**First off, does anyone get the for freeeeeeeeee reference??**
This time of year people, including me, can be really excited about all of the stuff they are giving and hoping to receive. Presents that you are certain your child will like or trips you've been waiting all year to take. But lets not forget all of the joy you can have FOR FREE.
Here are 10 things we'll do this holiday season that cost nothing that I am looking forward to:
1. Watching The Santa Clause with my family and quoting every single line (my husband thinks he knows this movie as well as I do and I am ready for a challenge!).
2. Cooooooooookies - making them and eating them (I have the recipe for THE BEST chocolate chip cookies here).
3. Piling all 7 of us in the car and driving around town to see Christmas lights.
4. Singing Christmas carols from the OG I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas to Pentatonix's God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman with my kids.
5. Being outside (Christmas is the one day a year I'd be fine with snow!)
6. Drinking hot cocoa and seeing the mustache that will appear on my 2 year olds face after her first sip.
7. Time with extended family that we realize now we don't see nearly enough.
8. Our Christmas Eve meal* where everyone can pick one thing they want to bring to the table to share -- this year our menu looks to include little smokies, shrimp cocktail, McDonald's fries and Mac & Cheese...
9. Staying in my pajamas all. day. long!!
10. Starting new traditions. This year we are planning on doing a Home Alone movie night* (an idea shared on @tarathueson 's Instagram) where we all watch Home Alone and order (well, we'll do frozen) pizza and eat ice cream like Kevin.
There certainly are some gifts I am looking forward to giving, yet I really think with just 5 days left before Christmas, that I'm learning to focus more on the activities that make memories no matter how small.
What are you most looking forward to this holiday season?
*technically this meal will cost some $$ but we still gotta eat!
With kids, life can go from hand drawn sunshine and rainbows to sh** hitting the fan in as little as 0.3 seconds....which is what happened today. We got to the gym, came home and had a snack, and as my middle two girls watched Frozen my youngest brought me a fox to play with with her in the kitchen.
We were good.
Things were under control.
Then, as I made lunch and prepped dinner for the crock pot, my youngest daughter decided that she needed lunch NOW and any longer was unacceptable. So she's crying, my dinner is overcooking on the stove, I am getting a phone call and I want to quit. But kids need to eat so I get the food on the table (my youngest devours it while my other girls eat probably 6 bites between them) and then take some time in the next room to decompress. Even after lunch my youngest was still being crabby so I decided it was an early nap day and got all three girls in bed between 12:30-12:45.
And although my kitchen is a complete disaster and I have laundry that needs to be washed and laundry that needs to be put away, I knew the best use of my time was to do something for myself. I had been able to put makeup on earlier in the day but my hair was a frizzy mess and each glance in the mirror made me feel like the hot mess express. So, after eating my own lunch, I set up the iPad to watch Superstore while I straightened (well, I ended up curling with a straightener) my hair and walked out feeling like a new woman. A new mom. One who has decided to turn things around and work extra hard to be in a better mood after rest.
Maybe this is cheating, but the thing I've learned is one that I've shared before in my Look Good, Feel Good post:
The thing I’ve learned: do something each day that makes you feel human so when, yes WHEN, things go awry, you can feel better about handling the solution because you feel good.
Maybe makeup isn’t your thing. Maybe your hair has to be done, the bed has to be made, your nails need polish or you need some quiet time in the morning for a devotional or cup of coffee. Just be sure to take time for YOU.
How many movies from the 80s and 90s, and probably a lot earlier too, was there a character that every time they visited their friend's kids or their grandkids, they placed a huge, lipstick stained kiss on the unwilling child? I mean, it has to be at least 1.2 million movies, give or take.
Today's society is all about consent but it has more to do with sexual consent and not much else. It is absolutely important, no, necessary, for people to get consent when wanting to be intimate with someone. At the same time, I think it is also necessary when it comes to hugs or other displays of affection from family members or friends.
