An Uncomplicated Life Blog: August 2019

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Thursday, August 15, 2019

Getting Back To School Ready

Tips and tricks for when your very first child heads off to school for the first time and how to be a Classroom Hero for your child's classroom.


This post is sponsored by Kleenex® Facial Tissue. All opinions are my own.

The day has arrived. It's here. This week! Henry is off to kindergarten. When I first had him and was struggling as a stay at home mom, trying to adapt to life at home with a new baby, I remember thinking about this day and how far away it was. I wondered how I'd ever make it to the day I *could* drop my child off at kindergarten. Now that the day is here, I wonder where the heck the time went. How could five years have flown by so fast when those first few months were so painfully slow?! Now I think about how I *have* to drop him off, not that I *get* to. Starting a new school is scary for both Henry and me, so I figured we needed to start the process early and get him pumped up for his new school with longer days. Here's how we are getting back to school ready - BOTH of us!

It was not Otto's first day of school... But that wasn't going to stop him from taking a photo with Henry, like he's done every year for the past 3 years!

Tips for your child:

We got Henry's school supply list in July. That's when it really hit me that I'd have a child in kindergarten! At his former preschool we just paid a fee and they ordered and managed all the supplies, so getting that official list really hit me with a dose of reality! It was a simple list. He is, after all, just in kindergarten. The first thing on it though? Two boxes of Kleenex® Facial Tissue. It's funny how that's likely overlooked as a classroom supply but it's SO important! Two boxes of Kleenex® Facial Tissue per child for the whole school year just doesn't seem like enough for 23 running noses. I love that Costco has a Kleenex® bundle of 10-12 boxes (depending on the bundle) and they're big boxes too - 43% more tissues than the best-selling Kleenex tissue box in the rest of the market. That's already a great value for our classroom, but what's even better? You can get $4.50 off per bundle between Aug 7 and Sept 1, just in time for your back to school shopping! You'll see the discount on the price tag and it will be applied at the register. If you're an online shopping fan, you'll get the discount there too.


I want to ensure Henry feels as much autonomy as possible for his transition. No, he didn't get to decide on his own that he wouldn't be going to the same preschool he's been going to for several years. All his brothers will be going there this fall - he's the only child going to a different school (although they'll all end up where he is eventually). Because he's leading the change, I want to make sure he feels loved and special. A great way to do that is to allow him to pick out his own school supplies. Now he's only five years old, so he needed help picking everything out to ensure he got the right stuff! But a great way to do that is to say, "Ok Henry, you need 10 folders. Here's the bin you can choose from. Pick out 10 folders you'd like to take to school with you." Then allow him to pick out the colors or prints he likes, and make him count out 10 of them and put them in the cart. Repeat this for all the supplies on the list so your child gets excited about the school year!


Tips for parents:

We bought our home in Dallas because it's located in the 7th best school district in the entire state, and our elementary is highly ranked even within the district. I'm a huge supporter of public schools and wanted to make sure my kids would go to a good one. I've been to several tours, met the principal and all the kindergarten teachers and got linked in to both the PTA group and other kindergarten moms. I'm so thrilled with the school! He couldn't be going to a better place. Parents, that's a huge tip for you as you move through your own transition of having a school-aged child; plug yourself in to the school community! See the place, learn about the programs, and get to know the teachers and staff. All of this information will make you more comfortable as you drop your child off there for full days of learning.

My second tip for parents is to set up any systems, accounts, and/or procedures ahead of time, and practice them with your child. For example, I created Henry's lunch account online and added money to it. Henry will get to wear his PIN for the first week of school, but I'll practice how he will move through the lunch line and enter his code for lunch. The kid hasn't ever had hot lunch before, so practicing this is important! Another procedure that comes to mind is carpool drop off and pick up. I'm going to take Henry to the school and show him where I'll drop him off and pick him up, and walk him through the process. If your child will be riding the bus, you could walk him or her to the bus stop, talk about how to sit on the bus, and where it will drop your child off and pick him or her back up again.


Being a Classroom Hero:

I mentioned earlier that I'm a huge supporter of public schools. In my mid 20's, I was a fundraiser for one of the largest public school districts in Minnesota and it was, to this day, one of my favorite jobs! Through that role, I know that supplies and resources are scarce in schools. Teachers aren't millionaires, but are often left to buy supplies for the students in their rooms who can't afford them. We can complain about the politics of that all day, but I'd rather do something about it and become a Classroom Hero for my son's teacher. That's why I took him back to school shopping at Costco. He could pick out his supplies to use his power of choice and feel good about his new transition to kindergarten, and I could pick up extra supplies to gift to his teacher throughout the upcoming school year so that she doesn't have to buy them herself.


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This post is sponsored by Kleenex® Facial Tissue at Costco. All opinions are my own.

Monday, August 12, 2019

5 Road Trip Hacks For Traveling With Infants and Toddlers

Traveling with young kids? Use these 5 road tip hacks to make your next road trip easier!


