Nice, Chocolate-Free Kids…Must Be Lent

Daughter: “Mommy, I’m going to be nice to my sister for Lent.”

Me: “You know, Lent lasts for 40 days.”

Daughter: “That’s a long time. Never mind.”

Yep, this was a recent exchange I had with my 7-year-old daughter this past weekend. She learned about Lent in her CCD class. They learned about doing nice things for Lent and maybe even making sacrifices when it comes to their favorite things. My daughter’s CCD teacher said my daughter told the class she was going to give up McDonald’s and chocolate. I find this more doable than being nice to her sister for 40 days. Even then, I know this is not going to happen.

As with anything else that goes on in my house, my younger daughter needs to follow her sister.

Daughter 2: “What should I do for Lent?”

Me: “How about not pinching your sister when she wins a game and you lose?”

Pause….

Daughter 2: “I don’t think so.”

Me: “Okay…how about only using nice words?”

Giggle…

Daughter 2: “Sure.”

For some reason I think that “sure” was to appease me. I can see that lasting for about 40 seconds, not 40 days.

Daughter2: “Mommy, what are you going to give up for Lent?”

I paused and thought about this for a few minutes.

Chocolate? No. This is unrealistic seeing that Girl Scout cookies come in this weekend. I’m Team Samoa all the way.

Wine? No. Just no.

Soda? Sure. But, that really wouldn’t mean anything to me seeing that I don’t really drink soda anyway.

Finally I got one.

Me: “Mommy is going to try not to yell as much.”

Dramatic pause. Some giggles. Then, serious faces.

Daughters: “Sounds good.”

It was settled, my Lenten “thing” will be to try to yell less. Sometimes it’s easier said than done. But, we’re going to see how it works out…at least for 40 days!

As for the little divas, they’re still undecided. I’m trying to get them to do something rather than give something up. I know Lent is about sacrifice, but I don’t really see how giving up something like Oreos is going to make them a better person at the end. If they can’t have an Oreo, they’ll have a chocolate chip cookie. There’s really no sacrifice there.

But, not throwing a shoe at your sister or pinching her takes much more restraint. That is a real sacrifice around here. You see, if there’s less of that going on, chances are there will be less yelling on my part. So, it’s a win-win for everyone. Go Team Lent! Let’s have an Oreo…or two!

 

 

 

 

 

Heartfelt Valentine’s Day Gifts

As a mother, I have a unique bond with my daughters. But, the bond they have with their father is immeasurable and indescribable. There really is something to be said about “daddy’s little girl”.

My girls can be with me all day, but once their father comes in, I suddenly become invisible. It’s all about daddy. I totally get it. Daddy does cool tricks with them, lets them eat more than one rice krispie treat at night, and sings karaoke becomes he’s just as tone deaf as they are. Who wouldn’t want to be around daddy?

So when Valentine’s Day rolls around it should come as no shock that they want to get something special for him. Homemade valentines are a given. Not only are they super-cute, they also make for a great winter activity that’s time-consuming , if you get my drift. Beyond the valentines, we usually look for a gift that’s heartfelt, useful, and meaningful.

Usually I find these types of gifts in photos. Photos in different forms make great gifts because they capture a memory and a moment that has meaning. Some photo gifts I’ve done in the past include photo albums, photo mugs and photo blankets. This year is no different. I’ve done the blankets before as Mother’s Day gifts, but never as a Valentine’s Day gift. Cue this year’s gift.

Living in the Northeast, you can never have too many blankets. That’s why they make such fantastic gifts.

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This year I decided to get a photo blanket from Personal Creations for my girls to give their father. Choosing a photo was the hardest part. As a parent, we always take so many pictures of our kids and the things that we do that it’s hard to pick the perfect one.

After scrolling through all of the jpegs in my computer, I settled on a picture of the four of us from this past Fourth of July. It was the first time we spent the holiday away from home.  We ended up having a fantastic time and made many memories.  

