Wholesome Living Hotel Challenge Home Again!

Today, I am writing this post of the wholesome living hotel challenge series from our home. We found out we were able to head home a few days after my husband’s store opened. Turns out, the grand opening was such a success my husband was told he did not need stay on location for the typical requirement of two weeks. Instead, we stayed a few days after the store opened and were able to return home yesterday night after the girls and I had stayed in the hotel for a total of eleven days.

I will most likely write a few follow-up blogs as a part of the series, but I will not be posting “live” from our hotel room anymore. I am incredibly thankful to be home again. I admit, I almost cried when we walked through our front door.

The most difficult part of the trip was our lack of sleep. Most of which was because of the fire alarms. The alarms gave our girls horrible nightmares and, from day one (when five alarms went off for the hotel’s annual alarm testing), our girls were terribly frightened to go to sleep. They could see the alarm on the ceiling each night and at nap time. Anytime they heard a beep of any sort, they woke up in tears. There was only one night during the eleven days we were there when the girls slept through the night completely. Most nights, we were up with them in the middle of the night for at least a few hours or the girls would end up in bed with us if we could not get them back to sleep. Even if the girls were in bed with us, it still took some time (on average-an hour) to get them to calm down enough to sleep.

The best part of the trip was getting to see my husband at his store on opening day. It was a blessing to see his success and him in action at work. I am so thankful he has a job he loves.

The best part of the trip, wholesome living-wise, was successfully learning to cook in such a tiny space. With only two stove burners, microwave and a dishwasher, cooking on a regular basis for a family of four was quite a challenge. I am proud I we were able to have so many “home-cooked” meals during our stay. We ate thirty-three meals while we were there and only ate out five times total. Granted, eleven of those meals were from the hotel’s breakfast buffet, but we tried to have mainly healthy foods from the buffet. The hotel had a fabulous made-to-order omelet station, which was wonderful. So, if we account for the breakfast buffet, really, we were only responsibly for twenty-two meals and five of those we ate out. Not bad. We only had one fast-food purchase and one pizza delivery. The other meals were at sit-down restaurants where we ordered responsibly. Yes, we could have made all our meals in our room, but there is a time and a place for eating out and enjoying a break from cooking, and so we did.

The worst part of the trip, wholesome living-wise, was my re-addiction to baked goods. Even though Starbucks does not serve any foods with HFCS, artificial flavors or dyes, etc., I still do not think their foods quite meet the definition of wholesome. But, they do pair oh so well with coffee and there was a Starbucks right across the street from our hotel. When I am stressed (and I was for most of this trip), I crave warm drinks and baked goods. It’s awful. I caved far too many times to a baked good to go with my afternoon coffee on this trip. Actually, now that I think about it, I only caved four times (and those four times happened to be on the last four days we were there…), but still. I am disappointed in myself.

It feels surreal to be home again. Driving around, getting groceries this morning with our girls, I kept thinking to myself, “Did we just do that?” “Was that a dream?” “I can’t believe we just did that!” Isn’t it amazing the things God brings us through? Since we have been back (e.g. this morning), I converted our daughter’s crib to a toddler bed (since she was already in her own “bed” at the hotel) and packed up our cloth diapers. She is asleep right now in her “new” big-girl bed and potty-training starts up again bright and early tomorrow morning! I am excited for these two new adventures and thankful we can work on them in our very own home!

In closing, our three year-old daughter was praying today for our lunch and during her prayer, she prayed, “and God please bring us more good adventures…” So be it!

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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.