The New Year’s Resolution

It’s that time of year. A new year is about to begin and we start thinking of ways to make ourselves and our lives better. Maybe you want to head to the gym. Maybe you want to eat healthier, drink more water, be more patient, love more, stress less…… It’s a huge deal to do any of these things and if you are anything like me, I think I can just do it starting January 1 and forget all my bad habits. Then when January 5th comes around, I am already disappointed in myself and everything goes out the window.

This year, I am vowing to be happier and calmer. Dealing with a deployed husband and two young kids, this is something I am very much struggling with, but something that I can’t just turn my back on. It’s more for the two little ones who must deal with me every day than for me, and I am hoping that it helps make it stick a little longer.

Here is a list of things I am hoping will help, but I am no expert and these are not necessarily scientifically-proven, they are just reminders for myself and maybe you can find some value in it as well:

  1. WRITE! Write your fears, frustrations, accomplishments, failures, gratitudes– everything. This is something I am doing not only with this blog but with a journal I have at home as well. A dear friend of mine gave me a journal to write it while my husband was gone. It was something she did during her husband’s deployments. I also saw somewhere to keep a gratitude journal which is a great concept but we all have so many emotions and things going on in our lives that affect us. I find that if I can write it down on paper (or screen), it’s like talking to a best friend about it. Sometimes you need to let it out for it to affect you less. Writing has been an excellent outlet for me. It allows me time to reflect  and process everything and not overreact. Starting in the new year, I may create a section just to write down only happy memories from each day so when I have extremely hard days, there is something I can go to easily and relive those.
  2. BREATHE! Take a deep breath, hold it for a second, and release slowly. This seems like a no brainer, but how many times do we actually heed this advice? When I am about to scream at the top of my lungs at my kiddos, I myself need a timeout. I need to find the calm in the crazy and not reduce myself to a toddler/preschool level of tantruming. If all it takes is 10 seconds of breathing to find even the smallest glimmer of calm, it is worth it than my kids crying because I overreacted about them picking up toys.seriouslybreathe.gif
  3. ALONE TIME! Give yourself 10 minutes of alone time. Yes, WAY easier said than done. I used to get decent alone time before my kids woke up where I was able to start my day with a little calm (and coffee), but now my kids wake up and snuggle in my bed before we start the day, which I absolutely love! This just means I need to find it somewhere else during my day. For me, my kids rest at around the same time and they are in bed by a decent hour that I can find 10 minutes to myself. Not every family is as lucky as me, but I urge you to find 10 minutes to just be by yourself with no cell phone, no TV, no kids, no adults. Even if it means you take the dog for a walk when our spouse gets home or drive a letter to the post office instead of putting it in your mailbox, find 10 minutes to just be with yourself. Maybe you can only get 5 minutes locked in the bathroom (just try to start your 5 minutes after the banging on the door for you stops), or your drive home from school drop-off- find time with no distractions to allow your brain to process your day.
  4. CUT OUT TOXIC PEOPLE! Do you have a neighbor or “friend” who just rubs you the wrong way and every time you encounter them, you feel anxious and frustrated, cut them out. Trust me, this is another WAY easier said than done, but it will allow you to rid of that spitefulness you hang on to every time you see them and you will feel your heart and your attitude lighten up because they aren’t there bringing it down. Now, if you are like me and as connected by so many people through so many different avenues (clubs, Facebook groups, meet-up groups), you may not be able to cut someone out entirely. My best advice is to participate in whatever it is you are involved in pretending they aren’t there. Don’t allow their presence to shy you away from anything. Allow your presence be known and do your best to continue to be yourself and try to block out anything that is toxic to you.
  5. GO MEDIA FREE! Put your cellphone on silent and in a different room, turn off the TV, close the laptop. This can be combined with your 10 minutes to yourself, BUT wouldn’t it be something if everyone could put away all electronics and media for 2 hours at the end of the day when everyone is getting home from work and school and just be a family?! This is something I need to do better myself. I am so glued to FB and I absolutely hate it. I don’t want my kids to only know me with a phone in my hands. I am in a little bit of a predicament as we wait for my husband’s call and I don’t know if we will get one or not each day so my phone stays close, but I have to be better about not opening it up every 30 seconds and checking other people’s lives. I definitely have the FOLO– Fear of Losing Out, and I am going to do my best to leave in 2016.783a2a9c4b4524b5fe5673267d6f1ede
  6. DO GOOD! Every week, do a random act of kindness. Random acts of kindness do not need to cost you anything. You can give a compliment to a complete stranger. You help someone load their car with groceries. You can allow someone to pull out in front of you or give someone the spot both of you are competing for. If you have a little extra change, pay for the person behind you at the drive-thru. Send a handwritten letter to someone. Pay for another table’s meal. Take a bag of popcorn to the Redbox. Take a quarter to the gumboil machine. Whatever little thing you do, it may make you feel silly, but it will also make you feel good inside.

