October – Hello Fall

What the heck happened to October? My plan of blogging and posting weekly was thrown out the window. We were so absurdly busy, I feel like we barely had a second to breathe.  At the end of September the kids tracked out (a short break from year-round school) and the time flew by.  Here’s a little update on our adventures.

FARE’s Food Allergy Heroes Walk

If you read this post, you know that this year I volunteered to help organize the Food Allergy Heroes Walk.  Helping turned into becoming the Walk Chair, because go big or go home right?  It consumed a little more of my time than I expected but it was good.  It felt great for me to be involved in something that I am passionate about again.  Which I didn’t realize that I missed until now.

It was a crazy busy day.  I was so thankful that my brother and (new) sister in law came into town to help out.  They woke up early, schlepped tables and boxes, took pictures, and kept an eye on the kids while I was busy running around like a mad woman. Their support means a lot to us!  I don’t know that I can thank them enough.

With the help of others in the Triangle, we raised $9,173! It was a little short of our goal, but still really awesome.  If you would like to donate to FARE and to our team there is still time, we are accepting donations through the end of the year.


The Wilkinson’s Take the Beach

Directly after the FARE Walk, we woke up the next morning and drove two and a half hours to the coast for a much-needed, week-long beach vacation.  I love the beach, it’s my happy place and I want to live there.  Last year I hinted to Mark that I wanted to go for my Birthday (10/12) and I forgot that he doesn’t take hints well and we didn’t end up going.  This year I took matters into my own hands and in January we booked a place at our favorite beach (and I won’t tell you where because I want to keep our quiet island, quiet.) for My Birthday Week ™.

This trip was extra special because my brother, sister in law, and my parents met us there.  This was the first time that my parents had ever been to the NC Coast and being Michigan Lake People, I knew they’d love the island vibe.  My brother and sister in law had never been to the ocean EVER! So we were excited to play host and show them our favorite place in the state.

The weather was pretty great, despite us visiting the NC Coast often, we’d never been in October.  I’ve decided that it’s my new favorite time to be there, not too hot, the sun isn’t as intense, and the beach is practically empty.  We played on the beach ate fresh seafood every night, and generally had a great time.  It was also really nice to spend time with my brother and sister in law, I feel like we haven’t ever really gotten to spend that much quality time together since we’ve been adults because life is so busy.  They also got to spend a lot of time with our kids, which I know they really enjoyed. I hope to make this an annual thing.

I was not ready to go home at all, besides getting an awesome tan I really enjoyed us all being disconnected for a week.

A Plague on Your House

While all of this was going on, Eli decided it would be the perfect time to get antibiotic resistant strep.  After a trip to Urgent Care, 2 trips to the family doctor, 3 oral antibiotics, 1 antibiotic butt shot, strep swabs for the whole family and serious talk of removing his tonsils, we finally got a negative strep test. So he gets to keep those tonsils, for now.

The poor kid hasn’t felt good for an entire month and I feel like he is just now getting his “Eli” back.  By some miracle, no one else in the house has gotten it.  Of course, now that I’ve said that out loud and put it on the internet, everyone’s going to get it.

Fall Baseball

This year we decided to sign Oliver up for fall baseball.  He’s been playing in the Spring for the last three years, the league that he is currently on does fall baseball as well.  The benefit of the playing in the fall is that there are fewer kids so there is more time to really work on the basics.  It’s less competitive and there is more of an emphasis the basics.

He had a really good season and we saw a lot of growth. Especially in his batting, in fact, he got the team “Batman” award for the most improved batting this season.  I love watching him play, but I am always glad when it’s over because adding baseball three days a week adds a special kind of crazy to our lives.

Fall Festivities


I love fall.  Everything about it.  The weather here in NC is beautiful, still warm but the oppressive humidity of the summer is gone.  Besides being my Birthday Month, it kicks off the Holiday Season for me and getting the house all fun and decorated.  We also have a plethora of Birthdays (Mark, Zoe, Oliver) that happen from October to January.

In between the FARE Walk and our vacation, we did all out usual fall stuff.  Pumpkin Patch field trips, getting pumpkins at the North Carolina State Farmers Market and making Halloween costumes.  Of course, we also went Trick or Treating and this year we participated in a Teal Pumpkin (read more about why we love Teal Pumpkin here) Trunk or Treat that was really fun.

