Category: Matt and Nate

Mudpuppy Puzzles Are Perfect for Travel!

Military life comes with frequent moves. That often means being far away from family and friends—and driving or flying long distances to visit them. So, military kids often do a lot of traveling.

My children are the perfect example. My twin boys logged at least five cross-country airplane flights by the time they were 2. My daughter took a 3,000-mile road trip with us at 5 weeks old when we moved from California to Virginia. Over the past two years, we’ve driven to New York to visit family more often than I can count. Add to that our various vacations, and you’re looking at some very well-traveled kiddos.

But while my kids’ extensive travel experience has made them a bit more flexible than other kids in many ways—they can easily sleep anywhere, they can handle schedule changes pretty well, etc.—at the end of the day, they are still kids. And just like any kid, they need to be entertained on long flights and car rides. They need things to do in the hotel room or at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. And because Keith and I don’t want their travel entertainment to consist solely of TV and iPad time, we’re often forced to devote way too much suitcase space to toys and books.

So as you can imagine, I was thrilled to have the chance to try out some of Mudpuppy’s portable puzzles. They are light and compact, making them easy to toss into my carry-on bag or diaper bag. And they are adorable and lots of fun! Here’s what we tried:

Pouch Puzzle: Mudpuppy’s 12-piece Pouch Puzzles (for ages 2 and up) come in zippered pouches, not boxes, making them flat and super easy to tote around. We received the Princess Castle puzzle, perfect for my little girly girl. We took the puzzle with us to Hawaii and on several trips to New York, and even when we’re not traveling Lily loves to put it together. The thick pieces are perfect for her little hands, and the puzzle is just hard enough that she feels challenged, but can still put it together on her own. Pouch Puzzles come in 16 themes and retail for $10.99.

Mudpuppy Princess Castle Pouch Puzzle
Our completed Pouch Puzzle

Puzzle To Go: The 36-piece Puzzles to Go, geared to ages 3 and up, are 12″ by 9″ when put together. That means they fit perfectly into an airplane or train tray table! We received the Outer Space puzzle and the Airplane puzzle, which was perfect because Nate loves space and Matt loves transportation. We first whipped these puzzles out on our long flight to Hawaii, and they entertained the boys for about an hour each! They were so excited to be able to do puzzles on the plane. And because they come in a drawstring pouch, the puzzles took up hardly any space in my carry-on bag. Mudpuppy makes 10 Puzzles To Go that retail for $9.99 each.

Mudpuppy Puzzle To Go
Look how small the pouch is!
Mudpuppy Airplane Puzzle To Go
Our completed Airplane Puzzle To Go

 

My First Touch & Feel Puzzle: Each of the six My First Touch & Feel Puzzle sets come with four three-piece puzzles for ages 1 and up. The pieces are chunky, and each puzzle has one textured piece for little hands to feel. We received the “In The Garden” set, and even at 2 1/2 Lily absolutely loves these puzzles. I’d say this set is the least portable of the puzzles we tried because it comes in a box, but a bonus is that the puzzles are small enough to fit on a tray table. My First Touch & Feel Puzzles retail for $12.99.

Mudpuppy My First Touch & Feel Puzzles
Our completed My First Touch & Feel Puzzles

 

In addition to these awesome puzzles, Mudpuppy makes lots of other fun travel toys and games for all ages, including Magnetic Build-It sets, felt Play Scenes, Ring Flash Cards, and more. So with spring break travel coming up and summer vacations just around the corner, now is the perfect time to visit galison.com/MUDPUPPY and get some for yourself!

 Disclosure: I received complimentary items to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own!

Great Wolf Lodge Lives Up to Its Hype!

Since becoming parents, we’d been hearing SO much about Great Wolf Lodge, a family resort and indoor water park with 16 locations across the U.S. and Canada. While so many of our fellow parents hyped it up as the ideal vacation spot for families, I’ll admit that it sounded awful to Keith and me. Hundreds of screaming kids running around? Overpriced food? GERMS? No, thank you!

