what i learned on my summer vacation

what i learned on my summer vacation

It’s officially back to school time for us. My big kid started today, and my little kid starts tomorrow. Second grade and preschool, respectfully. I kind of thought by the time I sat down to write this post it would be full of HALLELUJAHs and WOOHOOs, but you know what? It’s bittersweet.

Weird, I know.

I love school. I particularly love back to school. There are some kids who thrive in being away, being social and interactive outside the home, and my kids are those kids. I can plan fun summer activities every single day until I collapse (which is usually the case) but it’s always more fun when someone else does the planning. So you could say we’ve been ready for the first day of school since… the last day of school.

I started summer thinking that it would be awful. That despite our fun planned activities, our house would be a tornadic disaster (check), kids would complain about our fun planned activities (check), bedtimes would be a joke (check check) and I would generally hate summer (…not check).

I love my kids. I feel like that’s a necessary thing I should say. But I’m a full time stay-at-home-mom married to a doctor with a crazy schedule. …and I’m an introvert. To sum up: mama needs a break.

But I am premeditated, so I went into summer with lists and plans and dreams and goals. And yes, my house was a mess, and my kids complained, and bedtimes were insane, but we sucked the marrow out of summer. We swam, biked, ran, camped, played, snuggled, read, drew, fished, boated, watched movies, ate snacks, roasted marshmallows and hot dogs over a bonfire, had picnics, and, honestly, we had fun every day.

Don’t get me wrong: some days I wanted to rip my hair out. Some days I wanted to find that swear word book about going the BLEEP to sleep and read it with a ferocious intensity. Some days we watched more screen time than is recommended. Some days we stayed in pajamas all day.

If this doesn’t sum up summer in one photo though…

I think my problem with summer is that well, for one, I don’t like being hot. But for two, it’s an up close and personal reminder of how big my kids are getting. The first time we go to the pool, I’m reminded at how much better they can swim this year. The first time we mini golf, I’m blown away at how quickly they can sink the ball. I know these changes take place over the school year also — and to some extent, exclusively — but when we’re doing the same summer activities year after year, it’s like a real life time hop. I see them this year and I can see every year that came before. And it’s a lot for my heart to handle.

So I have decided, my new plan for summer vacation is to overdose on it. To continue to do ALL OF THE THINGS so that during the cold school year the memories of our fun can keep me warm.

But for now, I will leave the planning up to the teachers, I will trust others to protect and care for the hearts of mine that live outside of my body. I’m sitting in a quiet, clean house, drinking coffee and enjoying the quiet.

But also… I kind of miss the noise.

how to survive your summer in 51 easy steps

1. Make a plan called “How to Have the Best Summer Ever!”

2. Realize on the second day of summer that your plan is garbage.

3. Make a new plan called “Our Carefree Summer!”

4. Don’t tell everyone that your new summer plan is actually called “Dear God help us I miss the structure.”

5. Send your three year old back to his room every morning at 6:00 am.

6. Purchase a fancy color-changing clock for your three year old that will glow green when he is allowed to leave his room in the morning.

7. Say “Stay in your room until your clock is green” every five minutes starting every morning at 6:00 am.

8. Coffee.

9. If June: buy expensive mineral sunscreen and have your children stand like statues while you slather it on like spackle.

10: If July (or mid to late June, whenever you crack): buy cheap spray sunscreen and mist in your child’s general direction. Ask them lovingly to “close eyes and pinch noses.”

11. Just come to terms with the fact that sand will be everywhere.

12. Cry a little bit when you see the first back-to-school display.

13. Cry a little harder when your six year old learns super soakers are a thing.

14. Wine.

15. Teach your kids that the “S Word” is “Snack,” and we do not swear.

16. Glance into your child’s room to see clothes and sand and toys and books and bedding everywhere. Then say a different kind of “S Word” and just shut that door. Shut the door.

17. Try not to look too excited when your kid says he’s tired. “Do you want to TAKE A NAP DO YOU WANT TO TAKE A NAP?” Nope, he’s good now.

18. Visit every park that’s ever existed. Pack every vegetable and cracker and fruit you’ve ever owned. Listen to children complain about being bored and hungry.

19. Attempt to put your child to bed when the sun is still very high in the sky.

20. Try to explain daylight savings time and end up crying and exclaiming that it really, truly is bedtime, no matter what it looks like outside.

21. More wine.

22. Curse the “young adults” next door who are being loudly unsupportive of your belief that it is, in fact, bedtime.

23. Send your kid back to his room.

24. Send your kid back to his room.

25. Send your kid back to his room.

26. Go to sleep.

27. Wake up; send your kid back to his room.

28. Make a mental note to research how tiny humans function with so little sleep. You never will, though. You’re too tired!

