share your stories and join in on the discussion on Facebook!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

mom's new year's resolutions

It's that time of year again... time to make resolutions, promises, vows of things you intend to do this new year of 2014. Things you intend to stop doing, perhaps. Things that aren't working will get fixed. 

I LOVE the start of the new year. I just do. I've always set goals and done whatever I could to compete within myself to complete these goals. January 1st is no exception.

But I hate the pressure people seem to feel at New Year's. I hate seeing the zillions of people all of a sudden arrive at the gym and announce their "no sugar, no nothing" diets January 1st. It's unrealistic and unattainable. It's silly in my mind. Yes, by all means, take advantage of this feeling everyone has at New Year's, the new beginnings one, the starting over one, that is AWESOME. I LOVE that feeling.

And of course there is a but...

Don't focus just on that. Don't make your goals too large. Don't make them something you cannot possibly keep up with. "No sugar ever, this entire year, not once." Um, OK... good luck with that, especially with kids around. Or "I'll run 3 miles daily, 7 days a week." REALLY?! Well, when you figure out the time to do that, please, please tell me your secret. I'm not trying to mock your goals... just helping you make them something that will last longer into the year than January 5th.

Pick something you know you can achieve with a little effort. Tell people your goal. It will mean you get more support and help, and a positive peer pressure to accomplish it. And accept your limitations. You CAN get there this year! Just have patience, determination and a plan that will set you up for success.

Here are a few of my mommy-related goals I hope to work on this year.

*Be more relaxed. Settle down. Sit around. Lounge. Stay in pajamas longer. Ignore the to do list. Just be. My husband hates when I'm on my lap top sitting next to him on the couch watching one of our shows together. For me, that's relaxing. To him, it's annoying. So, I hope to have a happy medium this year, try to do some of that before getting on the couch with him, have a balance. More relaxation. More bubble baths perhaps?!

*Putting my kids first above all else... which leads to saying no. My husband and I made a conscious decision to do just this, say no, do what works for our family of four instead of pleasing others and going with the flow of what works for others. We've been going strong at least six months doing this and it's working. It's probably annoying some and raising questions for others, but it works for us. We know that if our kids don't nap they don't behave well and we end up miserable, so we're either skipping parties during nap time or arriving late or leaving early. We aren't feeling obligated to stay if it doesn't work for us. We are assessing situations before we just say yes. For example, Friday nights are a no-go for us typically. Our son doesn't nap at preschool those days because they go on field trips, and we are exhausted from the work week... so we typically say no way to anyone asking us to make plans on Friday nights. It never ends well if we say yes. So now we're acknowledging that and just saying no, heading home, eating breakfast for dinner and snuggling on the couch before bed at 6! This is a hard one, but I swear, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

*Slowing down before disciplining. I found my son had washed the kitchen and living room floors... mop water, too much of it, was everywhere! A mess... that he made into a mess. Instead of screeching, "Yikes, Owen! What happened here?! You know not to mop without mom's help! Look at this mess!" which would have totally killed my sensitive, loving little helper man... I took a breath and checked his face before speaking. He was all smiles, so proud of what he'd done. I calmly asked him, "What are you up to, bud?" and he smiled saying, "Oh, Mom, I am working for you. You said the floor was messy and we needed to clean it up, so I picked up all my toys and put them on the couch so I could mop for you. Just stay there, I'm going to dry it now, can you help me get a towel?" All smiles. Pride. Joy. I would have squashed that in two seconds had I reacted instantly. Instead, I said, "Thanks, buddy, you're such a good helper to me. Let's get those towels to dry this up. Then you remember you don't mop without mom's help again, ok?" He said he was surprising me. Again, sweetness. Not maliciousness, not trying to misbehave or make me mad. It's super hard to slow down like this and have patience enough to understand why our kids do what they do... but it's SO important to take the time to do that. I intend to do more asking and wondering instead of jumping to conclusions.

*Being OK with our chaos. Recently with a busy toddler asserting the word NO all the time and a "mind of my own, do it myself" busy preschooler, I've struggled with what others might think of our chaotic family. I've cared for a brief second when around some people. And that's NOT like me. So this year, I intend to be OK with however my family of four is, good, bad, ugly, or otherwise. I intend to just smile and let it roll off my shoulders when they aren't acting the way I wish they would in church or at preschool or some function.

*Being grateful for what we have instead of what we don't. We never have enough money. It's a source of constant arguments in my home, because there is always more we need to spend money on it seems. It's very frustrating. So this year, I hope to limit the frustration, and just say no, no we can't go to dinner, no we can't do that, and we're OK with that. We want to stay in and enjoy our family and our home, because in this home we have everything we need.

*More church. I love belonging to a community and feeling like I'm teaching my kids that golden rule of "teach others the way you want to be treated." I find those things from church. I was raised going to church and I've stuck with it all through college on my own and now, sporadically, but at least attempting every month or so to attend. Before the holidays, we'd not been in a while because our daughter was still taking morning naps. Now, we're able to attend more, and I'm excited about that. My goal for this is to keep it realistic, every other week for example instead of mandatory Sunday mornings. We have to keep in mind the two young children who CANNOT sit still quietly in public these days and the random sicknesses and husband working on weekends. We'll try though! Trying is good.