Hopefully when my husband opens up this year’s Valentine’s Day gift, the memories of that day will warm his heart just as much as the blanket. Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

More Patience & Presence in the New Year

It’s almost time to watch the iconic ball drop in Times Square, signaling the start of another year. It’s the time many of us make a list of cliché resolutions like losing weight and exercising more. While those are important, often times we make them, can’t or don’t keep them, and then feel like a failure…again. Aren’t resolutions supposed to lift us up instead of pull us down?

I love the start of the new year for the fact that it’s a time to start with a clean slate. This is not to say that everything that happened the year before doesn’t matter, because it does. You can learn from what the previous year left behind, but you can also embark on new journeys with the hope a new year brings.

A chance to do better.

A chance to be better.

A chance to make a difference.

A chance to chase your dreams.

A chance to appreciate the things around you.

As a mother the days are so jam-packed with work, kids, and everyday nonsense that you forget to appreciate the things around you. In fact, instead of appreciating them, you often ignore them and tell yourself you’ll have that extra five minutes tomorrow to take it all in. But, tomorrow doesn’t seem to come. There’s always something to occupy that extra five minutes.

If 2016 has taught me anything, it is to truly value each moment and day because tomorrow is not guaranteed. Things can change so quickly that you’ll think you’re living someone else’s life.

That’s why 2017 will be the year of patience and presence.

Patience with my kids when they yell “mommy” for what feels like the hundredth time in a day. One day they’ll think they’re too cool for their mommy. That’s why I need to appreciate every minute I have with them now.

Patience when my kids want to play another board game when all I want to do is sit and enjoy my coffee. Time will pass so fast that those board games will end up in a tag sale quicker then I can say “go fish”.

Patience when I need peace and quiet and my house feels like it’s out of control. One day the house will be too quiet and I’ll miss all the noise.

Patience when things don’t happen fast enough or when I think they should. Everything does happen for a reason. Every time I get frustrated and look back it’s clear why things turned out like they did.

Patience when I get down on myself for one thing or another. No one is perfect no matter how things may appear.

Presence with my family. Facebook and e-mail can wait. Our parents didn’t have their heads buried in their phones, so why do we? I can admit I’m guilty of it.

Presence in “little” moments…a laugh, a smile, a sunset. Not to sound morbid but you don’t know when it will be your last.

Presence in everyday life. Many of us, myself included, just seem to go through the motions. We do what we do because it’s what we’ve always done. Are we really into it? Many times the answer is no. It’s time to tune in and take in every moment, even the mundane ones. Sometimes being present in your life means saying no to people every once and awhile and doing what makes you happy. This is not to say we should all become selfish people, but there comes a time when you have to put yourself first. Be present in your life.

The list can go on and on, but I think you get the idea.  I simply felt compelled to write this because I think patience and presence can get pushed aside when we’re dealing with our kids and busy lives. They are the things that we sometimes need to be reminded about from time to time. There’s no better time than the start of a new year. Hopefully I inspired just one person to try to be more present and patient in 2017. If I didn’t, that’s okay too.

Here’s to a new year of new memories and possibilities…and to patience and presence! Cheers!

 

Gifting Experiences Over Presents This Holiday

As I sit here at my kitchen table and write this blog post, I can’t help but notice something out of the corner of my eye. It’s my children’s playroom. It’s a mess. I’m not ashamed to admit it because it’s the truth. Sure there are bins in there to organize the toys that are too small to put in my hands and the ones that are too large to leave out. But, those bins have failed. Or, should I say I’ve failed those bins. My kids and I just keep jamming more junk in there to the point where I couldn’t tell you what’s in there except for toys.

Many of those toys my kids haven’t played with in who knows how long. They always play the same things…school, dancing, Barbies, games. The other miscellaneous toys seem to get lost in the clutter. I can honestly say I think I’ve only bought about 10% of the items that are in that room. With two kids you tend to accumulate a lot of things through birthdays, holidays, and other events. That’s the reason why I’m choosing to gift experiences over presents this Christmas.

Of course my girls have asked Santa for toys. Honestly, they haven’t asked for all that much. They will get the one or two things they really want from Santa, minus an iPhone, because no 7 year-old needs one,  and minus a FurReal Cat because I find it extremely creepy. If Santa has the toy thing taken care of, what do Mom and Dad give? More toys? Nope. How about something that can’t really be wrapped?

