8.29.2013

CM: 7 hours on the road {tips for making a long car ride bearable}

My newest Connected Mom piece. We love Cape Cod, but making the drive with Gwen has proven to have its own share of difficulties! Here's what I've found to make our trip easier. What do you do to make long car rides easier on everyone? 

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As you read this, we are in New Hampshire, visiting with my Aunt and Uncle in the middle of the woods. As you read this, we have completed a 7.5 hour car from PA to NH, but are still looking forward to a 2+ ride from NH to Cape Cod, then a 6+ hour ride from Cape Cod back home. That is a lot of time in a car. With a 3.5 year old. And a dog. Wooo boy!

Picture source.
But, there are some easy tips for making such travel less stressful for everyone.

1. Schedule carefully!
No one wants to start off their trip feeling rushed and harried; and kids pick up on it when Mom and Dad are feeling annoyed. Know what time you want to leave (and what is your absolute MUST leave by time), and count back to figure out exactly how much time you need to get ready and out the door. Then add some extra time for the inevitable delays.

2. Build in lots of stops.
Fingers crossed you won't been 10 bathroom breaks in a a 5 hour ride, but if you anticipate and build in one an hour, then you'll feel ahead of the game if you don't need them. Check your route out too; is it a big road with visitors centers and rest stops right on the road? Or is it a smaller road which will require a little bit of searching. Knowing what's ahead is half the battle. For those with smart phones, download the Sit or Squat app and always be able to search for a nearby restroom! Make sure you build in a food stop too if you'll be traveling over a mealtime. Its a great way to get some leg stretching in too.

3. Know your travelers.
Driving over nap time? If your kids will sleep in the car, its a great way to get some quiet on your drive. Do your kids need a special stuffed animal or blanket to be able to sleep well? Make sure you have it in the main part of the car, not packed in a suitcase in the trunk! Don't have a napper? Make sure you have some books for your voracious reader, or a pad of paper and some colored pencils for your budding artist.

4. Stock up that Mom's Bag of Tricks!
We always pack a little bag of things for Gwen to take on longer vacations. Some books, some toys, little things to keep us entertained on rainy afternoons or quiet evenings. But separately I always put aside a few things that she doesn't know I'm bringing to break out in the car. This is a great time to get creative and create some special "road trip games." Depending on the age of your child, that could be: spotting license plates, car bingo (where you create cards beforehand with things you might spot on your trip), special cue cards that might help them learn about new ecosystems or areas you are passing, or a simple counting game (how many red cars, etc). Other things you want to be sure to have (unless you want extra pit stops): some healthy, filling snacks; a refillable water bottle (freeze it half full the night before, then top it off before you leave to have nice cold water); some great music.

5. Show a little extra consideration.
Recognize that this is a unique situation, and that special considerations can go a big way to making the ride a happy one for everyone. Remind yourself all the running and playing your kids normally get to do in the time you will be spending on the road. We aren't big on TV in our house, but Gwen does enjoy an occasional Sesame Street or something similar. We do not have a DVD player in the car, and normally Gwen does not get my iPhone or Kindle. However, I will make an exception during our 7+ hour car ride. I loaded 2 episodes onto my Kindle, which she will get to partake in towards the end of our trip. If you don't do TV at all, then this isn't for you, I'm sure... but a little leniency in some way, can go far in keeping everyone happy.


What are your tricks for happy travel?



8.27.2013

Whirlwind


It's funny how time works, but I already feel like its been years since I've been at work, but it's only been days. 3 awesome days in New Hampshire with my Aunt & Uncle. A lunch stop in Hull to visit with my work mommy, Bubbie Jan, and now we're almost to the Cape. Can't wait to see what the next 6 days holds!



8.23.2013

ready

The bags are packed and just need to be loaded into the car. I'm wrapping up some work stuff. We're dropping the other car off with Ro and Pat tonight. We leave tomorrow!!

Posting will be light for the next 10 or so days, but I'll pop in. Cheers!

8.22.2013

time flies

Its Thursday already, which means that we are leaving on vacation again in 2 days. This time New Hampshire to visit with my Aunt and Uncle for a few days, then down to Cape Cod for the rest of the week. Then we return and its September. It blows my mind. I can't believe how quickly August went. How quickly this whole summer went.

I'm going to try to really slow things down over vacation (which never really works, but...); lots of lazy days, book reading, sand castle building, cooking, yoga-ing, and relaxing with the fam. We have some exciting things in the near future, so I'm going to take complete advantage of the quiet and slow pace of the Cape.

For now though, back to work.

