My Priceless Camp Experiences + Camp for Boys

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in Adventures, EVERYTHING ELSE, Florida, FOR MOMS, Parenting, TRAVEL

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When I was a little 10 year old growing up in Russia, the highlight of my summer was the summer camp my parents sent me to that year. Most kids would be gone for the summer at their grandparents’ summer homes or out to the country, and those kids who stayed in the city were left to either be bored indoors, or spending the hot days in the front yards playing with whoever was left in the city at that point. I remember spending weeks studying in the summer. Because I liked it, I loved reading books and I loved learning.
I also remember visiting my nephew’s kindergarten class and asking the teachers to allow me to be their TA and to play with the kids.

Re-branding and new life questions

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in BABY, Daily, EVERYTHING ELSE, FOR MOMS, LIFE, Parenting

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If you missed this post on my life changes, Andrew and I are no longer together.

I am contemplating writing more about it, simply because it’s a part of my life and because many people have emailed me with their own issues they are going through, so I think it’s helpful. I am just worried about doing that in a way that would still keep it somewhat private and won’t hurt the feelings of the other person.

But in the meantime, I am trying to wrap my head around this blog in terms of single co-parenting. Is that the right term? I still don’t know how to define this. Single mother? No. I am not single. And we have a co-parenting schedule. Single co-parent? Again, not single. Am I just single in terms of parenting? But I am not single even then, because we co-parent. Confusing, huh?

Chattanooga, TN as a family destination, a travel story

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in Adventures, EVERYTHING ELSE, TRAVEL

CHATTANOOGA GUIDE FOR KIDS

When I first heard the name Chattanooga, I didn’t think anything of it.

“Ah, Chattanooga Choo Choo”- someone said.

“Huh?” I replied.

Where is it? In Tennessee? What’s there to do? Sounds like a middle of nowhere.

Oh boy was I DEAD WRONG! I laugh now. Seriously, I laugh out loud when I think of my first reaction to the name and its location. It shows you how our preconceived notions of things (based on lack of experience) are often very wrong.

Chattanooga, TN blew my mind. It blew Lexi’s mind. It impressed everyone who joined us on that trip. I am still in touch with the locals there and every time we speak, I long to go back there. I want to visit it again with Lexi, I want to go alone, I want to go with friends. I want to see it in the summer, spring and fall (we went during winter).

When thinking of Chattanooga, TN one can’t come up with much but trains and rarely do we think of it as a family or kid-friendly destination. It can’t be further from the truth. We spent a few days there and left wishing there was more time to explore.

If you are within driving distance to Chattanooga (and it’s close to a lot of states), plan a trip this summer. I promise, if you follow the activities I will describe here, you will not be disappointed and neither will your kids.

CHATTANOOGA GUIDE FOR KIDS

Day 1:

Our first day’s activities were my personal favorite from the visual standpoint. I have been really into nature photography as I travel to various destinations and this “wonder” was exactly what I was looking for and more.

Ruby Falls

Our first living cave experience (and Lexi’s first cave experience overall), Ruby Falls left me breathless (I am not exaggerating). It’s a cave that leads to an underground waterfall (yes, you read that right) that is 145 feet tall and is located 1,120 feet underground. The story of the discovery of the cave is phenomenal and will interest not only adults but small kids too. Lexi talked about the cave, the waterfall and the story she heard from our cave guide for months after.

After exploring the underground world and its amazing sculptures and walking for a long time (but not too long that a preschooler would get tired), we got stopped at the entrance to the waterfall to prepare for the sight. We could hear the water rushing and the humidity level rise. Then we stepped into the dark cavern. A few seconds later, the show began. A massive colorfully lit waterfall appeared before our eyes. With uplifting music and changing colors, it was glittering and glistening and dancing for what seemed like 10 minutes. And then it was over.

It left all of us in absolute awe, standing there with our mouths open. I will never forget that feeling. I walked away with a lump in my chest (and I am far from an impressionable, emotional person). I wanted to just stay there, alone, for hours. But we had to go. Wow, even describing it now, it’s making me short of breath.

