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Parenting

Parenting is nothing you expected and everything you could have imagined all rolled into one. I have been spit up on, pooped on, vomited on all before 7 a.m. in the newborn years. I’ve watched my toddler shove a pearl up her nose and poop in her mouth, and I’ve even masticated food. Not as fun as it sounds. I’ve survived breast buds and the sex talk. I share everything I ever learned and you might want to know about parenting from pregnancy to labor thru to the teens years.  It’s is hard but it’s the toughest job that you’ll ever love but the salary sucks.

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I’m a Chicago girl and there is nothing I love more than sharing my hometown with my daughters. I love taking my children to visit my family and introducing them to the city I love. It’s nice because while I’m figuring out all the best things to do in Chicago with teens and kids, I get to play tourist.

Chicago is one of my favorite cities but when you live somewhere you never play tourist because you.live.there. When you’re young, you’re like no way, I’m not wasting my time because you think you’ll always be there. Everything tourists come to Chicago to see, we saw on field trips a zillion times with school. You couldn’t pay us enough to go willingly.

READ ALSO: Chicago Ten Things to do Before You Die

But then you grow up and you realize OMG, all of these amazing museums, art galleries, Planetariums, Zoos, Aquariums and theater were right her and I took it all for granted. You realize that there are amazing things to do, food to eat and different cultures all around and you took it all for granted. But no more.

Here is a list of things to do in Chicago during the Winter months

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The Museum of Science and Industry

During the winter months, November through January, Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light is displayed. Explore rich holiday traditions from around the globe while creating your own traditions with loved ones in Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light.

It began in 1942 with a single tree. Today, the Museum’s beloved annual celebration features a four-story, floor-to-dome Grand Tree, surrounded by a forest of more than 50 trees and displays decorated by volunteers to represent the holiday traditions from cultures around the globe. On the weekends, you can also enjoy live holiday performances. It’s the one-of-a-kind experience that brings a whole world of holiday joy under one roof.

READ ALSO: Spring Break Make It Yourself at MSI

This has been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl. This year, I took my parents and my daughters and it was truly magical. My only piece of advice, it is very busy over the holiday break between Christmas and New Year.

Also, if you are going during a busy season or when a popular exhibit is at the museum, be sure to get tickets for the exhibits that you want to see. There are some free exhibits that are very popular and so tickets are given on first come first serve basis, plot your plan and get your tickets as soon as you get there so you don’t miss anything.

Free admission days: The Museum of Science and Industry is free for Illinois residents with valid ID on the following dates in 2019: January 7–10, 14–17, 21–24, 28–31, February 4–7, 11–14, 19–21, 25–28

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Shedd Aquarium

If you are looking for a leisurely day to spend with children of all ages, the Shedd Aquarium is perfect. You are inside from the elements, whether it be the sweltering heat of the summer or the brutal cold of Chicago winters, and children (and adults alike) love the serene beauty that surrounds you.

Discover Aquatic Animals from around the World. You can purchase tickets online and save time. Encounter Penguins. Meet Beluga Whales. Award Winning Exhibits. Hands-On Activities. Watch Shark Feedings. Shows: Shark Feeding Tour, Behind-the-Scenes Tour, Beluga Encounter, Penguin Encounter. Our favorite was the Dolphin show and the Beluga Whales. It’s a great day of exciting aquatic fun.

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Don’t forget about the free admission days January 17-21, February 1, 4-8, 11-15, 18-22, 25-28 more will be added to the shed aquarium page free admissions page at a later day. Check back frequently because it’s a great deal.

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Field Museum

Who can forget the iconic shots of Kevin Bacon in She’s Having a Baby at the Field Museum? If your child or teen is into history at all, Field Museum is the place to visit. Even if they aren’t, I think the FIeld Museum could convince them to be. The Field Museum fuels a journey of discovery across time to enable solutions for a brighter future rich in nature and culture. It’s where real science, dinosaurs, and world-class exhibits inspire fun for all. My girls and nephew loved the mummies exhibit, Sue the T-Rex and Maximo the Titanosaur.

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There are Free Admission Days, which is free basic admission for Illinois residents with proof of residency. Discounted passes are available in person and cannot be purchased online in advance.

Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago, located in Millennium Park, is a hub for summertime festivals like Lollapalooza, the Blues Festival, and Taste of Chicago but it’s really a great place to visit during the winter months as well. There are many pieces to be adored and to give your family something to think about Wood’s American Gothic, Matisse’s Bathers By a River, Monet’s Water Lilies, Rivera’s Weaver and even Renoir’s Two Sisters. There are O’Keefe, Toulouse-Lautrec and Warhols. All these I remember seeing as a child. But even among the Dali’s and Van Goghs, the piece I love the most is Picasso’s The Old Guitarist. Having a place to go and share these pieces with my daughters, feels a little bit like going to church at the Sistine Chapel. We are overcome with awe and wonder. The art Institute is a must visit when you’re in Chicago.

Just like all the other amazing museums in Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago has free admission days.

Adler Planetarium

Chicago’s Adler Planetarium is America’s first planetarium and a premier resource for inspiring the next generation of space explorers and bonus, it is right next door to the Shedd Aquarium so you can make a day of it with the kids. If your child is interested in astronomy or space in general, how it works, what’s out there, or just connecting the constellations in the night sky, they will love the Adler Planetarium.

Countless galaxies, unfathomable distances, exploding stars, diamond planets, black holes, there’s no way around it, space is freaking awesome! Come learn more at the Adler Planetarium during our Illinois Resident Discount Days—where Illinois residents receive FREE General Admission to the museum. General Admission provides access to all exhibitions and experiences (excluding the historic Atwood Sphere Experience and sky shows.*) 2019 Illinois Resident Discount Days

January 21-22, 29-31
February 5-7, 12-14, 18-21, 26-28
April 2-4, 9-11
June 3-5, 10-13
September 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27
October 7-9, 14-16
November 8, 11
December 2-3, 7, 12-13

Navy Pier

If you’ve never been to Navy Pier, make sure to visit on your next trip to Chicago. Originally completed in 1916 as part of Daniel Burnham’s plan for Chicago, Navy Pier is an iconic city landmark inspiring discovery and wonder. Since its reopening in 1995, more than 180 million visitors have come to enjoy the Pier’s 50 acres of unparalleled attractions and experiences. As Navy Pier enters its second century, the venue is evolving into an accessible, year-round centerpiece for Chicago’s diverse arts and cultural treasures.

There is so much to do at Navy Pier. There are restaurants, art, shopping, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and even rides. Navy Pier is home to one of Chicago’s most iconic attractions: the magnificent Centennial Wheel, offering soaring views of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan. And let’s not forget about the Pepsi Wave Swinger, carousel and more. Honestly, there is so much to do…just add teens and instant good time.

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Medieval Times Schaumburg

If you’ve never been to a Medieval Times, you are missing out. I always wanted to go but never made the drive ase I said, when you live in Chicago, you don’t do the touristy things). A couple of years ago, I found myself at a work event with my family and guess where we ended up? Medieval Times. We loved it so much, this past holiday season when I was home visiting my parents, we took them to Medieval times in Schaumburg (just north of the city) and they loved it and so did my kids.

For the first time in Medieval Times 35-year history, a woman is in charge. All hail Queen Dona Maria Isabella. Enjoy an electrifying show featuring heroic knights on spirited horses displaying the astounding athletic feats and thrilling swordplay that have become hallmarks of this unique entertainment experience. Enjoy a “hands-on” feast as the dynamic performance unfolds before you. A sweeping musical score and brilliant lights provide a fabulous backdrop for this spellbinding experience that blurs the boundary between fairy tale and spectacle!

Yes, there is a blue knight and a red knight and you eat with your hands but so is everybody else and it was magical and splendid and I can’t wait to go again. There is a 2-hour medieval jousting tournament, 6 competing knights with real weapons, beautiful horses and a live flight of the royal falcon. Medieval Times is like nothing else you’ve ever experienced.

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Save BIG 40% off adults and teens & 20% off kids. Use code HOL4020. Valid for shows through 1/31/2019. Restrictions apply.

