Cultivating a Playful Home – Tips from Playful by Design

Cultivating a Playful Home – Tips from Playful by Design

You know that little Elf on The Shelf or my personal favorite alternative, The Kindness Elves? Part of the phenomenon of these little characters is because it helps the parents play and dive into the holiday spirit. But I want to encourage you to think about how you can cultivate this playful home atmosphere year round.

Children have a way of bringing us parents back to a more playful nature. Their true delight in the squishy feel of play dough or their fascination with how the tree branches blow in the wind allow us to channel our inner child. But sometimes, in the mix of work, laundry, cooking, finances and the less than glamorous aspects of adult life, we lose this playful attitude towards life. But, having a home full of play is so important for a child’s creativity and stress relief. So how do you cultivate a playful home?

Invitations to Play are simple little set ups with toys that you can surprise your children. This is one of my favorite parts of being a mom. When my little one falls asleep for a nap, I sneak around her room and set up little play situation with her baby dolls. Some days they may be building with blocks, other times they may be reading books. Sometimes her dinosaur figurines are holding paintbrushes for an invitation to paint upon waking up. Maybe you have a car lover? Grab a roll of painters tape and make a road down the hallway and have the cars waiting for him to drive down that fantasy lane. Have an animal lover? Take the plastic dog toy and rub a bit of dirt on it and place it next to a washcloth and bowl of water for a dog washing station. These little Invitations to Play only take about two minutes to set up but the absolute joy on her face when she wakes to find her stuffed animal wearing sunglasses is priceless.

Children are good at play. By simply following your child’s lead, you are able to see genuine learning happen. So when your child asks you to play with them, agree and be the second-in-command. My daughter had her baby dolls in our bedroom when she asked me to play with her. My original thought was to walk across the hallway to her room to play with them in her baby doll bed. Luckily for both of us, she had something far better planned.

She immediately took my husband’s shoe and pushed her dolls into them. I watched her little eyes twinkle with delight as she starting zooming them around. After sitting on the floor and watching her for about 30 seconds, I tucked a doll in his other shoe and we drove around the room. After about two minutes of driving our shoe cars, she started pushing her shoe to her room. I zoomed behind her. Turns out, her baby dolls wanted to drive to the zoo so she asked for her animal train set out. I pulled it out and the cars turned into strollers as they looked at the animals. I simply was there as company, not the play director.

So as summer comes to a close and we welcome fall into our days, I challenge you to take some steps into cultivating a playful home.

About the Author:

Natasha, Founder of Playful by Design

Hello there. I am so glad that you have come into my playful, simplicity seeking space. I have always had an entrepreneur’s mind with an educator’s heart. I am a nature loving mama of a sweet little girl.  I am also a lucky wife to my hard-working college sweetheart, Zach.

When I’m not playing with Lydia, I sneak in some work. You see, I’m a self proclaimed child development nerd. I love learning about developmental levels and how the activities and environment that we create effects our brain function.  I believe that childhood should be cherished, dirt is meant to be played in and songs are meant to be sung.

I research, I consult and I pour my heart into helping others learn  mindful ways to help their little ones play and grow. My focus is on helping families create a happy home through gentle habit formation, family rhythm and minimalism.

And just in case you were wondering… I can be bribed by black coffee, raspberries and salvage wood furniture.

Here are links to follow Natasha’s blog, Facebook and Instagram!

Financially Planning for Baby – Q&A with Parent Financial

Financially Planning for Baby – Q&A with Parent Financial

In a few words, tell us who is Parent Financial?

Parent Financial is a financial planning firm that believes every family should have a financial plan. To carry out that mission we have a team of advisors that specialize in working with moms and dads to navigate their financial questions and concerns.

 

How long has Parent Financial been operating?

We were founded in Charlotte in 2011.

 

What cities are you currently located in?

We have advisors in Charlotte, NC; Cleveland, OH; Greenville and Charleston, SC; and Knoxville, Nashville, TN. We are looking to add advisors in Atlanta and Boston by the end of 2018.

 

Why do expectant parents need your services?

Becoming a parent so much of the focus is on preparing your life for your newborn child. Using great resources like Your Milk Shoppe to prepare the nursery and find nanny help there are countless decisions and changes to make. We have found that far too often parents don’t take the time to make just as many updates to their financial life as they become parents. Moms and dads need to review their work benefits, update their insurance and make financial changes to their lives that are just as important as getting a new car seat. In addition to all of the important work our team does with expecting parents, our firm works with moms and dads that have children of all ages all the way up to empty nester parents who are in their 70’s.

 

We noticed that PF offers three classes: Expecting Parent Seminar, College Seminar and Retirement/Investment Seminar. Would you mind breaking down the focal points of each class and why they are so helpful?

The Expecting Parent Seminar is a step by step class designed to help expecting and new parents understand the key items to make sure they have reviewed and updated as they start or grow their family. Our College Seminar helps parents understand just how complex saving for college is these days. We help them learn about the different ways to save and how to maximize opportunities to qualify for financial aid. The Retirement Seminar is designed to help parents get a clear picture of their long-term goals and thus be able to make informed decisions today about how to navigate the changing markets and handling tax rates in the future. We’ve designed the classes to work as a stepping stone where each class provides you with the information needed to get you in a position to take the next one.

 

What is the difference between “Foundation Planning” and “Comprehensive Family Planning”?

We wanted to make sure that every family had access to a professional who could help them get their financial life in order so for that reason we do not have account minimums or fees to start our Foundational Planning process. Over 3 meetings we help parents get clarity and work to make sure they can check off that they have the proper amount in an emergency fund, updated their budget, have a will in place, review and update their home and auto insurance, and checked to see that their life and long term disability policies are updated now that they are parents. We work with each family to check each one of these categories off the list and that they truly have a strong financial foundation before moving on to any other planning topics. Once those are all completed the couples that want to continue working with us will then move into Comprehensive Planning. Moving into this next phase is the first time there is a fee associated with working with Parent Financial. Since all of the basics of the financial plan are in place, we then help couples to develop a clear strategy for saving for college, building their retirement strategy and developing an overall investment plan for their short term and long term financial goals. We then work with each couple through quarterly meetings and annual reviews to make sure we continue updating and monitoring the plan to keep the family on track.

