At Home With Christiana: Moving with Littles Part I, Ease the Transition

This post began largely in response to a reader’s request for tips on moving with young children, and grew out of the fact that I am on the verge of a move with our three kids, aged 6 and under.  Moving with three kids 6 and under?!   Me:  Ha, Ha, Ha. Easy.  I’m fine, everything’s fine … (sob, sob, sob).

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Annie and I have both lead a rather nomadic lifestyle – with a combined 10 moves between us – since having kids. Along the way, we’ve learned a few helpful pointers. As the military spouse/gypsy mom here, I’m spearheading this topic, but Annie will chime in with some tips as well.

This is by no means an inclusive list of everything you have to do in order to move. In fact, there are A LOT of little administrative items you’ll need to take care of that aren’t included here. Think: change of address, homeowners/renters insurance, utility shut-off/on, updating information with your financial institutions, researching schools, etc. We’ll tackle all of this stuff and more in a later post. Today is all about perhaps the most critical factor for our families each time we find ourselves on the verge of another relocation: easing the transition for the kids.

First, Communication

Talk the talk

Start the conversation about moving with your kids early. And don’t be discouraged if the first conversation doesn’t go so well. Even us adults are typically pretty stressed about the idea of so much change, but the more you talk about it, the more you comfortable you become. And no matter what, sometimes we just feel like this:

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… And that’s okay too. Let your kids know that it’s not only okay, but totally normal to feel nervous, or even a little scared about moving. If you’ve moved before, it can be helpful to share happy or silly stories from previous moves. And even more importantly, listen to their concerns. It is much easier to address a specific fear than fear in general! If you can identify something in particular that your child is nervous about, then you may be able to fix it pretty easily.

For example, after talking with our 5-year-old about our upcoming move, we discovered he was mainly upset about moving because he thought WE were leaving, but all of our stuff was staying put. Once we explained that everything (including most importantly his bed and his toys) is coming with us, he was on board! Of course, not all fears will be this easy to dispel, but you never know when a simple conversation might save the day.

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…and walk the walk

Kids are also really perceptive, so if you and your partner are stressed and anxious about your upcoming move, your kids will be too. Likewise, if you can be (or at least pretend really well to be) calm, positive, or even excited about your move, the feelings will be contagious. Emphasize out loud all the things you are looking forward to with this move.

Your kids are watching, listening, understanding and learning more than you suspect, from a younger age than you would imagine. Use this to your advantage.

Second, Organization

Declutter

Annie chiming in here. If at all humanly possible, at least 1 month in advance of moving, make a decluttering plan. There are several options for strategizing this. What has been most effective in our household might not be the best for you – bottom line is you do YOU! Be ruthless in getting rid of things. Saving an old coffee mug because you *might* glue the handle back on at some point? Nope, you’re moving, ain’t nobody got time for that sh*t when you’re moving a family. TOSS IT.  Kids’ organic wooden blocks that are cute but they never ever play with? NOPE. Donate to another family’s cute nursery.

Our family has been most successful with the Konmari method. Basically in this one you take on one category  of household item at a time rather than a room. For example, you start with clothes. Allllllll the clothes – get out those winter clothes you packed away, your box of skinny pants you’re waiting to get back into, those old dresses you’re saving and go through them ALL together. Then, you pick up each item and decide if it “sparks joy”. Do you really love it? Do you want to wear it right now? Or are you keeping it for some other reason. If you love it, keep it. If you don’t – toss/sell/donate! On to the next category.

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We are a spare, organized household to begin with and got rid of 3 TRUCKLOADS of stuff this way. There’s a great free printable at Making Lemonade Blog that I’ve posted up when we are in this stage. If you have a little time ahead, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo herself is amazing motivation to get going.

STORAGE BINS: Kids have a lot of STUFF. Stock up on these essentials to get it under wraps!

ALL the storage bins. Whether you are moving yourself, or you have a professional moving company, putting as much as you can into labeled storage bins pre-emptively can save boatloads of unpacking time at your destination.

When you find some bins that work for you, buy more than you think you need. Maybe I am still holding onto a vision of my young backpacking self, but I ALWAYS grossly underestimate the amount of stuff we have. There’s no such thing as too many. I know, for some reason these plastic storage bins are so dang expensive. I have no answers on why. However if you find some you like, or are lucky enough to find some on sale (this is something of a unicorn event, they’re never on sale) BUY them. And BUY MORE than you think you need. You want as many of the same size as possible so they stack well (both full and empty) in storage.  A clutter of bins that won’t stack wastes a ton of attic/garage space. Annie says her go to are these Ikea Samla boxes which are relatively cheap. 

