Holiday Travel Tips and Tricks

We are staying in California this Christmas to celebrate my daughters second birthday and do Christmas festivities in our home (I think I am more excited about it than she is!). If you are traveling this holiday season, here are some tips to maximize your travel budget and hopefully save a few bucks! Head on over to USAA’s Member Community to read the whole post:

Holiday travel tips

If you will be traveling for Christmas, Hanukkah or New Years and haven’t already purchased your plane ticket, check out these tips to help secure the best price!

Where do you start?

1. Try not to buy your tickets over the weekend. Airline companies know this is when you have the most time to buy, so the prices will be higher. The best time to buy tickets is on Tuesday afternoons* (after 3pm Eastern). This is when the airlines lower their prices from the weekend, and match each others sale prices.

2. When you search for a departure date, you will find that the cheapest day to fly is Wednesday (this is because most people do not prefer to travel in the middle of the week- but note this is NOT the case the Wednesday before Thanksgiving), the second two cheapest days are Tuesday and Saturday. The most expensive days to travel are Friday and Sunday.

Continued here on the USAA Community Page: https://communities.usaa.com/t5/PCS-Blog/Tis-the-Season-to-Book-Holiday-Travel/ba-p/80257

USAA Digital MilEx Conference

USAA Community Managers at #USAADigiMilEx
USAA Community Managers at #USAADigiMilEx

I had the privilege of spending last week in San Antonio at a two-day (plus a bonus day at USAA headquarters) conference hosted by USAA. The lovely people I am pictured above with are:

Wendy Poling http://mymilitarylife.com/
Angela Caban http://homefrontunited.com/
Chad Storlie www.CombatToCorporate.com

I work with them as contractors for USAA writing for their Member Community and moderating a member forum. It is the BEST job. I can work from home with my little one and the hours are flexible.

Back to the conference: The energy and inspiration coming off a conference is a pretty wonderful feeling. I took notes during many of the presentations to remember their enlightening tidbits and made an attempt to meet everyone in attendance. I am still in awe of some of the inspirational people I was fortunate to listen to present and meet. I am looking forward to writing a more in-depth summary, but until then, I encourage you to consider attending a conference in your area. What conference you ask? Anything that you are passionate about! A blogger conference, a parenting conference, a candle making conference; you will be invigorated by your fellow attendees success and drive!

In addition, it may give you a chance to be photographed mid-speech and enables you to examine your awkward speaking faces and hand gestures! At least they didn’t catch me mid shimmy! (I have a tendency to use large and flamboyant hand movements)

USAA Community Manager Speaking at USAA DigiMilEx
Speaking tip: don’t roll up your notes. It makes them harder to read…

Can’t wait to highlight many of the other bloggers and entrepreneurs I met! I am going to spend today following up with all the wonderful people i met, a must do after a conference! Twitter is full of fun tidbits and photos from the conference, search #USAADigiMilEx if you are interested to see who was there and some candid photos!

Donating my Hair

I got rid of my security blanket. This is the shortest my hair has been in the past 20 years. I went into the salon asking for a Jennifer Aniston cut (who doesn’t want to look like Jennifer Aniston!?) and came out convinced I should donate my hair and 7 inches later…

 

dontating hair

I feel like it is a HUGE difference  (my hair before), but my husband got home and did not notice until I pointed it out…<insert heavy sigh>. Good news is, I think it is growing on me, and it is literally growing, so it wont be too long before it is long again!

My hairdresser said he was going to give my hair to a local place he knows that makes wigs for children who cannot afford them. It makes me feel good that someone could benefit from my security blanket. I encourage you to research different hair donation options other than Locks of Love (which my hair donation was too short to qualify for) if you don’t meet their standards, there are many other options! This blogger does a great job describing her experience and providing some alternative places to donate!

 

Have you ever donated your hair? What was your experience?

Mother of the Year Nominations

Reflecting on my parenting this week, I truly believe I have a really good shot at winning the title of Mother of the Year.

