Posts Tagged ‘kids’

Managing Holiday Expectations

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

Managing Holiday Expectations 1

There was that one Thanksgiving we stayed home, just the two of us. I was 9 months pregnant, so I had a great excuse for not traveling the solid six-hour round-trip drive that year. Several things make that such a warm holiday memory for me. First, it was our last Thanksgiving just the two of us. Second, it was quiet and relaxing and without expectation. Don’t get me wrong. We are those people who are friends with our families. We get along, vacation together, and look forward to seeing each other again in no more than a few weeks. Still, I will not lie about the sweet joy of bucking the system that one holiday.

Great expectations often boil up most clearly (and painfully) at the holidays. There are so many strong feelings, traditions, and schedules to balance. Somehow all those things seem tied to family dynamics growing up twenty years ago. You know, mom always understood younger brother’s unique living style; Dad always defaults to what big sister suggests. The holidays are a great reminder of all the ways we could use a little therapy. The way we’ve found to work through all this muddle is wrapped up in one word: expectations.

Managing Holiday Expectations 2The Negotiables

For us, when we really thought about it, most things turned out to be negotiable. Family and friends who married into the wonderful love of step-families negotiate a little differently than us. As a nuclear family we generally have all days available while some of our siblings have to balance sharing their children on certain days. As a SAHM I don’t have an office holiday party while some family and friends have two to attend. When we are invited to events, we take time to consider how participating will contribute to (and detract from) our holiday season. We don’t expect to have Christmas on a certain numerical day in the month. We also don’t expect to participate in everything to which we receive invitation.

Another example of negotiation involves the age of our children. This is our fourth December with children but our first time having Christmas morning on Christmas morning. We previously opted to celebrate it that Saturday morning of my family’s get-together the week before Christmas. As they get older this expectation may change, but we’ve spent some Christmas days traveling across the country because being with family ranks higher than celebrating Christmas on a particular day of December.

Gift-giving is another point of stress in the holiday season. With some family members we openly discuss this and set a dollar amount we are comfortable spending on each other’s families. We don’t buy for every single family member; one side of the family we always buy for parents while the other side of the family does a single-name-draw exchange that includes the parents. On the chance that we receive gifts unexpectedly from family or friends, we don’t stress about it because giving and receiving gifts are aspects of the holiday season. We see them as an opportunity to accept gifts with grace and without guilt.

The Non-negotiables

Typically we spend part of the holiday season (Thanksgiving to New Year’s) with each family, 1,600 miles apart. For ten years we’ve managed to balance this, though every year looks a little different. It means we don’t take family vacations to fancy locales other times of the year, but saving up to see both families during the holidays is typically non-negotiable. This year, this is not part of our expectations because I am too pregnant to travel cross-country. My doctor (and baby) turned this non-negotiable into a negotiable.

As our children grow, spending Christmas morning at home may turn to into a non-negotiable. Not traveling on Christmas day may become more important to remove stress from the season. For others there may be Christmas Eve pajamas, stockings, a church/synagogue service, or going to a particular family member’s home that is important.

I can’t gloss over the way this relaxed approach to the holidays relies on other people to balance their expectations of us. Sometimes family may or may not entirely understand. Some older family members may want to continue the old traditions even after the younger generations give birth to more. Some family may see every invitation as important, more important than balancing with family gatherings. Even the meaning of family and friend may blur as not every “family” is created with the same make-up. In all of these things, if you know what you are willing to negotiate or not then you can only handle the situation with grace and hope others will understand.

Lynette shares her life with her husband and two sons, ages 2 and 3 years. She has cloth diapered both since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

Date Nights at Home

Friday, April 24th, 2015

Date Nights at HomeFor many of us moms, it’s a big deal to get a date night. I know for me, date night only happens when we go home 6 hours away for a visit. However, it is still vitally important for your marriage or relationship to have date nights. It’s so easy to fall into the roles of “mommy and daddy” and forget you are “wife and husband,” too. Here are some fun ways to still get to have a date night, even when you can’t leave the kids.

Dinner for 2:

This is something I have to try. For me, like many moms, dinner consists of wrestling with my toddler and her food, all the while feeding my infant oatmeal. Somewhere in there, I take a few bites and that’s dinner. Try saving dinner for you and your spouse after the kids are in bed. For us, this would be at 8 p.m. Order in your favorite or opt for take-out. If you are really ambitious, make a meal for your spouse, set the mood with candles, and even put out menus and fancy table decorations. You may be in your dining room, but you can pretend you are in your favorite restaurant. Enjoy the food, conversation, and time alone.

