it comes down to it, I know people are short on time and short of cash during the holidays, sometimes.  I just want to say that however you give is your choice.  It's giving that matters most of all.  But, I wanted to present the fact that we couldn't afford to do expensive store bought things, so with ever batch of cookies, set of pot holders, or bracelet made, we were making it out of love and creativity.

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A Homemade Christmas- Part 2.

Some of the finished product, ready to get mailed!

We made our own cards this year and strictly used stuff we had around the house.  We send out between 50-60 cards every year and usually that ends up being a hefty purchase in itself, when considering everything that goes into postage and 'nice' cards.  I had a cool idea in my head for a card and we got about 80% there . . . but with kiddos and a busy life sometimes 80% is AWESOME!

We used:

-White Card stock
-Greeting Card Envelopes
-Silver paint and calligraphy pens
-Star stamps and various shades of stamp ink I had
-Non-toxic kid safe poster paint in dark blue, shimmery light blue, shimmery medium purple, and white
-'Cool' Scissors (what my daughter calls them) with a pretty curvy edge

Step 1.

-Cut all cards with 'cool' scissors.  Make sure they are all roughly 3x5-ish.
-Write holiday message with paint and calligraphy pens.
-Use star stamps across the top and bottom of the 'holiday message' side.
Half of the cut out cards on top of snow day workbooks we do with Eva.
Step 2.

-Do first layer of hand prints in dark blue.
-As that dries, address and stamp all envelopes.
Written, stamped, addressed.
-Steps 3-5.

-Do each consecutive layer of hand prints.  Let dry, then do next.  Obviously we started with daddy's and went down to my sons, since his are the smallest.  We each used a different color, for a layered effect.

-Step 6.

-Lightly coat hand print with a quick spritz of aerosol hair spray (Bring on the Aqua Net, or crafty people use spray fixative, I guess.)  I did this because I had noticed, other times when we used the paints we have, that they can tend to flake.  The hairspray seems to prevent that.

-Step 7.

-Stuff envelopes, close them up, mail them off.


I really liked making our own cards and may continue it as long as the kids are willing. So often, I find cards that only fit what I wanted about 50% of the time.  Maybe less.  Our cards may not have been perfect (after the kiddos did the hand prints- they vaguely resembled blobs) but it was nice to send something that WE MADE TOGETHER for all the people we couldn't celebrate with or send gifts to.

I realized NOW that all the cards have been mailed or given, that we didn't take a picture of the front of the cards with the layered hand prints.  Also, I do really believe in buying local or for charitable causes when it comes to cards for holidays and special occasions.  Remember that a lot of times, proceeds go almost entirely to charity or to support a local business.  Here, at Elegant Mommy, we are totally into that idea!  Next year check places like Sioux Falls Art Moms or search online for cool cards going to cool charities.
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Important Info Before Christmas! Read asap!

A few quick announcements, everybody!

First of all, today is the LAST day you can enter yourself or someone else in our Spoil A Mommy contest!  Go here for details and to nominate!  Win a pampering day, massage, photo shoot and $50 Elegant Mommy gift certificate!

We are closed from December 24th until January 3rd to celebrate a nice holiday break with our families!  BEFORE WE CLOSE, we are doing a HUGE sale.  All IN STOCK MATERNITY CLOTHES are buy one, get one free!!!  Stock up now, this great deal is only until we close tomorrow evening!

Last bit of info for all our fabu readers!  We are looking to talk with some WAHM's about all natural or cool product lines they've got for kids.  Please email for more details, we'd love to see if you and our store is a great match to promote both your line and our store!

Pass the word on, darling readers!

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Our favorite holiday cookies recipes!

I thought I'd put up a list of links to holiday cookies that are tried and true both for family holiday noshing and perfect gift giving!  Enjoy!

-Chocolate Crinkles.  Though as of recent, I've had some serious Betty Crocker recipe fails, honestly, their crinkles are fantastic!  You can even add in chocolate chips or chunks to make them far more decadent.  They are the perfect pairing to a mug of coffee, cocoa, or something equally warm and merry!

-Nutmeg Sugar Cookies.  A way to dress up sugar cookies? Naaaah, they're perfect as they are!  Which I usually agree with BUT, the addition of nutmeg makes this time tested recipe feel a little more elegant.

-Molasses Gingerbread Cookies.  I'm a big fan of the regular, delicious gingerbread cookie myself too but molasses softens these up nicely and adds another dash of elegance.  They're just as fun to cut out and decorate, so dreams of gingerbread men dancing still can come true for you and your family too!

-Jam-Filled Wreath cookies.  These are secretly my all time favorite Christmas cookies.  Merry little wreaths decorated with sanding sugar or chopped walnuts that have sweet centers filled with your choice of varieties of jams.  I personally LOVE filling them with apricot, cherry, or fig jams.  I was REALLY amazed to discover that the recipe my family uses is incredibly similar to this Czechoslovakian recipe.

