Life is either a daring adventure… (aka #HermerHoliday)

So, as I mentioned last week, one of the things that came out of our Burning Man experience was the realization that “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” We all get so much more when we push ourselves – when we are living just beyond our comfort zones. Matt and I are both inspired more – as parents, as a couple, and as entrepreneurs, when we are living just beyond the edge. This isn’t to say that we don’t love our nights in pajamas with a good boxset (Ozarks anyone?!) but we’ve learned that it is all about the mix for our family.

A couple things happened this last month in the Hermer household: 1. We signed on our first restaurant site in Los Angeles (YAY! – proper announcement to come when we get all our ducks in a row) but due to timing, this won’t open until 2018 so we have a window of time before we need to get working on it 2.: I’m working on a new EXCITING project (YAY!) but the first few months of my new startup can be done remotely. 3. As we make Los Angeles our home, we’ve decided to sell our home in London. 4. We learned that California law requires children to be formal school from the 1st grade (our eldest Max is in Kindergarten this year).

Suddenly, we realized that we have a pocket of time in our lives as a family to do whatever we want. As we are going to sell our home in London, I wanted to go back to London and say goodbye to the home we built and where we raised our family. Building the house was Matt and my first big project together – it really was a labor of love. And though the time is right to close that chapter as we live our California chapter, I also think it is important for us as a family to say goodbye to our London home.

Max and Jake have also been missing their London friends and family – in particular, Max misses the London rainy puddles, Jake misses the big red buses, and we miss our friends and family (I’m not forgetting Sadie here, but to be honest, she is pretty happy if she is on my hip). So we thought that it would be a good time to go back to London, say goodbye to our home, and visit friends and family.

And then, Matt and I thought, well, we are in London, and we have some time – lets do something else… while we still can. While we still can educate our children in the school of life – before 1st grade starts. So, we’ve gotten a bit adventurous and in the spirit of YOLO (and hatching this plan in Burning Man – uh oh!), we’ve booked tickets from London to Southeast Asia FOR 8 WEEKS. Are we crazy? YES! Are we excited? YES YES YES!

Though we are still in the process of planning the trip (which does give me some level of anxiety as we are leaving for London on October 1st – less that 2 weeks!), we’ve decided to throw Sadie on our backs with Max and Jake in our hands and head to Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Even as I write this, I’m thinking WHAT ARE WE THINKING and yet, this year has been all about adventure and Matt and I want to continue it as long as we can, while we can.

While our children are young, we want to soak them up – away from the screens and away from the daily schedule of life – and actively make memories as. SO in the next 10 days, we’ve got a lot to do. First of all, if anyone has suggestions on where to stay or what to do in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Vietnam, please comment below! AND if you have suggestions on what to bring traveling with young children – comment below! The next 10 days are going to be crazy as we try to plan this trip, pack for everything from London life to Angkor Wat for a family of 5, and wrap up the work that we’ve started in LA, so that when we come back in January, we can hit the ground running.

Wish us luck – and of course I will be figuring it out along the way – so expect more blog posts on how to get through an around the world trip with toddlers (and enjoy it).

Love xx

Below are a few pix from our attempts to get our Southeast Asia visas. For years, we’ve always said SMILE when a camera is shoved in our children’s faces – so needless to say, Max, Jake, and even Sadie are well trained to say CHEEEEESE when they see a lens. For visa pictures though, they DON’T want a smile. You are just supposed to look serious. I was crying with laughter trying to get our munchkins to be serious – it is SO hard to be serious during these moments…

Let the adventures begin!

 

Sadie is JUST starting to take a few steps. I’ve got to video her more as it is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. The CVS we went to in the Palisades also doesn’t really have a passport booth for pictures – we had to do a makeshift shopping cart situation to make her sit still for a moment.

Forget about getting Sadie to give the camera a serious face – we just had to get her to LOOK at the camera. It took our entire family – and some other shoppers – to get the shot.

This was taken before we explained that visa pictures were nonsmiling pictures. I’m not actually sure this is a smiling picture, but it is the face Max makes when we asked him to smile. Which is actually hilarious – and makes us all smile.

This is his serious face.

Jake trying not to smile. It is SO hard for a 3 year old to be serious!

We got there in the end! Perfect not-smiling picture!

