Meal Planning For Busy Moms With Big Families- Made Easy! (Part 1)

How many times have you heard, “Ugh! Chicken again?” Or, how many times have you received a text from your other half asking you what you had planned for dinner, even if it was their turn to handle it? (Don’t worry, we’ll save that convo for a whole other post!) Well, let me tell you that there really is a way to have these annoying interactions happen less frequently- and you have heard of it before! Meal planning!

Meal planning for busy moms with big families made easy!
It really can be easy to plan meals for big families!
Why should you try meal planning?

I know, right now you may be rolling your eyes at me. Believe me, I get it. Meal planning for busy moms is hard enough. Throw into the mix that we have multiple mouths to feed, all with their own little quirks and opinions, and the phrase “meal planning” almost seems like a fantasy. At one point, the only way that I was meal planning was remembering which pizza place we ordered from last. It was expensive, unhealthy, and honestly time consuming in it’s own right.

Ain’t nobody got time for all that!

So instead of throwing your hands up in the air and saying you are too busy for meal planning, take a breath and think about it this way- if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work! At least you tried! But, in all honesty, I am sure that I can help you (and that you can help me). And to make it easy, we are going to do this in baby steps! Tonight, the only thing that you need to commit to is telling yourself that you are going to try something new.

Why did I try (and fail at) meal planning?

Truthfully, I did not plan on meal planning. It was kind of a circumstance of necessity. When budgeting for our meals, we figured out that buying most of our grocery list was cheaper when bought in bulk. At first, I promised myself that I was going to take what was needed for the meal I had planned for that evening out, and bag the rest of it up. I pictured myself creating this terrific organization method of frozen bags and we would just be the happiest family ever!

Yeah, that didn’t happen. Number one- I am kind of busy. I didn’t like taking my precious time separating the meat and veggies into various piles. Number two- I forgot to buy bags. Then once I finally remembered to buy bags, I didn’t label my bags (nor did I organize them) and all of my bags became a frozen mountain of meat in the back of my freezer.

Not effective at all.

But, our grocery fund really could be stretched much farther if we JUST FIGURED IT OUT. So I committed to trying again.

It is easy to stretch your grocery fund with meal planning!
It is easy to stretch your grocery fund with meal planning!
What FINALLY worked for us?

We gave up. No, seriously. We gave up trying to do it the only way that I knew how and decided to try what would work for our family. Our family does not mind eating chicken three nights in a row, or various hamburger recipes through the week. So, after that simple of a solution, we had our own meal planning start.

And when you read part 2 of this mini series you will find your start too! Check back in a couple of days to take your next step. If you are needing a meal to feed your big family tonight, check out my AWESOME sausage recipe! Or check out my Pinterest board for recipes for big families.

Sausage, Potatoes, and Onion- Quick, Easy, and Cheap Go-To Dinner

quick, easy, cheap, dinner, sausage, saving time, saving money, saving sanityMy usual requirements for a favorite dinner include easy, cheap, and fast. I mean, I’ll cook other meals, but those three boxes need to be checked if it is a meal that I’m going to cook often.

Last night we returned home after evacuating for eight days and needed a quick, easy, and cheap meal. Hurricane Irma ravaged my area but we were extremely lucky. Other than minor damage, our house was standing and our family was safe together. We did, however, lose power for 5 days causing everything in our fridge and freezers (we have a deep freezer as well) to expire.

To complicate things, the stores within a close proximity were either still out of power or recovering from losing power. The stores my husband ventured into were full of people even if many shelves were empty. Dinner was going to be a slight challenge.

empty shelves, Hurricane, no power, quick dinner, easy dinner, cheap dinner
Some of the empty shelves after Hurricane Irma.

While he was searching the stores, I was scouring the pantry. I found that somehow we still had potatoes and a couple of onions. Right then he called to say that he found some of the Hillshire Farms sausage that we like on sale- three of them for five bucks. Score!

I knew what we were going to have for dinner and it checked all three boxes. And it is delicious. Perfect for our first home cooked meal after an extended time away.

We are a family of seven, so if you are a smaller family you can obviously use less of the ingredients.

