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I heard it again the other day, “Oh, you have your hands full!” I was pushing two kids in my shopping cart, while my oldest daughter walked beside us as we navigated the aisles of Walmart. None of my kids were acting up. Nobody was yelling, pushing or annoying each other. There was nothing to warrant the comment from this stranger except the number of children with me.

I’m not sure when it was that three children was officially declared the tipping point that pushes you from mom to mental case. How could I possibly handle three with only two hands? I’ve seen better mothers than me handle far more than three kids. I have a good friend who has six. I bet she hears the phrase far more frequently than I do.

I suppressed an eye roll and kept on shopping, because with three kids the goal is always to get in, get what you need and get the heck outta there as quickly as possible. It bugs me sometimes. The implication that I must be burdened by having more than the “ideal” two kids.

Here is what I want to tell everyone who’s ever made the comment to a Mom that has three or more kids that she has her hands full.

Yes, my hands are full. About a hundred times a day my hands are picking up small toys off the floor. At least twice a day I’m picking up someone’s discarded clothing and throwing it in the hamper or folding little tee-shirts or balling up socks.

My hands are holding little hands tight as we cross roads. My hands are brushing hair and weaving braids. They’re probing for imaginary boo boos on arms and legs, scouring for ticks in the summer, and giving reassuring pats on backs as my arms encircle my little ones. They’re feeling foreheads for signs of fever, pulling up covers, administering medicine and providing comfort in a million little ways.

These hands are often wet with sudsy dish water or being washed because I’ve touched all manner of disgusting bodily fluids. They are changing diapers, zipping coats, pulling on snow pants, and searching coat sleeves for wayward shirt sleeves.

These hands of mine are cooking endless meals, baking cookies, making hot cocoa, and filling sippy cups and water glasses. They are searching for lost toys and games, replacing batteries in toys I wish made no noise and decorating Christmas trees.

They’re pulling sleds up the hill for children too tired to do it themselves. They’re shuffling decks of cards to games I don’t always feel like playing or building Lego towers, assembling puzzles and turning the pages of countless books. They are in the air as I dance crazily around the living room with three little squealing kids who are getting down right along with me.

My hands are also typing, always typing because I’m a writer and there’s nothing I love to write about more than my kids. It’s because I want them to know that even though mommy doesn’t always have it all together, they are the best of me.

Yes, my hands are busy. They are always full. There is almost no point during each day where they are empty.

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And you know what? I’m so incredibly grateful for full hands. Children aren’t a burden. They are a blessing; one not everyone gets.

I read an article the other day about a writer who regretted having children and urged other people to reconsider having kids. My first thought was, “I hope her kids don’t read her article one day.” Not everyone wants to have kids and that’s fine. But they deserve to be treasured once they’re here.

The argument was that you would have far more money, could advance your career, travel and have more “me-time” if you didn’t have kids. While all of that is true, children give so much joy to your life.

If it weren’t for my three, I would never have learned how to love someone more than myself. Sure, you can love a spouse, but there are still strings attached. If they hurt you badly enough, you walk away. Not with kids; that love surpasses all limitations.

Hannah is a result of my stubborn will to become a mother after my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. I desperately wanted my son Jayden after falling in love with motherhood and my daughter Sydney was the happy ending to a year-long heartache for the child I knew would complete our family.

When you tell me, “Your hands are full!” I want to tell you, “If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart!”

And I would tell you except I don’t have time to stop. As you can see, I have three little ones to hold tight. My hands are never empty.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

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The Pressure of the Holidays

This time of year is filled with joy and excitement for the holidays. There is so much pressure on parents to give their kids a “good holiday” with lots of presents, big family meals and seven foot tall trees trimmed to perfection. The magic of the holidays seems to come at a high price between stress and money. I wonder how much of the pressure we put on ourselves is even worth it.

