Wholesome Living Challenge Day Eight

Today on day eight of our stay, my husband opened a new store for his company. Although he has been a district manager for several years, this was the first time he has ever opened a store. I am incredibly proud of all his hard work. He has been working insane hours getting everything ready for the store’s grand opening, while I have been busy looking after our girls and puppy by myself in our hotel room. I have been trying to keep the girls busy so they would not notice their Daddy’s absence.

Today was grand opening! The store opened smoothly and right on time this morning. When the girls and I stopped by the store it was packed and the who’s who of the company were there to welcome shoppers to their store. I am thrilled the store is open, but I am more excited for our life to get back to normal. We still have to stay by the store for the first few weeks until it gets on its feet, but the grand opening stress will at least have subsided a bit. Hopefully we will also return to our normal practice of eating most meals together as a family. This means, I have meals to plan and grocery shopping to do.

As I have mentioned in prior posts, we are trying to continue to eat wholesome foods while we are away. The girls and I typically eat healthy, but simple meals when Daddy is not around for dinner. Think organic peanut butter and homemade jam (e.g. little to no raw sugar) on sprouted or sourdough bread type of simple. The past three days have been filled with these type of simple meals (except for our Taco Bell lunch). Yesterday we made a trip out to Shunpike Dairy for our milk. We had a blast. The weather was warm and in addition to getting our week’s supply of milk, we also got to see the farm animals. We even saw a wobbly, baby calf who was born right before we arrived. The girls were thrilled. One thing I love about shopping directly from farmers is directly supporting real people (e.g. the human interaction). I enjoy supporting local businesses. I feel more like a part of a community if I am actively contributing our money (votes) to local businesses I love. There was a young lady working at the farm who showed us around and encouraged us to explore and stay as long as we liked. She also told us about a zoo right down the road. I have been in a few box stores since we have arrived and I have not gotten a recommendation from anyone about places to go or things to see during our visit. Granted, I never asked. Why? Because most of those types of stores are just not conducive to long conversations. Cashiers are usually evaluated by how quickly they can ring items and this often takes precedence over their customer service skills. Box store, locally-owned store and direct-from farmer options are all useful in their own ways, it comes down to what people prefer and value.

I decided to take the young lady’s zoo recommendation. I took the girls to the zoo and enjoyed a beautiful, warm day. The Trevor Zoo is a part of The Millbrook School. It is the only zoo in the United States (and maybe the world) run by and on the grounds of a high school. The Millbrook School is a private prep school and costs a whopping $49,000 per year, plus books. As a part of their high school experience, students work at the zoo. While we were there, we were passed several times by students hurrying to the main animal clinic take care of their responsibilities at the zoo. Responsibilities mainly consisted of feeding the animals and cleaning out their cages. The zoo itself was lovely and it’s location breathtaking. Although small, it was a delight to visit. I doubt we would ever consider (or make enough) to ever send our kids away to a private prep school for high school. However, I was incredibly impressed with the students. They were some of the most pleasant, responsible teens I have ever met. It was obvious they had been given a lot of responsibility, but the teenagers all seemed to thrive under such expectations. It gave me a lot to think about.

So, today, on day eight I am thankful for:

-The chance to wander.
-Mason jars! Ever since a friend of mine brought me flowers in a mason jar I have been in love with their simplicity and usefulness. The milk we bought from Shunpike Dairy came in half gallon mason jars! I have never seen a mason jar so large. I am going to hold onto them and use them as decorations in our home.
-Car rides and their ability to lull children to sleep while Mama drives and sips on a latte.
-A perfect grand opening for my husband’s new store.
-Our girls behaving wonderfully while they were introduced to Daddy’s bosses.
-A chance to catch up on some reading and blog on a regular basis.

Below is an image of The Millbrook School’s campus.

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*This post is shared on Raising Homemakers.

Wholesome Living Hotel Challenge Day Six

Today, on day 6, our girls had Taco Bell for the very first time ever. Until today, we have done very well sticking to our wholesome eating practices and making most of our meals in our mini-kitchen.

This morning we went to the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum. It aptly served its purpose (okay, so maybe it was my purpose) of tiring the girls out, but, unfortunately it tired me out too and so…I caved. I just did not have the energy to whip up something for lunch. So we paid a visit to the Taco Bell drive thru. At the very least, I am thankful our girls ate some meat. They have not been eating a lot of meat recently and I was pleasantly surprised and pleased when they happily ate the soft tacos I ordered for them. So, exactly one day after our three year old smartly told her Daddy, “You shouldn’t eat Donald’s, it’s bad for you,” we had our own fast-food splurge.