I’ll explain. See, my 7-year-old has been asking for guitar lessons since she was five. I don’t know why, but she is infatuated with the guitar. So, this got me thinking. How about giving lessons as a Christmas present? Lightbulb on and Google activated. After a bit, what did appear at my googling fingertips, but music lessons in my area that not only specialize in the guitar, but several other instruments! This was better than using manufacturers coupons and store coupons on an item that’s already on sale! It gets better! Hard to believe, I know. There are even classes that my younger daughter can take since she likes music as well.

My husband and I decided this would make the perfect Christmas gift because it would introduce both girls to several instruments so they can figure out which ones they like. In the end if they decide playing an instrument is not their thing right now then that’s okay too. At least they gave it a try.

Giving the gift of this experience is far better than some toy they’ll play with for a week and then toss in the bin. Sure they may be confused when they open the box and see a paper explaining the lessons, but they’ll have the memories they’ll make together while learning something new. Perhaps it will even make them want to pursue more lessons. Whichever the case, I think it’s a win-win all around. Plus, it alleviates the clutter in the house which makes me one happy momma. Merry Christmas!

The Real Meaning of Mother’s Day

While many mothers may actually look forward to the second Sunday in May, I can’t say I do.

It’s not that I hate it or anything. It just doesn’t make me want to back flips.

In case you didn’t know this Sunday is Mother’s Day.

It’s the one day of the year when you’re obligated to buy Mom an over-priced bouquet of flowers, a shiny new necklace, chocolates and a spa treatment.

Been there, done that.

Retailers love Mother’s Day if you couldn’t tell by the bombardment of ads that we see for all of the “perfect” Mother’s Day gifts. I think I read somewhere that Mother’s Day is one of the top “holidays” for retailers. I can’t say I’m surprised. But I can say that it makes me sad.

While it’s great to be recognized for all of the jobs that fall under the mommy umbrella, I don’t need my family to pay homage on one day. I know it’s just a gesture, but sometimes I hate when people do things because they are expected of them. It means so much more when it comes out of nowhere and for no real reason in particular.

The real meaning of Mother’s Day comes in everyday life. It comes in the “I love you’s” and hugs my kids give me everyday because they want to, not because they feel like it’s what they should be doing on Mother’s Day.

The real meaning of Mother’s Day is when your child says a big thank-you for chaperoning a class trip.

The real meaning of Mother’s Day is when your kids ask you to snuggle up on the couch with them to watch TV.

The real meaning of Mother’s Day is when your child isn’t feeling well and only wants mommy to comfort them.

The real meaning of Mother’s Day is when your kids do a household chore without you screaming at them to do it.

The real meaning of Mother’s Day is when your child colors you a picture of your family because they want to, not because their teacher told them it was time to make Mom a Mother’s Day card.

The real meaning of Mother’s Day is when your kids tell you that you look pretty when you’re not especially feeling that pretty at the moment.

The real meaning of Mother’s Day can’t be measured in flowers, chocolates, or facials. It’s measured in those special moments that you just want to bottle up and save forever.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mommas out there! May you find the real meaning of Mother’s Day.

 

 

5 Things to Say When You Hear “Mommy That Easter Bunny Isn’t Real”

As a parent we take on a lot of alter egos. Santa Claus. The Tooth Fairy. The Easter Bunny. It’s our job to keep the façade alive for as long as we can. But, as we know, all good things must come to an end. Sooner or later our roles as those alter egos are gone faster than we can say “of course they’re real”.

In my house, the tooth fairy hasn’t made an appearance, but we are eagerly awaiting her arrival. So we’re good there. Santa Claus is still alive and well although my older daughter is starting to use logic when it comes to that jolly old soul. The Easter Bunny is another story. I think his days are numbered.

After this year’s annual photo shoot with the dear old bunny, my 6-year-old abruptly turned to me and said, “Mommy that Easter Bunny isn’t real.”

