Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I will listen

I didn't hashtag #Ferguson in my title because I'm not seeking to gain traffic from a terrible and divisive national event. I am not one to jump into the spotlight to yell for my cause and I always run away quickly if politics are involved. I don't change my Facebook profile photo to support a cause, I don't pour ice water over my head, I don't write about the "big stuff".

But if I don't speak up, I'm told I don't care.

And when I do speak up, I'm told I don't understand.

Guess what? I am not black. I do not know how it feels to be black. So if that is what I "can't understand"? I guess there is obvious truth there.  I am a white person from Tennessee. Am I a racist? Nope. I was brought up with faith and caring and lessons to be nice. To quote Dr. Seuss, "A person's a person, no matter how small" - or how dark, or light, or tall, or short, or rich, or poor, or smart, or not-so-smart, for that matter.

Do you want to know why I don't say much? I blame my way of thinking. I have a highly analytical mind and I can't commit myself 100% to one side of most any situation, ever. If I wasn't there, I don't know the real truth. I will never take what's on social media or the news as the full truth because news is for ratings/pageviews and social is often fueled by narcissism and a groupthink mentality.

So when I am conflicted and I know I can't stand by every piece of info on any one side, I stay quiet. NOT because I do not care, but because I am observing and listening. I am searching for the truth. Did a mother lose her son to a violent weapon way too soon? Yes. Is it a good idea to approach an officer when being told to stop and get on the ground? Nope. Is burglary a crime? Yes. Is it a crime worthy of being shot dead on the street? Of course not. Do racists exist? Unfortunately, yes, far too many. Will my white son have more privileges in life? Maybe. In this particular situation, poor choices were made - on all sides - and something extremely heartbreaking occurred. That's what I do know. A trial would have brought more facts to light and I, too, was shocked to hear that instead, it is just over. Everyone is supposed to walk away now...? I am so sad about the entire situation. I wish none of it had ever happened. I wonder about the other incidents that we don't hear about on the news. I hope that no one else gets hurt. I support mankind, and I want us to do better. Just... do better. 

Social media allows us to hide behind our screens and shout out extreme statements that we may not otherwise say to anyone's face. We hide behind things in cowardice so that we may shout and rage and be extreme. So perhaps we all need to step out with genuine hearts, in person, with understanding and listening in mind. Maybe, before we shout our opinions to the masses in an effort to change minds and chastise, we should listen first. The path to change is not paved with loud voices and domination. We need to start listening. Now.

For anyone who wants to talk, I will listen.

Baby gear ideas for Elf on The Shelf

Do you have a baby at home this holiday season? We do! And our Elf on The Shelf, Sparkles, is bound to get into some extra-silly mischief with the baby gear. We are eagerly anticipating his arrival to our home sometime after Thanksgiving. I wonder what he will get into?

Need a few new Elf on The Shelf ideas?
Check out these silly baby-related ideas for your Elf on The Shelf!

Elf on The Shelf: Midnight Snack
The baby bottles and Gerber Puffs were apparently irresistible last night.

Elf on The Shelf: Cuddly Night Sleep
This Elf cuddled up with a clip-on pacifier, blanket, and a fuzzy bear. 

Elf on The Shelf: Oops, Dirty Diaper
I think he's playing a joke with a diaper and some jumbo chocolate chips...
Enjoy your Christmas countdown with silliness! Items around the house, especially baby gear, can be quite tempting for our mischievous elves. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Today, it rained. So, you know... #Christmas!

Today, it rained. Misting at times and absolutely pouring at other times. From morning to night, it was gray on the other side of the window panes. We dared not leave our warm and dry home for fear we would wash away. It seemed like the longest Sunday in the history of Sundays.

To my generally stir-crazy-when-trapped-indoors self, it was surprisingly nice. We had a lot of family togetherness and we dressed in sloppy, comfy clothing. My feet were content in their silky, fuzzy socks. My belly was warmed with soup and other no-fuss treats. We accomplished a few tasks, like finally installing a baby gate on the bottom of the steep stairs and knocking out several baskets of laundry. And we did something else...

We put up the indoor Christmas decorations. Including the tree!

This is the earliest we have ever hauled out those green plastic bins. I blame our weather which skipped over the Fall season after a mere week of that Autumn "feel" we love so much. I admit, we may be a bit nuts for replacing my cute turkeys and leaves with reindeer, ornaments, and greenery before we have stuffed our faces at Grandma's house, but there is a magic in the twinkle of Christmas decor. We pushed away the gray outdoors to make room for sparkling lights and shiny memories.

Didn't you know? Christmas lights make even the dullest of days more joyful. There is nothing wrong with grasping onto that a few days early.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Know when it's time for #baby to CRY IT OUT (+ tips for surviving the painful experience)

Babies. They melt a mama's heart with goo-goos and sweet smiles, but they have a powerful ability to produce confusion and self-doubt in us too. Babies cannot tell us what they need with words, so we are in a constant guessing game. And once we have it figured out, thrilled with our new-found ability to decipher the tone of each little cry, a baby will totally switch it up. Growth spurt. Teething. An sudden decision to push away a spoon if it comes too near the lips. Waking in the night, even if once a solid sleeper.

