The 5 Must-Haves for Every Disneyland Mom.

IMG_2587We just got back from The Happiest Place on Earth and I’m still on my Disneyland-High.  June Gloom in Seattle is no joke, so the only thing to keep me from my post Disney vacation is to keep reminiscing about my week.  Even though we go several times a year, each time is unique and special.  August got to finally ride California Screamin’ and Audrey got to meet her faves from Zootopia.  Even with summer time crowds, it was a trip well spent.

The bonus to our frequenting Walt’s park so often is that I have learned what to take and what not to take for a fun-filled day.  I want to share with you my top 5 things that I always take with me to Disneyland.

  1. A BACKPACK.  I used to be anti-backpack because I didn’t want those giant straps getting in the way of my cute clothes.  After all, sometimes you have to sacrifice comfort for fashion.  Well, not in this case.  My backpack serves as a refrigerator, a closet, and a purse.  And bonus, it helps burn more calories!  If you forget your backpack at home, don’t worry, the stores at Disneyland have a nice variety, so make sure you pick one up then pack it up.  So, what goes in my backpack?
  2. HEALTHY SNACKS.  Although I will always choose to eat my way through Disneyland, we try to keep our meal purchases to a minimal cost by splitting.  The upside to splitting is not overloading yourself with too much food which makes you sleepy and you get to try MORE food which leads to eating churros or Mickey ice-cream sandwiches. The downside is, if you have a 15-year-old boy, eh-hem, they are constantly hungry, which is why it’s important to keep them fueled during the day with healthy snacks like apples, bananas, peanut butter sandwiches, and granola bars.  I like to over-pack snacks just to be on the safe side.
  3. WATER BOTTLES.  I typically bring two 24 oz disposable water bottles and reuse them during the entire trip.  Did you know that Southern California gets really hot in the summer time?  Disneyland has graciously put several water bottle filling stations throughout the park.  To find out where they are located, you can visit The Disneyland Dad to find your closest refill station.
  4. JACKETS.. Yes, it’s hot during the day, but as soon as the sun goes down, so do the temps. I’ve been without a jacket at Disneyland before and when the temps go down so does the level of fun.  And yes, I can fit 6 sweatshirts into my backpack.  It has taken some practice, but it can be done.
  5. CELL PHONE. This one is two-fold, communication and picture taking.  Ever been separated from your party or wanted to snap a pic of your youngest giggling on Tow Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree?  That’s the beauty of modern technology!  Bring your phone.  Just make sure to cherish every moment and save your social media posting for  your hotel time.

These are just a few of my favorite mom tips. If you have any tips you’d like to share, I’d love to see them in the comments section.

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Healthy Fighting

It may come as a surprise when readers see the smiling faces on Instagram or Facebook, but our family doesn’t always get along.  My wife and I have been known to argue, and there have been those occasional moments when the kids get into a verbal battle.  We aren’t perfect.

Fights and arguments are part of life.  Even a family that enjoys being together (like ours does) doesn’t always like each other every moment of every day.

What makes it work is when you lay some ground rules for how you fight–or disagree, if the word fight causes you to think of a bout of fisticuffs or a street brawl.  When you agree on how to disagree, you’ll help each other and your kids deal with those moments as they come.  (Because they will come.)

After a particularly ugly fight early in our marriage, Robyn and I agreed on some rules for how we would fight from then on.  Here are a few of them.

 + Don’t Get In the Car.  This may not work if your fight starts in the car, but one thing we learned after that really ugly fight was that we should never get in the car and drive away mad.  One reason is because you may damage the car (ahem, I don’t know this from personal experience, ahem), and another is because if you drive mad you drive crazy, and you don’t want to get in a car accident while you’re angry at each other.  You don’t want your last words to be your angriest words, do you?

+ Learn Each Other’s Styles–and Respect Them.  I like to talk through an argument, Robyn likes to process.  Because of that, I have often made our fights longer than they needed to be because I wanted her to talk while she wanted to process.  This only made things worse, and it wasn’t until recently–nearly 17 years of marriage later–that I think I’ve finally respected that difference.  It makes a world of difference, and keeps the fights shorter than they used to be.

+ Don’t Fight to Win.  You don’t get a medal for winning a fight with your spouse.  What you get is hurt and resentment.  Arguments in marriage aren’t about defeating your partner, but finding a suitable compromise that is the wisest choice for you both and for your family.  You don’t win when your partner is hurt by your victory–you both win when you find ways to work together toward a good solution.