Remembering Sandy Hook

No matter what I do lately I feel haunted by the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We’re coming up on the fourth anniversary on December 14th. I think of those small children who were looking forward to the holidays too. I wonder how many of them sat on Santa’s lap, played in the snow in oversized coats and snow pants, decorated trees or were crossing the days off on their calendars.

Ties That Bind

It wasn’t the first shooting I had ever seen unfold on live television. That would be the shooting at Columbine High School. That happened my freshman year of college and it was horrific, but something about this one at Sandy Hook has scarred my heart. Those kids were just babies. The difference was that by the time this tragedy occurred I was a parent myself. I could feel the universal love we all have for our kids. It’s perhaps the strongest tie that binds us together.

Tragedy can be found anywhere, on any day. I have to turn off the news so my empathetic heart doesn’t break all the time. But I owe those parents who lost children in the shooting at Sandy Hook a huge debt of gratitude. I owe it to them to remember that their children changed the way I appreciate my own.

Honoring the Children Lost

Those twenty little faces remind me to forgive just a little bit quicker when my kids are misbehaving. They remind me to hold a little tighter and not to get annoyed at the “one more kiss” goodnight, which is always more like six or seven. I might be tired and just want to finish my nightly routine so I can go to bed, but I remember that there are parents who would kill for one more kiss goodnight. So I open the door one more time when I hear my toddler’s sweet voice calling for “kisses, more kisses.”

The Magic of One More Kiss Goodnight

We get so wrapped up in holiday magic and giving our kids more than we had. We sometimes forget that our kids supply the magic. Every time they look at you like you are their sun and moon, they remind us that we already are everything they need and we already give them everything they could want.

So this holiday season forgive yourself if you fall short of holiday perfection. If you don’t pose an elf on a shelf (I know I sure as heck don’t), if you burn the Christmas cookies, if you can’t afford a dozen presents per child; it’s all okay. One day, if we’re really lucky they will remember us, our faces, around a tree or a table. What presents they opened or meals they ate, will have long been forgotten. Those are the details that blur on the edge of memory.

The best gift we can give them is just the best of us. A little more patience than we typically have, a smile big as life just because it’s been a couple of hours since we saw them last, and of course one more kiss goodnight.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

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As you can probably guess, as I’m typing this post I have a cold. I’m also wishing it were a “man cold” and not a “mom cold.” What’s the difference? Let me break it down for you.

What Is A “Man Cold?”

If I had a “man cold” I would be able to take off of work and take a nap. I could drink orange juice and hot soup and take some medicine that would make me sleep the afternoon away. I could focus on taking care of myself.  Instead, I have a “mom cold.”

Sickness Is Not On Our To-Do List

That means I’m up plugging away at the many things on my to-do list, despite my deep desire just to lie down and rest. I have laundry that needs to be done, a dishwasher that needs to be unloaded before dishes start piling up in the sink since I seem to be the only one capable of looking to see that it needs to be emptied, oh and my toddler decided to boycott her nap again today so I don’t even get a few hours to drag my butt through these tasks without chasing her around pulling her off the couch, which she has learned to body surf down this morning.

Hit By A Bus

If you’ve been following my posts for a while you know that I love my husband, like L O V E love him and I’m always bragging about him, but today I’m going to throw him under the bus, along with half the men in the US. And you know who’s sitting in this bus with me, all the other moms I know. We are so tired of getting stuck with the “mom cold,” while you men are allowed to wallow in your misery.

We Helped Create The Monster

But it’s not all your fault. No, we played a part in this. We take care of you when you’re not feeling well. We make you soup and dry toast and bring it to you in bed. We make sure the kids keep their voices down and don’t barge in the room a million times, interrupting the nap which is going to propel you back into good health.

We carry on with every task we normally do and exempt you from it all. Why? Because we’re moms. Caring for our family is what we do. And because thankfully you aren’t sick that often.

As a work at home Mom I know I have it easier than a lot of work outside the home moms. If I were really feeling horrible, I’d just focus on getting my blogging work done and let the housework go and deal with the avalanche of mess when I’m feeling better. Though the day you crawl out of your covers to find that nobody cleaned up the half a box of cereal that spilled on the floor is so NOT fun.

