How to Create the Ultimate Kid’s Birthday Party Without Breaking the Bank

This past weekend we threw our little girl the most fun birthday party! We had the family over & it was such a great time. But let me tell ya…planning for & preparing for a kid’s birthday party is so much work. And stress, I’ll add. What’s the number one cause of stress in situations like these [at least for most of us]? Money. After going through a few birthdays with my tiny ones, I’ve learned a few things. Everything from how to decorate, gifts, food, treats, games, you name it. All for a reasonable price. Especially for us. Our kiddos’ birthdays are so close to each other, so it’s important that we try and spread the “wealth” around if ya know what I mean. I am totally not a party planner, but I will share with you what’s worked for us & hopefully they will help y’all have an awesome party for your kiddo too!

Let’s get this party started! 🙂

No. 1 Make a New Best Friend…PINTEREST

I got ALL of my ideas for my daughter’s party from Pinterest. If you have a super creative mind, by all means go for it. But if you want to create less stress & thought on your part, just search what you’re going for on Pinterest. If you don’t have an account it’s super easy to create. Paislee, my daughter, wanted a My Little Pony party. My first thought was, “I’ll just go to Party City & get all the themed plates and such.” Once I started searching on Pinterest though, I found a ton of cute decorations that I knew would cost so much less. It’s your one stop shop for anything & everything you could ever think of! Most things you find you can just make yourself, which is SO much cheaper than going out and buying it all. If you want some cute party ideas and decorations, you can follow my party board 🙂

No. 2 Make your Own Cake

Birthday cakes can be so incredibly expensive. The year Paislee turned two and Noah turned one [so, last year] I started the tradition of baking their cakes myself. I know what you’re thinking…”how does this cause me LESS stress?” Well for starters, it’s much, much cheaper. So you won’t have to worry about the expense of paying someone else to make your cake. And it doesn’t have to be fancy. I even used boxed cake mix. don’t be ashamed. My favorite thing about making the cake myself is that I know it’s baked with love. I pray my kiddos appreciate this gesture I make for them each year & it makes for precious memories. Plus, the theme is usually something my kiddos are already into and they have toys I can use as toppers! Nothing better than using things you already have. Less money out of your pocket. I have never spent more than $20 to make their cakes! And the materials you build up over time making the cakes can be used for years to come, so go you for being proactive! 🙂

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I found this rainbow cake recipe on Pinterest…duh. You can find it here. The only difference from this recipe and the one I made is that I used pre-made frosting. But homemade frosting is so good and super easy/cheap to make too!

No 3. Your Second Best Friend….Dollar Store

All of our decorations came from the dollar store. Serving bowls, scoops, streamers, balloons….E V E R Y T H I N G. You would be amazed at all the decor they have. Granted, our “theme” for Paislee’s party was super easy to create things with. My Little Pony is easy to make into a “rainbow” theme as well. Rainbow Dash all the way! Some decorations were ones you put together yourself, but they were only a dollar so it was totally worth it. And the balloons we got were ones you blow up yourself, so we didn’t have to pay for someone to blow them up with helium. Perfect.

Even all the table clothes were a dollar a piece & made for a great pop of color that went with the theme!

My mom made this adorable little piece for the fireplace where her presents were placed. She got the fabric from Joann’s & the ribbon from Michael’s. Two places that always have coupons available online- you can go to the RetailMeNot website. They also have an app for your smartphone. I use it almost everywhere I go, it’s very convenient.

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No. 4 Use What You Have at Your Disposal

I am always about using what you have. Close family and friends are usually always willing to help out if you’re needing to use something for a big party like this. We borrowed my Nana’s big tables & my cousin’s fold up chairs for everyone to sit on/at while eating. My mom has this beautiful milk glass collection that went really well with our candy bar.

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The less you have to go out and buy or rent, the better. When you’re looking on Pinterest, look for things that you can incorporate with materials you already have. It makes your life so much easier. And cheaper.

No. 5 Make Your Own Games & Activities

This kind of piggy backs off of my previous point. Try to use things you already have & turn it into something fun! We live in Texas, so it is crazy hot right now. Originally we talked about getting a bounce house or some type of blow up water slide for the kids. Those things run anywhere from 100-300 bucks. It gets pretty pricey. When it comes to children, you really don’t have to try so hard. They enjoy the littlest of things. It’s like when you buy them that nice, big electric four wheeler & they’d rather play in the big box it came in. We decided to blow up the kiddie pool, set up the slip n slide & filled the kid’s water table with water beads. The kids LOVED it. They end up making up their own games too. So this is something you really don’t need to stress about! Kids aren’t complicated! Especially little ones.

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If you’re on the artsy side or have someone in your family or friend circle who is willing to help, take advantage of that! My sister is an awesome artist & I had her make this cute little “pin the tail on the pony” game. We used some cheap little thin ribbons as the tails. The kids had fun with it!

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The other thing we decided to do was a candy bar for all the guests! It was such a cute idea that I found on Pinterest. My mom was more than willing to help & totally took it on. Again, use what [and who 🙂] you have! I liked this idea more than giving the kid’s a goodie bag. My Little Pony is a pretty girly theme, so this was a good way for us to let everyone take something home & wasn’t gender specific.

