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Friday, June 15, 2018

Our Forever House in Progress- A New Build

Back in 2010, my husband and I moved to Maryland. We pretty much immediately started looking for our first home to purchase, as we knew we'd be here for the long haul.

Moving from Ohio to Maryland had some sticker shock. Our dream home in Ohio, was about half the price (or less) than what it would cost here in Maryland.

Our dreams of having a nice yard were stunted, and we quickly realized we weren't even close to affording a single family home in this area.

It took us a solid year of searching, to finally come to terms with the fact that we were going to have to purchase a townhouse. We came to terms with it and found a great first home.

We moved in a little bit closer, but still stayed in the suburbs. We loved our first home and poured our hearts into it. We did all sorts of home improvements.

Our first home was with us as newlyweds, and as new parents. That house was our home through two births, and two losses. It was the perfect house for our needs at the time.

Fast forward to 2018, and we were feeling the need to slow down. We were wanting another bedroom, and we were really hoping to get back to our idea of some land and some space.

We knew it would be tough, but we started our search.

In the process of selling our home and losing what we thought would be the home of our dreams, we stumbled upon the perfect find.

We found our land and the chance to build our forever home from scratch.

The prices around here are still waaaay out of our comfort zone, but that's just the reality of the area. We made a few bucks on our sale, and had just enough to put it towards our dream house.

We didn't get to put our 20% down that we'd hoped for, so we are still going to be stuck with PMI on our monthly payments.

We are back to a monthly payment that's doable, but tight as a result of this purchase.

The money part and the financial commitment scares me. I remember feeling this way when we purchased our first home.

I would have freak out moments that I would feel like we shouldn't be doing it and that it was too expensive.

We figured it out and made it work, and it was such a great investment. And, financially we grew into it.

Now, here we are again. I get super stressed when I think about the commitment we made.

It will be an adjustment, but one that we can manage.

There are two things that give me such comfort, though:

1. It's our forever home. 

I know life is going to throw things our way. I know we can't actually count on it being our forever home.

But it could be. And we want it to be. Those words are so comforting to think about.

This is it. This is our dream house. This is our dream land. This is what we've always wanted- within reach.

So we grabbed it as quickly as we could. We'll grow into it financially and become more comfortable as the years go by.

It's all worth it to have our forever home.

2. I can breathe.

When we visit our land, and our construction in process, I am suddenly as stress free as it gets.

The mountain views in the back, and the farm views in the front give me such a sense of calm. I feel home. Our house isn't even built yet.

I could spend hours just taking it all in and standing on our bare land. I can see our kids playing in the massive backyard, and the dogs running around.

We purchased 1.8 acres! 1.8 acres! AHH! It's so peaceful and so amazing.

The house is 1825 sq ft. It's more than enough for us.

It will be 3 bedrooms with an unfinished full basement.

The kitchen, eating nook, and family room are all nice and open, which we love.

Our builder suggested a genius change to the floor plan- since we will be using the "dining room" as an office, we are closing it in from the kitchen, and extending our pantry to be, well HUGE!

We are really excited about this change. Below, you'll see a picture of my husband with his arms stretched out. That's the pantry he's standing in. LOL!

I can feel myself enjoying the morning views from my office. It is breathtaking. It's is our slow down. It is our peace.

On May 24th, they broke ground. The hole for our foundation was dug.

The next day, our foundation was started. By June 9th, we had a first floor framed out, and by June 13th, we had a second story!

The process is fascinating to watch. Honestly, I wish I could watch every bit of the process and learn about every little detail that goes into building a house.

I love being able to take Caroline to see the process. She gets SO excited to play on the land, and she is thrilled to see the progress on the house build.

It's been super fun to pick out the details of the house. We got to pick our granite counter tops in the kitchen, the color of the cabinets and the hardware.

We chose the bathroom vanity marble and cabinet colors as well.

Then we picked flooring. We ended up downgrading in some areas and upgrading in others.

We didn't want to spend too much on this, but were also trying to think ahead to what we actually wanted.

