"vacationing" with little ones

I put vacationing in quotes there because, let's be honest, if you're traveling with kids under five then the term is used loosely. Am I right?

Blythe has always been a pretty great traveler, and Becks is kind of a hit or miss. We've taken sixish hour trips before, but this one felt bigger. And it felt like I needed to prep for the car ride a little more. 

Our drive was going to be about 9 hours, give or take, without accounting for stops for meals and potty. We figured it would take about 10-11, and I wanted to be prepared. 

So I browsed Pinterest, stole a few ideas from here, and added a few others that had worked for us in the past.  I tried to document them [mainly with my phone camera], as I went in case it worked really well and I could report back to you all [or in case it failed miserably and I could share that as well]. Like I said, Blythe generally does pretty well in the car, but an 11 hour day for a three year old is a little crazy, and these little tricks and activities really seemed to help. 

// SNACKS. My dad was never a fan of us eating the car, but at this point I'm like, "Whatever." These really helped Becks more than anything, and she consumed three containers of Puffs on the trip there and back. Like I said, "Whatever." The squeeze pouches are pricey but so convenient that I indulge when we're gonna be on trips [and for the church nursery!]. Also, the snack cups help cut down on the mess a bit too. Minus Becks' carseat, the van stayed pretty clean and organized. Snacks for the win! 

On the way home we had a late lunch and the girls were being rock stars, so we decided to push on. I scrounged around for anything I could feed them and handed Becks a fruit bar. She's one. So that wasn't my brightest idea...

But she LOVED it, AND the girls stayed in their carseats for over SIX HOURS straight and we made it home in record time. Like I said, they were being rock stars. 

//Container of ACTIVITIES. This was mainly for Blythe, but I had a couple of things that worked for Becks too. I separated them in ziplock bags in this box, and I'm pretty sure I'm just gonna keep it in the car indefinitely. 

// VISUAL of the trip progress. Blythe LOVED this and it really helped her comprehend our progress, and how much farther we had to go. I found this free printable here,  and simply pinned it to the van roof [picture at top of post]. I printed 8, and took one down about every hour-ish. Only once did Blythe ask if we were "home" yet, and I simply pointed the the count down. Worked like a charm. This is definitely happening next time.

 //CURTAIN. My mom thought this was mean, and if by mean she meant brilliant, then I agree. I got out my "sewing kit" ... ahem....

... oh my mother in law is so ashamed of me right now... and I loosely sewed a strip of velcro on to the top of a blanket. I don't sew. A sewing machine would have made this really simple, I'm sure, but after ten minutes, I'm not gonna lie, I got out my stapler to help the job along. Anyway... the girls love to make each other laugh, which is adorable, UNLESS it is nap time and they are just distracting one another and keeping each other awake. Insert curtain. It just stuck right to the top of the van and came down with no problem. Brent said it cut down on his visibility to which I responded, "Unimportant." Even in St. Louis traffic. Because THIS:

/--Here is a breakdown of the activities I brought with us, as well as which ones worked the best for us. Also, it was kind of important to me that they could all be contained in that one box, because I get a little hyper-stressed-out if there is STUFF everywhere in the van.

/sticker I-spy/
We have 1.4 billion stickers in our house. I stapled a little book together [gotta love that stapler], and found stickers that all had a match. I put one sticker in the book and another in a baggie. Blythe really enjoyed this and it kept her occupied for over half an hour. SCORE! 

I gathered books from around the house that I knew Blythe hadn't looked at in awhile, a couple from library, and one new one. They all had to be small enough to fit in a gallon ziplock. Again, these kept her occupied for awhile...on the way... but she didn't really look at them on the way back. 

/a couple new activity books/
You know what I'm talking about? The ones you can find at Dollar General for a dollar or two. Worth every penny. I got Blythe a "magic ink" Mickey Mouse book [she diligently colored every page], and a  Doc McStuffins "fun pack" that had stencils and crayons and stickers and a coloring book and one of those little felt posters to color [for $1!]. She worked on both on the drive there and the return trip. 

Blythe is really into playing "I-spy" right now, so I found some free printables online and slipped them into sheet protectors. I threw in her binoculars just for fun [but she didn't use them much], and she played for a little while. This probably only lasted 20 minutes for her. She got frustrated when she couldn't find something. I think it would be AWESOME for kids slightly older though. 

/pom pom game/
My sister made this little pom pom game out of a tupper ware container and it is easily Becks' favorite toy, so I threw it in the box. She played it several times on the road, and enjoyed it once we were there as well. [Kali, I'm sorry Wes missed out on this game because I kept it.]