For example, I got Reagan dressed (and I was dressed- win win), snack cup and water bottle filled and decided we would go on a brisk walk (see how I am also making time for physical fitness, aren’t we the vision of perfection!?). Buckle her in the stroller and we are off! After a brisk 30 minute walk, we arrive home and I assume she has spilled her water because she is SOAKING wet. I remove her from her seat, begin dabbing the stroller with a towel, when  of the corner of my eye, I notice out (in a similar fashion to a male dog), Reagan has lifted her fully clothed leg and is peeing on the tire of my car. A steady stream of tinkle flowing down her leg onto the garage floor. Guess I forgot her diaper…

Another nomination worth event was this week, when we were rushing somewhere ( I have a hard time being on time to anything these days) and I placed Reagan in her seat, made sure she had her bear, pacifier, blanket, hat, sunglasses…. and hopped in and pulled out of the driveway.

Carseat

Reagan begins yelling HELP HELP HELP. I stop the car and look back thinking she dropped on of the 16 stuffed animals she likes to hold while driving and I HAD NOT BUCKLED HER IN THE CAR SEAT. Major mom fail. So thankful my little gal loves to police and notify mom when she is not doing something right. YIKES.

Another good choice; deciding to wear white to a toddler Panera date on Black bean soup day:

Not pictures: bean hand prints on the back!
Not pictured: bean hand prints on the back!

This was after I gave her a bite of soup that was too hot, that she proceeded to try to get out of her mouth (and with my assistance) managed to fling beans within a two foot radius. I felt so bad for potentially burning her mouth, I immediately picked her up allowing her a perfect opportunity to wipe her mouth on my bosom. It was then, I decided I could now use my sleeve as a napkin. Full disclosure: the red spot on the front is my own mess. Guess we both need bibs!

There are many more stories that would convince you that I am in the running for mother of the year 2015. I’ll save those for another day. Never a dull moment as a parent…

 

 

We are the Strangers Pretending to Know You

Pre-baby days I spent a full hour  in the grocery store, examining all the produce, reading ingredients, walking through the aisles with my detailed and organized list by section (you can scoff at how annoyingly organized I was) and sometimes even went to two stores so I could get the best items (the thought of this post baby makes me nervous sweat, TWO STORES? No way.)

Post baby and the grocery store is a social outing. We roll in there with our snacks and drinks and stop and say hello to everyone. I am not exaggerating when I say my daughter Reagan will say “HI HI HI” until you look and wave- to everyone. Even sometimes the produce and the frozen fish. If you don’t look, or acknowledge her, I am then a bit miffed that you are ignoring my super friendly child. So, I begin to frantically wave and also say “HI, Hello!!! She is saying HIIII”. It takes all I have not follow-up with a “NO ONE PUTS BABY IN A CORNER” (although I understand it really makes no contextual sense in our situation). We have properly conditioned everyone who works at the local store we frequent to vehemently wave and say hi (probably just to stop me from joining her or being on the receiving end of my YOU BETTER BE FRIENDLY stare.)

grocery shopping with a toddler

Between our forced friendliness and the fact that 8 out of 10 times one of us is missing a shoe (hint it is not normally me- I am the one with mismatched socks and oatmeal in her hair) by the time we get to the checkout aisle, I am sure they breathe a sigh of relief when we exit.

Maskcara’s IIID Foundation Review

Review of Masckara's IID foundation for highlighting and countouring from a makeup novice

I will start this off with a disclaimer. I am not a makeup expert. If it is any indication of my makeup prowess-or lack thereof, I have been wearing the same color eyeshadow palette since junior high (shout out to cover girl’s shimmering sands trio!).

I hesitated to publish this review as I kept waiting for a more glamorous photo of myself (and lets be real selfies are never really all that glamorous). In reality, my daily life as a mom of a one year old, leaves few reasons for me to get dolled up and take the perfect picture. So here is a review form just an average mama, trying to look like she has more sleep than she does, and pretends that wearing workout clothes daily is in style.

When I started reading Maskcara’s blog about a year ago, I was inspired to try some new things (clearly not eyeshadow colors) and have just recently been brave enough to try some highlighting and contouring.

I normally just wear tinted moisturizer or BBcream (really don’t know the difference between the two) so this is out of my wheel house!

First, I like the packaging, and appreciate the compact is customizable and refillable. Big bonus. I also think it is the perfect size.

Cara (from Maskcara) will help you pick colors and even help you determine your face shape (I am an oval). I just posted a picture on instagram, tagged her within the hour she had responded with some color recommendations!

I watched this video and gave it a go:

Masckcara IIID foundation review from a makeup novice
Weird that it didn’t erase my wrinkles ;)

I wouldn’t call the first attempt a failure because I certainly look better in the photo on the right, but I didn’t quite get the blush right and I was a bit timid with the contouring.

