How to Day Trip to the Beach with Little Ones

We have lived both 3 hours and 1.5 hours from the coast and we have day tripped with and without little ones.  And despite impressions, day tripping with little ones doesn’t have to be so stressful if you follow my tips.

  1. Go Early
    1. We leave so that we can be on the beach by between 8:30 and 9. This helps you avoid the late rising vacation crowd and the traffic is light this early.
  2. Plan Your Location
    1. Know where local beach access points are and we usually pick one that is the 3rd or 4th down from the main road to the beach.
    2. Make sure there are public restrooms and read reviews for cleanliness and make sure they have a shower
  3. Lunch – Brown Bag It (we eat early at 11)
    1. I pack a cooler with extra milk (I buy the Horizons milk that is in the non-refrigerated section to avoid worrying about if it gets too warm), but I have a huge cooler loaded with the big ice packs that last 8 hours. I bring sandwiches and for the little one rolled turkey and cheese pinwheels.  I bring yogurt that I have frozen in the tube for a treat.  I feed the under 2-year-old in their stroller and we bring and umbrella for shade.  We use the cooler as a table for my 4-year-old.   Our folding chairs (which have back pack straps) have a drink holder.
  4. Sunscreen
    1. The number on the bottle is how long before you should reapply in minutes. I like 50 for the kids (because I find I can reapply every hour, and I prefer the spray kind for everything but the face – I buy the Aveeno baby in the tube for that)
  5. Nap
    1. After lunch the littlest one can nap in her stroller (I have a City Jogger and it will go on the beach easily and lays back flat for her. It also has a huge canopy to cover her from the sun.
    2. We let the older one play until about 2:00 (This is perfect, because now the beach is getting crowded with the post lunch crowd and you are going to leave)
  6. Get Ready to Go Out
    1. Shower Off – you really can shower there with your swimsuit on – just to get the sand off (remember you made sure the place you entered the beach has one)
    2. I then take the kids back to the car where we get them dressed
    3. Style and I take turns in the bathroom getting dressed
    4. I add a touch of make up in the car and I put my hair in a French twist
  7. Visit a Beach Shop or something of Interest
  8. Go Eat (Because who can go to the Beach without seafood) – we go to Dinner at 4 (which is why we ate lunch at 11) – you most likely will get early bird pricing and you are going to beat the crowd
  9. Go Home

Confessions: Finding Money for Extras with Two Little Ones

This confession comes after owing just a little bit to Uncle Sam and our state last week.  First, Mr. Style and I are very blessed to make enough to cover our mortgage, bills, childcare for 2, contribute to our 401k’s, and be able each year to have a little more in savings than we did the year before and do a few extras.  Here is what works for us.

  1. Daycare – We chose to do a trade-off.  We put our oldest is in a more expensive preschool with extended hours when he turned 3 to ensure a strong foundation for kindergarten.  When the baby came, we found a stay at home mom who was willing to take a reduced rate since she cares for her two children and mine.  This saves us about $400 a month from what the preschool would have charged for a baby.  I also only pay for the days we use her. (This gives us extra money during trips and holidays)  The other positive for us, is that she will watch mine if she isn’t well, and if she is on vacation she has another SAH mom who will fill in.  I found her off of
  2. Date Night – We have friends who we alternate watching each other’s kids so we can have a date night. This is one of my favorite money-saving ideas.  Plus, I don’t have to worry about if the sitter is equipped to handle an emergency.  We save money by using sites like Group On to buy reduced rates for eating out, and we do things that are reasonably priced.  During February, we actually just cooked at home to avoid the Valentine crowd and prices.
  3. TV/Internet – We moved this past summer and we dropped our cable company. Style has to have ACC football – so we did a bare bones satellite package with a DSL internet company.  We saved almost $50 a month just by reducing this.  We used our first two months savings to buy an Amazon FireTV so that we could access kids programming through our Prime account.
  4. Clothing
    1. Consigning – I love ThredUP! They send me a bag – I fill it full of gently used clothing from my closet and the kids and then I get money deposited via PayPal.  This is great for the nicer clothes that your kids don’t wear very much.  It was also great for the maternity and post baby clothes in that size you couldn’t wait to get out of.  This money helps to buy the kids next season of clothing.
    2. Saving Money – I have brands I like that I mark at Zulily and they e-mail me when they have them. com is a great place to find discounted shoes (I got Mr. Style a pair of steel toed Keen boots for ½ price).  Shop sales and stock up.  J Crew Factory, GAP and Old Navy will run a 40% sale each season and I wait and stock up for the kids.  I also use my credit card rewards to buy gift certificates that I use during these stock up sales.
  5. College Fund – Mr. Style and I agreed that we would wait until the first one starts public school next fall and put the difference of our daycare budget into a college fund. That way it is money we are already used to not having and makes up for the years we haven’t contributed.
  6. Eating Out – We take our lunch 3-4 days a week. We also do not eat out dinner more than once a week.  I post my favorite Brown Bag Lunches and Dinners on Pinterest.
  7. Gym – We gave up the gym when we had babies. I do have some fun videos and a mat and we do have some free weights – but walking and running are free.