-Holiday Bark. A fellow blogger, Sarah from Pink of Perfection, first tasted these at her monthly book club and while holiday bark may not be cookies, it is endlessly delicious and giftable.  It's also INCREDIBLY easy to make!

-Candy Cane Cookies.  Infinitely entertaining for the kids to help you make, 100% delicious, and yet again, totally giftable.  You won't believe how easy these are to make!

Help our list grow!  What are your favorite Christmas cookies and can you share recipes?  There are so many different kinds that our readers are certain to feel need to be added to our list and we're completely anxious to try them out too!

This Weekend: The 'Hood's Christmas Make N Take!

The Hood Magazine is hosting our Christmas Make N Take Project, Decorating Christmas Cookies as a family! Come to Star Performance Complex anytime between 10 and 1 on Saturday December 18th to decorate some yummy Christmas goodies for your family to share with other families this holiday season! Teach your children the joy that can come from cooking (or at least decorating!) cookies as a family!
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Co-Sleeping- Shelly's Take

Here, you'll see both Shelly and I, Sara Rose, writing from time to time when we have differing or similar feelings on the same issues.  We already ready about co-sleeping for me, now let's hear from Shelly!  Remember what Shelly and I always say when reading our blogs, things like co-sleeping, etc., may not be for you and that's just fine!  We love you just the same!  Let's all be supportive with the decisions we make as parents because sometimes, everyone could use a pat on the back and hearing "You are doing just fine!"

Co sleeping is something that never even crossed my mind not to do, although my parents never co slept with myself or my siblings. I knew that I felt strongly about not letting my children “Cry It Out”. My husband and I both agreed when our first child was born that whenever they felt they needed Mom and Dad we would love them in our bed, if that is where we all felt the most comfortable.

I remember being asked, “How do you expect to be intimate with your husband when you have a child in your bed?” I don’t think I need to expand a whole lot on this subject, but we have 3 children (2 of them only being 13 months apart) so there are ways to get creative. In 2011 my husband and I will celebrate our 10th anniversary and we have always found ways to keep the love alive in our marriage, even while co-sleeping with our children.

My children still to this day know that they are always welcome in our bedroom. They know the rules about where is okay to look and not jumping on the bed, etc; however, if they feel the need to get some cuddle time from Mom or Dad when they wake up in the morning, they are welcome and they always will be.
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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Let's Spoil Mama, Shall We?

One deserving Mom is going to be granted some special time to enjoy the little luxuries in life! Every day the Mothers in our lives take so much time to take care of everyone besides themselves.Today, we are asking you to nominate yourself, or someone you love, to win a great prize package. All you have to do is answer one of these questions in 50 words or less:

What is the one legacy that you have passed on to your children?
What is the one legacy you have received from your Mother?

Entries must be submitted by Dec. 22nd and winner will be notified on Dec. 23rd. Entries can be emailed to or they can be dropped off at Elegant Mommy.
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Toys For Tots

At Elegant Mommy, we are completely into charity, giving, and the meaning of help.  During the holidays, we are constantly reminded that the spirit of the holidays is to always to give back.  Really, it's a principle to follow all year around, but it's a real reminder around this time, isn't it?

We'd like to remind you of American Family Insurance's Toys For Tots charity drive.  Even if you've only got a couple dollars in that pocket, remember that there's a babe out there who you can help to have a merrier Christmas.  That smile is worth what little or lot that we all have to give.

We'd also like to remind you that here in Sioux Falls, the Jaycees are doing a Toys $ Tots drive too.  Here is a link.  That link will take you to their schedule and also to a page where their drop off sites are.  There is also a safe link, if you are a family in need of a little extra help this Christmas.

It's no shame to ask for help.  It is a blessing to be humble and to give where it is needed.  We are proud to support the Jaycees and the AmFam toy drives.  We hope you do too, and that you encourage everyone you know to as well.  Also, if you do the Coca Cola Rewards Program, there are ways to use your points for helping toy drives as well.
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Part One- The 'Art' Of Co-Sleeping

It’s amazing how different each of your kids will be, isn’t it? My daughter, at five, is fiercely independent, yet secretly always in need of one of us watching her as she goes out to take the world on. I didn’t co sleep with her and now that I am done with co sleeping with my son, I honestly wish I could have. I would have enjoyed the experience and quite possibly, gotten more sleep.

Let’s be not be tactful, my daughter was a terrible sleeper, as was my son. I think for the first 8 months of both of their lives, they both religiously woke hourly. I ran off of coffee and sheer adrenaline. Most pictures of me from that time period include a wild, wide eyed gleam from me.  Off to the web to read a billion things on co-sleeping for me!