Leaving the store, Lexi picked up a little lantern (thank you Candace), and has been using it at nights with her every time we travel.

We went up the stairs to the Look Out Point where you can see the Tennessee river and Chattanooga. While the kids played at the playground, we looked around the area. Apparently there is a zip line going through that part of the mountain that runs in the summer. It’s not something to be missed.

As I am writing about this and am full of emotion, I didn’t realize quite what an impression Chattanooga left on me.

Our next stop was Rock City

Rock City

A beautiful collaboration between man and nature, Rock City is like a walking trail with beautiful sights and sounds and a museum of human creativity all in one. It’s hard to describe exactly what it is and photos come closer but don’t do it as much justice either. Imagine a huge rock garden, with steep cliffs and narrow passageways, flowers, fairytales, overlooks and gazebos, swinging bridges, balancing rocks and waterfalls. That’s probably the only way to describe everything that you get to see on this little adventure.

There was so much to experience here. These are the things that really jumped out at me:

Balancing rock – A rock that looks like it is being balanced on the edge and needs our help to hold it up. See? We helped.

Fairy Garden – A beautiful creation of traditional fairy tales set in one of the caves, painted with glow in the dark paint and lit up to bring them to life. It was great walking through and trying to recognize each story based on the display

Seven States Marker – From this overlook you can see all seven states surrounding Chattanooga.

Rainbow Tunnel – No comment needed. See gorgeous photo below!

Waterfall – One of the three waterfalls we saw during our trips. They never cease to amaze me.

Fat Man Squeeze – This fun little walk isn’t for the claustrophobic. The kids loves running through it, adults are more tentative. No one wants to get stuck there but it’s fun for all.

Us, bloggers and media, doing what we do best.

 

Day 2

Animals Animals Animals

Aquarium

Chattanooga has, by far, the best aquarium we have encountered. Not being a fan of passively watching animals, whether they are sea or land ones, the Tennessee Aquarium was a pleasure to visit. From the behind the scenes tours and viewings where the girls (Lexi had a travel buddy with her) just absolutely burst into laughter over every little thing, to nicely marked exhibits with explanations that were interesting to read to a 4 year old as well as an adult.

There are three exhibits that stick in my mind as something out of the ordinary:

The Penguin Habitat – Lexi loved this one. The penguins jumped and played and raced and stopped to look at her as she watched them have fun.

The Underwater Exhibit – A cave like area with aquarium and sea life swimming all around you. They actually host sleepovers there, which sounds pretty amazing!

Jellyfish Rooms – Those rooms were unreal. The variety of jelly fish and the see-through tanks in the dark felt like something out of a movie. I wish we could have explored it a lot more before moving onto our next activity.

Chattanooga Zoo

It wasn’t anything too special. It was a good small zoo. However, one thing that did stand out was the train themed exhibits containing with the choo-choo heritage of Chattanooga.

We rode Camel, rode a carousel, and experienced some behind-the-scenes tours. It was fun, cold but fun.

Day 3

On day three we finally made it to the trains.  I’m not a train person but Lexi had a blast visiting the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. The girls sat in the train car, ate lollipops and then went onto exploring the real Choo Choo, which is a hotel and restaurant. This was the perfect activity for these little friends. Lexi wasn’t particularly interested in the museum itself. It would be more suited for older kids or kids fascinated with trains, but she had fun riding the train. It would also be fun to stay overnight in one of these cars, the girls certainly thought so.

Day 4:

Creative Discovery Museum

The Creative Discovery Museum was fabulous. It had two stories of amazing exhibits that make me want to visit Chattanooga and stay there for a week so that Lexi could truly explore it. My favorite was the Recording Studio where all the kids pretended to be recording artists (Lexi sang) and the Dino Bone Pit. Children who live in Chattanooga are certainly lucky. There was also a huge suspended maze that spanned two stories. I wasn’t yet comfortable letting Lexi run around unattended there, so she didn’t get to go all the way.