What about you, did your summer pass quickly or slowly?

8.20.2013

tasty tuesday {tomato sauce}

I have one big problem with my work from home days, and that is you give me 5 free minutes, I'm going to try to fit in enough stuff to fill up 20. Now I'm a champion relaxer, but for some reason, work from home days have always filled me with the urge to do all the things! I've gotten better about this lately, but I still need to remind myself sometimes that as long as I'm working, I'm having an accomplished day.

Pickings from the garden last Wednesday...
(only showing half the tomatoes!)
Still, when the occasion arises to get something done that I've been wanting to do, in the calm quiet of a house with no husband or child underfoot, I embrace it. So while I talked myself out of doing the other things I was considering (like making these pumpkin donuts... mmm. they can definitely wait for fall.), when the timing was right for some tomato sauce, I jumped on it. See, we don't grow tomatoes in our garden, but that is all my neighbor grows. The deal has always been that anything that grows through the fence is ours. But they had so many tomatoes pop out at the same time this year that he invited us to help ourselves to as many as we wanted, they couldn't hope to eat them all. I'd been waiting for enough to ripen at the same time that I could take all I needed for a pot of sauce, while still leaving more then that for in place, and that finally happened when I worked from home last Wednesday.

I've never made tomato sauce before. I hated tomatoes (and everything made from them other then ketchup) as a child, and its only slowly over the past few years that I've learned to really enjoy tomato sauces (I still prefer white pizza!), soups, and sun-dried tomatoes. But Trav loves tomato sauce, and I really do enjoy the flavor when I don't end up with a big chunk of tomato in my mouth. I figured if I made my own, I could control that easily enough.

I found a recipe on Smitten Kitchen, which looked so simple to try, I couldn't see why not.


Easy Tomato Sauce
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen's recipe)

7 - 9 large tomatoes from your neighbor's garden
healthy drizzle olive oil
Small onion
2 to 3 small cloves of garlic
1 medium carrot
Basil, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper to taste
1 Tbsp sugar (optional) 

Cut an X in the bottom of your tomatoes and place in some boiling water for about 20 seconds. Rinse in cold water, and gently pull the skins right off. Super easy. If they aren't coming off, put back into the boiling water for a few more seconds.

Quarter your tomatoes and squeeze the seeds out over a strainer, reserving the juice. Give them a chop.

Chop your onion, carrot, and garlic. Add the olive oil to your pot and cook veggies (minus tomatoes) over medium heat until soft, pretty, and brown. Add tomatoes, stir, and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat slightly and let them start to cook down. After about 25 minutes add a shake of red pepper flakes, a shake of salt, a shake of pepper, and a 1 tsp each of basil and parsley. I also added about a Tbsp coconut sugar because I hear it can help to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. Stir and continue cooking another 20 or so minutes.

If at any point your sauce seems to be getting too thick, add your reserved juices from seeding the tomatoes (I added most of mine back in). If you prefer a smoother sauce, like I do, go to town with your immersion blender when the sauce is getting close to done. At that point, taste and add more basil, parsley, salt, pepper as desired. I probably used about 2ish tsps of each. Oh, and I threw in a hearty dash of Worcestershire sauce because I was feeling naughty.

This sauce is easy, but rich. The flavor is deep, but still highlights the star of the show, the tomatoes. I love it and Trav did too.

Serve with your favorite pasta (or with pasta and chopped up peppers, like Trav did), then refrigerate leftovers. Or cool and freeze for later. (I froze about 1/2 of mine.)

Enjoy!



8.19.2013

flying solo weekend

This morning was a great Monday morning. I was tired, but getting ready went so well for everyone. Gwen was in a great mood, super cooperative, and everyone got off on time. She had a nice surprise when she left too, since the street above us is getting repaved, so she got to take a few minutes to watch the "really big trucks!"

Lets jump back to Thursday though. My birthday! I was treated, let me tell you. Coworkers took me out to lunch, and Trav and Gwen cobbled together a great dinner for me. My favorite macaroni & yeasty cheese, and sushi!  :-)


They also picked up some cupcakes, and ice cream, which Gwen greatly enjoyed.

This past weekend, Trav had a bachelor party to attend. It started Saturday morning in NYC, so he headed out Friday night to stay with a friend who lives in Northern New Jersey. It didn't end until late Saturday night, so he stayed with the same friend on Saturday night. Meaning it was just Gwen and I for much of the weekend. It went pretty well. If it weren't for the fact that Gwen was a bit sick with a cold, and had reached the crazy point with her inhaler (aka corticosteroids!) I think it would have been great. I really need to talk to her doc about switch her inhaler though... she just does not do well with this one.