Movie Night:

Pick a movie that you and your spouse want to see. Choose one that isn’t animated or rated G. Pop popcorn and buy some fancy candy that you see at the movie theatre. You can even get cute popcorn tubs and soda glasses to use. Dim the lights and enjoy the show. If you’re lucky, you may even get a few smooches during the movie!

Get Outside:

If it’s warm outside, take the time to take your kids for a stroll. If you just have one child, and it’s a baby, this is even easier. Pop the baby in a carrier and go for a long walk at the park. Most likely, your baby will snooze and you can enjoy the conversation with your spouse. Hold hands, talk about memories, and dream about your future together.

Enjoy Hobbies:

Maybe you and your spouse love sports? Watch your favorite team play and fix nachos and food you can only buy at the ballpark. Wear your team t-shirts and enjoy the game!

If you used to love to go to nightclubs, create a dance party in your living room. Get dressed up and make a fun playlist. Just don’t turn up the music too loud, so you don’t wake up the kids.

If you’re into working out, create a gym in your home and work out together.  Or, you can take advantage of local gyms and work out together while your kids enjoy the child care.

Spring for a Sitter:

If you have a trusted friend, family member, or baby sitter, it is so worth it. Schedule a few hours a month to spend together without the kids. Here the possibilities are endless! Go for a quiet, long drive. Check out a local museum. Go see your favorite band in concert. Eat at a restaurant where high chairs and sippy cups are not the norm. Splurge. It’s worth investing in your relationship.

So, mom, you can still have the romantic date night! I need to remind myself of this. I’m thinking a dinner date with some Chinese take-out is in my near future. What have you done with your spouse to keep the magic alive?  You can always go to bed early, too!

Karyn Meyerhoff is a mom of 2 in Northeast Indiana. She loves date nights with her husband, James, but she sure does miss her kids!

Holiday Events with More than One Child

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

IMG_3076I remember the first Christmas party we went to after becoming parents. My daughter was 4 months old. I found something to wear that I could nurse in and didn’t look totally frumpy, and we went to a friend’s house for a little cocktail party. When we got there, Maisie was asleep, so I carried in her baby bucket to the guest room where everyone had their coats. When she began to cry, I excused myself and shut the door so I could nurse her back to sleep. Then I rejoined the party.

Oh, those were the days.

Now we have three girls, and honestly I wanted to write one line for his post: Get a sitter! The end. Taking small children–especially toddlers–to a party can be stressful. You don’t know if they will have a meltdown or not. You have no idea what they will say to people. You don’t know if they will decide that this is the time to find out what happens when we jump on the couch. But it can be done.

1. Know the layout. Who’s hosting the party? Do they have kids? Do they collect Faberge Eggs and keep them on display throughout their home? People who have kids or are totally devoted grandparents are going to be much more understanding when your toddler goes crazy. If you know others who are coming, ask them what they are doing with their kids. Sometimes having other kids there makes it easier, sometimes it might make things harder depending on the age and number of little ones. Outdoor events can be equally as daunting–if you are doing a walk-through light display or activity, make sure you bring enough carriers or wheels for all the kids–even big kids get tired–and extra coats or blankets.

2. Make sure they have something to do. Whether they have toys and games for little ones, or you need to bring them with you, make sure the kids have something to do while you chat with the grownups. Many stores have $1 coloring books, sticker books, and holiday crafts for little ones this time of year. You can also give them a job, like decorating cookies, if the host is willing.

3. Feed them before you go. We still do this even when we go out to eat. It ensures no one will get hangry while you’re out, and you can avoid battles over food since everything is basically desert at this point. Maybe you’ll even get to eat something without sharing!

4. Be ready to bail if you have to. My rule of thumb when taking my kids anywhere is not to go anywhere or do anything that I am not prepared to bail out of. Sometimes this means not being mad that I just spent money on something, like a movie ticket or entrance to an event, and sometimes this means not being disappointed that I have to leave a party. I just always try to stay mentally prepared for the nuclear option.

The most important thing you can do as a parent is set yourself up for success. Don’t take your kids into a situation where you are going to feel self-conscious, stressed out, or like people are judging you the whole night. There’s just no reason to do that to yourself or your children. For me, if I can’t go somewhere and relax and have a good time while I am there, it’s not worth going.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls. She lives and writes in Queensbury, New York.