We are getting a vinyl tile throughout most of the first floor, and I can't wait to see how it turns out.

Every detail is up to us! It's fun. The reality is that none of it matters.

We just want the bones of our house. But picking out the details is a lot of fun as well.

So far I am insanely happy with our choices.

In the kitchen we are doing grey base cabinets, with eggshell white for the top cabinets.

We love the two toned look in kitchens, so we were excited to have the flexibility to do this. The granite has really nice grey and brown tones.

We kept the grey cabinets in the bathrooms, with a white and grey marble.

The hardware for the kitchen and bathrooms is such a fun country touch.

The flooring is grey carpet throughout, with a tile look vinyl sheet in the upstairs bathrooms. The downstairs will have a nice wood look vinyl tile everywhere except the family room where we wanted cozy carpet.

This is such an exciting time in our lives. We cannot wait for this house to be built!

At the moment we are in between houses and living the apartment life. I didn't realize how much I'd dislike living in an apartment again! LOL!

We have a super heightened awareness of all of the wonderful reasons to own a home right now!

I chose an apartment that was really close to our lot. We are 5 minutes away.

I knew we'd be wanting to visit all the time, and I figured we'd have a chance to get used to our new area.

We are close enough to the lot, that we are already shopping at what will be our grocery store, etc. at the new house. I'm so glad to be so close by.

On the day that we went to settlement for our forever home, we got more huge news. Our fertility clinic called with the confirmation that I am pregnant!

We'll be moving into our house right before I enter the third trimester.

The timing on everything is just perfect and we can't wait to settle in.


Other Posts of Interest

The Keys That Opened The Door To Our First Home

Baby V #3 Pregnancy Announcement (7 weeks)

Today we have a real, honest post from a wonderful Mama- Carrie from Wiley Adventures! She is one of the very talented Babywise Friendly Blog Network  mom bloggers, and she has written a great guest post for us today. This couldn't be more true. Oh my threenager... LOL!

Dear Mom of the Threenager,

No one prepared me for the threenager year. I knew plenty about the terrible twos, and terrible though they were, I had had the naive idea that when my angel turned three she would magically turn, well, not so terrible anymore.

I wasn't prepared for the boundary pushing. I wasn't prepared for the emotional meltdowns, and I wasn't prepared for the grand gestures of independence.

When my oldest was three, it was one of the greatest parenting adventures I have had thus far in my decade of parenting. She was (and still is) one of the funniest human beings I had ever met and I laughed more than I ever though I would or could as a mom. She's fantastically hilarious.

But y'all, it was also SO VERY HARD. 

Every day she had a new idea of what she thought she should be able to do that day. One day it was "decorating" my headboard and footboard of my bed by sticking my jewelry to it with vaseline.

Another day, she cried for HOURS because we couldn't go swim with the dolphins that day. She insisted on dressing herself in outfits that didn't come close to matching, every day.

Every time I brushed her hair, she acted as though I was cutting her scalp open with a scalpel.

At naptime in her preschool, she would wait until the teacher got all of her friends to sleep and then she would POP up and with great delight say, "WAKE UP FRIENDS! WAKE UP!!! IT'S TIME TO WAKE UP AND PLAY!"

During that season, I had a lot of mom friends who would laugh with me, a lot who would give me advice (most of it was awesome and some of it extremely helpful!). I had some solidarity from moms in the trenches with me.

But I think the one thing I didn't hear, and the one thing I really needed to hear was that it was OKAY that it was so hard. That every day of mothering that little world changer was so hard and that it was supposed to be.

So Mama of the threenager, hear this: 

It's so very hard. And it's ok. And it's going to be ok, yes. But it's ok that its hard right now.

It's supposed to be hard. This is very hard work you are doing every day.

Know that you are not alone, there are other threenager moms in the trenches with you and it is hard for every one of us. Hang in there and know that one day they will turn four, and thankfully there is no freaky four. (But they do whine a lot.... don't say no one told you...)