Tacos are a messy food to eat, especially on the floor around a coffee table with toddlers who have not quite mastered the fine art of eating a taco. Have I mentioned before that we have no broom or vacuum? Initially I had thought staying in the hotel would be great because the hotel would do all our heavy duty cleaning for us. But, then a few hours after our arrival (and first meal at the hotel), reality hit. I realized there was no way we could live with the insane amount of crumbs our children produced while contently munching away on meals and snacks. Even though the hotel would faithfully clean our room on a daily basis if we asked them too, it would not be enough to keep up with all the crumbs. At home I vacuum or sweep certain areas of our home at least three times a day. Our room was disgusting after a single meal at the hotel. How would we live without a vacuum?

We had an unexpected answer for our crumb dilemma. Enter Moses, our newest family addition. We had been researching and planning getting a puppy for our family since the summer time. We paid for and picked out our puppy before we knew we would be out of town for so long. When we found out we would be out of town, we had our puppy for a month or so and decided to bring him along. I am so very glad we did. He is now about twelve weeks old and has been a tremendous help keeping up with the crumbs and messes.

It has been challenging having a puppy along for sure, but he has made it worth our while with his wonderful clean up skills. I do think he gets a little bored being in the same two rooms, but this has been a good opportunity to work with him on how to walk on a leash. When it is warm out, like today, we take him on long walks. Since he is so little (only about seven pounds), he does not take up much space either. We were supposed to have a room with a sliding door, but that did not happen. So, one of our wonderful challenges has been taking Moses out to the potty. Thankfully, we are on the ground level, right next to the exit. Still, I do not feel comfortable taking Moses out by myself and leaving the girls in the room alone, especially when the girls can open the door to let themselves out. So, we all go to take Moses potty. The first day or two it was quite challenging because it was bitter cold outside, at times in the single digits. Anytime we had to take Moses outside, I had to bundle everyone up in their heavy winter gear just for a five minute potty break. Now that it’s a bit warmer (and supposed to stay that way), it has not been as bad and the girls and I even enjoy taking Moses out on walks around the “block” (our hotel’s exterior) a few times a day.

For every obstacle we have faced so far in our grand hotel adventure, we have had many blessings and pleasant surprises. Tonight, we experienced our sixth fire alarm here. The day we arrived five alarms went off over the course of two hours because the hotel was conducting its annual fire alarm tests. Since then our girls have fearfully asked us before every naptime and bedtime if the fire alarm is going to go off. Each naptime and bedtime, the girls lay in their beds and stare up at the fire alarm blinking on the ceiling above them, wondering and asking if it is going to go off. We have had to constantly reassure the girls that it was just a test and everything is fine. Tonight, however, it was not a test. It was real.

I was getting the girls into their pajamas when the alarm started to go off. I have no idea if this is the norm for fire alarms in hotels, but this particular hotel’s alarm is terrifying. It is deafening, piercing and horrifying to hear, even for me, an adult. As soon as it started to go off, the girls jumped into my lap, petrified, screaming and crying. They were paralyzed with fear and refused to do anything besides cling to me. Even Moses was whimpering and trying to hide underneath me. Knowing it was not a test, I hurriedly finished getting my daughter’s pajamas on, hooked Moses up on his leash, slipped on my flip-flops, grabbed a room key and got out of our room. All the other guests were out of their rooms and in the hallway. I found this reassuring since I was hoping it was not just our room’s alarm going off, that would have been incredibly embarrassing! Ha! Once I conferred with another guest that the alarm was indeed going off in all the rooms, I felt at least a little bit better knowing it wasn’t something in our room that had caused all the ruckus. There was no fire and no smoke that we could see so we all headed down to the front desk. There we met up with the rest of the hotel’s guests. We crammed into the dining room, reception area and nearby halls. The front desk clerk told us there was nothing to do but wait. The alarm was only going off in the rooms. The hallways and front reception area were only a tad bit quieter than the insane noise blaring from our rooms.