We came to co sleeping with Owen in a weird way. First of all, Owen didn’t sleep with us until he was about two months old and we were desperate. He HATED his crib, despite being in our room, and would NOT sleep without one of us being within the same three feet. This presented a sleeping problem for my spouse and me. We do not have a large bed. We would have preferred to stay sleeping together to help each other at night with feedings and changing. Alas, we got there the hard way.

Owen slept exclusively with one or the other of us every night until we bought an Arms Reach Co Sleeper (which did NOT happen until he was 8-9 months old). I was excessively paranoid about SIDS, so he slept with the covers of our bed tightly tucked underneath him, swaddled, and surrounded by his Boppy.

What we have, in a pale greenish-blue, from Target.

That was the other strange thing about his sleep habits; he would not go to sleep without his boppy. I wonder now, in retrospect, if the kid needed a chiropractor visit? Moving on. Owen slept a million times better when he slept next to us than he ever did in his crib. Even when we adjusted the co sleeper to the lowest setting to avoid harm if he crawled out or fell off, he still fell asleep reassured of us being next to him and we got to have our bed back.

A few months ago we started transitioning Owen and it hasn’t been easy. First of all, my daughter got very jealous and started wanting to sleep with us or have us sleep with her too. I’m not against the occasional snuggle or sleepover but every night of two kids and two parents can get old fast. It was made easier by Owen being in his co sleeper. My own parents let me have the occasional sleep over with them until I was probably 7 or 8 years old.

We transitioned Owen into his own room about two months ago. He goes to sleep at bedtime very easily but NOT at nap time. In fact, he is practically to the point of refusing naps altogether, something I am not willing to give up on. Being a WAHM; that the hour and a half of nap time is totally necessary for me to get work in so that my husband and I can spend any sort of quality time together at night.

So back to the point I made at the very beginning, now that I’ve digressed entirely. From the get go, my daughter slept easily in her own crib, transitioned into a ‘big kid bed’ easily, and truly didn’t want to sleep with us until very recently. Reading on various attachment parenting websites, I was comforted to know that kids go through phases where they just need their parents in close proximity as they grow and go through different stages.

But I am unsure as to why my son just refuses naps now! His room is darkened, like our room. He has a fan to provide white noise, like we do in our room. We have kept his routine the same, changing it only when we can see he’s excessively fussy from teething or illness. I’m just incredibly confused as to why he now won’t nap? We’ve tried a few solutions; letting him lie on our bed with one of us until he falls asleep or for his entire nap time, or holding him until he is drowsy or asleep. But the second he gets put in his bed, he awakens, furious and will not go back to sleep.

What say you, good readers? Am I missing something that might help him sleep better? We give him oragel on days he seems to be teething badly, and he, like our daughter did at his age, has a bottle or sippy in easy reach if he gets thirsty. He and my daughter match personality wise in that neither seem to have slept soundly through the night until age 2 ½ or even 3. (My son is only 18 months but he still wakes consistently 2-3 times a night as she did, for a diaper change and to get comfy again.) Any good advice?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Best Gifts for the Expecting Mama

I was a strange expecting mama both times I was pregnant.  I didn’t really care for showers and still don’t.  The idea of oohing and aahing for hours over baby clothes and diaper cakes left me a bit cold.  Call me stingy but I would have rather had little parties to celebrate life in general.  I happened to be pregnant both times over my birthday (with my son, giving birth the very next day) and had lovely little birthdays each time.  Each time I was given things that pertained to helping me feel wonderful and enjoy my pregnancy just a bit more.

Don’t get me wrong.  I know that baby showers are all the rage, they just weren’t for me.  I wonder often why we don’t have parties that celebrate the mama-to-be because she is, after all, doing a lot of hard work!  Growing a baby is often exhausting work and as self-less as that may be, isn’t it nice to receive something once in awhile that is just for you? 

I was thinking about that these past few days and thought of a few gifts for the mama to be.  Some are just for mama, some are for both baby and mama, and some are for the baby too.  All are focused on making life just a bit easier for everyone involved.  I think it’s important to give mama gifts that help her relax and remember the fantastic lady that she is.  I think most of us agree to that too.