 

We love your Community page; it is full of so many groups focused on moms and groups providing such positivity in their lives. What made you think to create these partnerships?

In working with parents the goal wasn’t just to provide great financial help. We wanted to become an overall resource for parents so if they needed to find a great place for their children to take swim classes we can help them know where to go. Parent Financial wants to be different in that we create lasting partnerships with other companies we believe have just as strong of a desire to help moms and dads as we do.

 

Once new parents find out that they are expecting, when is the right time for them to take your Expecting Parent class?

I would always recommend that they take a class as soon as possible. It gives them more time to understand and make updates prior to the baby being born. With that being said we have even had parents with 1 year old children who missed the class come back and take it and found it to be just as helpful. The goal is to help parents learn this important information so the key is that they take the class even if they aren’t expecting any more!

 

What is the easiest way to sign up for your classes? What days and times are they normally offered?

Go to parent-financial.com and click on the “Classes” link. Most classes are offered on Saturdays at 10am, but depending on your location there are also weeknight classes offered.

 

We ask all of our features these two questions: What is your why? & What is your daily mantra in life?

Our founder Court Creeden started Parent Financial after having a good friend pass away and another friend get diagnosed with cancer who were both in their late 20’s. After seeing the impact on their lives Court starting asking more and more people if they would be prepared for similar life events. Time and time again the answer was “I don’t know”, or “I don’t think so”. The people answering were smart, they wanted to make good decisions, they just didn’t know where to go for help. That led him to founding Parent Financial. Our why is simple. At Parent Financial we believe that every family should have a financial plan. Financial planning isn’t something just for the top 1%, but that every mom and dad needs to sit down with someone that can help them plan for what truly matters most, their family. For that reason, we have a team of passionate advisors who want to be the resource to help parents learn about what they have, so they can make educated decisions about where they want to go in life.

Our daily mantra is “I am going to help one family today”. If every one of our advisors does that each and every day we can truly change the lives of thousands of families in cities all across the country.

Securities, investment advisory, and financial planning services offered through qualified registered representatives of MML Investors Services, LLC Member SIPC. (www.SIPC.org) 4350 Congress St, Suite 300, Charlotte, NC 28209 (704-557-9600). Parent Financial is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC or its affiliated companies. CRN201907-214860

To lean more about Parent Financial, visit their website or follow them on Facebook!

Tips and Tricks to be your Best at the Breast

Tips and Tricks to be your Best at the Breast

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, we wanted to share a few tricks and tips, as well as a couple of our favorite must-have items, to help you form the very best breastfeeding relationship possible with your little one.

 If it hurts, something isn’t right.

If it hurts, something isn’t right. Sore nipples is one thing, but pain is something entirely different. If you’re in pain, call a lactation consultant. A good latch is the gatekeeper to breastfeeding success, and most issues can be resolved with early intervention. Oftentimes, you can find a lactation consultant who is also a postpartum doula, and having that extra layer of support AND eyes only out for you during those first few weeks at home is a very good thing. They can help lead you to postpartum and breastfeeding support groups, too. Plus, depending on your insurance coverage, you might be able to submit for reimbursement. So many pros, and not a lot of cons in exploring this option. If you need a referral in your area, just ask us! (Huge shout out to Lisa Zimmermann with Maternal Child Connections in Chicago, thank you for being a lifeline for Kimmie & Quinn!)

Practice makes perfect.

Some mamas are all good to whip out the ladies anywhere, without fear of who may get a little peep show. If that’s you, hooray, and thank you for your hand at normalizing breastfeeding for all of us! But for you mamas who are a little more modest, take a trial run at home. Get dressed in your nursing gear and take those duds for a spin! Practice your nursing holds as if you were in public, and if you have boob-slippage, at least it’s in your living room. Once you get the hang of it, the more confident you will feel, and the more you’ll want to tackle those first few breastfeeds out and about… and before you know it, you’ll be a public breastfeeding pro!

Breast pumps.

Two ideas on how you can get a pump without wasting the space on your registry!

Free option: You can typically get a breast pump covered by insurance through different third party distributors. Our favorite provider is Ashland Health. They are AH-MAZING and take virtually all of the work out of the process for you. Once you contact, they can obtain the prescription from your OB, determine your device options for you to choose from, and submit everything on the back end for you. Once the order is submitted, it’s delivered to you within days. They offer text and email support, which is SO helpful for busy moms and moms-to-be on the go. They also have a wonderful prenatal and postpartum email outreach campaign and support for breastfeeding mamas. Just wonderful all around.

Rental option: If you plan to exclusively pump or just want the BEST of the best and want to make the most of your time at the pump, you might want to consider renting a hospital grade pump for a few months. Check with your OB and insurance provider — if you can obtain a prescription, it could be covered by insurance in some cases. Most hospitals have this option, as well as most big box retailers.

Lastly, wardrobe staples.

Nursing clothes tend to be a little pricier, but you can absolutely get away with just a few staples and work your regular wardrobe around it. (Kind of like maternity, amirite??) Layering is the name of the game. For shirts, think about having a top and a bottom layer. Pull up the top layer for a little extra coverage, while the bottom layer pulls down under the breast and shields your tummy.

Must-haves:

Bras: You will without a doubt need a good nursing bra, or two. Find a maternity boutique or department store in your area and have a proper fitting as your cup size, and potentially your band length, will have most likely changed since pre-pregnancy days. Third Love and Cake are both great brands.

Tanks: Layering tanks will be your very best friend. H&M and Old Navy both have a great nursing line for mamas on a budget.

Sleepwear: Waking up in a milk soaked tee shirt sucks. And let’s face it, feeling sexy postpartum is probably the furthest thing from your brain. BUT, this staple is two-fold. Grab yourself a cute little nursing nightie with a built-in structured top, slip in a breast pad, and — boom — you’re waking up dry. If you can find one that also makes you feel pretty? Double boom.

