Tuesday, May 19, 2015

fun finds: 10 car organization products that will change your life

i love being organized. it's funny, really....because when i was a kid i was seriously out-of-control messy. but at this point in my life, i like things neat and uncomplicated. a place for everything. ahhhhh....now doesn't that sound dreamy?!

the car is no exception, but i find it hard with two little boys and the amount of time we spend in the car. through trial and error, i have found these fantastic products that have worked for me and truly changed my non-stop-driving life. i hope they work for you, too! xo- heather

drop stop - the original patented car seat gap filler
i've got to admit, this seemed like a silly product to me.....but i couldn't have been more wrong. it is the best ever. truly. it has saved me so many times already and i want to buy them for everyone i know. 

car charger, techmatte® dual-port high-speed usb car charger
extra ports for your passengers dying phone, charging the kids ipad, etc. it's small, portable and has come in handy so many times for me. 

rsvp collapsible market basket with pocket
i use this basket in between the two car seats as a super easy place to store all the toys, books and other goodies the kiddos like to have in the car. the best part is that it's easy for the boys to clean up the car before they get out....everything in the basket! :-) 

i struggle to keep the back/trunk of my car organized. (please, tell me i'm not alone in this!) these two products have helped a ton. the crate makes it easy to bring things into the house from the car (groceries, etc.). in the three-compartment organizer i keep a first aid kit, an umbrella, a bottle of water, a roll of paper towels and a few other essentials for a "just-in-case" scenario. it helps a ton....plus, it looks pretty. 

kick mats + organizer -- seat back protectors
kids can destroy clean cars faster then it takes to snap your fingers. these seat back protectors will help save your seats and have built in organization. that's a win-win, in my book. 

snack and play travel tray
not only is this product the perfect road trip companion, it is awesome from day-to-day use as well. my kiddos used them as toddlers and still are using them now that they are elementary school age. if you have a budding little artist, like mine, this tray gives the perfect space to hold crayons and a coloring book. the possibilities are endless.....

cars are getting bigger and bigger and garages are not, for the most part. how awesome are these handy items that will let you know when you are in your garage far enough to be able to close the garage door?!

maxsa innovations park right ball park

do you have any favorite tricks or products that i missed? tell me in the comments section below! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

ten tips for your disney cruise

we recently went on a disney cruise with my parents, my brother and his family and my sister and her family. there were 18 of us in all and it was a whole bunch of fun and even more crazy. we had a fantastic time and we learned so much about cruising with kids and about how disney does things differently than other cruise lines. there are certain things we wish we would have known before we embarked. here are some of our tips to help you before you head on board.

10 tips for your disney cruise

1) sign up for your embarkation time early

this can be done on the disney cruise website. early embarkation times book up fast. you will want to board the ship as early as possible so that you can enjoy one full day on the boat. you are paying for the entire day... you might as well enjoy it! 

2) allow two hours of check-in time. 

you will want to arrive at the port approximately two hours before your embarkation time. you will wait in line to turn in your baggage, you'll check in with the cruise desk, you'll check in your children with the kid's club, you'll take pictures. it really does take two hours. plan accordingly. 

3) download the disney cruise line navigator app on your mobile devices before you board

the disney cruise app really is a fantastic feature on the disney cruise line. you will actually want to bring your phones with you on the boat. the app gives you all the ship's activities for each day and also lets you connect with other members of your party. this was especially helpful with our huge group. disney has a limited internet connection just for the cruise line app and you are able to text family members who are also on the disney cruise line navigator app while also on board. it is completely free and it makes keeping track of family members so much easier. another great feature is that while you are using the boat, you can still cut off from the rest of the cell phone world. i only had my disney app connected for the entire trip so i could keep track of my family but was able to disconnect from everything else.

4) pack a carry on with things you will need for the first day

you will check your bags in before you walk onto the ship. it usually takes a few hours before your bags are delivered to your room. you will want to have some items that you carry on with you that you can use for your first hours on board. if your kids are going to want to be in the pool, pack a swimming suit and some sunscreen. if you are wanting to start the day with photos, bring your camera along. bring along diapers and wipes for the day if you are in that stage. make sure everything you need for those first hours is physically with you when you walk on the ship.

5) use the in-room wave phones

besides the disney cruise line navigator app, disney cruises provide two phones in each stateroom. these phones can be used to call other wave phones or to call into the state room telephones. my husband and i each kept one phone and we were able to reach each other when needed. when our eleven year old son wanted to play basketball with his cousins, we were able to give him one of the phones so we could always reach him and know where he was. they really are extremely helpful at keeping everyone connected while on board.

6) register your kids for the oceaneer's club or oceaneer's lab (even if you don't end up using them)

my kids wanted to go to some of the activities in the kid's club but also wanted to be with us. we registered them to be a part if they wanted to but gave them the freedom to stay with us as well. it is a good idea to get them registered just in case. 

7) important note: there are serious restrictions if your child isn't potty trained. 

everything we read said that the oceaneer's club and oceaneer's lab are for children ages 3-12. we couldn't find anywhere that listed potty training requirements. it is indeed a requirement that your child must be potty trained to go in the kid's club. i know many three year olds who are not yet potty trained. they would not be allowed into the kids clubs and would have to go down with the babies and toddlers in the childcare section of the boat. this area is still nice but is geared toward much smaller children and there is a cost per hour that the facility is used. my youngest did not want to go in the room with the crying babies. children who wear swim diapers are also not allowed in the ship's swimming pools. there are water play areas for little ones but they are not allowed to be in the actual swimming pools. if you are close to potty training your child, make sure you get it done before you get on the ship.

8) if you have small children, bring something to decorate your door. 

the doors all look the same. as my children were walking down the halls, they always knew to look for our pirate mickey magnets. it is a cheap way to help the kids find their way back to their cruise ship home.