 

 

 

Back-To-School Healthy Snacks and Lunches

I do love live television – there is a buzz I get about having an ‘air’ time – and prepping whatever I’m going to do or say… so when my friends over at Good Day LA called to ask me if I would come onto their Wellness Wednesday morning show to talk about my favourite Back-To-School Lunches and Snacks, I jumped at the chance!  Live TV AND sharing my favorite kids snacks and lunches with viewers? SIGN ME UP.

I wear this A.P.C. dress anytime I want a little color pop – and who can resist some photoprops – thankgoodness for Oriental Trading Company where I find SO many fun things for props and playtime.

Snacking is different in America than in London. I never really thought about snacks for the kids – sure something for them to nibble on but eating in public is sort of uncouth in London. I was taught that children eat at home, at the table, and have a proper meal – they certainly aren’t eating ‘on-the-go’ or ‘in-the-car.’ But LA is different. Our kids are ALWAYS in the car. And where as in London, our children were younger and so were home for lunch and their nap and I could easily cut up some apples and cheese for them, in LA they bounce from school to swim practice – and need something that travels with them, keeping them bouncing until dinner. In London, our children’s schools had in-house chefs that prepared their snacks and lunches, using local, organic ingredients. In LA, I wake up every morning and pack lunchboxes for Max and Jake, and Sadie for the park. Let’s be honest Moms, (raise your hand here) the morning routine of packing lunches makes us all want to bang our heads against the wall.

Thank goodness for my Fritatta which I make in muffin tins for on-the-go snacking and lunching and a few other recipes that I’ve included in my An American Girl in London: 120 Nourishing Recipes for Your Family from a Californian Expat. I’m also obsessing over Hippeas for organic nonGMO protein-rich snacking (you can order them here). Go on, order them in every flavor, you won’t be disappointed – they are totally addictive and delicious.

These Pottery Barn Kids lunchboxes are super cute AND you can personalise them… LOVE

SO, here is the solution, make it fun. Make it fun for the kiddos to eat, and make it fun for me to make. If I was packing the same lunch every morning, I would get SO bored – just as they would tire of eating the same thing.

Bentology has super cute colourful boxes that make packing balanced meals easy and Pottery Barn Kids has clever chic stainless-steel bento boxes. No more wasted ziplock bags and it also satisfies my inner control freak – love me some linear organisation.

 

Love the clean lines of these Pottery Barn Kids Divided lunchboxes

 

These Pottery Barn Kids sandwich cutters are great for making sandwich shapes.

 

These Bentology shapes are great for making veggies fun.

These pandas are adorable to stick into kiddie snacks

Check out my Fox 11’s Good Day LA segment here and make sure to comment below if you have any favorite lunch tricks and healthy snacks – I always love to hear new ideas!

Love x

The Kids (Will Be) All Right

Matt and I try to escape a few times a year without the children for a little Mummy & Daddy time and even though we’ve had practice escaping, I still have a tough time every time we say goodbye for a few sleeps. Through the trips, we’ve found a few tricks that help us all get through the time away – so we can all enjoy our time away.

Videos vs Facetime: Our youngsters are just that – young. Jake (3) and Sadie (1) don’t always understand that they can’t reach into the phone and grab us – so we’ve found when we Facetime them to check in, they sometimes get distressed which actually doesn’t help anyone. They can’t understand why we aren’t upstairs in our bedroom – even though we were just on the screen of the phone. Filming a short video and texting it to whoever is caring for our children seems to do the trick – the kids know that we are thinking about them and we feel that we’ve been able to connect with them. They then film a video back – and ta-dah – a bit of ‘communication’ without the distress.

Little Presents: On the mornings that we aren’t all around the breakfast table, I wrap up little presents for the kids to open in our absence.  This isn’t Christmas morning but rather, just a little something that the kids can look forward to so they aren’t missing Mummy or Daddy too much. I usually schedule the presents so if we are away on a weekend, the present is something arts & crafts related that the kids can do during the day, and if it is during the week, a little toy to entertain them as they get ready for school.

Here are a few of my favourite little distraction toys:

bubbles, fun crayons and little activities for fiddily fingers always go down a treat!

I LOVE these little Parkland Pencil Cases and I’ve just filled them up with brand new crayons for the kids. At some point this will change I know, but right now, a pouch of new crayons is pretty much as good as it gets.

I can’t find any wrapping paper, but no matter. I just wrapped up the presents in white paper and wrote a little note – and my Mom will put these little goodies on the breakfast table in the mornings so the kids will see them when they come down for brekkie.

