Our Thanksgiving Tradition

Sometimes the holidays can get the best of us. We decided to make Thanksgiving just ours.

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PSA: Weekends are for you too, mom and dad…

I know you. The workaholic (whether that’s a home hustle or a work hustle) who is counting down for the next weekend, because you burnt yourself out for Labor Day weekend and probably didn’t planning anything for yourself. Usually, when the weekend is just on our horizon, and my mind is racing with activities…for my family.

In my own mind, I envision this…

My family is relaxed, I am relaxed, and we’re spending some quality time together. But then, I get in the way of myself. I start planning ACTIVITIES…

The kind I think Everly wants to do. I cram in a visit to the zoo, Legoland, a road trip, and try to do all the things I feel that I owe her. Then, I feel bad. Why? Because I didn’t plan anything that my husband wanted to do. He’s resorted to his weekend following the crazy schedule of a million ‘activities” that I felt so inclined that we do.

I realized, this was my way of compensating. I was compensating for what I felt I was not giving Everly during the week. I was the militant mom who had a rushed schedule of school drop-off, work, ballet, and swim. I was a no-nonsense, do-not-have-time for dilly-dallying kind-of-mom. So when I had long weekends (or any weekend), I felt the need to make up for that crazy part of me.

I needed to give Everly experiences. But in the process of this, I stressed myself out and over-stimulated her. My husband? He was bored.

And ME? You guessed it…MORE MOM GUILT.

I ended up exhausted. Those jam-packed activities were not so fun for Everly. Of course, I, then, felt bad that she wasn’t having fun. I put myself in the same bad position every time. I was rushed trying to get from one thing to another. It wasn’t worth it anymore…for ANYONE. I’ve now learned, to take these weekends back.

So what are we doing this weekend? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. And I am okay with that. Being bored is a part of life. Being together to be forced to talk about things you don’t usually get to with your husband is important.

Most importantly, I realized these long weekends are not just for Everly. They are for Justin and me. I am going to let Everly run around in the park while I sit on a blanket and reconnect with my husband. We’re going to cook dinner together. We’re going to have coffee together. Most importantly, we’re going to be rested.

And when we’re rested as a family, and I actually get a chance to spend real, undiluted quality time with my husband (not just Everly). This can still be one of the best experiences Everly can have…watching the relationship of her mom and dad, when things are ordinary.

Things don’t have to be exciting. The calm can teach just as much as the storm of activities. So here’s a reminder to all your parents, who might have struggled with the same over-scheduling habits as me.

If you need a little inspiration for some awesome Staycation ideas, I love this list from Social Mom:

1. Choose Your Fabulous Staycation Destination and Plan Your Itinerary

Use this staycation as an excuse to try out all the spots you’ve been wanting to check out in your own hometown: the new park you haven’t yet visited, the hot new restaurant everyone’s raving about, or even the small museum you’ve been meaning to show the kids. Hold a family meeting and pick some sites you all want to visit, or new activities you want to try. Add them all to your staycation travel itinerary.

2. Transform Your Home into a Hotel

Add a little extra staycation oomph by transforming your home into a hotel. The day before your “departure”, do a deep clean, stock up on minibar-style snacks, and add an extra new little touch to every room (think fresh flowers, a new throw pillow, decorative soaps, or a summer vacation read). Assign the task of turndown service to one kid each day and have some mini-chocolates ready for pillow placement.

Adventuresome families can forget the home hotel and borrow or buy a tent for a campout in the wilds of … the backyard!

3. Spend Time at a Local Swimming Pool or Beach

Ask any kid what their favorite part of staying at a hotel is and they’re bound to reply, “the swimming pool!” Plan on spending some time during your staycation at a new-to-you local swimming pool, water park, or beach. Invest in a few pool toys from your local dollar store to make your staycation swim time all the merrier.