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The recipes for the treats we made can be found here:

Fruity Pebble Rice Crispie Treats

Unicorn Popcorn

Chocolate Dipped Wafers

No. 6 The Gift

Last but not least, don’t stress too much about the gift. Chances are that if you’re throwing your kiddo a party, they will be showered with gifts. Don’t feel like you have to spend a ton of money or get them a ton of gifts. Because that will happen anyways. I don’t even remember the gifts I got at my birthday parties growing up, but I do remember the party and people that came to celebrate with me. That’s what matters most! We had Paislee open our gift to her on her actual birthday. It was more intimate for us & she was able to enjoy it before she got her other gifts during her party.

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This was such a fun party & day. I will always remember it! Some of the decorations we used can even be used again! Some are hanging in Paislee’s room because she loved them so much 🙂 A birthday party doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple decor & treats will do the trick, I promise! As long as there’s free food for your guests, they will be happy! I tried to link up all of the recipes & other helpful things you might need, but if I forgot something or if you have any questions just shoot me a comment below!

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As always, God bless

Brittany

The Perfect Romantic Vacay: For Those Young Parents Who Just Need a Minute

Having two toddlers running around can really take a toll on the romantic spark in your marriage. Tommy [my hubby] & I love each other so much, but the daily routine wears us down after awhile. By the time the kids are in bed, we flop down on our mattress, turn on The Office & try to soak up the hour or two of quiet before we finally call it a night. The diary of a toddler parent, right? We have learned the hard way how important it is to take time for ourselves. After the kid’s bedtime, laying in bed half asleep doesn’t count! I’m talkin’ REAL time. Intentional time. Not just dating your spouse but enjoying them, talking & listening to them, & making memories with them. It’s all of those things that made you fall head over heels for them in the first place! Keep the romance alive.

Related: 8 Ways I Show My Husband I Love Him

Being in the military can sometimes be hard to plan that time together. Believe me, we get that. It took us almost 3 years to make the time. We knew that once Tommy became a recruiter, he would not have any leave time. After his graduation he got 30 WHOLE DAYS of leave. So you best believe we were going to take full advantage of them. Especially now since we are so close to family. We are also so incredibly close to our most favorite place in the entire universe.

Gruene, Texas

There are so many fun & romantic things to do there. And places around the area that are super fun too! Gruene Hall [pictured above] is the oldest dance hall in Texas. Tons of country music legends have performed here including George Strait, Pat Green, Lyle Lovett, Tracy Lawrence & Willie Nelson.

It’s just a neat place to be in. So much history & good music.

DAY ONE

We took 5 days for our little getaway. The first day we got there a little late in the day but were able to make it to the Whitewater Amphitheater to see a few of our favorite Texas country artists play. Cory Morrow, Pat Green & Josh Abbott Band. It was amazing! We had such a blast. The amphitheater was so cool too. The river is directly behind it. There is so much room which makes it seem less crowded. We even got to meet Cory Morrow & Pat Green after the show! Tommy was on cloud 9!

I’ll admit, it was hot but it was a darn good time!

 

Pat Green on the left & Cory Morrow on the right

DAY TWO

Just to back track a bit, we actually stayed in New Braunfels the first three nights of our vacay. It’s very close to Gruene & all of the fun things to do around the area. This day we decided to drive just about an hour to Shiner, TX. My husband LOVES Shiner beer & has always wanted to visit their brewery. We figured since we were so close, why the heck not?! It was so fun, ya’ll. They had a ton of yard games set up around the brewery, a gift shop, & FREE BEER. You get these cute little tokens that you exchange for a free beer.

 

 

They assign you a group number & you just wait for your number to be called to go take the tour. This older woman was giving our tour & she had worked there for about 20 years. She was so cute & gave us an awesome tour. I would highly recommend going if you are ever close to the area. We had so much fun!

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After our visit at the brewery, we just couldn’t wait any longer to get to Gruene. We were craving our favorite wine & they only have it at The Grapevine which is a tiny little wine tasting place there in town. We always get a bottle for ourselves & hang out there for a while. It’s called Texas Blackberry wine. If there is one thing to take away from this post, it’s this wine. If you like sweeter tastes. You used to be able to buy it on their website, but now due to TABC laws, they are no longer able to. Sad day. Guess that means you HAVE to go now 😉 Live music, good wine & yummy sides.

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After our little break at The Grapevine, we ended our day with a delicious dinner at The Gruene River Grill. Heads up- you might not wanna read this if you are hungry because I have some mouth watering food pics coming your way!

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DAY THREE

This was our favorite day of the whole trip! Our number one favorite thing to do while in Gruene/ New Braunfels is floating the river. We’ve done the Guadalupe & the Comal. Both are super fun, but the Guadalupe is usually always a little low so you might have to walk a little bit. The only downfall of the Comal is that they have a “can ban” so no cans are allowed in efforts to keep the river more clean. Which is great, just inconvenient for everyone. This time we decided to float with the Gruene River Company. What was supposed to be about a 3 hour float turned into a 6 hour float. We had the best time & even made a friend along the way. That’s what the river is all about! Oh & I got one gnarly sunburn. But it was totally worth it!