+ It’s Okay to Fight In Front of the Kids.  Some parents never argue in front of their kids.  They don’t want to let the kids see the ugly side of marriage.  But if you’re fighting with the rules, agreeing to work together, not trying to win, it’s okay if you don’t always agree in front of the kids.  They need to see you argue–because they need to see that a healthy response to a disagreement can be found.  You model for them how to respond in their own fights, and if they never see you fight ever, they won’t see how you solve it when tensions rise.

There are a few more: don’t throw things, admit you’re wrong if you are, avoid swear words, and if you are both yellers, be careful how much arguing you do with the windows open.  Yes, it’s tongue in cheek, but knowing how to fight and still go to bed loving each other and not angry is not only what God wants for your marriage, it helps your kids see how to handle it when their tension moments come along.

What are your rules for those tension moments in your marriage or family?  Share them in the comments below!

Incredible Books for Kids to Read This Summer

You’re all used to posts from my parents, but today, I, the oldest of the Montague kids, come to you with a post I’m very excited about – a summer reading recommendation list! A few days ago, my mom posted a blog about 8 things to do with your kids over the summer, and at the top of the list was a library summer reading program. I definitely support doing those (and you can usually even find them for teens or even adults), and this list of books should help you get going. There’s a total of five books for each age group, so if you get started today, you’ll have about one book to read every two weeks!

Young Adult Readers (Ages 13-19):

This is my age group, so I have loads of favorite books, and it was so hard to narrow it down to just five. Nevertheless, here we go:

  1. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. This book follows Lara Jean Covey, a sixteen-year-old who adores anything vintage, and who has loved a total of five boys. She has a habit of writing letters to the boys that will help her get over her love, and they’re top-secret, until one day, they aren’t. Lara Jean’s life flips upside-down, but all for the better. This book is so much fun to read, and I absolutely devoured it. My rating: 5/5 stars!
  2. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. Aveyard’s debut YA novel is about Mare Barrow, who lives in a fantasy universe where the world is broken down into two groups: those with red blood, Reds, and those with silver blood, Silvers. Reds are mundane, ordinary, and slaves to the extraordinary Silvers, who possess magical abilities. Eventually, Mare (a Red) finds herself working in a palace of Silvers, and before long, Mare discovers that she as an amazing power of her own, regardless of her blood status. This is an edge-of-your-seat, thrilling fantasy novel, and it’s pure magic to read. My rating: 5/5 stars! 
  3. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. Although not nearly his most famous novel, this book is essentially about two boys who find themselves on a rural road trip. One of the boys, Colin, has only ever dated Katherines, and the road trip is his best friend’s, Hassan, plan to get him over the Katherines. It’s just a blast to read, and it’s so short that it’s perfect for a lazy summer afternoon. My rating: 4/5 stars!
  4. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. This may not be a book that screams, “Summer read!” However, it’s a fantastical, incredible read that follows Jacob, a boy who has grown up hearing his grandfather’s outlandish stories about World War II. He dismisses him as senile, because his stories always involve monsters that couldn’t possibly be real, until one day, he is found dead in a forest, and Jacob himself sees a monster. His journey only gets crazier from there, but I won’t spoil it for you. My rating: 4/5 stars!
  5. The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan. I know what you’re thinking, but don’t dismiss the book as middle grade too quickly! I grew up on Percy Jackson, and this book is like being thrust back into his world – this time, from the perspective of one of the Greek gods. Zeus is mad at Apollo after the war in The Blood of Olympus, and has, therefore, banished him from Olympus to live as a human. Apollo, who is now a sixteen-year-old demigod, finds himself indebted to Meg McCaffery, a twelve-year-old demigod. They go on some adventures, there’s some crazy plot twists, and man, it’s just a blast from beginning to end! My rating: 4/5 stars!

Middle Grade Readers (Grades 4-7):

These books are all full of some sort of fantastical adventure, and they’re honestly perfect for a reader of any age.

