Category: family

Family Travel: Our Family Beach Trip

I am a beach girl at heart, and love it all the more when my family is with me.  This year we were blessed to join my parents and siblings in Navarre Beach, Florida for an amazing week.  It was crazy and fun and so sweet to be with everyone.  Look at these two.  Aren’t they the cutest?!  My sister and I had babies 6 weeks apart, so this was the first time we got to meet the newbies.  There was a lot of baby snuggling happening in that beach house, let me tell you.  

 We attempted to get a photo of all five grandbabies, but it proved above our pay grade.  Luke was NOT having it.  At all.  Note to self: next time have the baby entertainers stand directly behind me so the kids are not looking to the side.

 Then it was time for everybody’s {least} favorite part of the whole week, the group photo.  I always end up organizing it because I’m the oldest child and it’s just what I do.  My mom bought matching outfits for the kids and the rest of us wore any shade of blue, brown, or white.

 We traded photo shoots with our neighbors because I forgot my tripod.  This was WAY easier than running back and forth after setting the timer.  I need a remote.

 We all survived and had a blast.  We are pretty low key when we go to the beach, and spend most of our time just enjoying the sand and water rather than tourist activities.  We eat fresh seafood we cook ourselves every night and do a lot of laughing and playing.  Best week ever.

 This one is my favorite because we are all laughing.  Caroline’s face (in the middle) is the best.

Do you have a favorite beach? Where?

Family Travel: Enjoying the Road with a Baby and a Toddler

Who’s ready for a road trip? This girl.
Last summer we traveled for ten weeks and it was glorious.  The Bear was a one year old toddling machine and the Pearl Girl was just a glimmer in my eye.  We hiked all over Colorado and New Mexico and loved every minute of it.  This year our budget kept our adventures more limited, and we have a new baby.  Even these circumstances couldn’t keep us contained for long.  My amazing parents rented a beach house for the entire family (I’m the oldest of four) in Navarre Beach, Florida.  We miraculously made it work with our budget, mostly due to money coming in from this blog.  Let me pause here to say thank you.  Seriously, thank you.  I love telling stories in my little corner of the web, and every time you visit it helps support our little family.  I’m not sure if you know that it actually makes a difference in our budget, but it does.  It really does.  Thank you.
The Pearl Girl was ready to roll.  She did so well 98% of the time.  She has a gypsy soul like her mama, I can already tell.  The number one key I’ve found for traveling with kids is well timed pit stops.  We try to make our stops count and do the big three every time (gas/food/bathroom) as well as run time for the Bear and leg stretch time for the Pearl.
A mall in a teeny tiny town in far east Texas provided serious energy burn off for the Bear.  He sprinted up and down the mall as I nursed the Pearl on a nearby bench and Jed chased him.
Enjoy the ride.  We had the Bear searching for gators in every mile of Louisiana swamp we drove past.  There is beauty in almost every landscape
We packed a backpack full of books and toys for both kids, and pulled them out whenever the natives got restless.  We sang songs and did a puppet show and when all else failed we put in a DVD.  For the first time we used separate headphones for the Bear with mixed success.  He didn’t really like wearing them for long, but did use them long enough for Jed and I to enjoy a few Dave Ramsey podcasts.
We had planned to stay in a hotel on the way, but were blessed with the hospitality of a friend’s parents in Lafayette, Louisiana along the way.  Zeke and Becky Ducote welcomed us in to their home with open arms on the way out AND back, and we are forever grateful.  They loved on our kids, fed us, and gave us beautiful beds to sleep in.  If you can ask to stay with friends or friends of friends, I highly recommend it.  You will always be more comfortable than a hotel and you never know how you might be blessed by the visit.
This is the Ducote Family’s backyard.  Isn’t it beautiful?! It backs up to the Vermillion River.

Isn’t this front porch the dreamiest?  I could just live there.

How do you keep you sanity when traveling with kids?  Tell me in the comments section.

Follow Becca’s board Family Travel on Pinterest.

Eleanor Pearl at Three Months

Our Pearl Girl is already 3 months old, and I’m in shock.  The last three months have passed in the blink of an eye and our Ellie has transitioned from newborn to baby before I was ready for it.  She is such a joy and I love every minute of being her mama.