Ingredients

  • Beef smoked sausage (2 of them)
  • 6 large potatoes (I only had small potatoes and beggars can’t be choosers)
  • 1 large onion (again…you get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit. Ignore my miniature onion.)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil or grapeseed oil

Steps

  1. Slice up potatoes, onions, and sausage. 
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  3. Place frying pan on stove and turn to medium high heat in order to preheat.
  4. Drizzle the oil into a glass pan.
  5. Add potatoes and onions.
  6. Toss with oil and season with salt, pepper, and cayenne. 
  7. Place in oven at 375 degrees for 35 minutes.
  8. In the meantime, place sausage slices in the frying pan. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan. Let cook for 4 minutes and check for desired doneness on the side that is down. My kiddos think that anything slightly dark is burnt; my hubby and I like crispy edges. If you are cooking for a small army, like me, you will need to do batches.
  9. Drain sausage on napkins.
  10. Add sausage to potatoes and mix.
  11. Continue to cook for another 10 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through (tender enough for a fork to pierce through without mushing the potato)
  12. Top with sour cream if desired and enjoy!!!

Hopefully your family will enjoy this dinner as much as mine does. What are some of your go-to dinners? Leave me ideas in the comments!

Car Games And Activities For Kids Of All Ages- With Little Or No Prep!

As a large family, we do most of our traveling by car. It is more budget friendly for us and, since we typically stay within a few hour radius of our house, it works. However, Hurricane Irma ruined our well-tuned system and caused us to rethink how we do things. After several days in the car I have realized that while I remembered to pack most of our essentials (minus shirts for me haha!), the one thing that I forgot was entertainment for the kids! Now, as the long daunting trip home is coming near, I have been ferociously searching Pinterest for car games and  activities for the kids.

I need some sanity in order to deal with this traffic!

The best thing is that there are plenty of great ideas on the Internet. Some of them require some prep so I have pinned them for future trips. But there are plenty of activities that require no prep at all. And those, my friends, are how I am going to get home with the last shred of my sanity intact.

To make it more friendly, I organized the list of games by age groups. I included the links to the activities I found on Pinterest. I also made a Pinterest board that include even more ideas that I did not include in this post. Take a peek and if you have any car games that you swear by please leave them in the comments.

car games, family games, traveling, sanity
Car games for kids of all ages- with little or no prep!

Car Games For All Ages:

I Spy Shapes

Have your kids name different shapes and discuss places they may see them during the drive. What shape is the yield sign? Do you see any shapes in the clouds? Nature is a great place to find shapes and can even prompt more conversations (we found out that our oldest daughter knows many random facts about farm animals). This not only keeps your littles busy, but keeps their minds engaged.

Now you may notice that I put this under the “all ages” category. Before your older kids begin to roll their eyes, this game can be fun for all ages I promise! We just have to tweak it a little for older kiddos. One of my favorite school projects was actually a geometry project in high school. We had to go around our town and take pictures of the various angles that we were learning about. At the time, I lived in a small midwest town that had numerous old churches. The beautiful stained glass windows and elegant archways sparked a love for photography. If your kiddos have phones, they can take pictures of the different shapes that they see. They can turn it into a competition or create collages. I know one of the points of car games is to try to limit electronics, but this can be a constructive way to encourage them to play along. If your kids do not have phones, buy some cheap disposable cameras for them to play with. Yes, they still sell those! When you get them developed you may have more pictures of them sticking their tongues out at each other, but at least they had fun!

Restaurant I Spy

This is a game that I am definitely going to print before our next road trip since all of the kids (minus the baby of course) can participate. Despite the fact that we rarely eat out at fast food restaurants, our kids are constantly pointing them out to us in a not-so-subtle attempt to convince us to stop. Now they can have fun pointing them out to each other and possibly forget to beg! Hey, a momma can dream, right? Anyway, all you have to is go to 3 Boys and a Dog to score this free printable. Don’t just print the printable and run, though. She has some awesome ideas for more games and printables, and how to organize them on the trip.

car games, saving sanity, kids of all ages
Restaurant I Spy is a great car game to entertain kids of all ages.

A few tips:

  1. Scan the card first and make sure it could be useful to you. Some of the restaurants are not available in all areas.
  2. There are not varying versions of the game card so I am going to turn it into a team game. Once the kids find all of the signs we are going to stop for a treat.
  3. I am going to print it on cardstock and then laminate it. The kids can use dry erase marker to mark them off as we go and then erase it for later use.
Tell a Story

This is another perfect game to sneak some learning in. Take turns coming up with a character and a setting (don’t forget setting also includes time). Then one person starts the story. Such as- “Once upon a time there was a cat named Pete.” The next person has to continue on. “Pete lived in a shoe on Mars.” Each person continues with the story trying to make it as silly as possible.