4. Document Your Trip

Just because you aren’t jetting off to a far away destination doesn’t mean you should forgo photos. Take your camera with you where ever you go, and snap lots of shots. Get each of your kids a spiral notebook and encourage them to keep staycation diaries. For each day of your staycation, encourage you kids to write about or draw a picture of their favorite activity.

5. Enjoy the moment

Be mindful on your staycation and focus on finding the joy right before your eyes. Put your phone away, take a social media break, and savor the simple moments with your little ones. Your kids will treasure uninterrupted time with you, no matter the travel destination.

Check out their blog here: https://www.socialmoms.com/live/travel-2/5-simple-steps-to-planning-the-perfect-summer-family-staycation/

Have a staycation. Take this weekend for yourself, and you’ll be surprised just how much your kids enjoy the simple pleasure of being with you.

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Fall vs. Halloween Decor: Who wins? And $5 Finds

It is officially Fall! My daughter and I were making our daily walk around the neighborhood when I noticed pumpkins and Halloween decorations everywhere. One of my favorite things about the last quarter of the year are these decorations, but I always have an internal debate. Do I decorate for Fall or do I decorate for Halloween?

Unlike probably most people, I am NOT very good at doing a subtle mix of Halloween and Fall. I am an all or nothing kind of girl. So I naively went to Target to see if I could gain some inspiration, regardless of my husband telling me that “Halloween decorations are the worst ‘investment’ you can make.” Yes…he is dead serious when he says that.

My response? The return on investment with the amount of joy it brings me to frivously purchase decoration that will be used for a month or two is invaluable!

Two hours later at Target, with absolutely no supervision…

The result?
Target: 1
Me: 0

There’s no such thing as too many pumpkins right? Well…Target made the decision for me, and our household officially picked Fall for the MAJORITY of the house instead of Halloween. I figured my Fall decor would be a lot less of a hassle for the Holidays too since I can keep them up till Thanksgiving. Here’s some of the results of what I did after raiding Target, and MOST of the SPOT.

Yes, most of these items were UNDER $5.

Love this double sign! Behind it, it says Home Sweet Home, so it doubles for Fall and the rest of the year. These sweet little pumpkins were only $1.

I also found this cute little letter board $5 that ome with a limited amount of letters. These items were perfect for my little kitchen corner nooks.

Target: Pumpkins!

The Target Spot had larger fabric pumpkins as well to add some size variations. These were only $3. I paired this with another small pumkpin, stuck it on the top of a candle holder with a tray including a bowl of pumpkin pretzels!

I also found a great 2-pack of art for $3. This MEET ME AT THE PUMPKIN PATCH came with another cute little framed word art piece that says “I am so glad there are Octobers.”

I went crazy for these cute little cornucopias for $3. I purchased some fake “weed” for $1 and two bags for $3 which came with an assortment of artificial mini squash and corn. I added a small artificial Fall-esque flower in a vase behind it which worked well for my dash of Fall in that dining room.

I probably could have done way more damage, but sometimes these little touches of Fall is all we need. Right?

Well…okay, I lied. We kept a little bit of Halloween as to not completely miss it :)…but we left it in the backyard.

Cobwebs and left over Halloween decor couldn’t go to waste!

What do you do for the Fall Season? Do you do Halloween or Fall? Or both? Comment, Share and Subscribe!

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5 Last-Minute Unique Toddler Costumes

Here’s a fun little post to break up your day with some Halloween cheer and complete toddler cuteness. I have to admit, I am (at times) the hot mess mom that does not have a costume till the very last minute and doesn’t have the cool Halloween giveaway treats for the class. I am lucky if I ever make the Halloween parade at school.

This year, in my attempts to find better balance, I promised that I would be ahead of the game – or at least not buying from the 10 costumes left in the clearance rack at Target while my daughter cries because the princess costume she wanted was all sold out. So here’s a little nudge and fun read to everyone that Halloween is right around the corner.

