5 Favorite Truck & Tractor Books

We love a good kid’s book! We try to read at least 2 books a night, in addition to a Bible story, and the boys read throughout the day. I’m going to start doing posts that are featured on books we like (or are on our wish list!).

This week, let’s talk tractors and trucks! Our youngest son is really into farm tractors and monster trucks. Here are some of of our favorites and others that come highly recommended! 

The Big Book of Things That Go

My 2 year old is obsessed with this book. He has memorized all of the trucks, tractors and trains by color and type. It’s so much fun for him. If you have a kid who loves planes, trains, automobiles…basically anything that can “go,” they will love this book! 5-6 large pictures on each page with a description of each one. Be warned, this book is big! It’s 11×14 inches.

Good Night Tractor
I’m adding this one our Christmas list. We say ‘good night’ to our Things That Go trucks and tractors each night. I also found Goodnight Digger too!

We love DK books like these. I like to call these kinds of books ’round up books.’ They do a great job at focusing on a category and providing 100s of photos and descriptions. My youngest son loves going through the pages and naming off all of the trucks. 

Cars and Trucks and Things That Go
This book has great reviews – I think this may be a stocking stuffer this Christmas!

Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night?
How cute is this cover? This is a super cute rhyming story and even cuter illustrations! 

7 Tips for Back to School Preschool Prep

‘Back to School’ doesn’t start at Kindergarten – it starts with preschool! 

Last year Max went to 4 year old preschool for 3 half days. This year, he’s doing the 5 year program for 3 hours, Monday through Friday. I think the new routine will be great for him (exhausting, but great!). The structure will help him prepare for Kindergarten next year (well at least, that’s the goal).

Here are my tips for preschool back to school prep:

1) Kid friendly alarm clock
No more sleeping in! Although my boys are early risers, once and a great while they will sleep a bit later. For those of you with kids who like to snooze in the AM, check out this kid friendly alarm clock to help getting your little ones out of bed and moving!

2) Dinner Help
The first weeks will be hectic for everyone. Not only do kids have to get use to this new schedule, but parents as well. Doesn’t matter if you stay at home with kids or go to work, school adds another layer of complexity to your day. Anticipate it being crazy and sign up for meal delivery for the week, so you don’t have to worry about dinner. I use Small Potatoes which is local to me in metro Ann Arbor Michigan. They have 3 entrees featured every week, along with a few sides, salad and dessert. Their menu is extremely healthy and they use fresh ingredients!

3) New school supplies! 

They don’t need that much for preschool (at least our school doesn’t send home a list) but I like to stock up on the following for writing practice and other homework:

Writing paper 

New crayons
Glue sticks
Kid scissors
Pencil box to keep supplies organized

4) Backpack
Need a new backpack? Check out Amazon’s selection and if you have Prime, get it in 2 days.

5) Fun after school snacks
Make them fun! Here are some ideas from Pinterest.

6) Antibacterial wipes & hand sanitizer
I try to make it a habit for my boys to wash their hands when they come in from outside or activities, and school is no exception. So many germs! 

7) School Year Kick Off Gifts for Teachers
Don’t forget about your teachers! Kick off the new school year with brownie points and buy/make your teacher a gift. I bought Max’s teachers Tim Horton’s gift cards. I know Target is pretty popular as well. Or maybe buy your new teacher some fun school supplies like Flair pens or fun colored Expo markers.

I’d love to hear any tips, tricks or mom hacks you have for back to school prep. Please share in the comments!

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Day trip to Saugatuck

Mike and I just did a day trip to Saugatuck, MI and it was a blast. Since we usually plan long weekends last minute, a day trip to Saugatuck was the only option, since Airbnbs and hotels book up fast on the west side of the state (sometimes a year in advance!). Mike doesn’t mind driving, so a day trip did not seem daunting, but more of a fun adventure.

When Max woke up at 6am we told him we were going on a mystery trip, and he was all smiles. I packed our bathing suits, swimmies, sand toys and diaper bag the night before, so we were able to get out of the house super fast once the boys woke up.
Here was our itinerary:
7:30am – Stop at Tim Horton’s and get coffee to go! 
7:45 – 10am – Drive time. Xavier ended up falling back to sleep (weird!) and I taught Max the universal sign for getting a truck driver to honk his horn…it kept him busy all the way to Saugatuck!