Car Games for Younger Children

I Spy Printable

For kiddos who are unable to read, or are maybe beginning readers, Mom’s Minivan made the cutest I Spy printable. Print and clip to a clipboard and you are ready to go!

little kids, car games, saving sanity, road trip, traveling with large families
Even little kids can participate with I Spy car games with this adorable printable!
Magnetic Sheet Fun!

Playdate Crashers has the cutest ideas to make the car trip more enjoyable for the little kids, and they are all budget friendly! Take a magnetic cookie sheet and add magnets and voila! Instant fun. My favorite suggestion of hers is the matching cards that she cut up and glued magnetic strips on.

car games, traveling with large families, cheap fun
Cookie sheet + magnets = hours of inexpensive fun!

Car Games for Older Children

Printable Fun

Scouring Pinterest for ideas on what to do with my older kids I found the PERFECT website that lists numerous free printables. Trip Savvy has all kinds of ideas on one post to keep the big kids busy for hours. My plan for next time is to print them out and laminate them for future use, but if you do not have a laminator (I love mine!) you can just buy those protective sleeves for cheap. Your kids can use dry erase marker on those and race through the different printables. Clip all of the games on a clipboard and you are ready to go!

printables, car games, kids of all ages, traveling, large family
The license plate game is only one of the free printables on Trip Savvy.
Mad Libs

Mad libs are always fun and do not even require printing. You can just pull them up on your phone or other electronic device and plug in the words you come up with to fill in the blanks. I found tons after doing just a simple Google search. My favorites revolved around vacations.

Hopefully some of these activities will keep my kids occupied on the long trip home. Again, please let me know if you have any other fun car games or activities. For more ideas check out my Pinterest board.

Create Your Family Budget In 14 Easy Steps

I am constantly talking about ways to stay on track with a family budget, so is it hard to believe that up until recently we didn’t actually have a set budget? We really just created an actual budget. We kind of just cruised on this notion that as long as our bank account stayed out of the red, we were on budget. But there are many flaws to this system including the glaring problem- what happens in case of some unplanned, unforeseen circumstance?budgeting, family budget, create, saving money

Our story.

Well, we found ourselves facing this exact question when our only “reliable” vehicle decided it did not want to be a moving, working vehicle anymore. In the middle of a 12 lane intersection. During rush hour. On the day that I had a very important meeting at work.

Good times. Not!

Unfortunately we had to make a difficult decision and purchase another vehicle. This was an aha! moment for me. While our income may object, we definitely needed to start finding more ways to save money. We needed to start being more accountable for our finances. We needed to start some serious adulting and it was going to be hard.

I will say this, however. Setting a budget for our family was definitely a difficult task, at first. Once we actually started implemented our family budget, I felt better. We were more conscious about what we needed and what we wanted and were very quickly able to assess if we were being smart with our money or a little frivolous.

My husband and I thought we were money conscious before, but really we were just aware of the bottom line at the end of the month. There really is a difference.

Here are some ideas on creating your own family budget.

  1. Make sure you have the time dedicated to make your budget. This is not a conversation that your family should have five minutes before soccer practice. Serious thought needs to go into this, and some emotions may run high. Also, be prepared for this to extend to more than one meeting. If something is truly important, it deserves to have undivided attention which can be extremely difficult with a large family.