We didn’t go to the doctor this month, so our best guess for weight is about 13.5 pounds.  She has moved into 3-6 month clothes and wears size 2 diapers when we use disposables.  We’ve gotten into a good routine with her cloth diapers.  She is still exclusively breastfed and our one attempt at pumping and bottle feeding was a big fail.  She typically goes 3-4 hours in between nursing sessions during the day and does a 9 hour stretch at night from 10 pm to 7 am.  Mama feels like a new woman.  She takes two long naps every day as well as one shorter cap nap.  She prefers the swing for her cat nap, but also loves to sleep when being worn by Mama or Daddy.  

Her hair is still an auburn shade, and her eyes are bright blue just like Daddy’s. Somehow her tresses fall naturally into a mohawk.  Little punk rocker.

The biggest surprise this month came when our sweet girl started rolling over from front to back.  The Bear didn’t do this until he was 7 months old so we were totally shocked.  She is smiling at us and reacts when we talk to her.  We LOVE it.  Her big brother loves to hug and kiss her, and especially likes going in to get her from naps.

 We can’t wait to see who our precious girl is as her personality develops more each day.  She is a delight and we are so in love.

Family Fun in DFW: Rough Riders Baseball

The DFW metroplex has so much to offer when it comes to watching sports live.  My personal favorite is minor league baseball.  Don’t get me wrong, I love watching the Rangers.  I prefer minor league baseball because it is amazing to watch the players pursue their dreams with passion and talent, and tickets are much more affordable.  Many of them may never make the big show, but they work hard and spend countless nights on uncomfortable buses traveling endlessly around the south playing their hearts out.  That kind of dream chasing is inspiring.  
The Rough Riders are the AA farm team for the Texas Rangers.  This means we have the unique opportunity to watch players develop and then see them play in the big leagues as well.  It is so fun to see someone you’ve cheered for make their dreams come true when they get called up.  On rare occasions we get to watch Rangers stars play close up when they are rehabing an injury.  We had such an opportunity when we visited Dr. Pepper stadium, because Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison was on the mound. 
Here is the Pearl Girl at her first baseball game.  Please note she is dressed in a cowgirl dress in honor of the home team mascot.  

The Bear loved his first game, though he didn’t make it all the way through.  He has asked several times to watch baseball this past week.  I grew up watching the Arkansas Travelers play with my parents and grandparents.  My Grandmom and Grandad rarely missed a home game, and even had their picture featured in a Southern Living article on minor league parks. There is nothing like cheering on the home team with your family, and I hope this was the first of many games for us.

If you are interested in taking your family to watch the Rough Riders play in Frisco at Dr. Pepper Ballpark, you can buy tickets and get more information on their website here.  There are still plenty of home games left this month, and the season starts again in April of 2014. The team offers fabulous season ticket packages to fit every budget as well as meal packages with unlimited food and drinks.  Rough Rider season tickets are the perfect holiday gift for the baseball fans in your life.  You can also follow the team on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
**Thanks so much to the Rough Riders organization for providing tickets for our family in exchange for this post.  All opinions are strictly my own.  
What is your favorite sport to watch live?

Family Fun in DFW: Beat the Heat at the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park

We are in the seriously-too-hot-to-live phase of Texas weather, and constantly trying to find ways to keep cool and entertain our family without spending too much or staying glued to the tv.  If you follow me on Instagram, you know that recently we visited the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park in Dallas and had an absolute blast.  We received free passes in exchange for this review, but all opinions are strictly my own.  We love exploring the city we call home and enriching the lives of our wee ones on the way.  The Aquarium has been around for a long time, but was recently completely redesigned as a Children’s Aquarium.  EVERYTHING is on a child’s level, completely accessible, and perfectly placed to grab their attention.  Bear was enthralled.  He has been talking about the alligator we saw for over a week now.  
Isn’t this jelly fish amazing?
There are two sides to the main aquarium, salt water and fresh, as well as a touch pool, shark tank, and stingray touch pool.  Everything is included in the admission price except for stingray food (if you want to feed them) for and extra $2.  Bear was a little intimidated by the stingrays, so we didn’t try feeding them.  

Spike wants to bite your toes.  Thankfully thick glass protects you from this 190 pound 75 old year old titan snapping turtle.