10am – I came across The Southerner on Google Places and it had great reviews for breakfast and was on the water…sold! When we arrived there was no wait, but just after we left there were people waiting for a table. We got a table in their screened in porch which overlooked a marina with beautiful yachts. It was an amazing view to kick off our beach day. We ate at a picnic style type table which the boys found very fun. They had games you could bring to your table to help keep busy. I tried to teach Max Uno but he wasn’t that into it.

11am – We decided to venture to Oval Beach, which was around 10 minutes from our restaurant. It was $10 to enter the park and you could you come and go all day. Since we were there early, we had no problem parking and finding a great spot on the beach. Once we unloaded our wagon and beach toys, the boys got sunscreen on and were ready to play. The water was freezing, so I think they only got about waist deep before running out of the water happily squealing. Mike and Max walked the dunes and down to the pier, which was a much longer walk than they anticipated, but they had blast spotting fish and turtles in the water.

1:30 – 1:45pm – After running, swimming, and digging in the sand for a few hours, we were a hungry bunch. We packed up super quick since all we had was our wagon (highly recommend this Red Rider wagon with a cover), and we were off! As we were leaving cars were lined up around 20 cars deep to get into the park. This is the advantage of having early rising kids – no waiting for our adventures!

1:45 – 3pm – We passed a restaurant downtown, called Grow, when we were driving through town in the morning. People were waiting outside for breakfast so we assumed it must be a good spot. It had great reviews on Google Places so we decided to give it a try for lunch. The menu was very simple for breakfast/brunch/lunch. Mostly a few unique salads and sandwiches. We got a shaded table outside and ordered quickly (close to nap time!) and the food came out ridiculously fast. The avocado toast, Cuban-ish sandwich, The Club sandwich and kids cheeseburger were phenomenal. The boys inhaled their burgers!

3-5:15pm – Head home + nap time! Luckily, both boys fell asleep for the entire ride home. When we pulled in our driveway Max said “that was a lot shorter trip on the way home!” Aka, he slept the entire ride.

Have you been to West Michigan yet? If so, what’s your favorite beach/lake town? 

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum

We took a spontaneous trip to the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum a few weekends back and were NOT disappointed. It was perfect for our boys’ ages (1.5 and 4.5) and an easy day trip from metro Detroit.

The museum sits in downtown Grand Rapids, which is really a blooming downtown area. There are tons of restaurants around the museum and a nice outdoor eating area where you could also have a picnic.

The museum is two floors. The first floor has a stroller parking area and a gift shop. Also on the main floor is a play grocery store, a few push cars for younger kids, and a play car with it’s ‘engine’ exposed.

Upstairs is where we spent 95% of our time. There is a ton to do and see! The first thing that our boys wanted to do on the second floor is the bubble station. They had 2 bubble tables perfect for my youngest son, and then they had a larger bubble station with a platform that you can stand on, and then put yourself into a bubble. You really have to see it to understand what I’m talking about.

There was also a full doctor office and play “MRI” machine which looked to be sponsored by Stryker. It was SUPER cute. They had an arts and crafts table, Legos and trains, and a ton of hands on tables that kept my 4.5 year old’s attention for a long time.

We stayed for about an hour and a half (we had a birthday party to go to) but could have easily stayed 3 hours here. They don’t have a cafe here, so plan on eating at a nearby restaurant or pack a picnic lunch.

I highly recommend this museum for a day trip to Grand Rapids with kids. Have you ever been to this museum? If so I’d love to hear your kids’ favorite exhibits!

Traveling to a Big City with Little Kids

Before our boys came along, Mike and I lived in NYC for a year. His job brought us out there and I was able to work from my NYC office for the year. It was an amazing experience – we LOVED the city. We miss it a lot, and like to visit often. We have taken my oldest son, Maximus, several times, and he talks about NYC all the time.

Some people think we are crazy for vacationing in a big city with kids, but honestly, it’s so much fun! From our NYC trips and our recent London trips, we’ve learned how to navigate, manage and have fun on a big city trip with kids. Here are our tips for traveling to a big city with kids!

