Disney Preparation

2c6f482a-5ab5-4d8d-8ac0-6700bafb55b1Bllllaaaaaaaaaahhhh! We leave in, like, 3 weeks! I can hardly believe it!

I went MIA on the whole idea of Disney after my first post because I started getting this weird crotch cramping. Totally lovely, I know. Well, apparently it has something to do with a weak pelvic floor and this being baby tres; it’s no good. So, for a bit, I feared I might have to cancel the trip. Since, I’ve connected my symptoms to my water intake. If I don’t drink enough on one day, I get the cramps the following day. So, I’m listening to my body better, guzzling gallons and resting up as much as I can before we fly south.

While I rest, I Google, and while I Google, I learn. So much has happened at Disneyland since I last visited in 2009. Just like my Yellowstone babbling, I’m going to bullet out what I’ve accomplished in the realm of preparation for our trip …Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

  • Plane activities are purchased and  tucked away. Jemma has a fun Disney princess tote to store it all in thanks to Emily at Pepper’s Ruffles. Seriously, too cute! I learned well from Yellowstone on what keeps her attention and I’m pretty sure our flights will be a breeze thanks to coloring books, audiobooks, a few iPad apps, these sticker activities and more Disney inspired surprises.
  • Our hotel is booked and I have confirmed that they have a shuttle option if my poor body fails be after a long day of fun. I also wanted to make sure they had a fridge in our room so I could stock up on yogurt and cereal fixings once we land and thus, be ready for cheap morning breakfasts.
  • I’m aiming to go cheap on breakfasts because Jem and I have reservations at the Blue Bayou! It has been on my life long bucket list to eat a meal inside Pirates of the Caribbean and it’s finally going to happen! That $27 monte cristo better be worth it!
  • To lighten the enticement to buy all the souvenirs I pre-ordered Jemma tees from the Disney Store. They had a sale that made them all under $10! I also bought our trading pins from  eBay (a shop recommended by a friend who trades often), because yes, we will be lanyarding our way through the park! 
  • On our day in California Adventure I’m planning to rush for World of Color Fast Passes. Other than that, we may leave the Fast Pass craziness to others since I can’t ride most of the wild rides anyway.

Next on my to do list is to buy Jem a Disney gift card. That will be her designated souvenir money so she can budget what special thing she wants to bring home. I, on the other hand, have just one souvenir in mind … sparkly Minnie ears to celebrate Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary!

I also want to study our photo opps … because of course I it’s my plan to capture every magical moment! And, I can’t forget to print this free sandwich coupon (tip #8 here mentions all the details).

We’ll be at the park on a Sunday, Monday and Tuesday … my current task is to map out a general idea of what I hope we’ll make it to each day. Any tips for the flow of our visit?


This Month At mom.me

IMG_1120A photo, just because, from a wonderful gathering I attended last week (inspired by this)!

This month at mom.me I was all over the place, from pregnancy talk to Facebook chatter, I covered it all! Well, not “all”, I suppose, I have some fun things coming in September too! For now, here’s a little background and some links on what I shared at mom.me in August!

5 Ways To Answer Your Kids Questions About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies

After this post published Jem went on full attack with her birth wonderings. Girl is figuring this stuff out! We chatted long and hard the other night about what sounds moms make in labor, why blood is involved in birth when no one has an owie and lots of details about my baby hole. Pray for me.

How To Survive the First Trimester

I collaborated with some of my favorite mamas to share tried and true survival tips – I love all their advice. Especially Deborah’s, I think she wins for most valuable insight. The main idea I forgot to include was about screen time. If you’re in the throws of the first trimester and you have other children, embrace the screen! Seriously, I did it, big time, and you can too – guilt free. 

The One Thing All Breastfeeding Moms Should Do

I’m not in love with this title, but I do love the message. And hey, my boob is on the internet doing its thing, so there’s that.

Facebook Makes Me a Better Mom

I’m truly curious about your thoughts on this topic. Does Facebook boost your mothering abilities or do you find that it hinders you?

