Laundry Room Update

We've lived in our house for 5 years in July, and since we first moved in I've wanted to create a nice laundry space - but with a growing family and busy schedules it's never made it to the top of my list. 

 Our first house had the laundry setup in the dark and creepy unfinished basement, so it was less than ideal. Our current home has a great, though quaint, area attached to the mudroom just outside of the master bathroom with lots of open storage above it. The open shelving has been perfect for holding extra supplies, but also made them look rather unsightly. 

Now

Now

Before: So messy!

Before: So messy!

Before: Note the recessed lights and chaotic shelves.

Before: Note the recessed lights and chaotic shelves.

A few weeks ago our dryer went out, which gave me the perfect excuse to freshen the entire space up. I considered painting the walls since I don't super love the green color, but decided that would only slow me down since it would mean repainting our entire mudroom. Instead I wiped down the walls and removed every single thing from the shelves.

We also keep our dog bed, food and supplies back here, so I knew I needed something better to organize their stuff.

I started by visiting Lowe's to order our new washer & dryer. They had great reviews and could be delivered quickly so I was sold. While I was there I also picked up the black laundry rug. I've had numerous rigs back here through the years and inevitably a dog destroys it, so I prefer to only spend $25 on one.

After: So much better! 

After: So much better! 

Next I ordered the white pet feeder station, which includes a pull out cabinet for dog food storage and pull out drawer at the very bottom for their food bowls - genius! 

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I love the canvas collapsible storage bins for the shelves because they hide my unsightly supplies and look nice and clean. I wanted to carry this look down into the laundry baskets, so these durable bins - which I'd been been eying for months - were a bit of a splurge, but were a perfect fit since I needed them to fit on top of the washer & dryer instead of stand alone. Previously I had plastic hampers and didn't love the look of of them so I was excited to find these.

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My least favorite part of the laundry area was the recessed light fixtures. I don't mind recessed lighting in some spaces, especially as supplemental lighting, but for the laundry room I wanted something nicer. Maybe to make the act of doing laundry seem a little more fancy. Ha! I found this adapter kit and fixture and they worked great - and were so easy to install. 

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Lastly I added the wall shelf and print to finish everything up. The shelf ended up being a little hard for me to reach so I don't know that I'll leave it there, but it looks cute! The laundry guide print actually explains all the symbols I've often seen on laundry but never knew what they meant, so in addition to looking nice it's also helpful. Double win! 

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Now the dog bed is tucked away beside the washing machine. Note sweet Georgia peeking out :) 

Now the dog bed is tucked away beside the washing machine. Note sweet Georgia peeking out :) 

Overall I love how everything turned out. While having an appliance go out isn't ideal, I'm glad in this case it worked out for the best. I can honestly say, laundry has been a more pleasant experience since making the updates!

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Traveling with Kids: Road Trips

We've traveled all around the country with our 3 kiddos over the last year, but typically we fly. We recently embarked on our first long road trip with our crew and learned a lot. I thought some of it could be helpful to other families with littles, so here are a few things I did to make our trip easier.

Before you leave, I suggest downloading a few apps that'll make your life easier. When we fly somewhere and need help getting transportation we use the Uber app a lot, but road trips are a completely different story. My favorite map app is good ole Google Maps. It's easy to use and has never failed us yet!

My favorite travel app is Trip Advisor because not only does it let you find and rate the best restaurants and attractions in a particular city, it also creates a timeline of the places you've been. This helps me keep track of every place we visit and never forget the name. Any time we have an exceptional experience - good or bad - I rate it to help other travelers.

Obviously every road trip needs snacks, so I I packed a big reusable grocery bag full. I wanted to minimize sugary treats, so our snack bag consisted of pretzels, beef jerky, bananas, apples, trail mix (the little pre made bags from Target are a family fave), Annie's fruit snacks (just in case we needed them for bribery) and gum. My kids LOVE gum, but I keep it in my purse so I can use it for bribery.