I’m often bored about the same old cartoon-inspired or Disney costumes. (Although – let’s be real, my daughter will probably still be a Disney Princess.) So I decided to do some recon, and here are the top 5 unique toddler costumes that spoke to me that I feel you could desparately put together with something in your closet. Well…here’s a blog post for you…the moms like me, who had to put together a last minute costume. Check these out for some inspiration!

  1. Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hephburn – Feel free to laugh, but a last minute mom sees black and white sheets, over-sized glasses, and a pearl necklace. DONE!
IMAGE CREDIT: UNKNOWN

2. FLO – from Progressive – I love this, but even easier…white everything, blue headband, and a heart sticker with some red lipstick. HELL YA!

IMAGE CREDIT: Tatoki

3. Peewee Herman – I don’t have a boy, but I feel if I did, I would totally have a suit laying around…no? yes? Am I crazy?

IMAGE CREDIT: SimplyRealMoms.com

4. A League of Their Own – Here I see a red hat with a big R made out of construction paper, a pink dress with lots of stickers as patches, red socks and a belt. DONZO!

IMAGE CREDIT: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51uvNmKUffL.jpg

AND THE WINNER IS….

5. Hot Mess Mom – This would be my preference if my daughter wouold ever let me. LOL Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner, I know every mom has every piece of this costume.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! From my crazy mom life to yours. Hope your cups are filled with wine and your kids sugar crashed by 8 pm.

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Mental Check Days ARE Parenting Hacks too

I’m late to the game here on the topic of Mental Health. It’s been a big topic the last few years, and it’s never meant so much more to me than after I became a mom. From all the stages we could go through as a mom, postpardum depression, mom guilt, to just plain, “I don’t know what the f*ck” to do moments,” I found myself in mounds of stress and very little sleep.

If you already know our story (like many others), we work a lot, at times, too much. And when I mean by too much, it’s the point where work or EVERYTHING else has grown into some obligatory priority that starts to impact your livelihood as a person, your relationships personally and with your family. The last few years have been that exactly. At some point, I didn’t know how to separate my life from my work. I was taking conference calls from birthday parties. I never let go of my laptop or shut it off while on vacation. I held my phone at all times anticipating whatever I was working on. And you guessed it! That went from annoying my family, to really pissing them off.

At some point in this journey, my marriage was greatly impacted, and my daughter was too accustomed to me being gone than I was comfortable with. Most importantly, I lost myself. Before working motherhood, I found time to cook, eat right, work out, and find time with my friends. Post motherhood and fast forward 2 years after having Everly, I went from working out nearly every day and playing competitive volleyball to sitting on my @ss, completely tired and barely finding the time to make dinner.

I never went back to my pre-baby weight. I never felt the same way. I lost confidence in wearing ‘nice things.’ I was too tired to do anything fun, and I gave up on my social life. I convinced myself that my true purpose was to make everything I could and provide money to fund my family life, and that later in the future is when I would get my time to rest.

Whoever said, “We will sleep when we die” maybe didn’t realize that doing that would send you to the grave ALONE, and FASTER.

THEN A MOMENT HIT ME…

I had attended a women’s conference, happily funded by my company (very awesome). It was meant to be career development focused for leaders, but I attended a session about prioritization. There were 30 women in the room. We were first handed a sheet of paper and given 10 minutes to write down everyone we take care of. I was certain I had it accurate. If anything, I started to feel bad thinking, “wow, do I take care of ENOUGH people?”

The instructor begins with, please raise your hand if you wrote down yourself on your list. I was thinking, “oh…wow, I definitely did not.” I looked around the room, and ONE WOMAN had raised her hand. ONE WOMAN out of 30 made a realization that she takes care of herself! The rest of us commiserated about how we definitely don’t do that.

That was a wake up call for me to focus on self care, and since that conference, I have tried very hard to provide myself the self care I need to sufficiently and happily take care of my family. No one likes a grumpy mom. NO ONE.