Put a dagger in my heart! Are you crazy woman? If you’re going to debunk one of childhood’s greatest myths can you not do it in front of your 4-year-old sister who still believes this God forsaken bunny hops around to all the houses dropping baskets of Shopkins to everyone, including her?

So, what’s a momma to do? Here are 5 things to say when you hear those dreaded words, “Mommy that Easter Bunny isn’t real.”

  1. Deny it, but play it cool. Children are like dogs. They smell fear. They will sense that you are nervous about their latest discovery. Instead of wiping the sweat off your forehead and rocking back in forth in the corner, lie…it’s for their own good. I told my daughter, “What? Are you crazy? Of course the Easter Bunny is real. He’s just like Santa Claus and Santa Claus is real.” It seemed to work for me…at least for now.
  2. Play the helper card. Santa has helpers so why can’t the Easter Bunny? Think of all these mall and Easter hunt bunnies that pop up as the real Easter Bunny’s helpers. They’re kinda like elves…right? Wink, wink. The mall bunnies help out the real bunny. The Easter Bunny outsources. Deal with it.
  3. Confront the elephant or in this case bunny in the room. When my daughter made this revelation I asked her why she thought this blasphemy was true. I got a simple answer…”Because I could see a face through the top of his head.” Good answer. My answer: “Really? I didn’t see anything. You must be seeing things.” Silence.
  4. Defer to the other parent. When all else fails throw the other parent under the bus. If your child is acting like he or she is on “CSI” and won’t let up with the questioning, hand them over to your partner. That’s what I did. “The bunny is real, right Dad?” See what he comes up with, hopefully it’s better than the hand you’re holding.
  5. Ask the burning question. If the Easter Bunny didn’t handle all the baskets then who would do all that work on Easter? If your child answers “you would mommy” then you need to tell him or her “ain’t nobody got time for that.” If your child answers with an “I don’t know” then perhaps you have won this round of bunny madness.

I know I will probably cry myself to sleep when my kids realize I’ve been lying to them all these years. They’ll understand it was for their own good. If they don’t at least they will have appreciated all the loot they acquired over the years. Sigh.

 

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas 2015

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a Barbie in the dream house.

The stockings were hung by the fireplace with care, hoping to be filled with anything but silly underwear.

The children were nestled all snug in mommy and daddy’s bed (did you really thing they were going to sleep in their own beds?), while visions of Baby Alives and Barbie campers danced in their heads.

And Mama with her wine, and Daddy snoring fast asleep were so glad to finally not hear one peep.

When out on the roof there arose such a clatter, I  didn’t feel like pausing the DVR and getting off the couch to see what was the matter.

So I peaked through the window, not really getting up, but I did see enough that made me actually want to jump.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick, it couldn’t be Grandma, so it must be Saint Nick!

Santa is real! Does that mean the Elf on the Shelf is too? Let’s not get crazy, I’ll believe in one, not two.

Before I knew it, he was calling their names! This night was turning into anything but lame.

Now Dasher! Now Dancer!

Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid!
On, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch!
To the top of the wall!

Then he said, I brought the Baby Alive so your daughter won’t bawl. She won’t visit it in Target and won’t bug you at all. You can thank me now because I saved you a trip to the mall.

I got that Barbie pop-up camper too. Hopefully your daughter will play with it for hours and not say boo. Yeah, yeah I know…you’re welcome for that one too.

I couldn’t bag up peace and quiet for you and the hubs. You can’t have everything. Maybe next year you’ll ask for some other grub.

It’s been fun, but it’s time for me to go. I have plenty more stops and lots of toys for these reindeers to tow.

Before I dash away, dash away, dash away all, I need to tell you one thing.

If you think that silly Elf on the Shelf comes to see me in the North Pole, then all that sleep deprivation has really taken its toll!

 

 

Lessons Learned from Toppled Trees & Broken Ornaments

Christmas trees are part of the season. Whether you have a fake one or are a sucker for a real one every year like me, the tree is one of the many symbols of the season. So, what happens when your tree topples over sprinkling shatter glass all over your living room?

