Things I wish we brought with us to Universal Studios

Planning a trip can take weeks, sometimes months. I like to plan a couple months in advance for trips, especially big trips, like going to Florida for a week. But sometimes you just have to go on random road trips. Like deciding Friday afternoon that you want to go to Florida for a week, and get a 5 day pass to Universal Studios, and leave Sunday morning at 4am to drive 24 hours straight there. Oh, and doing all that with 3 little kids.

I tend to over pack. Ask my husband, it drives him nuts. I’m the person that packs 20 pairs of underwear, 15 outfits, and 3 pairs of shoes, for a 1 week trip knowing full well I can do laundry there, and won’t even wear half of what I packed, and only actually use 1 pair of shoes. So when I had about 24 hours to pack for a family of 5 for 1 week in Florida, it was a bit crazy around here. And I forgot some stuff. Even with all my lists I made.

So here is what I wish I had brought with us. That in hindsight, may seem obvious.

1. Extra sunscreen. Especially a bottle to actually put in my backpack that I brought to Universal Studios with us every day.

2. Umbrellas, or better yet ponchos. It rains in Florida, a lot. One day when we were at Universal Studios, we got caught outside in a Tropical Storm! There was no shelter expect a patio umbrella with 8 other people under it. In the middle of a Tropical Storm. A storm that lasted 30 minutes, soaked us all, and knocked down palm trees. Oh and I should mention that my daughter is scared of storms. Not out greatest moment.

3. Fan water bottles. I have two at home. I got them for like $4 each. But I forgot them at home. They would have been super awesome to have in the Florida heat walking around an amusement park all day. And yes the do sell some at Universal. But they were smaller, and the ones I saw were $15. I seriously could not justify buying them. We made do with ice cream and lots of slushes.

4. Stroller. Yes my daughter is 5. So let’s hear it mommy shamers. No my kid doesn’t use a stroller on a regular basis. But spending all day, every day for 5 days, at Universal Studios, in that heat, chasing after her big brothers, a stroller was nice to have. Plus I could hang bags on it. So yes, I did give in and bought one of those cheap little ones from a department store. When the cost of one of those was the same as renting a stroller for 1 day from Universal, it made sense to buy one. We found her a cute one with a canopy and a basket underneath. Perfect for holding extra bottles of water, and putting bags on.

5. A hat and sunglasses. I managed to pack a hat for everyone else in the family, but me. And I managed to pack all the sunglasses, expect for my 13 year old. Not my finest moment.

6. Extra hand sanitizer. I love those pocket size ones, but they can be lost easily. It would have been really nice if I had thrown in the extra one like I had debated about before leaving the house.

7. Bathing Suit. We didn’t actually go to the water park, but there is a splash pad and water play area in one of the kids areas. I did pack extra clothes, so that was good. I just never thought to throw in a bathing suit.

8. Change. Pennies and quarters. My daughter kept finding those machines that you put a penny in and and some quarters and you get some thing with a design on it out of the machine. I can’t for the life of me think of what they are called at the moment.

9. Portable charger for my phone. Between taking pictures, videos, using the Universal Studios app, sending pictures to grand parents, my battery took a hit each day.

10. Wipes/ Hand wipes. For messy faces and hands covered in melted ice cream and chocolate. So much easier than having to take them into a crowded bathroom.

 

Having listed all the things I forgot, you would think I was horrible at packing, have no idea what I was doing, and that we didn’t have a great time. But none of that is true. We had an amazing time. And I do know how to pack. I just was very forgetful this time on such short notice for a trip!

So hopefully this list will help you, and me, next time!

~ Michelle

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Two Weeks Is Not Enough Time

Have you ever had so many conflicting emotions? Feeling all the feels all at once? So many different things pulling at you that you don’t know which way is up? Thats been me the last few weeks. I feel so emotionally drained and raw right now. I feel like emotionally hung over. It is so hard to explain. So bare with me as I try.

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An old picture of all 4 kids together. With my daughter actually sitting on the lap of my oldest sons (adoptive) moms lap. This picture means the world to me.

I got to spend 2 weeks with my oldest son. My son I gave up for adoption. I am so blessed to have a relationship with him. To get to know him, see him, talk to him. I am forever thankful that his mom allows him to come visit us. She is truly the most incredible woman ever.

My 3 younger kids absolutely love it when their big brother comes to visit. They look up to him so much. They all get along SO well. It’s amazing to see them together. It makes my heart so incredibly happy to see them all together. But it also hurts so much. It is so cliche to say that its bitter sweet, but basically, yeah it is. I am so happy to see them all together, to have all my kids under one roof, to sit down to family meals. I feel complete. But I also feel like there is a giant hole in my chest. I feel like my chest is being ripped apart with every breathe I take.