  1. The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen. This action-packed adventure follows Sage, an orphan, and two other boys, also orphans, on their competition to become the next Prince of Carthya. Personally, it reminds me of a much more fantastical, boyish version of Kiera Cass’s The Selection. A super fun read, and you’ll fall in love with all of the characters, although the plot line is a bit predictable. My rating: 3/5 stars!
  2. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. A whole novel written about extraordinary children “looking for special opportunities,” it follows Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance on their imaginative adventure to out a… well, a mysterious society. In all honesty, I have yet to finish this one, but what I’ve read has been so enjoyable and so much fun. It’s a little large, but don’t let that intimidate you, because it really is a fantastic read. My rating: 4/5 stars!
  3. The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan. The first in Riordan’s trilogy about Egyptian mythology, this book follows Carter and Sadie Kane, two siblings who grew up so very differently – Sadie, with her grandmother in England, and Carter, with his father traveling all over the world. Every year on Christmas, Carter and Sadie are reunited for a day, and this particular year, their father takes them to a museum in Britain just to look at exhibits. As it happens, he accidentally releases the Egyptian god, Set, and is sucked into the Underworld. As you can imagine, adventure ensues for the siblings, and their around-the-world travels are a blast to read about. Although I would recommend many of Riordan’s books for grades younger than fourth, Carter and Sadie are the same age as many of the middle grade readers, which makes their adventures so much more relatable. My rating: 5/5 stars!
  4. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. This book is pure magic. It follows Hugo Cabret, a little French orphan who grew up learning how to tend to the clocks of a busy train station. One day, though, he meets an old man and a young girl, and his life is never quite the same. The book is over 500 pages, but so many of those are filled with gorgeous illustrations that are unforgettable. It’s a fantastical mystery that I, in the fifth grade, could not get enough of! My rating: 5/5 stars!
  5. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi. My true confession: I actually read this book in third grade, but I absolutely devoured it, and I would recommend it for middle grade readers more than anything. It follows thirteen-year-old Charlotte, who is on a boat in the middle of ocean, accused of murder, and forced to join the ship’s crew through some dangerous deeds. It’s action-packed, well paced, and brilliantly written. My rating: 5/5 stars!

And, finally, Early Elementary Readers (Grades 1-3):

Now, this list was a little hard for me to come up with – I’ve been a reader since kindergarten, so in early elementary, I was reading books much more advanced than my friends were, so I tried to find a balance between the two.

  1. Matilda by Roald Dahl. I love this book, because it follows a little girl who loves her books, just like I did as a kid. Her family is horrid to her because she’s a little special, a little different, and rather extraordinary. It’s a very magical read, just like all of Dahl’s books, and it’s just so much fun (like every other book I’ve put on the list). My rating: 4/5 stars!
  2. The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen. There’s not much of a summary to this adorable story – it’s a cute picture book about a little boy named Laszlo. Laszlo is afraid of the dark, but the dark wants to be his friend. The illustrations are enchanting, and I adore reading it (even as a seventeen-year-old!). My rating: 5/5 stars!
  3. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Most everyone knows about this book, but nevertheless my summary: The Pevensie siblings are staying in an unusual home with an unusual man. The youngest of the four, Lucy, finds a wardrobe hidden away in a room one day, and she immediately proceeds to walk into it, stumbling upon the magical land of Narnia. Simply put, adventure ensues, and the magic that tags along with it feels almost real. Not only that, but it has some great underlying religious themes – and C.S. Lewis is a brilliant author whose works are easily enjoyed, no matter what your age. My rating: 5/5 stars!
  4. Pinkalicious by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann. Another delightful picture book, Pinkalicious is all about a girl who loves pink. When Pinkalicious’s mom makes pink cupcakes, Pinkalicious eats too many and turns pink! At first, she loves it, but before long, Pinkalicious can’t stand her pink skin. The only cure: eat all the green foods she can possibly find! My little sister grew up loving this book, and I’ve read it to her countless times. It’s just a delightful explosion of color and princesses and sparkles, and it’s an absolute blast. My rating: 4/5 stars!
  5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. This book. This book. I read Harry Potter for the first time in second or third grade, and I absolutely devoured it. It follows, of course, a boy named Harry Potter who lives with his aunt and uncle in a cupboard under the stars. His life is terribly mundane, until one day, this special boy finds out that he is a wizard, and suddenly, his life isn’t so awful. His story becomes a magical battle between good and evil, with so many themes of friendship, love, and defeating darkness – it is pure magic, and I’ll recommend Harry’s story to anyone and everyone until the day I die. My rating: 5/5 stars!

Well, ladies and gents, there you have it: Audrey Montague’s 2016 Summer Reading Recommendations! Get to your local library and get your hands on as many as possible, and as you read them, please comment and let me know how you and/or your kids are enjoying them!

When You Can’t Fall Asleep, Try This.

I start making your mental checklist for the next day as soon as my head hits the pillow at night.  If you’re like me, doctor appointments, school lunches, getting to the post office are just a few things that we remember when it’s far too late to do anything about it.  Meanwhile, your spouse puts his head on the pillow and begins snoring.  Rather than lie there full of resentment, try one of these simple steps.  It’s helped me put the checklist aside and made falling asleep a little easier.