The fire trucks came. The police came. The lovely elderly woman next to me leaned over her walker and told me that last week the alarm went off and it was due to a broken pipe. Moses got a lot of attention and we waited- Me in my mix-matched pajamas complete with socks and flip-flops, my one daughter in my other younger daughter’s pajamas (she was “trying them on” when the alarm went off), and my other daughter, in her adorable pajamas, chewing on Moses’ chew toy (don’t worry, we bought it for him but he has yet to chew it, our girls have confiscated it and pretend it’s a binky). What a sight! At least we were easily approachable I suppose. We talked with several different people and the girls got to interact with a few other kids. I got to hear about other people’s dogs and then after about thirty minutes, the alarm went off. The front desk clerk announced there was no fire and we could all return to our rooms. We have no idea why it went off. I am slightly worried our room is going to flood in the night or something of that nature. Still, it was an entertaining evening. We enjoy meeting new people, and, best of all, our girls were so worn out from all the hoopla that they went right to sleep as soon as they laid down that night. For the first time in six nights, they did not ask if the fire alarm was going to go off. They did not look up at the alarm and watch its blinking green light. They simply drifted. Peacefully. Calmly. Quietly.

This post is shared on Raising Homemakers.

Wholesome Living Hotel Challenge Day Five

Today is day five of our hotel adventure and day two of our girlies napping as usual. We have settled into our own routine. This week I am hoping to take the girls out on a few mini-adventures over the next few days. It has been interesting to see how we have all adapted to our new environment.

Our biggest struggle so far has been teaching our girls a completely new set of boundaries. Our hotel room is not childproof. Our girls had to learn what areas of our rooms were off limits and what areas they are free to explore and play in. In some ways this has been difficult. At home, we have well-established boundaries and the girls know the boundaries and, for the most part, are content to stay within those boundaries (ahem, pots and pans cupboard). There are also areas at home where we can store things that are inaccessible to the girls (at least for now). Here every cabinet and storage space is easily accessible, except for the kitchen cabinets above the stove. Frankly, I have a tough time reaching those as well since I am short. We have had to come up with some creative ways of storing things that are usually out of our girls’ reach, such as razors, vitamins, and such.

Prior to this trip, I somehow forgot how crazy life can be when in a new living environment with little ones. When we visit relatives or friends, usually they have taken some steps to ensure the rooms we will be in are somewhat childproof. But, here potential hazards seem to lurk around every corner. When our girls are awake I have had to diligently watch them. Thankfully, this is not hard since our square footage is limited. There are not many places they can go where I cannot see them. Still, it reminds me of the days when our oldest daughter was little and we were just discovering what we needed to do to childproof our home in conjunction with working with our daughter to teach her where she could or could not venture.

I do have a small toy area set up for the girls in our room. I decided to bring only a few toys: blocks, books, and a few dolls. I figured we would keep it simple and all of those items can be used in multiple ways. I also brought along alphabet cards and a matching game to pull out on special occasions. Everything can be stored neatly (dolls end up in bed with the girls just about every night, blocks in their box and books in their bag). This has made clean-up time quick and easy for the girls.

Our youngest daughter (21 mo.) has gotten too big to sleep comfortably in a pack and play. So, for this trip, we decided to get a toddler air mattress for her. It is the first time she has slept in anything like this. At home, she is still in her crib. The air mattress is like a typical air mattress, but it has built in rails on it. We are planning to transition her over to a big girl bed once we return home and were hoping this would be a good way of training her to stay in her own bed. At first, she was confused and did not understand she was supposed to sleep on the mattress. After she understood she was supposed to sleep on it, she happily realized she could get on and off the mattress at will. She thought (and still sometimes thinks) it is hilarious to escape off her mattress. The first night or two, I thought it was not going to work out. But, we continued to work with her and she is slowly but surely understanding the concept of staying put and sleeping on her own bed. Our other daughter has been happily sleeping on the pullout couch without any trouble. Both girls and the puppy have taken a few days to get back into their normal sleep patterns.

I did not think that moving into a smaller space would require more effort on our end to keep things tidy. But, it does. It forces us to clean up all the time or it incredibly chaotic. With only four place settings, dishes must be done after every meal and usually after snack time. With only two burners, one skillet and one saucepan, meal prep must be completed as planned (yes, burner and pot usage needs to be planned in advance most of the time) or the meal is ruined. Beds must be set up and taken down each day. Books and toys must be put away or there is no place to eat. We have discovered living in a small space demands round the clock tidiness.