At Elegant Mommy, on our website- if you find the PERFECT gift for your mama-to-be, please feel free to get a 10% discount!  At the checkout use this code: emomsf  **Also, please make sure that you are using this code ONLY if you are following us on twitter!  Please be sure to respond in the comments with your twitter handle so that we can follow you too!  Thanks!  Our twitter handle is @ElegantMommySF so you can follow us too.**

-Gifts ideas for mama herself:

-Prenatal massage  Check out Sioux Falls Therapeutic Massage!
-A gift certificate for a manicure and pedicure.  A list of nail salons are here.
-A gift certificate to a local movie store or theatre.  You could always gift mama a month or two of Netflix, depending on your budget too!
-How about a gift certificate for a new haircut and color?
-A book that she’s always wanted to read. Here's a list of all the great local places to shop for a new or used book for her, here in Sioux Falls!
-A new pillow and pretty, soft pj’s.  Check out places like Victoria's Secret, Kohls, Elegant Mommy, and even Target!
-Soon, mama will need a new wardrobe.  An Elegant Mommy gift card, perhaps? ;)
-We got useful gift cards to local businesses, grocery stores, and even gas stations from friends and family!  How thoughtful is that, to think of the expenses we ourselves might overlook from being tired and possibly low on funds!

-Gifts for mama and baby
-Belly casting kit- You can sign up at Elegant Mommy to do a special belly cast that you decorate and keep!
-Frozen meals, so she can stock her freezer for those nights when cooking seems to be hopeless.
-‘Coupons’ for an hour of babysitting or other necessary tasks.  (Trust me, mama might just need this)
-A gift basket with gentle lotions, bubble baths, etc., for mama and baby to both have relaxing baths.
-A lovely cover for breast feeding in public, or other essentials, like comfy nursing bras, cute shirts that are easy to feed in, or if you want to splurge, a great pump might come in handy!  Check both at Elegant Mommy and Kid Stuff Superstore.

-Gifts for baby
-A ‘starter pack’ of cloth diapers.
-Diapers and wipes in the brands that mama and daddy prefer.
-The perfect knitted blankie or quilt.  Check out Etsy or ask around, chances are you know someone who knits!  (Like me!)
-A baby food grinder or steamer for mama to easily make her own food for baby, along with cool storage for homemade baby food.
-Never underestimate the power of a gift card for mama or baby!  You might just save them if there's a middle of the night emergency diaper run!

Now, remember our sale, and it runs through December 15th!  Also, never under estimate the power of the simplest gift, which is you being there, ready with a listening ear, a shoulder on which to lean, and a hug for everybody.  We all need a little extra love some days!

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Homemade Christmas- Part 1

A Danish Christmas tree illuminated with burni...Image via WikipediaAfter we paid the bills for December, my husband and I took a look at our check book and realized we had exactly zilch leftover for Christmas.  Now, we had tried to save through the year, but somehow life kept hitting us with things like oil changes leading to cracked oil rims, or needing an entire new set of tires for our minivan we're still paying on, or various medical bills- you get what I mean.  It was terribly similar to the set of scenes in the movie Up, where Carl and Ellie kept having to break open their Paradise Falls stash.

We have a pretty creative household.  We're all gifted in our own ways.  My daughter is a budding artist, my husband and I both have theatre and music backgrounds (and minors, natch), my husband can make computer games, software, etc., and I cook, knit, make cards.  My nearly 18 month old is creative about how to get his 'practically made of steel' cloth diapers off but I'm certain this just points to budding creative engineering genius.  We spend a lot of time making music with the kids, playing games, letting them make art projects, the list goes on.

So, that night, my husband and I got creative fast and decided to purchase minimally, use what we have and what we know how to do to make things, and to really emphasize the meaning behind the season.  We want our kids to come away for this time of year not expecting boat loads of gifts but rather understanding that giving is just as joyful and that we have a duty, as part of society, to serve and be charitable.

But, what is life without a little excitement under the Christmas tree?  So, in no particular order, here's our insanely busy plan of how we're going to get our loved ones gifts and cards, and make sure that the kids get in on the fun too!  We will be:

-Giving hand made holiday cards
-Baking up plates and loaves of goodies to give both as presents and donations
-Ransacking our closets to make sure we have things we can donate to those in need
-(I will be) knitting and making toys, pot holders, and much more to give
-(Nolan will be) making our daughter a computer games, burning mixed Cd's for people, and sending digital photo albums
-(We will be) making each of our kids their own story books and taking time to read them stories that emphasize the spirit of giving.
-Our 'Santa' presents are actually cool collectible toys from our own childhoods and from a few cool places on Etsy.

This is going to be a 4 to 5 post series with the different topics each time, but I wanted to post something that did show that those of us with limited means can still find ways to make this season merry and wonderful.  It is the little things that mean the most, those that we put our time and effort into, not necessarily those that we max our credit cards out on. 

Happy Holidays From Us at Elegant Mommy!
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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Making Your Own Baby Food

I just talked about how we switched to cloth diapers in our last post, but I want to share something cool with you that my mama taught me that I have used with my own children and those I have nannied.  Yes, let’s talk about making our own baby food.  Big deep breaths, this is so much easier than people make it out to be.  I owe alot to my mama, don't I?  Cloth diapering, baby food, not going insane when traveling with kids, I should make her a Mother's Day card every day of the year.