The Part Inequality In The Workplace Plays

Most working moms I know don’t even take a day off of work unless they feel like death. Why? Because they are saving their sick days for when their children are sick and need to take off to care for them. Why aren’t men taking off more time to care for their sick kids?

It may be attributed to the breakdown of differences for men and women in the workforce. Men typically get paid more than women. They take off less time when their children are born and less time when their kids are sick or off of school.

It’s less detrimental to a man’s career that he has a family than a woman’s if she has children. Why? Because we are the caregivers (primarily). Not, that it makes it right.

The “Mom Cold” Mentality

It’s really pretty sucky and it all contributes to the “mom cold” mentality that we have to power through even when we feel really awful. Moms can’t afford to be sick.

Even if this were more than a cold, like say the stomach bug, I know my kids need to eat even if the thought of lunch makes me lose mine. My husband will pick up medicine and take out for dinner if I’m really sick and that helps. I appreciate it. But you know what all moms need?

The Thing Moms NEED Most

Men, we need you to take off work and take over sometimes. We need the same rest and care we afford you during your “man colds.” We need you to put out the figurative fires, take care of the chores and keep the kids alive till morning.

We need you to put your career on the back burner. Not forever, but just for one day. Heck, we’ll settle for a half-day.

We don’t expect you to single-handedly close the wage gap. We don’t expect that you can change the perception of care-giving roles for men and women all by yourselves, but you can do us a solid.

The next time we feel sick, give us the gift of having a “man cold” instead of a “mom cold.” Pick up the slack and do what needs to be done. Why? Because we do it for you ALL…THE….TIME and we deserve it.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

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When we become grownups, we sometimes forgot what really makes the holidays a magical time of year. We think we can purchase it at the store. We try so hard to either give our kids the kind of childhood we had or one that is better.

If we really think back, childhood itself is what’s magical. It’s the time in our lives where parents still live on pedestals, special meals have more to do with who we’re sitting next to than what’s being served, and we see the beauty in the small things like the twinkling of lights or the magnificent height of a pine tree.

Here are 17 ways to make your child’s holiday magical without spending a lot of money.

  1. Take them to a tree lighting ceremony in your community.
  2. Decorate your tree together if you have one.
  3. Take a trip to New York City at Christmas time if you can. Between the ginormous decorated tree at Rockefeller Center, ice skating and incredible light and window displays, this time of year NYC is a magical place to visit.
  4. Read books to them that teach them the stories of your religious connection to the holidays.
  5. Bake cookies and make baskets/plates to give to friends and neighbors.

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  6. Sing songs that get you in the mood for the holidays. It’s okay if it’s loud, silly and completely off key.
  7. Share a special meal with friends and family. The longer it’s been since you’ve seen them, the more magical it will be. My kids are excited to see their cousins since it’s been a few months since we’ve seen them last.
  8. Build snow castles. I still remember the igloo style castle my Dad and I made together twenty-odd years ago.
  9. Have a day where you gather all your craft supplies and go crazy making decorations for the house. It really doesn’t matter if they aren’t “Martha Stewart worthy.” It’s more about the process; the messier the better. Just throw down some newspaper and have fun.
  10. Take a tour of the best light displays in the Hudson Valley. You don’t need to go to elaborate displays that cost money if you don’t want to. Simply pile in the car in your pajamas with some hot cocoa in travel mugs and try to find the best lights in your area.
  11. Go sledding and/or snow tubing with your kids. Find a decent hill in your neighborhood or at a local park and spend the day riding down with your kids. We always have a blast with our kids.
  12. Have hot cocoa on a cold winter day. Add special toppings like marshmallows, whipped cream, mints or add a candy cane stirrer. It’s extra special after a day of playing in the snow.
  13. Make snow art. A few years ago I gave my kids squirt bottles filled with water and food coloring. Make a few different colors and put them in different types of containers like an empty spray bottle, a watering can, or a soda bottle with a hole drilled in the cap. Anything that could be used to make art on the beautiful white canvas will fuel their imaginations.
  14. Play Name That Tune – Holiday Edition by making loud kisses on your kid’s cheeks to the tune of your favorite holiday song and have them guess what song it is. Then they could take a turn by doing the same to your cheek.
  15. Bundle up and take a winter hike. View the majesty of local trails in a breathtaking winter landscape.
  16. Pick a charity project together. Head to the toy store and have your child help you pick out a toy for a child in need. Then donate it to your favorite charity/toy drive.