Anyway, after a not great ride, during which Gwen thankfully fell asleep for a bit of much needed nap, she and I had a really wonderful time visiting with my parents on Saturday. My mom cooked some of my favorites: tuna turnovers and blueberry crumble. They also gifted me with some books and another yoga card for my favorite studio!

We hung around and enjoyed the beautiful weather (with accompanying amazing sky) for the whole afternoon. We ate a pizza dinner before heading home.


Its always a little weird being "home alone" after Gwen falls asleep when there are no other adults around, but I have to say I really enjoyed my quiet time. And I managed to get to bed early both nights. A good thing since Saturday morning Daisy had me up at 6, and Gwen was up for good by 6:30.

Sunday I had a great lie in until 7:30! Gwen and Daisy both slept late thanks to a tiring day the day before plus a slightly later bedtime (Gwen), and having the foresight to pull her into bed with me the night before (Daisy).

It was a chilly, overcast day (not complaining!!), but we found some fun outdoor activities to keep us moving.


Puddles make bike riding even more fun! For everyone.


Since I wasn't sure exactly what time Trav was going to be home, I decided to just head out with Gwen and keep her entertained. After a quick lunch, we headed to Linvilla Orchards to check out the farmer's market, garden market, and barnyard.


Trav was home by the time we got home, so I did some things around the house while Gwen and Trav played together. We were all in bed early.

Now we just have to get through this week (and the return of the summer heat), and we're on to New Hampshire and Cape Cod (and its accompanying cool weather)! Can't wait.

8.16.2013

3.5



Dear Gwenivere,
Today you are 3 and a half years old. Time continues to fly at an alarming rate, and you just keep getting bigger, faster, smarter, funnier, sassier, and stronger. There have been a lot of big changes for you in the past 6 months, and while they haven't always been easy, its amazing how you've adapted to each and every one of them.

We've had some trying moments my love. You've picked up a whining habit with your Daddy and I are none to pleased about. You also have some days where everything is just too much for you, and you'll get home to the security of your family and just melt down. Those are frustrating times, my love. But there are times when you look me in the eyes and say, "Mommy, I love you so much. You are my best friend." You've also picked up the endearing habit of wrapping your arms around my neck and playing with my hair. Its a comfort mechanism for you. Frankly, I find it comforting too. You will also pat me lightly on the back while resting your head on my shoulder. Those are the moments that melt the rest away.

You were so not a fan of potty training, then, all of a sudden it just started working. In March you started pooping in the potty. In April, you had a day where you kept your pull up dry all day. We started you with training pants. By May, you were in real underwear. There was a point when I thought you were going to potty train yourself before you even turned 2, then a point when I dreaded potty training and thought you would never keep yourself dry, but in the end, it happened so much smoother then I could have imagined. At this point, you are completely day trained, even through naps, and will sometimes even wake up in the morning dry. Its so great knowing that I don't have to dread you telling me you have to pee... you can actually hold it for a bit so I can find a bathroom!

In the last 6 months, you've also weaned from nursing. I wrote about it in detail already, but you managed to make it such a smooth, easy process. Two months out, and its still so positive. You don't ever look for it or need it, but you are still so positive about "milkies" in general.

At 3 and a half, you can count to 20 easily, and to 30 with a little help. You love doing simple addition and subtraction with your Daddy. You can read all your letters, and have started sounding out words that you want to spell. You love Sesame Street, Handy Manny, and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. You love to read.


At 3 and a half, the collection of stuffed animals in your crib has exploded! You still love your blankie, and will finally use a blanket without me having to sneak it on you after you fall asleep. You still love having the golf balls in your crib, though that one seems to be fading away. You love t-shirts, and refuse to wear dresses 95% of the time.

Gwenie, yesterday was my birthday, and you were so excited to give me the presents that you had worked on so hard with your Daddy. You guys made me a necklace and some earrings, by taking special molds that you fill in with colored gel that dries and hardens to look like stained glass. Anyway, you were so excited that you rushed into the bathroom while I was still in the shower, pressed against the shower curtain to show me the box it was in, and had to be persuaded to wait until I was done before opening my present to show me! LOL. Your excitement, my dear, is contagious! 

Everyday you get bigger, bolder, and more grown up. I feel so very lucky that I get to experience life through your enthusiastic eyes. You have a determination that I hope you keep through all your days. While right now you use it to make sure you are called the appropriate nickname (No Mama, I'm not your Baby Cakes today... I'm your Love Muffin!) or to drive your Mama and Daddy crazy, it is a trait that will absolutely serve you well in life. I can't wait to see what the future holds.