I wrote for Baby Gizmo this month too – recipes and lots of baby talk. Thanks for all your love and support as I fill up the internet with 1/100th of the words that come into my mind any given day. You’re the best.

Don’t miss the $20 PayPal giveaway — it ends TONIGHT!


The Thing That Make a Zoo Day Great

We have five zoos within driving distance of our home. None in our city, but all close enough that day trips are often in order. Somehow I let the summer go by without planning a zoo trip. Not a one! Thankfully, Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle came to the rescue and invited us for a special day the other week. It was grand!

Woodland Park is one of my most favorites zoos, and I’ve been to quite a few across the country, so that’s saying something! They have a wonderful spread of unique animals (sloth bears, a komodo dragon and flamingos to name a few), lots of educational activities (don’t miss Zoomazium when you visit) and a historical carousel my kids go ape for. I will add that the zoo food court has Dippin’ Dots too. This may not be important to many, but for a pregnant mama who has been searching high and low for a large serving of banana split – let’s just say I can’t wait to make the drive back to Woodland Park Zoo!

But, as I titled this post, the the thing that makes a zoo day truly great is the weather. Of course, the animals and amenities add to that greatness, but weather is key to zoo success in my book! I know it’s often by chance, but if you can time your visit right, on an overcast, but warm day, I promise you’ll be in major luck when it comes to animal sitings and activity! I have never seen more animals out and about doing their thing than I did after a brief thunderstorm the other week. We ate our picnic lunch under cover waiting for the rain to pass and then marched our way through Australasia, the African Savanna and more! Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset Processed with VSCOcam with kk1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with kk1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset Processed with VSCOcam with b1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset Processed with VSCOcam with a6 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Max was one happy camper between the hippos and komodo dragon .. and obviously quite tuckered out when our zoo day finally wrapped up :) Jemma, being so like herself, enjoyed the experience of watching the Sloth Bear Snack (they can suck a snack through a 20 foot tube!) and participating in the Willawong Station Bird Feeding. Beyond the Dippin’ Dots, I became a real fan of the jaguar (so beautiful) and tapir (much bigger than I imagined).

If you’re local, Woodland Park Zoo has a special deal just for you — Become a member here and during checkout enter promo code MOM15 get $10 off your membership. In addition, you’ll also be entered to win tickets for 2 animal feedings and 2 carousel rides.

And if you’re far away from the Seattle area, don’t fret! You can catch some of Woodland Park Zoo’s animals live via web cam! Your kids are sure to love it so snuggle up for some giraffe, bat and bear spying soon!


Thank you Woodland Park Zoo for sponsoring our visit to your zoo. We loved it and can’t wait to come back soon!

 


7 Tips For Surviving a Long Road Trip With Preschoolers

As promised … road trip tips!

Friends, our Yellowstone trip was a mega long trip to embark on with kids. Max was almost 3 when we left and is known well for screaming, “I’s stuck!” whenever in his carseat. Jem turns 5 in the Fall and is much more patient, but still, 12 hours is a long, long time to be carseat bound.

On the way to Yellowstone we drove in two stretches. To Spokane, Washington the first day – about 5 hours and then on to Island Park, Idaho the next – another 7 hours. Add in bathroom breaks (mostly for the preggo mama) and meals and we had full days on the wide open road! For the drive back we were mega adventurous and drove straight home. No overnight in Spokane – just a mega full day powering through!

If you’re packing up for a road trip with your littles, these are the few words of wisdom I’d pass on …7 Tips For Surviving a Long Road Trip With Preschoolers