*Keep organized. It's my solution for life. It makes me a better mom if things have a place, are neatly put away, and we only have things in the house that we actually want to keep instead of stuff piling up that we never use. I'm always good at this one, not sure why it's made my resolutions list, because honestly I keep up with organization like it's my medicine or something! But, I want to focus on various places in the house this year that we have neglected... our attic that we just throw things into since we moved here 4 years ago and haven't opened since, for example. Or the cupboard with the bakeware... what the heck is in there?! Like I bake, so I have no idea! Let's get on that.

*Do something with the videos! Oh my word... I feel awful for not having done anything with the zillions of videos I've taken of my kids in the last almost 4 years. Yikes. That's a lot of videos. So this year I hope to do something with them. No idea what something is or where the hell I'll find time to do it... but I need to figure it out. It's ridiculous that I take these moments and capture them, yet do nothing with them, nobody sees them except a few on Facebook, they aren't compiled or put away nicely on a disk for my kids to see later down the road. I need to change that. I have no idea how to start... but I'll figure it out.

*Keep up with the reading. I love to read, LOVE to read. I get so jealous when my sister tells me about a book she's just read. I used to read tons. Then I had kids. And now all I read is Facebook, mom blogs, parenting books, stuff for work, and Parents magazine. I want to read for me. I read a book at Thanksgiving and now I'm halfway through one over this Christmas week - nothing to do with babies or otherwise. It's been nice to read for me again. So my goal is going to be on every school vacation when I'm off from work, I'll order a book from the library to read just for me. Even if I don't finish it, I'll at least enjoy starting one. I also intend to keep up with magazines this year. I have a stack of Oprah magazines next to my bed from probably last January... yikes.

*Take adventures. I want to go kayaking and visit a new beach next summer. I want to take the kids to Sesame Street Place or perhaps just Storyland! I want to plan a camping night out some place near our house in the fall with our family. I want to do things, now that our littlest one is not super little anymore and we can get out more. This is where the memories are made.

*Focus on long-term health. I've always been good at exercising, keeping up some type of routine. Now I want to focus on keeping up with ME time, carving out that half hour I want to exercise on the treadmill. It's hard to do with this busy family, but it's mandatory. Cutting out salt (my dad had a heart attack last year so this has been a family goal of ours, decreasing salt in our food). More wheat pasta despite the family hating it. More homemade meals. More research on what foods will prevent cancer. Things like that for long-term. It's important. We're getting older!

Happy almost 2014!

Monday, December 30, 2013

SAHM - Elizabeth McGregor

Elizabeth is such a dedicated mother, 4 young ones in her home including step-children. Always on duty even answering friends' questions, as a former nurse, this mama may know it all in my book. Most beautiful pregnancy photo ever below, Elizabeth has some great ideas on how to keep perspective on being a Stay-At-Home-Mom (SAHM).

All photos from Elizabeth McGregor  

1.      How long have you been a SAHM?
I became a SAHM after my 6 mos old was born. When I had my first son I was in nursing school and only had to be gone 1-2 days per week and my sister-in-law watched him for me while I was in class. I realized when I was around 18 weeks pregnant that I was having major anxiety about leaving my baby with a sitter when he was an infant. I spoke with my husband about it and realized I could not leave my baby. He told me that we would figure out a way to make it work for me to stay home. I am so grateful that we did.  
2.      How many children and what are their ages?
I have two sons. Brennan is 7 and Camden is 6 mos. I also have two step-children, they are 13 and 16. Dalton and Josee, respectively.
3. What is a typical day like for you ?
I always wake up at 7am and pump. I am lucky enough to have a baby who sleeps through the night. I have no idea why. My first son did not sleep through the night until after we stopped breastfeeding at 13 mos, but this one does. So when I wake up I pump the side I am not going to feed him on. Then I wake up the boys and get Brennan ready for school. We take Brennan to school and when I get home I put Camden to bed for a nap. Sometimes I lay down for a nap too, but I usually do some laundry and watch a show. 

Then when he wakes up, we nurse and play and hang out. Then he lays back down for a nap. I find something to do like dishes or laundry, or vacuuming. Then we go and pick up Brennan from school. 

When we get back Camden lays back down for a nap and Brennan usually plays outside with the neighbor kids. Our next door neighbor is kind enough to sit outside with them and keep an eye on the boys. I am usually doing dinner prep around this time. Then we eat supper and watch some TV and do homework and practice our spelling words and whatever else we need to get done. Then Brennan reads in his bed while I nurse and lay Camden down and then I tuck Brennan in. It is not all that exciting!

4. Why did you decide to stay at home?
I guess I answered that above. I have always wanted to be a SAHM and the time was finally right. I am loving it so far.
5. What is important to you when it comes to be a SAHM, what do you try to make sure you do each day, what do you want your child to learn from this experience being home with you?

I want my children to know that they come first and that family is very important. I always want them to see me putting them and their needs first so they know that family is our number one priority. I also want them to know that Mommy loves them. At the end of the day, if they grow up feeling loved and cherished, then I know I have done something right.