 

 

Tommy even went to go jump off of one of the cliffs along the river. It was just a good time all around! I talk it up every time I get a chance to 🙂

DAY FOUR

We tried to take it a bit easy this day. We were extremely worn out from the river & I was even more extremely sunburnt. BUT this was the day that we got to check into The Gruene Mansion Inn. The most romantic place in Texas (in my opinion). We had only stayed there once before after Tommy had graduated from boot camp. So we were long overdue for a nice stay there! I can’t get over how pretty it is y’all. They have so many rooms to choose from. It the sweetest little bed and breakfast. The perfect spot for a couple’s getaway. They also have bigger rooms for families if you’re taking a family vacation. I promise this post is not sponsored, I just love it THAT much.

We stayed in the Pent Haus 14. It was so cozy & romantic. We had a wonderful view of the river too. I’m sad I didn’t get any good pics of our room, but just look at this place! It’s beautiful!

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After we checked in, we just laid in bed for hours. It was so nice. As parents of two toddlers, we never get to do that. A huge piece of advice I can give to parents or any couples that lead busy & stressful lives- when you go on vacation, take at least one day to do absolutely nothing. Lay in bed all day. Watch your favorite shows, a movie you haven’t seen or just sleep. Take advantage of that time, because you both know it won’t happen again for awhile.

That evening we went and walked around a little bit in Gruene and ate at one of our favorite restaurants there, Cantina Del Rio. We ended our day with some tasty margaritas, yummy enchiladas & more lazy time in bed. It was perfect.

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DAY FIVE 

We started our morning with a delightful breakfast. They have the sweetest little lady in the kitchen cooking an amazing spread every morning. Delicious home cooked food to start your day! We decided to add some mimosas to the mix. I mean, why not?!

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Once our tummies were very happy, we spontaneously decided to drive to San Antonio for the day. We were about 40 minutes from the city & really thought it would be fun to walk down the river walk & see The Alamo since we were so close. Our first stop was the river walk. We stopped and had some famous margaritas followed by a river tour on one of their river tour boats. I will say, it was extremely hot. It would be much better to go in the spring time or fall when it’s not scorching out. It didn’t help that my sunburn was killing me. But it was still cool nonetheless to see all of the historical buildings around the river & learn a little something while we were there.

After our nice little tour we went to visit one of the most historical, if not the most historical, building in Texas- The Alamo. We only spent about an hour there. It was so incredibly hot & my sunburn was just too much for me to handle, but it was so cool to see. Neither one of us had been since we were younger & it’s just humbling to stand on that ground where so much was fought for.

After our little tourist-y day, we headed back to Gruene to our room & got ready for dinner. We were starving. We saved the best place for our last night! The Gristmill. They have one of the best chicken fried chicken around. The place is huge, too. They have to coolest decorations & the atmosphere in general is one of a kind.

Oh & you gotta get the onion rings. My mouth is just watering now thinking about them. I told you…tons of food. I’m just a foodie. I’m not sorry.

DAY SIX

This was our last day…we were so sad to leave. But it was the fourth of July, Tommy’s favorite holiday of the year. And we were anxious to get back to our babies. But you best believe we weren’t leaving until we got some more of that delicious breakfast. Their cook outdid herself that morning. Our food was so yummy.

I love pretty food. This was the perfect way to end our stay in Gruene. Sitting on the patio, the fresh smell of morning in the air & freedom all around. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

If you just decided to scroll all the way down here & read through our amazing little getaway, I hope you can take away a very important point- make time to get away. That doesn’t necessarily mean to throw down a bunch of money & go on an expensive vacay somewhere by the ocean. You could literally just stay home. Let your babies go spend time with their grandparents (which is also extremely important) & take time for yourselves. Cuddle. Laugh. SLEEP. Just be. I can’t tell y’all how much we needed that time. I’ll remember every second.

Related: Five Reasons Why Healthy Grandparent-Grandchild Relationships are Important

Until next time…

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As always, God bless

Brittany

 

 

 

 

THE BIG MOVE

Long time no see, friends! Howdy FROM TEXAS!

I have missed writing these past couple of weeks! Needless to say, our little family has been busy busy busy. We have travelled over 2,000 miles, seen majestic national landmarks & made it back to our home state of Texas. And can I just say, “Ahhhhh it feels so good!” We have only been back for a little over a week but it feels great to be home. There’s just no place like it!

I am so excited to take you through our whole moving experience- especially the road trip. It was all a huge whirlwind at first. Let me fill you in a little bit….in case you are just now tuning into the blog, my husband, Tommy, is a Marine and just recently graduated from recruiter’s school. The anticipation of waiting to hear where we would be stationed next was intense. Tommy had put in a special request for Fort Worth, Texas, where we were born and raised. We prayed hard for it and had tons of prayer warriors behind us through it all. I remember Tommy calling me the day he found out and he said, “Are you ready for this?” At this point I had no idea what to expect. The Marine Corps is so incredibly unexpected [my fellow spouses can attest to this]. So, honestly I was expecting the worst. He just sat there for a minute and said, “Killeen, TX baby!” I was sitting at the table eating lunch with the kids & I jumped up so high with pure excitement and joy flowing through my body. I was crying tears of happiness and relief. We were finally going back H O M E.

The next couple of weeks after we found out, we were basically just chillin’. Tommy was finishing up his school & I was constantly looking for houses to rent in the new area we would be living in. The amazing thing about this whole set-up was that we didn’t have to pack or move ourselves. The Marine Corps was going to do that all for us…or so we thought. About a week and a half before our expected move date, all of the Marines in Tommy’s class found out that the movers that were supposed to be scheduled to move all of us were backed up, therefore would not be able to move anyone out until middle or late July. That was just not going to work for us. We had a house lined up, a road trip planned to see all of these awesome places in almost a week & NOW you choose to tell us this?!

