Eight Essential Items to Traveling Europe with 2 Toddlers and 1 Baby

Last year we went to Europe for 3 months with our 3 children (then aged 4, 2.5 years, and 7 months old).  I talked in this post about how we made this work and in today’s post, I’m going to talk about the eight items that ended up being the most useful equipment we took that made our lives way easier as we traveled with such young children.  A few of these were last-minute decisions that we were super happy we made, and others were extremely well-researched, deeply-considered purchases that ended up being worth every single penny.

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International Traveling with 3 kids, 4 and Under: How We Made it Work

Last summer, my husband and I packed up most of our belongings into a storage unit, gathered our three kids who at the time were 4 years, 2.5 years, and 6 months old, a couple other family members and left for a three month trip to Europe.

A lot of people thought we were crazy.  Maybe we were.  But we did it, and we had a ton of fun!  Since then I’ve gotten a lot of questions on how we made it work.  To be clear, we’re not uber-rich, we’re a one-income family, we didn’t get any sponsorships or help.  We decided we wanted to travel, we structured our life so that we could and then we did it.  It was a few years in the planning and it involved some sacrifices but this is how we did it:

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DIY: How To Refinish Any Piece of Furniture the Lazy-DIY Way

Turning auction finds into a useable Coffee Bar!

I love refinishing pieces that need new life in them or that I can use around my home, but to be honest, I’m lazy about it.  I hate sanding, I hate prep work.  When I want to do something, I just want to get down and do the actual thing.. NOT spend 5 hours on sanding every last piece of paint or finish off.  Keep reading for my 5 easy steps on how you can get your project done with minimal stress and work…




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YNAB: The ONLY Budgeting Software you should EVER use!

Photo: #YNABstockphotos

Why We Started Using YNAB

When my husband and I got married, we both were on the same page as far as finances went. We both felt strongly about having as little debt as possible; living within our means; and handling the money we did have responsibly.  We didn’t have much experience in budgeting or fiscal responsibility though.  We were both very young (20 years old); and neither of us had ever had much money to handle.  So it was fortunate for us, that due to the recommendation of my husband’s boss, we started using an awesome piece of budgeting software called, You Need a Budget. Or for short, YNAB.  This one piece of software has changed our lives in numerous ways!

What Is YNAB:

You Need a Budget is a piece of software that is easy to use, effective, and necessary for your financial life! It allows you to:

  • easily set financial goals
  • categorize your spending as finely as you want
  • syncs with your bank
  • makes it a dream to reconcile your spending
  • makes it HARD to overspend
  • has an awesome mobile app
  • helps you save thousands
  • gives you super-cool, easy-to-read reports on how you’ve prioritized and spend your money.
  • AND it’s easy to use

Most budgeting software seems to be geared towards someone who has had years of financial training.  Not YNAB!  For sure, it works great for the CPAs, and CFOs and all that, but in my opinion, where it shines is how it enables normal, everyday people to take charge of their money in a clear, straightforward effective, FUN way.  

A Few Ways it Has Helped Us:

Saved us a lot of arguments:

Statistically, finances are one of the greatest sources of arguments between two married people.  We tagged this as an potential weak spot in our marriage at the start as we’re both very strong-willed people who both have very clear ideas of what we want. With that in mind, we committed to keeping our communication clear on the topic.  YNAB makes this extremely easy by not only being easy to use; easy to have access to on multiple devices; easy to sync; and easy to quickly determine problem points in the budget.  Other systems (like QUICKEN – ick!) are just a big pain in the butt and hard to understand for the average person.  Every year we talk about our financial goals for the next year and then we review those a few times a year.  We reconcile a few times a month, a process that takes less than 20 minutes, due to how streamlined and easy to use their interface is.

Made it Easy to Set Financial Goals

You Need A Budget is set up in a way to make it incredibly simple to set financial goals.  For each category, you have the option of adding how much you want to save by when.  The software then tells you how much you need to set aside each month to make that happen.  Not only does this give you a cool little graph to follow as it ticks upward each month, it also lets you easily see if your goals are even feasible to begin with.