But when we saw a great deal pop up on Groupon recently, we decided to give the Williamsburg, Virginia location a shot. Our package included two nights in a KidKamp suite and a $50 daily food credit at a greatly reduced price. We were also able to go Sunday through Tuesday (our school district had a student holiday that Monday), so we knew crowds would be significantly smaller. So, off we went!

And let me tell you—our two days at Great Wolf Lodge were some of the most fun days we spent as a family all winter. All three of our children—5-year-old twins Matt and Nate and 2-year-old Lily—had a fabulous time. But here’s what surprised us—Keith and I had a blast, too! Here are some of the highlights of our trip:

WHAT WE LOVED!

The water parkThis place is seriously amazing, and that’s great because it’s the only attraction in the resort that doesn’t cost extra money. With 79,000 square feet of space, the water park has something for everyone. There are giant, winding water slides for big kids and adults and tiny slides for the little kids. There’s a wave pool, a lazy river, hot tubs, and a regular pool with basketball hoops. There’s a giant climbing structure with bridges, tunnels, and water features for kids to get lost in. There’s a kiddie pool with spray areas that Lily absolutely loved. And there’s the Wolf Rider Wipeout, an awesome surf simulator that the boys did two times each. (They were the smallest kids doing it—such brave boys!) Overall we spent three to four hours each day at the water park, and we had a blast.

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Here are my water park tips:

  • Get there early! There are a limited number of tables and chairs in the park that often get snatched up in minutes. So get down to the park about 15 minutes before it opens and be ready to stake out your spot. (Note: The resort website lists the water park hours as 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday, but that is subject to change based on the season. So, double check the hours when you arrive!)
  • Bring snacks. The signs posted say no outside food is allowed in the water park, but nearly everyone we saw had their own snacks with them. (They probably just don’t want you rolling in with bags of McDonald’s). So bring lots of food to munch on and plan to eat meals out or back at your room. There is a small food stand in the water park called Buckets Incredible Craveables, but it has a very limited selection of food and no kids’ meals.
  • Bring your own towels. The resort provides towels, but they are pretty tiny and flimsy. And even though the water is warm, it can feel really chilly in the water park when you get out. So we brought the kids their own hooded towels, and next time we’ll bring towels for ourselves as well.
  • Leave life jackets at home. The water park has free Coast Guard-approved life jackets and puddle jumpers, so there’s no need to bring your own!

MagiQuestWwere going to skip this game because we thought the boys were too young, but we are SO glad we didn’t. It’s expensive, but we played for hours, and Keith and I admittedly had as much fun as the boys did. It’s basically a live-action video game. First you go to a really cool wand shop and pick your own wand. Once your game is activated, you wave your wand at any of the “portals” located around the resort—mini touch screens—to start your quest. You then have to collect a certain number of runes before you can do fun things like battle a dragon, defeat a goblin king, etc. The screen tells you which objects you need to collect to get each rune and what area of the resort you can find them in. Then you walk around and wave your wand at treasure chests, boxes, wall hangings, and more to find the objects you need. When you’ve gotten them, you return to a portal, where a character from the game gives you your rune and instructions on how to get your next rune. Its lots of fun!

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The twins opened the treasure chest with a wave of their wands!
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They defeated the evil dragon Charlock!

Here are my MaqiQuest tips:

  • Be patient. The game is tough to figure out at first, but don’t give up. Once you get the hang of it, it’s very addicting! Try to play after the water park opens and before dinnertime—there seemed to be fewer people playing during those times, which meant we didn’t have to wait as long for our turn at the portals.
  • Save some money. As I mentioned, MagiQuest is not cheap: A wand costs $15.99 to $21.99 and the game costs $14.99, but you can play as much as you want throughout your stay! (Then you can bring your wand back on future stays to pick right up where you left off!) The wand itself is super cool, so there’s no need to purchase a wand topper for $17.99 to $19.99. Also, if you have a young child who wants in on the wand action but is too young to play the game, just buy the wand without the game. The wand will still work on all the cool objects around the resort. Lily had a blast waving her wand to open treasure chests, make animals move, light up stars, etc.
  • Be ready to exercise. You may think video games are for couch potatoes, but not MagiQuest. You’ll be going up and down stairs between the second and fourth floors of the resort nonstop to collect objects for the game (unless you feel like waiting forever for the elevators), so it’s a great way to keep your kids moving!