  1. Know your kids sleep schedule and plan accordingly. Both days we aimed to be on a long stretch of road during nap time.
  2. Stock a separate bag with activities, snacks and a change of clothes for each child. Keep this separate from your purse and main suitcase.
  3. Speaking of activities, the $1 store will be your best friend prior to adventures. Stock up on coloring books, stickers and other small surprises. I packed each gift/activity in a brown paper lunch bag so it was like opening a present when we hit certain trip milestones.
  4. Consider the car you take on your trip. We were blessed to partner with GM Seattle and take an Acadia Denali on our adventure. I am beyond grateful, because although our van would have sufficed, the Denali was a lovely upgrade. In the future I’ll totally consider a rental based on our trip specs. For example, the Denali had GPS, OnStar, DVD player and great gas mileage … all amenities that made our trip way smoother.
  5. SCREEN TIME! Yes, this gets capital letters, because screen time is a gift from heaven when it comes to passing the time. The Denali had wireless headphones and thus, the kids enjoyed a Disney marathon of Bambi, Pocahontas and Lion King while we cruised the miles. Hallelujah!
  6. Prepare those kiddos ahead of time with a simple conversation and visual aides. Show them a map of where you’re headed, explain miles per hour and give them a tangible way to understand how long the trip will take. I said something like this, “Max, we’re going to get in the car and watch one movie, then we’ll have a snack and take a long rest. When you wake up we will find a place to stretch our legs and go potty. Then, back in the car for a surprise and some coloring. If we still have some freeway to drive, we’ll watch another movie! I need you to be extra patient and use your words when you need help since we’ll all be buckled in. Can you be my awesome road trip boy? I know you can!”
  7. Last, but not least, take things for YOU to survive the long trip too. A happy mom makes for a mama who can better handle those she is in charge of. Stock up on protein snacks, have plenty of water on hand and take some time to prep a rockin’ play list for the road. Audio books are a great idea to pass the time too!

road trip mama

Gotta love rest stops with decent bathroom facilities!Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

 Our final destination … thank you faithful steed/Acadia Denali for helping us get here safely!

Have you taken a long road trip with kids? What are some of your survival tips?


 A giant thank you to GM Seattle for sponsoring our road trip vehicle! We all have fond memories of “White Diamond” and are so thankful for all her bells and whistles!


4 Places To Shop For Maternity Clothes … With Coupons, Of Course!

When I walk the mall I’m always a bit disheartened at the spread of maternity options. I mean, there hundreds of little children running around with their mamas so I know I have former and current pregnant gals in my midst, but for some reason, maternity clothes are rarely in sight. 

Because of my mall hatred and anxiety (Max got lost, like really lost, earlier this summer and I think I’m forever scarred), I’ve turned to shopping online for the majority of my maternity clothes. Most shops have great shipping and return policies so I order frequently, try on in the comfort of my home and ship back what I don’t need. If I can round up a coupon (often one I find on Groupon) for my order you can consider me a very happy mama! Here’s a mix of a few things I’ve ordered recently and a few more that I have my eye … 

asos collage

Browse current ASOS coupons here

One /// I’m crossing my fingers that Dominic’s work hosts a Christmas party this year. I’ll be mega pregnant come December so I think these fabulous sparkles have high odds of deterring everyone from obnoxious comments about my bump. What do you think?

Two /// Maternity skinnies are a must and I love this mid wash for Fall.

Three /// A top that doubles for maternity AND nursing style. Total win.

kohls Collage

Browse current Kohls coupons here

One /// I can’t get enough of the pretty sleeves on this chambray!

Two /// I’ll be wearing maxis long into the Fall and Winter thanks to the addition of a cardigan and leggings. Done and done. 

Three /// Ponte, ponte everywhere. Thank you Kohl’s for including the expecting crowd!macys collage

Browse current Macy’s coupons here

One /// They had me at drawstring waist :)

Two /// I usually hate tees with corny sayings, but this one was just too real life for me to hate on.

Three /// Jessica Simpson is bringing the style to Macy’s! Thanks for keeping our bumps hip, Jess!nordstrom Collage

Browse current Nordstrom coupons here

One /// Have and love. Splurged for my 10 year high school reunion and don’t regret it one bit.

Two /// Don’t miss this one and its unique nursing access!

Three /// Tell me, are maternity pajamas as comfy as they look? I’ve never had a pair!

Have you ordered maternity clothes online? Where have you had luck with fit and style?


A big thank you to Groupon Coupons for sponsoring today’s post. Every mama loves a good coupon!