Back to School

This track out was over in a flash.  I think part of it was how busy we were, but there another part was because we traveled right smack in the middle.  It broke up the three weeks really nicely.  By the time the kids were driving each other nuts it was time to go back to school.  It’s crazy that all three have only been in school full time for 9 weeks and I have already gotten used to the kind of calm with just me and Bits home most of the day.  Man, four kids are loud together!

We had that usual transition week where we got back into the swing of homework, getting up in the morning, and getting to bed on time.  We survived to the second week, which brought us Zoe’s first fifth-grade chorus performance. So we had extra rehersals after school for that.  She did so well!  It brought back a lot of memories of when I was in middle and high school choir.   I am secretly am hoping she keeps it up.

Over 1,000 words later, that’s what we’ve been up to.  I promise to be better about blogging.  I have a few posts swirling in my head that I hope to work on through the end of the year, including Zoe’s Birth Story (for her 11th birthday!), how to make a beach trip with kids easier, and a little about how we do the holidays.

Have Diapers, Will Travel

If you’ve read this post, you know that we use cloth diapers exclusively. Because of Oliver’s sensitive skin as an infant not using cloth wasn’t really an option.  So, we took (and still take) our diapers with us everywhere, including countless camping trips, Disney, the beach, etc.  When Oliver was about 15 months old we had a week long trip planned to Walt Disney World.  At the time, more natural disposable diapers were just starting to become a “thing”.  I was hoping to not have to drag cloth through the Disney Parks, I figured I would buy some to use just for the trip.

My first trip to the store I stood in the diaper aisle at Target totally overwhelmed. There were so many choices! And different sizes? He was wearing a one-size system (made by Cotton Babies) picking a size seemed weird. I don’t know why, but that is what stuck out to me at the time.  Also? They were expensive, it had been a long time since Zoe was in disposable diapers and I had a little sticker shock.  I ended up leaving without diapers, but probably a cart full of other crap, because it’s Target.

At the time I worked for The Little Seedling, and we happened to have samples of the Grovia Disposables (no longer made).  The next time I was at work, I grabbed two in different sizes to try. Easy.  No commitment. That night we put one on Oliver, and he wouldn’t walk. He stood there totally still, every time he made the slightest movement the diaper made a sound and he looked behind him.  It was hilarious. I figured that he would get over it, but after a few minutes he took the diaper off. Well, that was a problem.  I didn’t think about the fact that he typically wore diapers with snaps, so even if he was inclined to take it off, it wasn’t easy. The disposable took him seconds, not something that I wanted to deal with, especially on vacation.

I decided that maybe trying the disposable inserts for my current diaper system was a better compromise.  I could use our current Flip Diaper covers and just use one of their disposable inserts.  Flip covers could easily be hand washed washed in the hotel room sink and they dry quickly.  That wouldn’t be so bad.  I bought some inserts to try. Like the young, only two kids, inexperienced mom I was, I thought it would be a great idea to try it on an outing to Target. As we were rolling through the front doors there was pee dripping down his legs.  OMG.  He was wet from his belly button down to his ankles. We took a detour to the bathroom and of course I didn’t have any extra clothes with me, because isn’t that life?

After that experience we tried a few more times, they leaked every single time unless I used three of the inserts.  At that point it made the cost of them outrageous, so we relented to the fact that we would be washing diapers in one of the beautiful Disney World washing machines.  Here’s hoping its magical!

Our travel diaper tote, it holds enough diapers for 2-3 days, wet bags, wipes, liners, and rash cream.

And you know what? It was honestly fine. Because we had the flip system with their inserts and flats that we used with the flip covers, they didn’t take up that much room and we had a stroller already to carry all the dirty diapers in the wet beg.   I also purchased “Saddle Bags” for our stroller and that was great for storing diapers we needed (and all the other crap you need for a day at the parks.) I had a lot of diapers so I got away with only washing twice that week.  The washing facilities at our resort were right next to a small pool, so I got to relax by the pool while they washed, that’s a win after running through the parks all day.
That trip pretty much sealed it for us. We’d be taking our cloth diapers with us everywhere.  Here are a few things that I’ve found helpful when traveling with cloth diapers.

