Monday, May 27, 2013

The Beach... with seven kids, 5 & under

We kicked off summer 2013 with a family trip to Garden City Beach!  It was special for many reasons... first family trip since before we lost Pops, very generously hosted by Mimi, and a reunion with A&E and kids who live far away in California.

We had a great time.  Garden City was quiet and residential--no high rises in sight.  The beach was flat and the water was beautiful (albeit cold).  We had a good mix of weather, some overcast breezy days (my favorite!) and few hot, sunny days too.

And don't even get me started on the set-up!  We got to stay right on the beach, with our own pool, kiddie pool, and hot tub in a great house where everyone had plenty of space, including bathrooms in each room.  And there were two full size decks with a swing and gliding adirondack chairs for those of us who need daily alone time to recharge. :)

Matt, Reed, Molly, and I all enjoyed our week with our Morgan family at the beach.

Reed liked both the pool and the sand pretty much the same as last year.

We were especially thankful for the ability to quickly change scenery (beach to pool to inside, etc), as I think Reed was a little overwhelmed by all of the non-stop action and company.

This was Molly's first real beach trip (looking cute sleeping in the jogging stroller last year doesn't count) and first time in the pool this summer.  She cried a couple of times in the pool, but mostly seemed to enjoy it.

And she LOVED the surf and sand!  She only tried to eat the sand twice. :)

This was our first time (since we've had kids) to share a house with other families (and family!) on vacation.  And I guess we went all in, with seven kids, age 5 & under!!  I am always seeking and sharing beach tips and ideas when we go to the coast, so in keeping with tradition I wanted to share some helpful thoughts about our latest stay at the beach.

First, here are parts 1, 2 , and 3 from 2011 (somewhat focused on the young toddler).

And here are last year's beach tips and tricks for the older toddler and young infant, plus a bed rail hack, thank you pinterest.

Without further ado, here are 5 things that made our multi-family beach trip a success:

1- Location, Location, Location
As I already mentioned, we were blessed by my MIL with a killer set-up this vacation.  Especially with the seven 5-and-unders, the set-up made all the difference in the world.  First, we were right on the beach so we didn't have to worry about forgetting something or hauling supplies for an entire campsite with us to the beach.  Or about walking very far for that matter!  We could grab a shovel and go to the beach for just ten minutes and it was no big deal.  I don't think we even packed snacks to the beach once.  Second, having our own pool meant we didn't have to pick up any toys up all week long.

...Obviously, I get that a mansion on the beach with a private pool isn't in everyone's vacation budget (It certainly isn't in ours!)  But I think there is a lot of value in thinking through what is important for your family and your stage and planning toward those things.  For example, if you want to vacation with friends, could you put your budgets together and find a place right on the beach, or with a private pool?  Or if you have little kids, search for a condo on the ground floor with a patio that backs up to the pool area-- this would eliminate all the hauling of toys and floaties and towels up and down the elevator.  If you do have to travel to get to the beach, perhaps pick a few of the best weather days to be beach days and go all out, setting up camp there with plenty of snacks and toys.

2- Sun Safety
This year, I tried to look at the EWG's updated database and choose some sunscreens that were both affordable and safe.  We tried several new ones, and Caribbean Solutions was a favorite.  I'm still getting my feet wet in navigating the world of unregulated cosmetics.  We were usually outside early and back inside for an early lunch and naps, which meant avoiding some of the worst sunshine hours between 10:00 and 2:00.  And, of course, my little beach babies sported sun shirts and hats. :)

*Bonus tip: This is so OCD, but I brought a big blanket for the pack n play, and put it over Molly's sheet whenever she hadn't had a full bath before her nap.  If she was squeaky clean, I took it out.  There is nothing worse than sleeping with sand!  (Since Molly slept in our closet, Reed had two beds in his room... so he had a clean bed and a beachy bed!) :)

3- Pool & Beach Gear
At our kids current stages (newly three and newly one), our pool gear consisted of a puddle jumper for Reed and a baby float for Molly.

We also brought our garage sale jogging stroller, which meant Molly got to take her morning nap during a beach walk a couple of times.  One new item we brought this year was a cheap inflatable pool.  Molly and her cousin Reese were both barely one, and played in there a little with some very shallow water.  Molly was pretty busy climbing in and out!

4- Nom Nom Nom
In planning for our trip, the adults decided we didn't want Mimi to have to cook at all so we paired up and each took a night to be in charge of dinner.  The dinners were home runs!  A couple of nights, we fed the kids early and ordered take out for the adults after the littles went to bed!  That was fun. :)

We chose not to go out for any meals, which worked well for us-- we never had to get everyone dressed and ready and we didn't have to terrorize any restaurant staff or patrons. :)  Lunches were anything from sandwiches to salads to left over dinner fare.  It seemed as if we had an entire grocery store in our house, but somehow we ate it all.  My sister-in-law is a super mom and pretty much rocked breakfast and lunch for all seven kids.