I do get it though. I want my nephew to know that I love him and that I am a safe person to be around, and a hug seems like a simple way for me to show that. But he does not OWE me that. HE gets to be the one to choose whether or not he wants a hug no matter if he's 2 or 20. And if we get stuck in this culture of saying that polite manners include hugging people regardless of if you like them, because your parents do so you have to too, I think we are going to run into problems later in the child's life regarding safe and unsafe touches.
And although I absolutely want my kids to love and respect each other, I also don't require them to hug each other. For example, if R bumps into M he first needs to ask if she's okay. After that, instead of telling him to give her a hug, he can ask if she wants a high five, fist bump or a hug, if he wants to offer it. This gives M a choice of what she can pick that they have both agreed is comfortable or she can say no, that she doesn't want any of those options.
So when my kids walk into church or are at a party with family, I encourage them to smile and say hello, but if they do not want to shake the greeters hand or hug a relative, that is 100% okay with me. And oftentimes, after a few more interactions with family and friends, my kids see that these people are people they can trust and then choose open up to them.
To wrap up, I've learned two things. First, from a parent perspective, I don't want to force my kids to hug someone just because I know them. Second, from a family/family friend perspective, if a kid is not ready to hug you, don't take it personally. If the relationship is important to both of you, odds are a genuine hug or high five could be in your very near future :)
This, plus a scarecrow and pumpkins on my front porch, is the extent of my fall holiday decorations. It's not much and, to be honest, most of the time I wish I had more. The outdoor lanterns, the garland, dozens of different sized pumpkins. Sometimes it feels like that is what I need to seem like I've got my life together since that is what is all over social media.
But as I've had time to reflect on decorations and holiday things, I've learned two things. First, I need to be honest. We are a one income household. One income for a family of 7 that is still paying off two bachelors degrees and a masters degree and has kids that eat everything in sight. Those kids need food and loving parents and probably couldn't care less about how many pumpkins we have on the porch or the fact that we don't have pillows with snowflakes on them. Me stressing out about these things will only draw attention to a non-existent problem and cause them to feel like they are missing out when they aren't.
Second, the number of people on social media that post their holiday decor is, like, a big number. And while there is part of me that envy's their ability to buy the things and fill their house with all things Christmas, I can also choose to be so happy for them to be able to decorate if that's what they love to do. I can use their house as inspiration if our budget allows, and I can also appreciate them bringing me into a little piece of their home to share the holiday spirit.
The thing I've learned is those of us with three pumpkins and a candle-less lantern, let's not push ourselves to do more than we can/want to. And those with elaborate holiday setups, please keep sharing what brings you joy :)
When we only had 3 kids, Andre and I would take them all out and the 5 of us would grocery shop on the weekends. We did it a bit, but less often, when we had 4 kids and now with 5, it is pretty rare for us to all go out together. But with me being home during the week, I've decided that I can get at least most of the shopping done in the morning on days when my older kids are at school.
It's not always easy, and it usually results in me buying an extra treat for myself on the way out because I SURVIVED. But I do like to keep certain things in mind when I attempt to take 2-3 kids with me to the grocery store.
Try to pick a less crowded time.
It may not be possible but try to shop around 9-10am. This will mean less crowds and, hopefully, happy kids since you won't be stressed and it isn't close enough to lunchtime that they will ask to put extra food in your cart.
Make sure you can buckle the kids in.
Thankfully a lot more stores have carts that accommodate more than one kid. Aldi has a two seater and Target even has a cart that can securely buckle 3 kids! I will add though, that although the bigger Target cart has three seats, the seat that is at the front of the cart itself is not the safest place for a curious baby/toddler. There is a buckle up there but unless you tighten it so much that your kid can barely move, it is quite easy for them to get out. So for these seats, either put an older kid (3-4 years old) in this seat or invest in a cart seat cover. Those buckle a bit more securely and will help you avoid the panic that can overcome you when you turn away from the cart to grab the box of Golden Grahams only to look back and see your 1 year old standing on the seat about to fall right into the larger part of the cart!
