Apple Picking in Oak Glen

“Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.” -Mark Twain

When I was a child, every year my family and I would go apple picking in Julian, CA. I loved it. We’d wake up really early, gather our warmest clothes, load up the car and drive (what felt like hours) out to Julian. Some years it was hot, others it was cold, but it didn’t matter. We’d walk the orchards and scour the trees for the BEST apples to take home so we could make apple pie. Once we finished picking apples we’d spent the rest of the day enjoying the small town. Going in out of the historic little shops, eating lunch, maybe taking a horse-drawn carriage ride all nestled under the blankets, and of course eat some fresh baked apple pie.

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As I got older we stopped going, but I couldn’t wait until my son was old enough to start this tradition with. Except when the time came, I was torn…Julian or Oak Glen?!  I had never heard been to Oak Glen, much less heard of it! So, I did some research, asked a lot of questions and 2 years ago I drove my son and I out to Oak Glen to start our new Fall tradition.

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This was our third year going to Oak Glen and every time I go, I find something new to do there! Below you will find my tips & tricks for apple picking in Oak Glen:

Oak Glen vs. Julian

Truth be told, I haven’t been to Julian since I was a kid so I can’t really speak on what they have there now. But, from what I’ve read, Oak Glen has a lot more activities for kids. Besides apple picking there is; pony rides, corn mazes, u-apple cider press, hay rides, petting zoos, apple tastings, and lots of games!

The big number one factor for me is the drive. Driving to Oak Glen is SO easy. I personally have a fear of driving windy roads (due to being in a car accident in Laguna Canyon several years ago). When I learned that the drive to Oak Glen was mostly on the freeway, I was sold. I took my son to a camel dairy farm 3 years ago, and it was just 20 minutes south of Julian. I wasn’t even thinking of that terrifying drive until I was in it, and I just can’t ever do that again. Oak Glen is freeway, streets, and then maybe a 15 minute drive up the mountain – no cliffs! If I can do it – you can do it!

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Go Early!

I personally have never experienced traffic on the 2 way highway, but I know that some people have. The main reason I say to go early is because there is so much to see and do. This year we couldn’t go up as early as I would have liked to. Parking was a little bit of an issue but not terrible. We had to park off the road a little further down from the orchard. But it was a totally doable walk. If you have littles, bring your small stroller. If you park on the street, you won’t want your big stroller taking up the road. Bottom line: go early and just enjoy the whole day! Which brings me to…

Riley’s at Los Rios Rancho

Yes, there are two Riley’s. No, they are not the same. Well, the Riley name is the same, but the owners of the property are different. This was our first year spending the entirety of our day here. It was amazing. We picked our apples on the Botanical Garden side this year. Truthfully, next year we’ll park on this side, but go pick apples across the street at their bigger property as they have a bigger variety of apples over there.

I will go into more details about Riley’s at Los Rios Rancho in another blog post, but here are just a handful of things you can do here:

  1. Apple Pick / Pumpkin Pick (depending when you go)
  2. U-press Apple Cider
  3. Eat at their Restaurant (we didn’t eat here this time as the line was down the road, but it smelled delicious!)
  4. Shop all kinds of yummy treats (even get a fresh baked apple pie to bring home)
  5. Taste different varieties of apples
  6. Petting zoo, pony rides, hay ride, corn maze, horse shoes and corn hole

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Bring a Picnic!

Like I mentioned above, the line for the restaurant was incredibly long and I’m sure it’s amazing. But if you have kids that are anything like my son, he will not want to wait an hour for a table. We always bring our lunch with us and luckily there is a HUGE grassy area to throw down a blanket and eat. There is not a lot of shade so either bring an umbrella or a big hat. They do have a few picnic benches under some trees but those get taken up quickly. You’ll see tons of families with their coolers and kids playing catch. It’s so awesome!

