With the last day of August upon us, it’ll officially be September tomorrow, which just sounds like fall. The neighborhood pool is closed. The mornings are starting to feel cool. And we’re talking about things like fall trips and plans and it feels like we’re saying goodbye to summer. I have mixed feelings about this, but overall, I’m ready to move into the next season of our life (literally and figuratively) because we have some exciting things coming up in the coming months! Wrapping up summer, I’m leaving you with a list of things that we just can’t do without. Honestly, it’s the stuff that fills up my trunk 95% of the time. I’m always looking for recommendations from moms in our next stages, so here’s what we’ve found and loved all summer!
1. Green Toys
Let’s talk about how much I love these toys for one second. They’re at the top of the list, and for a reason. We take our Green Toys everywhere. They’re toys made from recyclable plastics, so that’s a good start. They are totally character free, and are the simplest/most classic toys in all kinds of attractive colors. You name it, they have it. If I could fill our playroom with two brands of toys, it would be Green Toys and Melissa & Doug. You name it, they have it. I can’t tell you the number of people who have asked about these toys this summer. We take them to the beach, the pool, the park. If they get totally dirty, you just pop them apart and stick them in the dishwasher. So far, we haven’t had any break on us, and the kids play with them all the time. We’ve got the airplane, sea-copter, ferry boat, tractor, submarine, tugboat, rocketship, and firetruck, but you can bet we’ll add a few more to the collection once Christmas time comes around! They sell them at Whole Foods, World Market, and Michael’s (that I’ve seen) but Amazon Prime is always my go-to.
It all started with the space ship bike helmet I found for Mitchell’s space ship themed birthday party. It was a little pricer than I would normally spend BUT it matched the theme and it was so darn cute! The sizing on this helmet fit him at two, but with the removable pads, I’m sure it will fit him well into elementary school. We were happy with the quality, and there were so many adorable patterns to choose from, I went ahead and ordered Julia one too! Right now they wear them mostly on the tricycle or in the bike trailer, but I know they’ll be on their own bikes before long! Right now they’re in size XS with plenty of room to grow! Here’s our bike trailer too, if anyone is on the hunt for one.
We do not go near the pool without these. Since a lot of the time I take the kids to the pool solo, being outnumbered by two non-swimmers can be a little overwhelming. Even with the zero-depth entry at our neighborhood pool with lifeguards, it keeps me nervous. It only takes a few seconds to lose track of them. Mitchell has gone from don’t-you-dare-let-go-of-me to totally independent in the pool this summer. I am so proud of him! We always try to practice swimming sans puddle jumper, but for the most of the time, I have him wearing it. He can go into the deep end and kick around in circles chasing his submarine (see above) to his heart’s content completely solo as long as I can keep an eye on him. We ordered Julia’s about halfway through the summer. Hers is still a little bit big and she’s not quite ready to go afloating yet, but she doesn’t mind wearing it and I know it’ll be a perfect fit by next summer! Mitchell’s was a hand-me-down from a fellow four year old, and is still in perfectly good condition, so I promise they’re durable. Bonus, they’re Coast Guard approved so they can even wear them at the picky pools. (I remember this was so important in my former lifeguard days!)
Wherever the Martins go, the BOB goes. This thing has some miles under its belt, mostly between our house and the pool this summer. Mitchell is starting to enjoy walking with us (more exercise so I’m all for it!), but it’s still my favorite stroller, even with just Julia in it! I daydream about the day we have another little baby to fill that seat, but for now, when Mitchell is up for walking it’s a great spot to stack all of our towels and pool toys! This thing has shown no signs of struggle, even with the growing kids. I will say as far as accessories go, the kids snack tray is a must-have, but the handlebar console is pretty flimsy and I wouldn’t buy it again. We’d buy this stroller ten times over, and I have a feeling it will be making our next five summer must have lists!