Bowling: The resort has a mini bowling alley that’s perfect for small children because it has shorter lanes, bumpers, and little five-pound balls. Plus, you don’t need to wear bowling shoes! We went bowling with friends who visited the resort the same weekend as us, and all of the kids had a blast. (We did have a problem with balls getting stuck on one of our lanes, but it was still a good time!) The cost was $5 per person per game.

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Even 2-year-old Lily got in on the bowling action!

 

Our suite: As I mentioned earlier, we stayed in a KidKamp suite, which is a large room with a queen-size bed, a full-size sofa sleeper, and a tent-themed sleeping area with bunk beds. The twins loved sleeping on the bunk beds in their own separate space. We liked that the room had a mini fridge and a microwave. There are many other room options at the resort at various price points, ranging from standard rooms to themed suites (like ours) to premium suites with lofts, fireplaces, and jacuzzi tubs. Our friends stayed in one of the premium suites and loved it.

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Playing peek-a-boo in the KidKamp Suite

 

Free lobby activities: The lobby always has some sort of free activity or show going on for the kids. We found The Great Clock Tower Show to be a bit creepy, and the kids were bored by the nighttime Story Time. But, all three loved the little activity table that offered coloring pages and guided activities like Bingo and friendship bracelet-making.

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Coloring in the lobby while Daddy waited in line for Dunkin’ Donuts

 

The wolf ears: To our surprise, we all got a free pair of wolf ears at check-in! Lots of grown-ups got into the spirit and wore them around the resort.

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Modeling our wolf ears! Daddy wore them too, but he was behind the camera!

 

The wristbands: As someone who’s been known to lose hotel room keys and forget my wallet, this was huge for me: When you check in, you get a waterproof wristband that you use as your room key, your water park entry, and your payment for activities and food (it all just gets charged to your room). How convenient is that? Plus, the kids felt super cool and important sporting their wristbands ( though they couldn’t buy things with theirs).

 

Now, here are a few things we didn’t love (but didn’t totally hate):

WHAT WE DIDN’T LOVE

Northern Lights ArcadeWith its wide variety of games, this place would be awesome for older kids and teenagers, but it was really overwhelming and chaotic for my three kids. Almost every game uses Paw Points, a reloadable gaming card that you swipe to play the game. That means that unless you have one adult to accompany each child around the arcade, your small kids are going to be swiping the card haphazardly without realizing whether it actually worked … and spend all of the Paw Points without playing a single game. Trust me, I know! So I’d say steer clear of the arcade if you have younger kids.

The food: The best food option at the Great Wolf Lodge was the Dunkin’ Donuts in the lobby. Keith went there every morning to get us breakfast and coffee and it was included in our $50 food credit—WIN! We got pizza and wings one evening from Hungry As A Wolf and ate it in the room. It was decent, quick, and convenient. But the buffet dinner we ate at the Loose Moose Bar & Grill was not very good. (Perhaps the breakfast would have been better, but who has time for that when you’ve got to get to the water park?) My advice? Eat dinners off site, or pick up food to bring back to your room. There are lots of casual or fast-food dining spots only a minute or two away, including Carrabba’s, Chick-fil-A, and Sonic.

 

Clearly, we loved a lot more things about Great Wolf Lodge than we didn’t love! And we only scratched the surface of the attractions that are available there. There are 4D movies, a miniature golf course,  a fitness center, a spa, and so much more. We definitely plan to visit again to try out some of these other activities.