Here is my son. Someone I carried within me for 9 months. Someone who I love so fiercely. Someone who looks like me. Sounds like me. Someone who is apart of me. And yet that isn’t my son. I didn’t raise him. I don’t know him the way I know my other kids. I don’t get to hold him like I can my other kids. He doesn’t call me mom, because again, I’m not his mom. I see a scar on him and I have no clue how he got it. Yet when I look at my other kids I can tell you every story behind every scar. I don’t know his likes and dislikes. I don’t know what those subtile faces mean. I’m looking at my son who isn’t my son. It’s hard. So incredibly freakin hard.

I love having him here. I love being around him. I love spending time with him. I’m over joyed every time he comes to visit. There are no words to properly describe the love and joy I feel. But there are also no words to describe how equally heart wrenching it is. How much it breaks me every time I say goodbye to him. How much is breaks me when he’s here and seeing him with his siblings, sitting at our family table and knowing it won’t last, knowings it is only for a few days.

I got to spend two awesome weeks with all my kids together. Two weeks that went by in the blink of an eye. Two weeks I will forever be thankful for.

~ Michelle

When my kids asked me not to post their photos

I blog, clearly. I am also on InstagramFacebook and even on Twitter. I post photos almost daily. I share on some form of social media almost daily. Two years ago I wrote a post about not sharing my kids faces and personal stories on social media. You can read that post here.

My 13 year old and soon to be 12 year old don’t have any social media accounts. Shocking, I know. A lot of their friends do however. So when my son turned 13 I asked him if he wanted an account. We talked about it. He asked me about the kind of stuff I post, so I told him. As we were talking it come up that he knows a lot of kids who’s parents have posted about them for years, pictures and stories, including personal and embarrassing stories and photos. During the conversation my son thanked me. He explained how he was so thankful to not have his life put out there for everyone else to know before he could share it himself.

In the conversation I asked him how he would feel if I did start posting photos of him on social media. He thought about it, and ended up asking me not to. And I totally respect that and my childs decision.

So when you look at my photos and wondering why my kids aren’t in them, why their backs are turned or I full on cropped their heads out of the photos, you know why. Its a fine balance trying to share my stories, my life, my motherhood journey without actually sharing information and pictures of them. But out of respect for them and their wishes, I will continue to crop their heads out of pictures. At least just the pictures I post online. Not to worry I have plenty (thousands and thousands) of pictures of them. In realty I am basically my kids own personal paparazzi.

Like this photo: 

I really wish I could show the world how incredibly happy she was. The giant smile on her face as she jumped and splashed us all. But the picture I’m showing you, I had to crop out her head. But trust me when I say her smile was radiant and she was having a blast.

Until the day my kids decide to share their own photos and stories, I will crop their heads out or take double the amount of photos trying to stage them so you can’t see their faces.

~ Michelle

Lets go camping

I some times wonder about my husband and his love of camping. He’s fascinated by it. He can spend days, weeks, out in nature. Me? Well I spend an hour and I end up covered in hives. So nature and me aren’t really on good terms. I love nature, I think its beautiful. I just love it from a safe distance.

But marriage is about compromise, give and take, all that crap. So camping we go.

At least this was just a camping trip with the two of us. No kids. So it would be totally restful, right? Right. Completely restful if you don’t take into account having to walk almost 10 minutes each way just to go to the bathrooms.

This was my first camping trip in a while. I was honestly a little rusty. I forgot just how important meal planning actually is. And how super important it is to make sure you actually have all the ingredients for the meals you foolishly planned out in your head but not fully in reality. I also really need to learn how to pack light. I for the life of me can never pack light. Ever. Especially if kids are involved. Which they will be on our next camping trip. (Did I really just say ‘next’?!)

I may not have meal planned all that well, but at least I made pillow cases for the trip! Thats got to count for something!

Did I mention that my husband built a bed to fit in our van?! Crazy right?! More on that in another post. It needs its own post.

It was a a nice escape from reality. Surrounded by nature, having a campfire, no noise, no tv, no radio. And when you have a husband who loves camping as much as mine, and who also likes things just a certain way, there does tend to be very little to do in regards to site set up and take down.

I will admit at first it was very odd to just sit and have no distractions. It is amazing how much noise we deal with in a day. Radio, tv, ads that pop up on websites, on games on your phone. We are forever being bombarded by advertisements. They are every where, all the time, non stop. That part I really enjoyed about camping. It was nice to just be fully in the moment.

I told my husband that. Apparently we will be camping more, and soon. So stayed tuned for tips and tricks when it comes to camping, overlanding, all with 3 little kids.

~ Michelle

 

Half a Lifetime in Motherhood

 

As I approach my 34th birthday I am reflecting a lot on my life, on what I have accomplished, what I still want to accomplish, my family, my kids, life in general. And that’s when it hit me; I have been a mother for half my life. Half my life.

