Monday, November 19, 2018

TOP 10 Non-Material Gifts Your Family Will Love

I have really been scaling down the amount of material gifts I give for Christmas, over the last few years. As the busiest shopping season of the year approaches, I wanted to share this list with you. Recently, I've been focusing on gifts that will either create memories that will last forever, or services that will save the recipient time, money, or help them out in some way. That being said, here's my list of TOP 10 non-material gifts your family will love.

1. Theme park tickets (Busch Gardens, Kings Dominion, Disney, etc.)
2. Local attraction passes (Parks, historic homes, zoos, etc.)
3. Annual memberships (magazine, Amazon Prime, Kindle unlimited, Audible, etc)
4. Tickets to a show (concert tickets, movie theater tickets, local stage theater tickets, etc.)
5. Redbox card or video streaming membership (Netflix, Hulu, etc.)
6. Cleaning Service (great idea for busy moms!)
7. Photo Session (get a gift certificate from a local photographer)
8. A year's worth of oil changes, or car washes (perfect for the new teen driver!)
9. Gift cards toward a vacation (Disney/ Cruise line/ Hotels)
10. And last, but not least, a family vacation.  This is what my family is doing this year. We are taking a family vacation this year during the holidays. I decided since it's everyone's Christmas gift, I would splurge a little as well. So, we have some fancy dinner reservations, a horse drawn carriage ride, and each person is getting cash for souvenirs. 

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Travel Tips for Single Parents

I know how tricky traveling as a single parent can be.  You want to visit family for the holidays, or go on vacation, but the thought of doing it solo with kids probably makes you want to run for the hills.  Don't worry! I've got plenty of experience, and I've compiled a list of my top 10 travel tips!

1. Make a list. Write down your packing list at least a week ahead of time.  This way, if there's something you use regularly, that you forgot to write down, you have time to add it.

2. If you're flying, Make sure you have everyone's passports/IDs, tickets, etc. in an easily accessible place. You don't want to be searching for it in the security line, with cranky kids.

3. If you're driving, plan on taking frequent breaks. I map out our route ahead of time, and look for a few fun stops along the way. My kids get excited about the next stop, and it breaks up the boredom & driving. (Plus, regular bathroom/driving breaks helps everyone!)

4. Pack a "Boredom Bag". Fill a carry on bag with small, inexpensive activities for your kids. (Coloring books & crayons, word puzzles, Rubix cube, travel games, etc)

5. Let your kids help with the planning.  My kids always get more excited about a trip if they've had a hand in planning it.  When they're excited, they don't complain as much!

6. Allow for extra time.  Whether you're driving, or flying, you need to give yourself extra time to get where you're going. Kids have one speed- SLOW. 

7. Get your car checked out, before you go.  This is a great tip for any traveler, but take it from me- you don't want to be broke down with whiny kids, in a hurry... by yourself. (Can you tell, I'm speaking from experience?!)

8. Eat before you leave. This will help you get a good start if you're driving, and save you lots of money if you're flying. Airport food is crazy expensive!

9. Play games.  There are tons of fun road trip games out there!  You can even tweak some of them, to be played in an airport.

10. Pack your patience. This is always important, but even more so when you're a single parent. Be patient with your kids, but also with other travelers.

Monday, November 12, 2018

5 Ways I Take Care of My Mental Health

One of the biggest challenges that comes from being a single parent is the amount of stress. From being the only disciplinarian, to balancing a single income budget, and trying to be in a million places at once, raising kids on your own is a tough job.  Taking care of your mental health is extremely important- not only for yourself but for your kids as well. You know the old airline saying about who do you put the mask on first? You put yours on first, so that you're able to take care of your child. It's the same thing with your mental health.  If you are stressed out, frustrated, or losing your mind, you need to get your head right, so you can be the best version of yourself. You and your kids deserve it.

