Welcome, Readers of “This Beautiful Frugal Life”!

Today we published my first guest post over at This Beautiful Frugal Life (*Note* It appears that she’s having some technical difficulty with the site today, so if my link doesn’t work, just go to the home page on This Beautiful Frugal Life and scroll down a few posts to “10 tips for flying with young kids”). I am so excited that I get to share a bit of my experience and my writing with TBFL readers! If this is your first time visiting Love, Teach Grow, welcome, and I hope you enjoy reading about my journey through motherhood.

If you would like more information about traveling with children, you may want to check out my 4-part series called Traveling With Bebe. Part 1 is an introduction to our trip out to Ireland, Part 2 covers pre-travel arrangements and packing, Part 3 has tips on getting through the airport, and Part 4 has tips and activities to get you through your flight.

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Thank you for visiting, and happy reading!

My Summer Bucket List

Mukilteo Park May 2012 - 0012

Ahhhhhh…summer. It really is the most wonderful time of the year. I may be a bit biased because up until about 2 years ago I had spent my whole life in school (as either a student or a teacher) so summer has always just been the thing I looked forward to all year. Now that I have kids, though, I’m more excited for summer than ever before. Again, I may be a bit biased–as a stay-at-home mom in rainy Seattle I really can’t wait to get the kids outside and finally do something.

A few months ago I made a spring bucket list. I’m happy to report that I have checked off every item from that list…except for two: “plant something” and “fix our yard” (I knew those were bad ideas even as I was writing them. In my defense, though, I did buy a potted basil plant from Trader Joe’s and it’s still alive. I also have managed to keep the dog poop mostly picked up from our back yard, so that’s kinda like fixing the yard, too.). My favorite discovery from my spring bucket list was visiting new parks in our area. I found a lovely gem a few miles away with a wetland boardwalk and a large playground–we’ve already spent several afternoons exploring there.

Now it’s time to see what summer has to offer. This summer will be different from any other that I’ve ever experienced as we’ll be moving to Ireland in July. But what would summer be without a healthy dose of adventure mixed in? Here’s a bit of what I’m planning for this season:

  • Build sand castles at the beach
  • Climb a real castle (yay, Ireland!)
  • Pick fresh berries from a U-pick farm
  • Ride the car ferry over to Whidbey Island or the Olympic Peninsula for a day trip
  • Catch the ice cream man
  • Take in some free children’s concerts in the park
  • Throw a killer first birthday party for my little Jacob!
  • Walk down Alki Beach and pretend like I’m in California
  • Take in a firework show
  • Get a pedicure so my feet look cute in flip flops
  • Eat a picnic dinner in a park
  • Watch an outdoor movie
  • Take the free ferry over to Jetty Island for some play time at the warm water beach
  • Make our own Popsicles and eat them outside
  • Play in the kiddie pool we have hidden under our deck
  • Play with sidewalk chalk
  • See a parade (be in a parade?!)
  • Take David to a baseball game
  • Barbecue. Lots and lots of BBQ.
  • NOT get a sunburn
  • Go bowling (kids bowl free in the summer!)
  • Walk barefoot in the sand
  • Borrow my parents’ stand-up paddle boards and get out on the water
  • Read books with my kids outside under the trees
  • Go to a farm
  • Go hiking
  • Watch a beautiful sunset
  • Fly a kite
  • Swim
  • Roast marshmallows over a fire
  • Go to the fair
  • Run through the sprinkler
  • Play mini golf
  • Go on a nature walk
  • Play with water balloons
  • Blow bubbles
  • Make ice cream in a bag
  • Rest (I don’t know how I’ll have time to fit that one in with all of these other fun ideas, but it seems like it would be a good idea!)

What are some of your favorite summertime activities? I’d love some fresh ideas!

Ireland, Here We Come!

!o-irelandWell,friends, it’s actually happening–we finally have everything we need for our move. Our visas came through about 2 weeks ago but, due to a family emergency, we put everything for the move on hold for awhile. Jon went back to work this week and got the proverbial ball rolling again. He will be going out to Ireland June 24-28 to sign a lease on our house, set up a local bank account, look into leasing a car, and just getting things generally set for us to move. We will have to see what the terms are for the lease that he signs, but if the house we want is available right away we will try to be in Ireland by July 8th.

This, of course, means that it’s crunch time for us to get everything ready now. I made about a dozen appointments today: the vet, a house cleaner, the dog groomer, dentists, doctors. I really don’t even know where to start with the whole packing situation. Since we won’t know if we are getting a furnished or unfurnished house until Jon signs a lease, it’s kinda difficult to know what all will stay and what will go. Jon is meeting with the moving company this week to get things sorted out, so hopefully they’ll be able to help us out. In the meantime, I will attempt to throw things into boxes in a somewhat organized manner.

This whole move has been such an on-again, off-again ordeal that I’m relieved to know things are moving forward. Now, to get through the chaos of the next month!