Southern Belle Boat Ride

 Southern Belle is a large river boat that takes you on a journey through Tennessee. It’s large enough that kids can walk around, exploring or pretending to be pirates like ours did. We were even allowed to go into the captain’s cabin.

Day 5

High Point Climbing and Fitness

Our last day was surprisingly exciting. We went indoor rock climbing. Apparently Chattanooga is one of the best places to go bouldering and rock climbing in the great outdoors, but since we were there with our children and we were not experienced, our trip concluded at High Point Climbing and Fitness. To say that I loved it would not even describe how much fun I had. Lexi was tentative at first, but once she fully learned that she could trust the harness, it was hard to tear her away from it. In fact, she quickly moved onto bouldering and was climbing there without the support of the harness and then jumping off. The gym had walls and walls of different climbing levels and even an outdoor climbing area where you are literally climbing around on the building’s outside wall above the busy street below. I can’t wait for our next visit there!

I truly fell in love with Chattanooga. When anyone asks me where I would recommend taking their preschooler to around the US, I without hesitation recommend Chattanooga. Yes, it might not have the beaches of Florida or the glamour of California or the excitement of New York, or hippiness of Portland, but it has the most child friendly, unique, and interesting activities that will truly engage even the youngest ones. It’s not the old and tired discovery center and farmer’s market. It’s truly educational and experiential entertainment for kids of all ages. I can’t wait to go back and I hope that you take my advice and visit the area, even if for a just a few days.

Some photos in this post are courtesy of Logan Foll via Foll Exposures

Hell Week Challenge: Moving Forward, Lessons and Recap

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in BUSY MOM TIPS, EVERYTHING ELSE, FOR MOMS, HEALTH, Health and Fitness

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Erik Bertrand Larssen for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

I hope you’ve been with me for the last week as I took the Hell Week Challenge based on the book Hell Week Challenge: Seven Days to Be Your Best Self by Erik Bertrand Larssen.

If you want to get caught up with how the week has been, I wrote 7 posts, with this post being the 7th. If you haven’t already, take a little time to read the other posts as well: Hell Week Challenge: What It Is and Why You Should Do It,
Hell Week Challenge Prep,
Hell Week Day 1: Habits,
Hell Week Day 2: Get In the Mode,
Hell Week Day 3: Planning,
Hell Week Days 4 & 5: Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone and Rest.

I hope you will strongly considered doing your own Hell Week Challenge. Just order a copy of the book from Amazon and you can get started!

Hell Week Day 4 and 5: Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone and Rest

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in BUSY MOM TIPS, EVERYTHING ELSE, FOR MOMS, HEALTH, Health and Fitness

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Erik Bertrand Larssen for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

I am entering into the second half of my Hell Week challenge based on the book, Hell Week: 7 Days to Be Your Best Self by Erik Bertrand Larssen that can be bought on Amazon. I think everyone needs to take this challenge and I have been writing about it all week. I introduced the book and the challenge, I wrote about how I prepped for Hell Week and I have given a play by play for each day here: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3. Each day has presented a new focus and a new way to stretch myself and Day 4 was no different.

Day 4 started exactly like its name. I woke up to no Internet. No internet means no productivity and working. It seems like every little thing that could go wrong to sabotage my Hell Week Challenge this week went wrong, from food poisoning to a rained out volleyball and consequent late night of playing and having to go to sleep late. Now with the internet out, I can’t get everything I planned on doing done. It’s making me laugh right now as I write about it. You wanted me to step out of my comfort zone? I think the universe kind of took care of that by throwing everything it could at me this week to PREVENT me to getting things done. If there was any doubt in my mind on whether I would repeat the Hell Week, it’s no longer there.

I am repeating the damn challenge as soon as I am back from my Minnesota trip for 4th of July.

On Thursday I was supposed to pull an all-nighter. As I wrote earlier that wasn’t feasible at the moment because I have to take care of Lexi, drive her an hour to camp and an hour back and play volleyball Friday evening (when I would have been up for over 24 hours). However I really want to do it (I love all-nighters). So I am going to do it Saturday night and I am pretty excited.