The jelly fish were truly beautiful to watch.  They float so gracefully like aquatic ballerinas.  It almost made me hate them a little less.  I’ve been stung one too many times.  

The touch pool is surrounded by a step rock formation to make it the perfect height for every kid.  The staff guide was so patient with Bear and showed him shells and sea urchins, helping him touch them gently.

The outdoor shark and stingray tanks were fabulous.  There are several different vantage points to watch the sharks, but this was my favorite as well as Bear’s.  He waited for each shark to swim by and chased it down the glass.  I couldn’t get a non-blurry photo, but it was such a fun memory I had to share.  
If you are a fan of the tv show New Girl, you probably recognize the lion fish.  These beauties were so incredible to watch. 

In my opinion, the best thing about the Children’s Aquarium is the price.  Admission is only $8 for adults, and $6 for kids 3-11 and seniors.  If you have a membership to the Dallas Zoo you get $2 off admission.  An even better deal is the annual membership.  For $20 ($15 for zoo members) you can buy an annual membership and visit any time.  If you’ve checked out the prices on any of the other aquariums in town you know that price is unbeatable.

**Holiday Gift Idea** A season pass would make a perfect gift for the fish loving child in your life.  People (children included) remember experiences far more than material things.  Do you remember what toy you got for Christmas at age 6? Probably not.  But I bet you remember a favorite visit to the zoo, aquarium, or special museum.

I would highly recommend the Children’s Aquarium for families with kids 1 and up.  A visit takes 1-2 hours, depending on your child’s attention span.  The Children’s Aquarium also hosts groups, birthday parties, overnight guests, and summer camps for kids from pre-k through 5th grade.  
Visit the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park any day of the week from 9 am to 4:30 pm, except for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas.  Click here to visit the Children’s Aquarium website for more information.  For more information about the Dallas Zoo visit their website here.  You can also follow the Zoo and Aquarium on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.    
What is your favorite species to see at the aquarium?

The State Fair of Texas Summer Adventure at Fair Park Rocks!


 
Did you know you can get a Fletcher’s Corny Dog in the summer?  Until last week, I had no idea.  I thought the illusive fried goodness only happened during the State Fair.  This summer for the first time, The State Fair of Texas Summer Adventure opened the fairgrounds up for the public all summer long.  It’s not too late to visit, as tickets are half price and the gates are open daily until August 18th.  This is not in any way a sponsored post.  We just visited the Summer Adventure and thought it rocked, so I’m sharing it with you.   

For one price you get all the rides you can squeeze in, and there are NO LINES.  Seriously, we had the place to ourselves which was awesome.  It opens at 10 am, so you can get there before the heat really sets in.  For $14.95 you get a admission, a pass to ride everything as many times as you want, a bottle of water, AND admission to the Children’s Aquarium and the Texas Discovery Garden.  That, my friends, is a ridiculous deal.  

I’m not sure how I missed this at the beginning of the summer, but I’m so glad we went.  If they offer season passes next year, we are so in.  The Bear had a blast.  He rode his first ever fair ride, and loved it.

See what I mean?  No one else was there.  It was AWESOME.  The thing I don’t like about the actual State Fair is the crowds.  We rode the carousel over and over, and were the only ones on it.  I felt bad for the staff, but I’m sure it will get better next year.

The Bear was able to ride quite a few of the attractions, but most of the kiddie rides have a 36 inch height requirement and our little shorty is 35.5 inches tall.  Next year he will be the perfect age for all the kiddie rides.  There are plenty of options for big kids and adults as well.

Not only do they have all the usual fair rides, they also have splash pads set up and a stationary surf wave you can ride if you want to get wet.  They have shows going on all day as well, all included in the admission price.  Jed and Bear loved the BMX bike show.

Because of the notorious Texas heat, there are lots of indoor, air-conditioned options.  The building below is filled with gorgeous plants and a train exhibit that kept the Bear enthralled for over half an hour.  That’s years in toddler time.  It rivaled the Trains at Northpark and was seriously like a magical fairy land.  I nursed the Pearl Girl while Bear chased the trains around.  There is also a building dedicated to Lego building with tables for the kids and lots of seating for adults.  We spent some time cooling off in there as well.