If you decide to visit Great Wolf Lodge with your family, I have a few more tips:

  1. Go when there’s a deal. I frequently see Great Wolf Lodge deals on Groupon and similar sites, so keep your eyes peeled. If you’re an active or retired military family, emergency medical service personnel, or a police or correctional officer, you can take advantage of the Howling Heroes promotion, which gives you up to 30 percent off a suite for stays through October 31. And, keep in mind that weeknights are cheaper than weekends!
  2. Maximize your time. Though check-in isn’t until 4 p.m. and checkout is at 11 a.m., you can access the water park starting at 1 p.m. on your arrival date and until closing on your departure date. And you can often get early check-in if your room is available—we did! There are showers in the water park you can use before you leave.
  3. Two nights is perfect. It’s enough time to take advantage of many of the resort activities without feeling rushed, but not so long that your family will burn out and have meltdowns.

If you decide to visit Great Wolf Lodge, let me know what you think. I hope your family enjoys it as much as mine did!

Has your family been to Great Wolf Lodge? Leave a comment below and let me know how you liked it! And if you have questions, just ask and I’ll do my best to answer them!

 

Get Unlimited Kids’ Classes in the DC Metro Area with JumpIt Pass

Happy summer! Northern Virginia (NOVA) public schools have been closed for nearly two weeks now, but for Matt and Nate, preschool ended right before Memorial Day. That means it’s already been summer for us for over five weeks. And what a busy summer it has been. Besides the two weeks of camp the boys have done, we’ve gone to the pool, the splash pad, the nature center, movies, playgrounds, the trampoline park, the library, baseball games, and so many more fun places. Every day has been a new adventure. Here’s a shot of the kids at the Independence Day Parade in downtown Fairfax on July 4:

3 Kids on 4th of July

But there are still two more months of summer to go, and even with our upcoming trips to New York and Hawaii, we have many more days to fill. And it gets hot here. Really, really hot. That leaves me and so many other NOVA parents with a bit of a challenge: How do we entertain our children on these long, hot summer days without spending a ton of money?

NOVA—and the Washington, DC area in general—has many indoor gyms, play spaces, and other venues that offer children’s classes. The problem is, they are generally pretty expensive: Many of them have monthly memberships that cost $75 or more for one class per week. And what happens when your kid gets bored of going to the same place every week, or when your schedule doesn’t allow you to be at the same place at the same time each week?

Luckily, there is an option that can help solve those problems—JumpIt Pass. JumpIt Pass provides unlimited monthly access to some of the best kids’ classes across the DC metropolitan area. Families can attend classes at a variety of venues including play gyms, art studios, fitness centers, martial arts studios, dance studios, and more. You can take as many classes as you would like per month (up to three each month at the same venue).

When I first learned about JumpIt Pass back in October (about a month after its launch), most participating venues were in Bethesda, Rockville, or DC. As more and more NOVA venues got on board, I decided to give JumpIt Pass a try with Lily in January and February while the boys were at preschool. Unfortunately, frequent snow and the fact that Lily was still under 18 months old at the time prevented us from taking full advantage. But, we still really enjoyed the classes we took at Great Play of Fairfax with our JumpIt Pass.

Since then, JumpIt Pass has expanded even more. Now many NOVA venues participate, including Blue Box Sports in Chantilly, Gymboree Play & Music in Alexandria and Burke, BusyBees in Falls Church, Monkey Joe’s in Sterling, Tippi Toes in Alexandria and Arlington, World Karate in Fairfax, and more. There are also many fun locations in DC and Maryland. Click here to see a full list of participating venues.

And this summer is the perfect time to try JumpIt Pass because there’s an amazing promotion going on. JumpIt Pass usually costs $99 per month for unlimited classes for one child and $169 per month for unlimited classes for two children (additional kids cost $70 per month extra), or $59 for a three-class starter plan. But this summer, you can get 50 percent off any JumpIt Pass by entering promo code SUMMER at checkout. That is a huge bargain!

So if you live in the DC area and are looking for ways to entertain your kids this summer, head over to jumpitpass.com and give it a try. Your child may just find a new favorite place or discover a new passion. If you try it, let me know what you think!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary JumpItPass to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own!

 

 

Don’t Give Up!

When I first started writing this blog while I was pregnant with the twins, I mainly intended it to be a way to keep my family and friends updated on the pregnancy and babies. It was also a way for me to continue to put my writing out there. I had left my full-time job at Scholastic in order to move to Colorado Springs, and my freelance writing career hadn’t really taken off yet. So, I had a decent amount of time to spend on my little hobby.