Hands down a favorite. She LOVED this. I cut little fish out of cardstock and hot glued paper clips to the back, and then I tied a string on a little circle magnet [dotted it with a little hot glue for good measure], and let her "fish" from her seat. I simply sprinkled the fish on the floorboard. She couldn't see  the fish, and would get so excited when she reeled up her line and had caught some! This took a little effort on my part because I had to keep moving the fish to the ONE spot she kept "casting" in so she wouldn't get too frustrated, but it kept her happy for well over half and hour. PLUS we brought this little activity inside with us when we got to our friends' house [we actually brought the entire box of activities in, but this one specifically got brought out a few times to be played while we were there]. 

 /magnetic doll/
Awhile ago a friend gave Blythe this little magnetic doll set. It's nothing fancy, but I through in a small baking sheet and she played with the doll for at least 20 to 30 minutes if not longer. PLUS the sheet was a PERFECT work space for all the other activities. 
I didn't have time to glue little magnets to the back of a puzzle for her, but I think she would enjoy that next time. 

/books on tape/
The biggest hit was books on tape. These beauties have been around since my family vacations. My dad found his old Walkman [!!!!], and I picked out some of the books I thought Blythe would enjoy the most. Cinderella got listened to/read so many times the poor tape got a twist in it [remember how that used to happen?]. I also decided that my generation is more patient than the current generation because we had to wait for cassette tapes to rewind. Regardless of their quality, these were THE BEST. And our friends all LOVED the fact that we are letting our daughter experience the beauty of the Walkman. 

We have two CDs that we play in the van that Blythe really enjoys listening to/singing along with: Wee Sing Bible Songs and Slugs and Bugs Sing the Bible. We spent some time jamming to these along the way as well. I highly recommend them. [Especially the latter]. 

/Picnic Lunch/
I think it's important to let the kids out of the car [except apparently on the way home when they aren't complaining], for a good break at least once on your trip. We found a beautiful state park [actually my sister discovered it on one of her trips] and it was a gorgeous day. We probably spent a little too long there, as we just couldn't tear ourselves away and stayed about an hour and a half. We let the girls run/crawl and we walked down a little trail to a creek and let Blythe throw in some rocks before we loaded back up. I really think it helped them both nap better and have a better end to the trip. 

/and when all else fails.... DVD/phone/ 
We don't have games on our phones, but Blythe likes to look at pictures and videos we have, so we would let her do that every so often for a few minutes. And a friend let me borrow her DVD player, and once we were within an hour and a half of Louisville, you better believe I turned that sucker on for Blythe. It's a really great option to have, and I'm all for it. 

The last ten minutes were the worst-- Becks pooped and was screaming, we were semi-lost within a block of where we wanted to be, and it was.just.time.to.be.done. But we made it! And had such a wonderful time in the city where we learned how to be married, and with friends who shaped us in so many wonderful ways.

Saturday morning Brent [and our friends, Heather and Justin], got up and ran a half marathon in the drizzle and rain. They all did AWESOME. Brent had a personal best at 1:29. And Justin helped pace Heather and she ran it in her personal best at

Super impressive.

 And I just have to share how awesome Heather is.

Early in the morning, while anxious and preparing to run thirteen point one miles, she was thoughtful enough to set out a travel mug and cream and sweetener for me, and this note: "Have some 'juice' to get you going. Good luck!" Seriously? With everything she had going on she thought to wish me luck, because she knew I was anxious about navigating down town and getting the girls down to the finish line by myself. We have the best friends, I tell ya.

 Which, by the way, I totally nailed it! Becks was strapped on and kept semi dry, and I pushed Blythe in the stroller. Luckily the heavy rain didn't start until after Brent was done and could help me get back to the van.

The girls enjoyed the "Daddy's treats" after the race: Blythe loved the chocolate milk and Becks' chowed down on the banana.

I'm also so proud of Brent after races and this was no exception. He was phenomenal. He ran his last mile in just over 6 minutes... after running 12 others! He placed 124 over all out of 23,000 runners. He will never tell you, so I will ;).

And our trip was just so good. Exhausting, as trips are, but so good. Time with Justin and Heather [who gave up their own bedroom for us], a lunch with my old coworkers, and time with Shane and Meagan too [who had to move a lot of boxes around in their new home to welcome us!]. We are overwhelmed by the community God always places around us, and He did some good work during our time in Kentucky.