How Many Sleeps Post-its: Our kids have always loved this little game. It bookends the day with another little thought of Mummy & Daddy and helps them understand how time and how much longer we will be away. We pre-write all the post-it notes depending on how many ‘sleeps’ we will be away and then tape up these little cards next to their beds. At bedtime, the kids each take down one of the post-it notes to countdown our return.

 

Our Hamptons trip is only 4 sleeps – but for our munchkins, it does seem like a long time (and the truth is, if feels like a long time for Matt and me too!) So these little tricks help us all – we know that our children know that we are hugging them and thinking of them while we are away, and also helps them understand how much time is – and also, that we are going to come home at the end of it all which gives them a sense of comfort.

Do you have any tricks that you do with your kids when you travel? I’d love to know as I’m always adding to our repertoire!

Let me know your tricks in the comments section below – and I’ll try it out on our next trip away!

 

 

 

Kids Summer Style starring Sunuva

 When the sun is out and the weather is warm, our kids are mostly naked in our backyard. That said, as much as I love bare bums, it is vital that our kids stay safe in the sun for at the beach and long afternoons by the pool.

Enter Sunuva.

Our dear friends Sabrina Naggar and Emily Schwartz started this stylish UV protective swimwear collection a decade ago when they were frustrated by the lack of cute swimwear that does its job with protective suntops – and also looks cute. Thank goodness as in London, sunwear was needed on vacation, but certainly wasn’t needed in rainy London – but in Los Angeles, we are literally LIVING on the beach or by the pool – and my kids’ wardrobe needs to be full of protective swimwear. It is a new way of life and this entire collection is adorable AND sun safe.

To launch my website, Sunuva is kindly offering my new website readers (YOU!) an opportunity to win a $100 gift card to use at Sunuva.

Make sure to register for your Sunuva giveaway and also, here are some of favourite SUNUVA looks below – happy shopping:

I am soaking up these little rolls for as long as I can, knowing that they disappear soon enough

Our Little Elephant

Sweet Sandy Sadie (I can’t get enough of this bathing suit and hat combo!)

Max showing us his shark teeth – to match his Shark top

How to enter: Follow @sunuvaswimwear and @marissahermer on Instagram, like my Sunuva post, and fill out the form below!

Enter To Win $100 Giftcard

 

ONE-ON-ONE TIME WITH KIDS

Raising loved, valued, and confident children with MAD days

My husband Matt and I just celebrated our 7 year anniversary – and in what seems like a blink of an eye, our little duet is now a party of five. Our crew now includes Max (5), Jake (3), and Sadie (1).  People often ask me how I make it all work – and the truth is that I’m totally winging it (with caffeine in the morning and wine at night to bookend the chaos). As COO of our Hermer House, I operate our home as a triage unit and whoever is bleeding the most (more metaphorically speaking than literally, although with a house of toddlers, this is also sometimes literal) gets the attention. There isn’t a ‘balance’ to it all and though I wish I could pie-chart out my day to give each child the same about of time, this isn’t always the case. Our baby gets to sit on my hip more than her older brothers and our eldest, being the most verbal and also the loudest, usually gets the most airtime. That said, even in the madness of raising a household of young children, there is something to be said for special one-on-one time with each of the munchkins.

Growing up, my own father would pick me up every Friday from school for a MAD Afternoon (Marissa And Dad) – we would do different activities and just have special Father Daughter time. He did the same with my brother Ben (BAD Afternoons). It made us each feel valued and also gave me some time just to connect with my dad, outside of the daily operations of family life.  Thirty years later, these are the some of the fondest memories I have of both my childhood and my father.

The other morning, our eldest son Max climbed into bed with me and as I was stroking his head and telling him stories of when he was a baby, and he responded “and I was your ONLY child? You had attention for just me? Can we do that again?” There are pros and cons to being a member of a toddler triumvirate and about a year ago, I started to feel it was important to start giving each child their own time with Mommy.

I’ve started taking out the kids to one-on-one breakfasts (Max on a Monday, Sadie on a Wednesday and Jake on a Friday) – and after awhile, having seen the benefit to each of our children’s growth and also my own relationship with them, Matt has now started Saturday morning one-on-one breakfasts with the children for his own dose of Daddy time. This is also incredibly impactful as of course Mommy time is very different than Daddy time. Matt has also noticed that the conversations he has with the kids and the time spent are extra special – and we have seen that the children feel they are valued individually – not just as a gang, and though of course they are part of the mix, that we always have time for their individual thoughts and feelings.