    Emotions may run high when creating a family budget.
    Emotions may run high when creating a family budget.
  2. Consider who is included in the planning session. This definitely varies family to family. While the majority of our conversation consisted of just my husband and I, we did take input from the children. My husband and I explained to the kiddos what we were doing and how important it was. Then we also were clear about the fact that some things were going to change, and not all of the changes were going to be desirable. We felt that our decision to include them was important for two reasons. First, it reinforced that we value their opinions and input. They may be little but they mean a whole lot, and we try to remind them of this consistently. Also, it helped the children understand the importance of what we were doing. We are not that family that tries to act like money is not a contributing factor in many decisions we make, but we also understand that they may not comprehend money restraints due to their ages and maturity levels. This meeting helped our children have a little window into our reasoning when we deny that awesome, amazing, EXPENSIVE camp that they are dying to attend this summer.
  3. Make a goal (or goals). It does not have to be a publicized goal. Your best friend or your mom does not need to know what your goal is or why you set it, but you need to know what you are trying to accomplish. Perhaps you want to pay off debt, or save for a fantastic vacation. Maybe you want to cushion that emergency fund or prepare for retirement. Maybe you just want to see where your money is going. Maybe you have two short-term goals (should take less than a year to accomplish) and one long-term goal. Your prerogatives are your own. Write down possible goals to determine which goals are the best for your family.
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  4. Make the goals achievable. Please don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals. I have soooo done that in the past. It makes you feel depressed and unsuccessful, causing you to slip and not make progress toward real goals. Think of what is truly important for your family and decide how that goal is possible. The word budget often seems like a negative thing, but actually it doesn’t have to be. Use your budget as a tool to reach your goals. It outlines where you need to be right now in order to get to your desired location- similar to a map.
  5. Have documentation in front of you. Have your bills and pay stubs so that you can actually see where the money is coming from and where it is going. We may think we know the money trail, but it may be a drastic difference once you are looking at reality. My hubby and I thought we were doing really well with our money. Then we printed our bank statement and started noticing how we were nickel and diming our way through our money. Once we highlighted the necessary expenses, we ended up staring googly-eyed at the other numbers. We definitely did not have the self-control we thought we had. Having the physical documentation in front of us was definitely an eye opener."<yoastmark
  6. Determine how your family defines expenses and income. This will definitely vary family to family. Some families share everything, including expenses and income, equally. Other families keep budgeting separate. I have friends that have such unique ways of planning family expenses I cannot begin to explain or understand them. There is not a blanket acceptable way and you should not worry about approval from outside sources. But if you are deciding to keep things separate, this needs to be addressed during your sitdown meeting.
  7. Calculate your net income. Your net income can sometimes be called your take home pay. Net income is listed on your paycheck but if you have various forms of income you may need to make some calculations. Your take home pay includes any money that you bring in- child support, alimony, side jobs, etc. should also be included. Items such as taxes, 401k and Social Security deductions, should not be included.
  8. Determine your NEEDS. These are the items and bills necessary for your day to day life- housing, food, medical expenses, etc. Is coffee a need? Probably not, but don’t despair. There is a much happier step down below.
  9. First, focus on the expenses that occur every month. Recurring debt should include your rent/mortgage, car payments, insurance, credit cards, etc. This is why you should have all of your statements and bills in front of you- so you don’t forget anything (such as one of your car payments, like we did the first we sat down to plan. Ooops!).

    Budgeting, housing, make a budget, save money
    Housing costs, such as rent or mortgage, should be included in your recurring debt.
  10. Now add in your flexible expenses. Items that possibly change monthly are groceries, gas, kids activities, family entertainment, etc. We always say that we are going to stick to a certain number figure for groceries, but rarely do we stick with it. If you need to cut back on spending, these are the expenses you may be able to trim.
  11. Identify some of the things that may not be a need, but are important nonetheless. Insert coffee here. And chocolate. And possibly wine.(Told you that you would be happy again later.) This is going to be different for everyone and can be of varying degrees. Perhaps you feel like a coffee from a chain makes you feel and perform better in the morning. Maybe you think that it is necessary for you to take time out for yourself and have a pedicure or a girls night out. Mommas need taken care of too and that’s okay. This is what will help you actually STICK to the budget. Family fun can be on budget if you plan carefully enough. Check out my post about Disney on Ice here.
  12. Match the numbers to your budget goals. If your goal is to double your savings in six months, are you on track to do so with your current spending habits? Or do you need to alter some of your spending patterns?Take the coffee, for example. I pretty much need it on Mondays (most humans who come in contact with me can confirm to this). I prefer to actually go to Dunkin on Mondays because no matter how hard I try, I cannot replicate it perfectly. However, for the other days of my week I brew my own coffee at home. I buy the huge bag of coffee because it is cheaper in bulk, then add my Dunkin creamer and Hershey syrup for my iced mocha. If you go to get your nails done once a month check to see if they ever sell gift cards at a discount during special promotions.
  13. Review and reevaluate often. Check back in one month and see how you did. Did you cut back if you needed to? Did you spend less than the month before? Or did you just make smarter decisions with your money? Decide if your budget goals are still appropriate. Maybe, now that you are more aware of where your hard-earned money is going, you want to save more. How can you adjust your budget to work for your family? If you feel like you are stuck don’t be afraid to ask for help. Family, friends, or even professionals can offer you insight that you may be overlooking.

    budgeting, review, save money
    Revisit your budget often to check for progress.
  14. Do not be too hard on yourself. Obviously you should be firm with your goals and attempt to work toward them. However, remember you are human. You can (and will) make mistakes. Just, as with everything else in life, learn from those mistakes and use them to guide future spending.

