Celebrate the Holidays Free of These Gift-Giving Problems

 

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Naturally, the holidays are high-stress and jam-packed with events and gatherings. As they approach, I think of the movie “Four Christmases” and how they juggled four events in one single day. With so many events, the couple agrees to using “mistletoe” as a signal that it is time to leave. At one point, Vince Vaughn’s character, Brad, silently cries in anguish, “Mistletoe!  Mistletoe!” as his overactive adult brothers wrestle him to the ground in a headlock.

Sometimes, thinking of the holidays puts us in a headlock with these biggest holiday gift-giving boundary issues.

Problem: Family Doesn’t Respect Your Rules

It takes a village to raise children, and when some of your village is undermining you with inappropriate gifts (like a mature video game or clothes that are too revealing) it can be frustrating. Most likely, they are not purposefully disrespecting you, however it still requires some parental maneuvering.

Solution: Communicate With Your Kids

Throughout the year, have discussions about gracious way to accept unwanted gifts or gifts that are not allowed. The best way to do this is to explain to your children your reasoning. You can say, “I know that Uncle Paul plays some intense games that we don’t allow you to have.  We really feel that those games aren’t good for you.  If Uncle Paul gives you a game at Christmas that’s rated as Mature, you need to know that we will have to exchange it for a more appropriate game.”

It’s also important your child knows how to accept these gifts without making a scene, lying, or making the gift-giver feel bad.  You can coach your child to say something like, “Wow!  I don’t have this one yet!” or “Thank you for taking the time to think of me.”

Problem: Value Inequality

It happens all the time at gatherings and it is easily one  of the quickest ways to alienate adults. Someone buys very extravagant gifts, making other family members feel inferior. What if Aunt Laura brings in a new American Girl doll with all of the accessories, but Aunt Britney can only afford a few Shopkins?  

I spoke to a dear friend who explained it like this:  “I know that giving nice gifts sometimes bothers others in my family, but I don’t actually do it to show off.  I do it because I remember how it felt as a kid to see my parents fail to plan for the holidays.  I was so embarrassed to exchange a last-minute bag of holiday cookies from Kroger with someone who had obviously put a lot of thought and care into a gift for me.”  

Solution: Be Empathetic

Consider that Aunt Laura may have reasons for her extravagance other than showing off:  desire to please, fear of rejection, insecurity, or even a heartfelt desire to show her thanks and love with the nicest gift she can afford.  Changing your mindset and understanding other reasoning helps you accept this other person’s gifts without tying in your own feelings of worth.

If you notice an offended gifter, talk with them privately and say something like, “I know Laura always seems to bring these huge gifts, but I want you to know that it says nothing about how much you love us or we love you.  Gifts are just a token, but the real treasure is having you in our lives.”

Problem: Present Inequality

There’s always the perfect gift giver – the one person who always has the right gift picked out for your child, leaving your child unimpressed by their other gifts.  If Granny gives your child a new Paw Patrol set, but Nana brings a bag of organic wooden blocks, there’s bound to be a wildly different response from your kids.  

Solution: Gratitude Coaching

Preparing your children ahead of time is key.  Explain to your children that they will most likely get some amazing gifts and some mediocre gifts. Talk about this scenario in reverse, emphasizing gratitude for the intent instead of the actual gift:  “What if you spent hours making Nana a beautiful painting and she merely responded, ‘Thanks’ but then she gushed over a new car that I bought her?  You’d feel pretty sad, right?”  This encourages your child to graciously accept every gift he or she receives.

Be sure to discuss duplicate gifts, as well. Often kids will receive the same gift and blurt out, “I already have this!” Encouraging gratitude for the intent will save your children from offending other family members.

The holidays are stressful enough without adding in the dilemmas that gift giving and receiving can cause. Communication will be your saving grace.

Celeste CoffmanCeleste Coffman is a Licensed Professional Counselor and owner of the Quiet Mind Collective. Read her blog for more tips on managing stress and anxiety, or become a registered member to access videos, resources, and more detailed articles. Sign up for her next course Parenting Anxious Kids.

Moms, This Christmas Season Take a Day Off

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You may have noticed I missed my usual Friday Favorites post. I’ll save that post for later. Right now I want to tell you about my weekend.