Then life got crazy. The boys, and later Lily, were born. Keith deployed to Afghanistan and was wounded. We moved to California, then to Virginia. We traveled. And most of all, my freelance assignments began to pour in. I found myself with less and less time to devote to the blog.

But then, public relations folks began to take an interest in the blog. They started to reach out to me, asking me to review their products or visit their family-friendly locations. Then I received an invitation to Blogger Bash last summer, where I met and became inspired by so many successful bloggers. I decided to try to spend more time on Double Duty Twins and use it to impart some of my hard-won parenting advice to other moms and dads. And for a while, I was able to post more regularly.

But I’m not going to lie: It’s been extremely hard for me to keep it up. My writing career has really taken off, and I’m regularly juggling several assignments at once. I’m still writing a ton for Scholastic, and Care.com and Bentley University have kept me very busy as well. (You can check out some of the stories I’ve been working on at jennifermarinowalters.contently.com.) I also wrote four children’s books for Red Chair Press that are slated to hit shelves in August.

The kids have also been keeping me on my toes. The boys are in tee-ball, soccer, and swimming, and Lily and I go to Gymboree and other activities while they’re at school. Then there are the play dates, trips to the playground, birthday parties, etc.

It’s a very tough balancing act. I feel caught between the stay-at-home mom and the working-mom worlds. I’m trying to be both at the same time, but I am not fully either one, which makes managing my time really difficult.

I’m not complaining. I love being busy with work. I love doing fun things with the kids. It’s just impossible to do everything, which means something has to get lost in the fray. And that something, unfortunately, is usually this blog.

But I’m trying. I’m always looking for ways to organize my time better. I found a really great co-working space in Vienna, Virginia called Play, Work or Dash, and it’s got on-site child care for Lily. She and I go there weekly while the boys are in preschool. I’ve also been making better use of Lily’s nap times now that the boys are older and can entertain themselves. I have a nanny come about 12 hours a week while I work. And being a night owl helps, too, because I can write late at night while everyone is asleep.

My point is, I am not giving up on this blog. I’m asking that you don’t give up on it, either. It is never going to be my full-time job or my main source of income—especially as I continue to land more and more freelance-writing clients. But it’s always going to be a place where I can speak my mind and talk about the things that I want to talk about. And that is priceless to me.

So I will continue to do my best to write when I can and to find interesting things to share with other parents. I will also attend Blogger Bash again this summer, where I’ll get lots of new material. So please stick with me! If you want to stay updated on new blog posts (whenever they may come) and on my other stories, follow me on Twitter at @jmarinowalters. You can also find me on Instagram at @jmwalters718, and on Facebook at facebook.com/doubledutytwins.

And just for fun, here is a recent photo of my crazy crew during our recent trip to Disney World!

Minnie Mouse Disney World

Hope everyone is having a great month!

 

Give the Gift of Books All Year Long

Monthly box subscriptions for kids are all the rage these days, and they come in all kinds of themes to suit any interest—Kiwi Crate for kids who love to craft, Little Passports for geography lovers, Brick Loot for little builders. (Check out my review of Brick Loot here!)

Recently, we had the chance to try out a subscription box that suits my little book lovers perfectly—Bookroo. Each month, Bookroo will send your child three board books or two picture books—whatever you choose.

My kids love books and love to have me read to them. Now that the twins are 4.5, they’re also learning to read themselves. So I feel we can never have too many books in the house.

The problem is, when given the chance to choose books for themselves at the bookstore or library, they almost always go for the Star Wars or superhero books. While that’s perfectly fine—I firmly believe that kids should be allowed to read whatever they choose—I do want to make sure their reading selections are varied. So I always pick a book or two on my own. Once I read it to them, they usually end up loving it, and have actually found some of their favorite books this way.

So I was really excited to give Bookroo a try and to see what books we would get. I signed up for the box that would send two picture books. When it arrived, the boys were really excited to see their names on it and to open it. And when they did, I was super impressed! The hardcover books were individually wrapped with pretty paper and tied with twine. It was like receiving a present directly from a loved one.