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If you love the theater, Broadway in Chicago is the place to be. Hamilton, anyone? The theater district is vibrant and located within walking distance of so many great restaurants and entertainment opportunities, including the Joffrey ballet. There is no shortage of things to see and places to be while experiencing Broadway on Chicago. There is a constant assortment of plays and musicals to see on the stage, something for everyone, even the most discerning critics.

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There are so many more things, these are just a few and the list gets longer during the warmer months. What is your favorite thing to do, see and eat in Chicago? The best part is that all of these places are great for just adults too.

READ ALSO: The Aladdin Experience

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What is your favorite thing to do in Chicago with teens or kids?

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Parents Guide to Teen Slang Words You Need to Know, teen slang words, slang words, parents guide, teens, mom of teens, teenagers, slang for dummies

Ok moms of tweens and teens, I didn’t forget about you. I’ve scoured the internet to compile a comprehensive parents guide to teen slang words. Ever feel like your teens and tweens are talking another language? Well, you’re not crazy, they are. They are talking slang and the meanings have changed just to keep us on our toes. Please don’t out yourself as being out of the know and have your kid tell you to skurt skurt.

My girls and I have a pretty open relationship. They still like me on most days. Though that is not my main concern in parenting, I’d love it if one day we could be friends but for now, I’m their mom. There’s always been a comradery between us that transcended the parent/child relationship. I did that on purpose because I didn’t have that as a child.

There was a strict division between parents and children and while I completely believe that I am my daughters’ mom first and their “friend” second, I want them to trust me and, if possible, feel comfortable not hiding things from me. Teens feel weird about all the changes like they can’t tell us things and then they start to shut down and begin to hide things from us.

READ ALSO: The Ever Changing Rules and Regulations of being a Teen Girl

That’s not to say that I’m not the mean mom on the daily but everything I do, like you, is out of love and in the hopes of raising good human beings. I sit through all the Dobre Brothers, Yoga Challenges and Beauty tutorial YouTube videos with them just so we can have conversations that I can actually understand. Just so I can know how they are doing. Because the important things are peppered in with all the daily stuff. It’s our job as parents to pay attention.

The other day, after watching a YouTube video about slang kids are using these days, I realized that maybe not all moms and dads of teens know what the heck their kids are saying when they are talking or texting. They speak in code you know? Not that I’m an expert but, unlike most parents who don’t actually work in social media, I do know some things. Add to the mix that I am a giant child myself and my daughters have taught me some words I should know for 2019. FYI, fleek is no longer on fleek so keep that phrase out of your mouth.

Here is the Parents Guide to Teen Slang Words You Need to Know

 Adulting – To grow up and act responsibly

 AF – An acronym for “as fuck”

Almosts- Someone you came close to dating but it never became official

Awk/ Awks – Awkward

Basic – Only interested in mainstream, popular things

Beef- Argument

Beat – To have a full face of makeup

Blessed – Feeling fortunate

Bounce – Leaving suddenly

Bougie – Someone from a higher class

BRB- Be Right Back

Bruh – Another way of saying “seriously?”

Cancel – The rejection of a person, place or thing

Canceled – To reject something because it’s no longer trendy or it’s become too ratchet.

Can’t even – Used to describe someone you cannot handle

Catfishing– pretending t be someone else on social media

Clap back – A comeback filled with attitude

Clout Chaser = someone who tries to latch on to other, more popular people

Clout Demon = a wannabe

Cray – Crazy

Cringey– awkward, uncomfortable, cringe-worthy

Dad – A role model

Dank – Really cool

Dead – When someone is euphorically happy

Dead A–= To be completely and honestly serious

Dime = rating of attractiveness, 10/10

Down in the DM = direct messaging someone privately, usually to hook up

Drip, Drippin = flashy, ostentatious

Extra – Over the top, dramatic behavior

Fam – A group of friends who feels more like family

Finesse – To smooth things out

Fleeky– Amazing

FOMO – Fear of missing out

F2F = face to face, meeting in person

Gassed – When someone has had one too many compliments and is full of themselves

Ghost – When you completely disappear after hanging out and showing interest

Girlfriend tax– The amount of food taken by your female significant other, after you asked her if she was hungry and she insisted she wasn’t.

Glow-Up = an incredible transformation

GMT – Getting me tight / getting upset

Goals – A way of subtly expressing that you’re jealous; Goals = a lifestyle to strive for

GOAT – Greatest of all time

Gucci – Good or cool; Good / doing well / feeling fine

Hangry – When you are angry because you are so hungry

High-key – Straight up truth; a lot, wanting everyone to know something

Hit a lick = to steal something

Hundo P – 100 percent certain

Hunty – Equivalent of friend but said with attitude

IRL – In real life

It’s lit = cool, awesome, great

I’m weak = something so funny it made you weak

JOMO – Joy of missing out

Kickback = a casual get together

KMS/KYS = kill myself, kill yourself, used sarcastically

Lean = an intoxicating drink made using soda and cough syrup

Lit – Amazing

Mom – The most responsible friend in the group

Netflix and chill – Hooking up

OMG – An abbreviation for “oh my gosh” or “oh my God!”

OP = out of pocket, used when something is extreme or offensive

OTP – One true pairing

Phubbing – Snubbing someone to pay attention to your phone instead

Ratchet – Trashy

Receipts – Evidence of a person’s hypocrisy, often pulled from past social media or text conversations

Rides – Sneakers or shoes

 Salty – Acting upset or bitter

Saucy = feisty or sassy

Savage = wild or harsh

Savage – Petty

Shade-Trash Talk

Shipping – Wanting two people to date

Shook – Confused or in utter disbelief

Sic – Something that is cool

Sipping/Sips Tea– Minding your own business

Spilling the Tea– Gossipping

Skurt – Go away

Slay – Killing it / Succeeding

SMH – Shaking my head

Snatched – Looks good, fierce, fashionable. Snatched is the new fleek.

Snack– Cute= tasty treat you’d like to eat; the people version

Spilling Tea – Gossiping

Squad – Closest group of friends

Stan – A combination of stalker and fan

Straight Fire – Hot, popular or trendy

Suh – A shortened version of what’s up

Sus – When someone is acting suspicious or shady

Swerve – Get out of the way

Swol – Someone who works out

TBH – To be honest

Tea -Gossip

TFW – That feeling when

Thicc – Someone with curves

Thirst trap – A sexy photograph or flirtatious message posted on social media

Thirsty – Trying to get attention; horny

Throwing shade – Making a subtly mean comment about someone

Trill – True and real

Trolls – Someone who purposely tries to provoke others

Turnt – Hype for a party

V – very

Weak – Laughing so hard that you can hardly breathe

Wig snatched – Exposing someone to reveal the truth

Wig = when something crazy or unexpected (good) happens

WOAT– Worst of All Time

Woke – Being aware of current affairs

Yaas – An enthusiastic way of saying yes, or as my girls say, Yaas queen.

Yeet – A way to show excitement or agree

YOLO – You only live once

Parents Guide to Teen Slang Words You Need to Know, teen slang words, slang words, parents guide, teens, mom of teens, teenagers, slang for dummies

Parents Guide to Teen Slang Words that Describes People or Relationships

OK, parents pay attention. You know relationships are so important during the teens years. Friends are our lifelines and boys, well, the day rises and sets around them when we are first crushing. Our teens find out about themselves through these relationships. They are rocky and scary and unexplored territory.

READ ALSO: Tips for Raising Teenage Girls and Not Damaging Your Relationship Pt.1

Did you know they have a whole slang language for these relationships? They do. I guess we did too. Remember being someone’s “lady”, “boo” or “girl”? Well, move over bacon there is something leaner.

Here are some teen slang words used to describe people or relationships. There is some overlap for the above list.

  • Bae – “Before anyone else” and is often used to describe a boyfriend or girlfriend
  • BF/GF – Boyfriend or girlfriend
  • BFF – Best friends forever
  • Bruh – Same as “bro”
  • Creeper – Someone who is socially awkward or tends to have stalker tendencies
  • Curve – Romantic rejection
  • Emo – Emotional or a drama queen
  • Hater or h8er – Someone who hates everything, even their friends
  • n00b – A person who doesn’t want to learn
  • Ship – Short for ‘relationship’
  • Squad – A group of girls that hang out together regularly
  • Tight – In a close relationship
  • Wanksta – A person trying to act tough, but who isn’t really pulling it off

Parents Guide to Teen Slang Words the Compound Version

Yes, this is a thing and we’ve all heard it. Hangry and chillaxin. TBH, I thought I invented Hangry back when I was a teen but perhaps I was mistaken.