What Time of Year to Go

Personally, *HOT TIP* I would go as soon as they announce it’s time to pick apples. This year apple season came really early so you may have missed the initial announcement, or maybe you didn’t even know they made an announcement. Follow Riley’s at Los Rios Rancho on Facebook and you’ll never miss it again. This year I saw the post but I couldn’t make it out for a couple weeks. By the time we got there, a lot of the bigger and better apples were already gone. The trick is to try and go within a few days of when they release a specie of apple so that you get the first pick.

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What to Bring/Wear

  1. Depends on the weather, but most likely you’ll want to wear a hat and definitely bring sunscreen.
  2. Closed toed shoes. I know you can get hot, but you’ll come home with the dirtiest feet if you wear sandals.
  3. An ice chest/cooler with all of your food, water and snacks. The property is not that big so you can easily just slip back to your car to grab some food or more water.
  4. Backpack. You’ll definitely want to keep your wallet, water and sunscreen on you at all times,
  5. Cash. They do take credit/debit cards. But a couple of food booths only take cash. However, you can purchase with your card inside the store and bring them a voucher. But just bring the cash – it’s easier!

Those are my biggest tips for apple picking in Oak Glen. I’ll be sure to share in more details about Riley’s at Los Rios Rancho on my next blog post.

Do you go apple picking with your family? What are some of your Fall traditions?

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Why I Chose To Work From Home

Why I Chose To Work From Home

Growing up my mom didn’t have to work. She took my sister and I to school and picked us up every single day. I never had to go to any after school program – I never even went to daycare! I was really blessed. I didn’t think much of it as a kid because I didn’t know any different. It wasn’t until I had a son of my own that I really realized that I took the presence of my mom for granted.

When my son was just about 2 1/2 I had to go back to work full time. It was so hard. I hated leaving him every morning. I had to be at work really early in the morning so some days I wouldn’t even see him before I left because he would still be sleeping. Luckily enough in the few years that I have been back working full time I was able to have a job with flexible hours or really close to home! However, it still lacked the one important thing I was wanted the most: to drop off and pick up my B from school.

At the beginning of this year I started praying for a job that would allow me to do this. I had friends and family kind of laugh it off…I mean where was I going to find this job?! I searched; interviewed; and prayed some more. Nothing was coming up. At one point I just let it go and realize it just wasn’t going to happen. I had a great job that I wasn’t going to leave for something mediocre. But then just when I wasn’t looking any more, the perfect job (for me) landed in my lap – working from home!

Actually when this job presented itself to me, I said no at first! I was really worried I was going to put myself in a position where I wouldn’t thrive. Being a single mom, I just don’t have the luxury of taking any job. I need to make sure it’s a right fit for not only me, but for my little man. Would I like working from home? Was there growth within this company? So many unknowns left me a little anxious and I was comfortable where I was. But, an old co-worker (who got me the interview!) kept pushing about how wonderful this company was. And of course how great it would be for my son. After a lot of prayer and mindful thinking, I accepted.

I’m only on day two, but it is such a dream! I get to wake up every morning with my son, make him breakfast, get him ready for the day, AND take him to school! GAME CHANGER! I already see such a difference in his happiness and all of my anxiety has gone out the window. I really love connecting with his teacher, peers and their parents every day. I’m looking forward to the school year and being able to be more present in my sons life. I don’t get the luxury of being a stay at home mom, but this is the next best thing and I’ll take it for all it’s worth.

Did you make the decision to work from home? How has it changed your family dynamics?

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I’m not ready for Kindergarten

I’m not ready for Kindergarten

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” 

~ Dr. Suess

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Motherhood is such a wild ride. You wait in line for months just waiting for this adventure to begin. Then suddenly you’ve fastened your seat belt, braced yourself, and GO. Unlike a real ride, this one doesn’t slow down and you never get off. You may break down from time to time. You might even have to tighten your seat belt every now and again. But from the moment it’s GO time – you go, and soar, twist and turn, and try to hold on for the biggest adventure of your life thus far.

