Little by Little, a Little Becomes A Lot

This one is a little different. It’s not going to be me sharing my experiences in hopes of connecting with the hearts of others. It’s not going to be me attempting to share what I think is a little pearl of wisdom in hopes of helping someone remember they are doing a wonderful job.

This one is just a reminder.  A reminder that you and I – we can make a difference.  No matter how small something feels, it makes a difference.  A reminder that giving and kindness don’t have a cost a penny, and that when you work with those around you — little by little, a little becomes a lot.  

Back in October I challenged my Momtourage to bring that phrase to life.  I wanted us all to give back in some way that makes a difference to someone — and boy did they deliver.  It wasn’t done for recognition, and it wasn’t done to make ourselves feel good (although it does!). Many of the acts don’t even have pictures to be included below. It was done because for all of us, there are little eyes watching and learning.  Little eyes seeing the example we set.  Little eyes that will hopefully grow up with an instilled passion for giving.

We are five days into this shiny new year, and while the “season of giving” has come to a close — your acts of kindness don’t have to.

Little by little, a little becomes a lot.

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Troops overseas received toddler made holiday cards and care packages. 

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Several families across the country received full Thanksgiving dinners. 

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Time was donated by many, helping shelters get essential goods into the hands of those in need. 

 

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Families found those in need in their communities and did something about it. 

 

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Kids cleaned out their playrooms and chose toys to donate to hospitals and shelters. 

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Time was donated, for the sake of building bonds with those in the community who may need it.  

 

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Families across the country were “adopted” — food, household goods, clothes, toys, and living essentials were donated.  

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And then the donations poured in for shelters across the country -diapers, wipes, formula, and household essentials. 

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Together, we were able to make a difference.

Next up: keeping this giving spirit alive from January to October. 🙂

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Why You Won’t See Me With My Kids When You’re Visiting

Yesterday was the day.  We officially got back into the grind after a wonderful holiday season as a family of four.  My husband went back to work after two glorious weeks at home, our gauntlet of family Christmases and get-togethers came to a screeching halt, and I was flying solo again with our two vibrant munchkins.  While it definitely felt good to get back into our routine, a tiny part of me couldn’t help but mourn all the help I had over the past month.  You see, when we’re around family and friends, I get to sort of quietly slink back to the sidelines and allow our loved ones to take center stage – whether they realize it or not.  Sometimes I wonder if our family and friends ever question my mothering ability.  After all, when they’re here, I’m usually on the couch with a glazed over smile, letting others willingly attend to most of the needs and wants of my kids.  If that’s been you at one time or another, please know I’m not completely checked out of my parenting duties.  Every want and need is carefully and quietly observed, and my legs are on constant standby ready to jump up for instances only mom can handle.  But for several reasons, I’m letting you take the lead.

If you’re visiting with us, it means you’re an important part of our life, and therefore an important part of our children’s lives. Proximity isn’t a luxury we have when it comes to family and friends.  If we’re together, it means it took effort, planning, and may not happen again for awhile.  I want our kids to know you, to see your picture and shout your name, and to feel comfortable the second you walk in the door instead of hiding behind my legs.  So when my daughter pulls your hand into her playroom for the 72nd time in an hour, I’m going to let her.  I want her to have that bonding time with you – whether you’re secretly just wanting to sit on the couch or not. 🙂 Thanks for being a trooper and letting yourself get silly!

I’m learning and observing while watching you play with my kids. Yes – I’m learning from you.  Sure, I’m the mom and I arguably know my children better than anyone on the planet.  I know the things that make their drums beat and their hearts flutter, but you get to come in and see them with fresh eyes.  You always seem to spot the toys we haven’t pulled out in awhile, the books that need to be read with some new gusto, and the dance moves we’ll now be adding to our repertoire. Your style of play, the way you manipulate toys, the things you do to make them laugh, and ways you challenge them are all being carefully cataloged into my mental filing system. Spending all day everyday with them can cause some ruts I’m oblivious to, so you bring a new light into our house that I’m thankful for.  Quite frankly, I envy this fresh and limitless energy you come in with. Players gonna play, play, play!