    My kids had fun filling boxes with small toys and toiletries for Operation Christmas Child a few years ago. It helps to have them pick out toys for children their ages. It could be any charity project that interests you. The point is to focus their heart on giving rather than just receiving this holiday season.

  17. Visit Santa – If you are at all inclined to make Santa a part of your holiday traditions, then this is a magical no-brainer. A jolly old man who delivers toys to all the girls and boys by flying his sleigh driven by flying reindeer around the world in a single night. Yes, Santa pretty much epitomizes magic. You can take photos with Santa for free at Adams Fairacre Farms.

    Kids don’t need you to spend a fortune on them to have a magical holiday. My dad used to say that he’d buy me a toy and I’d play with the box. Kids simply need you to get involved and use your imagination. They supply the magic.

    What are your favorite free holiday activities?

    Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

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Gratitude is the big buzz word this time of year. With all the focus on Thanksgiving and charity projects for the holidays, the blogosphere is flooded with articles about gratitude and giving back. But what happens once the holiday season is over?

I don’t know about you, but I hope to raise children that know that gratitude is something you have all the time, not just a few times a year. The holidays are a great time to jump start their gratitude journey. Here are 5 ways to cultivate their attitude for gratitude all year long.

1. Scouting & Service Clubs – I’m a big fan of scouting.  A huge focus of scouting is on teaching children community responsibility. They participate in many community service projects throughout the year. They also go on outings that show them how businesses run, learn about the electoral process (my daughter’s Girl Scout troop is holding Girl Scout elections next week), and help them take ownership over making their community a better place for everyone.

Scouting challenges them to figure out how they can make an impact on the world. As a kid, it might be easy to think that there is nothing they can do, but scouting really helps them see that anyone can make a difference. It encourages them to become leaders who care. A key to cultivating gratitude is making kids responsible for their world.

It doesn’t have to be scouting, any club whose focus is on community service will create the same feeling of ownership. Key club is one example. Key Club is an organization for high school students sponsored by Kiwanis International that aims to help the children of the world through community service projects.

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My kids like doing things for the community. One day last spring I mentioned to the kids that I noticed a lot of litter in our neighborhood and said we should pick it up. They kept reminding of my idea until one day we scoured the neighborhood for trash and picked it up. They actually enjoyed it.

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2. Daily Reminders – Every night I pray with my kids as a part of our nightly routine. I start by thanking God for the day (because I believe every day is a gift) and then I thank him for our many blessings. When my son can’t think of what to pray, I suggest he tell God one thing that he’s thankful for. That often spurs him to come up with several things he’s grateful for.

While it comes in the form of prayer in my house, you don’t have to be religious to start these daily talks with your kids about gratitude. You can make it a part of your daily dinner conversation or at bedtime. What’s important is that they get a fresh reminder every day about their many blessings including having a home, food, heat in the winter, and a family that loves them. It’s good for parents to participate too. We all need a reminder sometimes, especially when we’ve had a tough day.

3. Find Out What Drives Them – This time of year is filled with drives – coat drives, food drives and toys drives, so it’s a great time to get kids thinking about making donations and giving back. It takes some of the focus off of receiving gifts and puts it on giving. After all being able to give a gift actually is a gift in and of itself.

But don’t let the motivation to give die with the holidays. Keep it alive all year long. Find out what they really enjoy doing for the community and make a plan to do it regularly whether that’s once a week or once a month.

