Photo Friday: Liz VS. Granite Counter-top

Liz VS Granite Counter-top. Spoiler alert: the counter-top won.

I know that technically it’s Saturday but the internet gods were mad at me and wouldn’t upload it last night.  It is what it is.

Two days before we left for our family vacation, I was delivering some tools to of my best and biggest customer’s offices. I caught my foot on the threshold as I walked in.  I flew forward, boxes and all. As I did I thought to myself in what seemed like slow motion, “Ooooooh Nooooo! I’m fallllllling!” And as I barreled forward my next thought was, “I’mmmmmm goooooooooing to hiiiiiiiiit the countertop.”

The next thing I knew I was bouncing off of the corner of the countertop, the boxes of tools flying through the air, as I dropped to the ground.

Then almost everyone in the office was looking down at me on the floor and asking if so was ok. I quick felt my head to make sure I wasn’t gushing blood. It wasn’t bleeding, but I felt this nice egg sized knot.They quickly got me some ice and trucked me off to see a doctor. I was fortunate and it wasn’t fractured and I may have had a slight concussion but nothing too severe.

What was damaged the most was my pride. A LOT.

Following my pride, the next most injured part was my vanity.

Remember in the first paragraph when I said that we were going on vacation. It was a cruise vacation…complete with tons of pictures and the opportunity for me to get dressed up every night for dinner.

The doctor told me that I would have a bad black eye. By the next day, this is what it looked like. Lovely….But still not too bad yet. But I was worried about it so I went to Ulta to get help from the experts. They helped me find some concealer and heavy coverage makeup. The trip resulted in this:They did a decent job covering it up but the worst was yet to come.

I woke up the next day and looked like this. It was Schlitterbahn day so I didn’t even bother with makeup.

By day 3, post accident, I looked like this.Just in time for Day 1 of the cruise!

I tried finding some sunglasses before we boarded the cruise that would hide it and still be light enough to rock glasses inside….none of which looked great and I’m pretty sure the Target people thought I was in an abusive relationship….

I ended up with these, which I unfortunately lost on a gigantic floating slide in Cozumel. They worked while they lasted.  img_3537Better losing them than my red wayfarers that I wear 95% of the time.

This is what I looked like after I lost the glasses in the beautiful ocean!  You’ll notice that the reef-safe sunscreen didn’t rub in all that well, which is a whole other review….OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOh, and don’t I look beautiful for formal night (Day 2 of the cruise)???  Sorry for the bad quality of the picture.  You’d think as many photos as we take, we could’ve had someone take a decent picture of us on formal night…. 01f75b00d0b47579a3c41b63c10a583ac9a1cb23caBy Day 4, I was looking even better (and getting better with my makeup too)….plus, I learned to make a towel animal. Can you tell what it is???

By now my eye is almost back to normal after two weeks. Now I just look like I’ve done a terrible job with my makeup smeared under my eye or like I’ve not gotten any sleep.

I learned a few things from this:

  • Don’t carry too much stuff when going up steps and you can’t see your feet.  I have a background in safety.  You’d think that I’d practice what I preach.  The good this it wasn’t “a recordable” injury.
  • If you’re going to have a fall, don’t do it in a customer’s office.
  • When you see someone with a black eye, chances are they weren’t in a bar fight or being abused. It’s easier to ask what happened than to stare.
  • If you do stare at them, try to control your shock or surprise. Seriously people!
  • If you hurt something above your eye you’re going to get a black eye and maybe even a red eye too if you’re lucky like me.
  • I have a German hard-head. My husband has known this for a long time, as have my parents. But for the first time, it came in handy since I didn’t have a fracture.

There you have it. The story of Liz VS. granite. I lost…but at least everyone got a good laugh out of it

Happy Photo Friday!

Mommy Review Monday: Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack

For the girls’ birthday last year MaMa got the littles backpacks since they’d been trying to steal the bigs’ bags and backpacks for a few months.  After all, what toddler doesn’t like bags???