I got a little bit braver about adding more contour,  luminator and lip color the next day…

Masckcara IIID foundation review from a makeup novice
I find taking selfies without my dog or daughter to be a bit awkward!

 

Some observations:

– The contour color goes on lightly so you can layer to get the right amount of shading (so no need to worry about putting on too much at first). This is GREAT for a beginner like me who is afraid of looking dirty instead of contoured!

– This does not go well onto dry skin. When I first applied it, I knew I needed a few days of intense moisturizing before this wouldn’t look a little cakey. (I am too vain to post these pictures). Once my skin was less dry, it was perfect. Cara, does warn her readers that you must moisturize and exfoliate for this to look good!

-The blush; I almost did not purchase this, but I love it as a lip tint (as she suggests) and a little goes a long way with it on the cheeks! I am still trying to master the cream blush, without looking like a lady of the night.

-It is toddler proof in the sense that, it does not rub off and it is long lasting! I can play all day and still look reasonable at the end of the day! :) And it took about 5 minutes to put on (this may be why it doesn’t look amazing- but I am a work in progress!)

-The brush is great. I use it for application and to blend the colors.

Overall I would recommend this to anyone wanting to try new make up or the highlighting and contouring method. It is affordable and fail proof (if I can use it anyone can!)

 

 

 

 

National Reading Day: My Current Book Recs

National Reading Day Book Recommendations for you and your toddler

In honor of National Reading Day, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite books from the past year (I included some of Reagan’s at the end too!). It was hard for me to make this list because there are so many books I enjoy and honestly, I have a hard time making decisions about most everything; especially what to read next.

Review of Wonder by RJ Palacio
Image from Goodreads.com

Favorite Message: Wonder by RJ Palacio

Everyone and their brother, sister and mother (you get my point) should be required to read this book. This is the type of book that reminds you to be a better person and to strive to always treat others with kindness. Get the tissues ready, I had to take a few breaks reading this book because I was sobbing. I don’t know if this book had such a profound affect on me because I have a daughter who I hope, as she grows, treats others with respect and compassion and I pray others will do the same for her. Great. Book.

Review of Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Image from Goodreads.com

Favorite Narration: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

If would give up wine to write like this author. She has such beautiful prose and descriptions and you cannot help but be enthralled in this characters many lives. Read this, then let’s have a cup of tea and discuss it together. (Perfect for a book club!)

Review of Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Image from Goodreads.com

Favorite Non Fiction: Shantaram by Gregory David Robert

Escaped convict from Australia (convicted bank robber and addict) makes his way to India where he lived for ten years becoming engrained in slum life and gangs. He lives through some crazy stuff, makes some bad decisions but in the end his heart and mind are in the right place. (warning: this is LONG)

Review of The Shadow of the Wind By Carlos Zafon
Image from Goodreads.com

A book I just loved for no one particular reason. I liked the voice, and the characters and the story: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

This story is set in Barcelona in 1945 about a family who owns a bookstore and finds a mysterious book. (this is a trilogy and i liked each of the books, although the first is the best!)

 

My 14 month old daughters current favorites:

Review of First 100 Words
Image from Goodreads.com

Baby’s First 100 Words

We have read this 284 times, TODAY. She loves the pictures of the babies in this book and I try to do the sign language sign (to the ones I can remember) and I think it helps her associate the object pictured and the sign!

Review of Do Cows Meow
Image from Goodreads.com

Do Cows Meow? by Salina Yoon

This is a lift the flap book that she find to be very entertaining! Luckily the flaps are very sturdy so we can read it six times in a row seven times a day and the flaps are still looking relatively good!

Gotta end with a classic…

Review of Pat the Bunny
Image from Goodreads.com

Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt

This is a simple book, Where Paul and Judy do lots of things and encourage the little reader to do the same. Every time we read the line “How big is bunny” Reagan will lift her arms in the air and squeal while I say SO BIIIIGGGGG. That line may be coloring my review but it is so cute I don’t mind reading is 632 times.

 

Share your favorite books, I need to know what to read next! :)

Visiting Sea World San Diego with a One Year Old

Tips for a Successful trip to SeaWorld San Diego with a One year old (plus tips to get free tickets for military families)

My family of three took a trip to Sea World San Diego Saturday February 21, 2015. Here is my advice to enjoying the park (for free if you are an active duty military family- Thank you Sea World!) and with a one year old.