Teens often create shortcuts by combining two words together. To understand what they mean, you need to know the definition of each word. Here are some examples of compound teen slang:

  • Chillaxin – Chillin’ and relaxing.
  • Crashy – Crazy and trashy
  • Hangry – Hungry and angry
  • Requestion – Request and a question
  • Tope – Tight and dope

Parents Guide to Teen Slang Words You Should Pay Attention To

Be on the lookout for these slang words which could indicate your teen is bullying someone or that getting bullied by someone:

  • Bye Felicia – A disrespectful way to dismiss someone who is unimportant
  • CD9 – Code 9, parents are here
  • POS – Parents over shoulder (often used when texting to warn friends that mom or dad is reading) I thought it meant Piece of Sh*t.
  • Throw Shade – Give someone a dirty look
  • Tool – Refers to someone who is stupid or a geek

Parents Guide to Teen Slang Words You Should Definitely Keep an Eye Out For

I am so thankful that social media wasn’t around when I was a tween and teen. When I think of all the stupid things I did that could have been captured and lived on in infamy, I cringe. I was naïve and dumb and did a lot of dumb things; made a lot of mistakes. By most standards, I was a good kid and I still did some really dangerous, thoughtless things.

READ ALSO: Tips for Raising Teenage Girls and Not Damaging Your Relationship Pt.2

Social media, text messaging, and online dating can lead to sexual conversations over the computer. And if you’re not sure what to look out for, you might not even notice what your teen is saying right under your nose. Sneaky little boogers.

Drug conversations are also something you need to be aware of. Here are some teen slang words that may indicate your teen is being pressured or experimenting with sex, drugs and alcohol.

  • CU46 – See you for sex
  • GNOC – Get naked on camera
  • Molly – MDMA, a dangerous party drug
  • NIFOC – Naked in front of the computer
  • Netflix and Chill – Used as a front for inviting someone over to make out (or maybe more)
  • Smash – Casual sex
  • Turnt Up – To be high or drunk
  • Tweaking= high, usually on amphetamines
  • Zip Ghost – Someone who is high on marijuana and having a hard time functioning
  • Dexing – Abusing cough syrup
  • Crunk – Getting high and drunk at the same time
  • X – Ecstasy
  • 53X – Sex
  • WTTP – Want to trade photos?
  • LMIRL – Let’s meet in real life

Not going to lie, I check my kids’ phones every night. They are still pretty young. We’re at the beginning and I’d rather be a smother than be sorry. I’m totally upfront about it so I’m not invading their privacy all sneaky squirrel. They know I check their phones. This is not to be nosey, this is to make sure they are safe.

Sometimes kids wander into unfamiliar territory and, believe it or not, they want someone to put the brakes on because then they can hide behind their “mean mom” saying no, rather than having to tell someone that they don’t want to do something because they feel uneasy or too young. I’m fine with being the bad guy.

Parents Guide to Teen Slang Words You Need to Know, teen slang words, slang words, parents guide, teens, mom of teens, teenagers, slang for dummiesI made this Parents Guide to Teen Slang Words so we can understand and communicate with our teens.

I’m sure you already know this, but some parents don’t, beware of Finsta accounts on Insta. You know, you think that you are watching your kid’s account but really you are only watching the one they want you to see. They’ve got 2 more that you have no idea exist and they are doing crazy sh*t like having full on conversations full of innuendo with strangers and taking pictures half naked with suggestive faces and captions. The point is that teens these days are so smart and tech savvy but they are still young and naïve to how the world works so it is our job to keep them safe not give them enough social media rope to hang themselves.

READ ALSO: Tips for Raising Teenage Girls and Not Damaging Your Relationship Pt.3

Another good idea, check out Gryphon. It’s a smart home device that allows you to monitor, block, and even turn off the internet on your child’s device, all from your phone. (Yup, you can turn off their internet during dinner time, homework time, etc. so you no longer have to nag them to put down their devices). I like to turn off the Internet when the girls are supposed to be in bed because I don’t want them up getting into trouble. I’ve noticed that kids seem to get a little braver when they have sleepovers and are staying up. This is when prank calls and text take place. I get it. We used to do it but we didn’t have sexting and the Internet. It wasn’t forever, just for a while. I need to think of their future and their safety even when they aren’t. Sometimes we need to save our kids from themselves.

Are there any words that I forgot on the Parents Guide to Teen Slang Words or that you have heard your kid use and need an explanation

 

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American Girl Doll of the Year Blaire Wilson Giveaway, Blaire Wilson, American Girl Doll, GOTY, Giveaway, American Girl Doll of the Year 2019

My girls love American Girl Doll. They’ve loved them since our first trip to the American Girl Doll Store in Chicago when they were just little girls. Since then, they’ve been American Girl Doll obsessed. It was not surprising to me when my Gabs told me that she was excited for AG doll of the year Blaire Wilson and I’m assuming she’s not the only one so we’re hosting a giveaway.

I’ve always had a special place in my heart for American Girl Dolls because I remember my niece playing with them when I was in college. But I’ve really loved the fact that each American Girl has a story to tell. I like women and girls of substance and American Girl never disappoints.

Disclosure: We were generously sent an American Girl Doll of the Year Blaire Wilson to review and 1 to giveaway. All thoughts, opinions and my daughters’ love for all things AG is our own and authentic. 

This year’s Girl of the Year (GOTY) Blaire Wilson is no exception. She’s a young chef-in-training who loves bringing people together. Ms. Wilson joins American Girl’s family of characters and stories designed to help girls think about their own character and who they want to be.

READ ALSO: Disney’s Nutcracker and the Four Realms DVD Giveaway ( Ends 2/8/19)

American Girl Doll of the Year Blaire Wilson Giveaway, Blaire Wilson, American Girl Doll, GOTY, Giveaway, American Girl Doll of the Year 2019Meet American Girl Doll of the Year Blaire Wilson.

A natural people person, Blaire excels at gathering people around the dinner table, however, she needs help finding the balance between the digital world and the real world. Sounds familiar. I can definitely relate to this digital debacle that Blaire finds herself in. My girls relate to this as they are getting older.

READ ALSO: The Day My Teen Girl Told Me How She Really Felt

Through Blaire, girls will learn the importance of staying connected to the people they care about. This means more than clicking and swiping—it means truly being there. This is something that I still struggle with myself as a mother and a digital content creator. It is hard to find that balance between really immersing myself in my job and being present in my life; for my children and my husband. I have to stop myself often and just disconnect from the online world. The last thing I want to do is miss what’s going on in the real world. Being present for the moments, even the little ones, is what means the most.

Blaire Wilson is an everyday girl who thrives in using her many talents to make meaningful connections with others.

This is a lesson that I’ve been teaching my girls. Be present and connect with people in the real world. Don’t get me wrong, the online world is amazing. There are so many opportunities for connection and growth there but nothing can ever replace face-to-face connections.

Blaire’s story unfolds in a chapter book series written by Jennifer Castle and published by Scholastic. There are two books available now. Blaire loves to put her cooking and decorating talents to good use on her family’s sustainable farm and bed-and-breakfast in upstate New York. She loves watching cooking shows and spending time with her mom in the kitchen. She looks for inspiration online and saves her favorite cooking and decorating ideas. This sounds so familiar, Gabs and Bella do the same. We watch cooking shows on the weekends as a family and the girls can pin recipes with the best of them.

When the opportunity to plan the farm’s first wedding arises, Blaire jumps in with gusto. However, between overextending herself to create the perfect farm-fancy event and a newly diagnosed food sensitivity that makes her self-conscious, Blaire finds herself more engaged on her devices than at real-life gatherings with others. Like most of us, she’s learning the balance between time on a tablet and real-life connections. Ultimately, through the help of her family and friends, Blaire finds a healthy balance and learns the value of being fully present at every occasion.