Despite common belief, mothers don’t always like to hold their babies all day everyday.  How dare I say it, but its true! No one loves cuddle time more than me, and no one loves breathing in my sweet baby in my arms more than I do, but I do it for endless hours every single day.  By holding my son for awhile, you’re giving me a little time to feel human again.  I get to pee without juggling a “I’ll only sleep in your arms right now” baby.  I get to drink coffee.  HOT.  I get to sit without rocking and swaying back and forth (until I subconsciously do it anyway).  I get to put a little makeup on without having to sing and dance so baby stays entertained. I get to make a meal that will take longer than three minutes to prepare.  It gives me a little “me” time, and for that I am so grateful.

My kids need to know others can take care of their needs as well.  I stay home with both of my kids. As a result, they don’t get the same levels of interactions with other caregivers and children that daycare children do.  We go to play dates, classes, and play places so they can flex their social muscles, but I also want them to know that at times other adults will need to take care of them outside of mom and dad, and that’s OK.  So when you feed our daughter, put our son to bed, or give them a bath to help out, you’re not only doing us a favor – but you’re doing them a favor, too.  They learn to trust their loved ones and know their needs will be met.  You may not do it exactly like we do, but that’s OK, too.  No judgment here – your way keeps them flexible!

If you’re one of the ones who shies away from anything related to our kids while you’re here – that’s OK in my book, too.  Having you around is all we really want anyway. Come join me on the couch. 🙂

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A New Year And A Big Thank You

I’ve never been a huge New Year’s Resolutions person.  I mean, sure, I think about them, but lets just call a spade a spade and agree that most of them fizzle out and go where resolutions die by February 1st.  Nonetheless, as I was doing my brief thinking about what I’d like to do better at in this new and promising 2014, I came up with my few staples.  Yeah – I’d love to hit my goal weight by Tayler’s first birthday and clean up my eating a little more.  And yes – I really need to commit more time to reading.  I enjoy it and its good for your soul.  Absolutely – I want to keep up the “constantly being reflective of all I have to be grateful for” attitude.  I’m actually getting really good at that one! YES – I need to work harder on those friendships (see my post from a few days ago). And maybe a few more I’ve already forgotten.

After the usuals passed through my stream of consciousness, I realized I didn’t have any that were mom related.  I sat there and felt kind of stumped as none of them really made sense as “resolutions”.  They were all things I tell myself I need to keep working at every. single. day.  They are all too important to wait for a new year, and they are all too important to be allowed to wander off to that resolution death trap. So, instead of thinking about “mommy resolutions”, I thought about what some significant mom moments for me were in 2013, and how I can either duplicate those in 2014 or simply continue them on.

Among other things that I won’t ramble on about tonight, I found that one of my significant mom experiences was starting this blog.  While I was hesitant to start it, I’m sure glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and did.  I wasn’t sure who would read it (still not sure if people do, ha!), I wasn’t sure if what I had to say was worth much to anyone, and I wasn’t sure if I was “qualified enough” to write a mom blog since I am still so new to this whole thing.  Then once I got going, I realized none of my initial concerns mattered. Writing this blog was for me, and writing this blog has made me a better mom.  It’s made me much more reflective of my every day experiences and choices, which in turn has made me happier, more honest and open, more in tune with my emotions, and more confident in this crazy adventure of being responsible for a tiny human.  That in itself has made writing this blog worth it.  And if you want a “mommy resolution” for 2014, consider to make it writing.  Whether it be in a notebook, journal, or blog, and no matter if anyone ever reads it but you, and no matter how good of a writer you think you are – write.  I bet you’ll be glad you did.

Fortunately for me, however, this blog has brought an added bonus.  My cherry on top.  YouYes, you.  I’ve gotten many messages over the past few months from women (and men!) that are in all stages in parenthood and have reached out to say they have connected with me in some way.  From the, “I’m not close to being a mom yet, but I enjoy reading what I have to look forward to”, to the “I’m about to be a new dad and secretly love to read your posts”, to the, “Oh my gosh I went through the same exact thing! This is what I did about it…”.  To all of you, I just wanted to give you a whole-hearted, deeply felt, thank you.  Not because you’ve read the blog, but because you’ve allowed me to share what has been the best journey of my life to date with you and connect with you in one way or another.  Those connections are what I love and live for, and I can’t wait to share more with you this year.  I know as a mom I don’t have it all together (do any of us?), but I can assure you that you’ve always got a friend here.  After all, isn’t life better when shared?

(Big thank you to my Momtourage, as always, for guiding me, lovingly supporting me, and being much of the inspiration for the blog as Warriors in Yoga Pants).

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11 Christmas Traditions I Absolutely Adore.

