Parenthood Hacks: Playing Hooky

There are vacation days, personal days, mental health days and now as a parent, I revel in parenthood play days. This is all part of keeping us sane, happy and connected as adults and as a couple.

Because Westley is still in daycare, I am able to drop him off and have an entire day to get things done – some fun, some just plain chores. Either way, these “play days” give me an opportunity to get some “me time” and decompress.

Two Friday ago was one of those days. We were off from work, so I took advantage of the day to get things done. Dropped off W at daycare and kicked off the day with an 8:30 a.m. Body Sculpt class. After an hour of getting my butt kicked, I headed to Chick-fil-A for an egg white grill and an iced coffee (I work out to EAT). Then it was over to Market District to pick up a giveaway prize (y’all Instagram contests really work…I won an awesome prize pack!) and some shopping at two favorite boutiques – Elle Market and Harper Hill Kids. By 10:30 a.m. I was at my hairdressers’ ready to get my summer hair on – a little bayalage to give my hair some new life. In my post hair happiness, I headed to Old Navy to get the little guy a picture day outfit and then by 1:30 p.m. I was lying in a spa room ready for my first Fire & Ice facial at Axios Salt Spa. That was quite the treat and included a peel as well as a delicious organic smoothie when my facial was complete. All of this was accomplished before 3 p.m., which gave me time to get home, do some laundry, put away clean clothes and shower before the hubby and toddler got home. All in all, it’s what I call a perfect day.

Similarly, as a couple, we sometimes take a day off to enjoy each other’s company. We’re headed to a music festival in Jacksonville this weekend and the Monday following the festival will be a travel day back and a chance to play parenthood hooky. Planning to try a new taqueria in town and maybe catch a move before we pick W up from school. Having three days to ourselves will be glorious, but I’m sure by Monday afternoon, we’ll be ready to hug and hang out with our little guy. He’s our favorite person and topic of conversation J

For me, it’s all about balance. While 85 percent (or more) of our activities and time is spent as a family, we do try and squeeze in some alone time – whether it’s taking a whole day off and hanging in town, or taking a few hours to have a nice adult meal. Making our marriage and relationship a priority makes us better parents because we are happy and healthy. One of our goals is to ensure Westley grows up knowing how much his parents love and respect each other and values that.

As with everything, once you’re a parent your strategy changes – even for vacations. We definitely use vacation days for real vacations, like our upcoming summer family trip to Maine, but I always reserve a chunk of my PTO for parenthood play days because these days there is no better vacation than a day that’s all about me or all about us J

How do y’all spend your vacation time? Have you ever played parenthood hooky?

XO,

Ivette

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Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Tips for Working Mamas on the Road

I’m sitting on a plane. This is my 23rd flight of the year and I’ve logged in 22,700+ sky miles. While I love my job and traveling for it, I’m a mom too and there is always some level of guilt associated with being away from my son and husband. I especially feel bad because my husband doesn’t ever travel for work, so he’s always playing single dad, while I’m jet setting.

I know I’m not alone in the juggle and hustle of being a working mom, so I wanted to share some tips on how I parent from afar and stay connected with my family.

  1. FaceTime, Not Just Phone Time

Thank you, sweet baby technology. What would working parents who travel do without you? But seriously. We are so incredibly lucky to live in a time where a video phone call is possible. I can’t imagine traveling as much as I do and not being able to FaceTime with Westley. A FaceTime call is so much more special and it makes me feel like I’m part of his evening routine. I can hear about his day, make silly faces and see him in his PJs before he goes to sleep. He gets to see my face and I get to see his and give the screen kisses. It’s my No. 1 way to stay connected and close to Westley. I also get to see Sam, which is a bonus J

  1. Pics on Pics

This may just be me, but I LOVE a photo. A photo of Westley is worth its weight in gold. I already have thousands of photos of him in my phone (current photo roll count 6,762 and at least 5,000 feature W), which I scroll through on the regular while traveling. During my travels, Sam keeps me pretty up to date with all of Westley’s adventures with action shots, videos, etc. One of my favorite pictures I’ve ever received (a series really) was W eating my baked ziti, stuffing his face with a big ole smile and literally licking the plate. It brought me so much joy to witness him enjoying a meal I made especially for them to have while I was away. So a steady stream of photos and visual updates is a must to keep this working mama happy.