READ ALSO: The Art to Being a Good Mother

Blaire comes to life for girls via a beautiful 18-inch doll, featuring bright green eyes and curly red hair. Blaire’s world features an array of outfits, accessories, and products that reflect her life on Pleasant View Farm, including a sweet lamb and piglet, festive party decor, and Blaire’s Family Farm Restaurant, with everything needed to play out a show-stopping farm-to-table celebration.

Some important guidance that our girls can learn from Blaire Wilson (GOTY)

Guidance for girls today. Blaire Wilson is learning to bring her creative ideas to life, while also finding time for ever-important, real-life relationships.

Staying connected. Sharing a meal, sharing a talent, sharing a story. Spending time together grows relationships, and Blaire teaches girls that real-world interactions are the best kind of social media.

Inspiring creativity. Expressing herself through cooking and decorating not only allows Blaire’s confidence to grow, but it serves as a chance to give joy to others.

Finding balance. Discovering creative inspiration online is exciting, however, Blaire must learn to keep a healthy combination of tech time and real-time with friends.

American Girl Doll of the Year Blaire Wilson Giveaway, Blaire Wilson, American Girl Doll, GOTY, Giveaway, American Girl Doll of the Year 2019

Fans can learn more about American Girl of the Year 2019 Blaire Wilson at the following events and activities:

  • Blaire Online Play: Girls can visit http://play.americangirl.com/play/girl-of-the-year/blaire for book excerpts, games and activities, and Blaire’s Life at Pleasant View Farm Vlog posts from her family’s sustainable farm, featuring delicious recipes, gardening tips, cooking and craft videos, and more.
  • Blaire’s Family Dinner Series: To promote mealtime togetherness, families are invited to attend a Blaire-inspired dinner series at select American Girl retail restaurants across the country in 2019.

The Blaire collection became available on January 1, 2019, at americangirl.com; at all American Girl retail locations nationwide.

Want to learn more about Blaire Wilson, connect with American Girl

Facebook: @americangirl

Twitter: @American_Girl

Instagram: @americangirlbrand

Pinterest: agofficial

YouTube: American Girl

I am giving away one American Girl Doll of the Year, Blaire Wilson. All you need to do to enter is leave a comment on this post and enter using Rafflecopter. For extra entries, please see Rafflecopter below. Good luck.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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what giving birth feels like, giving birth. New mom Mondays. new moms, parenting, pregnancy

Good Morning moms and dads of the Internet. I’ve been a mom in the motherhood for quite some time now but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a new mom. It was hard. So hard. I remember those first moments after I gave birth and physically feeling the mental shift in my existence. It was profound. It was terrifying and, if we’re being completely honest (and I always am), it was overwhelming. That’s why I’m starting this New Mom Monday series here on the blog.  We all need a little guidance, support and let’s admit a little commiseration.

For this first post, I thought, why not start at the beginning, birth.  If you are like the rest of us, you’ve read all the books, blogs and heard all the advice that your brain can hold. I’m pretty sure that when I was boning up on how to treat a colicky baby, how to tie my shoes got shoved right out of my brain. Anyways, as I said, this first post is about birth. Not the watered down version that the book and your moms and sisters have given you. This is the unadulterated truth. If you are squeamish, you may want to look away but if you are pregnant and don’t want to be shook while giving birth, read on, my friend.

READ ALSO: What Does Birth Feel Like

No one can truly tell you what giving birth feels like. Well, we can but it’s sort of like Marie Kondo writing about her folding methods. Sure, we read all about it but reading about it doesn’t quite make sense. Giving birth is something that you actually need to see to understand and to really get a grasp about what it feels like, you have to give birth. It’s a bum deal but that’s the reality. Of course, I never had anyone even try to explain it to me and that’s why I’m going to explain it to you as honestly as possible.

The only thing people told me about giving birth at my baby shower was that it was going to be such a blessing and as soon as you held that new baby, you would forget all about the pain of childbirth. As if pain could just melt away from your memory like an ice cream cone on a hot July day. I knew then that this was suspect.

I was scared before I even went into the hospital to get induced. What if I pooped on the table? I mean what if I full on, as a grown woman, lost control of my bodily functions in front of a room front of people including my husband? What then? Well, I’ll tell you what then…it’ll happen and you will survive and you will get over it because that will not be the most profound thing that happens to you on that day, not even close.

I didn’t eat for 24 hours before I gave birth because, well, my vanity wouldn’t allow me to purposely poop on the table but maybe my body had other plans. I don’t know. No one will tell me. And anyways, who would notice with all that other stuff coming out of you like a human being. By the way, eat before you give birth. It is a lot of work and I don’t recommend going into 13 hours of induced labor without any food in your belly.

READ ALSO: Mommy Truisms

The day was unlike any other day I had ever experienced in my life. I arrived at the hospital at around 6 am. They did all the normal stuff like check me in and check my vitals. Then, after a slight freak out about the gown not fitting me and the “mortification” of my butt hanging out the back, Pitocin was administered. Recalling how crazy I acted about doctors and nurses possibly seeing my exposed derriere, when there would, in fact, be several doctors “checking my progress” throughout the day, is hilarious. Thank you teaching hospital for giving me a lesson in humility.

Shortly after this, they broke my water. I came into the hospital 4 centimeters dilated. You’d think that would mean that I was ahead of the labor and delivery game but you would be wrong. I still had 6 centimeters left to dilate and as far as I can remember, 6 centimeters is about the same distance as a transatlantic flight for babies being born.

I remember my early contractions felt like period cramps. I got all cocky and thought to myself, this is no big deal. It was uncomfortable but nowhere as annoying as my broken water that kept replenishing and gushing out. Yes, that is completely normal and completely gross (to me.) Then somewhere around hour 5 and centimeter 6, I asked for something to take the edge off but refused to get my epidural. Instead, I opted for a drug that ended up making me feel completely drunk but took away none of the pain.at.all. It was the worst.

Finally, around 7 hours in and 7 centimeters dilated, the Big Guy asked me, “Is there anything I can do to help?” To which I whispered (because that was all that I could muster), “Get the anesthesiologist!!!” What I really wanted to say was, “You do this laboring bit!” He told the nurse to which she replied, “Sorry, the anesthesiologist is in surgery right now. She’ll have to wait.” Did I mention that there was only 1 anesthesiologist in the entire hospital and he was now, in surgery?

I’m sure I looked like a caged, wild animal when I looked at the picture window across from where I was laying and tried to contemplate whether or not, in my state, I could make it to the window to jump out. That’s how bad the pain was. My contractions were on top of one another and hyped on Pitocin, they were coming on fast and furious. I was shaking, my teeth were chattering, I was nauseous and trapped. Held hostage by my body, my baby. It felt like a near-death experience only I never saw any white light. I couldn’t talk or yell, all I could do was take refuge in my head. Try to stay as still as possible, cry and survive this crazy ride.

I never used the breathing that I learned in all of those Lamaze classes. I think I kept waiting until I “needed” them but we went from annoying contractions to frantic, trying to escape the situation contractions in the matter of a few minutes. I laugh at naïve me who wanted a natural birth. I ended up getting accidental non-medicated transition labor anyways thanks to my refusal of the epidural when it was originally offered.

By the time the anesthesiologist arrived, my teeth were chattering so hard I thought I might have broken some and my head felt as if it was going to spin off of my neck from the pain, while he was trying to inform me of all the side effects. I foggily remember something about migraines and paralysis and me telling him, that I didn’t care if I couldn’t walk, just put the damn needle in my back so the pain went away. Mind you, this was after the nurse annoyingly had asked me if I could sit “Indian Style” while I was experiencing off the Richter scale contractions only a minute apart.

READ ALSO: Play Dates What Every New Mom Should Know

*Now, I think I should reiterate here that both of my births were induced and, though I’ve never gone into labor naturally, I’m assuming (hoping) that going into labor naturally is less painful as your body is doing what it needs to to not being forced into labor before your body is quite on board. **

All of that being said, after finally getting the epidural, I laid back and they checked me, I was fully dilated and ready to push, if I wanted to. There is nothing quite like experiencing transition labor unmedicated only to lay back, get checked and hear the nurse say, “Well, would you look at that you are fully dilated.” Then the anesthesiologist says, “We’ll just turn this up high enough to take the edge off the ring of fire.” I felt pretty jipped but at least I didn’t want to jump out of any windows anymore.