I bring along our own reusable water bottles every where we go. My favorite ones for the kids are the Contigo autospout bottles from Target because the straws fold down and they're easy to clean. These bottles have been everywhere from NYC to Vancouver over the last year and held up great.

I packed a bag of activities for the car, but first I ensure no one gets carsick by giving every kid Bonine. This med, which contains Meclizine, has worked amazingly well for me and my kiddos and doesn't cause drowsiness. I've struggled with motion sickness for years and always found any type of Dramamine makes me tired or generally lethargic. Bonine (I actually buy a big bottle of the generic for each vehicle and for my purse) works wonders.

Just in case we do end up with carsickness, or anything potentially stinky, I bring along a roll of dog bags (sometimes also sold as bags for dirty diapers) to tie up and toss. These work especially well as little trash bags on airplanes or in the car.

A rare time when all 3 kids passed out at the same time! 

A rare time when all 3 kids passed out at the same time! 

Some of the activities I packed include blank notepads, coloring books, Water Wow pads, a few small action figures, and Wikki Sticks. {My kids love Wikki Sticks and I've found you can buy big boxes off Amazon. I keep a box in my purse for any time I need to occupy little people while we wait.} We brought along only 1 iPad so we could occupy everyone while we got ready every morning.

While driving we kept DVDs playing, and had the cordless headphones for each of the kids so we didn't have to hear the movies. (If your vehicle doesn't have this little feature, it's worth it to buy whatever it takes to make it happen! The kids hardly made a sound! 

An awesome playground we discovered in Delores, Colorado. 

An awesome playground we discovered in Delores, Colorado. 

We tried to stop to stretch every 3 hrs, specifically if we found a city with a playground. When we stopped for meals we'd take little walks, and encourage the kids to run, jump and be silly while they were out of the car.

Since our most recent road trip was split in to multiple days, I packed all 3 kids an overnight bag that we brought in to the hotel so we didn't have to bring all 3 suitcases just for 1 night.

Roadside somewhere in Colorado. Thanks iPhone tripod! 

Roadside somewhere in Colorado. Thanks iPhone tripod! 

Lastly, you can't have too many baby wipes, kleenexes and hand sanitizer. My favorite hand sanitizer is from The Honest Co and is now sold at Target. We also threw in our phone tripod and were able to capture a few fun family shots we otherwise wouldn't have been able to capture.

If you have more family road trip advice I'd love to hear it in the comments below, or on my instagram page @jenmren

Summer Adventures Checklist

Last year I compiled a little list of things I wanted to do with my kids over the summer, but at the end of the season I felt like there was a lot I'd forgotten to do. This year, now that the kids will be at (somewhat) easier ages to manage, I made a more complete checklist to work from and wanted to share it in case others are looking for ideas.

I divided it into 3 categories: 1) easy adventures: my favorite because it's full of smaller things that often are easily forgotten, but often end up being some of the funnest. 2) bigger adventures: in my case this means stuff we can typically do with more planning or when my husband can come along. And lastly 3) rainy day adventures because as much as we hope it's sunny and perfect every day, there will always be some rain.

Since I'm in Springfield, MO, many of the items are specific to the area, but many are not or can be easily translated to any city. Please pass along to anyone looking for fresh ideas, and I'd love to hear additional suggestions in your comments below. If you share pics via social media feel free to use the hashtag #our2016summeradventures.

Keep scrolling for the checklist, or click here to download a PDF copy. Enjoy!

 

 

Migraine Relief

I've had a number of people recently ask me how my quest for migraine relief has been going, so here's a very lengthy update.

Background: I've suffered from migraines my entire life, I remember having them as early as 3rd grade. They run in my family on both sides, so it was pretty inevitable I guess. It wasn't until college that I was prescribed migraine medicine, but it was so expensive at the time that I was bad about taking it early enough once my headache started. I ended up making many visits to the hospital throughout my early 20s.