I posted a few weeks ago about a countdown to Christmas you can do with your children that was accompanied by a list of festive activity ideas.  As I’ve been browsing around and thinking about what traditions I would like to incorporate for my small family year after year, I compiled a list of ideas that I just had to share.  Several of which incorporate themes of giving and selflessness that I think should remain at the forefront of the holidays and be taught to our young ones from a very early age.  My big dilemma now is being choosy about which ones we’ll realistically have time for each year – if I could I’d do them all! I hope you find something that seems fitting and enjoyable for your family each holiday season!

1. TOY BAG FOR SANTA. Each year your children fill a special bag with toys they are ready to get rid of and give to children who need them more.  They leave the bag of toys out by the tree on Christmas Eve and “Santa takes the bag back to the North Pole to shine up the toys and give them to children who need them”.  I love this one because it gives our children ownership over the process of cleaning out toys, can be done from a very young age, gets them thinking about others who have less than they do, and its an easy way for mom and dad to keep the house clutter-free.  Well, more clutter-free than usual. 🙂 If your children are older you could also have them fill a bag and take the bag themselves to a church drive, hospital, or other cause where their toys could be accepted and donated.

2. PRESENTS FROM MOM AND DAD. Most kids today have entirely more “stuff” than they actually need.  Christmas time is packed with gifts from family members and usually their needs are already met thanks to mom and dad.  Until our kids are a bit older, we’ve adopted the “Want, Need, Wear, Read” gift giving idea.  We get them one present per category.  There’s no need to stretch your budget beyond your means to get mass amounts of gifts (especially when they’re little and their favorite toy is a plastic water bottle!).

3. SANTA VS. PARENTS.  I really like the idea of having one (or two) special gifts from Santa, and the rest being from mom and dad.  I think it will take away a sense of entitlement from some mystical being, and encourages gratitude. Santa still comes, he just isn’t the one that fills under the tree! Plus, for traveling families at Christmas, it would be much easier to hide one or two “Santa” gifts as opposed to hiding all of them!  

4. POLAR EXPRESS.  I have to do this one.  It just seems like too much fun and excitement! On a random night leading up to Christmas, hide “Golden Tickets” in the kids’ beds that are their ticket to your Polar Express.  As mom (or dad) gets the kids ready for bed upstairs, the other parent is downstairs secretly popping popcorn, making hot chocolate drinks, and putting them in the car.  As the kids climb into bed, they see their ticket and get excited knowing that instead of sleep, they’re going for a fun ride with the family! Put on some slippers and a jacket, and head for the car! Turn up the Christmas music, enjoy your treats together, and drive around looking at all the cool Christmas lights!  You could even make a Lights Scavenger Hunt list to enjoy as the Polar Express rides along!

5. CHRISTMAS EVE BOX. Make a Christmas Eve box for your children to look forward to each year.  Things to include could be: pajamas everyone wears that night, a new movie to watch, popcorn to make, fun drinks, or even a new board game to play that night!

6. TREATS FOR NIGHT SHIFT WORKERS. The truth is while many of us are fortunate enough to spend Christmas Eve at home with our families, there are many people who have to work the night shift and keep some of our essential places of business and service running.  As a family, make a plate of food and treats, and drive them to somewhere you know the workers would appreciate the gesture.  It could be as simple as driving through your local 24-hour drugstore’s pharmacy window! Let them know people appreciate their hard work that night!

7. CHRISTMAS COLLECTION JAR.  Decorate a fun glass jar as a family, and leave it out in a special place all year.  Family members can drop spare change or a few dollars into the jar whenever they feel like it throughout the year, and then at Christmas time you can choose someone or some place that could really use it and drop it off.  It could be a family in need, a shelter, school, charity, or religious organization.  Consider including a note that explains the tradition!

8. 25 BOOK COUNTDOWN. This one is a no-brainer for the teacher in me – I love it! Over the course of the year watch those sales and collect 25 new books to wrap and open each night leading up to Christmas during the month of December.  Can’t afford to buy them? Check several out from your library, wrap them up, and when you’re done you can return them – the element of surprise will still be there!

9. CHAIN LINK OF GOOD DEEDS. Use 25 strips of construction paper and a stapler to make a chain link countdown to Christmas of good deeds.  Brainstorm things that would be simple, realistic, and kind to do for others during the month.  They could be as simple as “saying hi to a new friend at school” or “calling great-grandma before bed” or “taking our dog for an extra long walk”.  Each day you take off a link, and do the good deed you’ve written down.  Help our children realize that good, kind deeds can be done in the simplest of ways all the time!