 


20 & 21 Weeks

Pink Blush maternity

How far along: 21 weeks, 4 days

Gender: It’s a boy! I have officially guessed wrong with every child!

Weight gain: Plus 10 pounds. Works for me.

Sleep: I finally got consistent with taking my mag calm and it’s doin’ wonders for me in the sleep department.

Best moment this week: A healthy as pie ultrasound! So relieved to hear that all is well with my little man. Growing strong, dates right on track, anterior placenta … all that jazz. 

Worst moment this week: Nothing related to pregnancy. We did lose two amazing people to cancer from our college circle in the last week. One of Dominic’s hall mates who had just turned 30 and a coworker of mine from when I worked at the college. They both leave behind spouses and the latter, three children. My heart absolutely breaks for them, for us; these two were beautiful souls have been blessed to meet Jesus far sooner than any of us ever imagined.

Miss anything: Nope.

Movement: So, I learned I have an anterior placenta! This explains why I feel kicks down low and more on my right side! But yes, my little guy moves around often, especially when I’m aiming to fall asleep :)

Cravings: Wendy’s Apple Pecan Chicken Salad … with extra pecans. Dom and I stopped on a whim when we needed a quick lunch and I have fallen in love. It’s perfect, not too spendy and the pomegranate vinaigrette is my new favorite! 

Queasy or sick? No. Water is key to my feeling good. If I keep hydrated, all is well. 

Looking forward to: Back to school routine! OMG … can’t wait to have some sequence to our day to day.

What Jemma thinks: “I fink that’s a penis.” After weeks of reviewing ultrasounds with me, Jem had her big moment at the anatomy scan. She got to announce if she was having a brother or sister. Her planned sister response was much different than the flat toned, obvious statement she mustered up upon seeing her brother’s bum. Thankfully, she’s coming around to the idea of corralling two little brothers in her near future! 

What Max thinks: “I heard baby’s heartbeat! And Max’s too!” Our midwife is the best and does the sweetest job incorporating Jem and Max into my appointments. After we listened to baby, she set Max up with her stethoscope and he got to hear his too :)


Visiting Yellowstone With Kids

1994. My first trip to Yellowstone. I had just finished 1st grade and was greatly anticipating our adventure to a new part of the country. My parents, grandma, almost 5 year old sister and newly turned 2 year old sister were all coming along in our ancient Suburban. We dubbed that beast the “Zoo-burban” because traveling with us was quite like a trip to the zoo … wild and crazy. 

My mama coordinated our trip in her organized teacher fashion. She recalls not sleeping much between my youngest sister and my grandma’s night time wakes. I remember everything about the trip being awesome! The extreme, hourly blasts of Old Faithful, a black bear eating a deer in a forest clearing off the side of the road and lots of prize bags pre-planned by my mom for our hours in the car.

Speed ahead 21 years and I made my way back to Yellowstone. This time with my mom, now a grandma herself, my science teacher sister, Jemma, Max and baby bump too :) VISITING YELLOWSTONE WITH KIDS

Before I share some of our favorite trip photos here are the specs of our trip in case an adventure to Yellowstone is on your radar. I’m thinking in bullets today so bear with me …