Saved Us 100s of Dollars

YNAB is the number one tool that we both believe has saved us hundreds in unnecessary spending.  Even the people with the best of intentions can find themselves spending more than they think when they have no easy way to keep track of their money-out/money-in.  It’s kind of like dieting.  Before you start, you think you’re eating 1800 calories and then you start counting them and you realize you’re eating 3000 calories and most of that in food you don’t even like.  Keeping track of your calories(money) allows you to make informed, thought-out choices on what you buy and to maximize the amount of money you have with what your priorities truly are. The tiny yearly fee they charge for using it is more than worth it for the money they save us.

Saved Us a Lot of Stress

The other area in which YNAB excels is making it a piece of cake to set aside money in a consistent manner for “those things”Ya know, car repairs, appliance replacement, out-of-the-blue medical bills – all that stuff.  We have categories for all of these items and because we add a bit to each one each month, by the time we’re hit with that huge car repair it’s not a stress. Because the money has been set aside waiting for the time it’s needed.

Real-life examples of this in the past 5 years are:

  • finding out our only car needed a complete overhaul four days before a long car-trip
  • appliance repair (and replacement)
  • sudden medical expenses
  • and Christmas budgeting. ( Yes, we budget for Christmas and it’s amazing how little stress you have at the holidays when you’ve set aside money all year and it’s just there!)

Allowed Us to Travel

In England

This is an extension of everything else I’ve written here.  When you have two people who have an easy-to-use, effective, (FUN) piece of software the makes managing your money a breeze, it’s much easier to accomplish your dreams.  One of ours was to go to Europe for three months and we achieved that last year and not only did we do it, but we did it with our three little kids (4 and under!).   And no, we’re not rolling in wealth: we’re just normal people.  We set categories and goals years before, prioritized our spending, and set a timeline.  And when we finally did it, we felt incredibly empowered and had an amazing time!  And I can say in all honesty that without YNAB, that would never have happened.

 Dream Careers

Okay, I haven’t worked there, but they are for reals my dream company to work for!  I’m not even kidding, every time they post a new career opportunity, I go and read through them all and then daydream for about 5 minutes before reality hits me.  If you don’t believe me, ask my husband.  Maybe someday!  I’ve only ever heard good things about their work environment and the perks they offer their employees are awesome!  Seriously, if anyone reading this is considering a new job, you should check them out!

Give You Need a Budget a Try

If you’re still on the fence, YNAB has a great offer where you can try it for free for 34 days!  So, give it a go! You’ve got nothing to lose but fair warning.. you’ll be hooked for life!



All the How-Tos on How to Entertain a Toddler with a Broken Bone

My FoolProof Tips For Helping Your Toddler When He Has a Broken Bone:

Keeping your laid-up toddler happy

Unfortunately, due to a genetic disorder, our family is no stranger to broken bone (see here) and currently we’re on the tail-end of dealing with another one.  So I thought I’d write up the tips I’ve learned over the past 18 months that help your toddler when he/she has a broken bone.  Hopefully, for your family its a one time thing, but if your family is similar to mine it may be something you deal with on a recurring basis.

(This post contains Amazon affiliate links which are no extra cost to you, but help me run this site.  However, everything I talk about are items and ideas that we use over and over again.)

My son is currently almost 3.5 years old but when he started breaking bones it was right before he turned 2.  In that time period we’ve had 5 broken bones (see this post).  There’s been a learning curve in helping him deal with the pain and find fun things to do but so far apart from the sadness of “another one!”, we have a pretty good system down of what happens and what helps!  Obviously, I hope no one reading this has had to deal with a kid breaking a bone, but if you are and it’s a new experience, here are the things that have helped us the most in keeping our toddler happy!

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Adjusting to a New Normal: When your Child has Osteogenesis Imperfecta.

Adjusting to a Genetic Disease: Life with Osteogenesis Imperfecta

Our son at 3 years old

As a parent, you envision that all your children will be “normal”.  No genetic defects, intelligent, smart, normal kids… and yet it doesn’t always turn out that way.  When I got married I knew my husband had a mild form of Osteogenesis Imperfecta (Type I for those interested).  I grew up being friends with him and his family.  He broke three bones before the age of 5 and that was it.  In both of our minds, OI seemed to be a “you break a few more bones than normal” and that was the extent of it.  And to all outward appearances, that really is the extent of it.  For example, my husband leads a totally normal life in every way.  My son looks normal and acts normal and (unless you were a doctor and knew what you were looking for), you would never guess that a fall for him could break a bone.  We knew, of course, when we got married that we had a 50% chance of passing it on to our children but in our naiveté we kind of just assumed that wouldn’t happen.