6. What do you think most people do NOT understand about being a SAHM? What do you think they think about your day that isn't true?
I think people do not realize that it can be very monotonous. I think that most people realize how much work it really is, but I think sometimes my husband forgets that I basically have the same day every day and that although I love it, sometimes talking to him is the highlight of my day.
7. What helps you to be a good SAHM?
Some days I am not sure if I am a good SAHM. I think that I just appreciate it so much because I worked outside the home for so long. I really appreciate when family is making plans for holidays and birthdays and weekend trips to the lake, I don’t have to wonder what my work schedule is and I can just say “Yes”. It’s wonderful!
8. What is your advice to a mother thinking of being a SAHM? What tips would you recommend for getting through the days?
Have friends. I have a group of moms on Facebook that were all due in June 2013 and we talk every day. I enjoy the interaction and speaking with people who know what you are going through. It is nice to know that you are not the only one lamenting over using the last of your saline spray and painful clogged ducts. 

Of course, I enjoy this group too and hearing about other Moms experiences with different age groups. Also, I am planning to start knitting. I play the piano and enjoy taking pictures, but I think it is important to have some hobbies and quiet activities you can do when the baby is finally asleep and you don’t want to risk banging around doing the dishes in the kitchen or vacuuming.

9. What is the best part about being a SAHM?
Getting to be there for every moment. My little guy will not have any milestones that I will miss. It is so precious! Also what I mentioned above. Having worked as a nurse for so long, it was just engrained in me to work every other weekend and holidays. I still pause when someone asks me what I am doing this weekend or “fill in the blank” holiday. I am just so trained to expect to have to be working for at least some of the planned events. I love being there for mornings, afternoons and bedtimes too! I have worked every shift, so I have missed all different times of my eldest son’s day. I love that I don’t have to give up any time.
10.What are the challenging parts of being a SAHM?
As I mentioned above, the monotony. Also, my friend and I were talking today and we discussed how sometimes when you are a stay at home mom you can feel isolated. I don’t feel this way often, but sometimes I do.
Also, my husband has been out of town for the past 2 months and will not be home for another two weeks. He did come home for 9 days over Thanksgiving, which was wonderful, but I was almost more used to him being gone at that point. ;) 

There are many days that I would just like a break. I would like to go to bed without having to listen to the baby monitor for even 30 minutes, or have someone else be on bath duty, shoe tying duty, or dishes duty. But again, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
11. Anything else you want to add?
Netflix has been my sanity saver with breastfeeding babies!
12. If you were not able to be a SAHM what would you be/do/work as?
I would be a nurse. The thing about being a nurse though is that once a nurse, always a nurse. I am still a nurse, even though I do not work outside the home. My friends call me for medical questions and I find myself always thinking and responding with my nursing brain. It is just part of who I am. I have worked in Labor and Delivery (3 years), which was amazing! I loved being a part of bringing pure, wondrous life into this world. I also worked in the NICU. It was not for me. Many people say “Oh, I could not do that”, and although it’s true that there are some sad situations in the NICU it is 98% happy. I loved the babies, but it wasn’t always enough of a challenge for me. I enjoy a fast-paced environment, hence how I ended up in the ER. I love the ER and I do plan to go back to work 2-3 days a month once my husband is in town more regularly. I will work in the ER again for a travel agency. I think I would like to keep my skills current. I miss starting IV’s. Weird, I know, but true!

SAHM - Michelle Wikiel

OK seriously this mom is one I admire so much. I've observed her on the Mommy Stories Facebook group for a while. You probably have those moms who you love hearing from in the group, too. Well, Michelle is one of those for me. (oops, secret is out!) I just think she has it SO together. I don't know what I mean by that besides that I think she's very cool, down to earth and ULTRA focused on her baby girl. I believe she's also wiser than her years and perhaps she was born in the wrong era. Regardless, I think she has great advice for those of you in the Stay-At-Home-Mom (SAHM) business. I know I'm glad to learn from her.

Thanks for sharing, Michelle. YOU are doing amazing!

All photos from Michelle Wikiel

1. How long have you been a SAHM?
17 months

2. How many children and what are their ages?
Just my 17 month old daughter, Victoria.

3. What is a typical day like for you ?
7 am wakeup-make daddy, mommy and baby breakfast.  She plays independently (colors, tears apart her toy box, drives her cozy coupe) and I do stuff around the house until around 9 AM, which is snacktime. After snack we play together and start settling in for nap which happens between 10:30-11.

While she naps, I try to do stuff around the house.  It really is never-ending.  Sometimes I will nap with her or just relax myself (maybe 2 days a week?).  Some days she will only sleep for 45 mins and some days she sleeps for 3 hours.  After nap it's lunch.  After lunch we'll go for walks, go to the store, run errands or have a playdate.

Daddy gets home from work around 5:30 and we all hang out and catch up on our day.  Then I make dinner and we eat between 6 and 6:30.  After dinner, we hang out and she gets some playtime in with Daddy.  Around 7:45, I put V in her pajamas, read a story, nurse and hand her over to Daddy.  He then takes her and puts her to bed, usually around 8.  It used to be earlier but Daylight Savings has altered our schedule a bit.