Do you have any secrets that helped you make and keep your family budget? Is there anything that you feel you need help cutting back on? Leave them in the comment section below.

11 Ways To Save Money On School Supplies

11 Ways To Save Money On School Supplies
11 Ways To Save Money On School Supplies

Even if saving money on school supplies captures your interest, right now you are probably wondering why in the world I am mentioning school supplies in the middle of June. Fair enough, but hear me out. There really is a method to my madness- most of the time.

As with most things, saving money on school supplies takes planning. I really, really do wish that the only requirement for saving money while shopping for my large family was to wake up and want to keep money in my bank account. But, alas, big savings does require some time so there is no time like the present to start! Here are 11 ways to start saving now.

Back to school lists
Get the back to school supply lists as soon as possible.
  1. Get your school supply lists as early as possible. This gives you more time to find supplies throughout the summer. For example, one of my local office stores is closing. They are having closeout deals and I have been stalking the clearance shelves for items on my list. If I didn’t know what I was looking for ahead of time I would waste money (see #8). I mean, come on, CLEARANCE during a CLOSEOUT! Is there any other way to spell win-win? But, since I know what I am looking for, I have only purchased things I know I will need.
  2. Check your closets. You may actually already have some of the supplies but completely forgotten! Even before I had multiple school supply lists, I was collecting school supplies because a) I loooove school and office supplies and b) I have issues with passing up great deals. If I find a pair of scissors for 10 cents I am buying a dollar’s worth. (FYI- stores usually have a limit on how many items you can buy at rock bottom prices so make sure you know your limits before you go too crazy. I may or may not be speaking from experience.) Also, don’t discredit your child’s school supplies from previous years. I  took a baby wipe to my daughter’s scissors from last year and she still was excited to go to school with scissors that were her favorite color. She had no idea they were from the previous year. We also only had to replace a few of the uniform shirts which was a nice way to save money.
  3. Find out if your school sells school supply kits. This, of course, varies from school to school (or even grade to grade) but can be an awesome deal if it is available. For one of my daughters I already purchased her kit. I probably could have purchased the items in the kit for a couple of dollars less but the convenience was worth it for me (see #11). Also, I know that she will have all of the same supplies as the rest of the kids in her class so that will hopefully help ease the transition into kindergarten. My oldest daughter had a kit available but the price was way out of my comfort zone. My oldest son didn’t even have one offered so we already knew we were going to be out with the crowds shopping anyway.

    Beware of dollar store deals.
    Beware of dollar store deals.
  4. Beware of dollar stores. As a mom, I love dollar deals. In fact, they can convince me I need something I don’t. Then, the next thing I know  I am sheepishly smiling at the cashier as she rings up $20 worth of merchandise I probably (absolutely) could have passed on. This actually is not the only pitfall of those lovely, enticing dollar stores. During the back-to-school sales, the prices at the dollar stores often get beat. That’s right, their “deals” are no longer deals. That dollar composition notebook is most likely at least half of that dollar in a different store. Same rule applies to pencils, pens, even notebooks and binders. Basically rule of thumb is check the price of the competitors before you decide where you are going to shop. This leads us into…
  5. Do not stay loyal to one store. Most big box stores are trying to compete to get your business. Let them work for your money, especially if the stores are in close vacinity of each other. We have a Target and a Walmart that are literally within walking distance to each other so I do not feel like it is too time consuming to go to both. If the stores are too far apart from each other, however, it may cause more in gas than it is worth.
  6. Check to see if your state has a tax free time to shop. Some states actually remove the sales tax from supplies that are used for school. Dates and rules vary so make sure that you understand them before you start shopping. While taxes may not seem like a lot, it can really add up!

