Tag: military kids

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!

Holiday Happenings

Holidays sure are different when you have little ones, and the same holds true when you’re a military family. This past Halloween was Matt and Nate’s third, and they’ve spent all three in different places!

For their first Halloween, when they were only 4 months old, we were at my parents’ house in Brooklyn, New York. Keith had gotten wounded in Afghanistan three weeks earlier and was recuperating at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, so my dad, my aunt, and I took the boys trick-or-treating to a few neighbors’ houses in my old neighborhood. The twins had no idea what was going on, of course, but they sure looked cute!

For their second Halloween, we were in Colorado Springs. We trick-or-treated with some close friends and their kids, but the boys were only 16 months old and still not very into it.

This year, though, the boys knew exactly what was going on, and they were way into it! They chose to be firemen, and I went a little overboard buying them their gear—full costumes complete with jackets and pants with suspenders, helmets, boots, and even little oxygen-tank backpacks with axes. They looked adorable! Keith also took it a step further and built a fire engine out of cardboard boxes to fit around their double stroller. He spray-painted it and drew on details to make it look like the Station 51 fire truck from the TV show “Emergency!” It turned out great!

Keith and I even wore costumes to coordinate with the boys’ outfits. I made a dalmatian costume by cutting spots out of black felt and gluing them onto a white shirt. Then I bought some dalmatian ears and a tail, a red choker, and some black face paint for my nose, and I was good to go. Keith dressed as fire. He cut out flames from orange and red poster board and pinned them onto a red baseball cap, and wore it with an orange shirt. Easy peasy!

I have to say that Halloween in Southern California rocks. A few weeks ago we went to a real farm in Irvine, called Tanaka Farms, to pick our pumpkins. We got to pick the pumpkins right off the vine, and the views were killer.

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Keith and the boys picking their pumpkins!

 

Then, on October 21, we went to Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland. The boys got to practice trick-or-treating at Mickey’s house, Minnie’s house, and various stations around the park. There was a fun Halloween parade and an amazing fireworks show at Sleeping Beauty’s castle. What a great event!

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Keith kept “forgetting” to put on his orange sweatshirt. 😉

 

So by the time actual Halloween rolled around, Matt and Nate were ready! We met some great friends here, another RAND Army fellow and his wife and four kids. We went to their house for dinner and then trick-or-treated from there. Going door to door on Halloween with warm weather and palm trees was pretty surreal. I also felt like we were in a movie because we chose a popular street, so there were droves of people out, all dressed up, and many of the houses were really done up with lights and figures and sound effects. It was just what I always imagined Halloween should be like.

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Us at the end of a successful trick-or-treat run
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A side view of the fire truck

 

And here is my tale of two firefighters!

 

Next year, we’ll be at yet another new place on Halloween—our new home in the Washington, D.C. area! So Matt and Nate can one day look back at their first four Halloweens and know they spent each of them in a different place. Pretty cool, huh?

Another cool thing about being in a military family is that we get to celebrate an extra holiday in November/December—Veteran’s Day. This year Keith will have the opportunity to hit baseballs at Dodger Stadium at a special event honoring veterans, so he’s pretty excited for that.

Then we head to New York for Thanksgiving for the first time in several years. Christmas will be here in California. It is the first Christmas EVER that I won’t be spending in New York, and while that makes me a bit sad, I’m excited to see what Christmas was like for Keith growing up in LA. Also, we have a lot of family coming to visit. And Matt and Nate will get to wake up in their own home on Christmas morning, which is not always a given for military kids. Bring on the holidays!