London Science Museum

1) Have realistic expectations
This is not going to be a vacation where you spend hours on end in museums, in long lines waiting for touristy things and shopping. Do your research on the best spots for your kids (natural history and children’s museums, aquariums, toy stores, kid friendly restaurants etc.) to visit ahead of time and make sure these are on your itinerary. Websites like Mommy Poppins have great kid guides for cities. Here are a few of my own kid-travel posts:
Toronto with a Toddler
Overnight Trip to Cleveland

Also, be flexible. If your kids are tired or having a cranky day, you’ll probably NOT want to take them to a history museum, and instead nap at the hotel. If kids are napping, take turns as to who can go out and explore in peace, and who is on nap duty at the hotel.

Beautiful school playground in London

2) Map out the parks

Always have options mapped out where kids can run. Depending on how busy the city is that you are in, kids may have to spend more time than usual in their strollers. We always use Google Maps to search for the nearest parks or playgrounds where kids can run. Instead of eating lunch in a restaurant, we’ve been known to get to-go options and have picnics so kids can play and get wiggles out. I usually use Google Maps to add these places to my Favorites list so I can easily locate them later.

London Science Museum

3) Baby carriers, backpack harnesses, and more!
I use to say I’d never be the kind of mom to put their kids on a leash (I also told myself I’d never take my kids to Chuck E. Cheese – snow days call for desperate measures!). My oldest son never really strayed far from us. My second son, on the other hand, is a wild man. He just runs, without looking, without care, he’s gone!

I was gifted this Stephen Joseph Little Buddy bag and it was a lifesaver on our trip to London. The backpack itself is super light and quilted. It’s very cozy and could double as a pillow in transit! My son is very large for his age, and the backpack fit very comfortably on him with the adjustable straps. There is an optional waist/chest strap as well, so he can’t slip the backpack off. He wasn’t happy with it for the first few minutes it was on, but then once he realized this still allowed him to run around (as far as the leash would let him) he was extremely comfortable in it. In return, we had peace of mind that he couldn’t wonder off and we were able to enjoy the sites as well. This backpack is also nice for you to keep a diaper, wipes and a snack in.

If you have an infant with you, make sure you pack your baby carrier. Sometimes it just takes a change of view to pacify a little one.

4) A stroller + Mommy Hooks
Most people were surprised to see us bring a double stroller to our last trip to London. Most people assume that a 4.5 year old will walk everywhere….not mine! My oldest son spent more time in the stroller than my younger one. Don’t be turned off by the thought of flying with a stroller…it’s so easy! In my opinion, strollers make airport travel with kids even easier. You can use the stroller to push kids (or luggage!) right to your gate, and gate check the stroller as soon as you step onto the plane. Most airlines let you gate check your stroller for free (side note: I’d recommend a stroller travel bag to prevent scrapes and tears in stroller fabric).

Strollers are also great for napping. If you’re lucky, you can tire your kids out and then enjoy a peaceful lunch like we did in London (the above picture is what 3 museums in 4 hours will do to kids).

5) Snacks + reusable water bottles
Water bottles and snacks can get expensive when traveling. Make sure to bring kid-friendly reusable water bottles from home, and plan on stopping at a grocery store when you get to your destination, to stock up for your days sightseeing (snacks are extremely marked up when you are around touristy spots). I like these water bottles since I can push the straw in and it won’t get dirty when they drop them (because you know, they WILL get dropped!).

I’d love to hear where people have been with their kids in the comments below. Please share any tips or must-see stops that are kid-friendly!

Garlic Parmesan Crock Pot Chicken Wings – Easy, Low Carb Recipe

Garlic Parmesan Crock Pot Chicken Wings - Easy, Low Carb Recipe

I majorly struggle with dinner time. It’s so hard to take time to meal plan over the weekend since we are always so busy, and by the time I get home at night, I’m exhausted, and the kids are hungry.

I’ve become a huge fan of crock pot dinners, especially ones I can prep the night before. I recently tried a chicken wing recipe that turned out great. Paired with a caesar salad and it made for a fantastic meal.

My recipe is inspired by this one from Wholesome Yum. I made a few changes that makes the prep a little faster.