The nurse asked me if I wanted to push or wait for the doctor. Since I was much more comfortable, I opted to wait for the doctor. 3 hours later she arrived and I pushed my baby girl into the world, with the help of a mirror and the support of my husband and a needle the size of Texas in my spine.

The “ring of fire” was nothing in comparison to the Pitocin fueled transition labor. Bella came flailing into the world at 4:54 p.m. on a Thursday in March. She weighed 7 lbs. and 13 ounces and was 21.5 inches long. The cord was wrapped around her neck and she didn’t cry at first. She was purple.

I didn’t scream or yell once…because I couldn’t. I didn’t have the energy; I was in too much pain. I had a silent birth and I still don’t know if I pooped on the table. No one told me if I did and I really just didn’t care to know at that point.

They laid my sweet baby on my chest and I simultaneously laughed and cried. Joy makes you act like a psycho, in case you experience the same. You’re not crazy, just blissfully happy. The first thing I did once I let my baby go to be checked was call my sister-in-law and ask her why the hell she didn’t warn me and she said, “Once you’re pregnant, what’s the point. It’s coming out and it’s going to hurt whether you know it’s coming or not. There’s nothing you can do about it but worry for 9 months and what’s the point of that?” She was right.

But I’m here to tell you, those who want to know, unless an anvil falls on your head after you give birth and causes you to completely lose your short term memory, you will never forget what giving birth feels like. It’s indescribable, unforgettable and unexpected but 1000x worth it. And while you might not forget about the pain, after holding your new baby and looking deep into the soul of those eyes of the human being you made, you won’t care. You’d go through it a million more times if in the end you got to hold this baby and that, my friends, is how the species survives.  Not because women forget but because we are tough and love really does trump everything else.

My advice to you, try to go into labor naturally if medically possible. Get the epidural before you are in excruciating pain, maybe around centimeter 5. There are no awards for experiencing pain. Your baby won’t pop out and hand you a trophy and it won’t prevent the eye rolls that they will give you as teens. Bring Dermaplast with you to the hospital. It will be a savior after giving birth.

A birth plan is not a guarantee so unclench your hands from around that piece of paper, unclench your jaw, forget about what you look like and try to relax and enjoy the experience. It only feels like it lasts forever; before you know it, you’ll be choosing to do it all over again.

If you’ve already given birth, tell me about your birth story. If you are pregnant and about to give birth for the first time, please leave any questions that you might have about it in the comments. I’ll answer any that I can.

Do you remember what giving birth feels like?

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Lola, dog, pets, dog mom, homemade dog treats, peanut butter and banana dog treats, homemade dog treats, peanut butter and banana dog treats recipe, easy dog treat recipe, A Dog's Way Home

Today, A Dog’s Way Home is opening in theaters everywhere and to celebrate, the girls and I are making our Lola some homemade peanut butter and banana dog treats. Or as my Mother-in-law calls them, cookies.

Only, this time instead of the dog treats being some kind of preservative filled meat by-product treat, it will really be a cookie. In fact, it will have some of Lola’s favorite things in it. Our dog is crazy for peanut butter and bananas, the only thing that could make it better in her eyes is if I could sneak some chicken, bacon and watermelon in it.

Lola, dog, pets, dog mom, homemade dog treats, peanut butter and banana dog treats, homemade dog treats, peanut butter and banana dog treats recipe, easy dog treat recipe, A Dog's Way Home

Lola’s peanut butter and banana dog treats are going to be homemade goodness. Honestly, I think I might have a hard time keeping the girls out of these dog treats.

READ ALSO: Is The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up Marie Kondo Method for You? 

You all know I am in the middle of KonMari-ing my house so I don’t have lots of time to spend on baking projects. Also, did I mention that our dishwasher bit the dust this week? Oh my, it did and I’ve realized that all of those dish nights I had as a child have made me truly hate hand washing dishes. So obviously, I am trying to dirty the least amount of dishes possible but Lola is a great pup and she deserves a yummy, homemade treat. Doesn’t your pup?

This is s very simple and easy recipe. Easy enough to let the kids help and you only need to dirty one bowl, a mixing utensil and one cookie sheet. Easy Peasy. Even the littlest kids can help.

Lola, dog, pets, dog mom, homemade dog treats, peanut butter and banana dog treats, homemade dog treats, peanut butter and banana dog treats recipe, easy dog treat recipe, A Dog's Way Home

 

Lola’s Peanut Butter and Banana Dog Treats Recipe

Lola's Peanut Butter and Banana Dog Treats Recipe

Easy, delicious homemade dog treat for your furry friend. Lola's Peanut Butter and Banana Dog Treat Recipe. So easy to make even the kids can help.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: dog treat, vegetarian
Keyword: Dog treat recipe
Servings: 15
Author: Deborah Cruz

Ingredients

  • 2 cups wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup banana mashed
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

  • Whisk together the flour, eggs, oatmeal, peanut butter, salt, and banana in a bowl.
  • Add water as needed to help make the dough workable, but the dough should be dry and stiff. 
  • Roll the dough into a 1/2-inch-thick roll. Use your favorite cookie cutter to cut out shapes.
  • Bake in preheated oven until crisp and golden brown, about 40 minutes.

READ ALSO: A Puppy Saves Christmas

We’d love to hear if your dog loved these dog treats as much as our Lola! #LolaApproved!

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If you give Lola’s Peanut Butter and Banana Dog Treats Recipe a try, let us know in the comments.

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A Dog's Way Home, pets, Lola, kid's crafts, art

Are you a dog person? Is your furbaby showered with love and adoration? Do you have a special voice you use to greet your four-legged friend when you get home? No shame in our game, we definitely do. We love our Lola. She truly is one of the family. I don’t know what we’d do without her and all the joy she brings with her happy tail wagging and dog kisses.

Lola was a Christmas gift for our family to ourselves after a particularly hard year. In 2012, we suffered a miscarriage and lost our first fur baby, Saffaron. We were gutted. There was so much upheaval in our lives from the losses and so much love in our hearts that needed to be given and had no place to go.

The girls had been begging for a pet to fill our dog-sized hole in our hearts. It feels weird now to think that one goes to a place to “buy” a pet, especially since they are so much an integral part of our family’s story.

Lola was like salve to our hearts. She is our constant companion and loves our daughters as fiercely as we do. When I work at my desk (or on the couch or from my bed), Lola is always beside me. When the girls are sick, she sits by them until they are well. When the Big Guy has had a particularly bad day, she knows and she lays her head in his lap and soothes his soul.

I can’t even imagine a world without Lola in it. Who knew you could love a four-legged friend as much as you love human family? But how could you not, they are always there to make the world a better place.

Gabi wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up and she has a particularly special relationship with Lola. She calls her, “my sister” and she means it. In a lot of ways, Lola has healed us as a family and there is nothing we will ever be able to do to repay her for that. For now, we love her with all that we’ve got and she does the same in return.

Gabs painted a canvas of Lola to put on her wall in her bedroom and it is adorable. I think this is a great activity for all kids to do. It gave Gabs some one-on-one time with Lola and now, she has this sweet memory of the day her and Lola sat together for an hour as she tried to get her sweet face just right. I love it. I want one for the wall in my office.

A Dog’s Way Home chronicles the heartwarming family adventure of Bella, a dog who embarks on an epic 400-mile journey home after she is separated from her beloved human. A Dog’s Way Home is based on the book by W. Bruce Cameron with an all-star cast including Ashley Judd, Jonah Hauer-King, Edward James Olmos, Alexandra Shipp, Wes Studi and Bryce Dallas Howard.

“Finding Bella” takes us on the journey of a dog trying to get back to her owner. Bryce Dallas Howard, the voice of Bella, shares the story of how Shelby the dog was rescued and goes on a journey of her own. Discover Shelby’s epic adventure as she finds her forever home and new life purpose as a therapy dog.

A Dog’s Way Home In Theaters January 11, 2019

 

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organization, Marie Kondo, clothing organization, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, KonMari Method

My house is in disarray. It needs tidying up like I need sleep. Desperately. I don’t know about you but when my house is in chaos, my mind is in chaos. When my mind is in disarray, I feel overwhelmed and it’s hard for me to get my bearings.
When my perspective is skewed, it’s hard to stay focused on the positive and when that happens, it’s impossible to hit goals and chase down dreams because you’re too busy chasing your own tail. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo organization method is helping me to organize my life, my home, my mind and my soul. Who knew the KonMari organization method would work for me.