If they loved collecting non-perishable goods for a food drive, find a local food pantry to make regular donations too. If they loved donating toys to kids in need, find a local children’s charity that you can help throughout the year.

There are so many worthy causes, but we tend to give where our heart is and helping children find out what causes they are passionate about will set them up for a lifetime of giving and volunteering. The holidays are the perfect time of year to explore what fuels their compassion.

 4. Talk About Income Differences – Although my kids heard me talk about our family budget a lot, they didn’t often hear me talk about income disparities between families. That is, until the face of hunger came knocking at my door – literally. When a little girl in the neighborhood wasn’t getting enough food at home and was coming to our house for dinner, I knew I had to have a talk with my kids. It really helped them to understand that not everyone has their basic needs met all the time. It was a real eye-opener for them.

I think sometimes we want to protect our kids from feeling bad so we don’t talk about it. But I think it’s important to explain to them how different families have different income levels, especially before the kids discuss their presents with their friends at school after the holidays. You can’t cultivate lifelong gratitude if your kids think everyone has the same access to even basic needs.

We all forget how lucky we are sometimes. It’s normal to get caught up in the details of life and miss the bigger picture. The best way we can grow grateful kids is be grateful parents. The more we remind ourselves of our blessings, the more our kids will learn by watching us. One of the best lessons we can teach our kids is that no matter how much or little we have, there is always something to be grateful for.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

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This week we’re finishing up a fairly large home renovation and believe me when I say I’ll be so relieved when it’s over. Having major work done can be stressful enough, but throw three cooped up kids into the mix and I’m really testing the limits of my patience. Here are some tips to survive the renovation process with kids at home.

1. Stay Away From Home As Much As Possible – If I could have afforded to take the kids away on a mini-vacation and return when our home was all finished, I totally would have. It’s not just keeping the kids out of areas of the home that are being worked on that’s hard, it’s keeping them happy in the now limited space they’re allowed to be in. We put in hardwood flooring on our whole main level which includes the kitchen, dining and living space which is a large open concept floor plan.

When we remodeled our basement into our master bedroom a few years ago, it was MUCH easier on the family because we hardly ever used our basement anyway. With the majority of our living space restricted this time around, it’s been a lot harder. For the most part we’ve hunkered down in our master bedroom with all the kids until bedtime when we take them up to their rooms.

The thing that’s saved my sanity and theirs the most was getting out of the house. I was so grateful the older kids had school most of the week except for Friday. Thankfully, my neighbor was home on Friday and we spent the day hanging out there.

My advice for making the process as stress-free as possible is to get out of the house as much as you can. If you have the money, go on a little vacation, maybe stay with some friends or family or just take some short local trips to places you’ve been meaning to check out.

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Our carpeted stairs got a makeover.

2. Keep Favorite Toys Accessible – The world would end if I didn’t have access to my two-year-old’s favorite doll Lisa. She literally MUST go everywhere with my child. Whatever your children’s must-have toys are, keep them accessible for them and you’ll both be a lot happier. My bedroom which had been a toy-free haven, has been covered in kids’ toys this week, but it’s a sanity saving must during a home renovation.

3. Back To Baby Gates – If you can’t keep your kids out of the house for the entire renovation, safety is a big concern. Even though we had stopped using baby gates a while ago, we borrowed a gate from a neighbor to put at the top of the stairs. This way the kids wouldn’t just come down on their own into the heart of the construction zone.

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Living room before.

 

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Living room after.

We used the baby monitor to tell when they got up in the morning and went and brought them safely downstairs. We also went and bought the kids slippers so that they wouldn’t hurt their toes on the subfloor before the new flooring went down. Whatever you can do to ensure they don’t accidentally get hurt on construction debris will not only keep them safe, it will help your stress levels tremendously.

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Dinning room getting a new sliding glass door.