There are so many other things you can do to try to be a better, happier, calmer you. Getting more sleep, giving yourself a break, reminding yourself how important you are, surrounding yourself with the right people, planning a getaway, doing one thing for yourself everyday, loving the person you see in the mirror. All of these are true and wonderful pieces of advice. I hope the 6 things I laid out for you though are simple things that everyone can incorporate into their lives. We all want to be happy. We all want to live calmer, in the present, lives. Try these out and see if they make a difference for your 2017 self.

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Toddler life…

There are a 101 (times a million) types of media out there about funny toddler behaviors. For example:

https://www.facebook.com/officialemotionaltouch/videos/1201142706620547/

Or this one:

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And this site is absolutely hilarious with it’s 25 ways to annoy a toddler.

As moms we see it on social media and get a good chuckle because it’s true (the BEST jokes are ALWAYS true). We probably even share it with some mom friends because they will also get a good chuckle from it. Then, we look up from our perfect little virtual world and the memes are no longer funny because IT. IS. HAPPENING!

I have been losing my freakin’ mind A LOT lately. I am almost embarrassed with how I yell sometimes and even wonder if the neighbors can hear me and think I am a complete lunatic. The things a 2 year old will do that can make the most sane person go postal is noteworthy. There are moments of complete and utter rage because I just don’t have the patience anymore.

Then I stumbled across this Facebook post:

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Seeing this post, I knew I had to post about it. After having my kids be with their cousins and listening to the constant unison of adult voices yelling over the cries and screams of toddlers, I realized that we are all letting our emotions overpower our intelligence. We all know as parents that we need to stop, stay calm, assess the situation, do not stoop down to the 2-year-old tantrum level, yet, how many of us do that?! I know I am guilty of it.

When your kid is screaming bloody murder because they don’t want to put shoes on or go to the bathroom and you have calmly said the same thing over and over and over…… and over and over and over again, you might just lose your mind. When your child so perfectly put on their shoes and socks yesterday morning but today they throw a fit because they can’t do it and moan and “try” to put them on with no avail, your patience might get a little thin.

I have no parenting tips— in fact, if you have any, please share them! All I know is that each and every day, I try to do my best, and some days I feel like I have totally failed as a parent. When my kid just constantly says “no!” to me or deliberately disobeys me, it is so hard to find the calm. I have to believe that one day they will learn. One day the screaming, the silent treatment, the ignoring, the overreacting— something will work and something will click or they will just grow out of it.

So for every mama who:

  • sent their kid to bed with a growling tummy because they refused to eat the dinner you made that they LOVED last week,
  • has a sore throat from yelling over the screams of a child,
  • is crying in the corner because they aren’t quite sure how they are going to get through the final hours of the day,
  • wonders if they are doing this parenting thing right,

know that you are not alone. Even if it’s just me in your corner, you are not alone. May we always be able to laugh at the toddler memes, not because we are living it and the only way to get through is to laugh at it sometimes but because we lived THROUGH it and have come out stronger and better on the other side of the craziness (and now have entered the preteen years!!!!!!). It doesn’t end does it?!

The most wonderful time of the year

It’s Christmas time in the city…. (and in my house).

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It’s that special time of year for most families. It’s a time to be with family. A time to show our love to those around us through cookies and gifts. We want it all to be perfect. We want to fill our time and days with memories, hang all the lights, trim the tree, bake the cookies, wrap the presents, and visit with friends and family.

