Packing Tips for Kids on Vacation

packing

I think the biggest challenge of traveling with 2 tots is packing.  For a month in Israel I started packing 2 weeks before.  For our recent trip to Sedona which was 8 days I began packing 1 week prior.  After Israel, which was a long trip in the fall when the weather could turn either way, I learned a lot about packing.

1. Ziplock baggies make great organizers. For the trip to Israel I put each of Adam’s tiny baby outfits in a Ziplock bag.  The whole outfit-onesie, pants, socks, a diaper, and a long sleeve top.  I put all of his pajamas in one bag, all of Ben’s socks in a bag, and all of his sweaters and jackets in another bag.

2.  The rule of halves.  If you’re destination has affordable or free laundry use the rule of halves.  Divide the number of days you’ll be away in half and pack as many shirts, pants, dresses, etc.  Exception to the rule: take seasonal weather changes or frequent outfit changes into account.  For example, I figured for our recent trip to Sedona for 8 days the weather would be cool in the morning and at night, Adam typically needs an outfit change after breakfast-so I packed 4 warm shirts and 4 sets of pants for the morning to wear and 4 t-shirts and 4 shorts for midday.  I did laundry midway through our trip.

3. 2 pairs of shoes is all you need.  A dressy pair and sneakers.  A waterproof sandal and a pair of Toms.  Basically one special pair and an everyday pair of shoes. Don’t forget to pack them in your Ziploc.

4.  Take advantage of 1 piece dressing.  Rompers and dresses are prefect for diaper bags or travel and take up less space than separates.

5. Pack toys in backpacks.  Your toddler can carry on his/her own backpack with small books and manipulatives.  They feel special and grown up while you save space in your bag.

6. Don’t bring the kitchen sink! I had diapers, wipes, toys, bedding, and books waiting for us at my in -laws. They also had car seats and booster seats waiting for us.  My parents in New York had toys and diapers waiting for us at their house.  All of these items were borrowed from neighbors.  In Israel they do have rental baby gear for tourists so consider that when traveling abroad.  In San Francisco we had a rental car and car seats were rented too.

7.  Go light on the baby gear.  Umbrella strollers, sleeping bags, baby wearing are a lot easier than a pack and play or heavy stroller to pack and lug.

8.  Use a backpack diaper bag.  You can easily babywear in front and carry a backpack at the same time.

9.  Minimize your own packing. I gave up make-up since staying and did not pack a stitch of it to take to Israel.  I can use hair conditioner also as an in shower body lotion.  Little tricks like this save space for the kids stuff.

Stroller hooks, stroller carrying bags with straps, and a basic first aid kit are important to have on hand as well.  I always take Tylenol or Ibuprofen, DoTerra oils, and teething toys with us.  I have Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episodes downloaded on my Ipad and YouTube Kids on my IPhone to entertain.  We do a mix of busy bags and IPad time when we’re flying.

Traveling with babies and toddlers is one of the most brave things I’ve done.  I used to be very nervous about it and dread it, but now my boys are seasoned, world travelers.  I feel much more comfortable now that we have logged some miles and memories taking them on future trips.  What packing tips do you have for a first time traveling mom or dad?  What can’t you live without on trips to keep your kids entertained?  Please share in the comments below.

Parenting Tips for Two Under Two

2 underSo when I found out I was pregnant with Adam, Ben was only nine months. To say I was in shock would not even begin to describe the feelings I had. With Ben we had tried for three years to get pregnant and ended up being successful through IVF. Adam was truly a surprise!

A couple hours after I found out I was pregnant with Adam it dawned on me how young Ben would still be when Adam would be born.  He would still be in diapers, he would be walking, but he still would not be completely verbal. He would not understand why mommy is with this little baby instead of him sometimes and that concerned me.

Being a mom of two under two is truly mommy boot camp. You are changing two sets of diapers, you need a really good double stroller, and you have two little babies who depend on you 24 hours a day.  Just remember it will get easier. Here are some tips that worked for me while I had two under two.

1.  Figure out how you will transport your children to and from your vehicle before you try it. I started teaching Ben to walk to the car and back to the house on his own in my late stages of pregnancy.  We don’t have a lot of traffic on my street and it was a good start for him to learn how to behave in a street or parking lot. Now he’s learning how to behave in a street and the parking lot at 2 1/2.  Most of the time what I would do is have Adam in the baby carrier leaving the house and hold Ben’s hand or have him walk beside me to the car. I would put Ben in the car first and have Adam in the yard in his baby carrier.  I figured since Ben was more mobile it would be better for him to be the first put in and the last to be taken out of the vehicle.  If you live in the city with a lot of traffic this might not work for you.