I didn’t get to post anything on Friday because I was so rushed trying to make too many things happen. I wanted to surprise my kids with some special elves, I was finishing up a power point presentation and delivering collection boxes for Christmas cards for my card charity. Plus, I had the usual list of household demands to finish up. I was completely overwhelmed by baking cookies for my kids birthday (twins in two different classrooms = double the birthday treats), piecing together costumes for dress up day, meal planning, blog planning and figuring out who needed clean socks. Life.

I decided to take a day off. I needed to breathe.

My husband can’t read my mind and recognize when I’m on overload and my thoughts are spinning over and and over, obsessing about how to make it all work. I have to say out loud, “I need a day off.” I declared Sunday as my day. No cooking, cleaning, planning or prepping. I enjoyed doing things I like. I am a Christmas fool. I love, love, love everything about this season. But, having to plan things with the kids who just (by nature) complain, or melt down, or cry because our activity didn’t meet their expectations really makes my holiday feel a less joyful.

Instead of shoving everyone into winter coats and mittens and loading into the car to go caroling at a local nursing home, I went by myself. I love to sing carols and be among the sea of voices bringing cheer to life. Last year it was a debacle with kids crying because it was too loud, it was too crowded. They were fighting over the instruments and every half hour one or both of them needed to use the bathroom. This year was fabulous. I got to hold cute babies who were excited to see me. I finished entire songs and most importantly I got to feel recharged by joy. It was wonderful!

After caroling I stopped by Starbucks to grab a peppermint hot chocolate and a Christmas cookie. Oh. My. Word. Do these things just taste so much better without a kid climbing on me, or screaming in my ear?!! YES! I love sharing cookies and cocoa with my kids, but it is hard to enjoy all of it when it is a chore to get through.

My day ended with an aerial yoga class and dinner with my dear friend (and now famous) Erica. Spending time doing something fun with a friend and talking about life, not just mom life, was exactly what I needed. Taking time to relax in a hectically paced season helps me appreciate the small moments that happen in a day. The sweetness of a cookie, the warmth of cocoa and the light of friendship. Not to mention all the laughter while trying to get myself into a hanging yoga position. All joy filled things to help me slow down and cherish life one moment at a time.

So if you are stressing out about how to get everything done right now, press the pause button. Take time to recharge. Take the day off and spend it the way you want to, or ask a friend to watch the kids while you grab a coffee and walk through the most expensive stores with the most fragile, beautiful things. I promise everything will be waiting for you when you get back! The earth will still be spinning if you don’t finish your to-do list. If you are a new mom, take time. If you are a seasoned mom, take time. You are worth it!

How do you find joy for yourself during the holiday (rush) season?

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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3 Simple Christmas Traditions for Young Families

Christmas can be such a stressful time of year for most folks. But add to that sleepless nights, colds, teething, temper tantrums and just trying to keep your kid from knocking over the Christmas tree you worked so hard to put up, and you’ve got the perfect storm for a holiday that isn’t any fun.  Well, since I started reading The Whatever Mom (Roxanne is my mama spirit animal), I’ve come to the conclusion that often less is more. My main goal with motherhood is to keep my sanity and have kids who are happy and healthy.  Here are 3 things we do at our house to simplify Christmas with our 17 month old, while still making it memorable and fun for our family, and something we can look back on fondly.

Holiday Traditions

For our family, the easiest way to guarantee fun each year and make the holiday special is to start a family tradition (or two). It doesn’t have to be anything complicated.  We use a fun little Christmas plate for meals starting the day after Thanksgiving and we break out the advent calendar.  Not a lot of work to grab these two out of our attic and they’re so cute in pictures each day.  Here’s one of our banana and pancake breakfast this morning!  

lukes-breakfast

You can find similar plates just about anywhere.  I believe we got this one from the dollar section at Target, but if you shop online you can have it shipped directly to you and you don’t even have to leave your house. (See shopping links below).