IO mad guy

You’d think I would get used to things just not going my way after almost 4 years of being a Marine Corps spouse, but no. I was livid. And extremely stressed out, to say the least. After getting some advice on what to do from a family friend of ours who is also a Marine, we decided to go ahead and move ourselves.

So I had about 5 days to pack up our house. Which in hindsight was not bad at all, but in the moment it was immensely overwhelming to me. All the while, my husband was working on getting the moving truck, towing trailer [for my car] & making sure we had all the funds necessary to make this move of ours happen. If you have ever or plan to ever rent a moving truck out of California to anywhere else in the U.S., I have a little tip for you…don’t do it. It’s so insanely expensive. My husband ended up buying a cheap flight to Vegas, picked up the moving truck there, drove back to our house [about a 5 hour drive] & we packed up and moved out 2 days after. See…whirlwind, I warned ya. It was way more inconvenient on our part, but much less in regards to money [like 3 times as less]. It was definitely the smarter route.

A friend of ours joked that we were proof that Murphy’s Law truly does exist. The journey leading up to our move & even some happenings on our road trip was just one chaotic mess after another!

DAY 1

Then we headed out on our trip. Once we knew we were going to have the moving truck we debated on whether or not we wanted to still make our stops along the way. I was so looking forward to seeing the Hoover Dam & the Grand Canyon. We finally decided, “Why not?!” We had four whole days to kill [what my husband “rates” for this particular move]. The first day, our goal was to make it to the Hoover Dam. Tommy was especially excited about this stop. We were all packed up & ready to head that way!

It took us a good 7-8 hours to get to the Hoover Dam. Another little road trip tip- if you are going to be traveling a long ways with toddlers in a car, just be prepared to stop A LOT. Especially if one or both of those toddlers is potty training. Both of the kids did amazing in the car. We watched Coco maybe 30 times, but they were calm & kept themselves entertained the whole way. Paislee had zero accidents the whole time, too! We were & are still so proud of her for that! Huge milestone in her potty training journey!

Anyways, back to the Hoover Dam…it was a huge heartbreak. TIP- check the websites of any major landmark or stop you plan to make before you go on your road trip. I say this because we failed to do this & we were not able to see the Hoover Dam in result. The Dam closes at 5:30. They are currently doing some construction & they close from 5:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. What really sucks is that we literally pulled up to the gate at 5:30 on the dot. Tommy was so bummed. I felt terrible. So, do your research people. Learn from our mistakes!

We were still super excited about the Grand Canyon the next day, though. We drove a little more to our hotel in Kingman, AZ & called it a day. The kids also slept really well in the hotels. They went to bed a little [sometimes much] later than their usual bedtimes, but that’s just all part of it. We weren’t too concerned about bedtimes & nap times. The kids never have trouble sleeping in the car either. So sleep was not an issue on this trip!

DAY 2

We woke up the next morning & made our way to the Grand Canyon! The kids were in such great moods that morning! And so were we. We got some decent sleep & were very excited to get back on the road again.

This is the day it started to rain. It rained almost the entire day. Except for the time we were actually at the Grand Canyon [we can thank God for that 🙂]. I will try not to spam the next portion of this post with the beautiful pictures we captured, but I can’t make any promises! It was so majestic & serene, y’all. I can’t begin to explain how big it actually is. There are no words to describe it. It was true proof of God’s handy work. We are so blessed to have been able to take the kids [and the dogs] to see this.

It’s like you almost feel like you can touch Heaven. That’s how magical & peaceful it is there.

Tommy went out on this cliff where you could get some awesome shots of the Canyon. I was too much of a chicken to go out there myself, although I did try.

It was a wonderful day. The kids are still so little & couldn’t really appreciate the beauty, but it was still such a memorable moment for us as parents & something we will always remember doing with them!

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But you better believe that Paislee remembers this! It was the highlight of her trip to the Grand Canyon, if you ask her.

And of course we had to get the kids matching shirts! I got the smallest sizes they had…I just couldn’t help myself.

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Day two was our favorite road trip day! It was filled with tons of fun & lifetime memories!

DAY 3

This day was filled with lots & lots of driving. This is the day we made the most time. And it rained all. day. long. This is the day we finally made it to Texas! This was the hardest day for me. I was getting so tired of driving. And although the kids weren’t having any real meltdowns, they were constantly dropping something that I couldn’t get for them. Their snacks, their blankets, the cups, their toys. Everything. And I was driving, so it was hard for me to pick whatever it was up for them.

Something that made the drive so much easier was the walkie talkies that we bought before we left California. So if the kids did drop something, I could let Tommy know immediately & we could both pull over to the shoulder really quick so I could grab it. It was so much easier & safer than picking up the phone & calling each other every time we needed to stop. It was also helpful in just keeping the other person in the loop of cars passing or something coming up that I couldn’t see because the huge moving truck was in front of me the whole drive there. I would highly recommend getting a pair if you have to drive separately on a road trip with someone. The ones we purchased are down at the end of this post 🙂

Then we made it. To Texas. The homeland. The promiseland.

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We were a little excited, could you tell??

