Category Archives: Friendship

Kids in the Winter – Yikes!

As a work-at-home mother, the winter months tend to be the ones I dread the most.  I love the beginning, when it’s fun to get cozy and curl up under blankets for an awesome Pixar movie, but as time goes by, watching Toy Story again starts to get old for parents and kids alike.  The holidays require a lot of work on the part of parents, which leaves the kids begging for more attention, and when everything calms down a break is much needed.  But not for the kids!  They are ready for more action.  Whether or not you are home or off to work during the day, winter with little ones can be trying.  Therefore, I present a list for your winter activity needs!  Maybe you don’t have kids, but are still looking for things to do when it’s freezing outside.  Read on.  You may get some ideas!

  1. Build a fort – this is a fun activity that reminds you of your childhood while entertaining the little ones in your life at the same time.  And there is no rule that says children need to be present while a fort is being built.  So give it a try when the weather is nasty and being inside one more day seems unbearable.  Plus, you already have everything you need, which is a sheet.
  2. Have a picnic – choose a dinner that does not include anything messy, such as sandwiches and veggies.  Then throw a blanket on the floor and have a picnic dinner!
  3. Game night – pull out some games for the whole family and play the short versions to hold the kids’ attention.  And this way, you can get through two or three different games in a night!

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  4. Play in a different room – this may seem simple, but even providing a new environment can eliminate the boredom the members of your household are feeling.  If you typically play in the family room, set up some toys in the dining room and utilize the space in your home!
  5. Bake – when it’s cold outside, baking can warm your home and provide entertainment for the whole family.  Find a recipe that everyone can help with, and start delegating.  You might even find multiple recipes to keep the activity going and the children captivated.
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This is a start, and will hopefully help with the winter blues.  Do you have ideas for winter activities?  Put them in the comments below!

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Time after time

This time of year, people start thinking a lot about changes they want to make after the clock hits midnight on the 31st.  Typically you will hear vows to lose weight, quit smoking or any number of promises that weren’t fulfilled the year before.  This may sound cynical, but the truth is, you rarely hear of someone setting a useful New Year’s goal that they actually accomplish. (Yes husband, I did say useful.  Vowing to never set the microwave timer to an even :00 or :30 is not actually useful, even though you have technically accomplished this resolution).

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So why do we continue this cycle, year after year?  And why do we feel the need to wait until January first to start working on these major, life-transforming goals?  My brother recently pointed out that really, we should set our New Year’s resolutions on our birthdays, as that is our personal new year.  But again, something as important as quitting smoking or beginning an exercise regimen should not wait until a specific date; those things should be done today, as they could save your life!  So to help out a bit, I’ve compiled a list of helpful guidelines to follow when setting your resolution this year.  I hope it helps, and I wish you the best of luck in completing your mission!

  1. Don’t wait – if you have already decided on a resolution for 2017, why not start today?  If you aren’t willing to do so, then what is going to change in the next 16 days?  I understand that waiting until the first is a symbolic gesture, but as I stated above, many resolutions can greatly affect your life, so get started now!
  2. Set manageable goals – don’t promise to exercise for 2 hours, seven days a week all 52 weeks of 2017.  This is not a reasonable feat; instead, try starting with 3 times a week and increasing as necessary.  If you have a vice you want to quit, going cold turkey on January 1st is not going to work for most people.  Providing mini-goals for yourself might be a better idea.
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  3. Make it meaningful – if your resolution does not hold special meaning for you, chances are you will not stick to it.  Don’t make arbitrary rules for yourself to follow, and don’t choose a resolution that you would be doing either way.  Like, say, resolving to continuing hating a certain premier league football coach that resolution or not, you never would have liked anyway.  Sorry honey.  You’re an easy target.
  4.  Make it quantitative, if possible – vowing to go into work a little earlier is great, but how much earlier?  Technically you could arrive at the office at 7:59 and have accomplished your goal, but that’s not going to make a positive change in your life.
  5. Positivity is ideal – making negative resolutions is not going to start your year off on the right foot.  Saying that you will no longer speak to Sharon in accounting because you don’t like the way she laughs might make your life a little more enjoyable.  But instead, maybe decide that you will try to find something good in everyone at your office; also makes for an enjoyable life and at the same time is a way to better yourself.

Hopefully these tips will help you find a resolution that will make your 2017 great!

If your resolution is to spend less time at work, check out what these guys have to offer!