Taking a Toddler Out to Eat

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Taking Toddlers Out to EatIt’s humorous that I am writing this blog when I currently posses several unused restaurant gift cards. Why are they unused? It’s not because I don’t like to eat out, it’s more because taking a toddler to a sit-down restaurant can be intimidating. The possibility of tantrums, constant movement, and having to leave a restaurant are fears that lurk in all moms’ minds. However, we can conquer these fears and successfully take our toddlers out to eat.

Here are some tips for taking your little ones to your favorite restaurants:

Be Timely: It’s important to take your toddler to a restaurant when they are well-rested and not irritable. For example, my daughter is usually getting tired and needs to wind down for her nap and around 12:30 p.m., so a late lunch date is not an ideal situation for us. She does much better right after nap time, so an early dinner would work best. Choose a day of the week when restaurants don’t have long waits. No 2 year old wants to wait an hour at The Olive Garden, no matter how good the breadsticks and salad are.

Be Prepared: I always have a few toys in my diaper bag for Johanna, even though she is 2. I have learned that crayons and stickers work the best in restaurants. Bring a few toys and maybe even something your toddler hasn’t seen yet, like a new coloring book. They will be delighted to color or put stickers on the new pages. Brining along a sippy cup is important and maybe even some small snacks to accompany your toddler’s meal choice. We all know how quickly they can change their minds. If you are potty training, bring extra clothes and pull-ups.

Be Ready: Perhaps you are going to a new restaurant. Look-up the menu online and see what you might like to order. Look at the kids’ menu and see what items they have that you know your little one will enjoy. Use this time in public to work on manners and self-control.

Enjoy Yourself: No mom can plan for everything. It’s hard to know how each restaurant experience will go. Just remember to have fun! You are their mom. Punishments may have to be given while you’re out. Potty breaks may happen more than you like during your dinner. Just remember that you are enjoying family time and helping to mold your child into a healthy member of his or her world. Eating out is fun! If all else fails, get your food to-go and go home and eat.

I think it’s time for us to use those gift cards.

Karyn Meyerhoff is a mom of 2 in Northeast Indiana. She loves to eat out, but she doesn’t do it as much as she used to.

Winter Clothing Hacks

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Winter Clothing HacksWinter can be an expensive season when you have growing kids. Winter clothes are more crucial to actual comfort than summer clothes, and they are also way more expensive. Save some money this winter with these money-saving winter clothing hacks.

  • Check resale stores out of season. You won’t find any winter clothes at consignment shops when you actually need them. If you do, they’ll be marked up. For the best prices and selection, shop consignment out of season.
  • Stock up for next year at the end of this year. End-of-season sales are a great way to grab up expensive items like snow suits and boots on clearance. Just remember to buy a size or two up so everything fits next season.
  • Buy clothes that grow with your kids. Some winter brands make items that have hidden elastics, button-down cuffs, legs that extend and other features that help stretch your winter clothes from year to year as your child grows.
  • Craigslist. Toddler and little kid clothes are plentiful on Craigslist. Just search for your child’s gender and clothing size. Many time, parents are wanting to get rid of everything they have, so many times you can find a lot of clothes in the same size for a set price if you are willing to take them all and dig through them later.
  • Ask on Facebook. Your friends may not have kids the same age or size as yours, but they may have friends who do. Many moms are just happy to find someone who can get some use out of their kids’ gently used clothes and may not even ask for anything for them.
  • Layer. If you live in the southern states, you probably don’t even need a winter wardrobe. When we lived in Texas, I never bought winter clothes for the kids because it didn’t get cold enough to get any wear out of them. All we needed were a few layering pieces—a winter hat, cardigans, and a fleece jacket—and all our summer clothes worked seamlessly through the “cold” months. Layering is especially effective for babies since they don’t regulate temperature as efficiently as older kids.

If you do live somewhere cold enough that your babies need snowsuits or puffy jackets, remember not to readjust the car seat for the extra fluff.  Loosening the straps to account for a jacket will keep the restraint from working properly, since the jacket will compress in an accident.

What are your favorite money-saving secrets when it comes to kids’ clothes?

Erin Burt is a freelance writer, mother of three girls and Texas transplant who is getting ready to experience her first New England winter.