Sunday, December 27, 2015

Bits of Our Christmas

Took all her presents into her new teepee 
new pumped up kicks
first pair of Sorel boots courtesy of Mimi & pampa
The infamous Lego train that will take all my days and nights to complete
We had such a great, relaxing, love-filled holiday. Still trying to clean the house and organize as the kids run around playing with all their new beloved toys.... Wishing everyone had a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sponsor Feature & Giveaway! LyfeLine Milestones App

During the worst month of the year on our wallets, I am so excited to tell you guys about an amazing new app as well as offer an amazing GIVEAWAY to one of you!
The app is called LyfeLine Milestones and helps you track your baby's developmental progress along the first 2 years of their life. Through this app, you can track your baby's development with the same exact assessment used by pediatricians and the American Academy of Pediatrics, and learn how to promote your child's growth with activities designed by developmental experts. In this day and age, I think most parents gauge their child's development based on what their friends' babies are doing, by what their parents, in-laws, or other relatives tell them their child should or shouldn't be doing, and through their own research on the internet - oftentimes from uncredited sources. Because of this, many mothers are uninformed, end up comparing their child to others, and simply don't accurately understand and measure their child's development, and they think maybe they are not doing it right (enter our dear friend once again, 'mommy guilt').
I know that as a first time mom with my son, I certainly felt this way when I saw Facebook videos of my friends' two year olds singing and reciting animal noises when my son was not speaking more than two words at all. At that point, we discovered that Landon did in fact have a speech delay and we worked intensely with him for the next 2.5 years with speech pathologists. That is only one of the reasons why I believe in this app so much - because it gives oftentimes completely clueless parents a tool to help them truly understand their child's nature and development based on accredited pediatricians and gives parents thoughtful activities designed by experts to work with them on areas of need. Had this app been around 3 years ago I know I would have benefited a lot from it, and I think it could have helped me see Landon was behind in his speech earlier on, it could have given me tips and ways to work with him on his speech in helpful hands-on ways, and ultimately could have saved a lot of time and money down the road with speech therapy that we only started at age 2.
I still love this app even for my daughter who is actually 'advanced' for her age, because it gives me insightful tips to help with her challenging behavior and tantrums, and also gives age appropriate activities to do with during these winter months indoors. For example, Blair is a very defiant, oftentimes unruly little girl when she doesn't get her way, over some of the most irrational things. When I answered questions about her behavior in this manner, LyfeLine gave me some great feedback, tips, and ideas on how to manage this behavior and show me ways to help her grow out of it.

It also gives us lots of activities to work on together. For example, Blair loves table top activities like coloring and stickers and all things artistic, so I thought it would be fun to work with her on an area she already shows a lot of interest in. LyfeLine suggested she work on drawing in a circular motion instead of scribbling lines to work on developing her fine motor skills even more. That is just one example of the many activities from a range of categories, including fine motor, gross motor, language, physical, social, and self help. It's really like a personalized Pinterest for your baby with educational and developmental activities for them - none of which require you to go out and spend any money - they only require you and your child and your time, and sometimes household items that you would already have in your home.
We absolutely love this app for so many reasons and are so thrilled to offer one of you your own full year premium subscription -- an $85 value!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway **Giveaway will run for 1 week from today and will officially close at 12:00am cst on 12/20/15.
**Disclosure: I have received a one year premium membership to LyfeLine Milestones to facilitate my review but the review and all opinions contained herein are 100% my own.