Carrie is a veteran threenager Mama, mothering her fourth threenager as we speak. She blogs at

Other Posts of Interest

I am now 8 weeks along in my pregnancy! Baby V#3 is the size of a raspberry and starting to really make her presence known.

I feel a little odd in that I don't have an OB yet! That feels so weird to say. Normally, I've been in to see my OB for an ultrasound already. This time, however, is a bit different...

Since I was with the fertility clinic at first, they did my HCG numbers and my first two ultrasounds. We've moved about 30 minutes north of where my previous OB's office is, so my plan is to find a new OB. I'll be going to a different hospital as well, now that we've moved.

Since I have a relationship with a perinatologist, I scheduled an appointment to see him immediately. I will see him in two days.

This appointment was number one on my list, since I am considered high risk for several reasons (past cholestastis, antiphospholipid syndrome, and a previous pregnancy with trisomy 13).

My plan is to ask him for an OB recommendation when I see him in a couple of days. Luckily, this perinatologist has an office up by our new home, but I would have traveled to see him!

So, on Wednesday we'll talk about our options for testing and how often he'd like to see me for checkups.

My husband and I feel confident in the science- the science that indicates we are at no higher risk for another pregnancy for trisomy 13. As a result, we are not going to do any invasive testing. Instead, we feel comfortable to do the usual testing.

We have always participated in the nuchal translucency ultrasound and blood work. This time, we'll request the cell free DNA test as well. If any of those come back abnormal again, we'll then proceed with an amniocentesis.  In the meantime, however, we feel these tests to be sufficient.



Wow did I have a ton of nausea this week. Come lunchtime, I did not want to move until morning the next day. I am not actually throwing up, thank goodness! But, the nausea is full on.

I eat extra early, and extra meals to help combat this. I feel hungry and nauseous all at the same time. Such a weird feeling, but normal for my pregnancies.


Fatigue also reared it's ugly head this week. Brutal. The kind of fatigue that your arms and legs feel heavy. The kind of fatigue that is just debilitating.

I hate fatigue like this, but it is no stranger to me. I tried very hard to listen to my body this week and rest as much as I could.


I am back to eating my usual pregnancy favorite- cereal. All of the good kinds. Lucky charms is my favorite. This week it was Rice Krispies with bananas in it.

I also had my first random craving- french onion soup and a french baguette. My husband went to Panera for me. I was sooooo thankful he was offering to do so. Yum.


There are many moments that things just don't want to go down. I don't always feel hungry or like eating. I pick at my dinners mostly. Caroline reminds me that "this is what's for dinner."


I feel much better this week. I was not nearly as sad, and I was starting to feel more excited. I think writing and talking about the pregnancy really helped me to move past my sadness a bit.


Caroline is all talk about how she's going to help out with the baby. She wants to put the baby in the crib, she wants to push the stroller, etc. She talks about feeding the baby soft foods that we mash up, and she sets aside toys and books for the baby.

She REALLY wants a girl. She also really wants the baby to be here now. Such a hard wait.

She's already asked if this baby is going to die. We have real honest conversations with her, and she is going to come to appointments with me. We'll ask questions together.

In the meantime, we talk a lot about April. Caroline reminds me that April's energy is always here with us. She also told me that April's energy is in the new baby, too.

She's started talking to the baby and kissing my belly. Such sweet moments.


Other Posts of Interest

4 Reasons to Announce Your Pregnancy Immediately

My Worries About Bringing A Second Child Into Our Home

Baby V #2 Bump Update- Almost 9 Weeks

High Miscarriage Risk- Antiphospholipid Syndrome

Baby V #2 Bump Update- 11 Weeks
Baby V #2 Bump Update- 13 Weeks

Baby V #2 Update 15 Weeks- The Longest Wait of Our Lives

Read all about Trisomy 13, Induction, and more about April Rey, here

Pregnancy Truths No One Talks About

Baby V #3? I Know You are All Dying to Find out 

Baby V #3 Pregnancy Announcement (7 weeks)

Baby V #3 8 Week Pregnancy Update

Back in March of 2014, we underwent our very first fertility cycle, using IUI (intrauterine insemination). This fertility cycle was successful (after 1.5 years of trying naturally), and brought us our first child- Caroline.