4. Prepare For More – Whenever you do a home renovation project you can count on two things. It’s going to cost more money and take more time than you originally planned. The best thing you can do for yourself and your kids is not give them a definitive date when the renovation will be over. Kids have a hard time waiting as it is and even harder time coping when things don’t go according to plan. Giving them a time frame of when your home and family routine will be back to normal is a better bet.

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Kitchen before new flooring and cabinets getting new paint. Cabinets will also be getting new pulls.

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Kitchen after.

Though it’s usually well worth it in the end, home renovation can be a stressful event for adults and kids alike. Making light of a stressful time can make it a lot easier. When we had to eat in our bedroom instead of the dining room, we had a picnic on a tarp. The kids thought it was fun and not worrying about the kids dropping food on the new carpet we put in a year ago made me a less stressed out mommy. Playing games or watching movies as a family can help ease tensions from being cramped up in smaller spaces. Happy renovating!

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

 

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I see you sneaking toward the door, tippy toeing so I don’t hear you. I see you getting farther and farther away, and I don’t like it. I forbid you to go. Sure, it starts with just one day off, but I know how quickly it escalates and you’re going to want more and more time off, until this vacation is permanent and I’ve completely lost my mind.

So, what do you need? Tell me, and I’ll make sure I do it. I’ll appreciate you more. I won’t take you for granted. I’ll remember to say thank you every time you give me long enough to get a post or two written, along with some laundry and maybe just maybe long enough to empty the dishwasher. You and I were the best of friends, that’s why this hurts so badly – you wanting to leave.

Sydney is only two. She still needs you. Remember that tantrum she kicked off in the middle of the grocery store the other day. That was fun. Remember how fast we hustled to get the hell out of there before one more person gave us the look? You know the “Someone needs a nap, don’t they!” look.

Little did I know that you weren’t at home waiting for our return. I couldn’t have been more disappointed. I thought we had a deal. I get the tantrums until we make it home and then you take Sydney for a few hours so I can get some work done. But you thought, let’s just play hide and seek for a while. Let’s tell Sydney about all the way cool toys she could be playing with right now instead of you. That’s a mean little game you’re playing.

You’re getting closer and closer to Dinnertime and now Bedtime thinks it can get away with stuff too. Like playing the “more kisses” game. I’ll admit that I do kind of like it when I’m the recipient of more kisses. But after Sydney needs “just one more kiss” every two seconds and it goes on and on without an end in sight, at some point I have to put my foot down and tell Bedtime who the boss is.

So, you see it’s not just you. I need both of you to work together. You make sure Sydney makes it to bedtime with crashing in a cranky heap on the floor (preferably not the grocery store floor again), and Bedtime will take over for the long shift until morning. Don’t think I didn’t notice Bedtime shirking its job. We’re going to have words if she keeps taking off an hour from the beginning of her shift and an hour from the end. She knows how much I need her too. Otherwise, I’m the cranky heap on the floor and trust me when I say, ain’t nobody got time for that. It’s more than Sydney who needs me.

I have two other kids and a husband who need me awake to handle homework, baths and showers and the nightly routine of ushering kids up the stairs on the endless march toward pajamas and teeth brushing and picking out clothes for the morning. Sometimes, I think Bedtime likes to mess with me big time. She’s a real prankster. She likes to whisper in my kids ears, “Hey, remember that spot on your leg you bumped two weeks ago, tell your mom it hurts” or “Let’s play a game of ‘guess what body part suddenly itches’” or my least favorite game of all “sleep or no sleep” in which she picks one or both of my older children and convinces them she’s not coming tonight. That is the FREAKING WORST!

No matter how many times I tell Hannah or Jay that Bedtime is coming, they just don’t seem to get it. Then sometimes they worry that they won’t be able to sleep like it’ll just stop coming around and they’ll be up all night. Even though I tell them that Sleep comes for us all, the tricky part about sleep is to trust she’s coming without ever actually expecting her visit. The longer we watch and wait for her arrival, the longer it takes for her to get here. She’s a drop by type of friend. She doesn’t ever want you to go to the trouble of waiting on her. I think it makes her feel guilty or something.