Cover: There are different styles of covers, explore to see what feels right for you. Milk Snob and Copper Pearl make covers that also act as a car seat cover (win/win) in a million adorable patterns. Or check out fun scarves that you can absolutely wear as a regular scarf, post-breastfeeding. We are all about multi-purpose items, both of these styles hit that mark!

Please share some of your favorite gear and tricks with us, we’d love to hear them!

Happy Breastfeeding!

Cheers,

Your Milk Shoppe

The Unfair Judgement of Working Moms

The Unfair Judgement of Working Moms

Working moms are some of the most compassionate, helpful and non-judgmental people. They are doing their best, but barely keeping their head above water, so they know how important it is to give grace. And lots of it.

We each have different talents, personalities and skills. Some women are called to give their talents inside the home, and some are called to give theirs both inside and outside the home. Some work out of financial necessity. All are valid reasons in which there should be no judgement.

In this post, I’m sharing my own perspective about the challenges that make working outside the home harder than it should be.

Society gives women conflicting expectations once they become mothers.

We are told to invest in an education and develop skills that will be lucrative when we get into the workforce. Once we are in the workforce, we are expected to have a strong work ethic and quickly establish a career path.

Once we have a child, however, the expectation is immediately different. We are told to put our wants and desires aside for the baby, and give 100% of ourselves to being a mom. Of course we do this; we love our child more than anything in the world. But after a while, we lose ourselves and feel ashamed to even talk about it.

What everyone needs to know is that even after having a child, our core identity is still the same. We still have personal goals. We are still ambitious. We are just trying to figure out how it all fits together.  And we need encouragement in that decision making process.

The traditional workplace model isn’t working.

We have technology that connects us 24/7. The days of physically being “in seat” at the office are changing. There should be more employers that offer part-time or work-from-home positions, as well as offer flexible hours. Once this begins to take off, companies will regain the enormous talent base they’ve lost.

Also, working moms need managers that understand we are juggling two full-time jobs. We may need to take a 2 hour lunch to run errands, but we will make up for it. We might not have every detail of a project committed to memory, but we have it written down. We would like to take on additional responsibilities (because we know we would slay them) but we have to refrain ourselves because we know quality is better than quantity.

We are doing everything we can to maximize our time at work while also arranging childcare, sick kids, appointments, school events, field trips, etc. We miss a lot due to work. We only ask for your understanding.

Pressure from our peers and the generations of moms before us.

It is a struggle to get from point A to point B for working moms. We often cannot make class parties or make cute lunches for our kids everyday, although we would love to. We need scheduling flexibility from the schools and from other parents. We can drop off party supplies before 8 a.m. or after 5 p.m. We can make PTO meetings if they were at night and not during the day. We can do Saturdays. But we cannot do Tuesdays at 10 a.m.

The generations of moms before us often pass along the guilt they received from their own mothers for working outside the home. Our mothers had it worse than we did. Remember the working girl boom of the 80’s? Can you imagine the conversations with their moms?

Guilt.

This could either be self-imposed or a manifestation of all the above. Either way, its up to us to cut ourselves some slack. No one else is going to do it for us. Try to turn down the volume of guilt and start choosing joy instead. Believe in yourself and be content with what you are doing. Our kids deserve happy moms.

I consider myself fortunate that I can personally manage my three kids schedules full-time, take them to all appointments, play dates, and pick them up from school. Many would love to do this, but do not have that option.

Lets be kinder to working moms, extend flexibility when possible, and grace always.

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About the Author:
Carli Best, The Best Kind of Life

Hi, I’m Carli! Wife to Chris and mama to Baylor (7), Loxley (5) and Wells (1). I’m a former professional working mom turned stay at home mom and live in Birmingham, AL. I’m the author behind Best Kind of Life, a lifestyle blog that focuses on family, fashion and home. As a busy mom, I’m always thinking of ideas that will make life easier and more enjoyable. I show our real life, as it happens –  and focus on the beauty in each day.

Here are links to follow Carli! Best Kind of Life BlogFacebook, & Instagram!

Sensory Play, The Easy Way – Ideas from Natasha

Sensory Play, The Easy Way – Ideas from Natasha

Exposing your little one to sensory experiences can be some of the most rewarding moments as a parent. The absolute delight on their face as they trickle sand out of their hand or crunch fall leaves under their feet can just send a thrill through my body. But, we can’t always jump in the car and head to the beach or jump on a leaf pile. Sometimes, we want to sit in our living room with a cup of coffee and see that little excited face. While sensory bins don’t offer the genuine beauty of natural sensory experiences, they are a fun alternative. These bins offer opportunities to practice fine motor skills, they offer for open-ended play and conversation. When children play with a sensory bin, they are playing with different materials and textures that all blend together to create a learning experience.

Sensory bins are just as they sound, a bin or box of materials that encourages hands-on, open-ended play. They can be easily created and pulled out when you are itching for a simple, engaging activity.

I see creating sensory bins just like creating a ice cream at your favorite mix-in ice cream shop. You grab your utensils and bowls, choose a base, choose what added elements you want, decide if you want any fancy shmancy additions and your end result is a beautiful blend of your efforts.

I recommend clear shoe-box bins as the containers because they stack and store easily in the closet and are small enough that toddlers aren’t climbing in bin. (Yes, this is from personal experience!)  If multiple kids want to play in the same bin, the flatter Rubbermaid bins are a great option.

After you have your bins and utensils, it’s time to choose your base.

Base Options (Your “Ice cream”):
Rice
Dry pasta
Beans
Sand
Water Beads
Dirt

Shredded Paper

Cereal
Water

The base can remain in the bin for months. Dollar stores  (and Amazon Prime!) are great spots to get your bases.

After the base, choose your mix ins.