In March of 2017, we decided to start trying for our second child. April Rey was conceived immediately and without any fertility help.

We had no idea at the time that our worst fears would come true, however. April would be lost to trisomy 13.

In August of 2017 I gave birth and held our daughter for the first and last time. April's full story can be found on the trisomy 13 page.

Fast forward to March of 2018, and I had yet to fall pregnant again, despite the fact that we'd not prevented since April was born, last August.

It had been 7 months, and we knew that we'd want to explore the option of fertility treatments again.

While we knew we'd never be completely mentally and emotionally ready for another child, we also knew that we wanted another child in our home.

And so, with that in mind, we started fertility cycles.

Our first cycle in March of 2018 was a failed IUI cycle. I had ovulated early.

As a result, the second cycle was pushed up and happened much faster. On day 10 of my cycle, I had follicles that were mature enough to get the process started.

I did my trigger shot that evening, and the IUI was the next day.

Seven days later, I remember telling my husband that the cycle didn't work. I noticed a tiny bit of bleeding, and assumed I was starting my period. He asked if I was sure...

I informed him that it could be something called implantation bleeding. I knew, however, that it wasn't likely to notice.

Most women HOPE that's what they are seeing, and they talk about it in fertility forums like crazy, but most don't notice it.

I became a bit hopeful, however, because the "bleeding" was different and extremely minimal. It wasn't red, and it wasn't brown. Nothing usual about it. It was light pink. Pretty pink and hardly noticeable.

Three days later I saw it. Two lines. A positive pregnancy test!

And a few days after that, I took my first blood test. On May 11th, as we parked to go to settlement for our new house, we got the phone call.

My HCG levels were at 167. I was definitely pregnant.

My emotions were different this time around, however...

My test results and timing:

IUI- Friday 4/27, day 11 of my cycle

Implantation bleeding- 7 days post IUI

First positive pregnancy test- 10 days post IUI

1st HCG test (Friday 5/11)- 167
2nd HCG test (Tuesday 5/15)- 958
3rd HCG test (Thursday 5/17)- 2432

I was relieved to be done. Done with the process of trying to get pregnant.

It had felt like a huge slap in the face every time I entered the fertility clinic. I did not enjoy the process in the slightest and I felt like it heightened my grief.

I was sad. While I knew it wasn't true, it felt like this pregnancy was going to mean that I was moving on from April.

Here I am 7 weeks pregnant and my emotions are still all over the place.

I haven't yet experienced the pure joy and happiness that usually comes with my pregnancies. I haven't been able to shake the sadness. I think of April. I miss her.

I wish so badly this was her- a second chance to be built right- A chance for me to build her correctly. I cry that my body failed us and didn't take care of her.

I then cry that I am not happier right now. I cry and feel guilty about feeling sad. I want so desperately to just feel the joy right now.

I know I need to let my heart do what it needs to do. I need to let these emotions be ok.

I also know how fiercely I'll love this little one. There's no doubt in my mind the love that will be there. But I long to feel it now.

The Pregnancy

This pregnancy, as with every other one I've had, is considered to be high risk.

My first pregnancy was high risk due to having cholestasis. I also had a short cervix and had to be put on early bed rest. I had to deliver at 37 weeks to make sure Caroline would be ok.

My second pregnancy was high risk due to the risk of having cholestasis again, and the fact that we'd caught something...I have a condition called antiphospholipid syndrome.

It makes me a super high risk for miscarriage. As a result, I have to do daily injections of Lovenox (a blood thinner), and I have to be monitored closely.

Then, of course, we found out that April had trisomy 13.

So, my third pregnancy is high risk for all of the above reasons. I am again to be closely monitored for cholestasis, I have to do the daily injections of Lovenox and be monitored frequently.

Due to our previous pregnancy with trisomy 13, we will also be checked earlier and more frequently from what I understand.

We are at no increased risk of this happening again, but once you have a chromosomal abnormality pop up, doctors get cautious.