Except, I am finding myself losing my mind a bit. Already this year, my oldest has been out of school since December 14. It gave me less than a month to do all the things I normally have a good solid 3 weeks to do. I have been stressing myself out because the cookie making that I vowed to be a tradition has not happened. The elf has loved his spot too many nights in a row that my daughter is starting to question his existence. There are still gifts being delivered.

Why are we so quick to try to make this time of year “perfect.” I’m beating myself over the head trying to make sure my kids will open the one (or three) gifts they REALLY want. I have attended so many holiday parties and get togethers end even hosted one because that was Christmas is about. I HATED that we barely decorated our house due to hubby not being around to help. We rushed to be with family for our week to be completely full of other obligations. And making the holidays perfect– who are we trying to appease?! Do my kids really care that we didn’t make 300 cookies this year? Do they care that I didn’t take out every candle holder and trinket that is in our 2 full boxes of Christmas decorations? Do they care how much I have spent on their gifts or care that I may have spent more on one kid than the other?! NO!

You want to know what they care about? They care about being with me. They care about being with their grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles. This Christmas is especially hard due to the fact that we don’t get to spend it with their daddy. It’s not only hard on us, but it’s even harder on him. We at least get to surround ourselves with love and holiday bustle. He is surrounded by work. And this is when I stop and realize that I have to stop trying to make Christmas so perfect and start living in the moment.

There are a lot of people we are missing this Christmas. The holidays are hard. People get lonely. We realize what and who we are missing most this time of year. For some, it causes too much heartache and there are way too many sad stories that happen around the holidays. For others, they learn how to cope, but it doesn’t make it any easier. I find even myself being a little more on edge because my emotions are running high.

So my mission for you (and me) is to stop trying to find the perfect gift. Put down the spatula. Let the elf spend one more night in his favorite spot. Allow yourselves to miss those that aren’t here. Allow yourself to forget a decoration or two. Allow yourself to look at your kids or your family and just be grateful you get one more Christmas with them. Teach your kids that it’s okay to be sad to miss someone special on Christmas- whether a family member or friend who is no longer here on each or for my kids, their friends who are back home and they are just missing. This time of year is not about the cookies, the decorations, the gifts, it’s about loving our story, loving where we came from, loving the people who have touched our lives and shaped us. Whether they continue to be part of our Christmas celebration in the flesh or whether it is their memory we hold dear.

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Mom Truths.

I was scrolling through Facebook and stopped at a video about a little video about what moms really need:

Here are some of my takes on these truths.

Truth one: You cannot have too much coffee.. or wine!!!

I cannot and refuse to be a functioning parent without my coffee in the morning. If I do not get coffee, you might as well send in the National Guard because I cannot possibly get through the day! Seriously… do not let the coffee run out of the house. While we are it, make sure the wine rack is MAXED out!! I’m just saying… if my kids have given me attitude, or just breathed too hard, I. WILL. NEED. WINE. at the end of the day so do not let the inventory get too low or my whole night will be completely ruined and I will not be able to relax or sleep! I even have a special little glass– because mommy NEEDS her medicine after being with those kids all day.

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Truth two: Yoga pants are a staple.

Yes, I am capable of getting myself up, getting my kids dressed to the nines and ready for their day, breakfast on the table for those kids I already got up and dressed. I can EVEN make it out the door, BUT I cannot seem to get anything on myself except yoga pants. The other pants in my drawer just take way to long to get on. It requires so much effort, and since I seem to get dressed before the required coffee consumption, yoga pants it is. They slip on, no button, tie, or anything. I can practically jump into them and be on my way. I may even just roll out of bed with them on because I have the super powers to do that, too!

Truth three: Showering is not a requirement every day.

As I grew up, I remember the time that I had to shower EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. My parents made me think this was a requirement of someone growing up and slowly becoming an adult. Once I became a parent, I realized that was a total lie. I mean, they make dry shampoo for a reason, right?!  Plus, I used up all my energy drinking my full consumption of coffee, dressing and feeding my kids, Supermaning into my yoga pants, and making sure I have had my daily dose of wine.  When would I even find time to shower?!