So here at the end of day five, I find myself thankful for many things about this trip:

I am thankful for the ability to learn new things and grow where God has me.
I am thankful our family can be together.
I am thankful for made-to-order omelets each morning.
I am thankful for an unlimited supply of coffee.
I am thankful for meeting new people and the kindness of strangers (and hotel employees).
I am thankful for a warm pool and a renewed passion for swimming laps.
I am thankful for small treasures found in precious moments- snowflakes atop my daughters hair, the soft snore of my child finally falling asleep after fighting a valiant fight to stay awake, and the warm rays of sunshine as a cold spell finally comes to an end.

*This post is shared on Real Food Wednesday and at Raising Homemakers.

Wholesome Living Hotel Challenge

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I love to travel. I have always loved to travel. Growing up, I visited almost every state on the eastern side of the Mississippi. When I was in college I spent weeks touring Europe. In graduate school and beyond, I presented at conferences all over the country, including a few in the midwest. Today, I dream of one day visiting Yellowstone and Seattle.

When our kids came along, we decided to take them with us whenever we decided to go somewhere. Last year’s travel record was a fifteen hour road trip with two kids under age two, one of which was potty-training. It was quite an adventure.

When we found out my husband had to be out of town for quite a bit of time, we decided that the girls and I would join him, and, so today is day three of a two and a half week long stay at a hotel. The girls (now ages three and one), puppy, and I decided to come along with my husband on his work project this time around. We booked a suite complete with a kitchen and determined to stick to our wholesome eating practices, even while traveling. We thought we did a good job planning ahead for our meals. We brought down a bunch of food from our freezer and refridgerator so we would not need to buy a lot of groceries once we arrived. Plus, this way we thought we would not need to worry about sourcing the foods we prefer, such as grass-fed beef and such.

We planned on eating the hotel’s free breakfast every morning. Then, we were going to cook our own lunches and dinners to save money and our digestive tracts. Plans are wonderful. If it all works out the way you imagined it. If not, you are left with mere pieces of the plan and the challenge of trying to fit it all back together.

Day One: The girls and I arrived at the hotel to discover that our children can now escape out of hotel rooms. Fun. The fire alarm went off five times that first afternoon. It was their annual fire alarm testing day. Both girls and puppy were terrified. Girls walked around the rest of the afternoon holding their ears and looking up at the alarm on the ceiling. We also discovered the kitchen we will be using for the next few weeks does not have a oven. It has two stove burners, a dishwasher, a fridge, four large plates, four small plates, four cups, one sauce pan, one sauce pan, and four sets of silverware. That’s it. The wonderful meal plans I compiled for our weeks in the hotel were of little use when we do not have an oven. Major adjustments would need to be made. In the mean time, we ate dinner out. Girls had a difficult time going to sleep because they were both worried the fire alarm was going to go off. On a more positive note, I realized we could turn the deadbolt on our room door and children can no longer attempt to escape. Yay.

Day Two: Laundry. Ryan had been staying at this hotel for some time prior to our arrival so I decided we would keep busy and do some laundry today. Girls discovered they love running through the hallways of the hotel. Amended a few meal plans. Went grocery shopping. Found a local farm for fruit, milk and cream. Discovered I love the lime refresher at Starbucks. Dinner was take home prepared food from grocery store: Apple and Brie stuffed chicken, brussel sprouts and rice.

Day Three: Discovered hotel has made-to-order omelets as a part of the free breakfast! Mentally starting to get back on track. I am thankful I brought along my crockpot. Menu now includes a lot of homemade soups. Tonight’s dinner: Sour cream pork-chops, smashed sweet potatoes, and kale. All made, from scratch, by yours truly. Girls not napping regularly (or easily should I say). Seems they are permanently scarred by the fire alarm testing. I decided it was too ambitious of me to try and start potty-training our youngest before we left. She is now back in diapers until we return home. Today, I also discovered a cabinet in our room that I did not see before. The cabinet held a wonderful treasure: Measuring cups and mixing bowls. Hurray!

Despite our rocky beginning, I am optimistic that we can do this. People thrive in tight spaces all the time. So, for now, I am going to take a deep breath and get back to revamping those meal plans and my sanity…

This post has been shared at Real Food Wednesday and Raising Homemakers.