Mama and me.  I was the ripe old age of 20.
First, let us dispel some of the crazy ideas out there.  Like that making your own baby food has to be time consuming and hard.  You can use frozen, canned, or fresh fruits and veggies, just like you do with your own meals.  You can even use left overs and that’s definitely saving you a few dollars. 
Second, buying jarred baby food, especially organic is safer and more economical.  When you think of the idea of buying 2-4 oz of something for $2, especially when you have a lot to buy, that’s just an overwhelming amount of money you could shave off of your grocery bill.  Buy simply buying a bit more of the fruits and veggies you are already getting that month, then steaming, roasting, and pureeing the extra, you save yourself time and money in the long run. 

You don’t have to can your baby food, unless you need to store it for longer than it would last, covered well in the freezer or the refrigerator. You can easily prevent spread of bacteria by discarding uneaten portions, measuring out small amounts for baby to eat, cooking food properly, and storing it well covered.  I don't can my baby food but others do and if you know how to, that's FANTASTIC.  If not, don't worry!  This isn't to make life harder but easier and more natural!
Don't forget about squeezing your own juices too!
The best part of you making your own baby food is that you know your child’s needs, likes, and dislikes.  You can get them to try new things by simply varying the ingredients, adding a hint of salt or spice here and there, or by cleverly disguising naughty offenders (say broccoli) with something else.  There is even the wild idea that you may get your child feeding themselves faster and letting you eat your own dinner in peace.  That’s an idea I can live with.

Let’s take two items, say apples and broccoli.  Cut them both up, compost what you don’t or can’t use, then steam them.  Add a bit of salt and a tiny bit of broth to the broccoli, puree and store.  Scoop out your soft, steamed apple flesh, add some cinnamon or a bit of honey (Which you most likely won’t need), puree and store.  Remember ages and stages, of course.  A good guide is this.  If your child is to Stage One foods, the purees should be the consistency of smooth, slightly runny applesauce.  Stage two, thicker, grainier applesauce texture.  

At stage 3, think of apple sauce with teeny bits in it.  Remember too, if your child is to Stage Three, by all means try steaming bite size pieces of veggies and fruit, cheerios, etc.  The sooner they learn to self feed, the happier you can all be.  At least that is how it's been with both my kids.  Both have been wildly independent about feeding themselves.
Steaming and then pureeing is the most common method that I've seen.  Notice that they even threw fresh herbs in!
It’s that easy.  Make what you need for the week of say, two vegetables and two fruits,perhaps 2 cups worth of each maximum, store tightly covered in the fridge or the freezer, and when it’s time to eat, scoop out what you need into a bowl, thaw or even microwave it gently then serve.  Try mixing fruits with yogurt to get them extra calcium (use plain or vanilla, sugar free).  Mix veggies with fruit if there’s a certain few your child won’t eat.  My son hates broccoli, spinach, and even peas.  But by mixing them with carrots, applesauce, or even pureed pears, he’ll eat it right up and get a double whammy of the daily fruits and veggies he needs.

You can also try things like boiled noodles with a touch of butter and Parmesan, scrambled eggs, the list goes on and on.  If you want to do meat, which I haven’t talked much about simply because no matter what we try, our son won’t touch it, puree some with a bit of broth to the consistency your child likes.  In this age of food allergies and special diets for gluten intolerance, celiac disease, etc., it’s nice to have economical alternatives.
A post dinner snack of an orange sock is always great for any 6 month old!
Our son was born with incredible food and protein intolerance's.  He had to be on Neocate or Nutamigen formulas for a long time and would NOT breast feed.  Luckily, he was a champ about eating fruits and veggies, and has outgrown most of the food intolerance's that he had.  He is still finicky about a few things.  He won’t touch anything that has tomatoes in it, and neither did our daughter.  Let’s just put it delicately, anytime either of them did, it was a messy situation that involved baths, more laundry, and upset tummies.

You do not need fancy ‘baby food grinders’ or other tools that ‘make baby food easy’!  You need your stove, something to steam or roast veggies in, a blender or food processor, and a safe way to store the food you make.  Tupperware, ice cube trays, Ziploc bags, etc.  But if you want to try these items, feel free too.  I had a baby food grinder with our daughter and never used it as much as I used our plain old $5 food processor. 

Finally, if it’s not for you and your schedule, it’s not for you, and that is perfectly fine.  You run your household however you need to.  We always have a few jars of food on hand as a back up.  You may even look into local farmers markets, stores, etc., to see if they carry freshly produced, organic baby food.  It may be a few more bucks but if it saves you a headache, then it’s worth the cost.  But, I promise you that with the amount our son eats (and for a skinny 18 month old, it’s a ton), we shaved nearly $100 off of our grocery bill every month.