  • We have a small size tote we always use to pack our diapers in. (See above picture) I can fit everything diaper related in there. And it’s really helpful having it all together.
  • Bring small samples of your regular detergent. We use Allen’s from here. You don’t want to be messing with new detergent while traveling, go with what you know.
  • You will use more wet bags than you think. I don’t know why, but I always regret not bringing at least 3-4 of them.
  • If you normally use a diaper sprayer, consider disposable liners or even fleece liners (go get fleece from the fabric store and cut it to butt size) It makes dumping those poop diapers easier.
  • An All in Two system or cover and insert system, is great for travel. They’re typically easier to wash and less bulky to pack. We really like flats and covers. If those aren’t your jam for every day use, it could be worth it to buy them just for travel.
  • For more rustic destinations (camping) hand washing isn’t as terrible as it seems. We made a camp washer and found doing small loads every night was the easiest. Be careful not to use too much detergent, or you’ll be rinsing for days.
  • For shorter trips, we’ve just waited to wash until we get home. This works best if you can give your diapers a quick pre-rinse and hang them to dry before throwing them in the wet bag. They don’t get stinky that way.
  • Know your laundry options.  Are you using Aunt Betty’s washer? Is it the laundry mat? Don’t stress about washing exactly as often as you do at home.  If you have enough diapers to make it longer, DO IT.
  • If you’re road tripping, natural fibers diapers tend to leak less than a microfiber based diaper. There’s less “squish” factor. Adding an extra hemp insert, is always a good plan for extra leak insurance.

Looking at this list it looks a little daunting, even for me. You will find that just like everything you do in life, the more that you do it the easier that it gets.  Since we traveled so much with Oliver, by the time the other two came around it wasn’t a question if we would use cloth diapers while we traveled.  Soon enough you’ll be a cloth diaper pro and answering questions about your baby’s fluffy bottom in rest stop bathrooms.

This may not be for everyone though. Want to use disposables while you travel? No judgment from me, you gotta do what works for your family.


Are We There Yet?

Picture this, you could spend 10-14 hours trapped in a small metal box with your children.  You can see the outside but you can’t go there, and someone perpetually has “to pee SO bad.” Sounds fun right? Nope. Not at all. People often ask us how we road trip with our four kids, what I think they really want to ask is why.  We drive because were are a family of six and we can’t afford to fly. We also have one child with an anaphylactic allergy to peanuts and another child that could potentially react to ANYTHING, and using an EpiPen at 40,000 feet doesn’t appeal to me.   

Sometimes I do wonder; Why am I putting myself through all this work and stress?  Especially right now, we are coming off a week in Michigan, and we were previously there less than three weeks before for my brother’s wedding.  I’m not going to lie, I’m a little road tripped out, and I am sure that Mark would agree.  I didn’t even put my suitcase away from the June trip and I was packing again for the 4th of July trip.  Efficiency or laziness, you can decide.  But then I remember that these are the things my kids will remember, the experiences we are giving them.  I love when we are in the car and the kids are shouting out about the landmarks as we drive.  “There’s Pilot Mountain!” or “We’re almost to the Tunnel!”

As I have said before, our kids are really good travelers. I don’t have a lot of (serious) complaints. Sure, they can be annoying, but what kid isn’t when they’re trapped in the car for hours on end.  We are finding that as they get older it’s getting easier. Those first few trips as a family of six were really rough. I think the first trip back to Michigan we took, the 10 hour drive took us 14.5.  Part of that was having a nursing infant, it made our stops take much longer and we were stopping every 2-3 hours.  The other part was just figuring out how to coordinate all of us, there is a learning curve for sure.  What works for us may not work for you, and that’s OK.  Here are a few things that we find work for us.

Seating Arrangements

This was something we learned the hard way.  Some combinations of the kids sitting next to/near each other just doesn’t work.  The boys can not sit where they can touch each other. The oldest two can’t be next to each other because they bicker. Eli can’t sit in front of Zoe because he throws stuff over his head so it hits her. (Admit it, you laughed a little at that one.) We want an older kid next to the baby so they can entertain her. Thankfully I get to drive a hawt van so we have lots of options on how to put the kids.

What we eventually ended up with is putting the girls in the third row next to each other. That way Zoe can hand the baby stuff and play with her.  Also because the screaming that Isabel tends to start about hour eight (to annoy Zoe) is harder to hear when she’s all they way in the back.  A good rule of thumb is that the loudest traveler gets banished to the 3rd row. Then we put the boys in the second row so they can’t touch each other.  It’s still not perfect, but it works for us.