Have a list and stick to it.
Sometimes it's nice to walk around the store just to see what is new. I would not, however, recommend that you try this with small children (save that for date night after dinner when you don't want to go home yet but you're not sure what else to do). Have your list ready (I try my best to organize by aisle if I'm going to a store I know well) and the time for your child to have a meltdown in the middle of the freezer aisle greatly diminishes.
Involve them in the selection - or at least make them think you are.
We always need bananas. They're basically m&ms to my kids, which I ain't mad about, but it does mean that nearly every trip to any store with food will involve getting bananas. Knowing this, I can tell my kids what I'm looking for in our bananas and have them point to which bunch (well, bunches cuz each trip needs at least 2) they think we should take home. I always have veto power (please don't pick the bruised ones or the ones that match the limes) but I don't have to use it much because they know what they like, too.
Be prepared to be the parent walking around with a half empty bag of chips/cookies/crackers/puffs (you get the idea) to bribe them through the store.
I remember seeing parents with the bag of goldfish opened and in their kid's lap and not realizing why that would be necessary. HA! I totally get it now. With the amount of time it takes to shop, even if you've just given your kids a snack before you left, they could easily need another one before you're all done. Target is great because they always have free mini cookies for kids in the bakery and Hy-Vee lets kids under 12 have a free banana - utilize this FREE FOOD! And also, feel no shame in opening the applesauce pouch while finishing up your list because it could very well save your sanity.
Do you have any tips and tricks for shopping with young kiddos?
I can get overwhelmed very easily. Getting the kids ready for school, trying to plan kid activities for the morning, making dinner with everyone around me screaming, putting kids to bed, thinking about the next day. It can be a lot and when Andre is home with me during these times I can sometimes take that stress out on him.
So a couple of months ago we started 30 second hugs. I don't always drop what I am doing at the moment for the hug (that would easily stress me out more) but when I am at a natural stopping point while noodles are boiling or I'm prepping lunches, I walk over to Andre and go in for a hug. Once I'm there I begin counting to 30 in my head. And as I continue counting, I lean in a little more and I can feel some of the stress release. It doesn't take all the stress away, but even 50% of the stress leaving my body is incredibly helpful and allows me to get through whatever I'm struggling with a lot easier. And, not only will I feel better, but since one of Andre's love languages is physical touch, we both end up benefiting from the hug.
The thing I've learned since starting this is that I absolutely have 30 seconds to give myself a break and my husband an extra expression of love. So when you don't have time to get yourself 20 minutes of alone time (although sometimes that is 100% necessary!) or don't want to spend the next 10 minutes super frustrated/feeling guilty for feeling frustrated just take 30 seconds. That's sometimes all it takes.
And just in case I needed more reason to keep this up, here is what shows up when you ask Google how many hugs you need a day:
This is the fourth time we've attempted No Spend September and while it did not go according to plan, I'd still say it was one of our most successful! As a basic overview, from September 1-30 we limit our spending to groceries (once every two weeks - which is our normal schedule but we try extra hard not to have little trips to the store in between our scheduled days), bills and gas.
Our past attempts at this have had a wide range of success. Our first year we rocked it and saved over $350. The next year we made it about half the month and the third time we lasted about 3 days. This time though, we were committed. Committed because we've failed before and were ready to succeed but also because this was our first month as a one income family.