So the good news, is that I have a ton of extra ultrasound pictures in my future :)



As of week 7, my nausea is not nearly as bad as it was with the first two pregnancies. Now, as I type this, I am a few days away from week 8 and the nausea is creeping in more frequently.

Smells set me off big time for my first two pregnancies. Sliced bread was the worst thing to happen to my nose, ever. This pregnancy, the smells just aren't heightened in any way- yet.


Last year I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. My biggest symptoms and reasons for getting tested, are joint pains, and fatigue. As a result of this diagnosis, I take B12 shots every month.

When I am pregnant, the fatigue is at it's worst. My arms and legs feel like they have 50 pound weights on them. My body feels like it can't do anything. My brain has energy, but my body is dragging.

This pregnancy is no different. It may actually be a bit worse this time. I am just feeling so drained.


I wouldn't say that I've ever had cravings really. I have a safe food list usually. It typically consists of cereal and cheese. Oh and chocolate milk shakes.

This pregnancy, I could take it or leave it. I have no real preference for these items. No dislike either.


Again, my sense of smell is not super heightened, so I am not having huge aversions to any food.

There are times when food is just not agreeing with me and I struggle to eat it and get it down, but it's very random and more just because I'm not feeling great.

Overall, I'd describe this pregnancy as worse in the fatigue department, but better with the nausea. As a result of the differences, I am inclined to guess that this little one is a boy.

But, my gut all along has said a girl. So, who knows. If I had to bet, I'd bet on it being a boy simply because of the symptoms, though.

Good news for us, is that we'll likely find out early if it's going to be William or Amelia. With all of the early screenings, we'll most certainly get a DNA test in there and find out the sex!


This post was originally published over at Team Cartwright in May of 2018.

Fertility struggles are very real today. Women are attempting to get pregnant much later in life.

Our grandparents were often pregnant in their late teens, our parents in their twenties, and us... more and more we're trying in our thirties.

It's no surprise that fertility struggles have spiked over the last few decades. A woman is considered old in the world of fertility when she's 35, as fertility starts to decline drastically.

My husband and I were diagnosed with "unexplained infertility". Such a frustrating place to be. There is basically no reason that can be found for our struggles. But, we've struggled to get pregnant.

We tried for over 1 year before seeking advice from a fertility clinic. That's what is recommended by professionals if you are under the age of 35 (trying for a full year).

After those 12 months of disappointment, we were eager to seek help.

We both underwent testing. I had a laparoscopic procedure done to just take a look at how things looked inside of me. Nothing was found to be wrong.

I had an HSG completed, and blood work. My husband had a semen analysis and blood work. Nothing came up in any of these tests.

So, unexplained infertility it is.

Our doctor decided to use an IUI protocol with us (Intrauterine Insemination). It worked on the first try. I was beyond impressed. We now have a 3.5 year old as a result.

Now, 4 years later, we are trying again. Only this time, we are on our second cycle and haven't yet seen results. I'm hopeful though, because this process is a remarkable one.

Intrauterine Insemination can stand alone, or be done with stimulation. We've always done stimulated cycles, so I'll explain the full process of that here:

1. Clomid

Clomid is an oral medication. It basically stimulates ovulation. It blocks estrogen receptors.

When this happens, our body produces FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone).

These hormones work in conjunction to start the ovulation process. So basically, clomid is helping ovulation occur.

This is typically taken on days 3-7 of your cycle.

2. Follicle Stimulating Hormone Injections

These types of injections are basically FSH.

FSH specifically helps to grow and mature follicles. I've taken both Bravelle and Gonal F.

I'm not sure there's much different in the two injections. They serve the same purpose- to grow a good follicle.

3. Trigger Shot

A shot is used to time the release of a mature egg (the ovulation process). Based on the timing of this shot, the doctor knows exact timing of when to do the IUI procedure.

The trigger shot is made up of human chorionic gonadotropin, or HCG. Yes you read that right... this is the pregnancy hormone.