Enter fate and an unlikely Netflix binge, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Not going to lie, I bought the book a couple years ago. I started reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo and it made sense but I’m a visual learner. You can tell me but it’s better if you show me.

Friday night, I turned on Netflix to find my next great binge and there it was, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

Not normally my cup of tea but as I’m trying to be more positive and I know my method of tidying up is not working, I knew that organization is not my strong suit but it needs to be.

As soon as I saw the look of being lost on the first couples face, I could relate. It’s like one day you look around and you’re asking yourself, how did I get here? Whose life am I living because it’s so off the mark from what you imagined for yourself.
Before we had kids and when the kids were toddlers, my house was immaculate. Organization was my jam. A place for everything and everything in its place. Tidying up was not a problem. Then, the Big Guy lost his job and we had to do the whole commuter marriage thing and I was alone with a 2 & 4 year old.

READ ALSO: What is Commuter Marriage?

I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and if I’m being completely honest, a little depressed. Everything became too much and something had to give. I had to let go of the idea of a perfect house and focus on taking care of 2 small children by myself. The house went on the market and loads of stuff went into storage so the house could be shown. A couple temporary moves with stuff in storage and us in small quarters and somehow we acquired more stuff.

Then there was the miscarriage, our dog dying and the year of living with our in laws while stuff was in storage. My goal was just to survive. Tidying up and organization were not my priorities. It was just one more thing to do in an ever growing pile of things to do. Things that were overwhelming and exhausting at a time when I was already buried up to my neck in obligations and in full survival mode.

We’ve been in this house for 6 years and we’re still not fully unpacked and we’ve accumulated so much stuff just to replace stuff that was in storage or unfindable when we needed it. There’s always a holiday, visitors, traveling or some other obligation so we never get the time, or if I’m being honest, have the desire to sift through and sort through our lives so we keep the downstairs clean while the attic and garage are bursting at the seams and clean, folded laundry is stacked in all the bedrooms towering over us while we sleep.

READ ALSO: How to Get Your House Company Ready without Killing Yourself

organization, Marie Kondo, clothing organization, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, KonMari Method

It’s embarrassing, all the “stuff” we have. We don’t need it. But I’ve realized, the way some people eat their feelings, I shop to feel better. Then, I feel worse when I get the bill and I feel complete shit when I see my house full of stuff. I feel guilty. I actually feel embarrassed to carry my Louis Vuitton handbag bought for me as a gift by my husband because I feel like it’s just one more possession; a luxury that I either don’t need or don’t deserve. I haven’t quite figured out which.

I saw Tidying Up with Marie Kondo and learned the KonMari method of organization at the right time.

Just as I’ve recently decided that there is no more try only do. I decided we were doing this. Saturday morning, I asked my family to watch the first episode with me so we were all on the same page. We’ve started with the clothes. We’re still sorting through them. I went through so much clothing and moved so much clothing, shoes and bags around my room that after 15 hours, my entire body was aching; buckling under the physical pressure of organizing closets but my mind felt free and light. That is worth as many hours as it takes.

organization, Marie Kondo, clothing organization, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, KonMari Method

We each went through our own stuff because I feel like only each of us can decide what’s important and sparks joy for us. At 11 and 13-years-old my girls can do that plus, they’re going to be more respectful of how they treat their belongings and how they appreciate the work it takes to tidy up more if they do it themselves. If we do it for them, they can’t fully appreciate what that entails. We all worked all day doing this.

organization, Marie Kondo, clothing organization, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, KonMari Method

We started Saturday around noon collected about 15-20 bags of clothing to donate to the women’s shelter. We’re not even done yet. There will be more. I plan to use the KonMari tidying up organization method throughout my entire home over the next month or so. We’re in it as long as it takes. I will keep you all updated on here on Mondays.

How does Marie Kondo’s tidying up method work?

It’s not about throwing out all of your stuff. It’s about keeping what makes you happy and letting the rest go because, after all, it is just stuff.

Does it bring you joy?

Pick it up in your hands and decide if it sparks joy. If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t give it to someone who it will spark joy for.

For me, there are exceptions, there are articles of clothing like undergarments, socks and pajamas that don’t particularly spark joy but are necessary so I kept them but if they caused annoyance or I just had a dislike for, I threw out.

The goal is not to have to rebuy spanx but to not have clutter and not hold on to stuff just to have stuff.

What to do with the stuff?

It’s hard for me to get rid of stuff because I grew up poor. I tend to want to hold on to things and I form emotional attachments to things, especially where my kids are concerned. Marie Kondo has a sentimental category and it makes you take a moment and consider what things really mean to you.

I’m still going through my clothes, shoes, handbags and jewelry in my bedroom but I’m planning on doing the entire house. It may take me a couple months with work and life but purging feels good, folding in threes calms me and the less stuff I have the less overwhelmed I feel. Maybe I’m a minimalist on the inside?

organization, Marie Kondo, clothing organization, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, KonMari Method

Where do I start?

The life changing magic of Tidying up with Marie Kondo and the KonMari organization method should be done in this order;

Clothing

Hold each piece in your hand and decide if it sparks joy in your heart. If it doesn’t, give it away.

Books

She says to give them a little shake to wake them up and then decide what sparks joy. The rest donate to your local library, school or build your own little free library for your neighbors and friends.

Papers

Bills, receipts and etcetera.

Komono

Kitchen, Bathroom, Garage, Attic and everything miscellaneous.

Sentimental Items

Things that have sentimental value to you like photos, videos, heirlooms and things that bring you sentimental joy. It’s personal and only you can decide. It doesn’t have to be logical or make sense to anyone else. Besides, you can always go through your “Stuff” again later.

I fully realize that for some people tidying up and organization is not life changing. Some of you already have a handle on this aspect of your life but some of us are out of control and the chaos of the clutter is an outward reflection of the inner mess we feel; controlling one helps us to reign in the other. So maybe cleaning up and folding in thirds is not your jam, maybe you don’t have “too much stuff”. Maybe you think its crazy to throw out perfectly good stuff. I have a problem with this too. That’s why we’re donating our stuff. Then I can feel like I am controlling my mess, getting the closet organizers and clearing my mind without guilt about waste.

organization, Marie Kondo, clothing organization, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, KonMari Method

 

What are your tips for keeping your house clutter free and making your home feel peaceful?

Are you experiencing the Life changing Magic of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo and trying the KonMari organization method as your guide to your closet organizer?

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elf on the shelf, elf on the shelf ideas, elf on the shelf funny ideas, keurig, elf on the shelf expert level, baby shark, kinderegg, febreeze

It’s that time of the year again. You know the one. The time of the year when the elf on the shelf arrives. Also, coincidentally, when parents have about 5 whimsical, hilarious and creative elf on the shelf ideas and then, we’re out. Even if we’re not out, we forget. Oh, the horror. Why must those little guys need so much assistance?

Let me tell you a little story about the dumbest parents in the world, that would be the Big Guy and myself, in case there was any confusion. The elf on the shelf started coming when Bella was 2-years-old. We thought, “OMG, it’s so cute every kid should have one of Santa’s adorable elves come to visit them at Christmas.”

READ ALSO: The Elf is Back in Town

Our first elf on the shelf arrived that year, in a box (with little breathing holes in it) from the North Pole (sent from Santa Claus himself, no less) and a letter from the Jolly Big Guy.

His name was Ed and he was freaking adorable. No, he didn’t look like the other elves. He’s pleasantly plump and has kind eyes and I’m assuming that he is probably Santa’s favorite because he kind of looks like Santa himself (maybe he’s Santa’s illegitimate son? I’m not saying he is but I’m not saying he isn’t either.)

After all, Elf on the shelf can come in all sizes, shapes and colors just like people.

Ed was fantastic. Bella loved him and so did we. An elves life is pretty sweet when kids are toddlers. Toddlers have the attention span of gnats. Ed could literally move his lazy derriere an inch a night and Bella was perfectly tickled.