We started the day in Albuquerque, NM & ended the day in Abilene, TX. We drove a lot, but it was so worth it. Because the next day would only be a 3ish hour drive to our new home!

DAY 4

The final day had come! We were going to see our new house today! No more driving. We would get to sleep in our own bed. It was going to be a glorious day! Abilene is only about a 3 hour drive from our home in Nolanville. It seemed like the longest 3 hours though. Probably because we were just so darn excited. When we arrived, my dad and one of my younger sisters was there to greet us! A huge sigh of relief & thankfulness came out of me when we saw our home. It was beautiful. And it was in Texas. What could be any better?!

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DAY 13

Jump ahead a little, & today we are just loving our new home & town. It just feels right here. We are still unpacking & trying to get in all of the quality time we can before Tommy starts his new position as a recruiter & I start my new job [which I just accepted last week, yay!]. It is so nice being so close to family. We can spend the big holidays together, & even the weekends that nothing is going on. We are cherishing this time in our lives & love that our kids are finally getting some real Texas time. God has answered our prayers. Like He always does. The road was surely bumpy & stressful along the way [when is it not?], but we got here. Welcome to the next chapter in our life! We hope you keep reading 🙂

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As always, God bless

Brittany

How to Prepare Your First Born for a New Baby

Let me start by saying that there is no “perfect” way of preparing your first born for a new baby. A new baby who will steal away mommy & daddy’s attention. A new baby who will get all of these new clothes, furniture & toys. A new baby who will mostly cry & sleep, but not play with them. It can be a really rough transition not only for the parents, but your little one as well.

It all depends on age! For us, our daughter was just barely 1 year old when we found out we were pregnant with our second. Besides the fact that it was a total & complete shock to us, we had no idea how to prepare her for the changes to come. She was our baby. Our first baby. Our baby who was literally still a baby. She’s not going to understand when we say, “You’re going to have a baby brother or sister!” Although we did tell her this, we are almost 100% positive she most definitely did not understand that. But once my belly started getting bigger, we would point and say, “Mommy has a baby in her belly!” Then she would point to my belly & say, “Baby!”

In our case it was hard to find ways to prepare her for this big change. Little did we know, Noah would be born 3 months early and would make that transition a little more difficult for us. Most people don’t know that if your preemie is born at a certain time of the year, there are very strict rules on who can come into the unit. During “RSV” season (which is when Noah was born) only parents & grandparents were allowed in the unit. So Paislee was only allowed to see her brother two or three times before that rule came into play. And he was in the NICU for 3 months. It was really hard to balance all of our time between the two babies with them not being together. The times she did get to meet and see him, she was so so sweet.

 

The first time Paislee met Noah ♥

Related: The Littlest Warrior: An Inspiring NICU Story

 

I also have to show you this video because it’s just too darn cute. This was when Noah was still in the NICU & Paislee loved to talk to him. She was so sweet & careful around him. She would sometimes touch his head and was so gentle. My heart, y’all.

Given that our case was a bit different, I have collaborated and spoken with a fellow blogger of mine! Krystal Klassen with the Quarter Mile Lane blog has been so gracious to be a guest here on Dogtags, Dolls & Dinosaurs today! Krystal and her four sisters have an amazing blog that they work on together! They have everything from homemaking tips, gardening, recipes, & awesome parenting advice. I am a devoted reader & love their content. They also post some fun & engaging statuses on their facebook page. They are super funny & relatable for all parents!

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Krystal (far right) & her beautiful sisters!

After speaking with Krystal a bit, I asked her some questions about her experience when her & her husband found out about their second baby. Our experiences are different in so many ways, & similar too! So happy to introduce her to everyone & share with all of you!

1. What was your first thought when you found out you were having a second baby?

Our second was planned, so we were so excited to be welcoming another little one to our family. After the excitement of finding out we were pregnant, my thoughts immediately turned to worry of how our firstborn would react to a new baby.

Not only was she our first child but she had spent the first 3 years of her life as the only grandchild on my husband’s side. She was also the only great grandchild during that time. With a lot of nearby family, she was the center of attention at every family event. I was really nervous that becoming a big sister was going to absolutely turn her world upside down!

2. How did you break the news to your first child?

We waited quite a while to tell anyone, including our firstborn. Luckily, I didn’t show very quickly so it was pretty easy to keep it a secret for a few months. Once we found out we were having a boy, we told our firstborn that she was going to be a big sister.  It took a couple weeks for it to really click that there was a baby in mom’s tummy. During that time we kept reminding her how much fun it was going to be to have a brother to play with and what a great helper she would be.

3. Do you have any special advice or tips to help prepare first borns for a new baby?

My biggest advice would be to stay positive (as much as possible during pregnancy). Kids pick up on negative ideas and conversations really easily. The last thing you want is for your firstborn to have negative ideas about the baby before he/she even arrives! Help your firstborn realize all of the things that they will be big enough to help with when they are a big sister or big brother. We got this book called I’m a Big Sister by Joanna Cole and read it frequently. It was so helpful in reminding our daughter how fun it was going to be to be a big sister. I would absolutely recommend this to anyone welcoming a second child. There is also a big brother version.

We also did some fun activities with our daughter during the last few months of my pregnancy. We took a little weekend getaway and did things that she was interested in like going to the zoo. We also took her to a movie with just mom and dad. I think these opportunities for one on one time helped her feel like she was important even with a little brother coming soon.