 

 

Homemade for the holidays

As a child, I used to really, REALLY look forward to opening gifts on Christmas morning.  I love surprises, so I was never one to search for gifts ahead of time.  I truly enjoyed guessing what was in those beautiful boxes!  Walking down the stairs on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought and then spending an embarrassingly long time opening gifts from family – who could ask for anything better?  However, as a grown-up and parent, things have begun to change.  I now look forward to others opening the gifts I picked out for them more than anything else.  This year I have spent an added amount of time and love on a number of gifts, as I am making quite a few of them on my own!  I won’t get into details in case one of my family members is reading, but I have truly had such a wonderful time putting together these gifts that are straight from the heart.  Another added bonus to the homemade variety is the money it saves!  Now, admittedly, I am not making macaroni frames so I have had to spend a little.  But when I divide through the number of gifts I will be able to create, it is a very small amount of money per person, yet the gifts are going to mean so much more.  I hope.

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In case this is something that interests you, I have compiled a list of ideas for homemade gifts that will not make people put on a fake smile and look around for a non-existent receipt.  I hope it can be of some use to you this year!

  1. Drink kits – whether it is a hot cocoa kit for the kids, or a hot toddy kit for mom and dad, providing someone with all of the ingredients for a yummy winter drink is a great idea and something they will certainly use on those snowy nights ahead!  Yes, people probably have hot cocoa powder on hand, but do they also have marshmallows, crumbled peppermint and chocolate stirrer sticks in their pantry?  Probably not.  Other kits that are fun are ice cream sundae kits, cookie making kits, and even beer bread kits!  (My mom and I did this one year, just put the bread ingredients in a plastic bag, wrap it in burlap and attach a tag that says “just add beer!”)
  2. Ornaments – granted, these are a once a year gift and one they probably won’t get much use out of this year, but if they are made well enough, they will last for years to come.  This year, I spray painted small wooden shapes purchased at Michael’s, drilled holes in the top, mod podged pictures on the front and tied a ribbon!  So easy, and so durable!
  3. Coasters – I did these a couple of years ago and they were a big hit.  I purchased tiles from Lowe’s, but just found them online from my new favorite store Menard’s for only $.14!, and again mod podged pictures onto the front.  I also added felt pieces to the back to prevent scratching and now my family has adorable pictures of my children to place their drink glasses on!
  4. Spa gifts – depending on how natural and how homemade you want these to be, this could take a little more planning to purchase the required items.  But everyone uses lotion and shaving cream and lip balm, so wouldn’t it be great if you could provide them with a homemade version that actually works, and does not include all of those unnatural ingredients?  Amazon has everything you need to make a yummy smelling spa treat for the special people in your life.
  5. *Hats and scarves – this time of year, we are reminded that we can never have too many scarves, hats and mittens.  And if we can happen to find a pair of mittens that match, bonus!  What if we had the whole hat, mitten and scarf set still intact?  Oh right, that’s impossible.  So a matching set will always be a much appreciated gift, and they will think of you and feel thankful every time they put them on.
    *disclaimer: only choose this option if you are actually skilled at knitting or crocheting, and also only if you promise to use solid, neutral colors.  We don’t want to make people feel like the dog in the picture up above!

These are just a few ideas, but they all include a spoonful of love and that’s all anyone really wants this time of year!  Good luck, and please let me know how it goes in the comments!

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Doing YOU this holiday season

The holidays are stressful.  For everyone.  I think they are even stressful for kids, even if it’s just emanating from their parents and attaching to their psyche.  As wonderful and happy as the holidays are, at times they just suck.  Here is a standard train of thought in my brain around the holidays:  I need to remember to buy ingredients for neighbor treats, my portion of the Christmas dinner, and Boxing Day brunch and dinner.  But before I do that, I better make a list and plan the meal.  Next weekend I’ll go shopping for gifts for my husband, two boys, parents, grandparents, in-laws, brothers, sister-in-law, and niece (so excited to buy a girl gift)!  And we can’t forget our wonderful trash collector! Additionally, my husband’s office will most likely do some sort of meal that he needs to contribute to, and we can’t have him arriving with a store-bought layer dip, can we?  When should we visit Santa?  And we promised the boys we would go on a carriage ride at the plaza, better put that on the calendar.  I also need to get the Christmas card picture taken, and that might take an entire day with two toddlers.  After that, I need to order the cards and have them addressed and mailed by December 1!  But wait – I don’t have all the addresses I need this year!  I better make some phone calls.  Did I ever do thank you notes for the first birthday party?  Great, those people are probably checking their mailboxes every day and becoming more disappointed with every day that passes by with no thank you note.  I’ll do that tomorrow.  I should probably also try on every outfit in my closet so I have something to wear for the office Christmas party, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve.  Whew.  Time for some wine.