  1. Wake Up Call

No matter the time zone, I always start every day with a morning call with Sam to hear all about how Westley did the night before, his morning, etc. We time it so I call Sam right as he is leaving daycare and on his way to work for a full report. Some times it’s a very early morning, but to me it is the very best way to kick off my day.

  1. Digital Daycare

Westley has a phenomenal group of teachers at his daycare and my little charmer has definitely stolen their hearts. I’ve always made it a point to get to know all of his teachers because let’s be honest, he spends more time with them during the week than he spends at home. I feel very confident leaving him at daycare because the team there truly cares about the kids. So much so, that when they know I travel, they are more cognizant of Westley’s behavior, if he is spending longer hours there or coming in earlier because of my husband’s work schedule, their main priority is keeping W happy…and they succeed. I also keep in touch with his teachers via Facebook Messenger – they send me updates and photos. It’s awesome and makes me feel more connected.

  1. Just Say No

Once becoming a mom, I have set certain rules up for myself to keep my travel in check. Sometimes I fail miserably and have back-to-back travel, but for the most part I try and stay away no more than three nights in a row and try and avoid trips that stack up. I’ve also learned to say no more than I did before having a child. Sometimes a trip is not feasible and will be an issue for my family, so in that case I have to say no. Luckily, I have a great work family with a lot of moms who get it and clients who also are mindful of my work life balance attempt.

  1. Digital Detox

I rarely travel on weekends, so weekends for me are all about family. There is honestly nothing else and no one else I’d rather be with than Sam and Westley. So part of my being present is disconnecting from emails on weekends (I check once a day for a quick skim to ensure no client crisis have occurred). I also try and put my phone away as much as possible, although I still use it for photos and to check social media because it’s something I enjoy. Being present and not spending time checking email makes my weekends feel more free and 100 percent focused on my little family.

As my good friend Heidi Floyd put it, it’s all about the work life integration. And at the end of the day, it’s about making it work for you and your family – whatever that may look like. Would love to hear from you with any other tips!

XO,

Ivette

Family Getaway: Omni Amelia Island Plantation

At the beach, the air is always different and you always feel better. As a beach baby growing up in Miami some of my fondest memories are on the water and I absolutely love seeing my son enjoy a good day at the beach now. I also appreciate the ability for a quick getaway and living in North Florida, we have access to many destinations within a 4-hour driving radius.

Back in the fall I won a free 2-night stay to Omni Amelia Island Plantation as part of a social media engagement contest at work (woot woot). We decided to cash it in for a “winter” (it’s Florida after all) family weekend escape.

We had never been to Amelia Island, but had heard great things about the area and the resort. Family friendly places are huge for us since I never want to feel like we are inconveniencing other people, but I also don’t want to apologize for my toddler. OAIP Resort was perfect. There was a great mix of guests, but the majority were either older empty nesters or young families. And no surprise, Westley was a hit.

Arrival

We arrived Friday evening and were welcomed by the friendly valet staff. As guests, you can choose to valet for $25 a night or you can self park at a nearby garage and can change your decision at any time – no pressure. Resort staff, taking our luggage and then meeting us in our room once we checked in, handled everything seamlessly. The resort has a beautiful lobby and smells delicious…there is juts something so welcoming and soothing about a tropical scent at resorts. For me, it sets off the stay.