4. Is there anything you didn’t do that you wish you had?

I wish I would have gotten the nursery put together sooner. Honestly, the nursery never happened! Our son was born 5 weeks early, so there just wasn’t time. I think this would have helped my firstborn realize sooner that there was really a baby coming. I think it would have helped if she was more familiar with these new surroundings sooner and better understand what the different baby items are for. This would have been another way to prepare her to be a “big helper”!

5. Once the baby arrived how did your first adjust? How are they now?

Oh goodness! I can’t say enough how all of my expectations were exceeded when our baby was born! When our son was born early and spent two weeks in the NICU, my concern of how she would react to a new baby escalated. She was shuffled between family and friends while mom and dad were trying to get baby brother out of the NICU. It was a crazy 2 weeks, but the whole time she was so excited to finally meet her baby brother! When we finally brought baby brother home, she was so happy to meet him and didn’t want to leave his side. I gave her plenty of opportunities to help with baby brother by getting diapers, giving him a pacifier, singing him songs, etc.

Fast forward 4 years, and they still get along as well as any 4 and 7 year old would. My firstborn really likes to play mom and tell her brother what to do, which he doesn’t always appreciate. Often, I have to remind her that she isn’t the mom and that mom can take care of the discipline. She loves to protect him and is quick to help him if he is hurt or sad.

Krystal shares some great tips in there, right? We too read a book to our daughter that explained what the role of a big sister was & Paislee loved to read it almost every night! Now when she reads it, she calls the baby “Bubba” (what we call Noah). It’s so cute. Krystal also brought up a good point with putting the baby’s room together beforehand. With a preemie baby, that can be really hard because you don’t know that your little one is coming so early, so I can definitely relate with her there! But that can be a really great way to help your first born transition into sibling-hood.

Some other transitional ideas to get your first born ready for a new baby:

  • Practicing with a baby doll- show them how to help change diapers, go on walks, feed them, give them a bath, etc.
  • Showing them your sonograms & general pictures of babies
  • Taking them to appointments with you when possible (I remember doing this with my mom before she had my sisters & it made me feel very included and important)
  • Watching a tv show or movies that involve a new baby coming into the family (wouldn’t recommend Boss Baby lol- not very realistic)
  • Having a “baby countdown”
  • Putting the new carseat in the car before the baby arrives

If y’all have anymore ideas, I would love to hear them in the comments!

Also, if there’s one piece of advice I can bestow upon you, it’s this- always make time for EACH/ALL of your children. I understand this is sometimes easier said than done, but it is so important for your children to feel individually loved, appreciated & seen. After you’re all settled in, pump some milk or get the formula stocked up, and go out with your first born. Being the first born, I know first hand how much I loved hanging out with either my parents without my little sisters around. DONT’ GET ME WRONG, I love my sisters so, so much. But it’s nice to have all of the attention. Children need it. Babies tend to get most of it, especially when they are brand new. Because they require so much TLC.

Trust me, making time for all of your babies & taking the time to transition them in a healthy way will set everyone up for success in the long run. If you are preparing for this transition, I wish you the best of luck!

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Happy Hunger Games!…haha jk

As always, God bless †

Brittany

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Why Change is GOOD for the Faint of Heart

As some of you may have seen on social media, about a couple of weeks ago we received some very exciting news! We are moving back to Texas! Killeen, TX to be exact. A good ole country town with HEBs & Whataburgers as far as the eye can see. We couldn’t be happier!

When you have a spouse in the military, it can be so hard. New places every few years, new people, the long hours your spouse works. Not to mention those week to month long field ops and deployments. We have been so blessed in that we haven’t experienced a deployment in the almost 5 years my husband has been a Marine. For him, it’s a bittersweet thing. That’s why they join, right? Of course, he never wants to be away from me and the kids. But we have gone through lots of times where we couldn’t see or talk to each other. We’ve been through it all together. From poolee functions, boot camp, weeks of field ops, Sergeant’s course & now Recruiter’s school.

Related: Three Things I’ve Learned as a Marine Corps Wife

There are about to be a lot of changes happening with our little family. My husband is currently in school and will soon have a new job in the Marine Corps. Recruiter. So if you live in the Killeen or any of the surrounding areas, he’s about to get to know y’all & your kiddos REAL well. He will be changing lives [as corny as that sounds] 7 spreading the good word of the Marine Corps. We are all so proud of him. With that comes a lot of change as well. The only thing I’ve heard about being a recruiter’s wife is, “Be ready for the long hours.” Encouraging right? Eh. It’s okay. It’s like when you find out your pregnant and literally everyone who has had a baby has to share their wisdom with you. Like, “The first trimester sucks” , & “Just wait until the last 2 months. You’ll never stop peeing.” Oh, but my personal favorite, “You think you’re not getting any sleep now? Just wait til that baby comes.”

I GET IT! Ya know what I mean?

Anyways, although the long hours won’t be the highlight of this job, I know Tommy will get so much experience and pride from it. He has been studying and working so hard throughout his entire school, even practicing & using me as recruiting bait. Needless to say, I think we are all excited for this change! I haven’t seen him this exciting about the Marine Corps since he joined.

We lived in a few houses on base, but this one was special. The best neighbors & memories we will never forget!