Once I started looking for migraine prevention medicines, I tried a few that caused horrible side effects (Anyone heard of Topamax? It made me CRAAAZY) without any noticeable help. And then we decided we wanted babies (Note: I discovered very early on that birth control made my migraines worse, so I'd been off of it for over 5 years at that point).

For the next 5 years I really couldn't try anything for prevention because I was afraid of it impacting my pregnancy, so mainly I just got by. I spent A LOT of time in the hospital the first few months of pregnancy, but fortunately once I hit about 20 weeks with all 3 babies I never had any more migraines until after each baby was born. Chris suggested I just keep having babies... Ha!

And then last spring, when Sylvie was approaching her first birthday, I got an intense migraine when Chris was out of town. That was the first time as a mama of 3 that I'd been so sick I couldn't stop throwing up, but had no one around to help me. Fortunately my parents were able to watch the kids and get me to the hospital, but a few weeks later - Easter morning - it happened again. That was when I decided it was time to put my health as a priority and seek treatment.

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I've been going to the Headache Care Center since April 2015 and feel like they just GET me there. I can't fully explain it, but in addition to the wonderful staff and treatment, there are other certain things they get about migraine sufferers. The lighting is more dim, no perfumes are allowed, and they always give me a snack when I've forgotten one (I'm apparently like a child, but missing meals is a big migraine trigger for me)!

They offer numerous clinical trials for cutting edge treatment and new medicines, but as a busy mama I've declined doing any testing.

I've continued to find success in preventing most migraines by taking Verapamil and lots of Chelated Magnesium (both via supplements and leafy greens) daily. Then if I feel even the remote chance of a headache, even if it's just a different pressure in my eyes or a shift in the taste in my mouth, I take Imitrex or Treximet. The only time this hasn't worked over the last few months was when my headache was triggered by sinus issues, so I also ended up taking something for that as well.

It's been nearly 11 months since my last hospitalization, and since I began this new treatment overall headaches have decreased dramatically and I've experienced no side effects from my meds. I hate that I always have to carry medicine with me, but it's a small price to pay for the relief.

If you also suffer from migraines, I'm happy to answer your questions and hope some of this information helps in your relief!

 

 

Family: Disney World 2016

We spent the last week in Florida taking the fam to all the Disney World parks, and had the time of our lives! On the plane home ALL 3 kiddos passed out 🎉🙌🏼 so I threw all our pics & video clips together into a quick 13 minute video. 😁 (Not bad for condensing a weeks worth of events I guess 🙈).

They're already asking to go back, so I think it's safe to say the trip was a success. Who wouldn't want to spend a week playing nonstop?! Now we're all off to rest up - especially me and Chris! 

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Until next time, Minnie!  

Another Day, Another Park

With garage construction underway, we no longer have our swing set - or driveway for that matter - accessible to let our kids get their afternoon energy out. Lately on sunny days I've been visiting area parks, but after 7 days of overcast, gloomy weather we were all ready to get outside and play!

As I watch this video, I know it's the low key days I'll miss most when my babies are grown. 

Tips: Traveling with Kids

After yesterday's successful flights, I decided to compose a quick post about traveling with kids. Who knows if these will all work input next upcoming trips, but they definitely worked yesterday so I wanted to share them.

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First off, start your day with this mantra: "It's all part of the adventure." Then repeat as often as necessary. 😀 This seriously helps to consistently calm me more than I'd like to admit. 

Now for the flight tips:

  1. Dress in easy to remove layers
  2. Load up a new movie and/or games on the iPad(s) and bring kid friendly headphones 
  3. Bring a few small new toys for the plane and airport. I started the day giving them each a new small toy, then gave them a new one at the start of each flight and anytime they got restless. Mini planes, cars & superheroes were a hit with all 3!
  4. Pack a few new books and sticker books for any long layovers, or to use at the hotel. The Melissa & Doug sticker books are easy to pack and always a fave. The small stickers may end up everywhere, but I think it's worth it for the distractions! {Note: Legos also work great, though with our young kids they're still kind of a nightmare because they rely on us to help them build... And rebuild. 😁
  5. Obviously, pack lots of small snacks. Apples, bananas, pretzels, almonds, various crackers and suckers a fave.
  6. Carry on an extra outfit for each, plus extra diapers and wipes.
  7. If you're traveling with a baby, wear her when in flight, getting off & on the plane. I know many recommend using car seats on the plane, which I totally get - especially for the safety reasons, but also they're more likely to nap there - BUT since we already didn't have enough hands to get all our kids AND luggage, that was out of the question. So the baby carrier really helped to free up my hands getting and off the plane, and it helped Sylvie take a comfy nap in flight. 
  8. Lastly, don't ignore the more obvious distractions like the airplane seat safety literature, tray tables, and arm rest buttons: all distracted Sylvie and Wes for period of time 👌🏼

I hope these help on your upcoming trips - remember: It's all part of the adventure! 

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Family: Summer 2015 Pictures

Over the 4th of July long weekend we got together at my parent's house, the same house I grew up in, for a photo shoot with my entire family. After a rainy few weeks, we completely lucked out for clear skies and perfect temperatures. I love watching my kids play in front of the same yard my sister and I played in, and I absolutely LOVE how the pics turned out. 

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Every year since 2010, when I was expecting Carter, we've had a summer photo shoot with the talented Janae Hardy. These are some of my faves yet.

Family: Sylvie Goes Out Walking

Since May I've been taking little clips of Sylvie's walking progress, but now that she's mastered the "bend down and grab the apple" squat form, I thought it was safe to wrap the video up. I can't believe my baby girl is already walking.

I think one of my favorite things about her progress is the role her big brothers played in teaching her. Watching these babies grow is such an amazing gift.

Now it won't be long before she's running; I don't think my heart can take it. 

 

Family: Birth Week Cake Smash

This time last year I was 38 weeks pregnant and preparing to celebrate Wesley's 2nd birthday at a bounce house (have you ever seen a giant prego jump in a bounce house?! Well I won't be posting pics of that here, so your loss ;).

While I was looking forward to meeting little sister, my fingers were crossed that she didn't decide to debut on June 10, her brother's big day. Thankfully she held out until 2 days after, thus making THIS week full of excitement!

In celebration of Wes & Sylvie's birth week, we decided to do a little early cake smash party because a) who doesn't love cake and b) I knew their actual party would be busy and they'd be too excited to let me take all the pictures I wanted. This worked out perfectly because all they had to do was eat cake while I snapped away.

I'm so thankful to call these cake eaters mine!

Carter informed me this was the best day ever, and I can't say that I blame him! I made a video with Carter & Wesley's current favorite song that also has a short clip of them eating and laughing. This was such a fun day, and I can't wait to continue the celebrations. Cheers to turning 3 and 1 in the same week! 

Sources:

Wesley's outfit: Shirt Crewcuts, shorts Janie & Jack. Sylvie's outfit: Headband Ruby Blue, Dress Dandylions, skirt Crazy 8. Carter's outfit: Shirt Gap, shorts Janie & Jack. 

Family: Florida 2015

The first week of May we headed to Florida for our first ever family of 5 vacation. We rented a house on Miramar Beach (which was beautiful), and spent the week playing in the ocean and pool, and exploring the Destin area. Every parent knows a family vacation with little kiddos isn't likely to be super relaxing, but in spite of a few meltdowns along the way it was more than worth it.

On our way to Florida we split the 12 hour drive into 2 days and stayed the night in Memphis. We'll likely NEVER do that again because it just made for 2 very long days! When we made the trip home we'd planned on just driving all day, but then on a whim we decided to leave the evening before and drive overnight (instead of leaving the following morning). This was the best decision ever and we will DEFINITELY do this next time! We ended up leaving around 8:30pm and arrived home at 10:30 - we made amazing time since the kiddos slept nearly the entire drive. This was much easier than trying to entertain 3 kids for 12+ hours.  