Mix in Options (Your “Chocolate Chips”:
Spoons
Cups
Ice cube trays
Popsicle holders
Paper muffin tins
Paper towel tubes

Cut up pool noodles

Pipe Cleaners
Sticks
Shells
Cotton balls
Craft Pom Poms
Animal figurines
Magnetic Alphabet letters

Truly, anything goes when it comes to mix ins. I try to encourage mixing, dumping and pouring so I almost always include some type of cup and bowl in the mix regardless of the base.

It’s fun to throw in some seasonal mix ins too:
American flags
Felt shaped pumpkins
Wax dipped leaves
Santa hats
Easter eggs

If you really want to go all out and get fancy, try:
Dying the pasta or rice with food coloring OR
Adding essential oils

Let your creative juices flow. These can be fun to make and offers hours of entertainment once they are put together.

Don’t forget to create a designated play area for the bins. I usually use a large beach towel or throw blanket. Then I can just scoop up the contents and dump it back in the bin for the next play time. This activity can get messy but even in our messiest of sensory bin activities, it takes less than 10 minutes to clean up – and they stack so nice and neatly in the closet!

IMPORTANT NOTE: Remember to watch your little one while engaging in this play because a lot of the materials are not independent play materials for kids under three. Enjoy!

 

About Natasha, Founder of Playful by Design:

Hello there. I am so glad that you have come into my playful, simplicity seeking space. I have always had an entrepreneur’s mind with an educator’s heart. I am a nature loving mama of a sweet little girl.  I am also a lucky wife to my hard-working college sweetheart, Zach.

When I’m not playing with Lydia, I sneak in some work. You see, I’m a self proclaimed child development nerd. I love learning about developmental levels and how the activities and environment that we create effects our brain function.  I believe that childhood should be cherished, dirt is meant to be played in and songs are meant to be sung.

I research, I consult and I pour my heart into helping others learn  mindful ways to help their little ones play and grow. My focus is on helping families create a happy home through gentle habit formation, family rhythm and minimalism.

And just in case you were wondering… I can be bribed by black coffee, raspberries and salvage wood furniture.

Here are links to follow Natasha’s blog, Facebook and Instagram!

Surviving Solo Parenting – Tips from Alison!

Surviving Solo Parenting – Tips from Alison!

I’m writing this four days into what’s proving to be a long week of being home alone with my 3 boys, whilst my partner is away with work in Hong Kong. And I’m feeling tired and slightly emotional about the whole thing, which you may gather from the moany tone of this post!

He’s working hard, undoubtedly, but also enjoying the luxuries of flying kid free, chowing down on fancy client dinners and luxuriating in uninterrupted sleep. I’m not at all jealous, of course.  When he texted me from the plane on the way there, to say he was just starting on the champagne, had ordered his dinner and was flicking through the film options, I have to admit that a few tears may have been shed. It didn’t help that I was battling through teatime with tired and whingy kids and had been up 4 times the previous night with a teething baby.

My partner works pretty long hours, and is away from home a fair bit, so I’m home alone with our boys for big chunks of time. I’m the one dragging us through all the highs and lows that come with having 3 kids and one tired and overworked Mum at home, who is running around in circles trying to juggle all the balls and desperately hoping to not drop one. This current trip means I’m in charge of negotiating 7 bath and bedtimes (x 3 boys), more mealtimes than I can begin to count, and have hundreds of hours of solo adulting to do. Ugh.

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It feels appropriate to state the obvious here – full time solo parents are real life superheroes. Enough said. Hopefully this post doesn’t come across as a whingy self-entitled moan about how poor little me has been left in sole care of my own kids. Rather I hope it’s helpful to other parents who are struggling their way through occasional solo parenting, or about to embark on some.

Many of my friends have partners or husbands who work away. One friend with two girls was home alone whilst her husband was working at the other end of the country for 4 days a week for several years; another friend with a new baby has a husband who works with clients in a handful of countries around the world, so is away for a week to 10 days most months. I know my situation is not that unusual at all, but I think it’s the combination of the young ages of the boys and the fact that there’s three of them that makes it so bloody hard! I do have a friend expecting baby number 3 whose husband works away regularly – it’ll be good to have someone in the same situation as me to share my angst with!

When my partner is around I look forward to the evenings and weekends because I can hand over some of the adult stuff to him to do. When he’s here, bathtime is his thing. I leave the 4 of them to it, whilst I run around the house like a crazy thing trying to clear some of the boys’ debris, stick a load of washing on, clean the kitchen, that type of thing, in order that when the kids are in bed I can actually enjoy my evening rather than doing housework.

The first time my partner was away for a week, I found myself trying to multi task to the extreme – loading the dishwasher with one hand at the same time as stirring the dinner on the hob with the other, whilst the bath was running upstairs, the older two were wrestling, and the baby was sat on the kitchen worktop perilously close to the edge, watching the mayhem unfold in front of him. Craziness!

I’ve learnt a little from those dark early days, so I thought I’d share my tips on getting through, and not just surviving, but smashing the solo parent thing:

• If you are a bit of an emotional wreck like me, and who isn’t after having kids, right, then there will be tears, a fair bit of swearing under your breath, more than one scream of sheer frustration, and perhaps feelings of wanting to run away and escape. This is all totally understandable, and doesn’t make you a bad Mum. This just makes you normal and human.

• Preparation – this is key! Car filled with petrol, check, fridge fully stocked with food, yep. Got all the essentials – nappies, baby wipes, loo roll, peanut butter, bananas, chocolate, wine, gin. Sorted. And Calpol. Because no sensible person does this solo parenting thing without ALL the drugs.

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• Ask for help when you need it, and have back up help just in case that first person falls through. Don’t struggle on alone in silence – you can only look after your kids if you look after yourself too. Get your schedule of kids’ activities sorted in advance, and call in your support crew to help with drop offs and pick ups where needed.

• Confide in friends who will listen and understand and won’t dramatize things, leading to you feeling more anxious. There’s friends, and actually if I’m being totally honest, some family members too, who I avoid seeing when I’m solo parenting, because their regular life dramas just add to my sense of feeling overwhelmed and I come away from seeing them feeling worse and more knackered.