By 2008, we had two little girls and, for some reason, Santa thought it would be cool to send 2 elves. One for each girl. Ed and Ana Lee (who’s a little old guy who came with a name tag). So, then there were 2 elves, 2 daughters and the 3-year-old was pretty perceptive. Life gets more complicated when 2 lazy elves have to put on a dog and pony show every night. 2 kids, this mommy was exhausted.

READ ALSO: Elf on the Shelf Run Amuck

Well, if you think things were getting crazy, well, you have no idea. Ended up moving a couple times and well, let’s just say for the arguments sake, that our elves got confused for a couple years and we ended up with 3 more different elves, Herbie Hancock, Rick Astley and Darling Nikki. Moving is not good for elf consistency. So, for those of you keeping track, now that we have lived in this house for 6 years, all 5 elves have been showing up. It gets chaotic up in here.

Here are some Elf on the shelf ideas for Parents and Elves who are Out of Ideas

1.The Elf on the Shelf with Proof

Have the elf show up in a box with holes from the North Pole and a letter from Santa. Remember to remove all name tags they bring with themselves, as to allow for a more suitable name to be given to said elf.

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Photo Credit: @Frugalmom

2. The Hostess with the Mostest Elf

Has your elf shown up with a welcome breakfast for the whole family? Wouldn’t that be awesome? Maybe you help the little guy out and host your own north pole breakfast.

3. Paratrooper Elf

Has your Elf on the Shelf parachuted in? It’s different, unexpected and really brings the adventure. I mean, if he’s arriving by parachute, what might this little guy (or gal) do next?

4. Kissing Elf on the Shelf

A bag full of kisses for all the bubs and sisses. Maybe your elf is just not that into boxes maybe he arrives with a note from Santa and a bag full of chocolate kisses.

5. Full of Hot Air Elf on the Shelf

Forget the box altogether, and forget Santa’s predictable sleigh, why not arrive by hot air balloon, zip line or under the Christmas tree locomotive? After all, Danger could be his middle name (check the “name” tag someone forgot to remove).

6. Do you want to build a snowman Elf on the Shelf

If your kids are like mine they are Frozen fanatics and they also love building snowmen, so kids find it pretty cool when their Elf shows up and writes Frozen lyrics all over the bathroom mirror and builds a toilet paper snowman. And hey, if it’s snowing out, parents, you’ll get bonus points for taking those kiddies out and building an actual snowman!

READ ALSO: The Elf on the Shelf Problem

But be careful, our 5 elves have been known to toilet paper our house, the tree and anything else when hopped up on too much peppermint. I’m pretty sure that our elves turn into chain-smoking, drunken frat boy hooligans at night.

7. Loco for Coco Elf on the Shelf

Maybe while you’re outside building the snowman, maybe Rick Astley (that little go-getter that he is) the elf decides to put together a surprise coco bar for the whole family. How thoughtful. Best.elf. ever.

8. Like a Wrecking Ball Elf on the Shelf

Maybe your elf is MacGyver and he likes to live on the edge. So he takes some string, a toilet paper roll and he swings in overnight to make an entrance.

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Photo Credit: @CameronsCoffee

9. S’mores Elf on the Shelf

I’m not one for advocating that elves play with fire but it sure would be nice to return from a cold day at school to find Smoky the elf carefully making S’mores. That would be a nice treat, right?

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Photo Credit: @Craftywayout

10. Pump You Up Elf on the Shelf

Schwarzenegger elf really doesn’t like to miss his workouts, especially around the holidays with all the yummy desserts around the joint. Maybe he concocts marshmallow dumbbells to keep in shape and keep those love handles at bay.

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Photo credit: @Juliee_1985

11. An Angel Gets its Wings Elf on the Shelf

Frosty the snow elf really loves playing in the “snow” so beware, he may go to extreme lengths to feel at home and make sugar, rice, powdered sugar or sprinkle angels.

Mischievous Elf on the Shelf Ideas for the elves who want to live on the edge.

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Photo Credit: @Dopedreams_3X

12. Pooping elf on the shelf.

I am not sure what exactly these elves eat on a regular basis, but I can say that we’ve caught them pooping a toilet full of chocolate chips in the Barbie toilet. We’ve also caught them making not so nice toilet humor and playing pranks in the bathroom.

13. Tawanda! Elf on the Shelf

Ever caught your elves mid mischief? Well, one of our elves favorite things to do besides swing from chandeliers and cozy up to the Barbies and American Girl Dolls is sledding down the stairs. We’ve caught them doing it in the Barbie car, in toilet paper tubes and even by wrapping themselves in the toilet paper, yelling “Tawanda!” and just rolling. Silly elves, toilet paper is for wiping butts not sliding down the stairs.

14. The Godfather Elf on the Shelf

Our girls know that touching the elves is strictly forbidden and strips them of their North Pole magical abilities, so they don’t touch them but those elves are sneaky. When the girls have had talkback, push the boundary days, our elves have not been above crawling in the bed with them and sleeping on the pillow next to them. It’s pretty Tony Soprano sleeping with the fishes/ waking up with a horse head in your bed thug like.

elf on the shelf, elf on the shelf ideas, elf on the shelf funny ideas, keurig, elf on the shelf expert level, baby shark, kinderegg, febreeze15. Shoe Conga Elf on the Shelf

Elves like to be silly. I once saw our elves do a shoe conga from the living room, through the foyer and into the movie room. They’ve also been known to do this aboard the Polar Express beneath the Christmas tree.

16. Horsing Around Elves

They’re just like us and they get bored. I’ve seen them rally all those stuffies, Polly Pockets and Barbie dolls lying on the floor and let the sack races begin.

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Photo Credit: @Pittmankid

17. K-Cup Criminal Elf on the Shelf

Did you know that elves love coffee and hot chocolate almost as much as they love peppermint sticks? They do. I’ve caught them on more than one occasion reusing my old K-Cups. I’m cool with it. I’m all about recycling and reusing.

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Photo credit: @elfontheshelf

18. Sick Day Elf on the Shelf

Well, even elves get cooties sometimes. In these situations, it is best if they leave a doctor’s note to let the kids know why they’re not moving. Enjoy your sleep and take advantage of those days that you don’t have to chase him down every night. P.S. It’s the worse when the elf catches a cold from your kid but the guilt does buy you a couple extra days of relief.

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Photo Credit: @lips_last_with_Selena

19. Elfy sharks doo doo doo doo doo doo 

We have an entire family of elves, therefore, why wouldn’t they want to get in on the latest craze? You just know they’re going to show up as the family of sharks one day, perhaps with the JAWS music playing softly in the background. Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo.

20. Picasso Elf on the Shelf

Our elves seem to get increasingly mischievous the closer we get to Christmas. One of their favorite things to do is climb up our shelves and draw silly mustaches and unibrows on family photos.

There are ( as my teen would say) “literally” 1000 other things your elf can do and mischief they can get into. I can go on for infinity.

If you are looking for some other great ideas check out this awesome elf on the shelf checklist.

I can say that our elves are a bit rambunctious. On their last night at our house, we almost always find them hungover after a night of drunken debauchery; gorged on peppermint and passed out in the middle of their Go Fish game.

They’ve even been known to toilet paper our Christmas tree and fill our house with paper snowflakes while we were at a holiday party. Elves are awesome but they sure love their shenanigans. They also have a penchant for stealing phones while you sleep and leaving random #elfies on our phones.

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What’s your best elf on the shelf ideas? What’s the craziest thing your elf has ever done?

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How to Help Your Child Navigate Grief, Morgan Grady, children and grief, car accident, explaining death to children

This is not the post that I thought that I would be writing tonight,  How to help your child navigate grief. I wish I wasn’t. My kids aren’t allowed to eat raisins. Sounds crazy, right? Yep, I’ve spent about 13 years getting weird looks and judgy faces from playdate moms because I politely declined their offer of raisins and grapes to my children. Oh yeah, did I mention that when I send grapes in my daughters’ lunches, I quarter them? Yep, even at 11 and 13-years-old.  And now, I will always pick them up from college when they come home to visit or they will fly. I will not allow them to drive alone in holiday traffic.

You are all scratching your heads wondering why I am outing myself as a crazy, helicopter mom, right? Before you judge me, get to know my “why”. We are all a sum total of our whys in life. We become what our life circumstances mold, bend, flatten and tear us into.