Military FREE tickets
Option 1: Get tickets at the park
We did not get tickets in advance, we waited in an hour line (YIKES) and received our free tickets at the ticket counter. (Our 1 year old daughter was free anyway- all children under 3 receive free admittance). DO NOT WAIT IN A KIOSK LINE, you cannot get military tickets using the self serve kiosk.

Option 2: Print or email tickets using TroopID verification on the Sea World Site. We should have done this, as it would have saved us an hour in line. (Their website states that in order to get free tickets you MUST do it online, this is not true, as we were able to walk up and get tickets at the ticket counter)

Parking: $16 (you can pay $21 to get “closer  parking” but we felt the normal parking was not too far-even with a stroller and giant diaper bag in tow.

My Advice:

1. This is covered above, but I must state again: purchase your tickets in advance. We were there on a Saturday (arguably one of the busiest days) and the ticket line took one hour. Save yourself!

2. Skip the shows for your one year old’s sake. Your little one is too small and too wiggly to get anything out of the shows. There were long lines and often standing room only available (which we all now would NOT work with a wiggly toddler). Alternative- visit the Dolphin Point and Shamu’s Underwater viewing. Your toddler will enjoy seeing the animals and watching them interact (and when they get tired of it , it is a lot easier to walk away from the display than leaving one of the shows!)

3. Bring your own food and stroller (you can rent a stroller, prices start at $18). You can save money (and calories) by bringing your own snacks, lunch and drinks. (I notoriously travel with too much but was thankful for the changing pad and extra clothes I brought when there was a diaper leak and the changing table in the bathroom had a line three babies deep…changed Reagan’s diaper and pants on a bench and voila, on the the next adventure)

4. Hit up all of the aquariums.

– Aquaria: World of Fishes: We started our visit here and spent 30 minutes watching the fish in the tanks. The large indoor fish tanks have a perfect ledge for your toddler to sit or stand on to get a close up look of the fish. There are three large tanks in there. One with piranhas (that they feed at 1:30 – save a spot on the left side of the tank to watch this…we were on the right and could see none of the action), the second was filled with colorful fish and tea turtles, the last with leopard sharks.

-Aquarium Del la Mer: This was under construction at the time of our visit- the temporary displays held no interest to our toddler- skip this until it is fully functional again.

-Freshwater Aquarium: The tanks here were less accessible for a tiny viewer, Reagan had to be lifted up to see the fish and she was more interested in walking… so, we did not spend much time in here.

-Shark Encounter: Our favorite exhibit. This was the most enjoyable for the adults and Reagan. You cannot bring the stroller into this exhibit and we did not feel comfortable leaving it unattended outside (they have stroller parking areas), so we took turns walking through this exhibit. It is a great balance of small pools to view sharks and the beautiful and impressive underwater viewing tunnel. (Don’t make the same mistake we did and take NO pictures in the tunnel!) Reagan went through this exhibit twice and was captivated both times.

-Penguin Encounter: Another enjoyable exhibit they have some warmer weather penguins swimming outside (great to sit and watch) and the colder climate penguins inside. WARNING you have to walk through the gift shop filled with adorable stuffed penguins to exit. We managed to make it out without a purchase, but Regan did stop to hug a few of the stuffed penguins (I will be honest, I would have bought one had my husband not been the voice of reason).

By the time we had visited all of the aquariums, it was nearing nap time and we wanted to make it back to the hotel so Regan could get a solid nap so that we could have a nice dinner out! We had a wonderful time at the park and you cannot beat the price!

Total Money Spent: $16 (for parking)
Total time at the park: 4 Hours (1 hour spent in line waiting for tickets)

I hope this information helps you have a fun and successful visit to Sea World!

Turtle Cove SeaWorld, Military Family visits SeaWorld San diego

 

Baby’s Transition to Solid Foods

We introduced solid foods to Reagan when she was six months old. Until then, she had been exclusively breastfed. I was unnecessarily worried about this transition and spent more time than one should researching what foods I wanted to introduce, in what order and what time of day I was going to feed it to her.