Monday, December 7, 2015

CalmFULL Holidays

Well Thanksgiving has come & past and we are somehow already into the second week of December and I'm not quite sure how that happened. I've been seeing constant posts on my newsfeed of adorably dressed families in their professional photos, cutting down their trees, getting their pictures taken with Santa, attending all sorts of zoo lights, Christmas markets, & meeting Santa's reindeer.
So I decided that this past weekend I was going to amp up my holiday game and be the best Christmas Mom yet. I was going to bake Christmas cookies with the kids, situate our Elf on the Shelf into something super clever, and sign us up for the Polar Express train ride Landon's been dying to go on since 2012. We even had a lunch with Santa scheduled on Saturday afternoon, and an adults Christmas party to go to Saturday night - my Christmas ante up & on fire and we were going to get ALL the Christmas things done - heck, I even thought we could go to a Christmas tree farm and get our Christmas card photo done and done.
And then. Thursday I tried to book our Polar Express ride and (of course) it has been booked full SINCE AUGUST. (Who are these parents that even think of such things in August??) But I put it behind me and moved onto my Christmas cookie baking extravaganza. Which turned into me staying up until 11 at night making them by myself. It turns out my kids only want to eat the cookies, not actually help me make them from scratch. Then I drank too much at the Bastille concert on Friday night, and spent my entire Saturday at the doctor's office with a sick crying son instead of meeting Santa like we were supposed to. And then I was still not feeling half alive to make it to our Christmas party that night. Landon ended up with a throat and ear infection, and I'm diffusing my essential oils and blasting my humidifier around Blair 24/7 and crossing my fingers she doesn't turn infectious too.
And then on top of feeling like a Christmas Mom failure, I've been feeling more overwhelmed than ever with holiday shopping for the baby boom that occurred now that all our friends are in our thirties, and a 5 year old of my own who knows the difference between name brands and imposters. To top that all off, we just learned about several necessary repairs on a new sump pump, water system, & dishwasher.
SO my game plan has changed. I decided that maybe we just need to take it easy. I mean, physically...I can't take my kids out to public places when they are hacking up their lungs. And I had a thought that they can still learn about the meaning of Christmas and I can show them the feelings I want to inspire in their hearts all the same. So the next day we cleaned out the basement together and made a pile of old toys and clothes that we no longer need to donate to other children in need this winter. And last night we had my diffuser running with a festive oil, and had a family hot tub night with Christmas music playing in the background. We talked about God and how He sent His only son down to be with us and save us and that is why we celebrate Christmas Day. We talked about how much that means He loves us and wants more than anything to be in a relationship with us and be with us through our lives.
The next morning I woke up to my little boy feeling so much better. He gave me a big hug around my neck and a big kiss on my hand and said, "Mom, you're the bestetst mom ever. I really really love you."
And I realized that even in my failures, at the core of my being, I am enough. And my love is enough for these kids.
And what I want to actually experience this holiday season is not the errands and not the shopping and not the stress of feeling like I have to go to all these Christmas events. & all that craziness is not really even what my kids want to experience either.
When I stop and think about what I care about, all those feelings of being overwhelmed over all those things seem to cease. When I stop and ask myself what I want my kids to experience, what feelings I want to stir up in their hearts when the holiday season is upon us, is to know intimately the love that God has for them. I want them to know and feel the spirit of love and of thoughtful giving to loved ones and complete strangers. And no amount of Christmas-y events we check off a list can achieve that. Especially if it's going to drive me batty and make me sin. So, I'm okay with the fact that we still don't have our perfect Christmas card photo. And I'm okay with not wasting time every night to plot the next Elf on the Shelf prank. I'm okay with giving less extravagant and handmade gifts this year and the kids thoughtful handmade cards to go along with them. I'm okay with laying low with my children and actually spending real time with them to teach them myself about the importance of things, and I feel my own heart get bigger and softer as we do. And I have a feeling that by opting for a more low-key Christmas season this year, I'll end up giving them real, heart-filled memories about this holiday season that they will take with them as they grow older and when they are away at school or maybe living far away from me someday -- that they will always have this feeling of wanting to come home for Christmas, because of the actual loving, joyful, peaceful, calm, & cozy feelings and memories it brings them -- and not because of all the things we have to do tooth and nail to show a Facebook world that we're not atheist and that we do all the damn things, and makes sure to take pictures of it too so you think Amazing Christmas Mom is everything it's hyped up to be.
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