I'll be honest: I'm not a big fan of road trips. I remember taking them as a kid. We'd drive to the Black Hills of South Dakota, which is a 13+ hour drive from Minneapolis. We drove to Yellowstone National Park. We even went all the way to the Grand Tetons in a Honda Civic! Perhaps it was being a tall family cramped into a little car but I tell you what - if it's over 4 hours of driving, I'm going to go ahead and just fly. Which is great... Except when you have four kids. All in car seats. I now understand why my parents did road trips, because for airfare, we're looking at $3,000. Plus an upgraded car rental that will fit all of us. Plus lugging all those car seats... Yes, I now definitely understand why my parents did road trips! I'm still not a huge fan of them, but we're taking the kids down to Galveston for a summer beach vacation. Here are my best road trip hacks for when you're traveling with infants and toddlers for an extended period of time. *Affiliate links used*

My first hack is to go BIG. If you don't have a large car/SUV, rent one. I happen to drive the largest SUV you can get (because four tall boys, all in car seats...) so we were set there. Even so, we bought a roof rack attachment (we got these roof rack crossbars and this carrier and it worked out really well - highly recommend, especially if you have a large SUV!) so that we'd have extra space for luggage and all the inevitable gear that comes with having four kids under the age of five. My sister, her husband and their 14 month old were also joining us from Boston, so we packed extra gear for them since they flew, like people with a reasonable number of children do for long distances. You'll never regret the extra space and you won't miss the gas money, but you will hate the trip if you're crammed and you will miss the gear you weren't able to pack in a smaller car. Just go big. Trust me.

Two blonde boys in car seats smiling while they listen to headphones in a three row SUV on a road trip

In car entertainment: Plan for regular changes to keep things interesting. I have an entertainment system in my car, which means drop down TVs and ear phones to contain noise. We can do DVD's in the center console or we can stream our Apple TV/iTunes purchases through a phone. That's pretty bad on data (although I do have a wifi hotspot in my car too... fancy!) so we decided the boys could each pick out a DVD to bring for each leg of the trip; we brought five or six DVDs total for them to watch there and back. If you don't have an entertainment system installed like mine, I highly recommend this portable DVD player. It has a remote so that you can control it from the front seat! You don't want to have to pull over every time your kids push a button or need tech help so that's a great feature, especially if you have young children like mine. The screen swivels to it's easier for more than one kid to watch, too.

5 Road trip hacks for traveling with infants and toddlers:

  • Go BIG. Rent a larger SUV if you don't have one. You'll welcome the space!
  • In-car entertainment: bring DVDs with headphones so your kids can watch movies and leave you in peace.
  • Pack a variety of activity bags. Stickers, coloring books, dry erase boards, and magnetic drawing boards are all great options. 
  • Get a set of infant toys and put 2-3 in your baby's car seat, then change them out every so often for a "new" toy for them.
  • If you can, limit the hours you drive each day to what your children can tolerate before meltdowns happen. If you can't, plan long breaks to get your kids out of the car.


Activity bags for toddlers full of stickers, magnets, a firehouse themed dry erase board all in ziplock bags to hand them on long road trips

I'm not a big fan of letting my kids zone out all day in front of a screen, so in addition to their special movies, I packed several "to do" bags in large Ziplock bags. One included an activity book with stickers and markers that only show the color on the page your child is coloring on. I have leather so the stickers would be easy to peel off my seats and the marker wouldn't show on any hands or leather. I got several options, so as they got bored with what they were playing with, I could consistently present them with new options.

Baby in a car seat with toys for a long road trip

My infant twins didn't have access to a TV screen because they're rear facing and... They're nine months old and don't watch movies. For them, we put 2-3 toys in the car seat with them. When those got old, we gave them empty water bottles with a few pennies in them to crinkle and shake. Yes, it was loud, but screaming infants is louder and you'd be shocked at just how entertaining empty water bottles are! If you're road tripping with babies, I recommend putting a few toys in their seat with them and having some spare toys to change out to when the first set get old. This is a pretty solid, well rounded set with a ton of options at a great price point. The good news is, with babies, they tend to sleep a lot with the road noise and movement of the car. Our twins slept a solid half to two thirds of the trip!

My final hack that made the trip bearable, dare I say fun even, is capping out the travel time each day. GPS told us it was 4 hours and 47 minutes from our home in Dallas to Galveston Island, our vacation destination. With kids, that meant about 6 hours with a stop for lunch and a bathroom break or two. My kids are five, three and a half and nine months old, and I'll tell you what, 6 hours of drive time in the car was about the absolute max before everyone was melting down. It is NOT fun to drive with kids who are melting down! So given your children's ages, I'd plan your driving distance over the number of days you need so everyone stays sane. My nine month old twins really maxed out at about 5 hours. The older boys could have probably gone 7, but that would have been stretching it! Plan to either stop for the day or have a nice long break BEFORE the kids max out. We took 45 minutes for lunch at Chick Fil A for them to get squiggles and wiggles out (and they still maxed out at the 6 hour mark for the day).

GMC Yukon Denali XL backing out of a driveway for a road trip
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Traveling with young kids IS manageable! But it takes plenty of planning in advance, a large vehicle for adequate personal and luggage space, and perhaps most importantly, it takes TIME. Properly planning the length of your travel days to suit the needs of your kids will result in a happier time for everyone! Use the rest of these road trip hacks if you're traveling with an infant or toddler (or both!) and you'll have as smooth a trip as you possibly can.