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I dropped Lexi off at school on Thursday morning and went straight to the gym, pushing as hard as I could, working out. Then I spend the day at a local organic restaurant working (doing specifically something I had planned for hell week).

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Then we spent a nice calm evening playing and went to bed at the right time. Very simple good day.

Day 5, Friday, was meant to be a rest day after the all nighter, but since I didn’t do the all nighter, I treated it like any other day. Once again I had Lexi on Friday so my work time was limited. I had to work out of a cafe so that I had access to the Internet, got a decent amount of work done.

I find it extremely challenging to be hyperfocused when I know I only have a few hours of work, before having to return to mommy mode. And it’s even more challenging to be hyper focused IN MOMMY mode. Being a mommy and being a super productive worker are on completely opposite spectrums of mental function.  Not doing intellectual or intensely physical activities (like playing kid games) is energy draining for me (I am sure many mommies can relate that a day of playing Legos and talking about characters can be mind numbing), so I sort of turn off and that makes me tired. I need to find a way to get into hyperfocused mode when I am a mom, not just during work. I can tell that it is going to take more than a week to find that strength and get into the zone, but this is a good start and a good motivator for me.

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So when I picked Lexi up, I forced myself to come up with a new activity rather than just go with what we know.

On the way home, we made a detour to a local PetSmart to go see pets. Lexi is at the stage where he is in love with little animals and has been asking for a little kitty as well as obsessively petting our cats at home, so this was a great trip. She squealed and awwwww’ed and was just absolutely enthralled by the little kittens and fish and mice and hamsters she saw at the store. This was a good spur of the moment trip. On the way home, instead of listening to music or playing the old and tired iSpy game, we played the game of calling out letters and coming up with words that start with that letter, as well as describing of things and trying to guess what we are trying to describe. She did surprisingly well at both of those games and got exponentially better the more we played ( we have a 40 min to an hour drive home from her camp). I felt better about actually engaging into things actively rather than passively, but I still think there is room for improvement, that I can push myself further to be better in mommy mode.

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Friday is my volleyball day, and I was set at being focused and pushing myself further than usual. As a result, I won every single game of the evening except for the last one ( we usually play about 8 games back to back in the course of the evening). Another proof that I don’t give it my all consistently and when I do, I can see the results.

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At 9:15pm I rushed home, took a quick shower to wash off all the sticky wet sand and was in bed by 10:30pm.
Overall, I think I had a successful day in terms of the #hellweekchallenge, but I can’t help it but feel that I could push even more, do even better. I feel like this could become my every day mode, a better improved. But I want to really feel the pain doing the challenge. I guess the simple fact that I did not need to change my eating or exercising habits automatically makes it much easier, but I want to really feel challenged and persevere.

Today is Saturday, the all-nighter, I am very excited to see how it will go. I will need lots of coffee.

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Hell Week Day 1: Habits

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in BUSY MOM TIPS, EVERYTHING ELSE, FOR MOMS, GET FIT, HEALTH, Health and Fitness

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Erik Bertrand Larssen for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

If you have been reading my latest posts, you know I am participating in the Hell Week Challenge based off the book “Hell Week: 7 Days to Be Your Best Self” by Erik Bertrand Larssen. I explained what Hell Week is all about and shared about my experience preparing to take the Hell Week Challenge. If you want to join me or start your own Hell Week Challenge next week, grab a copy of this super helpful book from Amazon.

 

If you are completing the challenge with me, be sure to use #HellWeekChallenge and #HellWeekTAOMAB so I can follow along with you!

Hell Week Challenge Prep

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in BUSY MOM TIPS, EVERYTHING ELSE, FOR MOMS, HEALTH, Health and Fitness

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Erik Bertrand Larssen for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

This week I am taking the HELL WEEK challenge from the book Hell Week: Seven Days to Be Your Best Self Now by Erik Bertrand Larssen that can be purchased on Amazon if you’d like to participate with me. I introduced the book, why I am taking the challenge and what I hope to achieve through the challenge in THIS POST. I hope some of you are going to join me in the challenge and have ordered your own copy of the book. You can grab it on Amazon if you have not already.