As soon as your body becomes pregnant is releases HCG into your system and this is what we detect in blood levels to confirm pregnancy.

HCG is chemically similar enough to LH to work in the same way. LH tells our body to start ovulation and release the egg.

This trigger shot, is able to effectively do the same, allowing us to time IUI with the release of the egg.

4. IUI

The IUI consists of two parts:

First, a semen collection and sperm wash. In this process, semen is deposited into a cup.

The semen is washed- basically separating out the sperm from the seminal fluid.

The good sperm prevail and are collected in a pellet. This is then placed into a catheter.

Second, the catheter is inserted into the vagina, through the cervix, and into the uterus. The sperm is injected through the catheter, and hopefully a pregnancy results.

5. Progesterone Capsules

Progesterone capsules are inserted into the vagina starting the day after IUI.

The progesterone helps to keep the uterine lining intact, and holds off on menstruation, giving the egg more time for implantation, and thus gives pregnancy a better chance.

Success rates? I've read anywhere from 8-20% chance of success each month.

While this isn't a huge success rate, for us Mama's that have fertility issues, it is!

I got pregnant on my first IUI cycle back in 2014 (after having tried for 1.5 years on our own with no luck), and I'm now on my second round of cycles in 2018.

This time around, I'm on my second cycle of IUI and currently waiting to hear my news. Keeping my fingers crossed that I see such great success again!


Other Posts of Interest

My Fertility Journey

Marching Into Our Special Month- Fertility Journey #2

This post originally appeared at The Journey of Parenthood.

Have you had any big life changes recently? Moving? New baby? Death in the family? Just a lot going on? Those things all can take up your time. They can make you stressed.

They can impact your day to day life. The end result impacts your child as well.

Your child gets less attention when these big moments steal your time and your focus. Your child feels the mood changes if you are stressed.

Your child then begs for attention and starts acting out. You suddenly feel overwhelmed.

Not only are you dealing with huge things in your life right now, your child has chosen this time- this of all times, to start acting out. Well it's no coincidence.

This is what is currently happening in our house right now. We are moving. It's a big change. It is taking up tons of my time.

Selling a house, while trying to buy a new one is beyond stressful. I have pretty much hated everything about the process.

From the staging of our house and de-cluttering, to the getting kicked out of our house for showings and having to deal with inspections, etc.

It's hard to say the least and it's not something I ever want to do again if we can avoid it.

It's catching up to our daughter.

The multiple showings caused us to lose all sense of our routine. We didn't get to be home for naps.

We didn't get to do our "normal" that our 3 year old is so used to. She was patient. She was understanding. She was even excited.

But those moments are gone. It has caught up to her and we are in the throws of emotion now with our passionate, strong willed little girl.

In my free moments I sit and give her my attention as much as I can. Then, something pulls me away.

My fabulous independent player is now turning to screaming and throwing fits if I have to stop playing with her. Why?

She wants more of my time. She wants things back to normal. Things will get there, but now is not that time. Not yet. So we are in putting out fire mode around here.

I can't stop the tasks, the phone calls, the interruptions of our time. I can't change that we have places to be and that our "normal" is very disrupted right now.

And I also can't take any more of the screaming fits from our toddler.

So, here is what we are doing to combat the big life changes with our strong willed child:

1. Having special time

I am trying to have special play time with our daughter throughout the day. The times are short, but they are there.

My phone is put away and I am all attention on her. She misses me. That's the root of the problem. So, the more I can give her (even if in small chunks), the less she'll act out.

2. Staying consistent with our routine as much as we can

As we can, we are sticking to our routine. There are times we just can't do it. But if we can, we plan to do our normal nap time, and all of our usual daily routines.

3. Staying consistent with our expectations and discipline

Just because there is a reason, and a good one at that, for her acting out- doesn't mean we can go soft. We can give her a few more chances perhaps. We can be understanding.

But she can't get away with screaming at me all day. She can't get away with throwing her spoon across the room when she doesn't like something.

Our expectations are the same. Our discipline is the same.