So, give making your baby their own food a whirl.  You might just surprise yourself and baby too, at how much you both like it.  If you've got some jars on hand, it's really easy to reuse them, too.  After washing them, boil them (this also makes removing the label easy after they've cooled) for about 5 minutes to effectively kill any germs.  You can try your hand at canning as well, but I have never.  I either make a weeks supply or more, freezing the excess and using the amount I need.

Here's some links to other homemade baby food articles, with recipes to try too:
-One of my personal faves- Honest Fare's recipes here
-Recipes from here
-Cool website entirely devoted to homemade baby food!
-Same websites section on stage one baby foods
-Baby Food Do's Here
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Saturday, December 4, 2010

First Annual Sioux Empire Christmas Cookie Bakeoff

A young girl sits in a hospital room decorated for the holidays with her mother by her side and her favorite nurse near her, wondering what kinds of festivities are going on outside her window right here in the Sioux Empire. Holiday parades, visits to Santa, goodies baking, sledding, snowball fights, Christmas morning at home. This young girl will miss all of these, but with the help of our whole community she is about to learn that we have not overlooked her, she is not forgotten, even though we are out having our own celebrations, the Sioux Empire cares about her.

Let’s bring some Christmas cheer to this girl and other children just like her at Children’s Care Hospital and School!

Star Performance Complex has partnered with the Hood Magazine and other fine sponsors to hold the First Annual Sioux Empire Christmas Cookie Bakeoff. All proceeds will benefit the Children’s Care Hospital and School. This event is like no other thrown in our area before and the oven mitts are off. Grandma’s cutouts versus mom’s peppermint candy canes, a church lady’s peanut butter balls versus a PTA mom’s gingerbread. Who will win the title of the best Christmas Cookies in the Sioux Empire? There is even a category of gingerbread house decoration for the kids.

With local celebrity judges, vendors, performances, visits with Santa, a silent auction and more, this event will warm your heart while it puts you in that holiday spirit. The children of Star Performance’s Competition teams are working hard with us to bring Christmas to the special children at Children’s Care Hospital and School. We are asking for your help in bringing extra special Christmas cheer for the children at Children’s Care.

Registration and drop off will be held Thursday December 16th

First round of judging will be Friday 17th.

The final event will be:

Saturday, December 18 · 10:00am - 1:00pm at the Star Performance Complex.
The Christmas Party with vendors and announcement of winners will be:
December 18th 10am-2pm with the winners announced at noon.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Our Cloth Diaper Story: Sara Rose

Baby Owen, 6 weeks old, surrounded by tons of new cloth diapers!
Here at Elegant Mommy, we’re crazy for cloth diapers!  Almost all of us cloth diaper, and believe in the value of helping the earth, helping ourselves, and helping our little ones and their tender skin.  Today, I (Sara Rose) want to share my story of cloth diapering with you!  When I had my first child, my mama BEGGED me to put her in cloth diapers and I haughtily refused.  Over the first three years of her life, I spent well over $3,000 on disposables, pull-ups, swim diapers, wipes, etc.  When I think about the fact that the dentist told me yesterday that both my kids FOR CERTAIN will need things like orthodontics . . . well, I could kick myself.

Three and a half years later came my son, who is allergic to just about everything.  I spent the first 6 WEEKS of his life fighting these insane diaper rashes that left my doctor baffled.  We tried a million creams, gentle, scent free, hypoallergenic soaps and wipes, nothing worked.  Desperate, I hopped onto the Internet and did some searching.

BINGO.  I crossed a few articles and blog posts about babies who are allergic to the chemicals in disposable diapers and/or the paper pulp used for extra absorbency.  I looked at pictures of the rashes these babies had and they matched my sons, nearly exactly.  So, I took a deep breath, stepped on over to Ebay and bought approximately 30 cloth diapers and then made 30-40 cloth wipes.  The investment, overall, was close to $300.  We have easily made that back in this past year and a half.  I just wish I had realized there was a place in Sioux Falls that I could get them for the same price (with better customer service, natch).

Within a week of cloth diapering, my son’s rash disappeared entirely.  His skin has improved so much that when we travel we use disposables but the remainder of the time, cloth.  I definitely understand it’s not for everyone.  There are days that I look at my piles of laundry (diaper pile too) and want to scream.  But it hasn’t increase the amount of laundry I do.  I was expecting an extra load to two loads with our son’s arrival, as is.

Now, I’m not a soap box sort of blogger.  There are people who use disposables just as well and are also responsible, eco-friendly adults themselves. In fact, a friend of mine who is pregnant found a diaper delivery service that also recycles used diapers  (I asked for the info on them for you too).  I did have the time for the extra load of laundry and I’m also a big advocate for the long, lost art of using clothes lines! I grew up with one and appreciate the energy savings they present. I had just figured out that with my own families financial situation and my son’s skin problems, cloth diapering was a much better alternative.  I do wish I had realized this with my daughter.