So for all those mamas who can seem to get a real outfit together, get through their day without making any mention of coffee or wine, and who somehow shower, hats off to you, my friend because in today’s world, that seems to not be a reality– at least according to the social media videos and memes that we have plenty of time to watch and share!

“Stress-free” Cookies

Being that time of year, many of us are wrapping up some last minute presents. We want to present all the people that make our lives easier with something special. Not all of us can provide the gifts we really want to give so sometimes cookie making is the easiest (and most frugal) way to show our appreciation, but even THAT can get stressful as it takes quite a bit of time to bake. So I have compiled a little list of some of my favorite cookies that are also pretty low maintenance. Most of them require to be baked in baking dishes (making them more like bars versus the traditional cookie) so you aren’t sitting in the kitchen switching out cookie sheets.

In our family, we call this “Crack.”  Later, we found that it might actually be somewhat the name for these treasures! We call them “Crack” because you can’t just eat just one. Once you start eating these, they are gone. They are also crowd pleasers, super easy to make, and can be somewhat varied to the liking of your recipient.

“Crack” Cookiessaltine-toffee-cannabis-cookies-weedist

  • 1 sleeve of Sunshine Krispy Crackers
  • 1.5 sticks of melted butter
  • 1/2 bag (6 oz) each of chocolate chips and peanut butter chips
  • Choose your topping: 1 cup of chopped walnuts or any other type of nut; sprinkles; chopped candy or mini M&Ms
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a cookie sheet (15×10.5) with foil.
  3. Lay down crackers on pan so they are touching. (You should use 1 full sleeve- breaking last few crackers to completely fill cookie sheet).
  4. Pour melted butter over crackers.
  5. Brown at 400 degrees for approximately 10 min.
  6. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and peanut butter chips on top of crackers.
  7. Return to oven for 1-2 minutes to melt chips.
  8. Spread melted chips over crackers.
  9. Top with desired topping.
  10. Refrigerate for approximately 1 hour.
  11. Break into pieces.

Magic Cookie Bars (EAGLE Brand recipe)

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  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 (14 oz) can Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 and 1/3 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (I am not a big nut fan in my desserts so I opt for holiday M&Ms)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 for glass dishes).
  2. Coat a 13×9 inch baking dish with nonstick cookie spray.
  3. Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter, then press into bottom of prepared pan.
  4. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumb mixture.
  5. Layer evenly with chocolate chips, coconut, and other topping.
  6. Press down firmly with a fork.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.
  8. Cool, then cut into bars.
  9. Serve at room temperature.

Pretzel Bites

  • Bag of small square pretzelsPictures 527.jpg
  • Bag of festive M&Ms
  • Bag of rolls
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Place as many pretzels as you desire on tray.
  4. Place a rolo on top of each pretzel.
  5. Bake for 3-5 minutes (just enough to slightly melt the role).
  6. Take out of the oven and place an M&M on each roll, pressing down.
  7. Let cool (or stick in fridge for faster results).

I hope you are not like me and just getting to the baking, but if you are, I hope these “cookie” ideas help. They are quick and easy and require one time at the oven which is a plus when you have a busy life and can’t be back and forth every 8-11 minutes. I have eaten and loved each of these and have given all as gifts as well as to potlucks and they are always a hit!!

ENJOY!

LAST minute gift ideas

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(photo credit)

Yes, it is that crazy time of year that we all think we have plenty of time to get the perfect gift or to pick it up later and then….. BAM, it’s the last week before your kids are out of school. We quickly write down our lists of the family and friends we like to express our love for and for many of us, we add on the teachers that spend a lot of time with our kids. What do teachers really want? I’m happy to give you valuable, first hand, teacher experience to help you!

Teachers LOVE gifts from the heart and things that will help with their classroom saving them time and money. School supplies, by this time of year, are getting low. You probably think, “I bought 500 sharpened pencils, how could they possibly need more?!” Let me explain. Kids love to erase. Once the eraser is gone, the pencil is no good to them (or really the teacher for that matter).  “Then buy them extra erasers.” Simple, but not practical. Erasers, when not attached to the pencil are just easily lost as their pencil counterparts.