Before HELL WEEK can start, there are some preparations you have to do. This is laid out in the book and I want to share how I prepared for my HELL WEEK challenge that starts on Monday. I am so excited!

Sometimes it’s better to just part ways…

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in EVERYTHING ELSE

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I wanted to wait to write this post until things were closer to being final…

As some of you have noticed, Andrew and I have not been together for quite a while now. And while I do not think it is fair to him for me to discuss specifics on the internet, I wanted to wait until the divorce was close to final to let you, guys, know about it here. Partly because many of you have followed our lives from the beginning, partly because I know many families are going through the same thing and most importantly because it’s not a subject widely discussed or talked about. And it should be.

No decision to separate a marriage or a long term relationship is easy. And I have to say that I agonized over it for months, if not a year. That consume most of the year 2014 and a bit of 2015. I know many women who are in the position I was, some with fewer options. For me, the realization that I was not happy in my marriage came on slowly. I did not know what was wrong at first. I felt like I was trapped with no way to get out and simply unhappy. I wanted something more. Something different. It took me MONTHS to understand what I was feeling and what it was connected to. And then MONTHS again, to make a solid decision that I wasn’t going back and forth on.

I can’t discuss the whys here. It wouldn’t be fair to Lexi’s dad. I can say it was very hard to fully decide on divorce because of our 13 years together and because of Lexi, but when the decision was made, it felt right.  I do not blame anyone. I feel it was irreconcilable differences ( as silly as it sounds). I realized that what I needed to grow and to be a better person and to achieve something in life wasn’t necessarily what I had or what I wanted.

Almost 2 years after the conversation about divorce started, we have finally managed to find the time to file the paperwork. (It was never a priority to have it official, because we were already separated emotionally). We agree on everything when it comes to the separation. We both hope that for the sake of Lexi and our own relationship, we can stay amicable. I don’t hold anything against him, and hope to stay friends and parents and hope that with time he will not hold anything against me.

How will this affect Lexi in terms of seeing her mom and dad?

We have been practicing co-parenting for 1.5 years now. 50/50 mom and dad. It started due to our work schedules even before we were sure that we wanted to get separated, and then morphed into a full on co-parenting deal on a 50/50 basis. As far as we can tell, Lexi has not noticed a difference. She sees mommy and daddy equal amounts of time. We are hoping that we can still take vacations together, as his work allows ( I am more flexible than Andrew), celebrate holidays together, come to recitals and games together. Our goal is to keep a united front and do what is best for Lexi in the face of a not-so-ideal situation. I know Andrew has been missing from the pictures, but he is not missing from her life. We just don’t take many of all three of us anymore.  We will be moving into separate houses, I am getting a rental condo or house by August. Looking at many properties right now, maybe I will record my journey.

While it was a very hard decision, I have to say I have not been this happy with my life for a very long time. It’s hard, and it’s frustrating at times, but I have a free, happy feeling inside of me that I haven’t felt in years. And it certainly gets projected onto my daughter.

I know many women out there felt the same: trapped, unhappy with the person they are with, confused, not sure if there is a way out. I felt all those things for a long time until I started making my way out. Emotionally, financially…. Sometimes two people just gotta go. For their sake, for the sake of their children. Sometimes happy parents apart are better than lifeless, angry parents together. It’s never an easy decision, but I think taking your time to make it, without emotions, using logic, can help make the right one.

I want to write about it in a way that would help other women going through the same decision making process, but I am concerned about giving away too much that would hurt the other party. I do not know where to draw that line, so I am staying somewhat vague.

It’s not worth it to spend your life with someone who you don’t love and who doesn’t make you happy, for any reason, financial, kids, social stigma, etc

I would rather be alone.

And it’s not good to be with someone who doesn’t love you. Because everyone deserves being loved.

Many people were confused, we seemed so happy together. And we were for many years. With lots of ups and downs. But in the last 2-3 years. there was a deep seated feeling that just grew and grew and became clear once the divorce option came into focus.