Leave Early

I am not a morning person, not even a little, so getting up at 5am kills me a little inside. We’ve come to find that the earlier we leave the better.  We try to shoot for between 5:30-6:00am, in reality is it’s usually about 6:15 when we roll out of the driveway.  Because of our my rigid travel prep, all we have to do in the morning is get dressed, make coffee, and pack the cooler. Mark and I get up and do those last few things, then we wake the kids when we are ready to walk out the door.  They use the bathroom and get into the clothes I laid out for them and we are on our way.  

Leaving early does a few things for us:

  1. The kids are still half asleep so they tend to be pretty chill for the first few hours.
  2. We get to our destination at a more reasonable hour.  There were a few trips when we rolled in at bedtime and of course the kids were too keyed up to calm down and go to sleep.  After a whole day of togetherness in the car, I am more than ready for them to go to bed.
  3. The kids are tired from being up so early in the car so at least the younger three will nap and that’s a good break for us at about 3pm. This is all along with the other obvious benefits like missing rush hour traffic, etc.


For the most part, I feel our kids are pretty unplugged compared to their peers.  Our van doesn’t have a DVD player, we own exactly zero kid iPads/tablets, and they generally don’t use our phones for kid apps (because we don’t have any).  It works for us.  Because of this, they have to find non-electronic ways to entertain themselves.  Each kid has a bag that they bring in the car, usually a few days before we go I have them pick things that they’d like to bring with them.  Sometimes they need a little guidance, Oliver always wants to bring a football (that sounds like a grrrrrreeeaaat idea!), but for the most part they do pretty well.  

I always encourage books, coloring stuff (color pencils only, they don’t melt in the heat and you can’t lose the caps.), sticker books (We like these), activity books (like mazes, hidden pictures, dot to dots) and small non-annoying toys.  The big kids also have MP3 Players that they’ll share with the younger two which is a big treat for them and keeps them quiet for a good chunk of time.  

Of course, the first thing the kids want to do when we get in the car is rip into their bags and DO ALL THE THINGS.  We tend to not let them get that stuff out until a few hours into the trip. No one wants kids that have blown through all their activities before we hit the first state line.  The unspoken rule is they can’t get all their stuff out until after breakfast.

I do keep a few tricks up my sleeve in case someone is losing their ever loving mind (almost always Isabel).  In my bag up front I keep a few “emergency” cool toys for the baby, we also will let the baby watch Netflix on my tablet if she’s hysterical. Usually one show and she’s reset and can make it the rest of the way.  On particularly long, traffic-y trips I have let the boys take turns watching the tablet as well, but I would say that’s only every 1 out of three drives. When all else fails I offer the snacks, it’s harder to cry with your mouth full. Also because in our family, most meltdowns are due to being Hangry.

Planning Your Stops

This will really depend on where you’re going and how well you know the route. Obviously since we go to and from Michigan several times a year we know the route well, but a lot of this can apply even if you don’t.  Every time we stop, we try to  make sure that it’s sort of a “one stop shop” sort of deal.  Somewhere we can get gas, use the bathroom, and get coffee or food (if needed, but who am I kidding, we always need coffee.)  We’ve learned that even if we have 150 miles worth of gas left, it pays to just top off the tank anyway so you avoid needing to stop again at an inconvenient time.  

Some places we like to stop are Sheetz, Travel Centers of America stations (TA), Starbucks  that have easy on off and that are near gas stations, and we also really like the big rest area/travel centers on the turnpikes.  These tend to be cleaner and are easier to access.  Random gas station bathrooms are typically pretty nasty. Although, we stopped at the nicest gas station bathroom I’ve ever seen in Hocking County Ohio this last trip. I seriously would have let the kids sit on the floor, it almost sparkled and smelled like hopes and dreams (it may have just been bleach). I actually stopped an employee and told him how much I appreciated it.  I think he thought I was crazy.