• When feeling overwhelmed, take baby steps to get through each day and break down the time into smaller chunks.  Just getting through the next mealtime, bathtime and bedtime can feel like a great achievement when you are tired and struggling and dreading the next week on your own. Instead of trying to tackle all the housework in one evening, for example, focus on one room, and shut the other doors so you won’t have to look at the mess, or just leave it all to sort out when your errant other half returns. Or get a cleaner, haha!

• Get out of the house – no mad crazy missions to IKEA with 3 kids in tow, cos that’s never going to end well, but a trip to the park and tea in the café, so you are out of the house, seeing other adults, plus no cooking and no dishes to sort at home – bonus! My regular toddler groups are a bit of a life saver as I know there will always be a friendly face, a cup of tea and a biscuit, and it fills out a morning which may otherwise be spent stewing at home.

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• Be kind to yourself, and allow for less structure. A few days, or even a week, of easy, straight from the freezer dinners that you know the kids will eat is totally fine, and better than the alternative of slaving at the hot stove with the baby balanced on one hip, only for the kids to pick and moan their way through your lovingly prepared vegetable bake.

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• Pick your battles wisely. First to go from my regular structure – ironing of any sort, insisting homework is done on time, and nagging the kids to tidy their rooms. Those are all battles which can recommence once my wingman is back from his business trip and we can do the good cop / bad cop routine on the kids. One thing I refuse to let slide is bedtime. My kids are very early risers, so if they are up before 6am EVERY. SINGLE. DAY, then damn right they are all out of my sight by 7pm. Experience tells me that they’ll be up at the crack of dawn whatever time they go to bed, so I insist I have the evenings to myself to drink wine, eat dry cereal for dinner and watch trashy TV.

• Take time for yourself – even if it’s something as simple as taking a long soak in the bath when the kids are asleep, some yoga in your front room, or killing a few brain cells watching some reality TV. Whatever your wind down activity is, make sure you find the time to refuel and recharge your body and mind before the next day’s challenges.

• Leave anything that’s too difficult – not to say that the absent partner is like a knight in shining armour arriving home on his trusty steed to save the damsel in distress. Just that its totally not worth the stress of trying to sort out a broken household appliance, for example. Dishwasher broken – get some paper plates to use. Washer broken – ask a friend to do a load of washing for you. That kind of thing. Same goes with behaviour and discipline. My kids love to push the boundaries when Dad’s away as they know I’m the soft one. I’m not going to start cracking down on testing behaviour when I’m home alone, making us all miserable. It’s just not worth it in my book.

• Take the time to plan a fun and easy outing with the kids for you all to enjoy together – a day trip to a park to include lunch, fairground rides and ice cream for example, or a visit to a National Trust site where the kids can scramble through woods or explore a castle. Whatever it is that the kids and you can enjoy together and can be a happy memory of the time you spent together.

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• As above, but this time just for you for when you are back to a full complement of parents. Drinks with friends, a massage, a shopping trip with no kids in sight. Whatever it is that appeals to you the most. And make sure that it actually happens. I’m terrible for making plans and then ditching them because I’m too tired from a week of grafting. Those drinks will happen this Saturday night, mark my words!

When I was chatting to a friend about this blog post, she pointed out to me that there are actually some benefits to having a partner who works away – there’s one less person to clean up after and cook for in my house, for example.  Less washing to pick up from the side of the wash basket and drop into the actual basket (a task which seems beyond all the males in my house), less used towels to take off beds and get dried. Plus no one to judge how early I want to go to bed, or how many spoonsful of peanut butter I munch my way through in an evening. I know I have issues.

Plus, when it’s just you and your smalls against the world, there’s a real sense of achievement at making it through the day and the week.  I always feel like an independent and strong super-Mum, albeit a very sleep deprived and slightly delirious one. We all survived, no scrap that; we flourished, we blossomed, we made it. Now if I could have a large glass of wine and a long sleep, thank you very much!

About Alison:

Alison is a UK based (via a year living the expat life in Chicago), sleep deprived Mum of 3 boys, 9, 4 and 1 who blogs about food, nutrition and Mum stuff. She is passionate about feeding her always hungry boys with as much home-cooked healthy food as possible. 9 out of 10 times, when she asks the kids what they want for tea, they say “dippy egg, please”, hence Alison’s blog name, ‘dippyeggplease’

She has a Diploma in Nutrition with a special interest in children’s nutrition, but putting theory into practice isn’t always easy when you are tired from feeding the baby all night, your 4 year old is demanding Coco Pops for dinner, and your 9 year old vegetarian son has decided he has an aversion to most vegetables.

Her loves, apart from her boys and partner, are travelling (this year the family have visited Spain and Germany, and have trips to Switzerland and France planned), working out early in the morning before the madness of the day starts, and relaxing with friends and plenty of wine!

Follow Alison on Facebook and Instagram, @dippyeggplease!

 

Twingenuity: Survival Tips for Raising Twins

Twingenuity: Survival Tips for Raising Twins

So here we are. You have made it through a pregnancy that you thought was never going to end. You are home from the hospital and feeling on top of the world…. Maybe exhausted, sore, and drained, but on top. Those sweet little bundles of joy have made every tough moment worth it and you are prepared with a capital P! The unknown is always a little nerve-racking however…. You have read every parenting book, you have taken advice from every mother figure in your family, and then some, you have matching outfits ready to go for every day of the week, and you plan to shower daily.

Quickly your first day home from the hospital turns into 5 months down the road. Those months were a blur to say the least. A reoccurring question that still to this day…. (And I say that like I am some pro, mind you I am only 4 years into this “raising twins journey”) the question remains… How do you do it? Many times I giggle and say the first thing that comes to mind, and other days I want to agree and say… I have no idea how I do it. Yet I manage to keep them happy, constantly fed- and I mean constantly, and keep their bright innocent spirit alive.

