The Christmas Boot

I was talking to my Mom the other night about our lack of Christmas decorations. I feel like we talk about this every year, but I was really able to pinpoint what was missing – the warmth I felt of Christmas at my house growing up. I felt like things were special and different and cozy. I love my house, but it doesn’t feel cozy at Christmas time.

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After sharing this with my Mom she was, of course, happy I had that feeling and memory of Christmas’ growing up. But she also mentioned how in the early years she thought her Christmas decor was haphazard and mismatched. I disagreed with her and brought up some of my favorite items. Obviously the toy train set that we had under the tree, the collection of stuffed animals, and my Mom’s snowglobe collection she kept on the record player on homemade ‘lifts’. But what I most remember was The Boot.

I don’t know why I didn’t find it odd at the time, but it was a small glass Santa boot that had perfume in it at one time. It’s just one of those things that sticks with you. It took some Googling to find a picture to jog Mom’s memory, but then it all came flooding back; the big wax carolers and especially the wax sleigh. Mom remembers being so proud to have purchased those as a young wife and started her Christmas decor. Of course, the boot and other Avon treasure are long gone now and her decorating tastes have changed.

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But today, a package from EBay arrived on my step and it was a vintage Avon box with, you guessed it, a Santa boot filled with perfume. I might classify my Christmas decor style as ‘kitschy’ or ‘whimsy’, but that boot will always have a place on my mantle.

You never know what your kids will remember!

An Attitude of Gratitude

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Happy Giving Tuesday! I absolutely love this new campaign that focuses on supporting charities and non-profits. S. and I do this year round with groups like the Caroline County Humane Society, soon Brave Trails and, of course, the 12 For 1 Diaper Drive. I am hoping we are starting to impress upon Mike how important it is to give of time or talent to organizations that hold our values.

I have such fond memories of volunteering growing up, my parents did an amazing job of reminding me that when much is given, much is expected. Every Christmas we adopted a family to shop for, even when money was tight. Then my Mom managed a mentoring program for a few years while I was in college. Seeing that labor of love and helping with activities left an impression on me to this day.

I am asked every once in awhile how to start fostering an attitude of gratitude in children. I think it is SO easy when you remember that little eyes are always watching all the time- if they see YOUR attitude for gratitude, then they will fall in step. But there are also ways for them to ‘get their hands dirty’ and get involved. Here are a few suggestions:

{Visit} There are so many places kids can visit and spread some love and give time. Of course, this depends on the kid, but there is always nursing homes that need people to play games, animal shelters that need snugglers and hospitals that need visitors. Make it a family or neighborhood event and go caroling!

{Create} If in person visits are not an option, there is always a need for handmade goods. Have your kiddo make cards to drop at the nursing home or create decorations for the local hospital.

{Donate} This one is the easiest, especially before the holidays when the idea of more STUFF is coming soon. Encourage your kiddo to pick some older (but still in good condition) toys to take to a shelter, weed out lesser read books to take to a library or children’s hospital or old linens to take to an animal shelter.

{Buy} There are so many opportunities to purchase things for a charity. Take your kiddo to the grocery store to buy some canned goods for a food drive, ask your friends to bring candy canes to your holiday party and take them to a hospital, pick out some toiletries to take to a women’s shelter or adopt a family for the holidays. A lot of organizations now have wish lists on Amazon, like Brave Trails!

{Do} There are so many options for things kids can DO as acts of kindness. This is a great way to start the conversation with older kids about what they are passionate about it. Homelessness? Hunger? Childhood Cancer? The Diaper Gap (see what I did there?)? There are opportunities to volunteer at shelters and hospitals, or volunteer to host a local diaper drive! Younger kids can put the canned goods in the box, put the coins in the Salvation Army bucket, or pick up trash in the neighborhood.

There are so many ways to get involved in your local community with your kids. They are going to be the ones to change the world, so it is important to start the conversation with our kids and as they grow move them to action.

Happy #givingtuesday!

A Politically Free Thanksgiving

I can almost smell the turkey and cherry cheesecake! I love Thanksgiving and have such great memories of having a house full of family. But with a divisive election still fresh, I know a lot of my friends are dreading sitting around the table in ‘mixed company’.

How can you avoid the political talk, even after a few glasses of wine? Easy – remind everyone to check politics at the door. I made this printable as a friendly reminder that doesn’t come off as rude. Feel free to stick a few around your house to keep the discussion light.

Now, if only I could help you avoid family questions like when you are getting married, have kids or why you ruined your life with a neck tattoo.