You learn and teach a lesson. (and clean it up of course!)

Let me set the stage.

Our tree was on its second stand of the season. You see, we had to transport it into another stand when we realized our first stand was leaking water because it had a crack at the bottom. So, one night my husband and I took off all the breakable ornaments and carefully transported it into its new home. When my kids woke up the next morning and saw half the ornaments were gone, they didn’t know what to think. So, I spun it into a fun activity called “we get to decorate the tree all over again, won’t that be fun?” Thankfully they bought what I was selling. Little did I know I would soon be selling that line again…really soon.

We redecorated the tree. It was just as fun the second time around. Okay, not really, but I had to play the game for the sake of the kids. All was well until a couple of nights ago.

We stopped home quickly to pick up my daughter’s favorite little teddy that we forgot on the way out. We ran in and turned on the light not prepared for what we found. Our poor tree had toppled over. There was broken glass everywhere. A huge puddle of water created a mini-lake on my floor.

 

tree fall

Cue the high pitched screams and hysterical crying.

My kids were just as crushed as some of the ornaments, if not more. Honestly, so was I. I love my Christmas ornaments, even the stupid ones. But, I had to quickly go into “mom mode” and stop this ship from sinking.

After wiping tears and giving hugs to calm my girls, I asked them if they were hurt.

They looked at me as if I told them a crazy elf flies back and forth to the North Pole every night and reports back to Santa.

“No, mommy, we’re fine. We weren’t even home.”

Exactly…you’re fine. Then I pulled out some lines that surprisingly made it all better.

“Ornaments are just things. Things can be replaced. If something bad happened to you guys, I could never replace you. There will never be another you in the whole world. There can always be another ornament.”

Silence.

Those frowns turned upside down. There were smiles slowly creeping back onto their faces. As annoyed and aggravated that I was at the entire mess, I felt better too. There’s just something that puts a smile on your face when you know you were able to make your children feel better when they’re sad.

I was even more surprised when my four-year-old told me that the tree was tired from standing so it probably just needed a nap!

So when life gives you a toppled tree…you teach a lesson…and then go make a bunch of paper ornaments!

 

 

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Spoil Your Kids This Holiday Season

‘Tis the season of the “I wants” and the “I needs”. I know you know what I’m talking about. Every commercial your kid sees becomes something they think they can’t live without. It becomes downright annoying. While it may be tempting to give in because it is the holiday season, I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t. Call me cheap or call me the Grinch, but I really don’t see why we have to give in to every want.

Don’t think that I’m not buying my kids Christmas gifts. I am. I’m just not going to tap the college funds just to put a smile on their faces Christmas morning. After all, Santa does have to buy for all the boys and girls around the globe, right? Unless Santa is working some serious OT, there’s no way he can afford to give in to what all the kids everywhere are dreaming about.

In case you are tempted to spoil your kids this holiday season, I’m here with five reasons why you should not. I repeat SHOULD NOT. Here goes…

 1. Create Experiences Instead of Buying More Stuff: Put aside whatever money you were planning on spending on another toy and use it on something you can do as a family. Whether it is a day trip to a local attraction or maybe even a trip to see their favorite movie, try to create experiences instead of buying more junk. Kids will remember the time you spent and the places you went more than a doll they’ll play with for five minutes.

2. Who needs the clutter?: More things just equal more clutter. Who needs it? Not this mom. There’s no need to buy every board game that Toys R Us sells. One or two will do the job. The truth is kids will play with their new toys for a couple of weeks. Then they’ll just join all the others who are just trying to survive in a toy box or playroom.

3. Teach the Lesson That We Can’t Get Everything We Want: Life is full of disappointments. We don’t always get what we want. As soon as your child realizes this, the better off they’ll be. I know this doesn’t sound like the warm and fuzzy Christmas message you want to be spreading, but it’s the truth Ruth. As parents we never want to see our child sad or disappointed. In order to learn coping skills, they’re going to need to learn what it feels like to not get what you want all the time. Why not start now?

