Friday, November 28, 2014

Planning our Christmas toy donations #GivingBack

My family is blessed with so much. We are able to enjoy love, friendship, amazing family, opportunities to see the world, and material things. We are happy in our lovely warm home and with the various "things" that we use in life. We are comfortable and I am quite thankful.

My children are inundated with Christmas gifts because we have a large family when you count both sides. Each and every year, I have found joy in watching Amelia's face as she unwraps her surprises but I also cringe a little at the sheer quantity of it all.

That's why I insist we give back - and her participation is required. If you have the means to do for others this season, I urge you to do so. The holidays aren't about getting and we should remind our kids of that as often as we can.

Before she is allowed to receive holiday gifts, we do a purge of the playroom. Toys that are in good shape that she no longer uses go Goodwill, to help other families who need holiday gifts but may not be able to afford brand-new. We make space for Amelia's incoming items and we hopefully give someone out there a little bit of a break on their gift list completion.

For the past seven years, I also allot a chunk of money to purchase new toys for donation. Some years it has been Toys For Tots, other years the children's hospital. I think we will do Children's Healthcare of Atlanta again this year. It is a good outing for Amelia because she can wheel the gifts into the building in one of their little red wagons and physically hand them over at the front desk (she has helped me to unload toys into the Toys For Tots bin in the past as well).

It is sometimes a challenge for a child to pick out toy after toy after toy at the store and to hear repeatedly, "now remember, none of this is for you." But it is a lesson that I feel is important. She needs to understand that we have a lot and we are not in need, but many children are much less fortunate. They may be hurting, sick, alone, or homeless. They may never see a Christmas present. Therefore, because we can, it is our responsibility to give back. It is our thankful family tradition.

We purchased our donation toys today, and I look forward to our entire family stopping by CHOA very soon. Hopefully this little bit can bring a lot of holiday cheer!

- - -
Note: If you choose to donate to a children's hospital, be sure to check their rules for in-kind donations. There are likely restrictions on what may be donated.

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!
- - - 
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.
- - -

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.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

When Snowjam strikes #BePrepared

Most of the country laughed at Atlanta when Snowjam 2014 struck and stranded us all over highways and side roads for 9, 10, even 12 hours. It was no laughing matter; it was frightening for thousands of families.

The wrong combination of things simply hit at the same time that year - warnings not being taken seriously, school not being cancelled, parents commuting to work all over the city, the weather intensifying very quickly, and millions of people commuting home at the exact same time as roads grew whiter and more treacherous by the minute. Semi trucks blocked every lane of interstates and car tires spun and spun with no movement on the smallest of inclines.

Despite being separated, my family was safe and warm that evening, thanks to my parents picking Amelia up from school a mere 10 minutes early and two-day old baby Andrew having Steve and I at the hospital. When winter halted metro Atlanta, I had a brand new baby boy.

Atlantans were stranded all over various streets and highways for hours. Many managed to pick up their children from schools but could not get home. Imagine this: A two-year-old in a car for ten hours, NO snacks, no water, no toilet, and a very stressed-out mom who cannot get in touch with her husband and whose own cell phone battery is minutes from dying. Or a young family with a 9-month old infant and NO bottles, or food, or even heavy coats because they were going right home.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Crowdsourcing: Design ideas for our boring basement?

How many times have you wished you could be on an HGTV show? So many for me, especially when I venture into our basement.

I have actually met David Bromstad (that smile is contagious!) but, alas, I was not allowed to bring him home.

My husband and I bought a new home about a year and a half ago and were quite pleased that a large portion of the basement was already finished with walls, carpet, cable hook-ups, and lighting. The prior owners used it as a movie theater space. We don't really watch TV down there, so it has become a catch-all space for any old furniture (the striped couches that don't match anything are from my single apartment days), plus the Wii game system area, plus a huge indoor "field" for raucous play when the weather is bad.

The space is a very long rectangle with no definition. You go down the stairs, turn right, and almost the entire length of the house is one brown and beige "bowling alley" space. The TV/Wii area is at the end and the empty space for beach ball soccer, Baggo-style games, and spreading MegaBloks is at the end closest to the stairs. The bathroom is finished well and is to the left of the stairs - it's the nicest space down there!

Part of me loves the big empty space for active play when we cannot go outdoors. The other part of me can't stand the complete lack of definition.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Observations from U5 and U6 rec #soccer

Our daughter just completed her fourth rec soccer season. It has been a lesson in patience many times, but also an enjoyable learning experience.

Now at the U8 level for her second season, we are finally seeing a real understanding of the game. Why and when to pass, how to protect your goal as a defender, how to play goalie, and the most critical concepts of offense and defense, for example. She attended a 5-day British Soccer Camp this summer which really honed her skills that she took to the field this fall. It has been fun to cheer her team on during Saturday games because they are finally real games!

But I do admit, the early seasons were quite entertaining.  

Are you thinking of soccer for your little kids? 
Here is a recap of the fun (and giggles) you will likely experience  at the early levels...

Amelia began when she was just about to turn five. 
U5 = Under age 5 & U6 = Under age 6. 

(1) Understanding body parts -- "No hands!" will be an overused phrase. I don't know how many times a U5 kid saw a ball coming near, and just bent down to pick it up. This, of course, was often followed by a proud glance to the sidelines. "Mom! I got the ball!"

