Be a Daddy

 

 

(out of the blue at dinner tonight)

Mike: When I grow up I want to be a Daddy.

Jackie: Is that right? Why?

Mike: Because I can have lots of jobs (he loves having a job at preschool like holding the door or leading the line)

Jackie: Like what jobs? What does your Daddy do?

Mike: He cooks, walks Charlie and works.

Someone is setting a good example!

 

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How to Help in Times of Illness

I’ve talked about it before, but about a year ago, S. was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) and after dozens of doctor’s appointments, hours spent online reading and discussing his options, he had open heart surgery and a pacemaker implanted mid-September at Johns Hopkins. I could go on and on about that experience, but the real memory is how our family and friends from near and far rallied to do whatever (and I do mean whatever) we needed while we were in the hospital (just over a week) and beyond.

If someone you know is dealing with an illness or might be spending time in the hospital you want to help right? Of course you do. But what CAN you do to help that requires little of the family but makes a big impact? Here are some suggestions from someone who has been there.

{Notes} Quite possibly the easiest (and cheapest of all). It’s important that the patient and their support team knows people are thinking about them and praying for them. As a caregiver I received countless Facebook and text messages from friends and even acquaintances. My favorite messages included funny memes. It showed that someone was thinking about us at a time that felt very lonely (I am 100% I was the youngest spouse on the cardiac ICU) and someone was taking time to find something they thought would make me laugh.

{Care Packages} Before S’s surgery we got two care packages, one from a long time friend with a bunch of fun goodies like headphones, slinkies and disguise glasses. The other package came from a friend who I met through my Momma and have yet to meet in person. She sent things to keep S and I entertained in the hospital and some fun stuff for Mike while we were away. This is just another great reminder that people were thinking about us and taking care of some of the things we might have forgotten (like pens and Post-It notes for the hospital).

{Services} Dealing with an illness for such a long time puts a lot of other things on the backburner like keeping the house clean. S’s Aunt offered to book a housecleaning service right before his surgery and it was amazing. We found a great company ThinkMaids who did an amazing job top to bottom. But services don’t always have to be done by someone else. My Aunt graciously went to Harris Teeter and picked up and delivered the groceries I ordered online. Helping out comes in many sizes and price ranges – find out what the family needs and jump in!

{Food} Food is probably the easiest thing to do to help families who are dealing with an illness. S.’s grandparents and coworkers sent a beautiful fruit basket which was SO nice, especially after eating cafeteria food for a week. His cousin reached out before and after about us ordering dinner from our favorite take-out place and letting them pay for it. If it’s one thing we have learned the past year it is to take people up on their offer to help, so we sent Debi our order and happily answered the door when our food came. Grubhub recently started selling e-gift cards making it easier for people to send takeout food without asking for the details. Just remember if you are helping out with food – it should be pre-made or easily made without much clean up. And keep it basic. Now is not the time to try a new Yugoslavian dish that was handed down for generations.

{Self care} While it was easy for me not to make S’s surgery ‘all about me’, it definitely was a challenge at time to remember to take care of myself. My dear friend Miranda was kind enough to send me a giftcard to my favorite spa, Swan Cove. I waited until we got home and settled for a few weeks then happily skipped to the spa for a much needed massage. Sometimes the family needs gentle reminders that they need to be taken care of too. Thankfully I have friends (and one of S’s nurses I will forever be grateful for) who reminded me.

We are so thankful for all our friends and family who made it a priority to think about us and reach out during the surgery and recovery.

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What Was Under Our Tree?

Was it just me or did the holiday season go by SUPER fast this year? I think because Mike is at the age where he ‘gets’ Santa Claus and the Christmas experience, we really had to pack in experiences. And I think we did a really great job of that with going to see the lights at Watkin’s Park and visiting Santa at Homestead Gardens.

Speaking of Santa, he heard that Mike was a VERY good boy this year! Here are the goodies he left (with some of my feedback because, well, this is my blog).

{Fisher-Price Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar} I was really excited about this gift because I think coding is such a cool skill to have and it is even cooler that they are incorporating it into kid’s education at such a young age. First of all, this was WAY louder than I anticipated. And it is a little confusing. I know it ended up under a lot of other trees this year and we are all wondering the same thing – how can you create an obstacle course when you aren’t sure how long each component lasts? Like how long does the Code-a-Pillar go straight? Mike really likes connecting the pieces and jumping in front of it mid-path to make it stop and he called it his ‘skeleton worm’. I think this was a semi-win with a full on win in about six months when he ‘gets it’. 