It rings true that twins are a double blessing, yet with quadruple stress. Each stage presents its own struggles from infant, to mobile babies, to toddler years. Oh those toddler years, I could write an entire blog about the 3rd year alone. Year 3 felt like I was in the front seat of a roller coaster. You know how your hair looks once the ride stops after sitting in the front seat of the ride? Eyes watering, no words, catching your breath, looking next to you to see if the person sitting next to you felt the same way and hoping you still look like a human… yeah that’s year three. Oh I could go on and on… BUT, I’ll save that for another day.

While the rewards of raising twins outweigh the challenges, it is a tough navigation of the right things to do to make sure you don’t screw them up as a human being…. And I promise- you aren’t! Instinct, quick thinking, deep breathing, and a little wine. This is how I wrangle two at a time. 🙂

You do what you gotta do.

Remember all of those books you read, all the advice you took from all of those strong women you look up to, and all those cute magazine covers with perfect family pictures? All of these are great, and also great in theory. Some days you could have written those parenting books and other days, you are happy that they are just alive and breathing. I would love to take the time to explain why we don’t write on the walls, why we don’t pee outside from the back door, or why smacking your brother with a fly swatter is not a friendly thing to do. Yes, most times I do try to explain this quickly, and yes these are all true moments of learning in my house, but unfortunately there is a lot of monkey-see monkey-do and trouble happens quickly. So don’t feel bad when you didn’t have matching outfits today – or outfits at all, breakfast, lunch, and dinner were all the same meals… (cereal in my case), and watching Daniel Tiger on loop because hey- Daniel Tiger really does teach great skills, and also because I am tired.

Hello Schedule

Oh the schedule. I seriously could not have survived without my schedule. From infant stages of having a dry erase board with a different color marker for each kid, who was breast fed last, who had formula, to napping schedules. From the first minute home they were on strict eating and napping schedules. Yes, this meant that I would tell friends, “No, I cant do that”, because they were napping. I was THAT mom- but I also knew once we got the schedule down pat, we would be able to go out and do these fun things because they AND I were rested. With twins, you have to have that strict schedule and same schedule or you will be up 24 hours a day. And to this day at 4 years old- they have the exact same sleep schedule and wake schedule- within a minute of each other. That my friends is what I call success! 🙂

Crying

Unfortunately there is just no way around it. With twins you aren’t able to give 100% of your time and effort to one little body which means you have to let one or the other cry sometimes. You do learn different cries very quickly, and learn to prioritize each cry. This is what I call superwoman power! (Bet your singleton friends cant do that!) It also taught me that it is okay for your baby to cry a little and it is not the end of the world.

We Ask For Help

This was the toughest for me to accept as a new mom. How could I ask for help? I was going to be the one everyone talked about how extraordinary I was as a mom. How I held it together and looked presentable every outing. I wouldn’t need to ask for help. The truth is, I got to a point that I essentially said, yes to anyone who offered help. I will take all the help I can get.  There is no truer saying than it takes a village to raise a child, let alone two! You offered to come to the pediatrician with me- you better believe I wouldn’t let you finish that sentence and I will scream from the hilltops YES! Because well… have you ever taken twins to the doctors by yourself? Yikes.

No means No

I will admit, nothing is harder than listening to your sweet angel whine about the snack they want, or the millionth glass of milk, knowing darn well they will pee the bed, and wanting to give in. But sticking to your guns is the best survival tactic there is. Compare it to a machete in a dense jungle. That is your only weapon you have and you use it for all of the important things needed to survive in a jungle. Just like those jungle predators, a toddler can smell weakness a mile away. Now imagine two. Sniffing out your weakness and as one loses energy to keep fighting with you, they high five and tag team the other one fresh and ready to rumble. The best tool in this situation – “asked and answered” it took some time BUT this phrase is something used almost as much as “ I have to go potty” in my house.

No Bond is Better

As much as I gripe about the hard truths of raising twins, I hope that someone reads this, and says…. This is me. This is my life. And brings emotions of both happy and sad tears. Because the cold hard truth is- raising twins is the hardest thing I have done thus far in my life, but at the same time, no amount of money, time, or heartache beats a hug from both of them, at the same time. Nothing beats the unparalleled feeling, as they say in unison “I love you so much momma.” Nothing.

XO,

Sammi

Yo, Mama!

Yo, Mama!

Yo Mama is soooooo…

You fill in the blank with your favorite ‘yo mama’ joke.

Or don’t.

When my son came home spouting several of these jokes, quite tickled at them I might add, I immediately corrected him. I went on and on about how they are disrespectful and inappropriate for him to be hearing or telling. Then I saw his face. He was crushed. My little boy, who loves to laugh and to make people laugh, was sincerely disappointed that I didn’t find his jokes funny. But guess, what?

I DON’T CARE.

Yep, really. Why should yo mama be so ugly, so fat, and so stupid? Let me explain, dear son, what YO MAMA and YO FRIENDS’ MAMAS REALLY ARE:

We are givers of life. We carried you, some of us threw up for 9 months (I’m not bitter) with you, and we got stitches in places the sun doesn’t shine…and we still took you home with us!

We are short order cooks. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner…now? Right now? Simply because you are so hungry that you’re going to make everyone around you miserable if your belly isn’t full all day long? Ok, fine. We love you, we’ll feed you. We might even feed you well…just don’t forget it. Oh, and learn to cook before you have a spouse – it’ll go a long way.

We are talented.  Need a bedtime song… or five? No problem. A silly dance to brighten your day? Sure thing chicken wing!  Need help with your school project? Arts and crafts R us!

We are taxis. We love to drive you all over Kingdom Come each and every day so that you can be all your little selves can be in hopes of learning something that will keep you from being a hindrance to society and maybe, just maybe, be THE thing that carries you through your life.

We are nurses and doctors. Another scrape? Here’s a band-aid. That stuff behind your ear? Who knows, but don’t worry, we’ll handle it. A splinter? A sprain? We have just the thing.