29. Buy school supplies far too early. Think about teachers. Mentally send them a fruity cocktail. They earned it, man.

30. Start planning activities that are an hour or two away, just for the air-conditioned kid-buckled driving time.

31. Watch your kid swim the entire length of the pool underwater, when last year he wouldn’t even go down the slide.

32. Realize that summers really go pretty fast, even if sometimes they seem kinda long.

33. Remember it’s your three year old’s last summer before he starts school — preschool, sure — but school nonetheless.

34. Watch your six year old ride a bike without training wheels, after summers of complete bike apathy.

35. Sit in the grass with your kids and catch fireflies long after they should be in bed.

36. Think “this summer thing isn’t so bad.”

37. Get up too early, stay up too late, overplan the warm July days you have left.

38. Vow to do the same when it’s August.

39. You’ll sleep when you’re dead, anyway.

40. (Or when school starts.)

41. (Or when daylight savings time FINALLY ENDS.)

42. Stop rolling your eyes when people say, “oh, they’re only young once.” Even though they’re actually young for like 12-18 years or however you want to gauge it.

43. I mean, they are only young once.

44. At least, they’re only six and three during summer once.

45. So decide to just “soak it all up.”

46. Except for the sand.

47. I mean, you’ll soak that up anyway without even trying.

48. Maybe invest in some industrial strength blackout curtains.

49. Buy lots of coffee and wine.

50. Embrace your summer fully.

(51. And pray for all of the teachers. Their time is coming. You know it, I know it, they know it; pray, just pray, just pray.)

Happy summer to all, and to all a good bedtime. (Or wine.)

so you’re waiting to go to walt disney world!

This will be my LAST post in the Walt Disney World Series… but do not fear! I have so many fun things in store for my very favorite time of year: AUTUMN! Back to school, holidays, apples, slow cookers, cardigans… OK, I’m getting a little carried away because all of those things sound fantastic. Also fantastic: DISNEY!

Not so fantastic: waiting for Disney.

But that’s what this post is specifically designed for. How can you pass the slowly dragging days on your “WDW Countdown app?” (As of this writing, we are at 31 days, for the record.)

(Also: what do you mean, you don’t have a WDW Countdown app? You will now. It’s OK.)

Waiting is hard, but we find ways to make it more tolerable and more fun. And, occasionally, lucrative.


Our “Money Chores” are special jobs Boone can do to earn Disney money. I have each chore and the amount of money it’s worth (ranging from 50 cents to $2) on a bulletin board in our living room. Boone is under absolutely no obligation to finish these chores — they are different from his normal, daily chores. He does, however, understand that if he chooses not to complete these, he will not get any extra spending money on the trip. 

To make it easy on mom and dad, who live in a world of “do you take credit cards? Excellent,” I have a small jar to collect the “finished chores.” Once the chore has been completed (and we check), we remove the card with the chore and amount, and place it in the jar. I’ll make a run to the bank a few days before our trip to withdraw the money that Boone earned.

The money chart, plus an old picture of Boone in soccer. (Where are those pictures supposed to go? I don’t think wallet pictures are a thing in 2016.)


Hi friends, I have something I need to admit.

Here goes…

I am not crafty.


(I’ve admitted this before? Oh, right. Only always.)

And here’s my real problem with crafts: I like things my way. I like things perfect. I am an INFJ with perfectionism and I don’t like to delegate or complete tasks I’m not sure I’m awesome at. I knew I wanted to sit down with Boone and giggle and craft and talk about Disney World together, but I didn’t know if I would be able to separate my need for control from my yearning to let him do his thing. Surprisingly, I let him take the lead. I prepped crafts and offered beginning instruction, and then I said “go.” And we giggled. And we talked about the Haunted Mansion. And I cringed when he went crazy with a spray bottle or cut the most jagged looking “straight line” you ever did see, but I kept my mouth shut.

And in the end, we have perfectly imperfect crafts and I learned a thing or two about my own desire for control and the importance of including your children and giving them freedom.

(HAHAHA on that second part. It would have been great if I had really learned that lesson. Mostly I stare at jagged lines and think must… redo… paper rings. I know I should learn about inclusion and freedom and you know what? I’ll keep trying. I’ll keep giving crafts and saying “go.” Until then, know this is my struggle.) 

At the advent of Pinterest, I thought I could change my craft-averse ways. I had so many boards of things I would create. I daydreamed spending long hours at Hobby Lobby and somehow turning broken chairs into coat hooks, or something. Oh, this never worked. I just don’t love crafting, and I don’t have much patience for it. So if you, like me, are craft-challenged (or you just want a couple crafts you can crank out in a very short amount of time), read on!

The Family T-Shirts

Oh, yes. Oh, yes we are that family. The family wearing the matching shirts as they walk through the happiest place on earth. (On day 1, anyway. After that it’s a bit of a free-for-all.)

In the past, we’ve made shirts with homemade iron-ons. We’ve also done tie-dye. This year: bleach Mickeys!

Boone sprayed all of our shirts, and I think he did the best with Jonah’s. What a little winner!

Mine… is… made with love. Made with love. Don’t fix love, Jennie, you don’t fix love.