These Fairfax Pre-K backpacks have been FANTASTIC.  They are the perfect size for the littles and they LOVE to carry them around.  Without further ado, here’s my review (because I know you always want my opinion):

Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack Front
Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack with Names
Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack Straps and padding
Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack Padding
Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack Pockets
Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack Pockets

What I like about them:

  • They have their names on them (see above).  Some people don’t like to have kids’ names on their backpacks and things for safety reasons and, as much as it may seem like I don’t care about my kids, I’m not worried about this for my toddlers.  They’re not going to go with a stranger just because someone knows their name…. The older kids might, but not toddlers who cower behind us even when we see a family member we’ve not seen in a few weeks.  Plus, we find thta people appreciate their labeled backpacks even more when your littles are twins since, despite ours being opposites in almost every way possible, they still get mixed up.
  • Ours are color coded- Kate is pink and Clara is purple (just like the most of their color coded stuff from our Phibian shoes to stuffed animals and doll clothes).
  • The stripes are nice vs. another pattern because there’s no battle over whether Clara has a unicorn and Kate has a rainbow…or whatever their flavor of the moment is.  Plus, stripes are classic.  I feel like this is a huge benefit over the super-cute but not so classic choices in the Mackenzie lineup, also from Pottery Barn.
  • They’ve held up great- despite being thrown down, stepped on, over-loaded, spilled on, and dragged around quite frequently.  And they still look good- even if they could use a good scrubbing.  Judge me if you like but I’m lucky if my kids are all clean, let alone their backpacks spotless.  The straps are very important because cheaper bags will wear out faster, especially with a lot of wear, on and off, that toddlers will inevitably do.
  • They’re the perfect size for toddlers- our girls just turned two when they got theirs and I’m guessing we won’t need to upgrade for a long time.  Ours are constantly holding a half-pack of wipes, 3-4 pull-ups or diapers, a change of clothes, a toy, a squeezy, and a granola bar with a sippy cup in the side pocket.  These have virtually eliminated the need for us to carry a diaper bag with two times everything.

Fairfax Dimensions

  • They’re water-resistant (and juice and milk).  This is also super-important since spills abound in our household (and in my car).
  • They have adjustable straps, which is great as they grow.
  • They have a front pocket for small things (our girls like to put flash cards, dinos, and/or little ponies in them).  These have a place for crayons, which would require us to keep up with them and you must know that doesn’t happen around here by now.
  • They have well-padded shoulder straps and back padding- cheaper toddler backpacks often skimp on this feature.  See above picture.  This only matters if you plan on your little one carrying these for more than a few minutes.  Ours have carried theirs for up to an hour at a time and I attribute that to them being comfortable.  The more they carry, the less you have to.
  • You can get other items that match- lunchboxes and water bottle for those of you who are matchy-matchy like I tend to be.  Our littles weren’t in need of a lunch box but when we’re ready to move up to the next size, we may get matching lunch-boxes but probably not water bottles since those seem to disappear from their special pockets. I sure don’t want a fancy, personalized water bottle to be left somewhere other than the handy pocket they’re perfectly sized for.
  • They have reflective piping on them.  You can sort of tell from the first photo above.  As a safety-nerd, I love this for those moments when one or two of my munchkins escapes into the dark….not that we ever have to deal with that…..
  • They’re very reasonably priced- especially right now as they gear up for back-to-school.  $19 for the backpack and $9.50 for the personalization.  While that may seem like a lot to some for a toddler’s backpack, consider how much they’ll carry them if you use them instead of a diaper bag like we do with ours.  Unless something changes, we figure they’ll use these until they go to Kindergarten, which is at least another two years.  That comes out to be less than a penny a day….

Fairfax Backpack checkout

What I would improve (but not deal-breakers):

  • They could use a slightly larger side pocket.  It’s rather tight getting a sippy cup in there, mostly in terms of it being “tall enough”.  In other words- it always looks like at any moment the sippy cup or water bottle may squeeze out.  You can see this from the picture above.  (Side note- the Mackenzie version looks like it might be slightly bigger.  If your little one has that version- see below- please comment and share)  In looking at the description, I don’t think the Fairfax is designed to hold a water bottle or sippy cup.  However, it works- just not as well as one would hope.
  • I wish it was machine washable.  I’m willing to guess that it might hold up to the washer but we’ve not parted with ours long enough to try (although you can clearly see they could use it).  If you’ve tried washing yours, please, please share your experience.  Again, this is wishful thinking as most backpacks are probably not going to claim to be washable- although I washed my good ol’ Jansport growing up multiple times before finally getting rid of it.  See my review of the Jansport backpacks, which my bigs will be carrying again this school year and I will soon be throwing in the wash.
  • I wish they’d put exterior connectors/metal loops onto the outside (like the small Fairfax backpacks have) or the actual straps that the Mackenzie version has.  We could use these to potentially on an extra baby doll or maybe a small blanket, although they’re actually designed to connect to their lunch box.  You could also use these with a carabiner to attach to your backpack or luggage fairly easily.