Improving the Discussion: Working Mom’s Guide to Car Travel

Recently, I realized in the midst of the stay at home (SAH) mom and working mom (WM) debate, that we really should learn from each other.  With that, I am starting a new series on travelling with tips from my SAH friends and the working mom tips.  Using what we are both experts at, for us to all be better. I have mastered cranky baby car travel, because little miss and I have a minimum 40 minute commute home each day at 5:30 when she is both hungry and tired.  In addition, our family doesn’t live nearby and I have made the 4.5 hour drive home by myself in rush hour traffic, making it a 6+ hour drive.  And, I did it without breaking a sweat. I have all the items mentioned on my Pinterest page.

#1: Stock Food/Snacks/Drinks in the Car – I pack a cooler with drinks, and then I give toddlers milk in the Thermos Funtainer (these are the best – they keep beverages cold for 8 hours) I like the ones with the straw.  I buy the Organic Horizons milk that doesn’t have to be refrigerated and store in the cooler.  I keep bottled water in the cooler and then fill up the First Years Take and Toss Spill Proof cups for the Baby.  For snacks I bring boxes of what they like and for the older child I put them in one of the spill proof cups sans lid and the baby I use the Munchkin snack catcher.  I keep pouches of vegetable and fruit blends for the older one and for the baby when we stop.  (If flying – same concept smaller size and leave everything unopened and empty before security). Invest in rubber mats for your car.  You can just dump crumbs off them, and if there is a milk spill, wet wipes work. J

#2: The Tunes – I have the iPod loaded with what my mother now calls the “Magic” music – you know the songs you put on and your kids start singing and dancing no matter how ill, tired, etc.. they are.  For us , this is Friday Night by Eric Paslay and Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy by Big and Rich.   Nursery Rhymes and Disney Soundtracks also work, but Mr. Southern and I like to include music we like, too.  Include nap inducing music (for us this is classical music)

#3: The Shows – While the baby naps, I give my 4-year-old my Kindle with headphones to watch a downloaded movie.  I recommend teaching them how to troubleshoot the application.  And also reminding them, to remove headphones before talking – otherwise they will wake the baby.

#4 The Games – Yes, even the baby can play a game (or feel like they are playing the game).  I like to play “I Spy” with things in the car, looking for a colored car, etc… To include the baby, we spy her and on her turn we ask her to find things she knows (like her hair or her nose)

#5 The Stories – I am sure, you have books that you have read so many times – you can recite … we do that in the car (Ex: Brown Bear What Do You See? By Eric Carle)  And we make up stories.  Each taking a turn and for the baby – we just make her a character.


A Wedding Toast: Have You Recognized Your Spouse Lately?

I recently had the distinct pleasure of serving as Matron of Honor for one of my dearest friends.  And with this honor, came the request for a toast.  As I was cleaning up some files on my desktop, I ran across this and I thought I would share. So here is a little bit of marriage advice from the SSS home.

First, laugh – a lot.  Laugh at yourself – and with each other.  Nothing is perfect and when things go wrong, laugh.  Like, when you try to make chocolate pie to impress your mother in-law and end up with chocolate soup instead.  Laugh.  D- I bet he will still tell you it is the best chocolate soup with crust he has ever eaten.  (Yes, true story.)  And later, when you can laugh at it – he will help you as you work through conquering the recipe (that may or may not have taken ½ a decade to perfect)

Second, talk – a lot. This is your new best friend.  Also, don’t just tell other people why you are lucky to have the other one – tell each other.  It means a lot when you are covered in spit up and you are pretty sure that you will never get to sleep in (that is also when you call Aunt Southern)

Third, forget – a lot.  Keeping score is for sports not for marriage.  And making up is so much better when you aren’t keeping score. J

Finally, I will let you in on the secret that only those of us who are married know.  You think that you love each other more than you could ever possibly love anyone right now.  But that isn’t true, each anniversary, you will look back and go wow- I love you even more now.


A Working Mom’s Guide to Easter

Being a Southern girl, I love Easter.  I love everything about it from the girly dresses and hats to the gorgeous Easter lilies and of course the meaning of Easter.  And now that I have children, I love it even more.  So here are some of the ways I manage Easter.  Check out my Pinterest page for even more ideas, and for pictures of the items mentioned.

Focusing on the Meaning: I use the Resurrection Eggs.  These are plastic eggs that have little symbols of the story of Easter.  It comes with a booklet that explains the story.  I hide the eggs and let the kids find them.  Then I keep a stash of Jelly Beans and they earn them for identifying the item and how it fits with the story. Next year, I will add the simple verses for my kindergartner to memorize.

The Clothes: Shop for your kids online.  You still have time.  I found a great deal this year at Rags Land (  I ordered my little girl a float dress with her initials monogrammed on the white collar that I paid less than $55 for, and I ordered my son a matching dress shirt with his initials.  I ordered both of them shoes from Amazon.  You can print out a foot pattern to see what size you need. (

Money Saving Tips:  I will have my son wear his usual Sunday khakis, and I picked something for both of them that doesn’t scream Easter – so we can wear them throughout summer and my son’s dress shirt will make a whole new outfit with a sweater vest when it is cooler in the fall.  I am recycling an Easter dress from a couple of years ago (It is a solid shift) that I will pair with a new cardigan from Target ($15).  My husband is recycling his whole outfit with a forgotten tie.