10. KIDS CHRISTMAS TREE.  If you’re like me, you love having a beautiful, “adult” Christmas tree in your home.  Having an adult Christmas tree and including your kids in the decorating might not mix though! Consider having a smaller “kid tree”.  They can decorate it however they want, as many times as they want, and it might be a good place to include all those homemade ornaments they’ve made over the years.  It’ll be fun for them to see their ornaments, and you get the best of  both worlds!

11. CHRISTMAS SLEEPOVER UNDER THE TREE.  This one is pretty self-explanatory.  After the excitement of Christmas day, gather all the pillows and blankets and have a family sleepover by the tree! Pop in one final Christmas movie to enjoy together, get in some extra snuggles, and reflect on how much we have to be thankful for.  Who doesn’t love a good sleepover?!

Whatever the tradition, I hope you enjoy this time with your loved ones and have a very merry holiday season!

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The Family Countdown to Christmas and List of Ideas!

Can you believe December is only 12 days away?! I just finished putting out some Christmas decorations (yes, we are that family that does it before Thanksgiving), and stumbled upon our advent calendar.  Like a lot of advent calendars, I used to fill each day with a little piece of candy.  This year, however, I was totally put off by the idea.  First, I do not need any extra candy in this house (and why are we rewarding ourselves with junk everyday?).  Second, why not countdown to Christmas doing fun things together as a family? I know doing things together as family in December is far from a novel idea, but I thought I could share some ideas of things to do together and how I plan to set up our new advent calendar.

As I mentioned in my last post, my daughter is only 8 months – she won’t remember any of this! But if you want to do a Christmas activity countdown, this is how I plan to do it in the future (with an adapted version this year!).

No matter how much you plan and prepare, just remember life happens.  Kids get sick, tantrums are thrown, surprise plans come up, and early bedtimes are sometimes necessary – so have a flexible mindset and be sure your kids understand that too.  The countdown activities are things we hope to do each day, but if something comes up – that’s ok! Also remember this doesn’t have to cost money.  Ideas can be small and simple – the point is they are things to do together!

I used white post-its do jot down ideas.  They’re small, fit into our type of advent calendar, and can be easily moved around our big wall calendar as we lay out the month. (I wrote ideas down under the sticky strip so that once we were done I could fold them up with the idea hidden on the inside.  I also took our wall calendar down and laid it on the table so I could see the idea in each box).

First, look at all of your Christmas/travel plans you already have leading up to Christmas.  Think about city parades, when Santa will be at the mall, when your library will have Christmas activities, Christmas parties you plan to attend, etc. Jot them down on individual post-its. If you have a wall calendar, stick them over the days you plan to do them.

Next, count and see how many days are left before Christmas where you can fill in other activities.  That number will be your goal.

With your kid(s), sit down and brainstorm or look over a list of some things you’d like to do together.  First decide on what kinds of activities are best suited for weekends when you have extra man-power and time.  Fill those days in first, each on a post-it, and put them over the days you plan to do it.  Move on to weekday activities next, and do the same.

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Once you have your 24 days filled on the calendar, take a picture of it or write it down.  This will be really important for planning and being prepared for each week.  Before each week begins look over the activities and see if there’s any prep to be done or items to collect. Nothing worse than picking out the “make cookies for neighbors” activity and realizing you need to run to the store for supplies.

Once you’ve got the lay-out of the 24 days recorded, fold up the post-it with the idea hidden inside and transfer to the corresponding day on your advent calendar.  Although your kid(s) may have been part of the planning process, they surely won’t remember when everything is happening and will add a fun element of surprise for each day.

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(each activity tucked neatly inside!)

**Another way to do the countdown would be a chain link countdown.  Write down ideas on strips of paper, and staple/link them in the order they will be taken off as you countdown to Christmas.  Rip off a link and read its activity each day!

Below is a giant list of ideas.  Pick ones that best suit your family, and have fun spending this magical month together!