2.  Have a really organized diapering station. I bought a set of three plastic drawers that I keep next to my pack and play/changing table.  I used ABC organization: the top drawer are Adam’s diapers, the second drawer were Ben’s diapers, and the last drawer were cloth diapers.

3.  Use nap time effectively. I understand if you need to rest and sleep. If not, I recommend getting your housework done, starting dinner, and paying bills.  A newborn sleeps a lot so you can use some of that time to have one on one with your toddler.

4.  Create a laundry schedule. I have had the same laundry schedule for the last year. I start doing all my loads of wash and folding them on Thursday through Saturday morning. Then over the weekend when my husband is home he can keep an eye on the kids while I put away all of our laundry.

5.  Organize a system for hand-me-down clothing. I use large plastic totes that I label with Ben’s clothing size to store for Adam.  When Adam’s done with them I have a friend I gift them to.

6.  Don’t be afraid to enlist the village’s help.  Friends and family can help you load your kids in the car, keep an eye on your baby while you chase your toddler around the playground, and give you a minute with your significant other.

7.  Streamline bath time.  Whether your kids bathe together or hop in with you try to cut down on the time bathing each individual.  Another option is a bathing schedule as to who gets a bath each day.

8.  Practice self care.  Seems impossible right?  I can’t say that I was very good at or am very good at putting myself first.  Taking a stroller walk to get back into shape, waking up 10 minutes earlier to meditate in bed before the kids wake up, or just NOT wearing yoga pants can qualify as self care when you’re a mom of two under two.

Whether you have twins or two littles months a year apart being a mom of two under is tricky.  I’m on the other side of two with Ben and Adam’s walking-now I’m onto two toddlers!  If you have any advice on handling two under two or two toddlers please share in the comments below!  I would love to hear from you!

Delicious and Nutritious Israeli Tahini Smoothie

tahini shake

If you follow my Instagram, which I post on daily, you know I love smoothies!  My husband and I drink them daily.  Since it’s been a while since I shared a recipe with you I decided this smoothie has to be my next recipe for the blog.  It’s officially amazing and so good for you!

If you are not familiar with tahini it’s sesame paste that is used in several Middle Eastern dishes.  It comes very thick in the jar and can be thinned out with water or lemon juice.  It’s one of the main ingredients in hummus and is amazing as a dressing.  When we were in Israel last fall they were pouring it over their ice cream.  You can find tahini in most large supermarkets, I love the Organic Tahini from Trader Joe’s-it’s the best I’ve ever tasted.

This recipe calls for half a cup of Taster’s Choice coffee in the hazelnut flavor.  In the Middle East Nescafe and instant coffee are very popular.  My husband likes Taster’s Choice and for a change he’s been trying the hazelnut flavor.  I pre-brewed the coffee.  When making a smoothie start with the liquid ingredients first and then add the solid ingredients.  I make my smoothies in a Ninja every morning, but a blender works fine too.

The recipe for this is to simply blend:

ice

1 c. of unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1/2 c. of hazelnut Taster’s Choice coffee

1 tbsn. of tahini

2 bananas

2 packets of Stevia or a tbsn. of honey (agave or maple syrup would work too)

It’s a really great way to wake up in the morning.  You have a caffeine kick from the coffee, potassium from the banana, healthy fats from the tahini, and calcium from the almond milk.  It has a deeper taste than a traditional peanut butter and banana smoothie.  The hazelnut coffee mixes with the sesame flavor beautifully.  I hope you enjoy this recipe.  I’ll be sure to share more recipes soon!

Tip:  To make the smoothie vegan omit the honey.

Monet’s Waterlillies Project for Toddlers

waterliliesWhen it comes to spring time art my mind turns to the Impressionists.  They were a French group of nineteenth century artists who portrayed the simplicity of everyday life in their art.  Cafe scenes, recreational life, family, and nature were the main subjects portrayed by the Impressionists.  The most well known Impressionist artist was Claude Monet who is most famous for his paintings of his garden in Giverny, France.

In his garden he had a pond with floating Waterlilies and a Japanese bridge.  He did several paintings of the Waterlilies, some were enormous painting, over 6 feet tall and several panels wide!  You can still visit and tour his home in Giverny, I haven’t but it’s on my list.  I have to go there!