5. Swim Shirts
When you have kids with red hair and fair skin, you buy any cute swim set you find. I’m on the hunt for some more one piece swimsuits for Julia now that the pool is closing and we’ll be swimming indoors for the season, but we LIVE in these in the summer. She had three and it wasn’t enough. Target, Carters, PX, Walmart – I’m an equal opportunist when it comes it comes to swim sets, as long as they’re cute.
The GoPro was a Christmas gift for Steve a few years ago. I thought he would use it for things like the shooting range and all things explosives at work, but it’s been a lot of fun for the beach and the pool and other family adventures!
With summer comes lots of travels and lots of visits from Grandma. We found ourselves in more hotels this summer than I can remember. And whenever Grandma is at the beach, she’s always up for a sleepover. This meant a lot of nights out of our beds. While the kids are great sleepers (luckily anywhere we go), they love taking their sleeping bags with them to not-so-familiar places. They come with a cute, matching little carrying bag too. It’s such a treat for Mitchell, and he gets so excited that it comes with his own mini matching pillow! We’ve also had our fair share of sickness this summer, and they’re perfect to throw on the couch to make it feel more like a special movie date on the couch and less like a sick day. They have plenty of room to grow in them, and they’ll last well into elementary school. These also come in all sorts of colors, so as our family grows, I’m sure we’ll be adding more patterns to the collection!
We have a lot of people ask where we got our swing set. Honestly? We ordered it site-to-store from Walmart (free shipping!) and picked it up a week later. It came in three boxes that all fit in our Explorer. We couldn’t ask for much more from a (cheaper than most) Walmart swing set. It’s gotten its fair share of use this summer, but I know we’ll use it even more this fall when this blazing North Carolina heat subsides. I’m planning to give it a good power wash and waterproof coating too, to keep it looking fresh. We switched out one of the Little Tikes Baby Swings with a regular one, since Julia was still so small when we got it (and we have a lot of friends with babies!). I love being able to have her out in the yard with me when I cut the grass or I’m playing with Mitchell, just swinging away. I convinced the hubby we should invest in this during our first summer in this house, and I’m sure glad we did.
This is kind of an all seasons must for me, but I get a lot of questions about what camera/lenses I use, so here’s an update! Honestly I haven’t gotten any new camera equipment (just accessories) in about a year and a half. Camera stuff is expensive and I’m extremely happy with my current kit. It gets the job done, and while I’m lusting over one particular lens at the moment, I’m not quite ready to pull the trigger.
Canon 5D Mark III – Camera Body
Canon 50mm f/1.4 – Great portrait lens, affordable, compact, no zoom
Canon 24-70 f/2.8 – Most versatile, mid-range zoom lens, wide angle, favorite outdoor lens
Tripod – Sometimes you just need a family picture – and you don’t want to hand your camera to a stranger
Canon Shutter Release Remote – Makes tripod pictures a breeze
iPhone/SD Card Connector – Transfers my pictures to my iPhone on the go
Leather Hand Strap – My husband’s insurance that I won’t drop my camera in the pool
When the sun is setting and there’s not enough time for the pool, the sprinkler is our go-to. It pretty much stayed hooked up to the hose a.l.l. summer long.
Always looking for carseat recommendations, for absolutely no reason because I love our carseats. We have Julia in the Graco 4Ever (extended rear facing) 95% of the time. She gets turned around in the Graco Nautilus when she’s in Daddy’s Jeep, for the simple fact that rear-facing doesn’t fit (she fits the height/weight requirements). And Mitchell is in the Graco Nautilus all the time! We’ll probably turn Julia round sometime after her second birthday, but she’s happy as can be in her current seat so I’m in no rush to turn her around!
12. Other things we always seem to have laying around… the Camelback water bottles are so adorable. Nuby sippy cups. Swim diapers. Nuk pacifiers. Nike sneakers for both kids – their daycare requires closed toed shoes, so this is our go to. Pottery Barn backpacks for school everyday. Pampers Swaddlers diapers for Julia and nighttime Pull-Ups for Mitchell. Baby Bjorn potty chair. I love Mitchell’s Target sandals I bought them in sized for two different seasons, and Julia has been sporting these Toms all summer.