Weekday Ideas:

  • Write letters to Santa
  • Make cookies for neighbors
  • Watch one of your favorite Christmas movies
  • Make Christmas cards for family members
  • Make Christmas cards for soldiers
  • Make a playlist or CD with your favorite Christmas songs (beginning of the month to enjoy later!)
  • Have a sing-off or dance-off to your favorite Christmas songs
  • Read a Christmas book selected by each family member
  • Make homemade apple cider
  • Make your house smell like Christmas
  • Make green and red play dough
  • Make reindeer “food” for Christmas Eve
  • Color Christmas pictures
  • Cut out and hang snowflakes
  • Make ornaments
  • Random acts of kindness
  • Wrap gifts
  • Build a snowman (snow dependent!)
  • Go on a winter walk in a city park
  • Make gingerbread cookies
  • Decorate gingerbread houses
  • Check out Christmas books from library
  • Write letters to sponsored children
  • Write New Year’s Resolutions and put them in your stockings – open them next year and see how you did!
  • Christmas Eve church service (or any other Christmas Eve traditions already in place)

Weekend Ideas: 

  • Snowball toss competition
  • Go sledding
  • Make a living room movie theater with your favorite holiday movie (think lots of pillows, blankets, snuggles, and snacks!) Ok, so maybe do this one a few times! 🙂
  • Visit a tree farm and if getting a real one, pick out a tree!
  • Drive through favorite neighborhoods while in pajamas and rate your favorite Christmas lights
  • Bring toys or food to shelters, food pantries, or donation centers
  • Family Christmas pictures
  • Trip to the Dollar Store to pick out gifts for siblings
  • Family Cookie Decorating Competition
  • Go on Christmas Train Ride (location dependent)
  • Decorate your Christmas Tree!
  • Go to a Christmas Play or Musical
  • Try and learn a Christmas carol in sign language (youtube!)
  • Make your own Christmas Play or Musical!
  • Visit your downtown (if they have lights or events going on)
  • Have a sleepover around the Christmas Tree
  • “Elf” your neighbors
  • Have a runway show of your ugliest Christmas attire
  • Visit Santa at the local mall
  • Volunteer at a local soup kitchen or place of need
  • Family “minute-to-win-it”  competitions
  • Have friends over for a Christmas party potluck

Just remember anything is special, as long as its done together! Have fun making holiday memories and creating your own traditions! 

The Thankful Tree

One of the exciting parts of having a new family is deciding what family traditions you’d like to incorporate.  The things you’ll do together each year as family, and that you’ll look forward to as the holiday season rolls around.  Traditions can bind a family together and are what a lot of kids remember most when reflecting back on their childhood.

Although my daughter is only 8 months old, I am all too excited to start our traditions this year.  No, she won’t remember them, and no, she won’t have a clue to what’s going on, but I figure it’ll give me practice so when she is of age – they’ll be perfect!

I saw the idea for the Thankful Tree on Pinterest, and fell in love immediately.  It’s easy, doesn’t cost much (if any) money, is something the family can do together, and gets kids (and adults) reflecting on what they’re thankful for in their lives.  Doesn’t get much better than that!

So here is my first stab at it.

I used: 

  • An old vase in the cupboard
  • burlap I had in the basement (tied around the neck of the vase)
  • sticks from outside (make sure they have lots of little branches!)
  • a black pen
  • my cricut
  • different colored card stock I had

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(It’ll be more full once we’ve written on all of the leaves!)

Seriously, so easy.  Luckily I had everything I needed, so it cost me a grand total of $0.  I used my cricut to cut the leaves you see below, but if you don’t have one, you could either:

  • print a leaf or different shape off your computer and cut them yourselves
  • use a paper punch (you could get a circle one from Joann’s for $10)
  • draw your own leaves or shapes

I put the leaves in a bowl with a pen so anyone can write things they think of down at any time, and once written on, they are hung on the branches.

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Some different ways you could incorporate the leaves are: 

  • Every family member writes on one (or however many) leaf at dinner time for the whole week leading up to Thanksgiving
  • Each family member is given a certain amount of personal leaves to write on, and a certain number of family leaves to do together
  • Guests or family members who come over could write on leaves when they come over
  • It could solely be a Thanksgiving day activity, where all leaves are written on the day-of
  • You could have a theme each day for the leaves (A person you’re thankful for, a toy you’re thankful for, an opportunity you’re thankful for, etc… )

How you do it is totally up to you and how you want to fit the needs of your family.

The last thing I think I want to do is get a little index card file box, and each year collect all the leaves and store them by year.  I think it would be pretty awesome to be able to look back one day and see how your lives and priorities have changed!

Enjoy!