We had our first child 13 months after our wedding.  A beautiful bouncy fat little girl.  She’s about as rough and tumble as a kid can be. And no OI there.  I got pregnant with our second when she was 9 months old, a beautiful cheerful little boy and when he was 18 months old, we got pregnant with our third, who turned out to be another bouncy little boy.

Our second son was almost 2 and I was halfway through our third pregnancy when it happened.  He slipped on the floor and broke his right leg (a tib-fib).  And then two months later, he slipped again and broke his right femur.  Reality started to set in.  Based off his genetic history he was diagnosed with OI Type 1.  And we still thought.. ‘oh, that will probably be it’.  We were extra careful. We cut off the feet of the footie pjs which he had slipped in, we made sure slippery surfaces didn’t happen, and we did our best to let him be a kid.  Our 3rd child was born, we made it through the year and the next summer. We went to Europe for 3 months and nothing happened (which I now view as not only a blessing but a miracle) and two weeks after we got home he broke his right leg again.  Two days before he got that cast off, in a weird incident which shouldn’t have been a problem, he broke his left leg.  And two days ago on the first day of 2018, he broke his right leg again.

And reality is continuing to set in.  He’s barely 3 years old and has broken 5 bones.   And although we don’t have an official diagnosis, we (and our doctor) are pretty sure our baby has it too. (In case someone is wondering, testing for this disease takes a REALLY long time to get results back)

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The Best Fall Fashion Finds for Easy, Cozy, and Stylish Outfits

My son in the leaves

I love Fall: the cold crisp days; falling colorful leaves; crackling fires in the morning; getting ready for Christmas and last but not least, cozy sweaters; leggings; boots; scarves – basically everything about fall fashion!

I’m also a ‘lazy’ shopper. Or I prefer a ‘smart’ shopper. I have three kids four and under and clothes shopping can be a big pain when all your toddlers want to do is go home and take a nap or play or anything except be there and watch their mom look for clothes. And that’s not even taking into account the whole “trying things on ordeal” as you keep the girl from dragging the baby out of the dressing view while the boy loudly proclaims how he wants to color dinosaurs now and they suddenly are all hungry and thirsty at the same time.

Because of that I’ve transitioned to buying most of clothes online.  Amazon has come a long way in the past few years in their clothes department to the point where they now have a huge range of items. Also, if you have Amazon Prime, you get free two-day shipping (= you get your items super quickly) AND you get free returns, which means you can easily return things that don’t fit.

With that in mind, here are my favorite fall clothing staples for my 2017 Fall and Winter wardrobe:

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Traveling with Kids Part 1: Planning and Preparation

Traveling with Kids: Planning and Preparation

Due to circumstances outside of my control, my posting has been sporadic lately.  A big part of that reason is that we’re getting ready to go on a huge 3 month adventure!  We’re heading to Europe!  With our three little kids! Who are four and under!  And yes, I’m nervous and excited at all at once!

In just under three weeks, my husband and I will be fulfilling a dream we’ve had since we got married (and I’ve had since I was 15) and going on a three month international trip, centered in France and the United Kingdom.   Hopefully, this will be the first of many as, long-term,  we would love to provide travel to our kids as part of their regular education.  A lot of decisions have come together to make this trip a reality: from job choices to even how we live on a daily basis.

Starting today, I will be doing a series of posts on traveling: from planning; packing tips; flying tips; things we learn along the way; tips on making traveling with children successful and rewarding and the tools we used to achieve this.

Keep reading to find out how we are making this  all work!

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My Top 10 Go-To Fitness Accessories for Living an Active Lifestyle as a Mom


On a short getaway to San Diego!
My babies!

As a full-time mom to three little ones (4 years old, 2.5 years old, and 3 months old) it’s not always easy to carve out time for exercise and it’s also far too easy to make excuses for myself!  So, I’ve written up my Top Ten Go-To Fitness Products that either help me stay motivated; help me stay on top of my fitness goals; or make it easy to exercise even if I have to do it with all my kids.  I’ve included a “Why I love this” description and a link that will take you to Amazon where you can find more reviews and current prices.  So, keep reading below for what makes working out with toddlers easier for THIS mom.

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