If you want to win the parent of the year award and end your summer with a bang, head to Fair Park.  You can buy tickets online here and find more information.  

Trying for a VBAC: Eleanor Pearl’s Birth Story

Eleanor came into this world just three months ago, but it seems as though she has been a part of our family forever.  Her story begins with my journey towards a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) even before she was a twinkle in my eye.  After the Bear’s traumatic birth, I knew I wanted something different, something better, for my next child and for myself.  I started researching like crazy and reading everything I could about birth.  I joined my local ICAN chapter (International Cesarean Awareness Network) and read blogs like Birth Without Fear on a regular basis.  You can read more about from my Trying for a VBAC series here to get the whole background story.  I found a supportive OB, hired a doula, and wrote my birth plan.  I visited a chiropractor, read many books, and practiced my coping techniques.  I prepared myself to go past my due date because induction brings unnecessary risk and my previous birth was “late.”  I was as ready as I could be.  I posted my 39 week update and was sure I’d have to share a 40 week blog post soon.  Eleanor had other plans.
Sunday morning came, four days before her “guess date”, and we attended the baptism and celebration of our sweet little friend Grace.  We had a fun day and that evening I felt a little off, but chalked it up to a big day.  I was already dilated to between 3-4 centimeters and completely effaced, and had real and Braxton Hicks contractions daily for weeks.  At 2 am I woke up with real and steady contractions.  Because I am the best wife ever, I dealt with them on my own for four hours without waking Jed up.  I bounced on my birth ball, used my Spinning Babies positions to relieve the wicked back labor, got in and out of the tub and shower, and reheated my rice sock heating pad over and over.  I texted and talked a few times with my doula, Erica.  She was such a trooper, having arrived home from a 24 hour birth just a few hours before.  She talked me through positions over the phone and helped me decide when it was time to wake up Jed and call our babysitter.  I had been throwing up consistently, but that is how I’ve always dealt with pain so it wasn’t that abnormal.  At 6 am I woke Jed up and told him he wouldn’t be going to work that day because we were having a baby.  I also wished him a happy birthday and was excited and overwhelmed that our daughter would most likely share her daddy’s birthday.  We decided it was best to head to the hospital to beat rush hour traffic, because we live in a northern suburb and Baylor Hospital is downtown.  Our awesome friend Raychel came over to take care of Bear when he woke up, and we took off for the hospital.

{Unfortunately we only have phone photos from her birth because of a computer crash.}

The ride to the hospital was rough, but faster than we’d hoped with early morning traffic.  We arrived at the hospital around 7 am.  I was checked and still not 4 cm, but was still 100% effaced and at a 0 station.  Erica (my doula) arrived at 7:30 am and got straight to work positioning me to relieve the back labor.  The pretzel position really helped, with one leg crossed over my body and up as high as I could get it.  Dr. Lawson asked that I be monitored for an hour, and if I had not progressed be allowed to leave and walk around.  I prayed hard for progress and doubts began to creep in reminding me of my previous birth trauma.  I labored in my own clothes which was a powerful way to feel less like a sick patient and more like an individual working towards a healthy birth. I used our DIY heating pad scented with lavender essential oil to help relieve pain and help me relax. Ocean wave sounds played on my phone to help my mind focus.

The nurse checked me at 9:05 am and I had reached 5 cm.  Yay for progress!  They moved me from the labor and delivery triage over to the real labor and delivery wing.  We were able to settle in for a few minutes before my pressure waves really cranked up a notch.  At a little past 11, my doula called my chiropractor and asked her to come in and adjust me to help with the back labor.  Dr. Denisa Weber arrived at 11:40 and adjusted me which really seemed to help.  I was officially in labor land and things got really fuzzy after that.  Later I realized it was because I had moved into transition, and was floating through it.  There was pain and hard work, but I wouldn’t change a thing.  Baylor requires VBAC mamas to be continuously monitored, but most doctors and nurses will allow you a 15 minute break every hour to “go to the bathroom”.  For me this was time to get up and move around, try to empty my bladder, and try new positions.  My amazing nurse gave me lots of grace with the time limits, and even held the monitors in crazy positions while I moved through contractions.