You’ll want a variety of sizes – some extra large for light things like extra blankets and pillows, some small ones for things like toiletries and medicines. But mostly, lots and lots and LOTS of medium ones (about 6 gallon size). These are not-too-heavy when packed with toys and clothes and not-too-small to be useful. Oh and … Clear!!! Only the clear ones! Otherwise someone will take a label off and you’ll have no clue what’s in that bin at the bottom of a stack. It seems obvious but…why do they even make any storage things that aren’t clear??

Labeling: Colored Tape

Color code your sh*%!!  Seriously.  I am not a hyper-organized-crazy-person, but this is worth it. Before boxes are removed, slap a piece of tape on it that corresponds with the room you’ll want it placed in when you arrive at your new home. You may not will not have time to write an informative description on your boxes and the moving company will inevitably label them incorrectly or vaguely (like the 500 boxes of ours labeled “decor” including our trash cans!). OR if you’re moving yourself tape just makes a much more time-efficient way of labeling than the old magic marker. We have found this simple trick reduces our “we-don’t-know-if this belongs in the attic or the living room” box pile immensely and makes for faster unloading. No need to stop and decipher the scribbled labels on the box!! Slap whatever color you choose on that box and get those babies delivered to the actual room they belong. The first time. BOOM!

 

Also, They make duct tape in a billion different designs  these days and there are some great ones for kids available through Amazon. Again – buy MORE than you think you need – leftover tape makes for great craft fun later. Let the kids have fun picking out the design or color they want to label their boxes and let them have at it. This allows kids to feel like they can help, have a job, and you might not be asked 800 times a day “is this my box?”. Win. The kiddos feel secure that all of their belongings will be in the right place, and have fun spotting their “Superman” boxes at you new house too. 😊

Looking ahead

As early as you can, start a DO NOT PACK list. These are the things you will bring with you directly. Keep the list taped up on the fridge or somewhere you can jot down items as they come to you. Here are a few of my basics to get you started:

  • Important documents: Passports, birth certs, social security cards, and other important travel documents
  • Pens/paper
  • First aid kit and Medicines – bandaids, allergy meds, kids tylenol to name a few.
  • Trip itinerary
  • Phones, Tablets, Laptops, and ALL the chargers
  • Kids’ favorite comfort object(s) such as blanket, stuffed animal, book, etc.
  • Tape, scissors, pocket knife
  • Wine corkscrew/bottle opener (you’re moving with kids. I’m not even going to
    explain further)

Make a second list of UNPACK FIRST items – the things you’ll want out of the moving truck and unpacked FIRST. Think: Sheets, pillows, blankets, paper towels, toilet paper, hand soap, shower items, towels, coffee maker, laundry detergent… you know, the essentials. Again, post up so you can add as the days go by.

Finally, Moving Time

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Packing the truck

If at all possible, have a trusted babysitter or family member do something fun with the kids on the day you load the truck. It’s stressful enough to get the whole house fully packed up without worrying that your kiddo is going to find a stray box-cutter or be trampled under someone moving the couch. Make sure they’re there when the action gets started so they know what’s going on and then whisk them away to be distracted.

Set aside your DO NOT PACK items somewhere safe (where movers or anyone trying to be “helpful” will not accidentally pack them up). Also pack separately the things from the UNPACK FIRST list with very clear labels and set aside to be packed LAST into the truck so they come off first.

Plane relocation

If you’re headed to your new home by plane and your stuff won’t get there for a bit, you’ll need to plan your packing differently than if your car and moving truck are going with you. If you’re likely to beat your household stuff, you’ll want to pack a LOT of extra stuff to keep the kids feeling secure on the trip. This list will vary depending on where you’re staying when you arrive – your new empty home vs hotel vs family or friend’s home. Factor that in!

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CARRY-ON: Assume checked luggage will be lost and just be prepared to schlep an obscene amount of stuff through the airport.