I too will be getting a new job. I still plan to work in the same field as an ABA therapist, but with a different company that will allow me to be home on the weekends when my hubby won’t be. Or will be, since that’s the only time we will probably see each other. The life. I have an interview set up already & I am very excited for this transition. The company I have been with for the past year & a half has been so wonderful. I have learned so much working here. Working with children on the spectrum or that have any kind of special needs is truly my passion & they helped me to discover that!

Then there’s the whole thing about moving with two toddlers & two dogs. It’s gonna be an adventure y’all! The greatest thing about the move is that the Marine Corps is moving everything for us & packing it all. Such a huge stress taken off of our shoulders. Because looking for a house in a town you don’t & have never lived in is super stressful. Also looking for child care is tricky. But we are making the best of it. Our families have been so awesome & have offered to look at homes for us since they only live a couple of hours away. I just couldn’t feel more blessed y’all!

So this all sounds great, right? But WHY is it great? Especially for me. Someone who is so faint hearted. I like staying in my comfort zone when it comes to pretty much anything. I’m not the “adventurer” type. I don’t do dangerous things or take risks & chances. This man right here has helped me come out of my shell in so many ways.

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He adapts so well to new situations. He is my calm before & after the storm. Most times, he even helps me to avoid the storm altogether. Waiting to find out where we were going to be stationed next was one of the most stressful situations we have gone through. I cried so many tears of joy when Tommy called me to tell me the news. It is a moment I will never forget.

Related: 8 Ways I Show My Husband I Love Him

Being in California for the past four and a half years has been a big step out of my comfort zone. I was born and raised in Texas. I never imagined myself leaving it. But I would follow my husband anywhere. Living in this foreign [to me] state & meeting so many new people has helped me grow. It has made me so much stronger. I’m such a family girl & being away from my family was hard. So hard I can’t even explain. But the positive side of it is that it has really helped me to be more independent. I’ve had to do and learn a lot of things on my own when it comes to being a working mother & wife. And my introverted self managed to make some beautiful friends that might as well be family.

Change is scary. Change is hard. But is is good. It is healthy. And it’s so EXCITING sometimes! We are so looking forward to this new chapter in our lives. We can’t wait to go back to our home state. Only a couple of hours away from family & friends. And don’t worry, the entire road trip will be documented & there will be an entire post [or two] dedicated to it! So blessed to have y’all on this journey with us!

Have any of you gone through some changes lately? Or have some coming up soon? Share them in the comments, I would love to hear about them & how you coped 🙂

Bluebonnets here we come!

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As always, God bless †

Brittany

Dogtags, Dolls & Dinosaurs is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

Why We Decided to Stop Having Kids at 25

Kids.

It’s what we all think about when picturing our life and how it pans out, right? Whether we want them or not. How many of them we want. What gender we want. If we want to have twins, adopt, or maybe foster. At some point or another, it crosses your mind. Some [like me] dream about becoming a mom. It’s what I’ve always wanted to be. God listened and answered my prayers. Although the road was a little bumpy at times, I got my babies & I couldn’t be happier.

But why stop?

My husband and I always wanted to have two babies. A boy & a girl. We actually wanted our boy first, but they got flip-flopped. And that’s okay! But there’s always that thought in the back of your mind- “What if we had one more?” Believe me, I thought about it. Hard. Our babies were born so close together, both such a blessing but so unexpected. Not at all how we had “planned”. The newborn phases came and went. Never again will we get to experience that. I had a hard time with that part. That “new mom” feeling won’t ever be felt again. But I’m okay with that. And here’s why…

Pregnancy was NOT my friend

Both of my pregnancies came with complications. The second more than the first. You can read more about that here. I feel like my doctor’s always had something that wasn’t going “right” every time I went to an appointment. I wasn’t gaining enough weight, my fluid was low, the baby was measuring small. And then with Noah I had some more extreme complications like premature rupture of membranes [water broke early], decreased fetal movement, and infection. It was just a lot & really rough on my body. I also had an annoying, constant morning sickness. Especially the first time around. Round ligament pain. Acne. Dry skin. Just the works, y’all. Don’t get me wrong, it was all SO worth it. Some women love being pregnant. Me, not so much. I feel bad saying that out loud sometimes, but it was just a little miserable for me. A miserable blessing.

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Checking my fluid…I had to go in 2-3 times a week to make sure my levels weren’t too low

We can focus on the children we have

This is not to say that we didn’t focus on our kiddos before we made this decision. But like I said before, you always wonder “what if?” Now that we’ve made this decision for our family, we know that these babies we have are it for us. They are the one and only’s. I cherish every single second with them. Every single chaotic & playful second. It makes you appreciate the time you have with them because you KNOW it won’t happen again. We won’t experience these toddler years again with another child, so we soak it all up every chance we get.

This was the day we brought Noah home from the hospital after 3 months in the NICU

Fear

I know people say that you shouldn’t let fear hold you back from doing anything. But in our case, I think it’s a legitimate reason. Our experience with Noah was the scariest thing I have ever gone through. I know our family went through it for a reason & it truly made me a stronger person and momma, but I don’t want to go through that again. Who knows, circumstances may be different if I were to get pregnant again. I just don’t want to chance it. The thing is, I know families who have gone through something similar to us, even something harder, & they have had more children that are completely healthy. But the thing with me is that I’m such a “worry wart” as my husband so graciously puts it. I stress when I know I shouldn’t. For the healthy of myself, my family, & that beautiful hypothetical baby- it’s the right decision for us. 