To start this spring time art project with your toddler we did two freestyle paintings:  one in blue and purple for water, the other in green and pink for the lillypads. I did both of these on 9″ x 11″ card stock.  Once they dried over night, I drew and cut out lillypad shapes from the green painting for Ben.  Then he put drops of glue on the backs of the lily pad and placed them on his blue water painting.  He glued two colorful pompoms on each pad and voila!  His masterpiece was complete!img_8117

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Other Impressionist artworks worth replicating this time of year are Van Gogh’s Irises and Degas’ Ballet Dancers.  Impressionist projects can also work great in the summer months with their paintings of boats and Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.  They are very kid friendly works of art and are always popular with parents

DIY Mickey Mouse Art Projects

Mickey Mouse ArtA couple months ago I was visiting a dear friend who had some extra canvas sitting around her house. I took a square shaped one that was already pre-stretched and it had a gyclee on it home with me with the intention that I would be using this for a Mickey Mouse DIY painting project to be hung in Ben’s big boy bedroom. Being that the canvas already had a giclée on it I went ahead and used a paint primer that I picked up at Lowe’s. If you’re trying to do this project you can also use a few layers of gesso and a sponge brush.   I did about four coats of the primer using a house painting brush and allowing each coat to dry in between. I was very careful that the coats were thin and even. I also painted the sides.

 Once that was done I made my circle templates out of craft paper just tracing around a large sized salad bowl and a cereal bowl twice.  I cut them out and taped them down flat onto the dry canvas.  After that I began splattering paint in yellow, red, and black across the canvas.  Tip: You want to make sure when you’re doing this to start with the lightest color to the darkest allowing each color to dry completely before adding another color otherwise the colors will run into each other and you’ll get a murky look.



I made sure to let some paint drip down the sides as well.  I let the painting dry overnight. I was able to hang it up with Command Strips that I placed in each corner. Then I bought these cute wall decals from Babies R’ Us that I stuck on the wall underneath the painting.

Moving onto the numbers that I painted Mickey Mouse style. I bought the numbers and the wood circles from Michael’s. The Mickey Mouse wall plaque I got from Amazon.

The numbers were really easy to make but do require a little bit of painting skill. You could also apply the same method with the wooden circles for ears and the colors to letters if you want to make a name plaque or the ABC’s.

The numbers came already primed with white paint. I simply taped off the bottom of each number so I would get a clear edge when I painted the yellow coat of paint. While I waited for the paint to dry I used Gorilla Glue to glue the wooden discs onto each number for mouse ears.  Once the yellow paint was dry I carefully removed the tape. I recommend using painter’s tape. If you don’t have painter’s tape you can use masking tape but you do run the risk of a peeling off part of your acrylic paint and not having a clean edge. I taped off the middle of each number to paint the red paint, but before I painted the red I added yellow circles for buttons.


I painted on the red paint, allowed it to dry.  I then proceeded to tape off the top of the numbers to paint black.  After I allowed the red paint to dry I repainted the yellow buttons.  Sometimes when you’re painting you have to add another layer in order to have a nice clean edge. Another option if you don’t feel comfortable painting buttons on each number, you can purchase small yellow or white buttons and glue them on.  If you do choose to paint on the buttons I recommend using a very small paintbrush. For the rest of the project are used in medium size paintbrush. The project in all took me two evenings to complete. I used Command Strips to hang up the numbers and the Mickey Mouse plaque.  Ben really loves this display in his room. He practices counting his numbers in both English and Hebrew when he sees it.

I think having DIY accents in the room separates Ben’s Mickey Mouse themed bedroom from others.  I didn’t only rely on the same merchandise we see in every superstore, department store, and baby store.  I added unique pieces to give it a personal touch.  Art is a fun, inexpensive, and easy way to add a little DIY flair to your child’s room.

DIY Mickey Mouse Rocking Chair

rocking chair

When we decided to switch Ben’s nursery into a big playroom I knew immediately what the theme would be: Mickey Mouse. He’s obsessed with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse-it is his favorite show, we watch it every day. He has every Mickey Mouse toy you can imagine, and we went to Disneyland for his second birthday.  The problem was that we had nothing as far as Mickey Mouse furniture or even artwork. Along the way a friend of ours was selling their son’s red Corvette bed, which my husband picked  up for Ben as a Hanukkah present. It goes along with a Disney Cars painting we received for Ben’s first birthday.  I thought we could kind of combine Mickey Mouse and the car theme because the new show Mickey Mouse and the Roadster Racers is coming out and so it really works out perfectly.