Cloth diapering has come a long way since birdseed cloths and giant safety pins with rubber pants.  This much is extremely true.  My son loves running around in his cloth diaper and a tee shirt, on his wild toddler adventures.  Since his diapers are designed to 'grow with him' it's a blessing to not have to shell out between $30-$90 a week to keep his hiney happy!

The similar style of FuzziBunz to the ones we use, called Baby Trendz.
Here is a list of the cloth diapers we here at Elegant Mommy have and can order for you:

-Apple Cheeks
-Daisy Doodles
-Super Undies

We also carry a lot of the accessories that you may need or want to make cloth diapering easier for you and your family, as well.  We have both gently used and brand new, and we can order whatever you need!  We carry gentle, eco friendly soaps, laundry detergents, and diaper creams as well.

My family uses a generic brand that are similar to the Fuzzibunz one-size fits all- type.  I do love them.  I’ve had to learn how to make small changes, change more frequently because my son is also, by FAR, more active and wets more than my daughter did at his age, and double line night time diapers.  The benefits we have all reaped, from better finances, to better skin, and peace of mind knowing that we impact the environment less was enough for this mama to make the switch!
Diapers with flushable inserts!
Cute babies in their lovely, blue, cloth diapers!
Be sure to watch our website and the store because some awesome sales are coming up!  We also do an event every fall called Diapapalooza, where people can come together to resell their cloth diapers and accessories, or to make that investment.  We urge you to check it out, try out a sample pack, and see if cloth diapering is right for you.
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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving. We are Thankful For YOU.

Here at Elegant Mommy we cannot be more thankful for two things.  One is the continued growth and awareness of natural parenting and the benefits that it reaps for the parent and child.  We have always advocated attachment parenting, we bring our kids to work with us, and we want to be the source of support for you, our valued customers.  Our customers, both new and continued are another source of gratitude.  You inspire us to new heights as we work on being a resource for you from everything to yours and your childrens' needs.

When we started in 2007, as a web based business and then grew from literally out of the garage and into our own store front, we knew that we couldn’t ‘just be’ another store.  We felt that the parents of Sioux Falls needed a place to comfortably learn about all the ins and outs of parenting and that not everybody needs to be ‘the perfect parent’!  Nobody is!  We’re learning and growing right beside you and your little ones, which is something we couldn’t be more thrilled about!

So, thank you, to our community.  You have embraced us  and given us the ability to provide everything from cloth diapers to La Leche League meetings to cute, gently used clothes for the mama who needs a bit of growing room for two!  Thank you also to everyone and every business that supports us and helps us get better each and every day. 

The ability to continue learning and growing is what we are forever after, for both our customers and ourselves.  Happy Thanksgiving, Sioux Falls, South Dakota and have a lovely holiday season.  We are busting at the seams with new ideas every day of how we can better serve you.  There is nothing a person can be more grateful for than to be of service.
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Elegant Mommy Holiday Travel Survival Guide

Traveling does not have to end like this.
Let me take you back to the first time I had to travel with a baby, say, five years ago.  This was when my precocious Eva wailed her lungs out for the ‘what was supposed to be 6 hour but turned into 10’ journey to my mama’s house in the Hills.  See, I was silly and had read somewhere that babies LOVE car rides! I had also thought that Eva would be fine with pumped breast milk in a bottle, wouldn’t have blowout diapers in gas station bathrooms, or that I wouldn’t practically have a nervous breakdown every hour of that trip.

I think I also believed that, post pregnancy, I could hop back into size 4 clothes and be good to go.  Oh, the reality checks that new parenthood brings.  So, going on about 4 hours of sleep, off we went to go visit my mama.  I learned a few things then.  Mostly that time management flies out the window when you’ve got little ones in tow.  I can’t say that things got easier when my young son came into the picture, but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves by that point.

If you’re traveling 6 hours, 10, by train, plane, or bus, there’s ways you can manage this without begging someone for an Ativan.  Trust me.  I learned and it’s all a big measure of give and take.  With no further ado, let’s talk Elegant Mommy’s travel guide for the Holidays, 2010 style.

We travel comfy.  Namely, wearing our pajamas.

1.  PLAN AHEAD.  Seriously, make lists, pack suitcases and coolers, and plan the entire thing ahead by about two days.  Then go back through your plan and prepare for the unexpected.  Extra clothes, diapers, and rags for unexpected blow outs, throw ups, or spills.  Extra snacks in case people get picky about what they want to eat.  Extra time for about a hundred trips to the potty or to stand behind the car and silently scream so you can get back in and be sane again.