So this past month, we didn't rent movies, we didn't eat out as a family and we only added extra grocery trips for milk, eggs or bread. However, in reviewing our final spreadsheet of our September finances, it said we spent $300 extra. $300 during a month that we limited ourselves in our spending. And although this seems like the opposite of success, here is what we were able to do with this $300:
- Host friends and family for two weekends
- Throw a fun first birthday for our youngest daughter
- Attend multiple baby showers for the special people in our life
- Have a (pre-planned) lunch with an old colleague
So again, the success. The reason I call this a success is because had we rented our typical four movies a month + another movie purchase ($40), gotten takeout twice ($80-100), gone to the grocery store for "just a few snacks" once a week in between big trips ($80-100) or bought those tees or leggings that we just "had to have" ($50) we wouldn't have been able to as easily do all of the things listed above.
We know there are going to be expenses that come up - car repairs, new shoes, baby showers - and the things I've learned this month has given us some great motivation to keep spending our money wisely.
I heard about this article from Young House Love Has A Podcast and it really caught my attention. Here is a small excerpt:
“To the student who does all the homework in his hardest subject and turns it in promptly, who studies diligently for tests and shows up at every before-school help session, who has never once read an online summary instead of the actual book and who nevertheless manages to earn no grade higher than a C: You have already aced the real tests. School is the only place in the world where you’re expected to excel at everything, and all at the same time. In real life, you’ll excel at what you do best and let others excel at what they do best. For the rest of your life, you will never again think of this C, but you’ll bring your character and your capacity for hard work to all your future endeavors.”
(Here is the link to the rest of the article:
Maybe this is super obvious to others but “In real life, you’ll excel at what you do best and let others excel at what they do best” was MIND BLOWING to read! Mind blowing because how true is it?? We want our kids to be great at whatever they try. Academically, physically, creatively, we want them to be good at EVERYTHING. I certainly think it is great for kids to try everything since without trying, they won’t know if they like it or not. But our culture is so against kids not succeeding at something so we pressure them to keep trying something they hate to see if maybe over time they won’t suck.
Honestly, I think that is one of the reasons I like teaching choir more than any other subject. For starters, I’m not really great at any other subject (again, so why do we expect kids to be??) and also, kids don’t typically take choir if they don’t want to. Occasionally parents will insist their child take some sort of music class and even in some schools they do require music class past elementary and middle school. But for most of my experience, I had the pleasure of working with kids who wanted to be there and wanted to give singing a chance. Not everyone I worked with was the world’s greatest singer and some even downright struggled. But those that weren’t very strong AND didn’t enjoy it, got to drop at semester.
Academically their path is pretty much paved. We love our kids’ elementary school and at the same time acknowledge that with their resources and standards (ugh don’t even get me started) they do the best they can. So we will support them as much as we can through any homework given, reading help and interventions as needed.
Physically their path is a lot more flexible but sometimes it seems that flexibility can be stretched too thin. In our house we try to avoid that by having each kid pick one sport to participate in and they get to choose that sport. When they are young we introduce them to gymnastics. When they are 4 they can choose between that and soccer and as they get older and hear about more friends doing softball or basketball or volleyball, they can choose which they would like to participate in. But only ONE sport at a time.
Emotionally we just need to be there. There for emotional highs and the lows. Not making the team is tough and getting a lower grade on something you worked hard on can be incredibly frustrating. And, knowing all kids are different, they will all react differently to failure. And that is okay. As parents, we will do our best to help them figure out which way of dealing with things works best for them.
So while we can’t always control the fact that when our kids are young, they will have to continue to take science classes despite being absolutely terrible (that would be me…), the thing I've learned, and continue to learn, the best thing we can do is encourage kids to find what they love and to keep working hard at it.
Read the first part of my journey here and then below for the final part
December 30, 2018
"Then there are people like the dang lactation consultant at the hospital. I am struggling to nurse baby G. Pretty much since day one she has not nursed well leaving me devastated and driving myself crazy trying to make it work for her body and mine. So when I went to the consultant to talk about what to do she suggested pumping 8-10 times a day to keep my supply up. Uh, what? Who the heck has time to pump 8-10 times a day let alone someone with three other kids at home and one in school? Her response, “you know when those people tell you once you have a baby to let them know if you need anything? Now is the time to take them up on that offer.” Seriously? When people say that, they usually mean a meal or meeting to talk. And, NEWSFLASH, people work! If I need to pump 8-10 times a day, 4-6 of those times will be during 8am-5pm, you know, normal business hours. I don’t have family that stays home all day just waiting for me to ask for them to babysit. Get your head out of your ass lady and don’t assume everyone has a support system that includes free childcare.