4. Reviving Independent Playtime

EVERY single time we run into road blocks like this with behavior, this is my go to. I am horrible at keeping up with strict and consistent independent play.

We are much more casual about our independent play on normal days. Our daughter does a lot of independent play. I just don't physically make an effort to put her in her room and call it "independent play".

But, when we get out of whack like this, making a formal effort helps to refocus her. This one tiny step helps tremendously.

So, we are back to daily independent play- and have gone back to formalizing it using her my tot clock and everything.

5. Ignoring the fits

As a mom, I have learned I am extremely patient at times, and then others I have little to no patience. I have no idea why the changes, but this is something I work on getting better at- consistency in my behavior.

Sometimes our daughter's screaming fits get to me. They get to me and I yell back. I get upset and I take it personal.

Other times I ignore them and they don't seem to affect me at all. I am always making an effort to not let them get to me, not lose my cool, and focus on ignoring.

Somehow, when I am the most stressed and the most busy, I can accomplish this better.

So, I've been managing this one pretty well right now. It is key that she doesn't get attention (even negative attention) for her poor behavior.

6. Explaining as much as we can

Our three year old responds insanely well to understanding what is going on and why things are happening. We keep her in the loop. We update her.

We take the time (after she's calm) to explain what behavior was unacceptable, what behavior is ok, etc.

We explain why our life is suddenly busy and our daily routines aren't always perfect.

We explain that we are moving and will have a new house soon. We explain, explain, explain.

7. Taking time to myself

I am waking up early and having my coffee in peace. I am preparing for the long day ahead. I am taking the time to have my nice quite, warm shower in the evenings.

I am taking my me time so I can de-stress. The more I can let go, the happier I am, and the happier my family is as a result.

Tough times are just that- tough. Tough on everyone.

The process and event may be stressful and challenging, and on top of that family life gets hard as well.

It's a domino effect. It's to be expected.

But it can be handled, and it will be short lived. All will get back to normal. There is a new normal on the other side of this chapter.

We may not be through the door yet, but we can see it. It is right there and I know, in time, we will be on the other side.


In exchange for an honest review on this blog, British Swim School of Central MD has provided my family with free swim lessons. All opinions and thoughts are my own. 

**See below for an enrollment special!

When Caroline became a Minnow, a huge switch happened in her demeanor in class, and it was back to her usual self. From her first beginnings as a baby, up to her first Seahorse class, she was exactly how she now is in class- super focused.

The bloggers of the Babywise Friendly Blog Network are all writing on the topic of summer and outdoor play. Check out all of the post links below!

So the reality, is that you don't need any of these things for summer. That being said, as parents, we know all too well that a little change up in the toy rotation can work wonders for keeping your child entertained and having fun.

With endless time in the summer, it feels essential to have an activity each day that can excite your child and get them engaged.

I am all about just going outside and exploring. Find sticks, rocks, flowers, etc. Just be outside with your child and let them get dirty!

These are some items that can be with you on that outside journey, and some to use inside when the weather might be too hot.

At 3.5 our daughter can play with these on her own, all by herself. We, of course, join her at times, but she also does great independent play- especially when outside!

These are relatively inexpensive items that will last a long time. Once you have them, you have them for every summer. The great part, is that children don't outgrow these types of toys very quickly.

They'll have fun with these items for years to come!

I've grabbed these items to show you, off of trusty old Amazon, since most of us have prime memberships and take advantage of the ease of online shopping.

I keep our prime membership going mostly for amazon video. I love that we can get great shows like Daniel Tiger to watch for free! We'll also be utilizing that during the summer a bit more than usual.

I want to also mention that my new favorite place to buy fun toys like this is Dollar Tree! If you have one near you and want a fun outing, check it out.

Everything is actually $1 and you can find many of these things there. I bought a whole marker set there (for $1), whiteboards, wipe clean books, sand buckets, etc.

Today they had squirt guns, bubbles, pool noodles, jump ropes and so much more!

1. Bubbles

Bubbles  are always good fun. Kids have fun chasing them, trying to blow the bubbles themselves, and even just watching them as they float through the air.