The Room 

Once we made it to the 6th floor, exited the elevator area and walked outside to the room, it was time to see our “home” for the next two days. All rooms face the ocean, so that was a wonderful surprise and our suite was incredibly spacious. You walk into a little hallway and the room is split into two sides – to the left was a fabulous seating area with a full sized sectional couch, armchair, desk and flat screen. To the right was the bedroom with a king size bed, a chaise and the en suite compete with a beautiful tub. My favorite part of course was the balcony with a breathtaking view of the pools, hot tubs, fire pits, bar and the ocean. I absolutely adore ocean front properties not only for the views, but also for the sheer convenience of getting to the beach with a toddler.

Nom Nom & Sip Sip

The resort has great options food options for all tastes and budgets. We chose to keep it simple and kid friendly trying Natural Slice for pizza, the Sunrise Café for breakfast and Falcon’s Nest for dinner. The breakfast buffet at Sunrise Café “The Art of Breakfast” definitely lives up to the name. The are feel like a large chef’s kitchen in a fabulous beach house with a gorgeous wooden island housing artisanal house made breads, gourmet cheese spread, local honey, etc. The breakfast also includes almost all the items on the a la carte menu from eggs benedicts and frittatas to bacon, eggs and potatoes. The best part was that children four and under are free, so Westley enjoyed a big plate of delicious breakfast on the house J Breakfast was the priciest meal of the day per person at $23 a head, but the experience, amount of food and filling quality was a good investment overall.

My favorite spot was Falcon’s Nest where we went to dinner Saturday night. It’s in the Amelia Island Village area a short shuttle ride from the resort. Shuttles are free and allow you to navigate the expansive resort without ever having to take your car! A burger and brews restaurant with airplane décor, Falcon’s Nest, was family friendly, but definitely had an edge. The second floor has a game room complete with pool table, dartboard, virtual golf and bowling and an iconic Mr. Pacman arcade. We grabbed a couple of local IPAs, Intuition I-10, and hung out in the game room during our 20-minute wait. The burgers were delicious and creative. We ordered the Plantation Burger with pimento cheese, a fried green tomato, shaved ham and corn relish and the Seaplane Burger with Fernandina shrimp, pickled red onion and lemon mayo. Both were winners and were accompanied by fried and onion rings that came in really cute little baskets. Westley took down a kid’s cheeseburger that was served with fries, applesauce, yogurt and milk. Overall, this place gets an A+ and the bill including drinks was only $55.

Finally some details on the libations. Drinks were good with a kick and prices were not too prohibitive for a resort. We grabbed a few drinks at pool including the signature Plantation Punch and a Margarita and had Moscow Mules at the Piano Bar after dinner.

Because we had Westley, we didn’t venture into the fancier restaurants, but OAIP also boasts a few more premium dinner options including Bob’s Steak & Chop House, Verandah and Oceanside.

Resort Activities 

We lucked out and had wonderful weather with highs in the 70s, so naturally we spent the bulk of our day at the pool (which was heated) and running around on the beach. Westley was all about the water and really got into playing with the sand and shells. To clarify…”playing with the sand” was more like grabbing large clumps of sand and throwing them on us.

We also checked out the Nature Center and one of the playgrounds on property. There’s tons more to do on property including Mini Golf and of course venturing out into  Beach, St. Augustine, etc.

Entertainment 

Of course no evening is complete without music – Westley’s favorite. After dinner we took our drinks on the shuttle (awesome perk for resort guests) and headed back to the hotel. The piano bar was the happening spot and Gary could sing and play any song requested from today’s hottest songs to classics. We ordered some Moscow Mules and sat back to enjoy the music while W put on a dancing show. He was a huge hit among the ladies and Gary even gave him a shout out. All in all it was a fabulous evening and we were all in bed by 9:30 p.m. Crazy, wild weekend indeed J

We definitely want to come back to visit Omni Amelia Island. Hopefully next time we’ll stay a little longer. If you’re looking for a great resort on a gorgeous beach, this one is a treasure.