He usually spends about a half hour with her to ensure she's asleep.  I use this time to decompress or clean up dinner.  After my husband is done, we might watch some TV together (Sons of Anarchy, Modern Family and American Horror Story!).  If it's not one of those nights, I will read, coupon, meal plan, or just veg out.

4. Why did you decide to stay at home?
Frankly, because it wouldn't have been cost effective to put her into childcare of any sort.  For the few dollars profit between childcare and gas, it was not worth having someone else take care of her.

5. What is important to you when it comes to be a SAHM, what do you try to make sure you do each day, what do you want your child to learn from this experience being home with you?

The way I see it is that I am lucky enough to be home with her, so I really try to just focus on her and enjoy our time together.  It is nice to not be limited.  I get the opportunity to really mold her into the person I would like her to become.  I know that the things she learns and her personality are a result of the effort that I’ve put in. When she hugs her puppy or says a word for the first time, it’s because I taught her affection and that word.  Nothing makes me more proud than watching her grow.

6. What do you think most people do NOT understand about being a SAHM? What do you think they think about your day that isn't true?
It is freaking EXHAUSTING.  They (including my husband) think it's like Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.  Yes, I get to do lunch or have coffee with my friends from time to time.  But it's not without feeding and amusing a toddler in the process.  

My husband used to have unrealistic expectations of a spotless house.  There are days where we barely make it out of our pajamas.  Why?  I honestly couldn't tell you, but I know it wore me out. 

I also hear that I'm lucky and I shouldn't complain.  That's just flat out crap.  I don't know what it's like to have an uninterrupted conversation anymore.  Just because I'm home doesn't mean I get "ME" time.  It is constant talking, teaching, helping, directing and interacting. 

My husband had a 3-day weekend recently and spent the whole time at home.  We really didn't do anything out of the ordinary.  Monday afternoon, I was feeding V lunch and he looked at me and said "Every day is the same for you, huh?"  I replied "Yup, Groundhog Day style".  We talked about how monotonous it can be.  One thing that we always disagree on is doing things on weekends.  He wants to relax since he is home, and for me, that's the time to mix things up and do something different.  Or even alone :).  It's nice that he is finally beginning to understand and it came at a time where I am finally okay with separating myself from my daughter a bit.

7. What helps you to be a good SAHM?

Patience.  Lots of patience.  Being a creative person who likes to find things to do.  If you're idea of fun is sitting on the couch all day, this may not be the job for you. 

I was a nanny before this and it really helped.  Adjusting to the schedule of someone else and taking care of someone else's needs was nothing new.  But it still couldn't prepare me for the CONSTANT demand.  It definitely smoothed the transition though.  I was with the family 5 days a week, morning to night, many times overnight.  I was just already in that mindset. 

8. What is your advice to a mother thinking of being a SAHM? What tips would you recommend for getting through the days?
Don’t be afraid to take advantage of “You-Time.”  I always felt guilty for leaving the house without my little one.  But I’ve realized I need that time away to regroup and keep myself sane.  Plan a girl’s night out, go to Starbucks and read, get a pedicure!  Do it regularly.

Tomorrow is a new day.  There will be good days and there will be bad days.  It’s okay to have a rough day and go unshowered and undressed.  You don’t always HAVE to leave the house.  If you don’t feel like it, don’t.  If you and your little one have a rough day, tomorrow will be better.

Enjoy it.  I believe it’s a blessing to be able to spend the time with my little one.  I appreciate and know that I will look back and consider it some of the best days of my life.

It is the most important job!  Don’t listen to anyone ever tell you that your time isn’t worth as much as someone else's because you don’t receive a pay stub.  They are most likely 1. Men 2. Mom’s who are bitter 3. Women who think they don’t want kids but really do.  Why else would someone be so ignorant and judgmental?

9. What is the best part about being a SAHM?

The time I spend with my little one.  I never miss a first, I get to see every smile, every milestone, and every new discovery. 

10. What are the challenging parts of being a SAHM?
"Me" Time.  Just now at 16 months I'm comfortable enough leaving her for extended periods of time.  Now I don't mind going off for a day or for a girl's night out.  Before that, I felt very frustrated that I couldn't, but it was because I didn't want to.  I would go out for special events and things like that, but I never actively planned things and it was once every few months.  Now, I would like to get out at least once a month.  It is such a relief and refreshes me, making me a better mommy.

Another challenging part is, and always will be, finances.  I feel guilty that I don't "contribute" financially.  I started working at 14 to be able to afford things that I wanted.  I feel guilty spending money on myself and try not to do so, to a fault.  I coupon, meal-plan, shop clearance racks, make food from scratch, and spend frugally.  Yet I still feel like that's not enough.  My husband has never said anything to make me feel this way. 

11. Anything else you want to add?

Our career-driven society has a lot of mixed feelings on SAHM’s.  We don’t get the credit we deserve.  I’m not saying we deserve more than any other mom, but at least equal to a mother with a career.  I always say I live in the wrong era.  I always wanted to be home with my children.  But we live in a different world now, where somehow being a SAHM isn’t enough.  Don’t let anyone think that you aren’t contributing to society. 