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Click Image to Print

 

Dear Mike: Election Edition

Dear Mike –

You and I had an eventful morning! We headed over to our polling place to vote for the next President of the United States. We waited in line for over an hour and you were SO patient! I know at 3 years old you don’t have much of a clue what is going on, but this election is a really big deal. It’s the first time a female was on the ballot AND the first time a man with no political or military experience was on the ballot.  I didn’t think it would bother me, but I told Geema today – I am just feeling out of sorts.

I am so happy I have been able to take you to vote since you were born, even the midterm elections! It’s our right as Americans and one I don’t ever want you to take for granted. I want you to grow up watching the debates, asking questions about the issues and making an informed decision even if it is different than my decision. But for now I am thankful you are only 3 and you didn’t have to witness the nastiness that went on for the past 20 months. BUT if you were old enough to see what is going on, I would use this opportunity to talk to you about some heavy issues Donald Trump has brought forward.

 

{Locker Room Talk} Baby, I have never been in a locker room full of men, but from what I hear – the ‘locker room talk’ excuse is crap.  I know Daddy agrees. Real men do not about women as objects, they don’t call them names and  they certainly don’t stand for anyone else to speak that way either.  In our house BOYS WILL NOT BE BOYS. They will be kind people.

{Consent} Guess what? If someone, anyone, says stop – you stop. I don’t care if you are waving to them or engaging in intercourse. No means no all the time. You keep your hands to yourself. And we expect you to stand up for anyone who isn’t able to consent. This is going to be an ongoing conversation in our home.

{Bully Goat} We have been reading Llama Llama and the Bully Goat recently and that’s what Trump is – a bully goat. He likes to call people names, and make fun of them. He tells his supporters to do bad things to Clinton and wants to keep people out of our country because of the color of their skin. He says things about women that I can’t even bring myself to write, things that literally makes my mouth drop open. He is a bully goat. we don’t want you to EVER be a bully goat and we want to respect everyone regardless of their ethnicity, orientation or the color shoes they wear on Thursdays. We also hope you won’t stand to see other people being bully goats.

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The polls aren’t closed yet Bug, but Daddy and I are going to stay up late and see who wins this election – who will be our leader for the next four years. We are hopeful we wake up tomorrow with a President we will be proud of. We don’t have to think alike to love alike. And just like generations before me have said about my generation, I hope your generation is the one to get it right.

I’ll eat you up, I love you so –

Momma xoxo

Dear Marcie Jane

My Dear Marcie Jane –

Welcome to the world! I’ve written this note to you dozens of times, but I am not sure how to tell you how excited I am that you are finally here. Uncle Sammy and I got to visit you in the hospital and all I could see where your long skinny feet. I can picture you slipping on your ballet shoes in a few years. Or cleats – whatever you want sweetheart!

marcie-jane

You are in for such a treat sweet girl – you were born into a family that is loud, funny and so full of love it can be overwhelming.  You are one of the luckiest girls I know and I can’t wait to love on you and take you to the American Girl Store.

Love you,

Aunt Jay Jay xo

Dear Mike: IOU

My dearest Mike –

I owe you a bunch of back letters don’t I? Things have been BUSY. I feel like I say that in every letter, but this time it’s for real. It’s BUSY. So this letter is going to be just a snapshot of you right now. My achingly sweet, compassionate, stubborn 3 year old.

{Preschool} Man. If you got superlatives in Preschool, you would be most likely to be a Cruise Director. I was able to go with you on your FIRST field trip – Papa John’s Pumpkin Farm. It was such a treat to see you interact with your friends and teachers. You serenaded everyone and basically talked non-stop. You had Miss Amy and Miss Theresa in stitches! Out of everything on that farm – animals, pumpkins, and gourds – you were most taken with the cotton plant. You carried that tuft of cotton around for days. You said it felt like magic! I didn’t have the heart to tell you I have a bag of 100 tufts of cotton in the linen closet.

But in all seriousness Bug, you are thriving in preschool. You really have taken to singing and music and according to your teachers you are sweet and polite.