And honestly, with toddlers, my mind isn’t even racing nearly as much as parents with children in school!  Inevitably, I will end up crying on New Year’s Day, just out of pure relief that IT’S OVER.  Oh wait.  Another birthday January 5.  Better get my thank you notes started now!

So what to do?  My first response would be to eliminate unnecessary items.  But I am a creature of habit, and I feel very strongly about traditions.  So that might only stress me out more.  Instead, I just need to find ways to stay calm and relax.  I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago, suggesting yoga, aromatherapy and deep breathing for a few ways to calm down.  And I stand by those ideas for the holidays as well, as none of them take too much time and can be done while you’re wrapping presents (yes, even yoga).  But I might also suggest taking some time to yourself.  Around the holidays, we all spend so much time focusing on others, which is WONDERFUL.  But unless we take care of ourselves, we cannot accomplish everything we want to.  Even if it means pretending you need to grab something from the basement, but actually just sitting down there in the dark for a few minutes while your husband deals with the crying boys.  Wait, what?

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I have not done either of those things.  Promise.

But in all seriousness, at the end of my yoga classes, the instructor always thanks us for coming to class and doing something FOR OURSELVES.  I always feel such a sense of calm when they say that, because it reminds me of how important it is to take care of me in order to take care of others.   It also makes me feel less guilty for taking an hour away from the family for something other than grocery shopping.

So this holiday season, between the giving and creating, stay healthy and happy by taking some time for you!  Even if that means grabbing a Starbucks and taking a leisurely stroll around Target while you’re shopping instead of racing from one place to the next trying to cross everything off your list in record time.  Because if you’re like me, you might even prefer this over the beach:

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I am not thankful for…

This time of year, we spend so much time thinking and talking about what we are thankful for.  And that is AMAZING.  It is important, it is healthy.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with remembering the reasons we are lucky and happy.  But what if we switched it up, and spoke about the things for which we are not thankful, promoting action within ourselves?  For example, I am not thankful for hungry children.  I hate the thought of families not having enough to eat, especially around this time of so much gluttony for many of the more fortunate.  The next step to the “I’m not thankful” plan is to be part of the solution.  If I’m not thankful for hunger, then the obvious next step is to do something about it.  Feed someone, donate food, invite someone less fortunate to dinner.  But the solution portion of this plan  may take some time and planning, so don’t feel as though you have to come up with something concrete right away.  But rather than simply thinking about it and pushing it out of your mind, write it down and put it on your refrigerator.  Make it a part of your new year’s resolution.  Think about what you can do to help others all year, not just around Thanksgiving.  That being said, here is my “Not Thankful” list this year:

I am not thankful for:

  1. Hungry Children – I stated this above, but it’s on my list so I don’t want to forget it!
  2. Stress – I don’t like being stressed myself, and I don’t want my family or loved ones to feel it either.  Next week, I will lay out my plan for combating stress for myself and others during this holiday season!
  3.  Anger – I don’t like when others are angry with me, and I especially don’t like when I am angry with others!  Maybe my plan will be watching Frozen on repeat and learning to “Let it go.”
  4. Time away from family – don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the idea my mom and I came up with of a commune for our family will actually work.  Some time away from family is healthy.   However, I don’t like when too much time passes, or when I could be spending time with my boys but I’m working instead – like right now!  I also don’t like the idea of people (other than our heroes, police officers and firefighters) having to work and be away from family on the holidays.  That is why I appreciate companies like this!


  5. Sadness – sometimes this is unavoidable.  But there are ways to pull yourself out of it, and I intend to find those ways for the next time I or someone I love is feeling down.

This is a start.  And hopefully it gives you some ideas for your list!  If you have some great ideas you would like to share, please do so in the comments below!

Keeping calm during the MADNESS

The past seven days have been insane.  MADNESS I tell you.  And I think we can all agree with Kevin O’Leary:

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Unfortunately, Kevin cannot actually do anything for us.  So we must rely on ourselves to get through our feelings of stress and frustration, no matter which team you are on.  Here are some things I have been doing, as well as some other ideas I would like to try.  I hope they will help you as well!