Everyone gets out to pee, every time.  NO EXCEPTIONS. It’s now or in three hours.  Any time we have broken this rule, we’ve had to stop 20 minutes later, because “have to pee so bad”. We have a “divide and conquer” approach to this.  Since the baby is still in diapers, one of us will get out and take 2 kids with them to go to the bathroom, while the other gets gas then pulls around and changes the baby.  Then they take the last child in while everyone buckles back in their seats and settles in. We can usually do it all in about 20 minutes, which seems like a long time, but there’s six of us, that’s like 3 min per person.

Pack your breakfast and lunch.  This is something we just figured out.  Previously, we were just packing breakfast, but found that in the afternoon we were really disorganized and it seemed like we were stopping a ton.  Packing lunch means we could hand it out as soon as they started asking “Is it lunch time?” (Oliver’s favorite phrase ever.) This last trip we got away with three stops total which was AMAZING. High five, Team Wilkinson.

Remember to Breath

This is one we all sort of struggle with. Usually about hour eight we all start to get cranky.  Its probably because we’ve all been in the car a billion hours. It’s easy to start snapping at the kids when they get loud or whine or act like what they are, kids.  I have to make a conscious effort to remind myself that we are all tired, cranky, and done.  I’m going to be completely honest, we are not perfect parents, so sometimes at this point in the trip there is some yelling and arguing. It is what it is, and every trip I promise myself we’ll do better and it works for the most part.

It makes it all worth it when we get to our destination….

I Don’t Think We’re EVER Getting Out the Door

I think we can all agree that packing for a trip is the worst. Add in the fact that there are six of us and that four of them are Tiny Humans™ and it makes it that much more “fun”. I’ve found that in order for me to not be stressed to the max that I need to start organizing our stuff and making lists a few weeks beforehand. It’s a process, honestly. I’ll break down the prep below. None of these systems happened all at once, so if it’s overwhelming to do it all, just pick a few to try. A sampling, if you will, a little like a wine tasting.

Make Lists

It’s hard for me not to over pack. I don’t know why, I feel like I need to BRING ALL THE THINGS. One way that we’ve curbed that through the years is a good list. We started it when we used to camp, because we traveled with other people (you know who you are!) and we didn’t want to bring duplicates of stuff.

I start my lists 2-3 weeks before we leave, that way as I remember things I add it. I use the Notes App on my iPhone, I haven’t found an awesome list app that lets me do what I want yet, still looking. I keep one master list with a few sub categories. Usually it’s broken down by general stuff, clothing, and food. If it needs to go in the car, it goes on the list. Even if you think it’s dumb and you don’t think you’ll forget it, because we’ve all seen Home Alone, right? Also, checking easy things off the list feels good and can fool me into feeling like I’m accomplishing something when I’m not.

I also have a white board in the kitchen I use the week we leave for all the tasks around the house that need to get done before we leave. Things like sweeping the kitchen, emptying the garbage, mowing the lawn, holding the mail, watering the flowers. These are usually things I expect the whole family to help with. Through the week I often have the bigger kids pick a task off the list.

Set a Staging Area

This sounds really weird, right? This has been one of the biggest things to help me. For us, it usually end up being in the hallway upstairs. About a week and a half to two weeks before we leave,  I start setting things aside I know we’re not going to need before we go. It looks different depending on the time of year, for example, in the winter snow gear would be put in space bags in this area, or any clothing items/shoes you know you’re not going to use before you go and specific travel items such as your Pack N Play (with sheets!), sleeping bags, etc. Not only does this make sure you’re not running around looking for your crap the night before you leave, but it checks things off your list. If you can live without it for a week, put it in the pile.  I often use big blue Ikea bags for this or laundry baskets.

As it gets closer to go time, this area starts to evolve. 3-4 days before we leave I start to pack clothes. Things I know we’re not going to use. Sometimes this means I’m going to have to do laundry a little more frequently so we have clean clothes, but that also means I’ll be keeping ahead of laundry before we go. (Which is another post altogether!) I also put a laundry basket in the hall for things that you’re going to want to take, but will need to be washed before we go. For example, the Favorite T-shirt. We almost go minimalist for the few days before we go.

This is also a good time to sneak away some of your toddlers favorite toys. Those quiet ones that keep them busy for more than 2.5 seconds.

The day or so before we leave, I set out everyone’s outfits for travel.  I don’t want to have to think about anything more than I have to at 5am when we have a million other things to worry about.

Eventually, this staging area all gets loaded in the car. Everything you need should go here, so again, you’re not running around gathering things at the last minute.