Overall, I just can’t say enough good things about these backpacks.  They really are a perfect gift for a toddler or pre-k student- one they’ll love AND their parents’ will love too since it won’t be another toy that takes up real estate.  So, thanks Mama!

Or if you’re getting ready to send your little one(s) to pre-k or you’re just flat tired of carrying all of their stuff for them, this is a great option, as are all of the Pottery Barn backpacks.  Plus, at the time of this post, they’re all on sale thanks to back-to-school season (even though its still July)…

Happy Mommy Review Monday!

Oh, and FYI- no one paid me or asked me to write this or gave me anything to try… although Pottery Barn, if you’re reading this, I’d be happy to take a few samples for my litter of littles.  Bahaha!

Adventures with Four: Roadtrip to See Grandad at the Blowin’ O

My Grandad (my dad’s dad) is my last living grandparent. He’s had a couple of strokes in the last year or so and has had a rough time in general since my Granny has passed. It’s to be expected when you’ve lived a good, long life and lost your wife of 65 years.

Currently, he’s been living with my Aunt Karen and Uncle Lee Roy. Right before we left for our cruise, he had to have emergency surgery for a hernia that they were afraid might be doing damage to his intestines. This is probably more detail than any of you want or need to know but the reason I say all of this is that, with all of the health issues he’s had, we are so very lucky to still have him around. He’s a trooper.

Today we loaded up the four kiddos and headed to Hamilton, actually Aleman if you want to be specific, to go see him at the Blowin’ O, Aunt Karen and Lee Roy’s farm. We took fried chicken and my mom and dad met us there with the sides and some freshly baked bread.

We had a great lunch and got to visit for a good while. Grandad enjoyed getting to watch the kids playing. They’re really into pretend and played Mommy and Baby, tucking each other in, as well as taking turns being doggies. He even got to experience a twin fight, complete with biting and hitting.

We got a few hugs in, took a few pictures (which didn’t turn out all that great but they’re special to me), and said our goodbyes until our next trip. As negative as it may seem to say this, you never know when your last visit will be with any of your loved ones. Because of this, we really try to cherish our time together and make the most of every minute we’re given.

We’re so fortunate to have such a great family, both immediate and extended. I’m thankful for them all. I so appreciate the care that my Aunt Karen and Uncle Lee Roy provide to Grandad every day and for welcoming us all into your house to see him.

Adventures with Four: Family Cruise Vacation Packing- Part 1: Why not to Overpack

We just got back from a wonderful (and a little exhausting) family cruise vacation.  You can see highlights at my previous post.  If you’ve ever packed for a cruise, you know how easy it is to overpack. This is the first cruise that I can say that I actually didn’t overpack- for me or the kids. Is it cheesy that I’m actually really proud if that?!?

However cheesy it may be- I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some tips to pass on after packing for the trip for our family of six. This is part one and will consider overall considerations before you start the process. I feel like preparing helps you to avoid overpacking quite a bit.

You’ve got a few things that contribute to overpacking tendencies when preparing for a cruise:

  • No charge for checked bags
  • So may activities across the spectrum- from formal dining to trips to the beach to working out.
  • Because of the many wardrobe changes, it can be really easy to pack lots of shoes if you’re not careful.

Here’s a few reasons not to overpack for the cruise:

  • Space in your stateroom is limited, depending on what size room you get.
  • Space for your suite cases are limited, depending on what size room you get.
  • The more bags you take, the more you’ll need to tip the porter and shuttle drivers. We typically tip a dollar each bag. That’s not really that big of a reason but it can add up if you have a big family. As a side note, using a porter is worth every penny if you have more than one bag per person with small kids, in my opinion.
  • The more bags you take, the longer it will take you to check in and out. It’s just like on an airline with security. You’ll need to put tags on them, etc.
  • This one is pretty obvious- the more you pack, the more you have to carry- even if it’s just far enough to check your bags or to the porter. Just like on airlines, you have the choice to check a bag or carry it on. We did both. When you have four kids to keep corralled you’ll probably need to consider whether your kids are old enough to help carry bags and, if so, what size/kind of bag are they able to carry? This should be a determining factor in how many bags and the size you take for your family.
    • Our littles (2.5) carried their backpacks that contained a few toys, wipes, diapers, and boogie wipes to have accessible. They both also insisted on helping roll on a little toy bag that also had their cozy blankets.
    • Our bigs were responsible for carrying their check-in bags until we got to the check-in point.
    • I packed a family carry-on for the first day/night in case the checked bags didn’t get there quickly enough for activities and dinner. This had:
      • Sunscreen
      • Meds- because who wants to pay twice as much for something you
      • need?
      • Makeup/cosmetic bags for Garen and I
      • Swimsuits- the girls and I were able to use our dresses we wore onboard for a coverup if we needed to
      • Dinner outfits for everyone- it helps to plan this outfit to go with the shoes, accessories, and jewelry you wore onto the boat to minimize the amount of space you need in the carry-on. Keep in mind the first night’s dinner is usually casual- our family still dresses nice (non-formal dresses for girls and pants and button-up it polo for boys). You will see an array of dress each night so you can choose what works for your family. We just like to take the opportunity to dress up like we’re going out to eat.
  • Another obvious point but worth mentioning- The more you pack, the more you wear. The more you wear, the more laundry you’ll have. And what you don’t wear you still have to unpack and put away. And after a family vacation (especially with a big family) this takes forever at a point when you may be wanting a vacation from your vacation.  Trust me….I’ve been swimming in laundry since we got home.

There you go- my humble opinions on why it’s worth not overpacking. Now the next post: Plan Your Days and Organize to Avoid Overpacking (Part 2).

Until then, happy packing and planning for your family cruise vacation!

Photo Friday: Family Cruise Vacation 2018 Highlights

As I write this today, I’m recovering (and doing loads and loads of laundry) from our family vacation.  It was fantastic and exhausting.  We started out last Friday roadtripping down to Galveston with the littles (stay tuned for a post on road trips with toddlers), followed by an afternoon at Schlitterbahn in Galveston.  Saturday, we boarded the Carnival Valor for a 5-day cruise with stops at Cozumel and Progresso.  It was sort of a Bottlinger Cousins vacation with 29 of us, so that made it even more fun!

Here’s a few of the photos Garen got from the trip.

I’m working on posts on how we made this a great trip.  Here’s the first in the series of posts:  Adventures with Four: Family Cruise Vacation Packing- Part 1: Why not to Overpack.  Stay tuned for more posts on our trip and trips for cruising with kids, packing, etc.  Until then, Happy Photo Friday!

Photo Friday: Independence Day 2018

We celebrated Independence Day this year with a shrimp boil at Aunt Haley’s House with the Graves family, minus Will and Anna, who were at Joe Daddy’s house for the holiday.

Aunt Haley had a sprinkler going, fully loaded bubble guns, and poppers (since we’re in a burn ban, plus two year olds and real fireworks aren’t always the greatest combo).

The girls sported their red, white, and blue outfits. Frugality tip: wait until a few days before the holiday and resale stores usually run great sales. We got these shirts for $1 each. New stores often do the same thing. My friend, Paige, scored adorable ones for $3.99 from either Gymboree or the Children’s Place (I can’t remember). Plus, unlike some of the other holidays, these are easier to wear throughout the year.

I love buying clothes from the resale store. It’s almost always in great shape and it makes me feel very “green.” You know, like I’m saving the world, one preowned outfit at a time?!? The downside to buying clothes at a resale shop is if you want your multiples or even singles to match, it’s not always easy. Every once in a while I’ll find two of something in the right sizes and I snatch them up. Even though I’m a “matchy-matchy mom,” I’m ok with them just coordinating to save a few bucks. Oh, the sacrifices I make to save money…

Or, if you really want to save money, just put your kid in clothes they already have. That works pretty well too and is obviously a lot easier!

Enough of the frugality tips…..

As you’ll see below, we had a fantastic, fun time on the 4th. So fun, in fact, we didn’t even stay awake long enough that evening to see any fireworks. Yet, even without the fireworks, it was still a wonderful day. I hope everyone had a great holiday as well!

Photo Friday: Boy Scouts Spring Camp Out 2018

Will and Garen joined in the fun for the Boy Scout Spring Camp Out a few weeks before school got out, so I probably should’ve already posted this as a Photo Friday post but I have end of school activities to blame.  If you have kids, you know how those last few weeks are- field trips, field days, award programs, class parties, etc.  It’s all fun but it’s all time consuming.