4lbs of chicken wings
Garlic salt & pepper
1/2 cup of butter (or 1 stick)
6 tablespoons of minced garlic
1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese

1. Melt butter (over stove or microwave)
2. Mix garlic in with butter
3. Place chicken wings in your crock pot
4. Sprinkle garlic salt and pepper over the wings
5. Pour melted butter and garlic mix over wings
6. Cook wings on HIGH for 3 hours
7. After 3.5 hours, place wings on a foil lined baking sheet and put under broiler for 5 minutes (or until crispy – keep an eye on them, they will brown fast!)
8. Remove from broiler and sprinkle with parmesan cheese
9. Enjoy!

I don’t like to leave my meal prep for mornings, so I prepped this recipe in the crock pot at night, put it in the refrigerator, and then put it in the following afternoon. I LOVE my new crock pot that switches to ‘warm’ after the timer is up (highly recommend for busy moms!). I never feel like it’s overcooked even when on ‘warm’ setting for an hour. I made these again tonight and my husband said to me “I don’t know how you make these, but they are GOOD!” Even my boys loved them.

If you have other fast, busy mom recipes please share in the comments!

4 Tips for Infant Swim Classes

School is almost out so it’s time to chat about summer activities. Swim classes are always a good idea, no matter the age! Reporting back on my 1 year old’s swimming lessons…he loves them! I’m so glad we started doing swim lessons with Xavier at an early age.

Tips for infant swimming lessons:
1 – No goggles needed – but swim diapers are a must! I bought these reusable swim diapers to go over the disposable ones. Make sure you pack extra for accidents!

2 – It’s hard enough getting an infant ready for class, let alone yourself too. Since you’ll have to be joining your young one, I’d recommend getting ready beforehand, and wearing your bathing suit under your clothes.

3 – Bring your stroller in plus a bottle and/or snacks. After class, your young one will probably be hungry! Get them changed into dry clothes and strap them into their stroller with a snack to buy yourself a few minutes to get changed. Every minute counts!

4 – Keep your swim bag packed and ready to go the night before, so you’re not scrambling to make it on time. As soon as I wash swimsuits and towels they go right back into our swim bag for the next week’s lesson.

Here’s a rundown of Goldfish Swim School Mini classes: 

Goldfish Swim School’s Mini Classes offer high quality swim lessons for babies starting at 4 months of age. Mini Class activities include singing group songs, practicing tummy time, and getting little ones comfortable in the water. Babies practice their grasp reflex, move to holding onto the edge of the pool wall and eventually inching their way along it. With the help of mom or dad, babies work on their pulling paddle, glides, floats and kicks. As babies progress through the Mini Program, they will work on their breath control, crab walk, and getting out of the pool safely by using the fin, fin, belly, flipper technique.

Contact Goldfish for a free intro class! 

8 Tips for Long Flights with Toddlers

We recently completed a trip from Detroit to London with both boys. And guess what? We survived! I’m here to tell you that you can do a long flight with kids. It’s not easy or relaxing, but don’t let it keep you from booking an epic family trip.

Here are tips on how to prep for your long trip ahead:

1 – Be strategic about your flight times
If you can, plan your flight around bedtime or nap time. Our only option to fly to London was overnight, so that was a no-brainer.

2 – Stay on schedule for the day
Keep your kids on schedule for that day. For my boys specifically, being “over tired” is usually worse than just being tired, so I made sure they stayed on schedule for naps the day we traveled. I let them run in the airport before flight, up and down moving walk ways, etc., so they get their wiggles out and wear themselves out.

3 – Plan an “in-flight” bedtime routine
After our in flight dinner we tried our best to do a “modified bedtime routine” to try and get the boys in the bedtime mindset. Wiped down hands and faced, changed diapers, brushed teeth, read books, got into sleep blanket, and then had a bottle. I didn’t pack a portable sound machine for this flight, but I have used this one in the past for flights. 
4 – Snacks are key
My advice, make them a surprise for when you get on the plane. Don’t pack them in the kids’ bags. My boys would start eating them in the car ride to the airport! I tried to find new snacks as well, so they would hold more bribing power. We had the most amazing crew on our latest Delta flight, and they were extremely generous with the kids – mommy had her fair share of Biskoff cookies as well.