But anyway, back to nursing. Do I quit nursing and see if that helps? Can I assume that is the root of the issue since I never struggled to nurse my other four kids so it would make sense that that difference could be fueling this? A few weeks ago I ran into a friend at bible study who had a baby about a month after me. She talked with me about how she tried to nurse for a couple of weeks but chose to switch over to formula and has felt SO much better. That week had been particularly hard as far as nursing so when I talked to Andre about it that night, he agreed that it might have been a sign that it was time to switch to formula. But then the next week G did SO well when nursing that I decided to keep going. It didn’t last, however, and when I saw her doctor a few weeks later, they said to not give up as long as I can. So I have one person telling me she is so much happier switching to formula and someone else saying I need to stick this out as long as possible. That’s not confusing. Or frustrating…cue anger. This doctor doesn’t know my case. They don’t know that I literally start bawling every time we have a particularly bad day and I ended up pumping 4-6 times while she only nurses from me once. They don’t know that trying to find time to pump when you work in a school is not easy. They don’t know that I can feel my heart break as my baby gags when I try to get her to latch. They don’t know me. But they sure do know how to lay on the guilt.
So what do you do? When people want to be supportive but they aren’t. Or you don’t fit into the mold of typical postpartum behaviors. Or people are telling you that you are doing a great job when they don’t know you yelled at your kid this afternoon for wetting the bed after YOU forgot to put their nap time diaper on. I am not supermom. Don’t put that label and associated pressure on me. I love my kids, and my husband and the family we have created and that’s all I should care about."
I've learned a lot about myself and managing these difficult feelings mostly through therapy but also from trying (key word *trying*) to ask for help more. Help is available and the thing I've learned is to look for it when you need it and feel no shame.
I have never had stellar self-esteem. Middle school was not a great time for me, high school was better but still brought with it some pretty bad days and then in college I met the love of my life. It has only been recently, like, the last six of months, that I started therapy and found out that I have general anxiety disorder. It has probably been around for a while but really only became noticeable through signs of postpartum depression this past year.
I won't go into all of the details of how incredible my first full therapy session was (it was GOOD) but it was through reflection the evening after the appointment that I had this realization. I don't let Andre love me.
^^We've actually sent these gifs to each other from across a room^^
Whenever he compliments me, helps unload the dishwasher or suggests I go out with friends, there is something inside me that decides he can't mean it -- the compliment must be because I have not looked good before. He unloaded the dishwasher because he must have been frustrated because I hadn't. He suggests I go out because I must have been too rough on the kids or yelled too much. Those words have never been uttered from his mouth so why do I decide to put them there?
I am in the thick of motherhood. So much poop and crying and scraped knees and poop and snacks and toys and poop. And some days it just seems crazy that there could be this person that can see beyond my dirty hair and the same sweat pants from the last 5 days and see me. But he does. He reminds me daily that our life together is one that he is so grateful to have and I feel the exact same way. There is no one I'd rather spend my life with so I need to acknowledge that it's possible for someone to feel the same about me.
I've come a long way in developing at least a little self-confidence and know I still have a ways to go. But for now, I am going to remember that he chose me to spend the rest of his life with so the thing I've learned is, I need to let him love me.
Hi, I'm Rebecca
I’m a wife, mom to 5 kids, former choir teacher, Christian and advice giver? I can honestly say I never expected to be the one giving advice when I so frequently ask for it, but the advice I’ve received is so valuable and must be shared! Here are some of the things I’ve learned so far!