During the (loooong) drive home I put together a little video recap of the trip. The boys love to see themselves on TV so I didn't do a lot of cropping - it's 15 minutes long! I've been trying to take more video clips because hearing their little voices is the sweetest sound this mama can think of.

While the trip had its share of rough patches, we've only been away from the beach for 3 days and the boys are ready to go back - so I'd call the vacation a success!  

I've heard from a number of friends lately that they plan to visit the beach with their families this summer, so I wanted to share a list of a few things I found helpful on our trip: 

We loved the HUGE Scout beach bag and Palm Beach blanket.

We loved the HUGE Scout beach bag and Palm Beach blanket.

  1. Beach bags: I bought two of the Scout Deano beach bags off Amazon and these things were awesome. One bag is big enough to hold 5 beach towels, some sunscreen and still have a extra room to throw in random little things. Having 2 was great so we had somewhere for clothes, shoes and beach toys as well.
  2. Beach blanket: I found this Palm Beach Crew blanket of Amazon and it worked out great. In addition to being easy to roll up and carry, the corners have removable weights and it came with a waterproof bag we used for phones, wallets etc at the beach.
  3. Sand toys: I also bought these from Amazon, and they worked great because everything fit nicely back into the storage bag. There were a lot of different highly reviewed sets on Amazon, but this set worked well outside of the boys fighting over the shovel. Ha! They also liked blowing bubbles on the beach.
  4. Swimwear: I found the cutest swimwear for the boys from Mini Boden (I always love their retro shorty shorts) and waterproof Native shoes from Nordstrom. These shoes are the BEST for summer.
    1. I found most of Sylvie's swimwear from Gymboree and Janie and Jack. My suits I mostly found at Dillard's in late August (for my birthday - actual birthday suits, haha) and they were on super sale. So if you can plan ahead, buying swimwear in August is the way to go! 
    2. My parents bought the kiddos hooded beach wraps from Pottery Barn Kids and they loved them! These towels are so thick and cozy and the hoods help keep them in place. 
  5. Sunscreen: Obviously you can find sunscreen anywhere, and being a very fair skinned family I'm proud to say we made it through the entire sunny trip without a single sunburn! But applying sunscreen to kids is THE WORST! I found using the cheapest, biggest sunscreen spray on the boys bodies, followed by lotion & suscreen sticks on their faces and ears worked great. This kept it from taking too long, but ensured they were safe. For Sylvie I applied ThinkBaby lotion to her entire body every morning when I dressed her, then again on here arms, legs, face and head when at the beach.
The boys in their shorty shorts (except Chris, who refuses ;)

The boys in their shorty shorts (except Chris, who refuses ;)

I hope some of this is helpful, I'd love to hear about other family travel tips you've discovered! Alright, so now on to planning another vacation! ;) 

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Family: Sylvie's Bumpy Ride

Sylvie loves to sit in her brother's car, and for the first time she's big enough to not flop around when we push her in it. Over the weekend the boys really wanted to push her, so I of course obliged. Here's the rest of the story.

 

Reason 1,183 why she's gonna be tough!

Watching them play, grow and interact is the most amazing gift.

Design: Staging The Rosebriar Living Room

I realized I never shared a shot of the Rosebriar living room after we staged it. We wanted to keep it really minimal so we can hopefully reuse the furniture in future remodels, but I still think it turned out great. The house is still listed, but there has been a lot of interest so hopefully the right family will find it soon! 

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I love all the natural light flooding this area, it really is such a beautiful space. 

The house is still listed, but there has been a lot of interest so hopefully the right family will find it soon! 

Design: Rosebriar Exterior Before & After

The 911 E. Rosebriar house is officially listed here, so I wanted to get some of the exterior shots posted now that we have some with the sun out (these shots are courtesy of Murney). Also, I had to throw in a few before shots because - wow - it's changed SO much since December! 

The interior before & after shots are posted here. If you know anyone looking for the cutest house conveniently located in a cute and friendly neighborhood in Springfield, MO, please send them this way!

And now how it looked back in December.