But I’ve gotten off track, this is about you Naptime. I know I can’t make you stay forever. I’m so grateful you stayed with Hannah as long as you did. Quitting a mere two weeks before the start of Kindergarten. I must say I was impressed with your work ethic with that one. With Jayden I had to ask you to leave when he was three because Bedtime was so fickle on the days you were working and since she’s under permanent contract I couldn’t fire her, so you know it wasn’t personal me letting you go.

But Sydney is just two and she still needs you so much. Truthfully, I might need you a little more than she does. I can’t get all the work done that I need to if you leave. I need you to stick around one more year at least, more would be great, but I know not to book you that far in advance. I know so many other families need you too.

But Naptime, not so fast. No, sneaking out the back door. Promise me that when you’re ready to go, you’ll meet with me face to face. You’ll give me a chance to plead my case. Because you see Naptime, it’s just so hard to make it through the day without you! You need to give me time to adjust. I know nobody ever told me just how hard this parenting thing would be, but I also know nobody ever said it would be easy either. In case you do decide to silently slip away without a goodbye, “thank you!” You have made my job infinitely easier and I won’t ever forget you.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

mom-1363917_640Never underestimate the power of “I’m proud of you!” Sometimes it can be more powerful than “I love you.” I think for the most part our kids know we love them. Sometimes the reminder they need is that we think they are awesome and they’re growing into great people. That’s where, “I’m proud of you” comes in.

I’m thirty-six years old and I can’t remember the last time I heard those words. Not from my mother or my father, but not because they didn’t say it all the time because they did. It’s because they’ve both been gone for a long time.

I can’t believe how much I wish I could hear them say those words to me in my darkest moments. The moments I don’t know if I’ve made the right decision, the moments people are angry with me or don’t like my choices, and the moments I feel like I’ve screwed everything up.

I also miss it when I achieve a big goal or do something well. When I finished my book I wished so much to pick up the phone and tell my mom.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m quick to correct my children’s poor behavior, but I sometimes miss the opportunity to tell them how proud I am of them. Here are the top ten times to tell them.

1.When they play nicely with others.

I really wish it happened more often. Unfortunately, my children usually fight with each other A LOT.

2. When they’re anxious about school.

My daughter is especially prone to fits of anxiousness over tests, homework and school work. I get how her heart works. I have to tell her during these moments that I’m proud of her because she always tries her best and that’s all I’ll ever ask for.

3. When they help a friend or a stranger.

While my son isn’t always thoughtful when it comes to his older sister, he can be especially thoughtful to strangers. He suggests baking cookies for a neighbor who is always doing nice things for us. He’s also quick to hold doors for people anytime we go out in public.

4. When they stand up for a classmate.

A few years ago my daughter stood up to some classmates who were teasing another classmate who had poor handwriting. When her teacher told me at a parent/teacher conference I was over the moon proud of her. I know how hard it is to stand up to others when you don’t know if it will make you a target of ridicule the next time.

5. When they find the solution themselves.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of solving your kids’ problems for them. Watching them have their “aha moments” when something clicks and they figure out something for themselves is completely awesome.

6. When they do something without being asked.

It’s torture trying to get my son ready for anything – bed, school, to leave the house. Having him pick out his clothes the night before is certainly helping. When he comes down in the morning dressed and ready to go with his teeth brushed I’m so proud because it means he’s becoming more responsible.

7. When they help with a joyful heart.

My oldest daughter is fantastic about helping me with her little sister. If I ask her to grab me the pacifier, a diaper, or a change of clothes she never fusses about it. My son still whines if I ask him to help me, but every once in a while I see the same joyful eagerness to help clean up or do something for our family.

8. When they go the extra mile.

I still recall my dad going on and on about my doing extra credit work over the winter break when I was in school. I feel that way too when my kids do more than what is expected. My daughter will often do the extra credit assignments as well.