This is an incredibly easy craft with only the following necessary supplies: non-white t-shirts, freezer paper, a printer (not entirely necessary, but it does make things easier), a spray bottle, and bleach. A full tutorial for this craft can be found here: Bleach Mickey T-Shirts

The Paper Ring Countdown

I’ll be honest, this craft  was inspired by the good old days of kindergarten. Cut construction paper into rings until you have enough for your countdown (as previously mentioned, we’re starting at 31). On previous trips, when we have done this craft, I would alternate black, red, and white paper rings (as we did again), but I’d embellish the rings in cute ways: black Mickey ears on the black rings, yellow “buttons” on the reds… and now I have two kids and summer just keeps happening, so we took Michael Scott’s advice and [KEPT] IT SIMPLE, STUPID.

We’ll rip off a paper ring each day and get ridiculously excited as the chain gets shorter.

Whatever kind of family vacation you plan for yourselves (and if it’s WDW, good for you!), know this: family vacations aren’t always relaxing. They aren’t the drink in your hand/toes in the sand vacations that parents in television shows seem to regularly take (where are your kids, huh guys?), but they can be FUN. You’ll be tired. You’ll be cranky sometimes. But, if you play your cards right, you’ll giggle and take pictures and not be responsible for making beds or cooking food for a week or so. 

Happy planning!

so you’re traveling to walt disney world!

If you’ve been following my Walt Disney World posts, you’ll know that I’ve written about a general overview to your Disney Parks vacation here and a more in depth look at the parks and the food here. Now that you have that Disney vacation in your sights, today’s posts will help make your travel and prep plans a little easier.

GETTING FROM POINT A (your house) to POINT B (Disney!)

What method of travel works best for you and your family? Car, plane, RV? Whatever method you choose, if you have kids in tow, entertainment is a must. Since we have, as a family, only traveled to WDW by plane, I’ll be focusing on this method. If you are getting there in a different way, however, you can adapt some of these travel tips so they work better for you.

Boone’s first trip to WDW; yes, he was seven months old.

Our plane trip will consist of a two year old, a five year old, and two adults — along with the rest of the passengers on the plane. To make an attempt at peace, I’m working on “Plane Bags” — small backpacks/tote bags filled with quiet but entertaining plane activities. Some of the items will  be things we already own (Boone’s Kindle, for example), and some will be brand new (like a draw-your-own Pokemon book I found on zulily.com a couple of weeks ago). I’ll also include gum (for Boone) and suckers (for Jonah) to help with the flight ascent and descent. The kids will be given these bags at the airport and will know nothing about them ahead of time.

For that time when we just need some extra help, here are some free printables that I’ll be bringing along with us as well:

Traveling with Toddlers (Q’s to ask, BINGO)
Games to Play at the Airport

OF COURSE, despite your best efforts, kids will be kids. They’ll get bored. They’ll get hangry. (So might you.) I feel better going into a situation armed with goody bags and worksheets, because at my core I’m nothing if not premeditated (and I’m also a teacher).


Pack stuffed animal friends, because you never know where they’ll end up after your room is cleaned…

There are a zabillion websites out there with tips on packing. Fit all of your belongings in a ziploc bag! Live exclusively out of your carry on! Literally hire movers to bring all of your earthly possessions to your resort for you!

…or something like that.

Look, if you’re here looking for things like “don’t forget clothes, a toothbrush, a bathing suit, shoes,” you’re out of luck. Except for that sentence right there. That one’s free. Instead, I’m throwing together a quick list of things that would be helpful to have at Disney that you may not think to bring. Ready? Here goes.

-Ponchos: Orlando is prone to frequent mid-day rainstorms, especially at specific times of the year. There are plenty of ponchos available at the parks, but they will cost you. The ones you can pick up at your local dollar store will work just fine (and you won’t feel too bad about wadding it up and throwing it away after you’ve used it, because I’ve never met one person who can actually refold a poncho to it’s original size). Bonus: people hide under awnings in rainstorms. Put on your $1 poncho and hit rides without waiting!

-Glow in the Dark stuff: You can buy this stuff EVERYWHERE — especially during fireworks shows — but they cost a lot and are quickly forgotten. Pick these up at the dollar store when you’re buying your ponchos.

-A spray bottle: Florida is hot. Grab one of these to mist yourself with coolness when the sun is showing no mercy. Also spray your kids. They love it.

-A refillable water bottle: Make use of the many drinking fountains around the parks and keep yourself hydrated without buying drinks (or using snack credits). In the past I’ve brought a Brita Water Bottle with its own filter to keep my water tasting the best.

-Breakfast bars: We usually eat breakfast in our room at the resort before hitting the parks because 1) it’s a time and money-saver and 2) some of us get hangry if we don’t eat within ten minutes or so of waking up (guilty).


Truthfully, I don’t craft often, but when I do… it’s for Disney.

It’s the hardest part. I know. Believe me, I know. Once you’ve booked the trip and you’ve started making goody bags and stockpiling glow-in-the-dark bracelets, you will want to get moving! But unless you’ve booked a trip in the very near future, you’ll be waiting. And you’re still waiting now, because next week I’ll have some fun activities and crafts to help pass the Disney waiting time!

Sending nothing but magical wishes your way…