{KidKraft Table} Poor kid was sitting on his comfy chair pulled up to a wicker trunk we use as a toy box/coffee table to play with his stickers and Playdoh. We are a fan of the KidKraft brand and this was one of the more reasonably priced, not tacky tables for kids. I thought for sure S. would be up all night on Christmas Eve putting it together, but he was done before Mike was even asleep. I am a HUGE fan of the ‘hidden’ storage in the middle which now is where the bad superheroes are jailed. It is a nice finish, seems sturdy and blends in well with our hodge podge furniture.

{Super Hero Books} What is a holiday without books? We love board books because they are sturdy, small and usually pretty short so bedtime doesn’t last longer than it already does. These are a good size and Mike is already reading along with us. The super heroes aren’t of the ‘scary’ variety either, which is hard to find.

{Playskool Friends Mr. Potato Head Marvel} These are clearly Mike’s favorite gift this year. He plays with them all the time and is adamant that they are put together correctly. He throws all the pieces in a mixing bowl, puts them together and starts the process again.

{Superhero Dress Up Costumes} Bubbe got Mike a Batman cape and mask a few months ago and he loves it, so it made sense to get the rest of set so we could all join in! I was really surprised at how sturdy these are, clearly ready to withstand villains … and toddlers.

{Solar System Night Light} We turned Mike’s nursery into a big boy room a few months ago and the theme is space galaxy so when S. saw this, he knew Mike needed to have it. I have to admit, it’s pretty cool! It took some work for S. to mount it on the ceiling, but once it was there Mike loved it. Now he clicks the clicker so the ‘sun’ will come on and then again for the planets to rotate.

Well Mommas, were you a good girl this year? What did Santa bring you?

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Stupid Simple Chocolate Marshmallows

Looking for something stupid simple to make for holiday parties or teacher gifts? I have your answer – chocolate marshmallows. I came across these on Pinterest and have made them for a baby shower and a holiday party ultimately making me the most favorite invitee. Well, probably not, but I like to pretend. These are cheap, easy to make and SO addictive.

Ingredients: 

  • Large Marshmallows
  • Dipping Chocolate (I like Baker’s brand)
  • Sticks
  • Decorations
  • Parchment paper

Steps:

  • I like using paper straws as the ‘handle’ because paper straws are pretty. I cut them in half. You can also use lollipop sticks or popsicle sticks.  Just make sure you cut them to a decent length.
  • Stick them in the marshmallows.

  • Prepare the chocolate based on its directions
  • Then dip! Dip each one in about half way, and be patient while the excess drips off. You don’t want it to be gloopy.
  • Press the bottom into your decorations. I like seasonal sprinkles or chopped nuts. I did learn that sugar sprinkles don’t work well unless you are using white dipping chocolate.

  • Let them harden on parchment paper for about an hour and then enjoy!

See? Stupid simple. The whole thing takes about half an hour (max I would guess) and I was the hero; not only at my house, but the parties I attended! #youarewelcome

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Mini Picasso

I went back and forth with what this post could be called. I debated between ‘The Time I Called My Son a Liar‘ or ‘My Entry for Mother of the Year‘.

For about three weeks I’ve been picking Mike up from Preschool and his ‘take home’ folder has had a drawing of an obvious person. The first day I found it, I asked his teacher if it accidently was placed in his folder. I’ve only seen Mike scribble and these pictures were much more advanced. His teacher asked him if he drew it and he said yes. She then asked around to the other kids and no one claimed it. She agreed – no way he drew that. So I brought it home and tossed it in the recycle pile.

The next few days I continued to find pictures of people in Mike’s take home folder. His teacher and I ultimately decided that someone was sticking them in there by accident. All I could imagine was some poor parent whose kid was coming home without these drawings.

Then yesterday I grabbed yet ANOTHER picture of a person with a note from Mike’s teacher – “Yes! Mike did draw this. I watched!!”

Well shit.

Apparently my child can do something other than scribble and for the past month I rolled my eyes when I asked if these were his drawings and he replied yes.  I wonder what other skills he has that he is telling me about and that I am ignoring.

mike-drawing

 

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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.

christmas

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.

boot-test

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!

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An Attitude of Gratitude

givingtuesday

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!

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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.

politics-free-zone
Click Image to Print

 

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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.

we-need-not-think-alike-to-love-alike

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

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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

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