For those doing the math, let me help you, when I was 16 I was living in Kenya, I was in grade 11, I met a guy, an older guy from another school, he was a senior. So of course it was super cool to be dating an ‘older guy’ from another school. Well one thing lead to another, and I ended up pregnant. Just after my 17th birthday I gave birth to the most beautiful baby boy (ok, 1 of the 3 most beautiful boys, because all my boys were of course the most beautiful ever. I’m not bias at all!).
When I was 16 and pregnant I had to start making choices I never dreamed I would have to do at that age. As my belly grew, my responsibilities grew as well. I made the choice to give my son up for adoption. You can read about that here.

Since that day in a friends basement bathroom when the stick showed two lines, my life and my choices have always had to factor in someone else. Now I have to factor in 4 kids and a husband.

For half my life I have been a mother. For half my life my heart has been walking outside my body. For half my life my decisions have been about other people. For half my life someone else, and a growing number of someone else’s, have been put first ahead of myself.

And do you know what I have learned from all this motherhood-ing (that is totally a word), is that I don’t know a damn thing about motherhood. Just when I think I got a handle on it the kids go ahead and grow up and things change.

I’m still trying to figure out how anyone can really call themselves a “parenting expert”.

I have given birth to 4 incredible humans. Four drastically different humans. Four people that are constantly changing, growing and evolving. Four humans that constantly surprise me, challenge me, push me to be a better person, show me what unconditional love is, push my patience to its breaking point, make me laugh, make me cry (happy tears, sad tears, frustrated tears, a lot of sleep deprived tears), and make me the proudest mother ever.

I can’t imagine my life any other way. I can’t imagine not being a mother.

Half my life has been spent navigating motherhood, and I’m still trying to figure it out.

~ Michelle

Overland

Have you ever heard of Overlanding? Someone being an Overlander? Yeah, me neither. My husband introduced me to it a while ago. And honestly I am still trying to figure it out. Basically to Overland is to travel by car over great distances, days, weeks or even months at a time. Basically it evolves a whole lot of driving and camping. Not really my scene, but other people seem to love it. Some people are even considered “full time overlanders’. Apparently there is a whole Overland lifestyle out there.

So why did my husband who knows how much nature and bugs hate me, want to introduce me to something like this? Simply put, this is totally his scene. He loves stuff like this.

So after much talking, mostly done by my husband, I have agreed to go on adventures known as Overlanding. Still not sure what I have gotten myself in to.

One thing is for sure, this is not a full time thing. At least not right now. I am still very much a fan of running water and sleeping in my own bed in my own room. Plus nature and bugs hate me. I go for a hike and end up covered in hives. So this is going to be an interesting experience.

So as I learn more about this lifestyle, as we go on adventures, you can follow along here and on Instagram.

And if you know anything about Overlanding, tips, tricks, advice, help, please send me a message!!!!

~ Michelle

Self Care Ideas

Why is Self Care so damn hard? I often wonder if I honestly just some how suck at it, or if its Mommy Guilt that stops me, or some misconstrued idea that Self Care is some how selfish? I honestly can’t tell you what the reason is, but all I know is that I suck at it. So this year, I am determined to practice more Self Care. For the good of my mental health. For me so I can feel better. For my kids so I can be a better mom for them. And for my husband so… basically so maybe he won’t get on my nerves so much. Kidding. I want to practice Self Care so I can be a better person for myself and for all those around me.

So, I present you with a list of easy Self Care Ideas. Maybe you are struggling to and this will help you as well.

Here we go.

1. Bubble bath.
2. Read a book.
3. Journal.
4. Color. Seriously, I am obsessed with the adult colouring books. I love them.
5. Dance. Put on some headphones, blast some of your favourite songs and just dance. Dance like no one is watching.
6. Go for a walk, or hike. Just get outside and get some fresh air.
7. Workout.
8. Yoga.
9. Mediate. Or try to, there are a lot of apps and great websites out there for beginners.
10. Clean or reorganize a room.
11. Watch your favourite tv show/ movie.
12. Drink water. Maybe add some fruit to it or something.
13. Cook your favourite meal.
14. Learn something new, language, learn a new skill.
15. Unplug/ turn off electronics for a day / or maybe just an afternoon.
16. Go to bed early and get a good nights sleep.
17. Do a facemask, paint your nails, wash and style your hair.
18. Do a random act of kindness.
19. Avoid toxic people.
20. Drink a hot cup of Coffee/ Tea.

And dont forget, it is completely ok to take a day to yourself. Take 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 1 hour, the afternoon, or the whole day. Do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself!

Do you have any ideas? I would love to hear them. Share them in the comments!

~ Michelle