Naturally (not), I was worried that after tasting something she would have an allergic reaction and we would need to rush to the hospital. Thankfully, my over paranoia was for naught and she loved solids from the start. I introduced one new food a week, one hour after a breastfeeding session and around lunch time (so she was hungry but not overly hungry and frustrated).

intorducing your baby to solid foods with the help of a golden retriever dog

Month 6:

Week 1: Avocado mixed with breast milk (mixed to a consistency that would run off a spoon)

Week 2: Sweet potato mixed with breast milk (also gave her very thin slivers of soft avocado to try out as finger foods)

Week 3: Cooked Pear Puree, I a pear until very soft and used a stick blender to blend to a smooth consistency- she did not prefer this and instead ate small pieces of avocado and steamed sweet potato sticks I gave her. Also introduced green bean puree (since she ignored the pears), I steamed green beans (until very soft) and then used a blender (it gave a more smooth result than the stick blender) and added a little breast milk to this to make her more interested. (still offering avocado and Sweet potato)

Week 4: I made my own rice cereal and she turned her nose up at it. Tried the same with oatmeal and she loved it. I put old fashion oats in a blender, blended for two minutes (until it was a powder) and cooked it on the stove top with water. (This is a recipe/idea from Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron).

I alternated between pureed and soft foods (introducing soft non purred foods is called Baby Led weaning ). I recommend reading, researching and doing what feels right! Whatever you decide will be great for your baby! puree

At 6 months, I also introduced a cup with a straw for water, which we still use now at 14 months!

Baby's first cup with a straw
Baby’s first straw cup

I used these two books and thought they were pretty helpful:

Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron: This book is a bit extreme at points (using dried dessicated liver in my baby’s porridge, i think not) and assumes your baby will be a vegetarian (mine is NOT). But the breakdown list of fruits and vegetables and at what stage they should be introduced was really helpful

Wholesome Baby Food by Maggie Mead: A little more realistic than super baby food, they also have a helpful website. I bought the book used for less than $5 and have referenced it off and on for the past 6 months.

*This plan worked for us, but you should always consult your pediatrician regarding introducing solid foods to your baby and specifically discuss any foods that may pose allergy risks!

 

 

 

Veterinarian Visit + Baby = Nightmare

They look so calm here #deception
They look so calm here #deception

Scene: Small Veterinarian office…

Extremely nervous and jumpy 75lb dog in one hand, 20lb toddler in the other. Said dog puts paws on counter while I am signing in, knocking papers and pen off counter. As I am apologizing for this indiscretion the dog begins to maniacally bark realizing there is a dog behind the desk. I drop my wallet and toddlers shoe falls off. So, I drop the dog leash (we are alone in the waiting room by the grace of God), pick up wallet, finish signing in, sit on the floor (YUCK) and attempt to place shoe on wiggly baby’s foot. While wrestling gently managing toddler’s shoe a stranger walks in who, my aforementioned large dog, immediately jumps on. Place toddler on chair, run to apologize and get dog. In those mere 30 seconds, toddler has found free dog treats and is eating one. Rush over to her take it away and give it to the undeserving dog (insert increased perspiration).

We settle and I pray the dog who is being seen is a teacup yorkie who is mellow and carried out past us without causing a scene. No such luck. The pit bull emerges and my normal weenie dog (how weenie you ask; the dog is afraid of BUBBLES) starts growling and barking like he is on some sort of doggy upper. They immediately close the door and take pit bull back, I begin yelling over the barking (and toddler crying at this point) that I will go outside. Toddler shoes fly off, keys are dropped and my wallet is now under some bench – don’t care. We leave the office walk outside and away from entrance.

Extremely kind pit bull mama emerges with apologies (I am apologizing too my dog behaved just as poorly) with toddlers shoes. We re-enter the office and are put back in the examination room. This is where toddler begins to believe she is the one getting shots and starts crying again and frantically doing the ALL DONE sign over and over. The dog also beings crying and pacing. I silently pray that this vet has kids and or a crazy dog or a beer we could share. Find a stuffed animal in the office (goodness knows where that things has been or in how many mouths? ew) and give to toddler, she quiets and snuggles the dirty stuffed animal. Vet enters; crying and barking commence- the shot is given in 5 seconds (bless you vet for your speedy efficiency) and we can leave. Toddler will not release stuffed animal; they graciously say we can keep it (although they were desperate for us to get out of there- I think they would have agreed to anything). We exit the exam room, I manage to let the dog jump on an old lady while I attempt to pay with crying toddler in hand, scramble to open door to get out and loose another stupid cute little shoe.

Get in car; take a deep breath and laugh. I realized we had been in the office for 15 minutes (not 45 like I imagined). My own personal traveling circus.