Gift cards are a simple and very much appreciated gift. As a teacher, I treasured gift cards. As a parent, I despise giving them because you feel like you have to give a certain amount to make it worthy of gift giving but that adds up. (Amazon, Walmart and Target are always good choices (and maybe even a little splurge like a favorite coffee place!)

Are school supplies and gift cards not quite your cup of tea? Maybe those are great ideas, but you want a little something more to gift with it? Here are some gifts to present to a teacher that will definitely be appreciated (if not treasured):

  • Framed poem or special quote.
  • Organizational bins (check these out for less than $20 and shipped super quick with Amazon Prime or these which can even be decorated and quickly labeled with some scrapbook letters if you feel crafty!!)
  • Ornaments. I have a few from former students and I think of them every time I place it on my tree. It’s an excellent reminder of them!
  • Edible gifts. This is something I always enjoyed (but maybe not everyone) because I would be able to enjoy it without causing more clutter in my house.
  • Plants. Yes, a nice plant that they can either place in their classroom for a little green cheer or take home.
  • If you are so lucky to be crafty, use that to your advantage and give a teacher something homemade.

 

 

**Full disclosure regarding content on my blog. I share the items I personally love and want to share with others. I would NOT suggest or promote something I have not used myself and that I do NOT believe in.  I am an affiliate with Amazon, so for those items I am making a small amount if you decide to purchase through my site. Much of what I will make, I will be donating to different causes- Wounded Warriors, Fischer House, and other pop-ups throughout the year like Epilepsy research and St. Jude’s Hospital. I plan to use this blog to help give back while also helping my family.

Be a Santa

I love a good giving back story. In the midst of holiday shopping, Salvation Army bucket bell ringing, Toys for Tots, I think sometimes we forget that there are people on the receiving end are real. It’s so easy to just drop off unopened, unwrapped toys or stick a dollar in the red bucket.

I love this story because you can see the kids Campbell is helping and how they are effected by his kindness and heart.  While I feel like I am doing something when donating items or money, I find the most rewarding efforts are giving to someone directly.  Finding a family and providing a little extra help (anonymously or not- depending on your relationship).

I have stated before that in our house, our Elf on the Shelf provides my kiddos with random acts of kindness during his stay with us. My oldest is only 4.5, but she is starting to understand the idea of helping others, even if we don’t get recognition for it, and how it makes us feel. She has embraced the idea of doing nice things for others. One of our recent  endeavors was to pick a toy she really wanted and instead of her getting it, we wrapped it up and will be delivering to a friend. She picked the toy, picked the friend, and will help me deliver it! I thought she would be sad that she didn’t get the toy, but her face lit up when she realized she was going to make someone else happy.

This is all helping in the upcoming years when the idea of Santa changes. I am teaching my kiddos how to be a Santa as they get older. In our house, we will take the transition from Santa believing to skepticism with grace. I will sit down with each child and explain that Santa is not just one man but a group of generous people all around the world. Santa lives among us everyday and brings joy and love to others during the holiday season and the jolly man in the red suit is just a representation of those group of people. It will be the time that they will join the ranks of the other Santas and start to spread joy and love themselves.

In this season of giving, be a Santa. Remember your neighbors, maybe a struggling family in your kids’ school, or ask friends if they know anyone who needs a little extra help.

Some easy, inexpensive ways to help:

  • Provide a meal
  • Wrap up some warm gloves, socks, and hats for someone
  • Wrap and deliver an age appropriate present to be added to their holiday celebrations
  • Drop a grocery or gas gift card in their door
  • Donate a gently used coat to a local family
  • Provide a few cups of dog or cat food to help with the furry friends in their home
  • Provide a basket of favorite snacks

This year, don’t just wait for Santa to come, be a Santa to someone else.