  • Clothes: An extra 2 outfits for each child and 1 for yourself. Diapers: enough for 2 days.
  • SNACKS. All the snacks. Hungry children are not happy children. Formula for 2 days if your baby is still taking it.
  • Entertainment: A handful of their favorite toys and books. Bonus points for getting a new book and toy as a ‘moving present’ to make it more exciting. Good time to ignore screen time limits 😀
  • The kid’s usual cups: especially if they’re little and have a favorite sippie cup.
  • Car seats and stroller if applicable (gate check).
  •  Toiletries: their usual bath soap, lotion, diaper cream, toothbrush and toothpaste, some baby tylenol and motrin and any other meds you use on a regular basis. Everything you can bring to avoid a late-night trip to the store. Make sure you include at least 2 days supply of any prescription medications YOU are taking.
  • Important documents (see above list)

CHECKED LUGGAGE:

  • More clothes than you think you need. Moving trucks are OFTEN late by a few days and access to laundry might be variable. I basically double the number of days I expect for this.
  • A whole bed set up – the child’s preferred blanket, pillow, stuffed animals, white noise maker, night light, etc… All the stuff that makes bedtime consistent.
  • More snacks!
  • Don’t bother with extra diapers – you can buy when you get there.
  • Your own toiletries and medications. ALL prescription medications. Whatever over-the-counters you take on a regular basis.

Car relocation

If you’re moving by car and the moving truck is going with you or will arrive at about the same time, strategy is a little different. You basically put all of the above (plus all the pet supplies – bed, food, bowls) jam-packed into your car.

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If you have the opportunity to make the trip to your new home into a fun outing it also gives the kids something to get excited about (Please, don’t overthink this or create more stress trying to orchestrate a highly scheduled vacation in concert with a move.). Depending on the kids’ ages, this can simply be a night at a hotel with a swimming pool and Oreo cookies. You want a little something to look forward to along the way, and it can distract from the stress of the ultimate relocation.

And no matter how you get there… bring the love.

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Talk to your loved ones about planning visits at your new home so your children are reminded that leaving heir house definitely does NOT mean leaving their loved ones, family and friends alike. Make lots of video, FaceTime and Skype calls if visits aren’t an option.

Other helpful resources

There are a lot of great books out there that can be reassuring for your little ones struggling to with the concept of moving, or the idea of leaving friends behind. A favorite of ours is A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle. Also check out Sesame Street’s interactive The Big Moving Adventure App (geared specifically for military families, aimed at ages 2-5).

Change can be good

Moving your family, especially while your children are young, presents many challenges. But at the end of the day, a lot of good things can come from this kind of change. Your family often becomes even closer, and your kids grow more resilient. You are exposed to new places and adventures and learn how to support each other along the way.  So, communicate, organize, love each other, and enjoy the ride! (Or at least try to, if you can see over your luggage.) Cheers!

 

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe and fine wine explorer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I love bats, and why you will too.

Call me crazy, but I find myself obsessing over bats. They are my favorite mammals, other than my cat, for several reasons.

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The best reason ever is that they can eat over 1200 Mosquitos an hour and can consume their body weight in insects every night! That’s right. Stupid, disease carrying, biting, poopy mosquitoes. BUHBYEEEEE

They are also great pollinators! So at night when they are flying around, they are pollinating your area so that the ecosytem can be maintained. Thank you fruit bats!

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Thirdly…they freaking ECHOLOCATE! Not all species of bats do. Fruit bats, for instance don’t echolocate at all. It is said that in a light rain, they can navigate through the raindrops(I don’t care if this is true or not), but if it is then they are basically superheroes. They are the only mammals whose front limb has adapted into a wing and are capable of true flight! And boy, are they awesome to watch at dusk dive-bombing to find all those dumb mosquitos. DIE MOSQUITOS…actually, don’t cause then the bats would leave.

Before you FREAK OUT and go all “count Dracula” horror movie about bats, yes I know they can be freaky looking. They sleep upside down for goodness sake! But take some time to consider that, yes while vampire bats do exists, they do not “suck blood”. They lap it up. Ok ok ok, calm down! I know that isn’t any better. But unless you’re in South America where some bats have been seen to be lapping up blood from a cow or goat here and there, you’re fine. (sorry South American cows)

Ok now that I’ve convinced you of their awesomeness, lets look at how to attract bats to your property.