  1. Aromatherapy – this might sound hokey to you, but smells really do have such an effect on our moods and feelings.  I’m sure everyone can think of a smell that reminds them of a very happy, or maybe very sad time in their life.  Smells trigger emotions, and therefore really can have an impact on how we feel.  Depending on what I need, I have been combining different ingredients and simmering them on the stove.  I especially love the calming effects of lavender (I also used this to make a spray for my son’s pillow to help him fall asleep at night), as well as the energizing effect of orange and mint.  Here are some tips on using aromatherapy in your everyday life!
  2. Yoga – again, maybe not for you, but something that has been working for me like a dream!  I joined a yoga studio near my house, but many gyms and even some employers offer yoga classes for members and employees.  The combination of stretching, strength  building and deep breathing is a great way to calm down and build confidence at the same time.  When I walk out of that studio, I always feel better than when I walked in, and that’s enough reason for me to keep doing it!
  3. Breathing – this is a part of yoga, but also something to concentrate on in your everyday life.  When we feel stressed, our breathing becomes more shallow, so it makes sense that deepening our breaths will relieve some of that stress.  Try to focus on breathing in for 5 counts, holding it for a few seconds, then taking 5 counts to breath out.  Here are some more tips that could be of some help!
  4. Laughing – seems easy enough, right?  But during difficult times, this could be asking a lot.  Everyone has a different sense of humor, so find what makes you laugh and let loose!  Or maybe call that one friend that always makes you laugh until you cry and share a bottle of wine.  This made me laugh out loud the other day, maybe it will do the same for you!
  5. Delegate – sometimes it all just gets to be too much, and when you are doing everything on your own, it can get downright overwhelming.  So ask for help; assign jobs to others; hire new people.  If you are a store manager and need facility or maintenance services, call Royal!  Whatever it takes, just remember you can’t do it all alone!

These are just a few ideas, but hopefully you will find something that helps you stop the madness in your life and get back on track.  And if all else fails,

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Lessons Learned

My best friend died six weeks ago.  My head is filled with all kinds of new knowledge that I have needed to share with others, but have not found the strength until now.  I do not want her passing to be in vain, so I hope that some of the lessons I have learned will benefit you as well.

Lindsay and I met when we were 14 years old.  We shared 18 years of laughter and tears, secrets and inside jokes, momentous life occasions and not-so-momentous everyday life experiences.  Lindsay was probably best known for her giant smile and amazing sense of humor.  She was also that friend that was always there, for every important and unimportant event in your life.  She was intelligent, kind and genuine, and this world is a lot crappier without her in it.

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Lindsay had ovarian cancer, and that is the first lesson I would like to preach about.  Ladies: pay attention.  This is a very deadly form of cancer because the symptoms do not talk to you; they whisper.  Know the symptoms, and talk to your doctor right away if you are experiencing them.  Men, talk to your wives and sisters and mothers and daughters.  Make sure that every woman you know and care about is familiar with these symptoms and prepared to take action right away.

I will now step down from my soapbox and talk about dealing with difficult situations.  Personally, I find myself empathizing with others when they are going through terrible times, but still in the back of my mind feeling thankful that it isn’t happening to me or someone I love.  You never think it’s going to hit your world, but the fact is, it does.  In one way or another, you will experience grief and heartache and you have to ask yourself: how will you handle it?  I always imagined that I would be the sort of person who got under my covers for six months until my family had an intervention.  However, I somehow found strength within to support Lindsay’s family and I feel so grateful for that.  At a time when all I wanted to do was help, and the only thing they wanted was for Lindsay to be healthy, I found myself arranging food on the table, getting ice and providing wine.  Not much, but it made me feel useful and gave her family extra moments to spend with her.  This is not so much of a lesson, but something to think about – how can you be of service to others who are grieving?  And how will you take care of yourself during that time?

The next lesson I learned was to hold on to your friendships tight.  Lindsay and I attended different colleges, and while we kept in touch, we weren’t in regular contact with one another during those years.  About six years ago, Lindsay and I decided to start having monthly dinners.  And thank God we did.  I would not trade those six years for anything, and feel so grateful that I got to spend that time with her to rekindle our friendship.  If you have a friend that you care about and want in your life, then do everything you can to keep that friend in your life.  Friendships are like any relationship – they need to be nurtured, and you have to be willing to put in the work to keep them alive.

Finally, don’t wait to do the things you want to do.  Don’t feel embarrassed to reveal your dreams to your loved ones, as they will likely help you accomplish them.  To quote a line from about a million songs, you may not have tomorrow.  Take advantage of every moment you have on this earth, work to accomplish your dreams, and strive to have no regrets.  Be kind and loving to others, so when you do pass on, the memories people have of you will be positive and happy, just like the memories that myself and Lindsay’s loved ones have of her.

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