We also like to use an advent calendar to count down until Christmas.  It makes for a fun little daily tradition and cute pictures too! Here’s one from Pottery Barn, which holds up great, but if that’s not in your budget this year, you can make a paper chain or coloring chart, or look for one that’s half off at the end of the season!

advent-calendar-pottery-barn-kids

No Fuss Decorations

When you have young kids, they want to touch and hold and play with e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. So put away the $100 crystal ornament you inherited from your great grandmother; and the sentimental (breakable) ornaments you got the first year you were married. Instead, fill in those spaces with some fun ornaments your kids help you make.  It will give them hours (or at least several minutes) of fun and they will have keepsakes they can take with them some day.  Most craft stores have little wooden ones for a dollar or two that can be colored-in with markers.  If you’re really brave, you can even get out the paint!

wood-ornaments

Plan Ahead

Making a plan may sound like work, but it can actually give you peace and sanity this time of year.  Talk with your husband (or co-parent) and your kids (if they’re old enough) about what activities are most important to them.  Then, make a list of 3-4 activities that you know are doable, and make a plan to do just those activities.  You might be surprised what means the most to you and your family.   

Our list typically looks something like this:

  1. Set up Christmas Decoration
  2. Take Family Photos for Christmas Cards
  3. Visit the trains at the mall (They have an Amazing electric train display at our mall, that our little guy LOVE to go see).
  4. Make cookies
  5. Go look at Christmas lights

The great thing about planning ahead, is now we don’t have to think about what we want to do and no one is left feeling like they didn’t get to do what they wanted.  As an added bonus, if things don’t go exactly as planned, it’s OK!  Didn’t get a chance to make cookies? That’s OK! We’ll buy some festive ones from the store or local bakery.  Our little guy got sick last year during the week of Christmas and we opted not to take him out to look at Christmas lights, but we’re hoping to this year!

Spending time with each other is the most important thing this time of year so make sure to carve out a little time to relax, drink some cocoa, enjoy some wrestle snuggle time and watch a Christmas movie or two.  You’ll be glad you didn’t overwhelm yourself with a huge to-do list this year!

peter-and-rosieRosie Bynum is a boy mom and owner of The Dinosaur Clothing Boutique. Her son Luke and husband Peter help her run the family business. Check out all the adorable creations on her website, Facebook and Instagram.


Friday Favorites- Behind the Scenes Moana Junket

I am sorry to disappoint…I did not get a personal behind the scenes look at the new Disney movie Moana. But, I want to share with all of you my most amazing friend, Erica. She traveled to L.A. to be a fly on the wall during a press junket for Moana. She also got to meet two men she completely idolizes and she shares that experience with the rest of us!

I first met Erica on Facebook in a local moms group. Our little group was supportive and we helped each other through the rough days, and the challenges of making this mom thing work. Our group also met once a month for moms night out. It was something we always looked forward to!

Anyway, my friend Gloria was about to have her second baby and I was rounding up some meals for her freezer; Erica volunteered to deliver one during one of our moms nights. I didn’t know then we’d be friends today mostly because I thought, “my gosh she is too interesting to want to be my friend.” It turns out she is one of my biggest fans and has encouraged me so much over the years. She taught me that it’s OK to take care of my own needs as a mom, and it’s OK to have bad days. That alone was the start of me letting go of perfection. I’ve learned to connect with my own emotions better and my kids emotions too. As my friend Gloria puts it, “Erica is a walking heart.” Erica told me I could and I should flex my writing muscles. Except for my mom, no one has ever believed in me the way Erica does. She taught me how to lift up other moms, and because of her I now have all of you.

Erica and I share a mutual love for Dwayne the Rock Johnson, but my love for him pales in her admiration for him. She keeps a small action figure of “The Rock” with her during chemo treatments and on her difficult days he is “there” to encourage her. I have watched Erica’s obsession for Hamilton bloom over the last year and heard her share how the lyrics and the music keep her going after painful surgery and on bad days. The first time I watched the video of her meeting with BOTH of these dudes, I literally jumped out of my chair and started dancing, clapping and sobbing great big tears of joy! I wasn’t even jealous that she hugged The Rock, or stood that close to the sexiest man alive. I was just so overjoyed for her. And then I was overjoyed for Dwayne Johnson and Lin Manuel Miranda because they got to experience Erica. Every conversation with Erica leaves you feeling like you just won some sort of prize. She can see all your good qualities and will then tell you every one of them. How does she do that? Seriously!?

I could write a whole lot more about Erica and how awesome she is. Thankfully, you can witness it yourself in her video! This is Erica, my friend filled with light and joy and beauty. #estrong #headonheartstrong

 

 

Erica is also a very talented writer! She writes for some of our local publications and keeps families informed on the latest fun things to do in our community. You can read the article she published for Fandango about her experience here. And this article, also for Fandango, discussing the upcoming movie Moana.