Now, I want to bring this back to mental checks. The thing I had to realize is that mental checks don’t have to be negative, dramatic, or dire. I definitely don’t undermine diagnosis of depression, etc…, but my point is it’s okay to take a mental check for self-care when you start to feel like you are losing yourself. You don’t need to be depressed or anxious to realize you need to check yourself.

Waiting till you hit the bottom is like saying you aren’t going to have eat because you haven’t yet felt your insides trying to eat itself. For godsakes mamas, let’s FEED OURSELVES! We deserve it mentally. Don’t let any guilt take that away from you.

THE PROOF

Coincidentally, I came across an article on mental health days by U.S. News who reference Alison Ross. Alison Ross, a psychologist in New York City and an adjunct associate professor of psychology at City College of New York defines self-care as “taking a few moments on a regular basis to check in with oneself, to take stock of how they’re doing emotionally and physically. Are they exhausted? Overwhelmed? Burned-out? Completely depleted? Many people don’t do this in an ongoing way; they just go, go, go with regards to their work life and their home life, and this contributes to feelings of unhappiness, resentment and a sense of hopelessness about being on an endless treadmill they can’t get off of.” Ross encourages everyone to carve out “me time” that includes taking time to do something pleasurable. “This can include taking a mental health day off from their job,” she says.

– U.S News
I am purposely not looking at the camera because it annoys my husband.

And that’s what I did. That’s what I DO. This is the 3rd mental check day I’ve taken this year. The last few months I focused hard on work. I found myself slowing losing sleep. I was getting overly anxious with my travel schedule (I am going to be gone for 6 weeks straight in October). It was time for a mental check day. Today is about me. My daughter still went to school. I had coffee, I wrote, I am going to take a drive. At the end of it, I am going to feel refreshed. I will be more productive and patient than I was last week.

Here’s a reminder to you that you CAN take a mental health check day. Feed yourselves parents!

Tag, Share, Comment! Share this with a friend who may need it!

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Put Your Toddler to Work with 5 Toddler-Friendly Chores

Chores. There’s always more to do, and there’s always something to do. You see, I work from home. When I’m not traveling, I’m usually in my office, in front of a computer, on a WebEx also slightly annoyed or distracted by the fact that the kitchen is filthy and the laundry is not done.

(I literally stopped writing for 5 mins as I wrote the last sentence to put laundry in the wash, because I realized it would bother me.) Anyways, back to this blog.

I don’t know how we manage to do this, but even though we do get house-cleaning every two weeks, it takes us only 24 hours to absolutely ruin the place again (Dirty dishes in the sink and a million shoes stacked in the front entry way and on the stairs). During the weekday, my husband also has a 4 hour round-trip commute (yes, 4-hours in car and on the train to get to work which is another story) and is not around for the morning and typically not home till around bed time. This means the mess and dinner, are usually my responsibility and my annoyance.

This probably sounds like a story most of you have: Rush out the door, leave breakfast dishes in the sink, drop off your kid to school, start work, end work, and simultaneously cook dinner, watch your kid, and clean the mess that’s bothering you, while also trying to do the laundry, just in time to put your child down to bed at 7 pm. Which usually leaves me like this by the time my husband comes home

I felt like I was ALWAYS cleaning, and again, doing something completely separate from my daughter. I felt the guilt of ignoring her, and not giving her the full attention she deserved…not to mention the learning opportunities. So one day, I decided to talk to her about what I was doing while I was cleaning the kitchen, and why I was doing it.

Next thing you know, she says, “I want to help mama.”

And why not? I realized she is not really a “baby-baby” anymore (sobbing inside). She’s developing her independence at this age, both emotionally and physically. That’s what prompted me to start making some of our family chores more inclusive and use them as opportunities to teach her that we all help each other. (Not to mention, allow me to get some small help). Everly also does receive an allowance at the end of every week of 25 cents, which she knows is dependent on her completing her chores. She’s not used the money for anything, but does find joy in putting it in her piggy bank!