I labored hanging over the bed, on the toilet, hanging on Jed, pushing on the bed, and on the birth ball.  Kneeling backwards over the bed was my favorite.  After several adjustments by Dr. Denisa, I felt the baby move down more and felt intense pressure and the sensation of pushing around noon.  I continued to labor her down and was checked by a nurse at 12:36 pm who thought I was between 8-9 cm and possibly even complete.  Transition happened while being adjusted and I really believe that the chiropractic help made it much easier to deal with.  A resident came in and checked me, confirming that I had reached 10 cm at 12:45 pm.  At 1 pm my nurse, Julie, confirmed that Eleanor had reached a +1 station.  This was HUGE for me because the Bear never got past 0 station.  I wept with pure joy and a sense of victory, but the battle was far from over.
Dr. Lawson arrived at 1:10 pm, even though it was her day off.  I cry just thinking about how crucial she (and the rest of my birth team) were to the birthing process.  She decided to break my bag of waters after a bit of observation, hoping that it would help bring the baby down.  After that I worked harder than I’ve ever worked in my life to get my daughter to move down into the birth canal.  She was stuck behind my pubic bone, just like my son before his cesarean birth.  After and hour and half of hard work, at 2:39 pm we added a squat bar and changed positions multiple times to try and get her to move down.  Pushing was the hardest work of my life, but the most rewarding by far.  I struggled with self doubt and began to feel that maybe my body was broken, was a lemon, and I couldn’t do this.  Dr. Lawson saw the look in my eyes and told me that I could do it, was in fact doing it, and to keep going.  Her words pushed me past the pain and helped me to keep going.  Erica continued to encourage me and provide counter pressure to my hips and back as she had done throughout the day.  She was incredible.

Someone brought the mirror over so I could watch the progress, and it was incredibly motivating.  Such a change from my first birth where I wanted no part of the mirror.  Jed watched and held my hand as out beautiful daughter came into the world at 3:56 pm after almost 14 hours of all natural labor.  She had the cord wrapped around her neck and was a little blue.  After greeting her for a few minutes the nurse had to suction her for a while to get her to breathe well.  Dr. Lawson stitched my 2nd degree tear, which I hardly noticed.  I couldn’t believe my girl was here and my body was able to do what it was designed to do.   Ina May Gaskin’s words rang so true in my mind, “Your body is not a lemon!”

Eleanor Pearl weighed in at 7 lbs 15 oz, and was 20 in long with a beautiful head full of hair.  We were able to nurse as soon as her little lungs cleared out, and she stayed with us the entire time we were in the hospital.  We waited to bathe her until the next day and Jed and I both helped with her first bath.  We got so much support from the Baylor Hospital staff with the birth process, breastfeeding, and rooming in.  I didn’t have to fight for any part of my birth plan and the whole experience was incredibly healing.  I am so thankful to have had a healthy, normal, natural birth.  Every piece of the postpartum process was easier because of the VBAC.  Healing, recovery, breastfeeding, adjusting to life with a newborn, all of it went so much smoother.  My daughter is such a joy and a healthy, happy little girl.
If you have had a cesarean section, I would strongly encourage you to do your research, find your local ICAN chapter, and consider trying for a VBAC.  It is worth it.  Your body is not a lemon.

My Birth Team:
If you are in the Dallas area and looking for a VBAC supportive OB, I highly recommend Dr. Lawson at Madewell OB/GYN.  You can find her here.
If you are in DFW and in search of a doula who will support you through labor, Erica Sosa is your woman.  She has personally experienced c-section and VBAC and supported many clients through their births.  You can find her here.
My Webster certified chiropractor is Dr. Denisa Weber.  She is also an experienced doula and played a critical role in Eleanor’s birth story.  I would definitely recommend her services.  You can find her here.

Family Travel: Sharing a Hotel Room with Babies {Without Losing Your Mind}

If you’ve traveled with small children, you know it can be a challenge.  Sharing a hotel room with small people who go to bed early can end with parents exiled to bathrooms and balconies.  Not fun.  I’m a traveler with a gypsy soul, and plan to continue seeing the world with my two wee ones in tow.  We’ve discovered that it is possible to share a hotel room with our small people without losing our minds.  The Bear goes to bed at 7 and turns into a grump if he stays up late, so we try to honor bed time no matter where we are.  Here’s how we do it.