There are fancy bubble machines, and bubble guns, but honestly I love the good old fashioned kind that you just blow. They last longer, and kids have fun trying as well!

For some good exercise, challenge your child to catch one! They will be running and running and running!

2. Chalk

Good old fashioned summer fun with chalk is always a blast. Kids can decorate the sidewalks in rainbow colors.

You can even draw games like hopscotch. When Caroline was younger, I drew shapes. I'd yell out a shape and she'd have to get to it as fast as she could.

You could do the same with letters, numbers, and colors. There are endless games to come up with!

3. Sprinkler

Sprinklers provide water. Water always equals fun! If you don't have access to a pool, or don't want to pay for a pool membership, get a sprinkler for some good water fun!

When I was a kid, we'd turn the sprinkler on and run through it in our swimsuits!

4. Sand Bucket

Sand buckets can be used for more than just sand! Of course, sand is fun if you have access to the beach or a sand box.

These buckets are great for collecting things outside. The shovels are great for digging in the dirt, and finding things in creeks. We take our bucket and shovels with us on most outdoor adventures!

5. Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts are always a lot of fun and can be used to take up a good chunk of time.

We make our own (I just come up with a list of outdoor things to find), but I actually really love the idea behind this scavenger hunt.

Instead of being objects/things to find (sticks, leaves, ladybugs, etc.), this scavenger hunt has you find items with certain qualities (thin, tall, small, etc.). I love the spin on it and how it gets you finding all sorts of things!

I think this would really get kids thinking and engaged!

6. Balls

Balls- never underestimate them! This is an inexpensive pack of balls. You get a basketball, a football, a soccer ball and a baseball.

This makes for great family time outdoors, throwing and kicking the balls back to one another.

And, this toy lends itself naturally to playing with others. Your child might naturally make some friends at the playground with this.

7. Butterfly Net

Butterfly nets are fun for getting kids running and trying to catch things! I also love these for use in a creek, and trying to catch little fish!

8. Plastic Tub
Plastic tubs are way cheaper than water tables. It just so happens you can fill them up with water and have an instant water activity without the expense of a fancy water table.

Add some bath toys, or even just some kitchen gadgets for endless fun.

We give our daughter plastic cups, spoons, measuring cups, and other containers to use. She has a blast and even gets in the tub herself at times.

Plus, it serves a second purpose of holding all of those fun outside activities/toys in one convenient location!

9. Wipe Clean Books

For some indoor fun to beat the heat, try these wipe clean books. Our daughter is 3.5 and she's really enjoying tracing. 

We've been using wipe clean books since she could first scribble and hold a marker, though. They are great for fun drawing, even if just doodling on them!

10. Color by Number

More indoor fun. Color by number books are something I've been really wanting to try with Caroline. I think she's at the perfect age to follow something like this. 

She actually has an app on the Ipad that she uses to paint by number. In fact, I think a paint by number would be even better if I could find it!

11. First Mosaic

This first mosaic kit is too cute not to mention. We got this last Christmas, I believe. Caroline was just barely 3. 

She had a blast with this, and could pretty easily do it on her own. They have to stick foam stickers down on the board, while matching color and shape. 

You can then hang the pictures up (they even give you supplies). Super fun indoor activity!

12. Squirt Guns

I just had to come back and add this bonus item today. Squirt guns are so much fun. 

My daughter just spent 2 hours outside playing and making new friends while sharing her squirt guns. This is so worth buying a big pack to share!


Babywise Friendly Blog Network

Christine: 5 Cheap and Easy Outdoor Activities For Toddlers

Valerie: What to Put in a Welcome to Summer Gift Basket for Your Kids

Caitlin: The Best Outdoor Toys for Toddlers

Kimberly: Science By The Pool

Emily: 5 Easy Disney Themed Movie Nights

Other Posts of Interest

Let Your Toddler Get Dirty

7 Ways to Encourage Toddler to Embrace Their Natural Scientific Tendencies

Summer Activity Schedule for Our Toddler (3.5 Year Old)