You are doing your best day in and day out to love, teach, and encourage a growing being to become the best person they can be.  That itself is enough of a contribution. You will never get this time back.  Enjoy every minute of it.  If my daughter wants to sit in my lap and cuddle, I stop and do it.  That’s what I’m there for.  Kudos to my fellow SAHMs!  You’re doing amazing!

12 If you were not able to be a SAHM what would you be/do/work as?
I would probably still be nannying and going to school.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

relax and let go ... it's Christmas time!

It's Christmas Eve. And all is not quiet around most moms' houses, I'm sure.

Most moms today are busy, rushing to and from, making last minute pit-stops here and there, grabbing one more thing (like they've said for a week now, ONE more thing).

Most moms are trying to recall, "Did we do that tradition we thought of doing?! Did we?!" Baking cookies. Making sure we have some carrots to leave out for Santa Claus. Hiding the Elf in one last funny spot. Writing out the thoughtful yet rushed card to a loved one.

One more thing. Always one more thing it seems.

Yet, don't we know already in our minds that it isn't about that one more thing? It's about what we've already put into this season... the trips to visit Santa and grandparents for extra hugs. It's the moments we spent sitting on the couch together watching Rudolph and Charlie Brown. It's the moment you laughed when your children saw the snow outside and begged to go out... at 6 a.m. It's not about having that one more gift, or making sure the wrapping paper works just right.

Take it from my inspiration, Kelle Hampton, where she wrote about whatever you have left to do, it's nothing important compared to the things that really matter.... let it go!

I asked you on the Mommy Stories Facebook discussion group what was stressing you out right now before Christmas. You wrote about traveling, keeping to routines, NAPS and exhaustion setting in, over-excitement, people expecting certain things from you or your kids that aren't in line with your regular expectations. You wrote about wanting to get that one more present, hoping you don't forget anything, wanting it to be PERFECT.

Here's the thing, moms.
It won't be.
Perfect, that is.
It just won't be.

Nothing is perfect in my opinion.
It just is what it is. It's up and down, chaotic and thrilling.
It's beautiful and oh so, very messy!

It's wrapping paper strewn everywhere, to the point that you will find scraps of it under your couch weeks from now.

It's a tree that's dying because you forgot to water it for the 10th time.
It's a tree with the most random assortment of non-breakable ornaments because the kids put them up in the same branch... and you let it stay that way because they were proud.

It's kids crying because they didn't get what they wanted or they got something they wanted but can't find it under the mass of presents, or someone stole their prized toy and were made to share by Great Aunt Milly.

It's family rolling their eyes and sighing at your child's antics and tantrums. And you feeling like that's so unfair and they just don't get it... but reminding yourself that it happens once a year.

It's burning cookies so you can't decorate them.
It's forgetting to hide the Elf on another shelf and making up a story that morning that he just preferred to stay there, he got lazy and tired from eating too many cookies. Yeah, that's it.

It's finding Christmas gifts you bought a month ago in your sweater drawer where you hid it... a week after Christmas.

It's worrying that you did not buy your children equal amounts of gifts and that they will notice... yet they don't notice things like that.

It will never be perfect.
It's about how you see things... how you find the beauty in the imperfections.

Finding Joy is one of my favorite mom blogs. This article sums it up perfectly... Her last line is:

"Perspective. That’s what it is. 
Life isn’t about perfection."

I also asked you also what you intend to do on Christmas Day to make sure it goes smoothly for you and the children. You had great ideas... let it go, ignore, have patience, keep to a routine, let go of a routine, follow your children's lead, have fun, rest... and more of "let it go."

I commend you moms if you can find peace in letting it go on Christmas.
It's ONE day. It's not the end of the world.

So, if your kids eat more sugar than you like... it's one day. Brush their teeth an extra time if it helps you feel better.

If your children seem ungrateful for the gifts they were given, chalk it up to their age. They aren't at an age where they know what real gratitude means or what it means to possibly hurt Gramma's feelings for not liking that itchy sweater. It doesn't mean you're a bad mom for not raising them right with values. It means it's Christmas Day and they want more, fun, loud, exciting, not sweaters that someday you know they'll appreciate.

It's all normal. It's all relative. Repeat that to yourself all day, and you'll be fine!

Here are a few specific ideas to help you manage your busy day tomorrow:

1. Get to bed early tonight. Keep your Christmas Eve routine as best as you can. I know many attend parties or church services, but do your best to keep it a regular night. You know they will be up early tomorrow, so do your best to get the sleep in this evening.

2. Make yourself a list. Check it twice. Write down all the things you want to remember to take in your car tomorrow, if you're heading out to various places. Camera charger? Phone charger? Snacks for the kids? Sippy cups and kid utensils? Bibs? Extra changes of clothes? That way when it's super exciting tomorrow morning you'll be ready.