Sunday, November 9, 2014

One vaccuum to literally do it ALL - @SharkCleaning

I received a Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away vacuum for the purposes of this review. However, all opinions (as always) are 100% mine.

I have a crawling and inquisitive baby at home. He has lightning fast reflexes when it comes to finding anything, picking it up, and shoving it in his little mouth. He tastes everything and he spends most of his day on the floor, so... I have become obsessed with clean floors.

This is one amazing Transformer of a vacuum. It has every function you could ever need! The Shark Rotator Powered Lift Away is an upright canister vacuum, a hand held vacuum, stick vacuum, and functional hardwood floor cleaner all in one - with four additional attachments to clean pet hair from furniture or crumbs out of cracks and crevices.

Our home is almost entirely hardwood on the main with carpet upstairs and in the finished space of the basement. So I had perfect spaces in which to test out the various Shark Rotator Powered Lift Away functions.

It had an easy glide on the carpets and powerful suction. Even when I thought there was nothing on the floor, this Shark picked up more.

The Hard Floor Genie is one of my favorite functions - you attach a different cleaning head, which comes with an attachable cleaning pad for the "white sock" clean you want on hardwoods. The pad cleans and catches dust while the vacuum gap allows for suction of larger dirt and debris. No need to sweep and use a dustpan and then vacuum again! One mega tool can do it all.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Christie Rampone: Elite athlete, wife, and a pretty awesome "balancing" mama!

This mama's story is powerful and impressive. Talk about a "balancing" mama! Christie Rampone is captain of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and the only mom on the team. She is captain of her family as Mom to Rylie, 9 and Reece, 4.

Christie Rampone continues to defy the odds. At age 39, this wife and mother of two young daughters is also the captain of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and a 3-time Olympic gold medalist —and between home life and work life, Christie may be one of the busiest, most active women in America.
As an elite athlete, wife and mother, Christie lives a busy, unique and challenging life.

“Between caring for my family, training and traveling, there are really no days off,” she says. Several years ago, she came down with Lyme disease and realized she needed to take better charge of her health and approach it with the same passion she has for being a wife, mother and world-class soccer star.

“At my age and with all that I have on my plate, I need to work harder at staying healthy inside and out,” Christie admits. “I’ve always taken care to eat healthy and to exercise regularly, so, now I learned to focus on my internal health like going to yoga to reduce stress and keeping my immune system strong.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Wiper of noses and cleaner of clothes #parenting

I just read a post titled The Default Parent via Huffington Post (and lots of viral shares). This is my response.
- - -

I am, without a doubt, the default parent.

I am the wiper of noses, the cleaner of clothes, the maker of meals... and snacks... and more meals and snacks.

A family vacation isn't really a vacation but just a trip where all of my work tags along and I have few of the comforts from gadgets and gizmos that help out at home.

I work from home; my to-dos are the ones constantly interrupted or tossed aside completely when a need arises from a small person - or sometimes a husband.

Make this call, fill out this form, pack that lunch, make that appointment, take them for a flu shot and a booster flu shot, buy shoes that fit, find a hotel for the family vacation, er, trip. The one who sits on the sidelines with the baby while everyone else has fun = mom.

But this is okay because mothers are built to multi-task, to get it all done for everyone despite the ever-growing list of what needs to be done, what should have been done, and what might not get done in the next six months.

Not whining here; at least I have  a backup parent.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Sleep, baby. Please?

This mama went to bed at 8:30pm Sunday night. Halloween on Friday night, the busy weekend, and the time change - added to a baby who still wakes once per night - and I just could not take it anymore.

It has been a long few weeks.

Amelia was my overachiever baby when it came to night sleep. She was a horrible napper, but slept through the night - until at least 7:00am - by about 10 weeks old. Andrew is nine months and eight days old, and he continues to wake. He had a week or so of uninterrupted 11-hour sleep. Every now and then he will make it all the way through. But not so much lately. He is back to being up once per night, usually about three hours after he goes to bed. Often, he is wide awake and wants to play OR he is angry that he's awake and screaming his head off.

Not fun at all. He wakes his sister who needs to be rested for school. He frustrates me because I just do not understand why the waking occurs. I feel like I am following all the "rules"!

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Incredibles family takes on Halloween #DisneySide

Halloween was a lot of fun! A very busy day with school, final t-shirt touches, digging out the pumpkin lights and getting the candy bowl set out, but we had fun that evening.

Amelia selected the Violet costume from The Incredibles this year. She opted not to have a scratchy wig or an attempt at black hair spray, so I simply straightened her hair with the straightening iron. It worked. Her eye mask lasted a few minutes before she wanted it off. But luckily, the costume was comfortable and she didn't complain one bit, even after wearing it all day at school. With thermal shirt and pants underneath, she even survived the first hour of trick-or-treating until she needed her jacket (thanks to the out-of-nowhere rain!).

I have a thing for family costumes on Halloween, as I shared in our most epic costumes on Friday. With Amelia in a costume from a family of superheroes, I just could not let it go without a matching set! I found inexpensive red t-shirts for Steve, myself, and Andrew. Then I simply printed the Incredibles logo and pinned it on each shirt with some double-sided sticky tape for reinforcement.

I think it totally worked!

- - -
Linked up to Really, Are You Serious for Mommy and Me Monday!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...