{Polite} Speaking of manners – good grief. I am not sure we can take credit for it, but someone is raising you up right! You talk to strangers all the time telling them to ‘have a nice day’ and that is ‘nice to see them’. You invite people to sit down, ask how they are doing and are such a little gentleman. I am SO proud of you in public when you say please and thank you without prompting.

dear-mike

{Favorite Things} Right now you are obsessed with:

  • Halloween
  • Skeletons (you are going to be one for Halloween)
  • Cat in the Hat
  • Space
  • Peppa Pig
  • Riding your balance bike
  • Super Heroes (Batman specifically)
  • Watching videos on Momma’s iPad

{Compassion} I can’t think of a better word to describe you – COMPASSIONATE. Daddy had his heart surgery and you have been so gentle with him while his ‘boo boo’ heals. Even when it is covered up you ask if it is still there. If someone indicates they are hurt you are the first one to ask if they are okay and give them a kiss. You accidently poked me in the eye with a toy and I got kisses, face pats, side hugs and numerous apologies. There is no better quality for you to have and I will do what I have to do to make sure you keep your compassion for others.

Well my love, I write for days about how things have been going the past few months, but at the end of the day all you need to know about this time in your life is you are stubborn, independent, sweet and active. On those days when I can’t wait for you to go to bed I still love you so much my heart might burst.

I’ll eat you up I love you so,

Momma xoxo

Where Are They Now?

Each night I lay in bed and think about what I need to do the next day and blogging is always on the top of the list. Then as the day goes on blogging falls closer to the bottom of the list. Life has gone a little sideways recently, but we are meeting those challenges head on. So where are we now?

{S} I have mentioned a few times recently that S. was recently diagnosed with a genetic heart disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy which impacts 1 to 500 people. Most people don’t even KNOW they have it but there are a handful that have symptoms like chest pains, shortness of breath and general exhaustion – S. was one of those people. A few weeks ago S. finally had his open heart surgery at Johns Hopkins and they ‘shaved’ down the extra heart muscle that was blocking his oxygen intake.

The surgery went well, but ultimately a few days later it was determined he needed a pacemaker extending our hospital stay and then a lung infection that followed. At the end of the day we were at the hospital of 8 days. Now he is home and recovering for the next few weeks, but is on major restrictions like lifting, driving and movement. He’s being SUCH a trooper, but understandably getting restless. I am going to have some upcoming posts about this soon!

surgery

{Mike} My little preschooler is becoming SUCH a little old man in the cutest way. He is overly polite to everyone we meet by greeting them and being his charming self. He knows Daddy has an owie and he has to be gentle. His favorite thing right now is riding his balance bike and watching Peppa Pig.

He has taken to his new ‘school’ like … Peppa Pig in muddy puddles. He loves his teachers and they seem to be very taken with him as well. His language has EXPLODED. He is asking what things mean, singing nursery rhymes and remember things. It really is like waking up each morning and finding out a new part of his personality has developed overnight.

Speaking of nights – someone is sleeping in a bed now! That transition has been pretty seamless except for naptime. But bed time might take a little longer, but he has stayed in bed all night and actually slept. I see that as a big win.

mike

{Muddling Momma} This Muddling Momma is just trying to keep up these days. A week after S. came home from surgery I was relieved of my duties at work which means spending my days at home job hunting. While I won’t ever lie, it stings and was a surprise, I firmly believe it was probably for the best though the timing could not have been worse. However, the silver lining is I can spend time with S. and help with his recovery (which usually means telling him to go take a nap).

On the positive side, I was FINALLY approved to be on the Chick Fil A Mom Panel this year so that was a bit of good news! I am still learning about my ‘duties’, but I am excited to eat some chicken and share some feedback.

There you have it! Like I said, life is a little sideways but I think we are going to come out on the other side and wonder how we survived. But we did and that’s the important part.

jackie

Six Years

It’s wedding season! I am seeing so many couples getting married on my Facebook feed the past few weekends and it’s making my heart happy. Being married is so much fun – well, most the time if you did it right. It is hard to believe that tomorrow S. and I are celebrating SIX years of marriage!

This past year has been, by far, the hardest on us. It was about this time last year that S. starting having dizzy spells and chest pains leading us on this journey to a diagnosis of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy and ultimately open heart surgery two weeks ago. If you had told us, standing in front of our family and friends, six years ago we would have been sitting in a hospital for a week scheduling pain medication, looking for a cardiac rehab and figuring out follow up appointments – we both would have laughed. No one plans for these huddles in a marriage, but this hurdle has changed us as a couple. We both have learned our true strength individually and together which I find so empowering. Our hardest year has been my favorite so far. But if we could keep our seventh year less … busy … I would be okay with that.

So as we celebrate six years of marriage, I leave you with this reading from our wedding:

“But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take. It is indeed a fearful gamble. Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created, so that, together we become a new creature.

To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take. If we commit ourselves to one person for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation. It takes a lifetime to learn another person. When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling, and which implies such risk that it is often rejected.” ― Madeleine L’Engle, The Irrational Season

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Off to School!