I look back at when B was first born and remember discussing how school seemed so incredibly far away. I didn’t put thought to what school he would go to, other than I wanted him to go to a public school. I didn’t go to public school and I feel like I missed out on building a community. I didn’t have a tight knit group of friends growing up. The school I went to was really small and I always felt like an outcast. Not because anybody picked on me, I just didn’t make any deep connections to my peers. I had a really hard time adjusting to high school when I finally got to attend a public school. I was in such culture shock I cried on registration day. When I think about it now, I probably had an anxiety attack and didn’t know how to cope.

It has always been in my mind that if I had went to a “normal” school my whole life, I would have built relationships with my classmates, created a group of friends and made a community I felt safe in. I drifted through a lot of groups in high school trying to find where I fit in. I did cheer, and dance and drama. But none of those groups overlapped and I still felt like an outsider. Who can really say if it’s all because of where I went to school or if it’s just who I am, but it is something I’ve held on to. Because of this I promised myself my kids would always go to public school when it was time.

My son went to a private little preschool the past two years that I just loved. He loved it! We were both really sad when it was time to move on. Now that it’s time to venture into Kindergarten  I am having a really hard time. I visited B’s school and met all of the kinder teachers. They were wonderful. The school is wonderful! But, I’m nervous.

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Because I didn’t go to a public school I don’t know what to expect. It seems so big for such a little guy. And I understand people go to school every day and he will be fine. But now I also understand the decision my parents made to send me to such a small private school. Sending your kids off to school can be so daunting. And to be perfectly honest? I’m not ready for Kindergarten. Some nights I lay in bed awake and worry about all of the things that can happen to him: bullying, getting lost, him being scared, not being safe. The list goes on and on. I don’t really know how to navigate my fears as we are both venturing into the unknown.

But I do know this.

As much as I would give anything to stay home with my little guy and teach him everything he needs to know. I know that I can’t do that. I know that the best thing I can do for him is to send him off into the world so he can learn all of the tools he needs to succeed in life. The world can be such a scary place (trust me, I know!) and my job as his mom is to help him learn how to adapt and grow into himself with confidence.

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I wish that parenting was easier and that kids never grew up and they stayed little forever. But babies don’t keep. And all I can do is breath, pray, and love on my little man as much as I can. It is quite amazing how his precious smile and contagious giggle fills up my heart with love and the confidence to know that he’s got this. Because he does. They all do!

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Are you nervous about sending your kids off to school? I’ve love to know how you’re coping in the comments!

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All pictures taken by the incredible Reams Photo

Best Birthday Ever

Best Birthday Ever

Every year to kick off Summer and celebrate B’s birthday we spend two nights at The Disneyland Resort. It is so magical it makes me want to live there! This year we celebrated with B’s dad, bonus mom and brother. This was our first time vacationing as a modern family and honestly, it really made our time there even more special. I know a lot of my friends (maybe even family…) don’t understand our “family” dynamics – and that’s okay! I understand it is a unique situation, but this is what works for us.

I would be lying if I said it has always been this way, because it most definitely hasn’t. But when everyone moves past the hurt and realizes it’s about the big picture, it makes everything so much easier! Is this my favorite thing to do? No, but it’s not about me. This is about my son being around the people that he loves. Whomever my son loves, I love too and it is just that simple.

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The first day I met up with everyone just before nap time. This made the check-in to The Disneyland Hotel so much easier having just me there. But, they do have an area for kids to watch Disney movies, so if you are checking in with your kids they will easily be occupied. Also, when I happened to be checking in, Pluto was in the kids area! I was a little taken back when I saw him because I really couldn’t believe he was there…Lol!

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At check-in they offered to upgrade my room to have a view of Downtown Disney but I opted to keep my original room with a view of the pool. I figured we wouldn’t be in the room to watch the fireworks from our room so we wouldn’t get much out of that view.