Bat houses

Make the bats feel welcomed! Build a bat house using plywood or cedar. The rough surface will make it easier for bats to climb in and out of the house. Keep the roughest side of the wood to the inside of the house. Bat houses work best if they’re at least 2 feet tall, 1 foot wide, and 3 inches deep. Keep the temperature between 85-100 degrees F, as bats prefer a warmer climate. To ensure this, place the bat house in a location facing the sun for the afternoon hours.  NO TREES as they are more susceptible to predators in a tree as well as too much shade.  To give ample enough room for the bats to drop before they take flight, put your bat house at least 15 feet up in the air. An east or west facing chimney is an ideal place.

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Cool, right?

Food and Water

Now that you’ve invited them home, give them food and a water source. Bird baths work well as ponds. Planting night blooming flowers can attract nocturnal garden insects, which, in turn, attracts bats! Marigolds, Dahlias, and Thyme are all good plant examples!

Screw you wasps

Make sure you check your house regularly so that you are not just making a home for bees, wasps, or hornets. Also check your house for holes before you put up your bat house! Seal and fill them as best you can. Bats can fit into a hole the size of a quarter, and we want to prevent cohabitation! After all, this roommate stays up ALL NIGHT!

Rabies

Yes, bats can carry rabies. But you’re more likely to have an encounter with a nasty raccoon or skunk than a bat. After all, they are way better at avoiding you with their echolocation than you are with your human eyes and ears. Plus, the benefit way outweighs the risk in my opinion, knowing that less than 1% of the bat population actually carry rabies. 2014-wildlife-us

Ok, so have I convinced you yet? Bats…do it…you’ll thank me later when you can enjoy your back porch without the Zika virus. Plus look how cute they can be!

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Momday Faves: Part Deux

To continue a “few of my favorite things” on these Momday Faves list….

Kristy’s turn:

Mommy Hooks

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Does this look like you running errands or enjoying a day out with kids in tow…one in a baby wearing device, one holding hands, and one in a stroller? Trying to run errands, go to the farmers market, store, zoo,shopping mall, anything can be overwhelming when the “stuff” piles up.

“mommy hold this” twice from each kid….plus picking up that package from post office and the flowers that I told you to buy for yourself a few posts ago…..

Heres your solution…The Stroller Hook!

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This one, by Toogli, is one that I like but there are several comparable brands to choose from here: Hook Options

This lovely thing clips ALL YOUR BAGS into your cart, stroller, backpack, wherever you want it! Its a heavy-duty carabiner that saved my life with two kids, a diaper bag, a baby wearing device, all the coats, shopping bags, etc!

Home Meal Delivery 

I am way into things arriving on my porch, ready to be made! Taking my kids to the store ended up getting extremely expensive for a family of four who eats wants to eat a paleo diet. We found Sunbasket.com and have LOVED every box we’ve gotten. They have very healthy options, and it saves us the time and money of getting all the ingredients at the store. Most of you know Blue Apron, but Sun Basket offers organic, free range, and different options for different dietary restrictions.

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For the price point, we’ve found Sunbasket to be the most convenient and the most excellent. As cross fitters, we need to focus on the fuel we put into our bodies daily.  With our schedules as they are, we wouldn’t eat as healthy as we do without Sunbasket.  Give it a shot!

And finally, a HUGE thank you to all of you who promoted our blog and got us to 50 followers. Keep sharing the good news and we will keep posting fun/informative/inspirational/random stuff!!

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Kristy, Au Naturale: Home delivery S.T.E.A.M. projects for parents who can’t DIY

If you have a kid like mine: an active, energy-filled seven year old boy, you can commiserate with me on how hard it is to get them to sit still to do…well… ANYTHING. My son, OG we’ll call him, can literally sit still for only three, maybe four seconds before fighting the urge to make a musical beat, a funny noise, or to try and make us laugh with his latest made up karate move or a full sentence in his made up language.

Talk about trying to focus on homework in the first grade? Nope. Nopes. All the no’s.

He has always been able to focus, however, on things involving art, science, technology, adventure, and music. He’s developed an affinity for math in his Montessori school (a skill he definitely doesn’t get from me) so we longed for a way to incorporate all these things into a parent/son project at home.

S.T.E.A.M. if you don’t already know, is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics.

Engineering? WHAT? For a kid who likes to throw things just to see how many pieces they will break into against the wall? The one who likes to pull apart his whole room in order to create an elaborate fort/putt putt course/cookie stand all in one that he drew in his blue prints the day before….BINGO!

Welcome to our sanity (other than a crisp Nobilo Sauv Blanc).