    Try searching online for school supplies.
    Try searching on the Internet to save money on school supplies.
  7. Try unconventional places to find what you need. Think of places like Craigslist or Facebook groups. (Please just be careful and think smart before meeting anyone you do not know.) I belong to a local supportive moms group on Facebook  (see my post here about why) and saw several moms swapping supplies throughout the year. I also see teachers that are getting rid of extra supplies when doing their end of the school year cleanups.
  8. Do not buy unnecessary things. As a lover of school supplies, it is sooooo difficult for me not to stray from our supply list. Surely we can find a use for that 4pack of pretty paperclips that cost quadruple the price of 60 paperclips. And has anyone else noticed that Lisa Frank stuff is back? I don’t know if it ever really “left” but I definitely remember turning on the waterworks while begging my parents to buy me each of her folders. Now the only thing that is standing in my way is this pesky budget.
  9. Think about what you might need for next year. I know, I know, this sounds like the complete opposite of what I just said. But there actually is a difference. You may not know exactly what you will need next year, but you can scoop up probable items while they are on sale for a dime. If you are going to have a child in elementary school, most likely glue will be on the list next year.  Items such as those can be great buys. You can even look on the supply list for the grade above your child to get hints.
  10. Sell and replace. One year I bought a cute backpack for my daughter on clearance and saved it for the next year. I proudly placed it in a safe place and patted myself on the back for such a great deal. Somehow over the next year she grew to despise pink. Since the backpack still had the tags on it, and was being sold for four times as much as I paid for it, I listed it online and sold it for twice as much as what I paid for it. I combined that cash with Amazon credits from my Ibotta and ordered her the “best backpack ever” from Amazon. I didn’t even have to leave the house to win Mom of the Year. This also applies to any extra expenditures that maybe you couldn’t help (too much Lisa Frank perhaps).
  11. I know this is a money saving post, but let’s just include our sanity and time as well. If it is easier for you to buy a kit from your child’s school, or make one stop at a pricier store, determine if this convenience is worth your money. Time is money too, and sometimes it may be worth that larger price tag in the long run.

    Saving money on school supplies .
    Remember time is money.

I’m sure there are more ways to save money on school supplies than just listed here. What are some of your tricks?

Disney on Ice Survival Kit: How to Make it out With Your Sanity and Your Budget Intact

Make it out of Disney on Ice with both your sanity and your budget.

You did it! You are taking your kids to Disney on Ice! You just committed yourself to being the best parent in the world. You just purchased tickets to the live musical ice version of the Disney movie that is constantly tormenting you, I mean constantly on repeat, in your house. If you think that succeeding in suppressing your gag reflex while clicking the online purchase button was the hardest part of this commitment, you are sadly mistaken. Here are some valuable tips to surviving Disney on Ice.

  1. Set a budget.

This is actually more complicated than some rookies may realize. Yes, the tickets are most likely going to be the bulk of your expense. However, they are most certainly not going to be your only expenses. These type of events will try to suck every last dollar out of you. Parking is typically not free and can vary with each venue so you definitely want to check into the cost ahead of time. Most dangerous of all, of course, are the souvenirs. Everywhere you look there will be light up swords, costumes, plush toys, and $15 bags of cotton candy. If you think that you dodged the bullet when you somehow maneuvered your kiddos past the onslaught of booths right inside of the venue, you are sadly mistaken. There will be peddlers skillfully navigating the maze of seats throughout the show and intermission as well. (Personal tip- Buy some “souvenirs” from Amazon, wrap them, and give them before you go. I then suggest we leave them at home so that we have nothing to “slow us down” while trying to make it to our seats.)

2. Plan your entrance, and your escape.

Those toys we talked about, bright flashing hunks of plastic that eventually are going to pad the landfill of the bottomless closet or toy box, are all available before the show. Know where your seats are ahead of time and plan for the entrance that allows you the shortest route. That parking lot you just paid to park in is about to be a catastrophic mess. All of the parents fleeing as fast as they can becomes a breeding ground for road rage and very unDisney-like behavior. My advice, park closer to the exit and take the extra time during the walk into the arena to remind your kids that they already have their “souvenirs” waiting for them safely at home.

parking, Disney,
Parking may be a disaster.
3. Be an adult.

Yes, Disney was created to be enchanting. Yes, it is nice to be swept up into the magic of make-believe even as an adult (hello- soap operas, romantic comedies, etc.). HOWEVER, Disney on Ice is particularly special for children. These little boys and girls are excited. They are overstimulated. They are going to be loud, rambunctious and possibly inappropriate. You need to be an adult and you need to NOT be inappropriate. You need to remember that while you spent a lot of your hard-earned money on tickets, so did the parent of the sugared-up Elsa doppelgänger kicking the back of your chair while singing “Let it Go” in an excruciatingly loud screeching voice. Suck it up buttercup and let the kid be a kid. (To the woman who rolled her eyes at my little Elsa, I hope you read this. By the way, you were turned into a lesson on how NOT to behave in public.)