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Have you ever stayed at The Disneyland Hotel? This was our second time staying there and it’s my favorite hotel over Paradise Pier. I have yet to stay at The Grand Californian – but it’s my dream to stay there! I love the Disneyland Hotel because it just has a more “Disney Magic” feel. Even the headboard on the bed lights up and plays “When You Wish Upon A Star” – talk about magical! I also love staying here because the walk to Disneyland and DCA is much shorter and you can even make a quick short cut through The Grand Californian to get into DCA.

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If you have a kid that still naps or you want to nap so they can stay up for the night parades, staying at any one of the resort hotels is such a game changer. It really allows for you to enjoy the time in the parks without having to worry about getting on every ride or seeing all of the shows. We were able to head back to the room on both days to regroup, relax and take a little nap.

Also, the pool is just amazing! The last time we stayed there we never bothered with the pool but this time we decided to dedicate one whole day to enjoy all of the pool amenities. Of course, once B saw the pool and the Monorail Slides, he wanted to go in it every day – which we did! If we got too hot in the parks we would come back to hotel, change into our swimming clothes and cool off in the pool – it was perfect.

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The pool area has cabanas that you can reserve ahead of time as well as a splash pad area for little ones. The monorail slides are up at the top and perfectly situated by the splash pad with beach access to the slides – which was the perfect area for B’s brother to hang out. They even have a double slide for toddlers which was so cute!

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The Disneyland Hotel Monorail Slides

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On the last day there we had to check out by 11am but we could still stay and enjoy the pool! Once I checked out they gave me a pool key that was valid for the remainder of the day. We definitely took advantage and enjoyed the whole pool area on our last day there.

TIP: They do not give out wristbands to the pool. The only requirement to get in is having a room key or pool key. So we were able to let B’s dad and etc. into the pool to enjoy the day with us. It was a perfect end to our vacation!

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We spent the majority of our time near the slides but every now and then we would venture to the two big pools down below. At one point we were swimming and we saw Goofy off in the distance walking around. And then we happened to look up at the bridge overlooking the pool and Pluto was there! I’m not sure who was more excited – me or B! It’s those little things that make Disney such a unique experience.

I was really sad to leave when it was time to head home. Every night as we tucked ourselves into bed B would say, “This is the best birthday ever!” We just had the best time with our modern family and I’m already looking forward to this vacation next year.  Maybe I can convince everyone to go on a cruise!

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Have you ever been on a Disney vacation? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

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I’m Not A Regular Mom

I’m Not A Regular Mom

“Just taking my mind on a visit, back in time ‘cuz I’ve missed it.” – Blake Shelton

About a month ago I had the opportunity to be free of any sort of responsibilities for about 24 hours. It honestly was the rejuvenation I didn’t know that I needed.

If you know me, then you know that my teenage years were spent glued to TRL, googly-eyed over NSYNC, and dancing to my hearts content. If you could see me right now reflecting on this time in my life, you’d see me with a smile on my face. Anytime that I get to reminisce it takes me back to the days of being carefree and just simply having fun. I can still remember my first celebrity crush: Jonathan Taylor Thomas. I thought I was LIVING with his poster taped to my wall. But then Titanic made its debut. I moved on to Leonardo DiCaprio and dial up internet was all the rage.

My dad wouldn’t let me go on the internet alone (because of the pop up ads!). So he would sit with me as I printed pictures of Leo to put on my notebook for school. This is one of my favorite memories; it’s hysterical and honestly, what a guy!

Leo soon faded to the background the second I went to my first NSYNC concert. My parents took my sister and I; along with another family. Have I ever mentioned how awesome my family is? If not, now would be the time… they are amazing! I mean, what parents would willingly do this?!

Anyway, NSYNC (and the pop/boyband era) was the forefront and center of my life for a very long time. The best way I can describe it: fun. It was so much fun. I just had the best time loving them.