3. Do bathing today or Thursday, not tomorrow. They'll be clean enough. It's just one more thing you don't have to deal with on Christmas Day. So wash them up today or the day after, but not on the big day. Let them be dirty and have fun instead of rushing to clean them up.

4. Package your gifts that need to be delivered in similar bags. I always put my gifts that go to various locations in one big bag. We use our LL Bean kids' travel tote bags, they're huge! I have one that goes to my in-law's house and one that goes to my mom's house... in it are the gifts we will deliver there, then we have a big bag to take gifts back to our house, without having to rely on the Christmas paper gift bags that always rip. Also, pack the car this way... things in the back of the car are things that you are dropping off last... things right at the trunk are things that are getting dropped off first. You think this may seem too organized, but I swear it'll help your day go smoother tomorrow.

5. Sigh and let it go. You've done enough. Accept that and move on. Yes, it's true, you could always do more. But there are reasons why you did not get that one more thing by today. Let whatever the reason was be ENOUGH. People will accept it and understand. Do what you can. If you felt like you wanted to do more but didn't, write it in a thoughtful card with a promise to spend quality time with that person after the holidays. They'll love that more than that "one more thing" you could have bought.

6. Keep your routine as much as you can... but be flexible. This is a tricky one. Manage the time that you can control. For example, if you are staying home first thing in the morning, make that time routine like you always do... let the kids wake when they wake, take a morning nap at their regular time, and eat breakfast like you usually do. Then when you're out somewhere during a time you'd typically be doing something else on your routine, be flexible but keeping in mind your child's needs. If you are going somewhere to eat a full course meal during a time your child typically is sleeping or only eating a snack, don't force them to eat with everyone. Let them play at your feet or even in the high chair with just a snack. It's not necessary to force the routine of others on your child. Just be a little flexible. If it's just not working, leave and go outside for a change of scenery.

7. Pack snacks. Hydrate. Keep your child eating and drinking all day... and you, too! It helps with the patience and cooperation factors. A full child is a happy one, typically. Even if that means not opening that one gift right now so you can stop and get some milk or crackers into your kid.

8. Don't force expectations. Yes, it would be lovely if your child opened each gift calmly, nicely, and made eye contact with the person who gave it to him and thanked them genuinely... but really?! That is not how your dinner time goes every night, so why would you expect it to be that way on a busy, excited, loud holiday?! Let go of those expectations and don't force your child to do things. Encourage, sure, but don't force. If he barely looks at his uncle when saying thanks for the gift he barely seemed to like, oh well, he's a kid, let it go. I'm sure they will understand.

9. Let them be messy. It's OK to not pick up the wrapping paper and boxes today. It's OK to let your kids explore various toys instead of putting one away before taking another out like on typical days. It's OK to lounge on the couch in pajamas while you watch their wonder and new creativity emerge. It's going to be busy and messy... that's just part of it. Enjoy that for what it's worth today: It means you are slowing down, being present, and enjoying them being little instead of rushing past this magical time.

10. Remember what it's about. When you're feeling annoyed, overwhelmed, stressed, worried, nervous, too busy... remember what this season is supposed to be about. Not presents. Not gift wrap. Not spending money. It's supposed to be about love, family, friends, hope, peace, and joy. It's about celebrating all of those things and more. Whether you are religious or not, I'm sure you agree, it's about all of those things. They matter. Your family's smiles matter. So put aside those other feelings today, and know that no matter what it's all wonderful!

May you smile often and relax lots tomorrow. You deserve it, mama. You have done ENOUGH. Let that be what you truly believe in your heart. You've done enough to make this a magical season for your children. Now, just enjoy.

:) Angela

tidbits from Parents - January

Great ideas from the latest issue of Parents magazine, here for your leisurely read. I hope you have enough time to pick up the magazine itself, it's a great one! But just in case you don't, here are the highlights I enjoyed:

Books I must read:
The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality. Mom bloggers and writers constructed their own responses for this book. Looks pretty interesting - with a dirty laundry closet on the cover of the book! Perfect!

Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think by Bryan Caplan, Ph.D. Sounds interesting!

Art Supplies List
They included the ULTIMATE art supply list... lOVE this! Things including:
wallpaper samples
aluminum foil
magazines and newspapers
packing peanuts
drinking straws
cotton bolls
ribbon, yarn, string, beads
wax paper
tissue paper
scissors and glue
colored tape
cotton swabs
plain and colored paper

I'm seeing a future birthday gift for my oldest niece... this would be awesome, to put all of this together in an art box for a gift. Very creative ideas!

Love this quote!
Dr. Michael Thompson, an amazing psychologist and author (and someone I shook hands with two weeks ago at a conference!) said, "When we deprive children of independence, they never get the excitement or pride of accomplishment of discovering things all on their own." The author of the article wrote that we think we're doing the right thing when parents keep watch over their kids, making sure they are safe and OK at all times. We need to let kids work things out on their own more often, they wrote.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

tidbits from Parents - December

I love the Parents magazine. I'm sure you have seen it or even get it in the mail. However, it takes me forever to actually sit and read it! So... my goal this next year is to read them on time and review it, find any fun things inside that you may benefit from knowing. My hope is that I can help even just one busy mama feel like she actually read this magazine (and of course selfishly, if I read them on time, then I won't have a pile next to my bed that my toddler continues to try to get into... but that's another blog post!).