4. Spoiling Them Now & They May Expect it Forever: Maybe I’ll just give in this once to make them happy and keep them quiet. What happens the next time? How are you going to deal with it then? Don’t get caught up in what could become a nasty pattern. Draw the battle lines now but just saying no. You’ll be a lot better off and so will your child even though they may not believe it.

5. Teach Them the Holidays are Not About Presents: This is perhaps the most important lesson of all. The holidays aren’t about the presents. Although this may be disappointing for your kids to hear, they need to know it. Although it may sound cliché, we should be teaching them the real meaning of the holiday season. We should teach them to be thankful for their families and for what they already do have. If they get presents, that’s a bonus. It shouldn’t be expected.

So, the next time you’re thinking about spoiling your kids, think about these reasons why shouldn’t. Your wallet will thank-you and so will your kids even though they may not know it yet.

 

 

 

Why Every Parent Has a Love/Hate Relationship with Their Elf on the Shelf

They say Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. But, if you’re a parent who has welcomed an Elf on the Shelf into their home it’s anything but wonderful. I know, I know. We do it to ourselves, so we shouldn’t complain. But, we do.

This is the time of year when parents everywhere search for new and interesting places to position their elf so that their kids will really think that this freakish looking doll with a perma-smile actually flew all the way to the North Pole and came all the way back each and every night. This is the time of year when parents lie in bed feeling as if they forgot to do something only to awake in a soaking night sweat when they realize they forget to move the dang elf.

In case you’ve been under a rock, the story is that these elves do Santa’s dirty work. If Santa was the Godfather, the elves on the shelf would be his soldiers. Every day they are Santa’s eyes and ears. They see everything your kids are doing. From the good stuff like setting the table to the downright nasty stuff like when your kids use each other as a tissue. When the kids go to bed, the elf goes back to the North Pole to tell Santa what he saw. Then he flies all the way back and parks it in a new spot in your house.

Rinse. Lather. Repeat.

For the entire Christmas season.

In my house we start December 1st. The torture lasts 24 days.

God forbid the elf stays in the same place for two days. That would mean he didn’t go back to report to Santa. That would be bad. There’s also a catch. No one can touch the elf. If someone touches the elf, he loses his magic. This means he can’t report back to Santa. This means you have failed as a parent. Just kidding.

I have to give kudos to the creators of this torturous, addictive, but fun little creature. Kids eat this up! When our “Sweet Abigail” arrived this morning it was better than a Peppa Pig marathon on steroids. There was squealing and jumping and clapping. I’m sorry, did Jon Bon Jovi just enter my kitchen? Oh no, silly me. It’s just our elf.

My youngest daughter stared up at her in awe. She tried to have a conversation with her but soon realized it was useless. But, that didn’t stop her from continuing to tell Sweet Abigail what she wanted for Christmas. I quickly told her she had to be good or Sweet Abigail would tell Santa not to bring any presents. She didn’t question one word that came out of my mouth…for once.

My older daughter was just as happy to see our old friend. For her it was better than finding a dollar in a winter jacket. This was Sweet Abigail. This meant the Christmas season has officially begun in our house. Joy to the world!

During dinner time the girls were talking about where they thought they would find Sweet Abigail next. Thank God, because I know I am going to run out of ideas! But then my older daughter asked me if Sweet Abigail got hungry because she doesn’t eat all day. Good grief Charlie Brown! Is the mystery fading? Is she starting to doubt our mythical creature? Not a chance. I quickly told her Santa feeds her very well when she goes back to the North Pole so there was no need to worry.

She ate it up like apple pie on Thanksgiving. Crisis averted.

See what I mean? Kids believe in Elf on the Shelf just as much as Santa Claus. All kidding aside, it is fun to watch their innocence. Why wouldn’t kids believe that there is a jolly old man who brings toys to all the kids once a year? Why wouldn’t kids believe that there millions of elves that take the red eye back and forth to the North Pole every night? The answer is they have no reason not to…unless we mess it up for them…or unless they grow up. Bah humbug! We all know they are going to grow up one day and look back and laugh at their elf on the shelf days. When they do, we’ll all be wishing we could hide that dang elf for one more night.