And...if you are just finding out we were in Louisville and we didn't get to see you... I'm so sorry. It was too fast, and race day filled it up quickly! Please let us see you next time!! 

In summary:
The travel box of activities worked like a charm.
When all else failed, I just handed Becks random items until she chucked them overboard.

What tips/tricks to you have for traveling with toddlers? I'll need to add some activities to our bin for next time! 

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Recipe Soup

When I was a little girl, my dad "invented" something that has been around forever, I'm sure. But never the less, he would bust out a ten gallon bucket, fill it with water from our pump, and hand us a stick. "Make some soup," were his simple instructions.

Eventually this soup became known as "recipe soup." Kali and I would scrounge around our backyard, tearing off leaves and grass, a pinch of basil from the garden, and the petals from one yellow coneflower. We knew which plants were off limit, and typically Dad didn't want us tearing into the flowers, but for Recipe Soup we were usually allowed a few of their color petals.

Those colors were our favorites, swirling in the murky water of our creation. As we got older we named things as we tossed them in, "Parsley! Pepper! Chili powder!" as the Maple leaves, dandelions, and clover dropped in.

Often the soup would get left to fester in the Missouri July sun, and the smell would nearly bowl us over the next time we stepped outside to play. And even though we "forgot" to dump out the bucket when we were done, Dad still let us return to one of our favorite games. 

And though Dad was the one who got us the initial bucket and stick and showed us how to forage, as we sprinkled our "seasonings" in and whisked them around with a fallen stick from the Oak tree, we were imitating our mom. As we dumped in handfuls of acorns and declared them chicken for our chicken noodle soup, we became her, our deft hands transforming into ones we had watched so closely in the kitchen. 

And today I busted out a ten gallon bucket from my own garage. I filled it with water. And I helped Blythe find a stick.

And then I watched her make Recipe Soup from my childhood.

She pulled off white flowers from one of our bushes, declaring them cheese as she tossed them in to her concoction.

I snapped a picture and sent it to my sister and one of our childhood friends who made many a pot of Recipe Soup with us with these simple words: "Recipe Soup-- the next generation!" I knew that one picture would take them back to those days we spent stirring and spicing, and I knew they would think of it as fondly as I did.

I foresee many pots of Recipe Soup in our future.
And I hold many pots of Recipe Soup in my past.

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when your husband is a runner...

... and you are not.

Okay. Let's be honest, Brent is not just "a runner." He is a freakin' running machine. 

And since we're being honest, I am not just "not a runner." I loathe running in my very soul.

Put them together and what have you got? Bippty boppity boo. [Oh wait...sorry...Blythe is into Cinderella at the moment.] 

You've got us. This couple, this marriage, that somehow works. But, let me tell you, we're both exhausted by his training. He's exhausted because, well, the running. And I'm exhausted just thinking about getting up early and running. 

But for real-- he loves running. And I love Oreos. He loves pounding his feet against the road, and I love writing. He loves jarring his joints, and I love a good book [Hey! I wouldn't mind reading about running!]. He loves the endorphin high from a good run, I love smelling my children's faces for the same affect [I think he gets the same affect there too].

I'm not just being satirical when I say that I really, truly find no joy in running. Remember that time I lost a bet with Brent and ran survived a 5K? You don't? Read HERE.  When I was in college, and the weather turned nice this time of year, I typically had one day [that first really beautiful Spring day], when I thought, "I should go for a run."

I would lace on my shoes, which I bought for their looks and not their cross-training ability, and I would find some cool shorts and shirt. I'd borrow an i-pod or some other runner paraphernalia, and I would set out. About a block into it I would remember a few things:

1. I am afraid of dogs. Dogs love to attack and chase runners. What am I doing?!
2. I hate running. In my soul, this is not who I am. What am I doing?!

 I'd try to finish up a few more blocks, just to kill some time so my roommates thought I'd actually ran, and then I'd walk back to my apartment. I love to play ball, even do occasional cardio or lift weights. But run? Nope.

And then I married this guy who loves to run. And is GREAT at it. And though I don't get any joy in running, I find great joy in watching this guy do something he's good at. And I love to cheer him on on race day. I won't lie and say I'm always super supportive when it's a Saturday and he has to go run 12  miles and I'm stuck with the girls by myself for a few hours on my day "off" [if that sounds terrible of me, it's because it is]. But I'm always so proud of him when he crosses that finish line. It reminds me of his dedication and quiet strength that he carries with him always, not just when he is running.

Brent "gets to" run a half marathon tomorrow. I've lost track of how many halfs [halves?] he has raced, but he gets better every time. I'm excited to bring the girls to cheer him on as he crosses another finish line.