If you don't yet have a subscription to Parents magazine, you should! Great info for all ages. And honestly it takes less than a half hour to read it.

A few fun things I found in the DECEMBER 2013 issue:

Cool recipes:
Peanut Butter-Oatmelal Trees - YUMMY. These looked so cute!
and Melted Snowman Cookies - very cute, with marshmallows on top and frosting. Great ideas for cookie swaps with the kids. Google the recipes!

Dot Complicated - Changing Our Wired Lives by Randi Zuckerberg (Mark's sister) wrote about being a busy mom and unplugging, how to balance life with technology. Sounds interest.

She also write a children's book about kids learning to do the same, like putting down the technology and playing outside. Dot. is the name of that book, could be a great gift!

Another book that sounds interesting: Generation Text: Raising Well-Adjusted Kids in a World of Instant Everything by Michael Osit, Ed. D., psychologist. 

And another I want to read... The Mommy Diaries: How I'm Surviving Parenthood Without Killing Anyone by Dallas Louis.

This sounds like fun for 3 years old or up- Memo Yoga game. It's a memory type game with yoga positions. is where you can find it for $10.

Formula helping nursing?
They quoted a study from University of California, San Francisco, that found "feeding newborns who seemed to be losing too much of their birthweight very small amounts of formula (about 1/3 ounce) for the first two or three days of life may prolong breastfeeding." Interesting!

Great article on sleep and second babies!
I'll be using that in another blog post. Stay tuned... or read the article in Parents magazine December issue now!

Advice for working with attitudes in kids
Disengage! Don't respond to the tantrum or negative behavior. Talk calmly, "You know how to talk to me if you want me to listen...when you're ready, I'll be in the kitchen..." Turn away. I like what Dr. Kennedy-Moore said, When you overexplain or argue, you give a child's words far more importance than they should have."

Awesome idea! is an online site where you can have people or yourself record a story for a child to hear.

Worry Wart
Great article about not worrying so much as a new mom... let some of it go!

getting creative with cards

One of my favorite things about the holidays are the cards that come in the mail. It seems like nobody sends snail mail anymore, so when we get an abundance of adorable picture cards or hand-written notes, it makes me smile! I honestly get excited driving up to the mailbox to see what's in it.

But then it becomes a frustration ever year to me of WHERE to put those things! We get many, many cards! In the past I've stuck them on windowsills, covering each other, so you can barely see them. They always fell down. Then I'd put them on the fridge with magnets, the kids took those down.

This year I was in search of something new to do with the cards.

I was taking photos at someone's house and saw she had strung up some yarn or ribbon across her living room doorway and then hung each card by a paperclip. GENIUS! She said she thinks maybe she saw it online somewhere. I love this idea! It's working so well at our house. I used ribbon and tacks, then just paperclips to keep them up. This way also there is no tape ruining them for later, and they are not falling down.

My sister-in-law puts them in her Christmas tree - another genius idea, they look so cute there like ornaments!

When you're done with the cards....
My co-worker told me when she's done with her Christmas cards she cuts them into smaller pieces, just cutting out the pictures, and collages them onto a scrapbook page in a scrap book. I LOVE that idea! I'm never sure what to do with all of those Christmas pictures of my adorable nieces and nephews, I can't bear throwing them in the trash. So this year I'm going to do this. I'm not a scrapbooker by any means, but I can definitely glue them onto a single page without embellishments, to make a book the kids can look through every year. What a cute idea!

I've also taken the regular holiday cards and cut them in half, to take off the card cover that no writing is on. I keep those card covers for my kids to write notes to each other or to use for next Christmas for teachers, or kids to send to their grandparents, etc. They are fun for the kids to play with and a way to teach them to recycle something.

Sending cards
When sending cards I always find great deals on the Shutterfly home page. I make them early. This one below I made in July! Sometimes you’ll see a fun offer for holiday cards at different times of the year. We only send out a few picture cards, to our immediate family, then I send regular holiday cards to many others. It's a happy-medium for our budget. I don't see the point in sending picture cards to everyone we know, considering how expensive they are and how quickly people put them up then take them down typically. So we keep it simple.

I think with anything else at Christmas time, you have to do what works for you with holiday cards. I know some people who post a family photo dressed in pajamas or out in the snow, on Facebook or via an email message, that's their holiday card. I also received an email this week from a friend with "year in review" thoughts on things they had done that year, how their 2013 had been, that was her Christmas card. I've also received similar letters in January, way after Christmas.

Do what works for you! If you like sending cards, make a budget and plan ahead. Have fun with it!


Saturday, December 21, 2013

living kid-free, helping out mamas

If had no no children, maybe I'd travel.
I'd sure as hell look better - all athletically trained and without pizza sauce or boogers wiped on my shirt.

I'd probably even have my hair down instead of in a pony tail.
I may even - are you sitting for this?! - paint my nails and shave my legs more often.

I know, right?! You are hyperventilating considering these things, aren't you?