My children are not allowed to eat raisins and grapes because when Bella was just around 18 months old, she almost choked to death on one. Not coughing and freaking out, she was full on turning purple, could not make a sound, there was no air moving, suffocating before my very eyes…choking.

I did everything my brain could think of to do to dislodge that thing. I was seconds away from performing a makeshift tracheotomy. She could live with a hole in her neck. She could not live with all oxygen deprived from her brain. Luckily, I knocked it loose and cleared her airway before my husband got back to me with the kitchen knife. You think I’m kidding? I.am.not.

READ ALSO: The First Cut is the Deepest

I saw the most important thing in my life slipping away before my very eyes and I refused to watch helplessly. That is not how I function. There are things that happen so fast and so furious that we cannot do anything about it. I know this and I know ultimately I have no control over anything but I can’t quit, not on the people I love. And why can’t they eat grapes? Why are they quartered? Because a grape is just a fucking raisin in training and that sneaky bastard is not getting the chance.

Why will I never let my girls drive home in holiday traffic alone while under my care, you ask? Because life is unexpected and cruel in ways that you can’t imagine until it hits you like a mac truck. This is where we get to helping our children navigate through the grief part. The horrible part of the story, in case the toddler choking on a raisin didn’t scare you enough already.

As I’ve mentioned, probably a zillion times on this blog, my daughters’ dance ballet at our local city ballet. Dance is a huge part of their lives and the people they meet there, the girls, boys, men and women they spend hours a week of their lives with are important to them. Those people are family. When there is blood, sweat, tears and blisters shared between people you become more than just acquaintances. You love these people who you laugh, cry and live with day in and day out and we mourn them when they are gone.

READ ALSO: Tiny Ballerina

Well, on Sunday night, we suddenly lost one of these family members. She was a young, bright and beautiful woman who taught both of my daughters. They loved her for her big heart, giant spirit and infectious smile. She cared about her students and it poured out of every part of her. But now she is gone in a very sudden and shocking way. I’m not going to share all of the gruesome details but she was traveling to visit her mother and was the victim of a tragic car accident. My girls are gutted. Our ballet family is gutted. I can’t even imagine what her actual family is going through.

One minute my daughters were brushing their teeth for bed and the next they are Facetiming with friends and everyone was sobbing uncontrollably. I felt so helpless. I’m sad. Hearing of her passing shocked me. It sort of stops you in your tracks to lose someone so young, so much alive, so unexpectedly. The grief is palpable.

What could I do? There is no Heimlich maneuver to be done to soothe your grieving child. There is no tracheotomy to be done to remove the hurt. You can’t call the ambulance. You can’t take death off the menu of life. All you can do is hold them and explain that this is just one part of life. You have to go through it with them. Hold on tight and reassure them that you are there for as long as life permits you to do so but in the end, you have to be honest. At 11 and 13-years-old, I had to reiterate that life, in all of its pain and glory, is finite. None of us live forever.

READ ALSO: Teaching Your Children about Loss

If you believe in life after death or a higher power, you let your child know that while those of us left behind feel pain and sorrow from the loss, those we lose feel no pain. They are beyond that. They are at peace.

Now, I don’t really know if I’m comfortable with telling my children that there is a better place or a worse place because I’ve never been dead, so I don’t really know. I, personally, hope that there is a peace beyond the pain and I think that peace might look and feel different for everyone. But in the end, I hope my peace involves all of those people I love surrounding me on the other side. Like a world of only the people, places and things that I love.

Whatever it is I hope that lovely, young, vibrant soul went to her place of peace immediately. I pray that she didn’t even see it coming. I’ve never wished for an instant as much as I hoped it happened in an instant in this case. I’m praying for peace for her family because I know their hearts are shattered into a million little pieces. And I pray for sanity for her parents because when your heart is so broken, it’s easy for the mind to give way. I’ve had a taste of loss and it nearly broke me. The thought of losing my girls in their twenties, just as their life is beginning, guts me.

How to Help Your Child Navigate Grief

This is why I will never let my daughters drive home from college in holiday traffic. This loss has altered my perspective forever and there is nothing that will change my mind. I know that it doesn’t make a difference who is driving and that accidents happen all the time. We can’t stop them but I can do what I can to make them less likely.

 

How to Help Your Child Navigate Grief, Morgan Grady, children and grief, car accident, explaining death to childrenRest in Peace, sweet Morgan Grady.

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kixteen period proof panties, The Ever Changing Rules and Regulations of Being a Teen Girl

My oldest is 13-years-old. Where did the time go? They are growing up faster than I feel like I can let go. Pretty soon, they are going to have to pry themselves from my cold dead hands. Then they’ll still probably have to break them in order for me to release, I’m just holding on that hard.

But the Big Guy, for as liberal as he pretends to be, is going to have an even harder time than me. He’s actually told the girls that they can’t date until they are 18 and he.was.serious. I just laughed. I told him that’s what my dad said too but I started dating when I was 15. I just didn’t tell my dad. That’s not what I want for our girls so we’re all easing into it.

READ ALSO: My Daughter Loves Me

The kids at school are all pairing up. 13-years-old, for me, is a bit young to be paired up BUT I do remember being that age and having crushes. In fact, I think somewhere in 8th grade is where I lost my mind and went completely boy crazy. At least that is what my 8th-grade diary would have me believe.  #SoEmbarassing

Bella’s always been too involved with ballet to have time to care about boys. But recently, there has been KJ Apa, Cole Sprouse and Robert Pattinson screensavers where there once was unicorns. But apparently, this is the case for the entire eighth-grade girl population.

A couple weeks ago she was homesick and instead of binge watching funny fails on Youtube she binge-watched the entire Twilight series and can’t stop talking Jacob’s chest. Kiss/Kill/Marry is the new favorite pastime with the girls.

I just watch and listen and let them know that it’s all normal. I don’t encourage or discourage. I simply pay attention and try to guide them through these confusing times of hormones and puberty.

There have been a couple boys and I can tell by my daughter’s sheepish smile and sparkly eyes that these boys are as good as KJ Apa and Cole Sprouse. But I don’t push. I don’t want them to feel like I’m pushing them to like boys (or girls) but I also don’t want them to feel like I am holding them back. I want them to know that as long as they respect themselves and aren’t cruel to anyone, it’s their choice to make. It’s a natural part of growing up.

Obviously, they are too young to actually date anyone but I can’t stop them from growing up. I can’t stop them from having feelings or wanting to get to know someone better. I can only encourage them to do it in a respectful, honest and dignified way.

A few weeks ago, when I picked Bella up from school, she excitedly recounted the day’s events which to my surprise involved a certain young man who knows how to use his words. It was a dress-up day and this boy, very sweetly pulled up his pant legs to reveal to my daughter a pair of socks with hearts on them. Then, he says, “I wore these just for you, Bella.”

She turned 50 shades of red and changed the subject. I know this because it’s exactly what she did when she told me about it. She’s shy, especially in this situation. What new teen wouldn’t be? Though I’m not quite ready for this next phase, the story was very sweet.

She’s starting to embrace becoming a teen and all which that entails; the good, the bad and the terrible. She’s even looking forward to high school when just this past summer, she wasn’t. She really is growing up so fast.

I’d like to think it has something to do with our style of parenting; let them know your love is unconditional and you will always be there to listen with understanding ears and an open heart but really, I think we just got lucky with a couple of good girls.

READ ALSO: Girl You’ll be a Woman Soon

Just a few months ago, puberty was barely on the horizon, off in the not so far distance. But that milestone has come and gone. We’ve got puberty covered. Thanks to lots of reading, lots of remembering my own teen years, lots of understanding and Knixteen’s period proof underwear and bras. Things are different from when I was 13-years-old.

Apparently, the teen years are a roller coaster of emotions and feelings and parents and kids alike are strapped in for the duration. All we can do is hold on to one another and try to enjoy the ride together. Never stop talking and more importantly, never stop listening. You never know what you might hear or what they might need you to say.

I know these sweet moments of blushing and sparkly eyes are just the beginning of what will become her long, complicated and beautiful story. I just hope she writes it down somewhere so when she’s a mom, she can look back and remember she was once at the beginning when things were confusing and new and scary and that will help her have the patience and courage and love it takes to get back on that roller coaster with her own daughter.

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