 I apologize for the crappy pictures.  Hopefully you can still get the idea.  You will need a Pack ‘n Play , two blankets, thumb tacks, and the room’s clock radio.  We build a hotel tent around our pack-n-play.  On one ill-fated occasion we used the hotel “crib” at a super nice resort that shall remain nameless.  It resembled something found in an orphanage in Kazakhstan.  Horrible.  We went out the next day and bought a cheap pack-n-play and then donated it to a ministry in the area when we left.  It would have cost $50 to fly with our travel crib from home each way ($100 total) and the cheap-o crib cost $40.  Awesome.

Set up your pack-n-play in the corner of the room.  Plug in your clock radio and set it to a non-station playing only white noise.  Turn it up and place it under the pack-n-play.  Tack your blankets to the ceiling making a tent.  Rock that wee one to sleep and place them in their lovely mini room.  Continue to go about your business in your room, even enjoying your tv or computer on a low volume.  White noise is miraculous, my friends.  Some folks use a wifi monitor and head to the hotel lobby or pool, but that is up to you and your level of comfort.  I go back and forth, but it really depends on the hotel.  We’ve used the hotel tent method in many different venues, and it always works.  We are not co-sleepers, so our kiddos are used to sleeping in their own space.  We use a Twilight Turtle with our older child so the dark isn’t scary.  It may take a few tries to get your child used to the Hotel Tent, but it will be well worth it when you aren’t trapped with your spouse on a bathroom floor.  Your child gets the sleep they need to enjoy the trip and you don’t have to watch a movie in the bathtub.  Everybody wins.  
What are your secrets to traveling with kids?  

Fisher Scott (The Bear) at Two Years

Our boy is two! He is a ball of energy, nonstop action, rough and tumble, wild and fun. We are convinced he is a toddler genius, obviously.

The Bear’s Stats at Two Years Old:
34 pounds 6 oounces
35.5 inches tall
95th percentile for weight
70th percentile for height
20 inch head
90th percentile for head size

He loves trucks, tractors, trains, horses, and dogs.  He calls horses “nay nays”.
He loves for Mama or Daddy to read to him.  
His favorite books are Curious George & the 1st Day of School, The Little Blue Truck, Green Eggs and Ham, Brown Bear Brown Bear, and anything about trucks and tractors.   
His favorite shows are Dinosaur Train, Curious George, Handy Manny, and Bob the Builder.  
  He loves playing with his older cousins, his friends, and is super sweet to his little sister.  He loves having his favorite friends over to play as well as going over to their houses.

He can throw, kick, run, and jump with both feet.  He loves to color and paint and stack blocks.  
He recently moved into his big boy room and is learning to sleep in a regular bed.
He just started using the potty chair with limited success.  

His favorite foods are bananas, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, waffles, pancakes, oranges, grapes, blueberries, and strawberries.  He recently had his first popsicle and it was a big hit.  He love to drink milk and mommy’s green smoothies.  
He loves to swim wearing his puddlejumper.  He is so brave and loves jumping off the side of the pool to Mama or Daddy, and loves it when Daddy throws him up in the air.
His giggles are pure joy and totally contagious.
He is stubborn and curious and hilarious.
He loves his Dede, Poppy, and Paw Paw, and all his aunts and uncles.
His favorite thing to do is help Daddy work around the house.
We are so proud of our big boy and love him more every day. 

Eleanor Pearl at Two Months

 The last two months have flown by, a weird phenomenon that occurs when your days are measured in 2-3 hour intervals. Our Eleanor Pearl is already 2 months old. I can’t believe it. She is sweet and beautiful and pretty perfect in our opinion.

She weighs 12 pounds 2 ounces and is 23.25 inches long.
85 percentile for height and weight
Her head measures 15 1/2 inches. 
65th percentile for head size
Loves snuggling and being outside.
Loves her baby gym and her big brother’s voice.
Starting to smile and react.
Loves being worn in the Ergo by Mama and Daddy.
Sleeps 6-7 hours at night.
Exclusively breastfed.
Has already outgrown all of her newborn clothes and newborn cloth diapers.
Wearing 0-3 months clothes and one size cloth diapers.