9) plan your shipboard and shore excursion activities well in advance. 

there are many activities on board that require a sign up and that will fill up well before you ever step foot on the ship. we were hoping to do the princess tea party and were told it had filled up weeks before we got on board. use the disney cruise website to sign up for everything you can in advance. for other activities, go straight to guest services to sign up for character greetings and other special events. 

10) make time to do the scavenger hunts on board. 

all of the ten kids traveling with us loved to do the scavenger hunts...and they ranged in ages from 3-13. the kiosks for the start of the hunt are located at certain locations on board. locate them and use the hunts as a fun distraction for your kids. each hunt took our family from 1-2 hours to complete (and that was with our kids running from place to place).

there are definitely more items i could write and i'm sure once you take a trip aboard a disney cruise ship you will have your own list of suggestions as well. these should help you get a jump start on your planning and get you excited for things once on board. what about you? what tips do you have for those heading on their first disney cruise? 

Monday, May 11, 2015

fun finds: small space storage solutions

as i've mentioned before, the boys and i recently moved into the cutest little cottage. it's perfect for our little family, but trying to fit three people comfortable into a small, 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom home calls for some creative storage solutions. here are some of my favorite things that have helped us a lot transition into our home and save space. lifesavers, really.  xoxo- heather

better living products classic four chamber shower dispenser
all our products in one place, plus the added bonus of feeling like i live at a spa? yes, please. 

oxo steel kitchen tool and utensil rack
our little kitchen has awful storage, so anything i can find to help me there is a major plus. i hung this right above the range so everything is right there and easy to access when i am cooking and need them.

ouddy aluminum magnetic knife bar
all of my knives easy to access, near the sink and out of grasp for the littles. plus, it looks visually pretty with these *super* cute colorful knives....

they are so pretty and colorful and look *amazing* on the magnetic knife rack, too. 

whitmor over-the-door shoe rack
this is the best item i have. it store 36 pairs of my shoes (even heals), and it sits neatly on the back of my bedroom door and isn't in the line of sight when people come over to our home. *love* it. 

organize it all basic overdoor 6-basket unit
we are sharing one tiny bathroom, my sweet boys and i.....storage is a major necessity (mostly, because i am a skincare and beauty product junkie). this little beauty hides away on the back of the door and holds a *ton*. it's a game-changer.

salsbury industries metal locker
i am currently using this awesome piece in the garage to hold of my laundry supplies. all my detergent, fabric softener, dryer sheets and stain sticks are tucked neatly out of sight and stay dust-free. plus, how cute is it?!?!?

what are your favorite small space storage solutions? please, share!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

dreams for my parents

this last week one of my closest friends received some unfathomable news. her father who had been experiencing a series of unexplained symptoms was officially diagnosed with ALS. in one simple sentence from a doctor, life as she knew it altered completely.

i have watched her over the last week go through emotion after emotion. how could this amazing man who had raised her and loved her and been a pillar of strength for her for so many years now come to this? he is fighting a disease to which there is no cure and they are faced with a reality that looks nothing like what they had imagined. it is absolutely heartbreaking to watch.

as i have been walking through this experience with my sweet friend, i have been able to look at my own relationship with my parents in a new light. i understand in a new way that we are not guaranteed any amount of time with our family. there are certain things i want to make happen for as much time as i am given.

i want my parents nearby. this hasn't been an option for me until now but in one month my parents will be moving to the same town where i live. i haven't lived in the same town as my parents since my first year of college and i cannot wait to have them integrated into my daily life again. i have missed having them nearby.

i want my kids to truly know my parents. i grew up with my own maternal grandparents less than a mile away. they are so engrained in my childhood memories that i don't have one that does not include them or their influence. those memories are beyond precious and there is a storehouse of them that i will carry with me forever. my sweet grandmother passed away this last december and i cherish those memories more and more with each day that passes. i want those same sweet memories for my own children. they are beyond priceless.

i want our family memories to include more than just the seven of us. i love my crazy big family. my kids bring life and a golden chaos to our home. still, every holiday i wish i had more family in the celebrations. each life event, i want to share it with my extended family. i want my kids to remember christmases and birthdays with their grandparents. i want them to remember trips we took together and life moments we all celebrated. i also want them to remember everyday laughs with my dad and  lessons with my mom. i want my parents ingrained in my children's lives.

i want my parents to enjoy this season. i don't know about you but my parents have worked hard...really hard. their entire adult lives have been spent working, raising us, supporting us, caring for their own parents, looking after grandkids. they have put their time in and they deserve to enjoy this season. i want to supply them with grandkid time and adult time. i want them to get out and share moments together. i want them to get to enjoy looking around at what they have accomplished. i want them to be happy.

i don't want to take any of it for granted. i have had four close friends lose a parent in the years we have lived here in the charlotte area. i have watched their pain and i can't even imagine experiencing the loss of someone i love so much. i am watching another friend suffer now and it is beyond excruciating. my heart breaks for them. i know that life can change in a moment and i want to take advantage of every moment i have with my family. i want to cherish the years we have together. however much time we have together, i don't want to take it for granted.

there is no way that i can take the pain away from my friend as she walks through this time with her mom and dad. i wish i could change things. i wish i could erase the disease in his body. i wish i could make it all go away. i simply cannot. when i look at them, though, i see a family that managed to do so much of what i dream. they are not just close in proximity, they are close in the heart. they have built memories together and done life together for many years. they have loved each other well and have cherished the moments together. when it is all said and done, there is nothing sweeter.

Monday, May 4, 2015

fun finds: mother's day gift guide

mother's day is around the corner and we are here to help! here are our favorite picks for every type of mama and every budget. enjoy! xo- heather & genelle