Of course as you get older life moves forward and the best of times become your past times. I still love music more than I can even describe. And I still will go to every concert that I can. Which is why going to see Justin Timberlake was a definite must.

I went with one of my best friends, who may just love JT just as much as me – if not more! 😉 We were on the floor right in the front of the stage living our best lives. Everything about it was perfect. The dancing, the stage, the singing, the band, the lights, the people. It was amazing. It’s really funny to think I have seen JT in concert too many times to count and he has no idea who I am. But he doesn’t need to. It’s just fun.

Coincidentally in the same 24 hours NSYNC was having their Dirty Pop Up shop in Hollywood. I had to go.

My friend dropped me off the next morning and I thought he’d be back in a couple hours to pick me up…. ha! Did you know that NSYNC still has thousands of fans?! I really thought I was going to be the minority. Boy, was I wrong!

I waited 7 hours (YES 7) before I finally made it inside. Luckily, I made 9 new friends who were so generous and kind. It really helped pass the time when one offered a bottle of wine!

I even met one woman who flew in all the way from Boston! We were almost to the front when I just about had a breakdown and wanted to leave but then cheers erupted. I quickly stood up to see what all the commotion was about – Lance and Joey had come! Honestly, if they hadn’t come I’m not sure I was going to make it much longer. They went inside the store for a bit and then made their way down the line. I wish someone could have recorded my face as they walked down – I know I for sure had a creep smile on my face!

After another hour or so we finally made it inside! Probably to an outsider it wouldn’t have looked like much, but to me it held so much nostalgia. They had many photo opportunities, new merchandise, huge blown up posters from past tours, and of course NSYNC music playing. I wasn’t expecting to feel so emotional but I was. It wasn’t even about the band anymore. It was about me and what my life was like and where I am now.

My son has no idea about that life and he will never know exactly what it was like. But I hope to give him snippets of who I was before I was a mom. I think it’s important to remember and to not let that person go completely. I truly hope he loves something bigger than himself one day, and I can be there to share that experience with him…as much as he will allow.

Before I sign off, I want to give a shoutout to the 9 other amazing ladies that I met in line. I will never forget those 7 hours (mostly because my legs hurt so much) but also because each and every one of you made it so much fun. I had the best time reminiscing about the experiences we shared. Oh and to the girl with an NSYNC tattoo – you are my hero!

Self Care Is Not Selfish

Self Care Is Not Selfish

I often say that it’s bittersweet sharing time with my son. At the bottom of my heart, I wish that I could spend every single day with him. But, I know that it’s not an option, so I choose to make the most of my time with him and without him. The first year of his life, I did not spend more than a couple of hours away from him. His dad lived more than an hour away and I was nursing him. Oh, and did I mention I had a really hard time pumping? I gave up on my pumping dreams when he was about 4 months old. Nursing was a really big priority for me, so we were attached (literally) for 13 solid months.

During the first few months of B’s life I was apart of the most wonderful mommy and me group called: The New Mom School. I met some of the most amazing women there; all journeying with me in our new role as “MOM”. I remember at the time a lot was said about taking care of ourselves, making sure we carved out time in the day to clear our heads so that we could continue to be the best mom that we could be. They called it “Self Care”. Self care? What was that? I was a single mom and didn’t have the luxury of self care. I remember wanting so badly to go to a friends birthday dinner without my son. I tried all day to pump and I just couldn’t. I had two choices: to stay home or bring him with me. I brought him with me. It was hectic and scary but we both survived. And it was from that moment on I made the choice to always bring him with me where ever I went (within reason of course). I didn’t want to be a slave to my home because I am the furthest thing from a homebody. And I also didn’t want to be a typical single mom who couldn’t enjoy her life.

When the time came for Braden to spend time at his dads house, I slowly started to feel like I got my groove back. I started to make plans with friends, day trips to LA and DIY projects at home. But, it wasn’t until Braden was about 3 years old where I finally started to feel like myself again. For a long time I really struggled with watching my friends with kids who were married going on these great family vacations, buying homes and new cars. I felt so behind. I wanted to stay home with my son, but I also wanted to start building a life for the two of us.