Some imagine their pre-baby life and think of the good old days. They look back and wonder, how the heck did you think you were BUSY then?! Seriously, lady?! Yeah right. That was luxurious boredom, that's what pre-baby time was for you, foolish woman. You should have enjoyed that time to yourself where you dictated your own schedule versus a screaming, whining, loud, talkative little person telling you when and what you are doing.

Yeah, yeah, life was easier before kids.

But that's not what I'm thinking about today. Because, honestly, this time of year I LOVE having kids! Children are what Christmas is all about, in my mind. Everything about this holiday screams "kids! kids! check this fun thing out!" I love the ho-ho-ho-ing, and the Santa magic, and the snowflakes and holiday cards all about the house. It's magical, it really is. It's one magical, fun, busy thing after another this time of year.

Which brings me to why I'm thinking today of being a kid-free person.
Of course I don't want to be that person now... I'm just reflecting on when I WAS a kid-free individual. When I didn't have my own babies, before I was pregnant even. How carefree I lived, not thinking of babies or the impact they have on their parents.

If I could go back to that time, knowing what I know now... I'd do is so differently!

Here are a few things I'd do if I were kid-free:

1. Never, never buy a very noisy toy for anyone. Ever.

2. Park in the way back of a parking lot instead of in the nearest to the door, next to the handicapped spaces parking space. Moms need that space, so much easier to get kids in and out.

3. I'd never take a cart from inside the grocery store. I'd reserve those for parents with kids, instead of making them freeze their baby's butt off in a cart from outside.

4. Always bring wine if visiting a mom's house. Always. Even if she doesn't drink it. She probably will now that she's a mom.

5. Tell every single mother I see in every store I shop or restaurant I dine in how well-behaved her children are and that I'm enjoying seeing them today. And if they aren't well-behaved, I'll either lie or compliment the outfit they are wearing.

6. Especially in the post office, I'd let all moms cut in line. Even if that mom has 132 packages to send. I'd still let her cut. Post offices are NOT kid-friendly places for them to stand nicely in line.

7. If I'm in an ice cream line in front of a mother and her kids, I'll pay for their ice cream, because I know how challenging it is to hold a child in your arms and one's hand standing next to you begging "that one, mom, I want sprinkles, chocolate, mom!" AND have to get out your money. I'd also offer to hang with that said mom and hold one of the ice cream cones until she is settled into a picnic table nicely. I'd be holding the mom's ice cream cone, because typically she doesn't even get one since she has no free hands to hold the kids and the ice creams, she usually only has hands for her kids' ice cream. She deserves ice cream, so I'd hold one for her.

8. At weddings, I would offer to be the babysitter on duty. I'd have games and a room designated for the kids to play. I'd schedule the wedding to not affect nap time, so it would probably be at 4 or so, because all kids typically nap before then. We'd provide mac n' cheese, carrots, cucumbers, apple slices and peanut butter, and cheese and crackers - things most kids enjoy. Oh and the dessert for the kids would not be super high in sugar, so that the parents could enjoy giving their kid a treat but not worried about how the sugar will make them behave in a place with breakables.

9. Speaking of breakables... NO glassware, fine china or delicate things in any home in America, but certainly not mine if I were pre-babies. I'd be the home where all kids could come over with their parents and the parents could actually sit and enjoy a cup of coffee and a long conversation with me, because there would be NO sharp corners on tables or wood stoves that were hot or items that kids could not touch. All dangerous areas like under the sink the the trash can would be locked. Parents could sigh a sigh of relief, knowing they could enjoy this outing instead of be hyper-alert.

10. When swimming, I'd always offer to be the one holding the kids and watching them, so the mom could either sit on the sand and read a magazine or swim herself... two things that NEVER happen for moms out in the summer.

11. I'd never, ever say things like "geesh why don't they just..." or "he's still not doing...?" or "When I'm a parent I'm going to do it ...." I'd trust that every mom knows what she is doing... and some don't know what they are doing, but hey, who cares, it's their kid and their life, so why judge?!

12. I'd ask every fire truck not to toot their horn in front of sleeping babies at parades. OK that's a tall order, because big kids love tooting horns on fire trucks... but still.

13. At outings I'd go around the entire house looking for the hat or the bottle or the bootie or the book or pacifier the mom's child dropped and she's about to leave behind. I'd be the one picking up after the mom so she could just focus on getting the kids dressed and out the door peacefully.

14. FOOD. I'd make meals for my mom friends every chance I could. You have more money than you realize pre-babies. So use that money for good. Make food! Moms need food, they rarely eat real meals since their kids are demanding more food themselves. And especially when babies are born, take them food! 

SO  many things I'd do over pre-babies.
Send this to your friends if they are in that pre-children phase of bliss. Maybe they'll give you some Christmas gifts in the form of being this mom who helps you.

And for the record, no, I don' think it's solo moms' problem that I had kids and no, they don't owe me anything nor should they have to help me out... it's just nice if they do. I'll repay the favor when I'm old and my kids are off to college and the world, I swear!

Oh, hold doors open! I'd stand at the door and hold it open for hours if it helped out moms.

:) What would YOU do?!