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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4 Low Budget Almost Handmade Holiday Gifts

Quasi Handmade Gifts

I have vivid memories of the closet in the extra bedroom of the house I grew up in. The best stuff was shoved way to the back corner on the floor, occupying the oldest stratigraphic layers of closet geologic time: my mom’s forgotten Christmas craft supplies. Two file boxes full of that weird crunchy florist ribbon, decaying foam wreath forms, stapled baggies filled with sequins… like manna from heaven.

Fast-forward to my own life as a mom: I’ve never given up on the dream of a handmade Christmas, though my standards have relaxed in the wake of having two children in 18 months. My life is nuts, the holidays sometimes give me an anxiety rash, and I’m not particularly good at juggling very many things at once. As such, I bring you:

Ideas for A (Quasi) Handmade Holiday

Fabric Napkins

I’m usually a booze-as-a-gift sort of person – but grad school yielded more friendships than I could afford to buy Frangelico gift sets for. So I sleuthed out everyone’s general decor palettes and got to work hemming quilting cotton into 12” x 18” rectangles. The shape required less fabric than a traditional 18” square napkin (cheap), and using highly patterned quilting cotton meant you could stain it up pretty badly before it looked too gnarly (easy care). And they don’t require ironing – just fold them up however you like directly out of the dryer and they look great. You don’t even need to hem them if that’s too much of a pain, just zig-zag stitch around the edges and allow them to fray as they wear. I still see those cloth napkins on occasion when I visit my friends. At least the smart ones who put them out when I come over.

Whipped Shea Butter

I went through a phase making handcrafted all-natural lotions and ablutions… before husband. Before children. Back when my thoughts and bathroom time were my own. The biggest hit with everyone was also the easiest to make: whipped shea butter. Throw a bunch of shea butter (I buy mine on Amazon), and whatever smelly stuff you like (maybe essential oils from your Young Living friend who won’t shut up about the soles of her family’s feet) into a stand mixer and beat it into oblivion. Seriously, cue up something captivating on YouTube, because you’re going to be there a while. Whip until fluffy like frosting and pipe into clean jars (go with small mason jars if you want to destroy your girlfriends’ dreams for the title of DIY Goddess). Slap on a label from some super cute shop on Etsy if you’re an overachiever, or with a Sharpie and a prayer if you’re me. Lob them at your friends on Christmas Eve and say, “You’re welcome.”

Flavored Spirits

As I mentioned earlier, I am a booze-gifter. Mostly because it’s a guaranteed crowd-pleaser in the circles I frequent (read: my family). But gift-grade alcohol can be pricey and it’s completely weird to buy it in bulk and present it in unmarked containers. Unless it’s a Handmade Gift™. Enter flavored spirits. Fill well-scrubbed decorative bottles a quarter to halfway with fruits, herbs, whole spices, even tea leaves or coffee beans. (Shop thrift stores or off-price retailers for bottles and sanitize with a powdered oxygen brewer’s wash like PBW). Buy decent but inexpensive liquor in the giant bottles (you don’t care what those other shoppers think) and decant into your prepared bottles. Try flavor combos like Earl Grey and gin, vanilla bean and bourbon, or peppercorn/dill/celery seed and vodka for Bloody Marys. Sharpie the contents onto the bottle with a shaky hand, then eyeball the recipient until they cave and share with you. Happy Hanukkah!  

Homemade Granola

I know. I don’t entirely understand why, but people LOVE this stuff. That’s a lie. I do understand. It tastes way better than store-bought. You can customize it however you want. It looks great in a cellophane bag tied with jute, or burlap, or gingham, or whatever rustic expression you feel really drives home that you slaved in a kitchen to express your love for the recipient (or slay your Pinterest posse and use swing top bale jars. Mic drop.). And it’s a breeze to make. Hit up Uncle Google for specific recipes, but granola is basically a bunch of shelf-stable fruits, nuts, seeds, and grains mixed to whatever proportions you like, bound together loosely with sweeteners and oils, flavored with herbs and spices for unexpected panache, and baked to a satisfying crunch that can withstand milk or stand alone.