Delegate and Let it Go

This part is hard for me, I’ll admit. Nothing messes with my organization like other people “helping”.  Recently we’ve had the big kids be more in charge of their stuff. Zoe gets a list of what clothes to pack and does her own, the bigger three pack their backpacks with books, toys, and activities. I still double check the their bags. Mainly because last trip Oliver tried to bring 11 rocks. Seriously dude, rocks? Somehow the last trip he also snuck a pair of kid scissors in his bag, for those urgent, car cutting needs. Zoe also helps pack Isabel’s car bag, because she’s the one entertaining her. (More on that later, in another post.)

Letting the rest of the family do some of million-six tasks frees me up to fine tune things more. Just having to double check and refold the clothes in the suitcase is faster than having to locate certain items. And let’s face it, being able to refold everything, feeds my soul. It’s better to just embrace your (my) crazy.

Giving the kids things to do keeps them out from under my feet while I am trying to pack. It’s hard for me to concentrate when they’re circling me like sharks at feeding time, repeating my name until my ears bleed.  Even if they don’t do it “right” it’s better than me having to do everything.

The Last Minute Details

I often get the the point where there isn’t anything left for me to do before hand. That’s when I know I’m doing it right. There are always things you just can’t do before hand. The last load of laundry, washing the last of the cloth diapers, packing the cooler, loading the car.

Inevitably we are still in a flurry, getting little stuff done the night before, but good prep makes it easier/smoother. I’m not going to lie, it’s still absolutely nuts, but recently I feel like everyone (except that baby. She does what she wants.) knows the routine. Last trip, we were all ready to go by 8:30pm, that’s only an hour past kid bedtime.

My biggest tip for the last minute stuff is to do everything you can the night before if you want to get on the road first thing in the morning. The only things we do in the morning is pack the cooler, make the coffee and get in the car. This means water cups are pre-filled, everyone’s things they need for the car are in their spots, etc. no thinking at 5am the day you’re leaving. Because I am NOT a morning person. In the morning we wake the kids up right before we are ready to walk out the door and make them use the bathroom and get dressed.  Then, onward!

Have a travel tip? Post it in the comments!

It’s Not a Vacation, It’s a Trip

People often tell me we’re crazy, which isn’t a lie. We tend to travel a lot. All of our family is in Michigan which means a 700 mile road trip 3-5 times a year. That translates to roughly 12-14 hours in the car. With four kids. Let that sink in a bit for you. IN THE CAR. However, we’ve figured out a few things that have made our lives easier and I’d like to share how we do it. We’ve come up with some systems and ways to organize ourselves that have helped us a lot, and keep us from losing our damn minds.

Truth be told, my kids are awesome travelers, but I’m not going to say it’s easy. I’d like to think some of this is because we’ve been doing big road trips regularly since they’ve been infants. It’s all they know. Before moving south, we’d camp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (10 hour drive) or head to the Outer Banks (13 hour drive). Road trips, I guess are our thing, because who can afford to fly as a family anymore? And honestly, with a child with a severe peanut allergy, flying scares the crap out of me.

Now, even though we breed awesome travelers doesn’t mean we don’t have our share of “Have to pee so bad.” emergency stops, car puke incidents, spilled snacks and water bottles (that’s usually me), or general disasters. Let us not forget the trip when it took us 20 hours and an overnight stay at a hotel to get home because of a snow storm through Ohio and West Virginia. Nothing says white knuckles like driving through the mountains in a blizzard. Or maybe the time that someone (it was Mark) only packed one pair of underwear for 7 days.

Is traveling with kids a pain in the ass? Absolutely. Do I always dread it every trip? Hell yes! It’s a well known fact that a few days before we leave I have a little travel meltdown, because it’s just so much. When I was a new parent an older and wiser coworker once told me “Now that you have kids, it’s no longer called a vacation, it’s a trip.” Such wise words. I feel like we’re giving our kids experiences and opportunities that we didn’t have as kids. Which makes it worth it, sort of….

To keep this from getting super long, I’m going to break this down into a few posts. So watch for them over the next few days/weeks. If I remember (HA!) I’ll link them here as I write them. Also, if you have any particular questions, comment and I’ll try to answer them.

Part 1: I Don’t Think We’re EVER Getting Out the Door

Part 2: Are We There Yet?