For me, the night thing triggered more self-doubt than any other. What was I doing wrong? Why do my friends' babies sleep? Why is my 9-month old baby not sleeping through the night? Should I know when it's time to "cry it out"?

It came to a point where I was exhausted and depressed and totally beating myself up because my baby was not sleeping through the night. I was doing something very wrong. Or so I thought.

It turns out, it wasn't so much my own failure after all. I was simply being a good student; my baby had me expertly trained. He was waking in the night as all people do, but he was calling for me instead of soothing himself. He was standing up and shaking the crib rails. And I magically appeared, every time. I talked to him and fed him and held him. When I put him down after he'd been asleep in my arms, he woke and cried. So I held him some more until he finally stayed asleep from pure exhaustion. Two hours, sometimes even three hours had passed.

Eventually, he began to greet me with a huge smile and silly babbles when I entered the room sometime between 11:00pm and 1:30am. He was happy to see me.

So now I think I understand the tricks he was playing on me. Is yours training you too?

How to know when it is time for baby to "cry it out"

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thanksgiving for the picky eater

One of my most favorite Thanksgiving memories was from my daughter, then four-years old. We were at my sister's house with extended family and we had just begun to devour our over-filled plates of Thanksgiving staples. We mmm'd and ahhh'd over the moist turkey, the sweet and crunchy sweet potato casserole with candied pecan topping, and the only stuffing that I have ever known, a homemade family recipe passed down for a few generations.

As we were chewing and complimenting the various chefs, Amelia stopped eating. She put her hands in her lap and declared loudly, "this is yucky!".

We stopped chewing and looked her way, then giggled. Who could ever think Thanksgiving goodness is yucky? A classic picky eater, that's who.

My child is still a picky eater at age 6 1/2. In fact, she has already reminded me that she does not like Thanksgiving food which means we already have a negative association to address. I think we need to launch our mission to change her mind. She will not be having her own personal plate of chicken nuggets! She will eat from the bountiful holiday table with the rest of us. I hold out hope that she will change her mind on a few tastes independently, but I am also willing to allow minor adjustments as well.

My rule is usually that she eats what we eat (unless we are having something extraordinarily grown-up or spicy), but I will modify a recipe in the process of cooking if it takes little effort. Thanksgiving foods can be easily modified, or have a little scoop of this and that set aside, so I think we can find a win this year.

Getting a picky eater through a Thanksgiving meal

  •  Limit snacks - A child who has been allowed to graze on snacks all day "because it is a holiday" is a child who will not be hungry come mealtime. If you know when the meal will be served, cut off any snacks at least 1 1/2 hours prior. Your picky eater will be more likely to consume what is on their plate if his/her belly is hungry.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Holiday shopping gift cards #giveaway!

Merry almost-Thanksgiving!
Each year around Christmas and Mother's Day, I try to find a great blogger giveaway to share with you. For the next couple weeks, you have a chance to win this one - with three fantastic Amazon gift cards and The Pocket Sous Chef prizes!
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It's the most wonderful time of the year! For so many reasons... and a time where we can all go shopping without guilt in the name of "holiday spirit"!  The number one thing about the holidays in most people's mind is their family (even those family members that drive you crazy; you enjoy them that much more).
If you are anything like me, you wait until there are awesome  coupons, discounts and deals... so many holiday savings. We know that there are many last minute shoppers so hurry over and check out all the savings and get all those gifts for the family that you love! No need to wait for Black Friday or Cyber Monday, just check out the coupons and deals on Your Life After 25's coupons & discounts page. Not only are we spreading the word about all of those amazing deals we are also giving you the chance to Win: Your Life After 25 Holiday Savings and Coupon Giveaway!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Smart selections during open enrollment

This is a sponsored post via United Healthcare. All opinions are 100% my own.
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Before you click away from what may seem a zzzzzz of a post, hang on a second. Health insurance may not be the most glamorous of topics, but making the right choices for your family can be a hefty task - and one that shouldn't be breezed over too quickly come open enrollment time. It is too important!

Also, did you know that you could be leaving money on the table? Almost 87% of health insurance applicants were eligible for discounts last year, and many are not aware of the money they could save. United Healthcare has very in-depth information and short easy-to-understand videos to get us all informed and help us to make the best decisions when it is time to enroll.

My family is quite healthy, but we spent a couple years trying to figure out Amelia's strabismus issue (via three eye muscle surgeries), which forced us to look closer at the health insurance selections each year. We had to choose wisely in the event she needed another surgery. And more recently, I had a pregnancy in one calendar year and baby's birth in January the following calendar year, so we had to look at various plans with that in mind. Currently, we have no imminent surgeries or major procedures planned, so we need to look at our health plan from a maintenance perspective and protection from any catastrophic events. We can't just check the same box on a form year after year if we want to ensure a smart and economical selection.


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