  • Age 4-5 (and I’m guessing up according to some other moms I’ve chatted with) is probably the best age to fully grasp what Yellowstone is and endure the driving. Once you eventually arrive at Yellowstone, there is still tons of driving within the park so patience is key! 
  • We rented a cabin through AirBnB for the duration of our trip. It was easier to have one home base rather than packing up and moving to various Yellowstone sites every few days. It meant more driving, but the extra space, full kitchen and porch hot tub made it worth it. We loved The Pines and I totally recommend it if you’re traveling with a group and want to save money by eating more meals at home. And, a tidbit of advice, my sister totally negotiated our rates since we stayed for 8 nights. It never hurts to ask for a discount or deal!
  • Yellowstone roads are laid out in a figure 8 (see this PDF for a good visual), definitely take the time to plan what entrance you plan to go through and what sites you want to see each day. We spent 8 days in the park and didn’t have a chance to see everything. It’s huge!
  • My favorite restaurant was the Lake Yellowstone Hotel (located at the Lake Village dot on the map I linked above). You must try the duck and mushroom risotto … it’s drizzled with truffle oil!
  • I thought Old Faithful would once again be my favorite stop, but this time Upper and Lower Falls won out. Totally worth the switch back hike.
  • The best souvenirs are at the shops around Old Faithful so plan your shopping day there.
  • The only paid Yellowstone tour we took was a Stagecoach Adventure. It leaves from the Tower-Roosevelt dot on the map, kids under 3 are free and I learned so much about the history of Yellowstone.
  • If you do head towards Tower-Roosevelt I recommend not going through Canyon Village … it’s the windiest stretch of road and I hated it. Obviously, you’ll survive, but get to Tower-Roosevelt via Mammoth Hot Springs if you can manage it. 
  • The best place to see herds of buffalo is in LaMar Valley … at least if you’re visiting in late July. Hayden Valley is another winner for lots of animal viewing.
  • Don’t plan to have much cell service or wifi in the park. West Yellowstone is even touch and go. Pretty much, prepare for the wilderness :)
  • Yellowstone is full of amazing huckleberry treats … I’m partial to the syrup and the ice cream at Arrow Leaf in West Yellowstone was to die for! 
  • Speaking of West Yellowstone, this city right outside the entrance is hoppin’! Do not miss the Calamity Jane pizza at Wild West Pizzeria and Saloon

learning with mimi collageyellowstone falls yellowstone girls yellowstone pinesold faithful Jem yellowstonesilex spring yellowstonepainting at silex springbison photos yellowstonelamar valley yellowstonehiking yellowstonehayden valley yellowstoneyellowstone flowersmax and kiki yellowstoneyellowstone bison

I’ll confess, I forgot my DSLR’s telephoto lens! Yes, I went to Yellowstone and forgot the camera gear I needed most. Blah, #pregnancybrain. Being completely honest though, as lame as that was, I obviously got some fun shots and my iPhone came in quite handy. Mom, Katie and I categorized our favorite Yellowstone phone pics on Instagram with #theyellowstonefiveplusabump (see them all here with descriptions of more of our day to day adventures in the park). I’m working on a Chatbook to commemorate our trip and give the kids a fun memento. Did you know you can print Chapbooks by hashtag? You can! I did it for our Texas trip and it’s seriously one of the kid’s favorite picture books! Get your first Chatbook for free using code 27W93RHW at checkout!

Back to the trip … outside of Yellowstone, but in the general area, I highly recommend the Grizzly Bear and Wolf Discovery Center, totally worth the admission! We also drove north to Bozeman (about 2 hours) to visit the Museum of the Rockies and loved it – another must. While you’re in Bozeman plan to eat at The Coffee Pot Bakery and Montana Aleworks Brewpub. Both were recommended by a friend who went to college in Bozeman and it’s obvious why she sent us their way – AMAZING FOOD!

I’ve mentioned THE DRIVE so many times in this post, so, next week I’ll be dedicating an entire write up to how we survived and thrived for hours in the car :) Stay tuned!

Questions about Yellowstone? Don’t hesitate to comment or send me an email – thatmamagretchen@gmail.com! I’d love to share more about our trip!


Style File — Bump Official

There is something about reaching the 20 week mark in pregnancy that feels exhilarating. Tiring too, but mostly I have this overarching joy surrounding the sweet baby growing inside of me.

With 20 weeks brings a noticeable bump and therefore, more “Congratulations!” and less “Are you pregnant?” comments. Even better, I feel daily kicks from this sweet little one and maternity clothes are in full swing throughout my wardrobe. Life is good! 

pink blush 1 pink blush 11 pink blush 4 pink blush 5 pink blush 6 pink blush 7 pink blush 8 pink blush 9 pink blush 10My sister is in town visiting from Texas, yes, this sister and she graciously acted as my partner in crime as I posed by an old building near our house :) I just couldn’t wait to try on and style by new pieces from Pink Blush Maternity

Since I know you’re all dying for the details, here you go …

Cream Crochet Sleeve Maternity Sweater /// Lightweight for summer, but cozy for the upcoming fall. I love the detail on the sleeves and totally think this piece will transition beautifully to my postpartum days.