Kiwi Crate:    https://www.kiwico.com/

Kiwi Crate is a monthly, age-based home delivery project kit. All the parts and pieces come inside the themed box, (Thank you sweet Lord for me not having to lug two kids into Michael’s without having multiple panic attacks and visions of a bull in a china shop) along with the instructions for three projects to do throughout the month. Our son has built everything from kites, to robot arms, to sewing and stuffing felt organs to paste on a full size paper person to teach human anatomy!

When my husband said he was subscribing to a monthly project system I admittedly did an eye roll thinking “you think he’s gonna sit still long enough to warrant spending that money?” To my surprise, that’s exactly what he did. The first crate we got was building a full working pinball machine out of rubber bands and cardboard.

Which he Maguyver’ed the eff out of, following the instructions, all by himself! No help at all. And the best part was…he focused! He had a blast, too. I was SOLD. Onto the next and the next…finally coming to his favorite one: The Spy Kit….(pictured below)

Ok enough gushing about my amazingly awesome kid’s productivity…

How it works.

If you’re like me and you’re too lazy to go to the website above I’ll give you the rundown.

  1. Pick a line based on your child’s age: 0-16plus (yes, they even have one for toddlers and a newborn pack!)
  2. It will ship to your home once a month
  3. Watch the excitement on your child’s face when the box arrives and its for THEM! Now they can have some independent or parent led learning time at home.

How much is it?

Packages vary depending on if you buy one month at a time or more, up to 1 year at a time. starting cost for a month is $19.95 – The more you buy the less you pay.

$19.95 and what do we get?

The benefits are many. Your child can feel a sense of being:

  • productive
  • accomplished
  • creative
  • engaged and connected with you
  • independant
  • successful in learning a new task
  • inventive
  • oh….need I say more?

And you can either help, or lie back and smile with your wine glass full snapping photos of how much of a kickass decision you made to watch you kid’s mind grow and explore.

I wonder which one I chose to do 😉 #noshameinmygame

https://www.kiwico.com/Refer?i=MichaelW131 you can click here if you want to try and give us some referral credits!🤙🏻

At Home with Christiana: In search of spring break sanity

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If you’re like me and you live somewhere that the weather is slightly less than spring-y (ahem, thanks ENTIRE east coast) you may be about midway through your kids’ spring break and about to go insane. Or maybe you went crazy on Monday… no judgment.

Either way, today was rainy, my boys were bored, and I needed like 5 seconds to shower without someone hanging from a light fixture. Enter … custom Star Wars coloring sheets!! And quiet boys. Like off-and-on quiet and sustained interest for HOURS. This is not something that comes easily in a household with a three year-old that yells “SMASH!” before beginning most tasks, and a five year-old whom his pre-K teachers dubbed “not an art guy”.

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Even little sister can dig it.

I know this may seem like a common sense idea, but it took me five years to think of it, so I’m going on the assumption that some of you haven’t tried this yet either. Basically, take a book that involves whatever your kids are interested in  obsessed with at the moment (For my boys it happens to be Star Wars despite the fact that they have seen zero Star Wars films, gee thanks Disney marketing!). Ask them to pick out some favorite characters, scenes, vehicles, etc. Trace said character, scene, or vehicle with a pencil (because if you’re like me you’ll have to erase the fingers that don’t line up a few times — why are the hands ALWAYS wonky?!) Label it, or have your kiddo write a caption for the image if they want. You don’t have to be artistic, or even creative, this is seriously just tracing. Trust me, I don’t craft!

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Traced sheets ready for copying

Once you have a traced original that all parties can agree on (you know you better make sure you get Elsa’s dress right! Good luck with R2-D2’s buttons…) take your traced original over to your printer/copier and show the kids how it can scan the image and print out copies magic coloring sheets!  As a bonus, if you let the kids make the copies, they get a major kick out of pressing the buttons on a machine they’re usually not allowed to touch.  Thats it. Literally.  Just be prepared that they will want to make approximately 500 copies. Each.

This super simple activity is free, improves fine motor skills, encourages creativity, and reinforces color and reading comprehension. And gives a parent enough time for a mimosa. I mean shower. BOOM! Happy (un)Spring Break!

Custom Coloring Sheet Supplies:

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  • Printer paper
  • Favorite kids books
  • Pencil
  • Printer/Copier
  • Crayons, colored pencils, or markers
  • Optional: Mimosa