Bookroo books

I was even more pleased with the selections we received: “Ribbit!” by Rodrigo Folgueira and “Hugless Douglas and the Big Sleepover” by David Melling. Both books are colorful and beautifully illustrated, and the kids were laughing out loud at the stories!

“Ribbit!” is about a lovable pink pig who tries to make friends with other animals by “ribbiting” like a frog and tweeting like a bird, much to the animals’ bewilderment. “Hugless Douglas and the Big Sleepover” is the third book in a series about a bear named Douglas. In it, Douglas gets invited to Rabbit’s sleepover, but ends up inviting too many of his animal friends to go with him. With too many animals and not enough space, how will anyone ever get to sleep? Douglas finds the perfect hilarious solution.

Bookroo picture books

I enjoyed the books as much as the boys did. So did Lily, who is 16 months old. They will make great additions to the kids’ library.

But what if we had already owned one or both of the books that came in our subscription box? All we would have had to do was email Bookroo a picture of us giving the book to someone else and we’d receive $5 off our next box.

So if you are looking for a gift for a child who loves books, or you just want to discover new books for your own child, give Bookroo a try! It comes in a 1-month, 3-month, 6-month, or 12-month subscription. The price ranges from $15.99 per month for a 12-month subscription to $17.99 per month for a 1-month subscription. Shipping and handling to the U.S. is $5 per month. Plus, use this link to purchase your subscription and you’ll receive $5 off. It’s a coupon just for Double Duty Twins readers!

If you decide to try Bookroo, leave a comment here and let me know what you think! Happy reading!

Disclosure: I received a discounted Bookroo box to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own!

Build STEM Skills With Brackitz!

At 4.5 years old, my twins love building toys. LEGO bricks, Magna-Tiles, Lincoln Logs, and Tegu blocks are regularly strewn all over my family room. As annoying as that can be (we’ve all experienced the misery of stepping on a stray LEGO brick), I love the fact that Matt and Nate are learning invaluable STEM and problem-solving skills—and using their imaginations— while they build. To me, a little mess is a small price to pay to mold the minds of my future engineers or architects.

Naturally, I thought I knew about all of the building toys out there. But then I learned about Brackitz. Brackitz are durable, open-ended blocks that enable children of all ages to build any imaginable structure in any size. Naturally, I was eager to let the boys give Brackitz a try.

We received a Brackitz Inventor 28-Piece Set to try in exchange for our honest opinion. With so few pieces, I thought the boys would get bored quickly. But I was pleasantly surprised by how long they were able to entertain themselves. I was also impressed with how many different creations they were able to come up with.

The kids were eager to build as soon as I opened the box. Even Lily got in on the fun!

IMG_0335Matt was super excited about the 4-way connectors, so the first thing he did was make an X!

IMG_0342Nate made an airplane.

IMG_0344And then of course, Matt had to build an even cooler airplane, while Nate turned the remaining pieces into a “giraffe that’s eating popcorn.”

IMG_0354These photos were taken last week, and the kids have played with their Brackitz every day since then, creating all sorts of vehicles and other crazy gadgets. It’s really interesting to see how creative they have gotten and all the combinations they’ve been able to dream up with only 28 pieces. The 4-way and 3-way connectors really increase the building possibilities, and there are even little motion connectors that let you add moving parts to your creations, such as spinning propellers.

The Brackitz Inventor 28-Piece Set currently retails for $19.95 on Amazon. You can also get 50-piece, 100-piece, and even 200-piece sets. I definitely see a larger set in our future, as well as many Brackitz birthday gifts for the boys’ friends.

If you’ve got a little builder, give Brackitz a try and let me know what you think!

 

 

My New Year’s “Mom Resolutions”

We had a wonderful and busy holiday season full of family, friends, and lots of fun outings. For the first time ever, we hosted Christmas Eve and Christmas, then headed to New York for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The kids went back to school this week and we are all settling back into a routine.

Now that 2016 is upon us, I’ve been reading many people’s new year’s resolutions. For parents, those resolutions often revolve around their children: Spend more time with the kids. Put down the smartphone. Be more present.