Love you so so much Goosey,
Mama



8.15.2013

CM: the view looking up

Today is my birthday and my coworkers are treating me to lunch, while my husband is home making me some yummy stuff for dinner. I'm feeling loved and well fed.  :-)  More on that tomorrow, I'm sure. In the meantime, below I share my newest piece from Connected Mom. How do you change your perspective when you are having a rough day empathizing with your babes?

~~~~~

Some days are easier then others when it comes to sympathizing and empathizing with my spirited 3 year old. She's has a snotty cold right now, and I truly feel for her and understand that she needs a little extra TLC. Other days, its not as easy. Those days I try a little change of perspective.

I stumbled on the idea for this practice unexpectedly. Gwen will sometimes join me in the shower instead of taking her own bath later, and I will get down on the floor to help her wash and rinse her hair. During one of these times she asked me if she could use one of the rinsing cups, which I thought was up on top of our shower head organizer. So sitting their on the floor I looked up for it... and up and up and up and up.

How truly humbling it is to have a moment when you realize just how big this world is to your child. Just how small they still are. I couldn't believe how high up, far away, and out of reach that cup looked to me! I think how large I must seem to her sometimes, larger and farther away still when my voice reflects anger or annoyance instead of the kindness I want it to always embody.

So, when my frustration is at its peak, I get a new perspective. Sitting or kneeling on the floor, I get down so I can look up to her. Look up at those beautiful, sparkling blue eyes. And I take a deep breath and try to bring my emotions back down to earth with the rest of my body.

This world is a big place, and we are small in it. But none more so then our most impressionable littles. Sometimes seeing things through the eyes of my child take seeing them from their level, and that change of perspective can make all the difference.


8.14.2013

(mostly) wordless wednesday {yoga baby}



Huge thanks to my Uncle for taking these pictures while we were visiting their place at the beginning of August. I've been wanting to have some pictures of Gwen and I doing yoga together, or just of her doing yoga, but it is always just so spur of the moment, and we don't stop to grab a camera. I was (very conscious of my PJs at the time, but) so grateful he broke out the camera to capture this moment.

8.13.2013

just write - unsociable edition

I have my door closed at work right now. Sometimes you just don't feel like talking to people, and I'm having one of those moments. Nothing wrong, just don't feel like being sociable. Maybe my subconscious is confused by having to interact with people on a Tuesday, normally my work from home day.

I know I'm a broken record sometimes, but as August creeps by (seriously, we're almost halfway done with it already), I so wish that I were going back to school with the arrival of Autumn. I wish that some rich, reclusive Great Great Uncle that no one knows about would leave me some money we could use to pay for such things.

It was thunderstormy and dark this morning, but the sun has come out from hiding... maybe I will too.

(just write)

8.12.2013

happenings

This weekend I had a girls night out with some of my best girlfriends.


I love them dearly and we had some much needed fun together.


The weekend flew because of this. I swear it was all of 3 hours long. We're all tired today.

My birthday is Thursday. I know I said this before, but why does 31 feel a lot older then 30? Not old, and not in a bad way per se, but definitely older.

Gwen has a cold, my poor babe. Hopefully she's feeling a bit better soon, and hopefully we're all getting better sleep soon. Then maybe I'll be able to write something less disjointed!! But here's what you get for now.

Happy Monday!

8.06.2013

wistfulness sneeks in

To sound like a Victorian novel for a second, I think returning from holiday has me engaging in a bit of fanciful whimsiness that leaves me distracted. It also feels like fall today, which has me feeling wistful and counting down to things.

9 days until my birthday. 31 feels a lot older then 30 for some reason.
18 days until New Hampshire
3 weeks until Cape Cod. 
Less then 7 weeks until Autumn. (47 days to be precise)

The summer has passed so quickly this year. I guess we've been busier. As always I wish I were going back to school with the impending season, but instead I'll content myself with the fun random adventures we have planned. The Celtic Classic, a few football games, hopefully even a trip out to Lancaster.

For the moment though, I'll try to get my head out of the clouds and get my work done.

{just write}

8.05.2013

adjusting back

Mondays are bad. Mondays after vacations are the worst.

Honestly I'm having a lot of trouble transitioning back to regular life. It took most of Sunday to just make our house not look like someone ran around throwing our drawers up into the air. It still isn't clean, but at least its not covered in dirty clothes, camping supplies, and toys anymore.

My work inbox was pretty full too, but at least that I can simply minimize when I can't stand the sight of it anymore.