So, I wanted to share a few things I do on a regular, and not so regular, basis, to keep myself in top shape, mentally.  (I want to note that I also struggle with depression, so I'm not always at my best, but these tips really do help most of the time). 

1. Keep a journal.  I take a few minutes every night to write down at least three positive things from the day.  Doing this at the end of the day puts me in a positive mood before going to sleep. 

2. Exercise. If I find myself getting stressed, I go for a walk. I listen to some of my favorite music, and just enjoy the fresh air, and pretty scenery.  

3. Unplug, and watch a movie. I do this one a lot, especially during the holidays, when all the Christmas movies are on (Hello, Hallmark Christmas movies). I turn my phone off, and just relax, and enjoy the movie. I usually do this after the kids are in bed for the night. 

4. Laugh. Call your BFF, and catch up on the latest celebrity gossip or chat about the cute barista who you've both been drooling over, but doesn't know you exist! I love having that girl time. 

5. Take a kid-free vacation.  I take at LEAST one mom-cation every year. I've gone big- spending a couple days at Disney World with one of my best friends, and I've gone smaller- going to a local hotel for a night, order room service, and sleep in. I almost always go to my company's annual conference, which is a great way to write off a mom-cation on my taxes! 

What are some of your best mommy mental health tips? 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Visiting the White House

I love history, and sadly only one of my kids shares that passion with me.  So, when I decided to apply to visit the White House, I knew I had to take her with me.  I got a ticket for my brother, who also likes history. So, after being approved (and maybe screaming with excitement), I planned our trip to the nation's capital.

We live less than two hours away, so we made this a day trip.  Since we were visiting the White House, I got tickets to tour the Capitol building as well. All I had to do for both, was reach out to my local congressman's office. They took care of everything.  It was a very easy process, and they answered all my questions.

We took the Metro into DC, and went straight to our first stop, the White House. Security takes FOREVER, and we were in line about twice as long as we were inside! Make sure you hit the bathroom before getting in the security line.

After leaving the White House, we grabbed hotdogs at a food truck, and hiked down to the Capitol building for our tour.

It was so beautiful!  I didn't get a lot of pictures, because there were so many people.  I just enjoyed the tour.

On our way back to the Metro, we saw this flower statue, and my daughter wanted to get a picture with it.

We had an amazing day, and I'm so glad we did it.  I don't think I would go back to the White House, but it's definitely something I think everyone should do once. The photos don't do it justice- it's gorgeous inside, and there are so many details you have to see in person to enjoy.

Monday, November 5, 2018

One-on-One "Date Night" With Mom

One-on-one time with my kids is very important to me.  Having three kids, it can be difficult to give each of them individual attention every day, so we like to plan individual "date nights" every few months.

I recently took my youngest daughter on a weekend getaway with my best friend, and her daughter. While my one-on-one dates aren't usually this elaborate, we really needed the time away, and a trip with my bestie is always a great idea! We went to the beach, and stopped by Colonial Williamsburg on the the way home. I m a huge history buff, and I've never been to Williamsburg, so I was like a kid on Christmas!

When I saw an ad on Facebook for a local theater company, performing Steel Magnolias,
I just had to get tickets to take my daughter, Lexi. It’s one of our favorite movies, and I
knew she’d be excited to see the play.  I was right! As soon as I told her where we were
going, she freaked out!

When I got the tickets online, I was able to choose our seats- front row, middle! Score!  
It was the perfect spot! We even got wet at one point, when an actress knocked over a
water bottle. We weren’t allowed to take photos during the show, but here are a couple
from their Facebook page.

It was absolutely perfect! The entire cast & crew did an outstanding job.

My brother and I took my son and my nephew to a Washington Nationals baseball game.
It's a little harder to plan our "dates" since he's older, and getting to be a little too old to
hang with mom. Luckily, we both love baseball.

I'm so grateful to be able to make these memories with my kiddos. I love hanging out
with them, and showing them how much fun life can be.

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