Exercise.  Even if you’re just getting out for a 30 minute walk each day, exercise is the most important thing to help you sleep.  I know exercise can be a challenge to many people.  Maybe you feel like you don’t have time.  Maybe you have an injury the prevents you from exercising.  Find a way to add some kind of physical activity into your day and you will soon realize that exercise is the key to falling asleep quickly. If you can’t find the time during the day then try some stretching exercises or yoga before you hop in the sack.

Turn off your blue screens and bright lights. Studies have shown that with reduced light from blue screens, smart phones, TVs, computers, or even bright lamps, your brain shuts down quicker.  Keep your room dark, cool, and clean.

Cut out the afternoon cup of pick-me-up.   Check the labels on your favorite midday energy boosting drinks. If they have caffeine, then make the cutoff by 2:00 pm. Instead opt for caffeine-free tea or flavored water if you need something sweet.

Save your healthiest meal for dinner.  Heavy full meals right before bed will not only not digest well, but will give you a restless nights sleep.  Opt for a smaller plate, or even a saucer, for your dinner to keep those calories at bay. And try to avoid late-night snacking. If you get hungry before bed, keep it sweet and simple and stick to fruit.

Wine with dinner, not bed.  Although it’s true that wine will help you relax and fall asleep faster, it will also make the second half of your sleep cycle restless. Alcohol decreases deep sleep and increases arousals from sleep.

Try to practice at least one of these sleep habits at a time. Sleep not only improves memory, but also increases your metabolism.  The benefits of sleep far outweigh what we didn’t get done during the day. If you have any other tips or tricks for a good night’s sleep, let me know!

3 (More) Things Every Kid Needs

As I’ve mentioned before, there are 3 Things Every Kid Needs.

A Job to Do. Something to Celebrate.  To Say Thanks.

But there are three more things every kid needs, too.  These three other things can help make the difference in how your kids turn out.  Remember, parenting isn’t just about what happens today, in the now, but parenting about what you want your kids to become, in the future.  This is parenting with the end in mind.

Those three other things?  Here they are:

Kids Need Other Adults Who Can Speak Into Their Lives.  While you might be the biggest influence on your child’s life, you aren’t (and can’t be) the only one.  Smart parents will help choose who those people are, instead of leaving it just to chance, or to your kids (who will choose celebrities, movie stars, singers, and the like).

Find some great adults who can speak into your kids lives about the stuff you can’t or aren’t able to.  These people can be coaches or directors, church leaders or mentors.  They can be the mechanic who works on your car, or the neighbor who has that amazing yard.  Find quality, well-respected, mature, good people, and help your kids connect to them.  Church, school, neighborhood, sports field, neighborhood theatre.  They can be found everywhere.  They can encourage and cheer on your kids in ways that you never can.  Your kids will have other influences–why not be intentional about who those influences are?

Kids Need Experiences More Than Things.  We place a high value on things in our culture.  Having what is new, owning what is now–it’s very important.  Trouble is, things don’t last.  That great new TV you just bought has already been made obsolete.  Your phone is out of date, and you’re still in a contract for two more years.  And don’t even talk about that computer.  Sure, you will probably hold on to your house for a long time, but the furniture in it–it’s already dated, right?

It’s not new to hear that memories are the only things you can hold on to, but it’s true.  If you have a house full of all the newest and nicest things, but never spend your money creating memories, you’re teaching your kids the wrong thing.  Possessions come and go, but memories last forever.  The National Parks I visited with my family growing up?  The road trips I’ve taken my kids on?  Those are shared experiences that we will never forget.  I don’t even remember the color of the last two couches I had.  Things are great, but they don’t last.  Doing things with your kids and creating memories together?  That lasts forever.

Kids Need Grace.  Your children hear all the time about how they’ve messed up, how they don’t measure up, where they have gone wrong.  As parents, it is our job to correct and train our children to make wise choices as they grow up.  But when they don’t, what is the response?  Parents, disappointed in their own failures, often maximize or blow out of proportion a child’s failure.  I know–the response I’ve given to my youngest son over his lack of appetite when my wife has made an amazing dinner far outweighs the actual circumstance.

But what do I want most when I screw up?  I want grace.  And yet, I can’t show grace to a kid who thinks anything with green in it is poison?  You get it–if we want to have grace-filled children, who are quick to forgive, slow to anger, and generally awesome, we need to be grace-filled parents.  When your kids gets a less than perfect report card, it’s fine to have consequences–but measure them with grace.  When your child spills that glass of wine all over the carpet, remember the grace you received for a much greater slight.  When kids see grace lived out, they will live out grace as well.