5 – New Toys!
Five Below, Dollar Tree, Target & Amazon have great options for new toys, crafts and things to keep your little ones busy. Again, I recommend not showing them these distractions until you need to use them on the plane, and space them out – don’t hand them all out at once. Here are some things that worked for us:

  • Melissa & Doug On the Go Water Wow! books
  • Wikki Stix
  • Headphones! I liked this pair from Amazon, for our 1.5 year old. They are noise limiting so he can’t accidentally turn them up full blast. Not all flights have TV screens, so I usually try to pack an old phone with a few movies downloaded on it.
  • Crayons, coloring books and doodle pads. I purchased Crayola triangle crayons so they wouldn’t roll off of the tray tables. 
  • We also loved these doodle books from Stephen Joseph Gifts. They come with stickers and an attached carrying case with crayons. 
  • Learned from a very smart, creative momma friend that window clings can keep kids busy if you are sitting near a window! 
  • My 1.5 year old LOVED this Melissa & Doug shape sorter. We used this for both our California trip and London. It’s a little bulky, but totally worth it. If your carry on is tight on space you could always a store a few things in side of this toy as well. 

6 – Plan for the worst
Bring extra wipes and napkins for spills (keep these out in the seat pocket so they are easily accessible), extra clothes for spills or blowouts, and double check electronics are charged and movies are downloaded in case they don’t have in flight entertainment screens.

7 – Gate check your stroller
We always opt to gate check our stroller (as opposed to checking it with our bags). This way the kids can ride in it to the gate if they get tired of walking, and more importantly, we can use it to stack our carry on bags, diaper bags, purses, etc. Most airlines have gate checked items waiting for you when you de-board the plane so you can load your kids up and hustle to baggage claim.

8 – Be strategic about boarding
I like to limit my time on the plane, so I never board early with kids. They always invite families to board early, but I just think the less time on the plane, the better. If I needed to reconfigure our seats and potentially switch with a stranger, I’d maybe board early, but that may be the only case. If you don’t have seats together, it’s always worth asking the gate agent if he/she can arrange you to sit together.

I’ve told many friends, especially lately, you just have to go into a flight like this with low expectations. You can be as prepared as possible but kids will always find a way to throw you a curve ball. Just know that it won’t be a relaxing flight, but definitely worth it once you reach your destination!

Do you have a tip from traveling with your kids? If so, please share in the comments below!

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DIY Birthday Party Banners

I love shopping on Etsy, especially for personalized items, but the problem is, they aren’t available on Amazon, and it would be impossible for them to offer 2 day shipping. So, for last minute birthday party planners like me, have to look elsewhere for fun party decorations. 
Pinterest had me falling in love with burlap birthday banners, but anything customized with my son’s name was going to take at least 2 weeks to receive via Etsy, and of course, I started planning decorations for my son’s party the weekend before. Typical! So, I had to get creative. 
I went to Michael’s and found two different kinds of banners. The key was getting a set that I didn’t have to cut! Check out my 3 different banners below and everything I purchased to make them! They were so easy and a lot cheaper to make than buying them off Etsy. They were a fun touch for our family birthday party celebrations! 
‘ONE’ high chair or door banner
What I used:
Fabric strips (choose colors or patterns that match party theme)
I stenciled the letters first with bright colored chalk. Once threaded on the burlap, I spaced them out evenly and tied my fabric strips. You can buy pre-cut fabric strips, or, choose a fabric that fits the theme of your party, and cut it into strips. This banner took me about 1 hour to make.

‘Wild One’ Burlap Birthday banner
What I used:
Burlap banner + string/twine  (they usually come with this)
Painting within the stencils was just as easy as using the chalk. I did one coat of paint, then let it dry for a few minutes, then put a second coat on to make sure letters really ‘popped.’ When using the paint, you’ll have to be able to set the stencils aside for at least a few hours to let them dry before stacking them up again (it’s the inevitable, paint gets on the actual stencils when using them this way). This banner took me about 30 minutes to make.

Chalkboard Name Birthday banner

What I used:
I didn’t want to use the fabric strips for this banner since it was going to be hanging over the desserts. Instead, I used different colored ribbon, tied in knots, between the letters, to add some color. This banner took me about 30 minutes to make.
There were so easy to make, I was wishing I had time to make more DIY decor. I would love to hear about other DIY birthday decorations you’ve done – please share in the comments below!
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