This rocking chair was given to us by a friend who’s granddaughter outgrew it. It was a typical brown wooden rocking chair.  I saw a DIY Mickey Mouse painted chair on Pinterest this past fall and have been dying to replicate it. The first thing I did was paint the whole chair white with a primer I picked up at Lowe’s. I did two coats of white.  I allowed them to dry completely in between coats. My biggest piece of advice that I teach all my students when it comes to painting anything is to start with your lightest color and leave your darkest color for last. For this project I simply used acrylic paint that I purchased at Michael’s. I started with the yellow on the bottom of the rocking chair and the two circles on the seats for Mickey’s buttons.  The next step I did was the red seat which I had to be very careful painting-especially around the circles so that they still looked pretty smooth around the edges.

Tip: When you’re painting a piece of furniture it’s really important that you look at it from every angle, make sure that you get behind it in front of it you look on top of it facing downwards and you get underneath it and look up in between every single coat of paint. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ve missed!

Lastly I painted the black sections and added the black creases for the gloves on the handles of the rocking chair.  When you’re painting a piece of furniture  with several colors like this you want that the color will be opaque.  Stay away from semi-transparent, glossy, or pthalo type colors.  Once the rocking chair was finished I took it up to Ben’s room and I must say it has been a really great addition to his big boy Mickey Mouse bedroom. It’s a piece that definitely brings that theme of Mickey Mouse into the bedroom and completes the look. I’m glad I was able to do this on a budget-using a chair that I got for free and was already in my home, with small tubes of acrylic paint that I purchased only for a few dollars at Michael’s.  Just like the rest of our house our kids’ bedrooms are going to change over the years and it’s good to be able to do so while conserving money through DIY projects like this.

Easy and Fun Spring Craft: Rainbow Collage

rainbow

March has just finished up and this past month’s playgroup’s theme was weather!  Boy, oh boy are we having weather!  One week I’m slathering sunscreen on my kiddos and the next I’m bundling them up with hats and sweaters.  To top it off we have sunny days, windy days, and cloudy days.  The wind can be downright dangerous here in Vegas!

Believe it or not, however, most of the rainbows I’ve seen in my life have been in Vegas- I guess it can be a lucky place!  I’ve even seen my fair share of double rainbows!

To make this collage I simply pre-cut the large cloud shape from white tagboard, and I cut out the white raindrops from the scraps.  I also cut out blue raindrops and 1 inch strips of construction paper in rainbow colors.  Ben is two and a half and would like to learn how to cut, but he isn’t ready to really cut yet.  He is fairly experienced with gluing, so I allowed him to control the glue bottle while we assembled the craft.

I started with gluing the cotton balls onto the cloud, then adding the raindrops.  I helped Ben glue the rainbow strips onto the back of the cloud for a more neat result.  At playgroup we also did a multimedia thunderstorm art work and I had pre-cut lightening bolts which another child chose to add onto their collage.  I love seeing the creativity in such young people!

This is definitely an easy and fun craft for this time of year or St. Patick’s Day.  Kids ages 2-8 would enjoy making it and older kids could cut out and even draw the shapes for themselves.  This is project could easily accompany a book about weather.  It also has a simple narrative and ties into science!  We had a lot of fun making it, and hope you will too!

My Favorite Books on Art for Toddlers Right Now

As I’ve mentioned before I read A LOT to my boys. We are working towards 1000 books by kindergarten. I keep a log and every time they read another hundred books they get to put their names up on the board at our local library. Of course I love to read to my boys about art.  I am sharing with you some of my favorite books that we are currently reading about art. Many of them are not just for babies or toddlers but could also be appropriate for elementary school age children as well.

1. Artsy Babies Wear Paint by Michelle Sinclair Coleman-this is a great all-around art book for a baby to toddler age child. It discusses the concept of creativity, has cute illustrations, and is very colorful. Children at a very young age can start to learn about media as they begin to experiment with it .

2. I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel by Caryn Yacowitz -a tongue twisting story with incredible illustrations that reference famous works of art by Andy Warhol, Van Gogh, and Andrew Wyeth.  This is my favorite book to read at Hanukkah!

3. Too Much Glue by Jason Lefebvre -a fun romp through the art room turns into a disastrous mess!  I have a collage project that I do to accompany this story.  I adore this book-great for kids who go to school already.