5- Attitude Schmatitude
A multi-family vacation in a single house requires an it's-not-about-me attitude for sure.  Especially when it is family, but that's all I'll say about that! :)  Seriously, though, a flexible mindset made the week work.  Trying our best to get all of the kids on the same schedule was huge.  My sister-in-law puts her kids to bed very early, but since she was on California time it worked well for us to meet in the middle and mostly have the kids resting at the same time and in bed at the same time each night.  Grown-up time meant pool to ourselves, playing cards, naps all around, or just visiting or relaxing.

Whether it was the beach sunrise or hearing one of the 7 stir each morning, our kids got up at 6AM almost every day!  That was sometimes stressful in a house with an aunt and uncle trying to sleep in, but we tried our best to sneak outside quietly and enjoy some early mornings on the beach or some poolside coffee and cereal. :)

I love the beach with my people.  Garden City Beach is probably my favorite beach we have been to!  I loved the weather, the beachscape, the quietness... What a week!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Olympics Bound 2028

Reed had his "Out of This World" Awards Day at gymnastics this morning!

Here he is with his coach, Stephanie, whom he adores!

It has been so fun to watch Reed enjoy his gymnastics class.  He looks forward to it every week!

Today, we got to go out onto the floor with Reed and follow his class around while they showed us all of their favorite skills...

They warmed up and stretched.

They worked on the bars and rings and parallel bars.

Reed, of course, showed us his forward roll.  A favorite move--a specialty, really.

Daddy wanted everyone to know where Reed's talent comes from.

Molly got to have some fun with Papa, and practice a few skills too.

(No doubt I got some good footage that will come in handy for both of our future Olympians!)

Reed has come a long way in listening to instructions, but sometimes those big climby mats still just call his name ;)

The class performed their blast off song and dance...

Reed really gets into it. :)

Daddy and Reed enjoyed playing in the foam pit and on the rope swing.

At the end of class, there was an awards ceremony where each gymnast received their medal on the podium.  Reed was SO proud.

So were we.  Love our lil' Olympian.  :)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

We had a fun day on Sunday.  First of all, it was absolutely gorgeous outside.  Love it!  Matt was super thoughtful in making me feel celebrated.  My favorite part was that he drove home in between services to pick up the kids and me, so we could ride to church together!  And I even got to sit next to my man!  Holla!  My Mom came up to visit too, and we spent the afternoon together getting pedis and just hanging out.  (Matt got to watch golf and nap on the couch a little since our kiddies slept until 5, so not a bad deal for Daddy either!) :)

It's hard to believe this Sunday was my fourth Mother's Day!  It is amazing how different each year has been, how each has already represented so many changes in my journey thus far in motherhood.

On my first mother's day, Reed was barely two months old and I was in awe of the gift and the newness of being his mom.

In 2011, Reed was already becoming a little boy--so much learning and growing and life was happening every day.

Last year on Mother's Day Reed was debuting as big brother, and with Molly just 3 weeks old I was still trying to find my feet as mommy to two.  My heart had grown to love two little people more than I could have ever imagined.

Now somehow Molly is already one and I am Mom to a big THREE-year-old, full of joy and ideas-- they are both blossoming more with each passing day!

Oh my heart!  How quickly time goes by!  I am so thankful that God gifted me my two precious babies.  I adore being their mom.  Every mother's job is unique to her brood, but I feel like most agree that the little years are especially demanding.  They require much daily sacrifice.  Sometimes the days drag on and it is tempting to wish ahead to a more self-sufficient stage.  In the back of my mind, though, I know  that these years are the magical years.  So precious and fleeting.  And that I will yearn for them when they are gone.  I bet my forty-year-old self would trade a sleep-in Saturday morning for an early wake-up call from a sweet little snuggly face in a heartbeat.  Or a quiet meal for sticky little hands to clean and then hold.  Those sweet faces.  The snuggles.  The hugs.  Those little voices and mispronounced words.  These are the moments to treasure.  The messy, busy, tiring moments to treasure. :)

I recently read about a mom (maybe via pinterest, can't remember!) who takes a couple of hours each Mother's Day to write letters to her children, and I really loved that idea!  I tucked it away, and had every intention of starting it this weekend, but it didn't happen.  I'm definitely planning to take some time to write this year's letters while we're at the beach!  Thought I would pass that along to you.

Also wanted to share two good Mother's Day reads from this past weekend.  A blog post by my friend Katie, and another one by my friend Becca.  Enjoy!

Thank you to all of the moms in my life- My mom, my mother-in-law, my grandmothers, my mommy friends living this stage of life with me, and those ahead on the journey.  Thankful for the mothering hearts of friends, those with children and those without.  Thanks to moms everywhere.

Mom upside down is WOW...