I'm also excited that I am in no way, shape, or form doing any of the running.

Good luck, Brent! You amaze us all!

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spring photography sessions

I've been lucky to get in some Spring photo sessions in the last month, and I got to take some pictures of THE cutest boys. The dark haired model, B, turned FIVE and that needed to be documented folks! And little K turned ONE! [Yes, Becks has my permission to "hang out" with him when they are MUCH older].

Let me just tell you a little about my time with B. It was hilarious. I learned more about dinosaurs and Power Rangers in our hour together than I had in a very long time. For example: did you know that Tyrannosaurus Rex is Spanish for T-Rex?! It's apparently true because he told me. And he looked pretty serious.

Also, if any child modeling agencies are looking at this, you should hire this kid! He could model the crap out of any attire.

 And his brown-black eyes rival Blythe's. For sure. 

One last story: While he was sitting at this tree telling me about something gross his friend once ate, a squirrel shot out of the woods and darted right towards us. Like, fast. And out of no where. Freaked me out a bit and then I look at B and his eyes are even bigger than normal, but then he thinks a second and asks his mom, "Was that a girl?" She says yeah. "Oh. Okay. Not scary then." I can't make this up.

B, it was super fun taking your pictures. Of the hundred I snapped, no two looked the same because your face expresses your heart. And you're stinkin' adorable. 

Oh my word, and then there was K. I'm telling you, I have an almost one year so I can say this: you NEVER KNOW what is going to go down at a one year photo shoot. There could be poop, tears, blood...some combination of the three. But this little guy? He was PERFECT and he could have taken pictures for two more hours I think! 

His mom is so chill and cool and I want to be like her. Also, let me share this: K and his mom came over to hang out for a bit and then we headed out to my parents' home to find some good photo spots. We roll up in the driveway and we see some good photo spots...oh, and also my dad trying to fight a fire in his field [which he started] with a backpack of water. This is totally normal for me, and K's mom rolls with it...because she's so cool and chill.

Fast forward five minutes to when we hear THE FIRE DEPARTMENT TRUCKS barreling down the road, sirens blazing. But what do we do? We just take pictures; brush the tears from our smoke-burning eyes and take pictures! So, yeah. That was happening. But K just modeled like a pro while we made sure the flames didn't get too close to our photo set.

Are his big, round eyes not the sweetest? 

K, you were a dream baby to work with. Stay chill like your mama, and keep working those big eyes of yours. You're the sweetest. You have my permission to be bff with Becks.

 AND THEN! I got to take engagement photos for a dear friend. This girl and I go WAY back...like way back to bowl cuts [her] and braces [me]. She actually introduced me to Brent in junior high. So she's kind of my cupid. We parted ways and then God was like, "Hey, you two should rekindle that friendship" and we came into each others' lives again and man it's been awesome.

And then she got engaged to this guy. Blythe literally wants to pretend to be them sometimes while we are playing. It's kind of weird, but I get it, because they are so good to her. Anyway, they were troopers because it was nasty the day we took these. Misty and windy and cold. But they are so in love, and so goofy and fun, that it didn't even matter.

I asked them to bring some hot chocolate and they didn't even share, but they looked so cozy I forgave them.

They have so much fun together and we laughed a ton while taking pictures. I'm excited to stand next to them when they say, "I do" and to walk alongside them as friends as they journey into this beautiful thing called marriage. B & K, thanks for letting me take your pictures, and for letting me be your friend.

And then my sister threw her kids in the car and drove 13 hours and said, "Kels, take their pictures!" Since I'm used to her bossing me around I did what she said. 
Can I just say: I'm obviously partial to these children, but their beauty and this lighting and that purple field just combined into MAGIC and I wanted to take pictures until we all couldn't STAND it any more. 
I have so many I would love to share, but Mother's Day is coming up and there must be SOME that are saved for that occasion, I guess. 

These three. I love them so much. They are each so different and passionate in their own ways. 

"I just HAD to pick some weeds! I couldn't help myself!" 
I hated to tell her that ALL THE PURPLE "flowers" are actually weeds. 

People have looked at all the pictures I've shown you and said, "Kels, these are really great!" To which I respond: "You guys. Do you see the adorable children I am working with? I just have to point the camera in their general direction and voila!"

I love spring time and taking pictures. I really do. If you want to connect with me so I can point my camera in the general direction of you and/or your adorable children, let's talk! [Here are some prices at the bottom of this post.]

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