We are therapists. Please tell us, over and over, how bad things are and how unfair things are. We are truly here to listen. No, seriously, we are. We love you so much we won’t roll our eyes because we love you and what is important to you is important to us. Most of the time 🙂

We are teachers.  Do you know your birthday? Your address? Your phone number? Do you know what to do in an emergency? Do you know how to wipe a toilet seat (boys!!!!) or do your laundry? Oh, you will, don’t worry. Need us to check your homework or to help you study? Yes, we can do that, too. Calculus? Algebra? We might find other teachers, but whatever, the point is still the same.

We are cheerleaders. Let me add, we are your biggest fans. We want to see you do well. We will come to every game, play, performance and sit in the stands and scream our bloody heads off for every little (and big!) thing you do. We are FOR you!

We are disciplinarians. It’s not me, it’s you. Yeah, it really is. It’s you… you’re smaller than us, have lived fewer years, you don’t know a whole lot even when you think you do. We get that. We discipline because we love you, and, well, see number 4.

We are love!  We want so much more for you… including happiness, joy, and love. We want you to live life, carefully and fully, and love your neighbor as yourself. Love rules!

So there you have it, dear son. You now know what Yo Mama is, like it or not. You will continue to be corrected when you tell those jokes, even though we know you are only being silly. Why? It’s simple – it’s because I am YO MAMA.

XO,
Carrie

Moms of the Month: Luanne & Sherri, Our Moms!

In honor of Mother’s Day, we wanted to highlight two VERY important ladies in our lives… OUR MOMS! Luanne Johnson and Sherri Callison — they have been pivotal in shaping us into the women we are today; we have been so blessed by their guidance and are honored to share their love and experiences with you as our May Moms-of-the-Month!

Meet Amber’s Mom: Luanne, aka LuLu, or Nanny LuLu to the kiddos. As a nurse manager of a high-risk Labor and Delivery unit, she is an advocate for all things women’s health, but has a special focus in supporting women during prenatal and postpartum care. (It’s no wonder Amber found her life’s passion in supporting women during this stage of life!) LuLu is a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen, and will make you the strongest cocktail and/or cup of coffee this side of the Mississippi! She is an animal lover and hopes to someday have a farm with baby goats… obviously, we’re pulling for this, too! She lives with her husband, Papa Mark, and their three dogs in Mansfield, Ohio.

 

Meet Kimmie’s mom, Sherri. As a high school secretary, she is a huge supporter of public education and has spent her career working in schools in different capacities to support children, teachers, and families. Sherri loves spending free time with her girlfriends or cheering on the grandkids at their various sporting events. She never turns down a good chocolate martini or generous pour of riesling! Her 9 grandchildren have given her several different nicknames, Sheesh, Ishee, Shish, the list goes on, but her favorite is just plain ol’ Grandma. She lives with her husband, Rick aka “Bubba”, and two foster grand-dogs in Columbus, Ohio.

Of all the pride you’ve felt throughout your motherhood journey, is there one memory that stands out as your proudest mom-moment?

Luanne: I’m sorry I’m unable to scale that down to only one….there are so many and each is a favorite! But,  I would like to say that now is a very proud Mom moment, as I see my kids and the people they have chosen as spouses, and the wonderful parenting they are all doing.  Seeing my children parent with compassion is a very proud moment.

Sherri: Wow, you have asked me to condense 47 years of being a mom into one special moment?  I don’t think I can pick just one. My whole life has been one incredible mom-moment. But, if I had to choose, it would have to come down to 4 special moments…..each moment that I first laid eyes on each of my 4 children. Seeing each of my babies for the very first time, looking into their precious, beautiful faces, all goopy, sticky, and sloppy eyed…..nothing was ever more beautiful or has ever made me feel the proudest as becoming a new mommy. I never knew I could love a “being” as much as I did from the very first second of each of their lives. Instant love, instant passion, from that very first moment together, I was filled to my core with the deepest sense of love and pride I had ever known.

If your family had an anthem or a theme song, what would it be?

Luanne: Carry On, By CSNY.  That one always gets us going!

Sherri: Tough one…..as I tried to pick just one song that represents our family, I couldn’t do it.  These turned out to be the songs with messages that came to mind:  “Humble & Kind” by Tim McGraw; “Find Your Wings” by Mark Harris; “Never Alone” by Lady Antebellum; “Celebration” by Kook & the Gang; and “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge.  These songs represent to me our family and how we have lived our lives as individuals and as a family.  We’ve tried to live our lives with humility, love, laughter & kindness shown to each other & to everyone we know. We have hoped for successes as we encouraged each other to spread your wings in life (sometimes with tears in our eyes), but always letting you know that we were there for you, during good and bad times, no matter the outcome, your family was there to lift you up or catch you if you fell. We celebrate each other, no matter what happens, because we are FAMILY; we are always there for each other and we stick together through thick and thin.  We share our love, pride, family values, and devotion for each other…….. to the moon and back.  This is our family…..my greatest gift of life.

How does being a mom compare to being a grandma?

Luanne: Well, first of all you make all of the mistakes as a Mom, and then as a Grandmother you are given an opportunity to atone for them.  So a Grandchild is like a second chance at getting it right.  And then you can also help your adult children be parents and give them some time away too, which is great to be able to do for them.  I want to help as much as I can because I remember how difficult life with small kids can be, day in and day out.  And I am so thankful my kids still like me after living through being my children when I didn’t know my “you know what” from a hole in the ground!…at least I think they still like me… 😉

Sherri: This is a great question and the answer may surprise even myself.  As a new mom, my whole entire life centered around doing everything I possibly could to love, comfort, care for, enlighten, teach and protect my baby. I was fearful of “not doing it right”, or “making a mistake”, or “not feeling adequate in my knowledge about babies”. I was so young and nervous at times, unsure of myself, afraid I would “damage” my baby. Those are feelings I think all new moms deal with. It was a marvelous, beautiful time in my life, one I would not trade for anything.  But now that I’m a Grandma, the stress and fears have vanished but the love, pride, joy and excitement of being with my grandchildren has completely filled my heart and soul. I’ve noticed that I can enjoy each child, for the individual each one is. I marvel at how beautiful, how smart, how funny, how talented each one is. I don’t “worry” about everything being perfect with them because in my eyes, they are just that, perfect. I have been so very very blessed with these adorable, loving grandchildren.  Being a Grandmother is like nothing else I have ever experienced in my life.