Happy travels,

Ivette

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Mom Hacks: Airport Edition

If you know me, then you know I spend a good bit of time in airports. Working in PR with clients all over the country and world, the Atlanta International Airport has become a second office.

As a family, we haven’t ventured off on any trips that require flying just yet…but come July, the Faulkners are going to Maine and it’ll be Westley’s first time flying. In preparation for our trip, I’ve been extra vigilant during my travels to see how other families of young kids handle navigating an airport with a toddler.

ATL never disappoints and I witnessed a bit of a travel miracle in the shape of a suitcase that doubles as a sweet ride for kids. It’s called JetKids BedBox® and the site describes it as “the ultimate travel gadget for children up to 6-7 years of age. It is your child´s hand luggage, ride-on suitcase and inflight bed/leg-rest, in the very same box.”

While I didn’t get to see the JetKids BedBox in all its glory as an actual inflight bed…witnessing a smiling 4 year-old girl laughing her way through the terminals and onto the Plane Train was enough to sell me on this travel miracle. I immediately took a photo and video and asked the mom about it. She literally lit up and told me this is her go to travel companion. Knowing Westley, who refuses to ride in a stroller and is Mr. Independent, we MUST purchase a JetKids for Maine — it’s either that or the dreaded leash. (Not happening).

As soon as I got home, I told Sam all about it and proceeded to look up more info about JetKids on the company’s website. The more I researched, the more excited I got about this contraption. We will be able to store his toys and such in it, he’ll ride on the suitcase throughout the airport and then during the flight (once the seatbelt sign is off), we can convert it to a bed, so We can lounge and nap. Hallelujah!

The JetKids BedBox retails for $169, which may sound a little pricey, but not when you consider it’s triple threat accessories (suitcase, airport ride and bed) and your sanity.

I’ll be putting this sucker to the test in July and will report back with an update!

Happy hacking!

XO,

Ivette

The Packing List: Winter Weekend Beach Escape

Traveling with a toddler can feel like you’re traveling with a party of 10. They require a lot of stuff: diapers, sippy cups filled with milk and water, snacks, entertainment, toys and lots of clothing since they tend to wear their food during every meal.

As our family is preparing for a weekend beach escape, I’m attempting to minimize all of our packing and keep it fun and light. Luckily Old Navy just launched its new spring line and it’s all nautical and all adorable. Hit up the store this week for a few new pieces as we take on Omni Amelia Island for a few days of Vitamin Sea. Here’s our packing list by family member:

“The Active 2-year old”

This little guy is always on the go and goes through outfits like they’re going out of style. Aside from the obvious diapers, PJs and sippy cups, here the fashion 411 for W:

  • Two (2) pairs of colorful shorts and one (1) pair of chinos
  • Three (3) nautical inspired graphic tees and one (1) linen oxford shirt complete with boats
  • Boat shoes and flip flops
  • Board shorts and rash guard
  • Crabtastic puddle jumper float
  • Hat
  • Tons of sunscreen

 

“The 30-Something Mama”

I make every day a fashion occasion and love theming out my wardrobe, so naturally a weekend getaway to the beach in Florida means stripes and flamingos.

  • Nautical inspired boat neck top
  • White jeans
  • Neutral sandals
  • Sundress
  • Striped blouse (will pair with white jeans for a BOGO outfit)
  • Floral one piece swimsuit
  • Flamingo cover up from fave boutique Loli & the Bean
  • Flamingo flip flops
  • Diffwear sunnies
  • Panama hat

 

“The 30-Something Papa”

  • Assortment of graphic tees
  • Three (3) pairs of shorts
  • One button down
  • One pair if jeans
  • Board shorts
  • Boat shoes
  • Flip flops

 

So excited for our little family to have a beach escape. Plans include pool and splash pad fun, nature center visit, playground, family fire, casual fare, drinks and Sunday Brunch.

Since this is our first time visiting Omni Amelia Island and the San Fernandina Beach area, I’ll be posting photos