After I started working full time it felt like I was coming into my own. It was and still is a very tough inner struggle and a huge balancing act being a working single mom. I never want B to feel that he is missing out on anything because I work. I wish I could put into words how much of a juggle it is – but it is really important to me to be there every single second I have available. I have some friends that say I can’t do it all, or I can’t be there for it all, but so far I haven’t missed anything. And I will be damn sure to be there for everything. I know that in the end I am doing what’s best for me and my son. Even though I may not be where I wish I was but I know that every day I am working towards that goal.

With that said, when B is with his dad, that is my time for self care. I didn’t get much of it in the first few years of his life, but I think I’m making up for lost time! It’s not often I get to have a full weekend “off duty”, or really ever? But you better believe I will soak up the 36 hours every week, that I get to myself. It isn’t much, but I’ll take it!

And honestly, I am pretty damn lucky in the coparenting department.  Our coparenting relationship has not always been this way, but I am so grateful that we have made it to the place that we are. I know a lot of people tell me “I’m so lucky”, but this is not luck. We have both worked equally as hard to get to this place for the sake of our son (and our sanity). Without him and his wonderful girlfriend I wouldn’t be able to do some of the things I enjoy doing. Especially my fabulous weekend with NYSNC (more on that later!).It truly does take a village to raise kids – especially if you are doing it solo. And if you are, please take those moments you have to yourself to remember who you are because we were somebody before we became a mom. Self care is not selfish!

Before I end this I just want to say,  if you are struggling in your coparenting relationship, please know that if you truly want it to work, it can! I wasn’t sure we would ever be in such a good place, but we are, and I am so grateful. So please, stay hopeful and continue to do the work – you’ll get there!

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Slumber Party Time!

Slumber Party Time!

Have you hosted a slumber party for your kids yet? My son has been begging to have one for months! He kept asking me if we could invite friends over from school, but it just didn’t feel like the right time yet. To be honest, there are just so many “what if’s” when it comes to having your kid sleep away from home. I knew I wasn’t ready for that, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever be? Anyone outside of family, just seems a bit risky, so we opted to have his cousins come over.

I really had no idea what to expect, but it truly was a lot of fun! We had obligations until the early evening, so we couldn’t start until around 6. The evening officially started with dinner, followed by some painting, and then of course hide and seek! I think this was the highlight of the evening. We were all screaming and giggling so hard – including myself.

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Of course chaos ensued so I felt it was time to unwind with a movie. But first we had to get all ready for bed. It was hysterical watching everyone put on their pajamas and try the different toothpastes… who knew toothpaste was so exciting!

I couldn’t believe it, but everyone agreed on a movie (yay for Secret Life of Pets!). I think they only lasted about 30 minutes, so we turned it off, everyone picked out a book to read, and then it was lights out!

Looking back, everyone really did fall asleep fairly quickly, but in the moment I was worried we would all be up all night! After going in there a few times to remind them it was bed time, everyone fell fast asleep and stayed asleep all night long! Success!

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Morning came around soon enough, then it was time for breakfast and one last round of hide and seek – this time outside! It was a perfect way to end the slumber party.

Have you hosted a slumber party alone? Do you feel comfortable having your kids spend the night at a friends or family members house? I think my biggest challenge was keeping them entertained but yet giving them enough space to play on their own. I just have the one son, so I wasn’t used to the “he did this/she said that” – in other words, tattling. Man that is exhausting! At one point I told them no more tattling… but it didn’t really stick. Hopefully as they get older, this will subside. Or that may be wishful thinking!

I’d love to hear any tips you have to handle multiple kids, or any great slumber party hacks in the comments below! I think by the time I’ve recovered from this one, I’ll be ready for the next!

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