We know you have a million secrets and tricks to share, but pick just one – give us your best “mom-hack”!

Luanne: Placing the thought in their head so it would become an expectation for the future. I hung a large map of the world on a wall in our house with the message, “The World Is Your Oyster”, so the kids would know life was about going out there beyond Mansfield, Ohio.

Sherri: Oh, there have been many over the years. But the one that came to mind first was one our family has used for years.  It starts later in life when two of your children start to argue over “which one gets the bigger half” of something.  They both want the “big” one.  Well, our family has squelched that problem.  We say, “One divides, the other decides.”  So if they are sharing a doughnut, a cookie, a dish of this or that, you can count on the fact that the one that “divides” the treat will make it as even as possible so the one that “decides” doesn’t get to pick the bigger portion. It’s amazing how this little phrase has ended many a moment of tears.  It’s called cooperation.

If you had one piece of advice for a new mom, what would it be? 

Luanne: Don’t buy in to the competition other people create for you.  Don’t be surprised when others don’t want you to succeed in the Mom arena, it is very competitive.  Find your own comfort zone, embrace and protect it.  Let your children thrive within that zone, let them be exactly who they are and just respond with wonder.  Make it strong, and peaceful, and safe.

Sherri: Oh, there is so much I could suggest, but the best piece of advice I could give any new mom is, cherish and savor each moment you have with your baby, take time for yourself, and “don’t sweat the small stuff”. (I guess that’s 3 things, but each is such an integral part of being a new mom.)  Time with baby……take time to enjoy your baby. It’s okay to cuddle and rock your baby if you want to; it’s your special time with that bundle of joy.  It’s okay to just cuddle and stare into the precious face of the gift you have been given.  It’s okay!  Time for yourself…..take time to treat yourself to the little pleasures of life, like a shower, a nap, a quiet time to read a book or listen to music. You may be healing from the delivery, so be good to yourself. This is when you call upon Daddy, Grandma or a friend or neighbor to help care for your baby so you take care of you too. It’s mandatory and it’s okay!  And finally, “don’t sweat the small stuff”……the dishes can sit in the sink, the baby can wear that slightly soiled sleeper, the “dust bunnies” can roll around in the corner.  It’s okay!  Again, call on Grandma for help. Believe me, she will love love love it! (I know!) She wants to be there for you!  TIME….it is fleeting, so savor it. It is one of the most incredible times in your life. I’m so happy for you, New Momma!

Thank you, Moms. We love you to the moon and back! 

XO,

Amber & Kimmie

A Mother’s Day Guide for Dads

A Mother’s Day Guide for Dads

Women are hard to buy for. We’re tired of perfume and flowers. (Don’t get us wrong, we’ll still take those things.) But, we want something a little more …thoughtful… from you.

We ran a poll, and 8 in 10 moms said they wanted the gift of TIME this Mother’s Day. (The others said: 1) a Yeti Tumbler, and 2) SLEEP! Which, I suppose, could also be lumped into the time category.

We know what mama really wants, and it’s time. Time with you, time alone, time with girlfriends, time with the family. It might sound crazy to take the kids away from mom to celebrate Mother’s Day in 3 of the 4 options here, but hear us out! We have some failsafe ideas for you to help you really wow the special lady in your life this Mother’s Day.

(Disclaimer: these plans are best executed around Mother’s Day, say the Saturday before, not actually on Mother’s Day Sunday. On Mother’s Day, she’ll want to sleep in before being showered with snuggles, kisses from her kiddos, and breakfast in bed. Followed by more snuggles, and best case scenario, a nap.)

The bottom line and underlying factor in each of these options is simple — she doesn’t want to plan a thing. Not one single moment of it. So, make the reservation, take the kids or book the sitter, and send her OUT on her way!

Time with You

If there’s one resounding theme between couples with young kids, it’s rarely: “I spend so much time with you I’m just SICK of it!” Take her out for a day of fun all about her. Start with lunch, take her shopping, go see a movie, maybe even dip your toes in a pedi bowl with her. (Don’t worry, we won’t take your man card.) Feeling really saucy? Take her to a concert or a comedy club. So many of our conversations are centered around work, “how was your day”, schedules, family drama, baby poop talk — take a break from all that just get out and dance together. Or laugh together. Or both! On a budget? Pack a picnic with her favorite food and a yummy, refreshing beverage. For most women, the gesture doesn’t have to be extravagant, but it does have to be intentional.

Time Alone

Drawing a bubble bath and a glass of wine isn’t a bad option. However, in most homes, you can still hear the kids quarreling from the tub. If you really want to wow her, send her OUT for a day of pampering. Plan a spa day: find a full service spa, book the appointments, surprise her with a day off, her feet up, and her face masked. If you call any spa and tell them you are looking for help with a Mother’s Day package, they will take good care of your thoughtful self. Guaranteed.

Time with her Girlfriends

Get in touch with her bestie and arrange a playdate, sans kids. Make a reservation at her favorite restaurant or one she’s been dying to try, buy tickets to a show she’s been dying to see, book a bottle-and-brush (BYOB paint studio), or a wine tasting. Enlist the help of her girlfriend to plan a day that will really knock her socks off. Make it a complete surprise for extra brownie points.

Time with the Family

You probably get plenty of family together time, right? But how much of that is QUALITY family together time? Pack up the family and plan a day of adventures. Spend the morning at the zoo, or if your kiddos are a little older, hit a pottery painting class so she can take home some Mother’s Day masterpieces created by her mini-Picassos.

Whatever route you decide to go, please, for the love, just make sure the Mama in your life knows how much you appreciate and adore her. Celebrate her for everything she is, the gifts she brings to your life, and everything she does for you and your family.

XO,

Your Milk Shoppe

 

 

 

 

 




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