I ramble.

As you can see, they had a great time.  I have a ton of other adorable photos of the troop too but these are a few of my favorite that Garen took.  Don’t the pictures of fire and roasting marshmallows make you want a s’more!?!

Looking back to when we started Boy Scouts (ok, it’s technically Cub Scouts but I can never remember that) in 2016, it’s so fun to see how much the boys have grown up in the two years.  You can check out the difference from this post back at the end of 2016.  I’m so proud of Will and how he’s becoming more and more responsible each day.  He’s a friend to all and has such a kind heart.

Photos by Garen Graves Photography.

Mommy Review Monday: Panera Bread App

It’s been a while since I’ve written a Mommy Review Monday but was spurred into thinking of it today because this app is something I feel I should share. Since I’m on the road this week, I enjoyed a lovely meal from Panera Bread. (Half Turkey BLT and Half Green Goddess Salad). I pulled out my phone and opened my Panera Bread app. I quickly placed my order for rapid pickup and it was ready for me, bagged up and ready to go within minutes. It reminded me that there may be a few of you out there who don’t know about it and how great it is.

Here’s what I like about it:

  • Easy to use app with good layout
  • Choose whether to order for rapid pickup, delivery, or order from your table
  • Rapid pickup allows you to pick it up in a bag, packed and ready to take out
  • The delivery is super convenient
  • The “order from your table” option allows you to go secure a table during busy times and order there rather than waiting in line to order- even though their new kiosks are quite convenient.
  • I can order assorted boxes of bagels with cream cheese options for pickup quickly for an easy breakfast meeting snack/light breakfast.
  • It shows you where the nearest cafes are.
  • It keeps up with your Panera Bread rewards and shows you what you’ve already used and what you have available. I’ve already earned a free drink, free cookie, and a discount.
  • You can look up the menu. The menu shows you the nutritional facts. If you’re tracking your calories or nutrition, this is very helpful.
  • You can easily customize your order to include what you do and don’t want…even things you didn’t know were options.
  • You can save your credit card on there for fast ordering. I think you can use Apple Pay too.
  • You can see some of the screen shots below.

What I would change:

  • I’d love to see the option to order for in-house dining (like rapid delivery but instead of being packaged to leave be ready to eat at your table.) Sometimes I’ll order online for rapid pickup but feel guilty having it in disposable takeout bowls rather than the reusable ones.
  • I’d love to see them add more group meal options for box lunches, drinks, etc. It’s easy enough to just call those in but, in true millennial-style, I’d live to just do it online or on my phone to get a quick confirmation. I agree that this is very much a first world problem.
  • That’s honestly all I can think of right now to be improved.

Like I said before, it’s pretty fantastic. If you eat at Panera Bread on a somewhat regular basis, this app is totally for you. It’s my go-to for when I’m on the road because I can consistently get a good meal, both from a taste and nutritional standpoint. The convenience of it, along with free WiFi available when I need to pull out my laptop for work, makes it an amazing cafe choice, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

If you like this app, you’ll also live the Starbucks app. Check out my post about it as well.

Happy Mommy Review Monday. I hope yours was as awesome as mine!

Photo Friday: Just Keep Swimming

Since today is officially the beginning of summer in our household, it seems appropriate that I should post these photos from our adventures at the pool last weekend. Summer means swimming, right?!?

As you can tell, we had a blast in Mammy and Yaya’s pool. Our little fish loooooove to swim! And Clara almost refused to take off her “gobbles,” as she calls goggles. Garen has obviously been enjoying his waterproof camera. I love the way these turned out!

Happy Photo Friday/Last Day of School (at least for Arlington ISD)! May your summer be full of fun and family!

Photo Friday: Brownies

Our Girl Scout troop advanced from Daisies to Brownies on Tuesday night with a great bridging ceremony. We’ve got such a fun and unique group of girls and awesome leaders! We’re looking forward to another great year as Brownies!

Here’s a few photos I got from Tuesday’s fun. Unfortunately Garen had to stay home with the littles since they had a cold (or allergies really bad), so I had to do my best with his camera. Luckily he’s pretty talented at editing. It’s pretty obvious I need some pointers but they turned out better than I would have done with my iPhone probably.