And there you have it: ideas for a handmade holiday. I will be presenting store-bought pie for Christmas dinner, and there will be no cranberry-and-popcorn garland on my tree, nor evergreen bough wreath on my door – because who has time between hauling the 4-year-old from the top shelf of the linen closet for the hundredth time and yelling at the dog to stop eating her own poop? But one or two lazy little projects will scratch that DIY itch. Even better, amid the chaos that can sometimes overwhelm us at the holidays, I’ll be able to flex my creative muscles a bit and my kids will witness me making things with my hands that are beautiful or delicious (or inebriating), that make others happy. And that is pretty fabulous.

marenMaren is a dedicated coffee-drinker, sewist, survivor of the 2-Boys-Under-Two Club, and master Lego builder. She loves Netflix bingeing, beer, and talking about eating bacon all the time but not actually doing it. Because heart attacks. She writes in the key of sailor whenever the spirit strikes over at artslostandfound.com

 

 

Friday Favorites- Kid’s Back Packs

Kid Back Packs

Last week I shared with you the mini travel activity pouches we use to keep the kids entertained while out and about. Well, I don’t carry them along in my own bag. In fact, I haven’t carried a diaper bag, or back pack, since my kids were able to walk on their own. Nope. I gave them their own little back packs to carry their own things in. 

My mom gifted my girls with adorable little fuzzy animal back packs. There wasn’t much room, just enough for 2 diapers and a travel pack of wipes and a small snack. I kept a well-stocked diaper bag in my car for back up. My kids carried their own things where ever we were going; play dates, or church, or a restaurant, they carried their own supplies. Once they outgrew the little animal packs we picked up two toddler sized back packs. 

Kids Back Packs What to Carry

Having twins makes it hard to carry a bag (any bag) and carry two kids at the same time. I used a back pack to carry everything in, in the early years but always overloaded the pack and it was such a pain to wear. My kids seemed to enjoy carrying their packs so this worked for us!

Now that we are passed the potty training stage I keep the loaded back packs in the car as back up. I keep a full outfit for each kid (including extra undies- because accidents happen), a package of travel wipes for sticky situations, and their mini activity pouch. They no longer need to carry their packs all the time, but having them close by when we need them is great! 

Kid Back Packs What to Carry

Just thought I’d share this quick tip with you! Maybe your kids are growing up quick, or maybe your tired of carrying all of the stuff. The way I see it, my kids are capable little pack mules that can take care of their own things! Mama has enough to do already! If you are traveling for Thanksgiving, or just to the grocery store giving your kids their own packs to carry helps!

What would you pack for your kids to carry?

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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Holiday Shopping with Groupon Coupons

This is a sponsored post. All honest opinions and experiences are 100% my own. 

the-season-for-saving

A couple of weeks ago I shared my love for saving money by shopping for Groupon Goods. I don’t shop or travel without checking with Groupon first! Now I am ready to try out Groupon Coupons to save even more!

If you are like me, maybe you just started your holiday shopping. I’ll just share my gift giving plan this year. I am planning on buying gifts from local crafty moms because I’ve got zero talent, or time. Also, I am only buying maintenance free gifts because I am tired of picking things up off the floor. How many parents can relate to that?!

I signed an oath upon entering motherhood that makes me obligated to put socks and underwear under the tree. There’s no getting around it! Every mom MUST buy these staple gifts at Christmas! So, I checked out what Groupon Coupons has to offer and of course they have some codes from Hanes! I clicked on the Black Friday deals first to find the most savings. Am I the only mom that gets excited to see mix and match sweats starting at $5.00?

Groupon Coupons

Last year we gave our kids a ridiculous amount of art supplies. We have an entire art cart that is cleaned out by yours truly. So I’m thinking a once a month subscription box from Kiwi Crate will be more manageable! All the art supplies I need for one project!? No storage needed? Easy! Plus, living in the North East we get some crazy cold weather, so having a fun indoor project on hand is a must! Otherwise I have to listen to arguing, or worse…. the theme song to Peg & Cat on continuous loop! Agh!! Thankfully there are 15 coupons for Kiwi Crate alone!

Groupon Coupons

All coupons are verified and you can use them online, or in-store where specified.

Thank you Groupon Coupons for helping me check off two easy (low maintenance) holiday gifts for my kids. You helped me save money and saved me from shopping in stores during the holiday rush! That’s what I like to call more time for wine!!

Have you used Groupon Coupons yet?