10 Tips For Eating Out At A Restaurant With A Toddler

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My husband and I love trying new restaurants. We enjoy spending hours upon hours conversing over plates of pasta and a bottle of wine. We used to go out all the time, back when it was–you know–just the two of us.

Now we have two little boys and, quite honestly, going out to eat has lost a lot of its charm. Instead of conversing over plates of pasta and a bottle of wine, it’s more like we’re covered in plates of pasta and listening to our kids whine. Difficult as it is to bring the wild banshees–er, children–out to a restaurant, it can still be a rewarding experience. Dining out allows children to experience new foods, develop their dining etiquette, and (let’s not forget) give mom a break from cooking dinner.

With a 2 1/2-year old and a 10-month old baby we’ve developed some tried-and-true strategies for getting through (and even enjoying!) our meals out. Here are my top 10 tips:

  1. Choose where you’re going ahead of time. Make a reservation and review the menu online before you arrive so you can order as soon as you’re seated. Minimal waiting time with a squirrely child = a very good thing.
  2. Choose a family-friendly restaurant. You’ll know you’re in the right place if there are ample high chairs, paper place mats with crayons, easy-to-wipe-up flooring, and kids climbing on the booths. Bonus points if there are balloons available.
  3. Don’t go out to eat with your toddler during peak dining times. Try to hit the early bird special so you’re able to order, get your food, and get out of there quickly.
  4. Feed your child a snack before you go to the restaurant, and bring along extras to eat while you’re waiting for your meals to arrive. Even if you don’t end up eating your snack stash, you’ll be glad you had it if it’s taking an extra-long time for the kitchen to get your order out.
  5. Consider splitting a meal with your toddler rather than ordering him his own. I find that my son is usually so excited by the whole restaurant experience that he doesn’t eat as much when we’re out. Then I get bummed that I wasted $6 on a meal that he barely even touched (Hey, that $6 would have been better spent on a margarita for me!).
  6. Bring along your own entertainment. Books, crayons, Play-doh, and a magna doodle usually work well for us.
  7. Opt for a booth if you’re given the option. I find that they are easier to contain children in than chairs. Another good option is to sit outside where the kids can move around a bit more freely (and where messes are a bit easier to clean up).
  8. Tip your server well. Chances are, you are not the easiest table she’s had tonight. Maybe if you treat the staff well they’ll even invite you back some day!
  9. Bring along some back-up. This may be a great opportunity to invite Grandma and Grandpa out for a nice dinner–especially if they enjoy walking around a restaurant with a squirmy 2-year old so you can finish your entree while it’s still warm.
  10. Bring your patience! Dining out with a toddler is no walk in the park, but hopefully you’ll all make it through the meal in one piece.

Eat on, my friends, eat on!

Why I Wish I Was Still Pregnant (Or Maybe I’m Just Crazy)

IMG_2241Perhaps it’s because my baby is quickly approaching his first birthday. Possibly it’s because everybody I know seems to be having a baby this year. Or, maybe it’s just that I was feeling fat this morning. For whatever reason, the thought crossed my mind (for a fleeting moment) that I wish I was still pregnant.

For all of the discomfort and awkwardness that comes with pregnancy, there are some real benefits to growing a human being. I mean, yeah, of course you get to take part in the creation of new life and claim a new relationship status as “mom”–yadda, yadda, yadda. But the benefits I’m talking about go much shallower.

For starters, when you’re pregnant and your belly is pooching out over the top of your pants it’s cute. It’s a baby bump. People–even strangers–have a strange fascination with wanting to touch your poochy belly. Now, two kids later, I have my own little baby bump–only it’s the bump of stretched out skin in my lower abdomen that won’t go away no matter how many crunches I do. It’s not cute (but thank goodness my kids are, or I just don’t know if it would all be worth it). Along with this, I long for the days when I would gaze anxiously at the scale–to make sure I was gaining enough weight. Anxious scale-glances still happen, but they’re for different reasons now.

And here’s another thing I miss about pregnancy: I miss being selfish. I even feel selfish saying that I miss being selfish. You see, when you’re pregnant it’s almost expected that people will dote over you and pay extra-special attention to you. Of course, they’re only doing it because they want to take care of the baby that happens to reside in your uterus, but that’s a mute point. It’s also kind of expected that you won’t be able to do everything that you used to do in your pre-pregnant state (like mowing the lawn, putting away dishes on all of those high shelves, vacuuming, rubbing your own feet–you know, strenuous stuff). I like not doing all that stuff and having an excuse not to do it.

And, finally, I miss the sleep. When I was pregnant I took naps every afternoon and slept in most weekends–and people just let me. They encouraged me to rest. Ah, to have guilt-free rest again would be pure bliss.

In the end, though, there is always a silver lining. That lovely belly pooch I get to lug around with me for the rest of my days is proof of the miracle that happened in my body–not once, but twice! The extra-special care that I loved receiving is the care I get to shower on my own children each and every day. And the sleep that I’m missing just means that I have healthy, jubilant boys who are excited to greet each morning with gusto. I love my life, exhaustion and all.

Whew! I think a pedicure may be in order this afternoon.