Of course breakfast doesn’t always work – I might have to travel for work or there is a conflict – and breakfast might not work for your family… but doing simple things like finding childcare backup for the other siblings (husband, nanny, inlaw, aunt) and talking a walk around the block or a special morning at the park might work.

I’ve also found that if we actually name these one-on-one times moments (similar to what my father did with MAD days and BAD days) – calling it ‘Max & Mommy Time’ (we even have a song that goes along with it, which we sing at the beginning of one-on-one time) communicate that this is special scheduled time – it hasn’t just happened but Max (or Jake or Sadie) is WORTH the scheduling of the special time – they are valued.

We’ve seen that one-on-one time:

Gives each child a moment to share their own individual thoughts and not get crowded out by their siblings.

For now, our children are young, and so the main issues that come up are that someone snatched a toy from him at summer camp or that he doesn’t like carrots anymore. But later on, as our munchkins grow, there will be larger issues and hopefully our children will feel comfortable in sharing bigger issues with us during these times.  We are giving them a platform and a listening ear now – for the carrots – and later, for whatever else comes their way.

Makes each child feel really special and valued individually.

Any mother’s attention is always divided, whether it is another child, a husband, work, dinner on the stove, any number of the thousands of things we are constantly managing. In these one-on-one moments, the child gets 100% of the mother’s attention – there are no other distractions and this is the most impactful time in shaping a child’s understanding of himself – he is worth it.

Gives them a break from competing with their siblings for our attention

There are so many other voices to talk over in our kitchen – and often times our quietest child won’t fight for airtime. During our one-on-one times, he actually is incredibly verbal, when given the space to talk and share.

Here’s to more MAD days and BAD days (and to raising strong confident children).

4 TRICKS TO GET KIDS TO SLEEP

I wish I had read this when I was navigating the tortures of sleep deprivation – but here it is for you dear tired readers:

Kids go through phases in their sleep routines – and any change in their lives can affect their sleep cycle. When we moved to Los Angeles, obviously our munchkins had to get over jet lag, but they also were acclimating to new schools, a new house, a new bedroom, a new life! That combined with growing older (our Jake turned 3 – and it is just around this time where kids start to get scared of the dark or generally have fears) was the perfect recipe for a sleepless stew.

Jake was waking up sometimes 7 times in the night – and when he woke up, he also woke up his brother and sister. Matt and I were constantly going into Jake’s room and calming him back to sleep.  I was often sleeping next to Jake in his bed just to keep him asleep and comfort him – or sleeping on the floor of his room. By day, Matt and I were zombies, and by night we were being tortured by lack of sleep – AND I was sharing a bed with our 3 year old rather than my husband. We had to tackle this issue head on.

I met with a sleep therapist (yes, this exists) and after trying several methods, these are the tricks that have worked for us:

1. Get a Night / Day Clock. We have the Gro-Clock  which is a UK clock but you can get it in the US – but any sleep clock will do. Your child is taught (and trained) that he can come out of his room when the sun is on the clock (which you’ve preset to come on the clock at 7AM) and that it is bedtime when the star comes on the clock (at your preset time – ours is 7PM).

2. Buy a special Mommy Bear. Your child will have a cuddly toy however buy a NEW Mommy Bear – this bear stays with your child in his bed all night long, and if he needs a cuddle in the night, rather than coming out of his room to come get you for a cuddle, he can cuddle his Mommy Bear. The Mommy Bear is for cuddles in the night as his Mommy (you) are in bed sleeping.

3. Write a Good Sleep Book. This does take awhile to make but it is the one thing that really changed how Jake sleeps soundly through the night. Write a book (it can just be typed out / printed out) and take pictures of your child doing whatever it says on the page – and put it in a binder – and read it with your child every night before he goes to sleep. You can write whatever story you like but it should go along the lines of the below:

  • page 1. Jake has a comfy cozy room. Jake’s bed is so comfy it feels like he is sleeping on a cloud. *take a picture of your child in his bed and print out the picture and tape it on the page in the book*
  • page 2. Jake has a new Mommy bear that stays with him ALL night. If Jake wakes up in the night and needs a cuddle, Jake can cuddle his Mommy bear. (*take a picture of your child cuddling his Mommy Bear and tape it on the page in the book*
  • page 3. Mommy and Daddy decided that we are going to help Jake be a good sleeper, like we know he can be, because if you are not getting enough good sleep, you will be CRANKY! Mommy will be cranky! Daddy will be cranky! (and list everyone else in your family.) Everyone will be sleepy and no one will have enough energy to play during the day.  (rather than taking a picture of your cranky tired family here, instead DRAW a family of stick figures of everyone in your family – with cranky faces…)
  • page 4. SO… after you have your bath, we will put on your pyjamas. Jake will go to the potty and we will put on Jake’s nighttime nappies. We will read you a story and then we will read your Good Sleep Book (this is your Good Sleep Book) and then we will give you lots of kisses and cuddles and we will sing you a song.
  • page 5. Mr. Blue Star will be turned on (this is where you turn on your Night / Day Clock to the ‘Night Scene’) and its time for night night. (take a picture of the clock in the night scene and tape it into this page of the book)
  • page 6. Mommy and Daddy love to cuddle Jake before bed and will continue to do this before bed, but when it is night night time, Mommy and Daddy will give Jake one last hug and then it is time to sleep.  If Jake calls out for Mommy or for Daddy, one of us will check on you, but we are all done with holding your hand or sleeping next to you, cuddling you or rubbing your back because it is time for everyone to get some sleep.
    • *Through our process of getting Jake to learn to sleep, we learned that he thrived on touch through the night – if he knew that he was going to get a cuddle when he called out, then he would continue to call out – but if he was told that he wasn’t going to get cuddles in the night, then he stopped calling out and learned how to self-soothe. It is important here to understand that of course you give your child a LOT of cuddles during the day and before bedtime – and even one last long one before bed – but when it is sleep time, there are no more cuddles until the sun comes up again on the clock – and then roll on the cuddles.
  • page 7. We can leave the door open as much as you want but this is the last question that we will ask you before we leave the room. We will say, Jake, how far do you want me to leave the door open. The answer will always be yes! But with repetition, your child will know that this is the last question that he can ask and then the door will be left open and then it is sleep time.
  • page 8. If you miss Mommy cuddles a little bit during the night, Mommy Bear will stay with you in your bed all night long and you can cuddle Mommy Bear (take another picture of your child cuddling Mommy Bear and tape it in here).
  • page 9. How does Jake know when its time to wake up in the morning? Mr. Yellow Sun will come on and it will be time for everyone to start our great day! (take a picture of the Night / Day clock turned to the ‘Day’ scene and tape the picture on this page).
  • page 10. And since Jake is working so hard to sleep in his bed all night without calling out for Mommy or Daddy AND to stay in his room until Mr. Sun comes on his clock – he gets to put a sticker on his Good Sleep Chart in the morning. When Jake gets 10 stickers on his Good Sleep Cart, he gets to choose a toy at the toy shop.
  • page 11. Everyone is so happy when Jake can sleep well at night! (take a picture of your entire family smiling and tape it in here).

Plan on reading this book every night – for weeks. You will have it memorised very quickly and your child will look forward to the book – and he will quickly understand that was is in the book is how it all works.

4. Good Sleep Star Chart. We are ALL about Star charts. We have them for everything from learning how to use the potty to being nice to your brother to getting ready for school all by yourself. By far, the most impactful was the Good Sleep Star Chart. We found that it was most impactful to tape the Good Sleep Star Chart on the inside of the bedroom door – so that the boys would look at the star chart when they were debating coming out of their room before the predetermined time, and that when 7AM came, the boys would bound out of their rooms and we would reinforce their good progress with a star on the star chart. 10 days later, and we had good sleepers through the night!

The key here with these tricks is consistency. The bedtime routine needs to be the same nightly for at least 10 days (certainly when you are doing the star chart) and after that, your child will understand how it all works.

Let me know how it goes – and if you have questions along the way. AND sleep well!

Summer Picnics

Of course we love this time of year – mornings at the beach, afternoons in the pool and endless summer nights. BUT sometimes there are endless summer days as well – schools out and camp has ended and what to do with these empty endless days and a crew of toddlers to entertain?

We’ve made forts, we’ve sold lemonade, we’ve made play-doh animals of every species. This afternoon I was running out of ideas until I opened a box from Masala Baby and ta-dah – SUMMER PICNIC! 

Days like these I LOVE our Los Angeles life where I can throw open the doors to a lawn – and magically turn lunch into a fun activity. We made some Chunky Monkey Roll-ups (take one banana, smother it in almond or peanut butter, roll up handfuls of sprouts in a Coconut Wrap, and slice into rounds), gathered up our favourite cuddly toys to join us, and ate lunch al fresco. Maybe endless summer days aren’t so bad after all.