Last week was so wonderful though. A great mix of getting dirty and getting glammed, being lazy and being active, seeing family and just being together as a family. And only 3 more weeks until we get to do it again! (Though thankfully an even lower-key version, in the Cape.)

I never wrote about visiting with my Uncle Wray and Aunt Susie, but it was great. I love watching Wray and Gwen together. They are calm and quiet and deliberate together, everything I could hope for. Gwen adores Susie too, she does all the voices in the stories and has a contagious laugh. She loves them, loves their house, loves their boat and the water and their pup Zooey. I do too, but I think its just as wonderful, if not more so experiencing it through Gwen's eyes. I'll post more pictures later (as I can steal them from my Uncle), but here's one each of Gwen with Wray (and Zooey) and Gwen with Susie.



8.01.2013

dichotomous week, and a camping recap.

Home again, home again... at least for one day! Gwen and I enjoyed a lazy day at home today, while also packing and preparing to head to my Aunt and Uncle's place tomorrow for an overnight visit. We enjoyed sleeping in our own beds last night, and I think it will be even more enjoyable come Sunday night.

This week has held quite the variety already. From dressy dresses to camping gear. Hot days to cool balmy weather. Thankfully the cool stuff came while we were camping. I was a bit worried about camping in July, but it was gorgeous. 


Monday we headed up to Rickett's Glen State Park, the same place we went camping last year.


Our site was just one spot over from last year's.

We set up on Monday and just relaxed, ate dinner, had a low-key evening. Gwen was so excited to get into her sleeping bag that she told me she was tired and we should go to sleep around 6!! I held her off for an hour, but then she was in her bag... and so hopped up she didn't fall asleep for another hour. Goof. Thankfully, one asleep, she slept so much better this year then last.

Tuesday we had a good breakfast (we thought to bring some turkey bacon this time!), packed lunch, and were on the trails by 9am.


The trail we love is actually pretty intense, rated dangerous and most dangerous for much of the walk, but Gwen is a great hiker and that's why we have the Mei Tai!


She walked what she could and any parts that were too steep, slippery, narrow, etc she got worn for.




The walk is gorgeous and we all loved every bit of it.




We walked all the way to the bottom this year (5ish miles I think), then stopped for lunch and a rest before heading all the way back up. And I mean up... 1000 feet of elevation.




Definitely worth the work.

After that it was back to the site, then Gwen and I headed to the lake for a little dip. It was too cold to really swim, but we played in the sand for a while before heading back for dinner. We all slept well that night!!

Sunday we got up, ate some breakfast, got dressed, packed everything up and headed (in our car) to the bottom of the hill. We looked at another waterfall, but weren't up for a bit hike, so took it very easy. A pit stop at my Gram and Pop's old church to have a few memory moments, check out their grave, and we were off. I drove, Trav and Gwen slept! A pit stop for lunch, and we were back home by early afternoon.

Ironically: my day ended so very differently then it started. I got an email from one of the ladies from the yoga school I got to, asking if I could help in a last minute search for models for yoga clothes. I agreed, which is how I found myself hoping in the shower and running to Media at 4:30. Things got switched around a bit, but I found myself parading down one of Media's main streets modeling fair trade clothing for a few hours. Definitely an experience!! Dichotomy friends.

A few notes about camping before I run off to catch some zzz's:
- It is so refreshing to be so completely cut off. There is no reception at all in the campground area, or the rest of the park (save for maybe at the very bottom?), so I turn my phone off when I get there and don't turn it back on until we leave. I think we all need a break from technology like that.

- There is something so primal and wonderful about cooking your food on a fire, sleeping on the ground, and looking up into a sky full of so many 1000s of stars, which are invisible to you on a normal night. It was awe inspiring, humbling, and uplifting.

- I loved giving Gwen the chance to get dirty, wet, tangled, and be okay with it. I think she hears so much about washing her hands, cleaning up her messes, not spilling, etc. (which are good things in day to day life, don't get me wrong) that I love for her to not care about that for a few days. Be dirty, child! Be dirty, mama! 

- All of this to say that the simplicity of it all sort of made me want to run away to a cabin in the woods. It was a refreshing break from the think about 50 things at a time, what's next, keep moving pace of life lately. We literally lived in the moment, enjoying where we were and what we were doing then, taking care of needs as they arose. Again, so refreshing, rejuvenating, amazing. I let out a breath I didn't know I'd been holding for months.


Now to enjoy a few more days of relaxation before we have to get back to the grind. Hopefully I can hold on to this feeling for a while. Happy August all!