Black Floral Chiffon Bottom Maternity Maxi Dress /// This was love at first sight! Everything about it is so me and pairs perfectly with the style and color tone of my favorite layering pieces and accessories. Seriously, this maxi and many of Pink Blush’s maternity dresses are absolute musts for modern pregnant mamas.

Shades of Blue Knitted 3/4 Sleeve Maternity Top /// I honestly toggled back and forth on this top and am so happy I said, “yes to the dress maternity top”. The cut and length are super flattering and it has been my daily go to when paired with leggings for errands and home days. 

And I know you’re all thinking … 20 weeks? But Gretchen, you haven’t announced the results of your ultrasound! I know, I know. For now, know that baby is as healthy as can be and growing right on track. We’re visiting family in Portland this weekend to share our special news in person and then cross my heart I’ll be back to tell you all if the gender predictions were right or wrong :)


A hearty thank you to Pink Blush Maternity for sending me these fabulous maternity pieces! I love them and YOU for making such affordable, fashionable maternity clothes! 

 

 


Semi-Homemade Indian Rice Pudding

One thing that has consistently sounded delicious throughout this pregnancy is chicken tikka masala, Indian rice, naan and Indian rice pudding from our favorite Indian restaurant. Honestly, it’s a little odd because I usually gravitate towards beef during pregnancy and turn my nose up at chicken, but I suppose nothing beats the aromatic spices of the East! Thankfully, our hole in the wall Indian place is on Dominic’s way home from work so on the nights when a craving kicks in I’m merely a text away from the greatest dinner ever arriving at my front door!

Frequent take out isn’t really in our budget though :/ So, Dominic and I have devised a way to get our tikka fix without spending too much. We share one order and sometimes I’ll even make our own rice at home so we’re not adding the cost of an extra side dish onto our order. Best of all, I’ve found a super simple way to copy the amazing Indian rice puddingsemi-homemade indian rice pudding

 

You may recall my recipe for Indian rice pudding from a year or two ago. It was time consuming. You literally had to stand at the stove for 30+ minutes stirring and praying that you didn’t burn the milk while still adequately cooking the rice. I made it once or twice because I truly love rice pudding, but let’s be real, do I have 30 minutes to cook dessert? No, no I do not! 

So, Kozy Shack® and their refrigerated rice pudding got me thinking. Could this divine cold treat (seriously, fabulous all on its own!) become the base of a warm Indian rice pudding? 

THE ANSWER IS YES! I totally feel like a Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade winner! Here’s what you’ll need to whip up the easiest, yummiest side dish for your own Indian take out dessertsemi-homemade indian rice pudding

INGREDIENTS

  • 1, 16 ounce tub of Kozy Shack® Rice Pudding
  • 1 cup of milk or cream
  • 1/3 cup pistachios, shelled plus a few extras for garnish (I totally cheat and buy these pre-shelled at Costco or Trader Joe’s, because who has time to shell pistachios?!?)
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

DIRECTIONS

Over low heat stir the rice pudding and milk until blended and warm. Indian rice pudding is traditionally more soup-y than the type of plop pudding we’re accustomed too. Add pistachios and allow to simmer for 10 minutes to soften the nuts. Spoon into serving dishes, top with a sprinkle of pistachios and dash of nutmeg.

Dominic and I’s shared Indian dinner usually runs about $10-15 so I’m happy to say that if you give my Indian rice pudding recipe a try you can win $20 from me to enjoy your own take out and homemade dessert! Why $20 instead of $15? Folks … you gotta add semi-homemade rice pudding ingredients to your grocery shopping list :) Enter below, a winner will be announced on August 26th! semi-homemade indian rice pudding

a Rafflecopter giveaway