Here’s the top (non-exhausting) 5 Chores for Toddlers:

1) Sorting the Laundry

Every week, we do the laundry together. I dump out the clothes from our hampers on the floor, and I review with her the difference between “colors” and “whites.” She then digs through the laundry and puts them in two perfect piles for me. She is amazing at this. I had to check her for the first couple of times, but this was a perfect task for a toddler. TIP: It’s always good to explain the rules of the game every time to avoid confusion. Also, don’t leave them to do it on their own, but do something in parallel or help.

2) Putting all the front door shoe clutter away

I know some of you have this problem. The infamous front entry way or the stairway, cluttered with shoes and dirty socks from everyone in your family walking in and getting comfortable. For some reason, the stairs is a perfect catch all for sitting and leaving sh*t on. (*clink* – the sound of me adding to the swear jar). This was another awesome way to get Everly to MOVE and have a mission critical task – To bring her shoes into her closet (and into her bin) and to bring our shoes to our closet. It’s another great sorting chore, and one she especially loves when there’s a race – or if we’re racing!

3) Watering the plants

Watering the plants is by far, one of Everly’s FAVORITE chores. We have a few plants in the garden in our backyard that need watering, daily. If you haven’t fancied-it up with an irrigation system for all your plants, this is a great toddler-friendly chore. You can easily get a toddler-sized watering can from Amazon, and let her help you nurture your garden. It’s an opportunity for you to do something outside together and also teach her about the care of plants and living things.

4) Cleaning up after eating

This might not save you much work, but it does teach a toddler independence. Everly finds pride in showing me that she’s done with her food and will then slowly take her plate and utensils to the sink for me to wash later. You can also encourage your toddler to look for the napkins on the table to put them in the trash (if it’s accessible). I know many Montessori schools already emphasize this clean-up practice after eating, so why not emphasize it at home?

5) Clean out the backpack

When I pick up Everly from school, it’s usually packed with random napkins, leftovers from school, loose paper, and spare clothes. It usually needs to be emptied in some capacity. This is another really great help to me, and wonderful way for Everly to take responsibility for her things while learning about “sequence.” She takes out the items in her backpack. She does 3 things: 1) Throws away the loose papers 2) Empties out her lunch box (putting her bento box into the sink) and 3) puts the ice pack back into the freezer.

Whatever chores might be piling up on your to do list, think about which ones could be toddler-friendly for your family. Whether it’s any of these above, or others like feeding the dog, the types of chores that have worked best for us have been sorting, clutter-removal, or destination-driven tasks (i.e giving an item to my husband upstairs).

We hope you enjoyed our list of chores! We also always love to hear more of what chores work for your toddlers. Share them in the comments!

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Creating a Toddler-Proof Calm Box

If you have a toddler, you’ve at some point experienced the infamous tantrum.

tan·trum

/ˈtantrəm/ noun

an uncontrolled outburst of anger and frustration, typically in a young child.

It has the simplest definition, that can have the most complicated and emotionally draining side effects.  They can be big, or small. They can happen in the middle of a crowded restaurant because you ordered apple juice instead of lemonade.  Or maybe it happens in the comfort of your own home as your toddler’s upset because you told them it was time to eat lunch. Or these wonderful events may occur while at someone else’s house where you have to quietly walk outside because you told them they couldn’t have any Swedish Fish.

The point is, most toddlers have an inside banche waiting to come out.  And if you have a toddler, and have never had a meltdown, please write a book about how you managed to do that, and teach me.  I would be willing to sell my soul for it.