The Food: I am actually taking the kids to visit family right before Easter, and I will stress myself out if I try to cook on Sunday after being gone.  So, I am using Whole Foods prepared Easter.  Also, I discovered Williams Sonoma has one that will deliver to you.  But for those of you that want to cook or are just bringing a dish somewhere, I have posted some of my favorites that are easy on my Pinterest page.

The Baskets: I must confess I splurged, and bought both my kids Pottery Barn Easter baskets.  But I actually use them the rest of the year as storage for the “little things” in their room.  My son has a little flash light, his pocket knife, etc… in his.  As for the filling, I actually buy practical things to fill them.  I just ordered graphic t-shirts and spring pajamas for both from the Old Navy sale.  I give them each a book, which I ordered from Amazon.  When I pick up diapers at Target, I will run to the back and get them each some bubbles and two candy items for my son.  The one year old gets a plush toy.

Egg Dying:  I keep it simple, and this is supposed to be FUN … not stressful.  I will cook my eggs on a Friday night, and that Saturday morning we will go outside with a drop cloth and old clothes and just have fun.  This is a project for the kids and not an art competition – sorry Pinterest.  I bought cheap kits at Target which include superhero stickers for my son and big crayons for my daughter.  We will make a mess and we will have FUN.

Confession:  Last year, I tried to make Pirate eggs with my son.  He had a great time, and I felt bad that they didn’t look like the ones on Pinterest.  I made another half dozen that night just to have “pretty pirate eggs.”  But what I realize now, is he had a great time with the first batch, even though it was a Pinterest Fail.

Summary: Just have FUN and plan ahead so you can have FUN.


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How Do 2 Working Parents Manage their Mornings and Evenings with Little Ones?

shutterstock_176259971This is a frequent topic that comes up when I get together with my girlfriends.  We have a four year old and a one year old at our house.  My husband and I are both managers with challenging schedule needs and our family is not close by.  Here is what works for us:

  1. Meals can be Good and Simple –
    • Dinner
      • Sunday with Tuesday Leftovers – I always cook enough on Sunday so that I have leftovers on Tuesday night. This doesn’t have to be much.  I like to cook, but this week we were busy so I made Turkey spaghetti.  I store the extra noodles with the sauce, so it is easy reheat on Tuesday night.
      • Monday with Wednesday Leftovers –  I use my crockpot.  I use a 10 minute rule (no more than 10 minutes prep and no more than 10 minutes after I get home). This was Vegetable Soup last night.  It is 5 minutes prep and just spooning out when we get home.
      • Thursday is Non-Cooking. I keep things for salads and wraps.  So, we usually pick up a Rotisserie chicken and use it to make a salad or a hummus wrap with veggies and chicken.
      • Fridays is Pizza night. I pick up Trader Joe’s whole wheat dough, sauce, mozzarella, and toppings. (Cheating Tip: I go once a month and stock them in my freezer)  I hide spinach under the cheese to ensure the kids get their greens.
    • Snacks: Keep snacks in your car to take the edge off “hangry” kids on the ride home. I keep packs of pretzels and squeeze fruit because neither are too filling, but they take the edge off until we get home.  I also keep bottles of water if they get thirsty.
    • Breakfast:  I love yogurt, and I like that it is easy. So my kids eat a lot of yogurt for breakfast as do my husband and I.  We add granola to it to make it a little heartier.  However, we also do overnight oatmeal in the fridge and on the mornings we just can’t get it together – we have Kids Cliff bars for my son and Kind Bars for us to eat in the car.  (Cheating Tip: I leave these in the bag in my car with the afternoon snacks.)  The baby gets a non-spill cup of cheerios and a yogurt squeeze pouch.
  2. Alternating Nights – We found pretty early on that it is better for us if we each have a hectic night and then get a night off. In our home on your night you are responsible for bath time for both and bed time for our oldest.  The person who is “off” but is still at home– gives the baby her last bottle and puts her to bed.  So in our home, Mr. Style takes Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights and I take Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights.  Saturdays we “share”.   We also alternate who gets up with the baby on that night.  I wear ear plugs on “his” night.
  3. Agreeing that a Successful Morning is getting BOTH of you to work on time – This was huge for us. I realized that we both were feeling frustrated when the morning didn’t work out for us individually and changing the definition of success helped us refocus our mornings.
    • Each Sunday, we sit down for about 5 minutes and discuss our week. If Mr. Style needs to leave a little earlier, I adjust my morning to get him out the door earlier and vice-versa if I need to leave earlier he does the same.
    • Have a routine – He feeds the baby and makes sure our son has something to eat. I make sure the kids are up and dressed.
    • Be prepared – I lay everyone’s clothes out the night before to ensure zero drama. I make sure bags are packed and coats are at the back door after my morning workout.  I make this my “cool down”.