 

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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#GrouponCoupons #Ad #Spon

 

I Need You To Know You Are Loved. Always.

you-are-loved-always

When I first began writing this blog two years ago I was still in the throws of learning how to be a mom. I thought sharing the messier parts of our lives would show other moms I wasn’t just another pretty blog. My target mom was (and still is) the one just like me: lonely, afraid and in need of a good friend.

Today’s post (is late because life gets crazy) is written by my good friend Dawn. We met each other as new moms just walking aimlessly around our neighborhood; both pushing our strollers lap after lap trying to find solace. I was trying to make sense of my life as a twin mom and she was trying to process the loss of her mother.

My blog has changed a lot in the last couple of years. New designs, better photos, and I think better writing. What is the same is that I hope my words serve as a beacon for other moms who need to feel connected, and that they can think of me as a friend. I am so grateful to Dawn for sharing this story with us, and for allowing me to find solace in our friendship.

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I still remember the exact words my mother said to me when I told her I was going to have a baby. After an enormous gasp, she shouted into the phone “you better not be lying to me, little girl. You almost gave me a heart attack!” I laughed outwardly, the hyperbolic reaction of a soon to be grandma who had longed for a little one to love, but my insides turned cold.

See, my mom had already had a heart attack and a subsequent quadruple bypass. She had lived with diabetes for over 50 years, and the disease had taken her vision along with her mobility. Simply the passing, joking mention of another possible health disaster, one that could push her over the edge and take her away from me, was too much.

In spite of the fact that she lived four hours away, we talked every day. I rattled off my plans for my pregnancy – prenatal yoga, hypno-birthing classes. She listened to endless descriptions of my ideal birth, in water with no interventions, a soothing playlist to comfort me. Those idealized descriptions were so different from her own real life experiences, but she listened and encouraged and fantasized along with me.

And still, those fantasies were already so different than the ones I had had when I was younger, dreaming about what it would be like to become a mother. In those fantasies, my mom and dad, beaming grandparents, would babysit the precious bundle in my childhood home. My mother would hold my hand as I labored, my father would pat my husband on the back, soothing their joint nerves.

But these dreams were not to be. My father never met my husband because he had died less than a month after my sixteenth birthday. The childhood home was sold soon after, because my mom said it held too many memories before slipping into her own depression.

I allowed myself to indulge in adjusted fantasies, where my mom would come to stay with me and we would beam at the baby together, never mind that she could no longer drive. My heart quietly broke during one of our phone calls when she revealed her own fears, that her vision had diminished so much she would not be able to see the baby.

But! But! When the baby did arrive, my beautiful, sweet, wise, Leo Lennon, my mama moved hell and earth to get a ride here, to come to the hospital and meet her first grandson. She cried and cried, and told me how beautiful he was, and I believed that meant she could see some part of him.

And when she went back home, she never tired of my frantic phone calls. I remember calling her in a tizzy, wondering if it was okay to lie the baby on a blanket while I went to the bathroom so I could actually use the toilet. No matter that she wasn’t there to hold him, she listened, and loved so loudly through the phone and she was there. Always there. Even when I yelled, which I did frequently because I was exhausted since my baby never slept. Even when I told her that her advice was useless, since she had never breastfed a baby. She never got upset. She was always there, always loving, always supporting.

Six months later, though, she wasn’t. Diabetes had caused her organs to fail, and during a Christmas visit to see her grand-baby, she took her final breath.

My guilt about how I had treated her was paralyzing. I wanted to take back every harsh word that had filled the previous months, the previous years. I had squandered the greatest gift in the world by taking her for granted and not appreciating everything she was. The guilt was tangible, a thick wet ball sitting in my chest.

Her last hours showed me the biggest truth about motherhood, though, that none of it mattered. As she lay in a coma, I sat by her side and repeated “I love you” over and over again. She didn’t react at all, until finally I followed one of my repeated “I love you”s with “and I know you love me.” Her chest heaved, she let out a gasp, and her face twisted with what looked like tears. That’s all she cared about at the very end of her life – that I knew I was loved.

Becoming a mom confirmed for me that she was right. As I look at my two sons, my youngest not even conceived before she was gone, I know the only thing that matters ever is that they know they are loved. No matter what, no matter if I am angry or if they are, if they feel like they’ve let me down, if we disagree intensely on an issue, I need them to know none of it matters. They are always loved. Always.

dawn-bio-picDawn Green is an amazingly talented writer and teacher. When she isn’t writing she is hard at work raising two kick-ass kids and teaching them how to save the planet. 