Holiday Spirit

Today I felt truly in the holiday spirit. It’s been a little tough with my husband gone and we have had our Christmas tree up since Halloween to celebrate a little Christmas before he left, but that is all we had. We usually hang lights outside with moving reindeer, hang garland and lights over the doorways inside, hang our stockings along the railing, and place all kinds of trinkets around the house. Until yesterday, we still just had a tree. I knew I was going to keep it a little more low key this year, but I was struggling and needed to do something a little more.

Last night, I quickly pulled things out in anticipation of some company. I got out the Advent calendar, my kids stockings and placed them on some unused stocking hangers, Santa’s key and bell, and our trusted elf. It started to feel a little more like Christmas.  It’s been nice, and calming.

Then, today– I was in full crafting Christmas mode. I made my daughter’s teachers’ Christmas gifts and changed my seasonal chalkboard. I felt accomplished!

So let’s first start with the Christmas gift. I am pretty proud of myself with it. It wasn’t my original thought for a gift, but I saw a similar one in my friend’s house and thought it was perfect. I decided to make a holiday card holder. Let me tell you, it was one of the easiest things I’ve made. All it took was a wooden plaque from Michaels, along with some gold glittery scrapbook letters, snowflake stickers, gold ribbon, and small cloths pins. If it wasn’t for the ridiculous line, I could have been in and out of Michaels in 10 minutes! Loving my finished project!!!

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My second project today was doing my seasonal chalkboard. I made it last winter with a LITTLE help from my husband. He has all the tools and he taught me how to use them and I cut, stained, and screwed it all together!  Every holiday/season, I google seasonal chalkboard ideas and this is this year’s:

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I am not an overly artistic person but I will say, the chalkboard pen is a MUST! This was my first time using it and drawing the pictures and writing the letters were SO. MUCH. EASIER! Plus, not chalk dust which is a HUGE perk! I am still working on my lettering as I have taught early childhood for so many years and the fancy stuff is over my head, but I’m slowly learning.

My house now feels a little more like Christmas and while we aren’t completely decked out like most years, my kids and I are happy with what we have.

Sven the Elf

Raise your hand if you have an Elf on the Shelf?  Yep… that’s what I thought, just about everyone. 😛

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We have our own Elf on the Shelf (and it’s still not too late to get yours!). My 4 year old named ours 2 years ago—- SVEN. Yes, because the craze of Frozen is never lost in this house.

So here’s my take on the elf: He is in your house to watch your kiddos and to report back to Santa, yet there are tons of pictures taking over Facebook of the little guy getting into all kinds of trouble- cozying up with Barbie, knocking down ornaments, drinking syrup, and all other kinds of mischief. What is that actually teaching the kids?? That they can’t misbehave because there is an extra pair of eyes reporting to Santa, yet those eyes that are watching them are allowed to do whatever they want?!

Ok, so maybe I’ve put too much thought into this whole Elf of the Shelf thing, but I wanted to do something that was more meaningful and to not give conflicting ideas to my young children. Last year, my daughter was old enough to actually care about the Elf and find Sven every morning. We tried a new tradition. Every morning, she woke up, found Sven and read a note he left. Every note gave a random act of kindness. Yes, a three year old needed some help and maybe some of it was lost on her, but it started our December tradition.

Sven made his very first appearance today. We start on December 1 because Thanksgiving weekend is just too crazy for us and it gives me some time to get my Christmas self ready. The kids were thrilled to see Sven and it’s nice to have the first year where both kids are really engaged. We first read the book so my youngest knows what Sven is all about and to remind both of them the “rules” of the elf. He came with his first note and his first task and my daughter wanted to get started right away. I think this is a perfect way for us as a family to step out of the craziness of the season and to really help spread holiday cheer. Isn’t this the perfect time to teach our kids kindness, generosity, and love? If we start early and be their role models, we can raise beautiful, caring, compassionate young people!

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**Full disclosure regarding content on my blog. I share the items I personally love and want to share with others. I would NOT suggest or promote something I have not used myself and that I do NOT believe in.  I am an affiliate with Amazon, so for those items I am making a small amount if you decide to purchase through my site. Much of what I will make, I will be donating to different causes- Wounded Warriors, Fischer House, and other pop-ups throughout the year like Epilepsy research and St. Jude’s Hospital. I plan to use this blog to help give back while also helping my family.