Related: The Truth Behind the Scar: A Story of Two C-Sections

God

The biggest reason. God has blessed us with what we’ve always wanted and dreamed of. Our boy & our girl. How could you ask for more? He is always looking out for us. I’ll tell you the moment I knew I was done having kids. It was just a simple moment that happens everyday. It was the weekend. My husband was home. We had just cleaned up after eating breakfast and were just sitting watching some Sunday morning cartoons. I was on the love seat & I look over to see the kids cuddling with their daddy. Just the three of them. No idea they were creating a moment I will never forget. I knew in that moment God was telling me that this was enough for me. These three humans are my world. My heart will always hold that moment dear.

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This wasn’t the exact moment, but captures it all nonetheless 🙂

We made this decision at 25 years old & it was a big one to make. At times we weren’t sure & we talked a lot about it. But after I had that little moment with God & thinking about all of these things, I am peace with the decision we made. We may seem young to a lot, but we have been through so much with our two little ones. Isn’t it funny how you focus on raising your children and watching them grow, all the while they are doing the same to with without either of you ever really knowing it? Life is beautiful!

As always, God bless †

Brittany

A Look into Motherhood: An Interview with my Momma

Originally, my intention with this post was to explain and take you through my experiences I have gone through as a mother. Although I am celebrated this day by my kiddos, I figured I talk about myself enough. I want to talk to y’all about MY momma. Because she is one amazing person. She has raised me & taught me to be the woman & momma I am today. So she deserves like 100 million blog posts about her, but I hope this one will suffice ♥

I thought I would ask my mom some questions about motherhood & such. I loved getting to hear her answers. It was a fun little activity 🙂 Keep in mind that she had three daughters. Me being the oldest, and I have two younger sisters. God bless her!

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No. 1: What age was hardest to deal with?

Depends on which child you’re talking about. For you, it was…I don’t really feel like there was a “hard age” with you. There was regular mom and daughter stuff, but no specific age. For Rachel it was definitely 19-20 age range. That transition to adulthood was hard. For Allison I would say sophomore/junior years of high school. The hardest time you and I ever had was your freshman year of TCU before you left home. That was mostly because it was me having a hard time letting go & letting you be on your own, it wasn’t you being “hard”. 

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I was so surprised at her answer here! I figured that with three girls there was definitely a hard or difficult age to deal with. Like something really specific. I found it really interesting that she didn’t give one general age for all of us.

Related: 13 Months

No. 2: What is your most favorite gift we have ever given you on Mother’s Day?

*walks to her room and gets picture frame….*

Honestly, I had forgotten that we gave this to her on Mother’s Day! I always see it on her bedside table, but it slipped my mind when she had gotten it! And we had all written on the back of it. This was my junior year in high school that we gave this to her. It may seem like a weird picture to put in a frame but both of my parents were in love with this picture of all three of us. One of my momma’s favorite pictures ever. Just us in our element, together.

Related: Ten Last Minute Mother’s Day Gift Ideas UNDER $30

No. 3: Is motherhood as hard as they say it is? Why or why not?

Hard? No. Challenging at times, yes. Rewarding, most definitely. The reward is greater than the challenge. “Her children will rise up and bless her”. I feel like y’all bless me everyday. I’ve always felt that way.

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My momma is so sweet, oh my goodness.

No. 4: What is the difference between being a mother and being a Lola? [Lola is what my littles call her]

Well, being a mother…it was my responsibility to make sure you turned out to be an independent human being. Being a Lola, it’s now YOUR responsibility. I will probably take part in it every now & then, but you are the driver now. To be completely on the sidelines and watch it happen is a completely different ballgame. It is a love that there are no words for. I can’t even explain it. You feel that way about your own kids. It’s that intense, but different. 

I always wonder what it will be like when my kids have kids someday. I can see the immense love she has for my babies when she’s around them. And when she’s not! My family & I are truly blessed that our kids have such awesome grandparents!

Related: Five Reasons Why Healthy Grandparent-Grandchild Relationships are Important

No. 5: What is the best parenting advice anyone ever gave you? What advice would you give?

It wasn’t really advice that I got, it was doubt. I wouldn’t succeed. My marriage wouldn’t succeed, I was “too young”. Advice- to lift your kids up and not doubt them.

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A little backstory, my momma and daddy were 20 & 21 when they had little ol’ me. Got married when I was in my momma’s belly. She got a lot of doubt from others because of her age. Not just about me, but my daddy as well. That their marriage wouldn’t stand the test of time given the circumstances & their age. But I know we are all proud to say that they have been married for 27 years now! She went to college after having all three of us girls. Got her nursing degree with flying colors. She’s a true inspiration to me. I thought her advice was very encouraging & her story is one I’m sure a lot of moms experience!

Related: The Life of a “Younger” Momma

I loved asking my momma these questions & hearing what she had to say. It was such a cool learning experience for me. Even though you may think you know everything about someone, you can still learn something new! I think it would be so cool if some of y’all were to ask your mommas these questions & let me know how you liked it or share what they had to say! There’s a free printable version for you below!

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Happiest of Mother’s Days to y’all & I hope you enjoy this day that is so deservingly dedicated to you!

As always, God bless †

Brittany