 

8 Fun (and Inexpensive) Things to Do With Your Kids This Summer

I’ve been thinking about what to put in this blog for a few weeks now.  Summertime rolls around and as parents we want to pack in the most memorable fun-filled summer vacation EVER!  So I went on Pinterest to gather some ideas and I was somewhat frustrated and irritated.  There were lists and lists of 100+ Things to Do With Your Kids This Summer!!!

Please.  I don’t need  a list to tell me to get out the play dough.  (In fact, any mom in their right mind probably hates play dough. Or maybe that’s just my OCD that hates those dried up pieces of play dough that seem to collect into the corners of the kitchen until you get out your vacuum hose and manage to suck them all up.)

But I digress.  I want to create a really fun summer for my kids.  Not just things to do around the house everyday.  Being a working mom, that can sometimes be a challenge, so I just need to make sure that your days off are very intentional.  Do what works for you, but just do it.

This lists actually consists of things that our family does each summer.  (And not to brag, but we do them really well.)  The most important thing to remember is to have fun!  I hope you enjoy your summers as much as we do!

  1. SUMMER READING PROGRAMS.  Each and every library around the country has a summer reading program.  And it’s a safe bet to say that most of these programs have some incentives if your kiddos complete their goals!  Even my teenagers, who usually finish their goals in the first week, love the summer reading program.  And what’s great is when they complete one goal, they can work toward a second goal and more prizes. Check out your local library to find more information.  Cost: Free
  2. GO ON A DAY DRIVE AND HAVE A PICNIC.  This is another one of our favorites, because we love hopping in the car for adventures.  And kids love picnics.   You can find most picnic supplies fairly inexpensively at garage sales or thrift stores or search your garage.  All you really need is a table cloth or picnic blanket and a cooler.  Throw in some fun food (I try to pack things we wouldn’t normally eat at home like Uncrustables and potato chips) and a first aid kit, fill up your gas tank, and you’re good to go! Cost: About $50 (gas, food, etc.)
  3. DOLLAR STORE VISIT.  Seriously!  My kids, even my teenagers, LOVE going to the dollar store.  Give them each a couple of bucks, which I can usually find in the couch cushions or seats of my car, and let them have fun!  I love watching them figure out how they’re going to spend their money.  But my caveat is, whatever they purchase, they have to use once we get home. Cost: $1-$20 (Depending on how many kids you have and how much you give them.)
  4. DOLLAR MOVIES. Every summer, Regal Cinemas holds their Summer Movie Express two days per week at 10:00 am. Kids can choose from two movies each week.  The kids even get a passport that gets stamped every time they to to a movie. The nice part is, it’s early enough that you don’t need to spend money on popcorn or candy. Cost: $1/ticket
  5. VACATION BIBLE CAMP.  This is a big one for us since my husband is a Children’s Pastor and VBC is his Super Bowl. Most churches around the country offer a school or camp, that usually lasts a week, and some are even free!  A week of fun activities, friends, and more–and less expensive than hiring a babysitter each day!  Check your local churches for more details, but if you’re in the Seattle area, click here to find out how you can be involved in our church’s Doctor Who themed adventure! Cost: $0 – $50
  6. GO TO THE BEACH.  Again, this one is free and fun!  We try to get to our local beach before noon because I like a non-sandy place to stake our claim.  The kids love being able to come and go as they please and who doesn’t enjoy a relaxing day in the sun? Make sure to pack a high SPF sunscreen, lots of water, and baby powder to get the sand out of their toes easily.  Cost: $0 – $20
  7. SET UP A POOL.  When our kids were younger, every summer we purchased an inflatable pool.  They’re usually inexpensive if you get theme early enough so we didn’t feel bad throwing them away at the end of the summer. Last year we purchased an inflatable water slide and pool for them and we have easily gotten our money’s worth.  Obviously we won’t throw this one away until it’s full of holes, but this is another activity that doesn’t cost a lot of money and is so much fun for them.  Yes, it is work to set it up and take it down, but it’s so much fun!  And the memories that your kids will make will far outweighs the inconvenience of an end-of-the-day-deflate-session. We sometimes throw in some bubble bath or water toys to add to the fun, which again, you can get at the dollar store. Cost: $20-$100
  8. SET GOALS AND GUIDELINES FOR LAZY DAYS.  Since there are days when my kiddos are home  without me, I like to set schedules for them.  And they are scheduled down to the minute. Believe it or not, kids thrive on routine, so even though it is summer, there are things that are expected of them.  They have chores.  They still eat healthy and exercise. And they get rewarded when their daily goals are met!  It’s amazing how much mileage you can get out of them by putting an Otter Pop or pool time at the end of the morning. If you want my specific schedule for my kids, please leave comment and I will send it to you!  Cost: $0