That being said, I still love Andrew as Lexi’s dad, even though I might disagree with him on a lot of things. We are still very alike ( as much as we are different). He is an excellent dad to Lexi and our parenting styles match really well. He loves Lexi more than anything in this world and that means a universe to me. I want to be friends and help him and spend time with our daughter together. I just can’t be in it in a romantic way. I hope that we can grow our friendship even further when the dust settles, because as long as he doesn’t have hard feelings, I would love to care about him as a friend and Lexi’s dad.

What I can say to those going through the thoughts or the process and needing support is it’s ok. It really is. Whether the decision is mutual, or one of you is leaving, it is for the best.  There is no reason to be with a person who you do not love, or with a person who does not love you. There is always a better way. Take your time. Listen to your feelings. Prepare for your new life if needed and most importantly, try and do it amicably. I know it’s not always possible or in your control. It’s not bad, it’s just a fact of life. Things change, people change, feelings change. We all just want to be happy and need to find that happiness.

Just heads up for everyone: I realize you probably have a million questions and comments. I know many of you had for months now. As much as I would love to answer them, this will be the only post about this matter. I really really want to just pour my heart out on the blog about every detail of the separation and things that frustrate me and things that make me happy. But I can’t. It’s public and I don’t want anyone’s feelings hurt. I just wanted to officially talk about it now that we finally got around to filing our divorce papers. By around August we expect it all to be complete. We didn’t need lawyers, we agreed on everything, so now off to make our new lives. In the future, I might touch on co-parenting and such, but right now while things are still fresh, I would rather respect Andrew’s privacy and not say too much.

I will not answer questions, comment on the matter. I do not want any negativity around this change, I’ve been consistent in that I am a positive person and don’t tolerate negativity around me. I do not want any condolences, because this change is a good change. I do not need any advice because it’s no one’s place to give it without being asked. And I cannot give any advice because every situation is different and it is not MY place to give it, as much as I would like to help others. If you feel like you want to say something or extend support to both of us, say “I wish you happiness and glad you did what is best for all three of you”. That is all I need. I wish I could do more but it is a touchy subject and it is best if it’s not carried away with. Thank you  for respecting that :)

If you do wish to say something, send me a personal email. I can’t promise I will respond but I will read it :) contact at prebabyblog dot com

We will be moving soon and we are still traveling a lot, so I am going to continue trying to post here regularly even though life is temporarily going to get busy. (keyword try)

Lexi has just started summer camp which will give both of us some time to get caught up, which I am excited about.

I wanted to say Thank you for following our family throughout the years. I appreciate all the supporters. I will continue writing about our new lives and loves and adventures. I am not sure if I will be open about my personal romantic life, as not everyone is okay with being in public like that but I am sure you will see updates and pictures on social media. Things are just getting to be interesting….

I will be sharing more of my and Lexi life together, our search for a new house, our travels, about her school, our routines, my favorite things, her favorite things, my parenting, my struggles, everything and anything involved. I will be writing about fitness and nutrition and personal growth and improvement  I have been big on. Things that help and hinder me. Everything I struggle with and my little wins. Work more with my favorite brands to bring you giveaways and freebies. Do more regular series of different posts. I am excited! Excited to share more. (Now that Lexi is in school, I will have more time)

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Feel free to follow us on social media as well, of course! 😉

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My new business, Melody Lane, and how it started.

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby. Posted in BABY, BUMP UPDATES, Daily, EVERYTHING ELSE, Fashion and Outfits, FOR MOMS, Friday Finds, Fun as a Toddler Mom, FUN TIMES, GET FIT, Health and Fitness, LIFE, My Pregnancy, New Mom Experience, Nursery, Other Recommendations, PHOTO, Photo Stories, Pre-CONCEPTION, PREGNANCY, PREGNANCY FASHION, Pregnancy Q of the week, Pregnant With Style, PRODUCTS, TODDLER, Tried and True

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THE WHOLE STORY

Some of you who follow me on IG might have noticed me mentioning Melody Lane  a few times and I am sure you saw the announcement  and I have finally found the time to talk about it and give you some background information on how it came to life and what it is. ( and a coupon just for my readers at the end)