I want to do all of those things this year. But I have a few resolutions of my own that I feel will make me a way better mom. Here they are:

1. Wake up before the kids.
I used to be really good about this, and it made the morning—and the entire day—go so much more smoothly. I’d set my alarm for about an hour before the kids typically wake up to shower, drink coffee, and eat breakfast in peace. Sometimes I’d even get to read the newspaper. By the time the kids woke up, I felt energized and more focused on them.

But once the colder weather arrived, I got lazy and started using the kids as my alarm clock. That resulted in very stressful and hectic mornings, rushing out the door with coats half on and breakfast barely eaten. Let me tell you, it’s no fun to rush into preschool late with two frazzled kids in tow. So this year, I vow to go to bed earlier and rise before the kids so we can get back to our (mostly) peaceful mornings.

2. End the mom guilt.
No mother—whether she’s a full-time working mom, a full-time stay-at-home mom, or something in between—is immune to mom guilt. And that guilt multiplied exponentially for me after Lily was born. Suddenly, I’ve had to divide my attention between three children while taking on more freelance work and struggling to maintain this blog. It’s a seemingly endless loop that goes something like this: “I work too much.” “I don’t work enough.” “I should have more play dates for the kids.” “I should have fewer play dates because I spend the whole time talking to other moms and not playing with the kids.” “I didn’t play with the kids enough today.” “I played with the kids too much and the house is a mess.”

ENOUGH! This year, I am banishing the mom guilt from my life for good. My kids are happy, smart, secure, well-rounded, and incredibly loved. I’m a great mom. And gosh darn it, people like me. (All you Saturday Night Live fans will appreciate that.)

3. Display more photos of the kids.
This may seem like a silly one, but it’s actually very important to me. I have thousands and thousands of amazing photos of my kids languishing on my cell phone and hard drive. And, 15 months after moving into this house, I still have a ton of blank wall space. Walking past those walls and seeing the twins’ school pictures, or a big picture of Lily in her first-birthday tutu, or some of the amazing holiday photos my brother took of us, would add a great deal of sunshine to my day!

A family poses on a New York City rooftop.
Seriously, how can we not hang this photo on a wall? (Photo by children and lifestyle photographer Daniel Marino of Marino Photography, http://danmarinophoto.com)

4. Travel without the kids. Since the boys were born in 2011, I’ve spent several nights away from my children. There was the 4-day trip to Orlando I took with my cousin Kim, the two long weekends I spent in New York last summer, and several other quick jaunts. Keith has also spent many nights away from the kids, mainly for work trips or field time or his deployment. But we have only ever spent two nights away from the children together, and they were when we came here to house hunt when I was seven months pregnant with Lily. And because we spent pretty much the entire 48 hours touring homes, we don’t count that. So this year, come hell or high water, we plan to take a short vacation just the two of us. We need it for both of our sanity!

5. Chill. The F. OUT.
I’ve always felt the need to be productive at every moment of every day. If I sat down for half an hour, I lamented all the laundry I could have folded or work emails I could have sent. If I spent 15 minutes on Facebook, I complained that I should have unloaded the dishwasher instead. And even when I was productive, I’d get angry that I didn’t get more done. I should have written that story more quickly, or cleaned faster, or multitasked better.

But lately, I’ve really chilled out—and I am so much happier and less stressed because of it. If I feel like sitting in the coffee shop to enjoy my cup of joe instead of going through the drive-through and drinking it in the car, I do it. If I decide to watch some bad reality TV during Lily’s nap instead of cleaning the kitchen, I enjoy the mental break and move on instead of beating myself up over it. And at the end of the day, instead of obsessing about the the two items I didn’t check off my to-do list, I focus on the five things I did get done. I will continue this trend in 2016. After all, when Mom is happy, everyone is happy!


Sure, there are many other changes both big and small I’d like to make in 2016, like finding more time to exercise and spending less money on groceries. But those are my five main goals that I think will really make me a happier and healthier mom.

What are your goals for 2016? Please share! Happy new year!