Friday Favorites- Kids Mini Travel Activity Pouch

kids-travel-pouch

I love sharing my favorite products that make my life easier, but with the holiday season upon us I think I’m going to throw in a few of my favorite activities too! This mini travel pouch is one of our favorite things to use to keep ourselves entertained while out to restaurants, in doctors offices, on the train, or any place where waiting is hard. It fits easily into my kids’ back packs, or in the glove box of my car. We carry it everywhere!

We try not to use video games to pass the time unless we have to (because there are times you have to). This is a supeer easy “unplugged” way to engage your kids during down time! We made these to take with us last year when we took our first train ride to NYC. I am so glad we had them for the 45 minute delay!

We fill our mini travel pouches with fun things like little action figures, mini markers and notebooks, stickers, and sometimes I even hide a little treat inside like a chocolate coin or a lollipop in a favorite flavor. Since it is a small travel pouch everything inside is perfectly kid sized.

mini-travel-pouch1

Simply find a pouch small enough to fit in your bag, or car glove box. Someone gifted my girls with these cute zipper pouches, but you can use a makeup pouch from the dollar store.

Fill it with things your kid likes to occupy themselves with. Coloring, stickers and creative play are our go to items. This is perfect for holiday travel. Take it with you on the plane, or pull out during a layover. Hand it out at the first rest stop on car rides, or like we did, use it on the train. Have one on hand to keep little ones occupied during Thanksgiving dinner. This is such a portable source of entertainment for kids you could plan to use it anywhere!

Include items your kid has never played with before to keep them occupied longer! I can’t tell you how much play time we had just with this mini pipsqueak wizard marker! He draws, he sings, he dances and he casts spells!! Best purchase ever!

mini-marker

What activities would you include in this little pouch?

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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Friday Favorites – Toy Subscription from Pley.com

This is NOT a sponsored post. I received a free trial in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are solely my own. 

Pley.com Logo

Imagine not having to find storage solutions for a mountain of toys. Imagine your kid playing with that pricey toy you couldn’t afford a week ago. Imagine your child getting to pick out a new toy every month! Pley.com brings that wild imagination of yours into reality!

Pley is like an online toy library. For $12.99 a month (shipping extra) your child can select a new toy to rent, and swap it out for a new one when they are finished playing. It’s really that easy! They even pick up the return postage so save your shipping box!

Nano V2 Helix 180

My kids were over the moon when I asked them help me review this service, “I’ve never been a toy reviewer before!” They were simply excited when the big box arrived. We selected something totally different than any toy we have at home currently, the Hexbug Nano V2 Helix 180. This was supposed to arrive with 40 pcs. but there were a few parts missing. Thankfully the instructions were included so we could see how to assemble. The set included a battery operated bug that danced and wiggled it’s way through the tubular design. My kids thought this was the most hilarious thing ever! Unfortunately, the batteries died shortly after our toy arrived and it was quickly abandoned.

This toy retails for around $35, but the monthly subscription cost is less than half that price! There’s no rush to return a toy if your kid is really loving it. Simply skip returning it for the month and you are covered under your subscription price. When you are ready to select a new toy, send it back and the next one on your list is sent out right away. Did I mention they have Lego sets? Once your child has mastered building with a set, send it back for a new one! No more sorting! No more searching for storage containers!

WHAT WE LOVED

  • All toys are sanitized before sent.
  • Return postage is prepaid. Simply apply the label and leave out for your postal carrier.
  • My kids get to play with pricier toys I normally won’t spring for.
  • The excitement of opening a new toy.
  • Access to an unlimited selection.
  • No need to find storage space.
  • All parts come in zipper mesh bags to keep all pieces together.
  • They have BABY toys! I wish I knew when my kids were babies. The outgrow toys so quickly!

WHAT WE DIDN’T LOVE

  • Because it wasn’t our own toy I couldn’t just toss it in a bin and out of sight.
  • I am in love with the concept. But managing a subscription service is an extra thing for me to keep track of.
  • The batteries in our toy died quickly. Which resulted in disappointment.

Overall, the quality of the toy was great! The kids were excited to try out a new toy and I didn’t have to step on any little pieces! I highly recommend using Pley.com to save money and space in your home! This would make a really fun holiday or birthday gift for your favorite little one!

Have you tried a toy subscription service yet?

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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