2.  DO NOT LEAVE HUNGRY.  This is especially true in my household.  All of us suffer from what I call “low blood sugar means excessively cranky syndrome’.  I get it set up the night before.  Plates and silverware out, coffee stuff ready, breakfast food as prepped as possible.  Breakfast on the road never goes as well as intended.  I remember when I was a kiddo, my parents made a point of our trips starting with breakfast at a cool local diner or IHOP, but we haven’t got the budget for that in my household.  Plus, breakfast keeps the kiddos occupied while you do a last minute check of everything.

3.  PACK TOYS, GAMES, BOOKS, AND ACTIVITIES FOR BOTH YOU & THE KIDS.  At some point, someone will whine “I’m bored.”  It’s inevitable.  There’s only so many rounds of car songs or license plate games that we can all stand.  Each of my kids has a little backpack and there’s a box of stuff we keep in the van.  I usually put five small items that they adore in their backpacks and help them whip it out at the first signs of boredom. 

Story time, with a cow and a snack.
We read books to them (the husband or I), tell stories, and when all else fails, use the portable dvd player.  We didn’t ALWAYS have a DVD player for a vehicle, when we bought our van, it came with one and it’s been a lifesaver.  We always pick a special few movies to save for when everybody needs a break.  If Owen needs a nap and Eva needs to stop asking “When will we GET THERE?” this is fail safe.  You and your travel companion need stuff too!  Books on cd, knitting, magazines, whatever you need to make your time in the passenger seat more relaxing.

4. DO NOT BE AFRAID OF ACTING LIKE A LUNATIC.  If I burst into a silly song or tell an outlandish story or start talking in pig Latin, this usually turns my kids’ attentions away from whining or arguing pretty darned quick.  Constant entertainment is the name of the game with long trips.

5.  TAKE BREAKS.  Aside from the million and one potty breaks, I do mean.  Stop and get everyone out of the car at a rest stop or other cool place to see neat stuff.  Everybody stretches, everybody yawns, everybody takes five minutes to walk around, and then we all plop back into the van and carry on.  If you can, plan your trip route so that there are a few fun places to visit on the way.

Smothee King.

 I like to stop at the Badlands to show the kiddos the neat geography and tell stories of how grandma and grandpa got lost when they were young and had to camp out with one windbreaker to sleep on, and then woke up with a rattlesnake next to them.  We also like to stop other places to act like tourists, Wall Drug, where Laura Ingalls Wilder grew up, etc.  Use our states vast natural history and show your kids!

6.  EAT REGULAR MEALS TOO.  Aside from mindless road munchies, stop off and have everyone eat something with some nutritional value.  Bags of carrots, a Tupperware of dip, apples, sandwiches, water bottles all travel well.  They also lead to a content tummy and blood sugar level.  If you’ve got the budget, stop somewhere yummy for a special burger and fries.  It is a vacation, after all.

7.  EXPECT INSANITY WHEN YOU FINALLY ARRIVE.  Take five minutes when you finally get to where you went to.  Sit down, have a mug of tea, and let the kiddos run around like crazy.  Trust me, they need it.  If you’re sick of sitting, stretch it out, take a short walk, or just hang out for a few before hauling your car load in. 

8.  FINALLY, TRY TO DO A NORMAL NIGHT TIME ROUTINE.  Yes, it is vacation but this will help everyone wind down for a relaxing night.  Eat a great meal, chat a lot, have the kiddos take a bath, read some stories, and head to bed.  You may do the same when you’re done too.  It has been a long day, after all.

**As an aside for our holiday travelers, heading places on planes or other modes of transportation.  You can fairly easily adapt a lot of this to however you are traveling.  Allow for slip ups, delays, lost luggage, etc., by planning ahead and then going with the flow.  So long as we all get there in one piece, that’s what really matters, right? 

One other thing I might mention about the planning ahead thing though is to check EXACTLY what needs to be carry-on stuff for flights with kids in tow.  Trust me, knowing ahead of time saves you major headaches and lowers stress for everyone.  Plus, having an extra set of clothes, etc, in a carry on can save you if your luggage goes to Rwanda while you head to Alaska.  Keeping everyone's appetites sated with normal food instead of airplane food helps too.

There’s this whole stigma that people hate being stuck next to kids on flights. (I’ve never been one of these people and actually always delighted when a kid got to sit next to me.)  This can be true but you must take it with a grain of salt.  How likely is it that you’ll ever see that person again?  Shrug the small stuff off, ignore them, and enjoy the trip.  It’s the holidays!**

***One last aside.  Travel safely.  As part of your planning ahead stage, please check the weather religiously.  If your car needs new tires or an oil change and there's blizzard warnings, take extra precautions.  Wait an extra day if you have to.  There's nothing that makes stress worse than traveling during bad weather.  Be safe and merry!***

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