4. Find your happy place.

If you are not one of those adults who can fall into the rabbit hole and slip back into childhood fantasies, enter the arena with a plan. I, personally, am not the biggest fan of these type of events. I am, however, a huge fan of my kiddos. I truthfully pay attention to less than a quarter of the performance. My attention is captured by the sheer joy that is radiating from my little Elsa and Ana (at least before intermission). I have more pictures of my Elsa frozen (hehe, no pun intended) in utter shock at watching her idol elegantly glide across the ice rink than I do of the show. My babies being happy is my happy place. If that doesn’t do it for you, then retreat inside your head. I won’t shame you if you spend the entire two hours planning your next project at work, or if you are replaying your favorite sappy movie in your head. And I definitely won’t blame you if you are inside the safety of your own head mentally punching the mom a few seats over that refuses to stop shooting dirty looks to your four year old because I may, or may not have, chosen to spend a few minutes of my experience doing the same thing.

5. Try to put down the camera (phone) and just be there.

If you like the show, watch it live instead of on video once you get home. If you are more interested in watching your kiddos, take a few photos here and there, video the rugrats singing their favorite song, and spend the rest of the time taking in the smiles and random hugs, kisses, and compliments. Sometimes we focus so much on capturing the moment that we don’t experience the moment.

smartphone, camera, pictures, Disney on Ice
Try to put down the smartphone or camera and just enjoy the experience.
6. Be prepared for after.

Did you think that having the pre-nap time show will equal a longer than normal nap time? Did you plan on the last show because you predicted that they would be exhausted after all of that excitement and bedtime would finally, finally be a breeze? If so, how did that work out for you? No matter how many times I have learned this does not work for my kiddos, I still  almost believe it may. If you are planning on not parenting after the show then you are probably planning incorrectly. They will either sleep on the ride home and bounce right back up as soon as you pull into the driveway, or they will serenade you the entire drive home and then reenact the show in your living room for what seems like the rest of eternity. Over stimulation does two things- it gets the mind juices flowing and/ or creates the crankiest little monsters you have ever met. Either one does not bode well for a relaxing evening after the show.

Following these tips may not guarantee that you actually have the time of your life. Following these tips, however, may just help guarantee that your little ones have the time of their life, and ultimately isn’t that all that matters?

About Me

As I write this I am bouncing a baby, supervising four of my five kiddos as they play with sidewalk chalk or race their bikes down the street, texting back and forth with my hubby as he shops for dinner and trying to remember what exactly I am forgetting. There is always something that I am forgetting because I am always moving, moving, moving.

Occupational hazard of this whole mommyhood gig, I guess.

I’m a full-time momma and wife trying to find balance and humor throughout the day (and night since I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night). I live off chocolate, coffee, and dreams of becoming healthy (and sleeping).

I work full-time outside of the home and often find myself feeling torn between my two worlds. I am fortunate enough to love what I do and who I do it with, but it is not enough to squash all of my feelings of guilt. Some days I feel like I am not devoting enough of my time and attention to my family; the other days I worry I am not putting 100% into my job.

It is a slippery slope and I know that I am not alone while trying to keep my footing.

To compound matters, we are a large family on a small budget. Almost a miniscule budget. Let’s just say I decided on my chosen profession out of passion and totally disregarded salary. Do I regret it? No! Does it cause complications? Absolutely!

The point of this blog is to be a safe place. I want Mommas (and Daddies) to be able to go to a site that understands. Being a parent is hard. Super-duper hard.  We are constantly second-guessing, checking Google and asking for advice. Here we can discuss and debate; we can share and receive. I want to offer solutions, a safe discussion place and random ideas that may not have popped up on Pinterest.

As a momma of a large family without a large income, my posts will mostly center around ways to survive and thrive on a budget. I feel like so many people see living on a budget or within limited financial means as a negative thing. But there are many different reasons people do (or should) choose to do so and there are so many ways to accomplish this while living a fulfilling life. My husband calls this “ballin’ on a budget”, but more on all of this later.

Of course, there will be other conversational opportunities as well. Sometimes money can be daunting or even boring. But we all know that kids are the opposite of boring! We are here to have fun while uplifting each other. Please feel free to offer suggestions or start conversations at any time!