Well friends, I am officially the proud parent of a preschooler. Remember how I didn’t realize he actually needed to go to preschool? And how we missed the mad registration rush? Well, we locked that sh*t down and it was no fuss, no muss. But then it came time to actually GO to preschool.

Mikey picked out a Batman lunchbox with a cape, but as much as we were talking up ‘going to school’ – I am not sure he got that he was going to preschool. My biggest fear was he would be standing in the corner with his backpack and lunchbox crying while all the other kids threw rocks and teased him. And of course, the teacher would be egging them on while making him feel bad for not being 100% potty trained. Totally realistic, right? Obviously that wasn’t the case. His teacher was exactly what you picture a preschool teacher to be … but even MORE friendly. 

We just started our second week and our first week was ROUGH. It was really hard to remember he was in a new environment with a new schedule and new people and new rules. He was coming home bouncing off the walls, being not nice and not listening. At all. I was exhausted and stressed out. AND second guessing if he was ready for preschool. But we decided to give it a few months knowing good and well that he would adjust quickly. And we were right!

As the week went on he was having less accidents, eating more of his lunch and not crying at drop off. Or picking fights at home. We are slowly discovering a new routine that works for everyone and figuring out what life with a preschooler looks like. 

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What I Did on my Summer Vacation

Or rather, What Mikey Did on his Summer Vacation.

We lucked out big time with the timing of our current daycare going on 2 week break and when preschool starts. It gave Mike a great little break to (hopefully) ease the transition. It was a little less of a ‘break’ for Momma and Daddy, but we made it work. And on Monday Mikey starts preschool! That is another post for another time when I work out my weird feelings about the whole thing (and I can get the picture of him standing in the corner crying while the other kids point and laugh at him and the teacher stands by doing nothing).

Mikey had a lot of adventures while on break. Including spending a few nights with Geema and Geepa – which was a win-win for all involved. How excited we were to hear he slept on the futon by himself AND swam unassisted in the pool! Of course a visit to Geepa at work, time with Mollie and plenty of movies were included. For the first time three years, we slept with the baby monitor off. It was glorious.

After an eventful few days in Denton, we picked Mike up for the ‘official’ family trip to Rehoboth Beach where we stay with my in-laws. Last year was fun, but this year was even more fun because Mike was old enough to actually spend time in the waves and ride the rides.

FUNLAND

I was a little hesitant with the rides because we all rode the carousel and he refused to sit on the horse. I mean, I am scared of horses, so I get it, but I didn’t think it bode well for the $15 we spent on ride tickets. But as usual – I was surprised. I kept trying to steer him to the low pressure rides, but he was literally BEGGING to ride the helicopters. So Dad took him on the helicopters and he was hooked. We went to the fire trucks next and he decided he wanted to watch before getting on, but once he realized he could ring the bell he was all in. It was a lot of fun!

beach

The next day we ventured out to the actual beach. We’ve been to Sandy Point numerous times, but this was a ‘real’ beach and it was hotter than hell. I didn’t expect to be out wake boarding, but he LOVED sitting in the surf and being splashed with the waves. After about 15 minutes he loosened his death grip and we even got pushed over a few times. It was so so so cool to see him experience something like that for the first time. Especially since S. spent many summers at the beach growing up and has great memories. This is the start of our summer memories!

The highlight for us was leaving our expensive stroller on a sidewalk at the beach. It was SO hot we packed everything in the car and drove off … only to discover the next day that we left the stroller. A few calls and social media postings didn’t result in it being ‘found’, so we are chalking it up to heat and toddler exhaustion.

intern

I am thankful for my work that is a family friendly. I was able to bring Mike, my intern, a few mornings, then come home to work some more while he had rest time. While I worked Mike basically sat under my desk and watched Peppa Pig. Oh, and since we are pushing forward with the potty training – taking him the bathroom every 15 minutes. He charmed my coworkers – all parents of adult children (and some grandparents) by coloring pictures and asking about 2000 questions. He loved going to ‘mommy’s office’.

Vacation 2016

He also spent a random day with Great Aunt Phyllis who he loves and she got him to nap. I don’t know how – I didn’t ask questions. I don’t really care. He napped. I like him so much more when he is well rested. I hope preschool will encourage him to nap again.

So all in all Mikey had a great summer vacation! Now we are looking forward to Summerfest, the Baysox game, cooler weather and S.’s surgery on September 12th. I’ll probably be a little quiet between now and then. Of course I say that and who knows, I might end up being a daily poster as we go through all these changes.

How did you spend YOUR summer vacation?