Tantrums and meltdowns are the most draining parts of being a mom (for me).  Most of the time, I don’t mind the constant clean up or the constrained schedules of nap and bedtime, but the irrational tantrums that I can NOT remedy with pure logic, is the bain of my existence.  Many times, I’m pretty sure I look at my husband and say, “I think I’m not built to be a mom.” Everly is already a very vocal and strong willed little girl. For the most part, she is excellent at accepting the word, “NO,” but when her inner banche is unleashed, it’s a true live emergency.  There are loud noises, screaming, casualties, and running, all from a small ticking time bomb.  

Most of the time, we have to wait it out, but sometimes the wait is too long.  Sometimes we don’t have the luxury of waiting when you are in a public place. I searched online for different methods, looked in my mommy groups, and this idea of a “calm box.” had come up a few times.  It seemed too easy, but I thought I would give it a try.


What is a calm box?

The objective of a Calm Box is to encourage a child to take time, use some tools within the box to self-regulate and calm down their feelings of intense anger or emotion.    I found these boxes are sold in a lot of places (For adults and children). But these can also be made in very inexpensive ways through sensory tools and activities that you can create for your toddler. 

I personally love having a mix of both consistent activities/physical motions that my daughter can do to calm herself, and pair them with something that is sensory.  


Here are the 5 different activities/exercises that we usually use when Everly throws her fit:

  1. Smell the flower and blow out the candle.  When she’s throwing her fit, I’ll hold an imaginary flower towards her, and ask her to smell the flower.  To get her to exhale big, I hold up 2 fingers and tell her to blow out those candles. I repeat until she’s calmed down.
  2. Put your hands in the air and breathe.  Sometimes physically showing them to put their hands in the air is a small enough distraction to redirect emotions.
  3. Touch your toes.  Same as above.
  4. Count my fingers.  This encourages a pause from the situation by counting to 10.  
  5. Hold their hand on your chest while you hum.  This sounds odd, but it’s part activity distraction and part sensory.  Hum a calming tune your toddler will respond to, and they feel the vibration from your throat or chest which can be calming.  If they’re able to, have them do this on their own.

On the sensory side, Lemon Lime Adventures has a great post about sensory hacks specifically for an angry child.  Dayna is a National Board Certified teacher with Early Child Development background.  I admired her story of parenting and the methods she used for her son who was diagnosed with SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder).  She talks about how sensory is part of her child’s frustration and anger, and shared some really great sensory hacks posted below that I think are great additions to a calm box:

  1. Use glitter glue to make these Lego Calm Down Jars. Simply shake and wait for the calming to begin.
  2. Making worry stones for children to use when they are feeling nervous or anxious. Great to use in the car, at a desk or on the go.
  3. These DIY stress relievers are a great hack to creating your own squeezy tool. Have kids squeeze and take out their anger on these instead of hitting or pushing others.
  4. Make a Mermaid Fabric Weighted Lap Pad for your child give them some deep pressure and a fun sensory lap pad!
  5. 2 simple ingredients will help you make DIY Squeeze Balls for your child to use anytime they are angry. Squeezing the balloons helps provide proprioceptive input and organizes their sensory system.
  6. Make a DIY Squoosh Box out of a cardboard box to give your child somewhere to calm down.
  7. If you are looking for something to have on hand at all times, you can put together an anti-anxiety kit  complete with essential oils, songs, and stress balls.
  8. Make a fire-breathing dragon out of a simple cup to practice calming breathes.
  9. A DIY Crash Pad is a fantastic place for your angry child to thrash and bang around without hurting them or anyone else.
  10. Use ice cubes to create these awesome calm down cubes for your classroom.
  11. Use pillows or stuffed animals to make a pillow cave to provide joint compression to help your child organize their nervous system while calming down.

READ HER FULL STORY HERE: https://lemonlimeadventures.com/sensory-hacks-calm-an-angry-child/

Will this work for every child?  NO. Every child is different. Every child responds to things differently.  If anything, we hope this gives you some inspiration, on other methods for calming your child’s emotions.  Whether it’s a calm box, a time-out, time alone, or whatever, find what works for you!

Share your stories and successes with the community.  

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