9. When they are disappointed in themselves.

Mistakes will be made, they will have poor test scores, or miss a goal at times. This is probably the most crucial time to tell them how proud you are of them. They need to know that when they aren’t proud of themselves, you’ll pick up the torch for them and still be their biggest fan.

 10. Just because they’re yours.

It’s easy to remember to say the words when your child hits a home run or wins a competition, but sometimes kids need reminding that you’re proud of them just because they’re yours.

That’s what I’m the most proud of, that I made these amazing little people. I’m proud of them because they are good kids and have great hearts. No matter how old your child gets, trust me, they need the reminder. I know I still do.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

 

making-paperhand-puppets

The fall weather seems to have arrived in one fell swoop over the weekend! It was super-hot one day and the next, just as cool and crisp as a freshly fallen apple. I admit I was lured outside by the bright blue sky, the calming breeze and sunlight. There were so many different ways to spend our Saturday, but my husband and I decided to split up with the twins and go our separate ways to give each kid their own date day. My date and I started our day at the local farmer’s market where they have a sweet art corner.

Every week there is a new, free art project to create. One week we colored and cut out bugs and glued them to a cut out paper jar. It was simple, it was easy and the kids really enjoyed it. Now they look forward to stopping by the tent every time we make a trip to our home town farmer’s market. This week was no exception. Well, except I only had one kid to help make a project with.

This week we learned to make paper hand puppets. I can’t get over how easy these are to make and there are no limits to what your imagination can bring to life. My girl decided she wanted to make a red horse, named Ham. Oh five year olds. Once we returned home she was excited to share with her sister how to make her own little puppets.

So here is how you can make your own:

Materials:

8×10 sheet of paper

Glue stick

Extra scrap paper in a variety of colors

Crayons/Markers/Pens (which ever you have on hand)

puppet-materials

First fold the 8×10 paper, length wise, equally into thirds.

puppet-fold

Next, glue the long edge against the opposite long edge s to create a seam.

puppet-glue-stick

With the seam side facing toward you fold the paper in half.

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Then fold the short edge toward the short edge on both sides.

puppet-folded

This is the base of your puppet, or its body.

Now you are ready to embellish and get creative! You can use the remaining scrap pieces of paper to make eyes, hair, ears, a tongue, a nose and anything else you can think of! Or just use a pen, marker or crayon to draw on details. Let your kids imaginations run wild!

This is such a quick and easy project your kids can easily make an entire cast of characters for a small puppet show. It is a great activity to bring out for kid parties, rainy days or even a sick day. Or simply because it’s Tuesday and you need something fun to do with the kids. Enjoy!

Does your farmer’s market have an art tent for kids to enjoy?

puppet-friends

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

gift-553146_640When you grow up with a mom who has a shopping addiction and a mild case of hoarding you develop a skewed perception of stuff. My mom was one of the most generous people I knew. She definitely spoiled us, but at the same time, stuff started to take over our lives.

The Problem With Stuff

As a mom myself now, I want to get my children things they want, but at the same time I don’t want a massive amount of toys cluttering up the house. I’ve found that experience gifts are a perfect solution.

A Gift Worth Waiting For

My daughter has been asking to attend gymnastics classes for the last two years, but it just hasn’t been in our budget. So for her birthday I prepaid for six weeks of classes and presented her with a card explaining her gift. I also got her a leotard.

At first it felt weird not wrapping up a bunch of presents, but I knew I was getting her something that she really wanted. I had to focus on the quality of my gift rather than the quantity (or lack thereof). Just as I predicted, she was overjoyed. She had her first class last week and she kept telling me, “Mom, I love it!”

It also stirred up some nostalgia for me to see her up on that balance beam. That was my favorite when I was a gymnast. Watching her felt like I was passing my legacy on to her.

If you want an alternative to traditional gifts like toys, clothes, or books, here are five great reasons to give kids experience gifts.

1. Something To Look Forward To – After all the other gifts have been opened, played with a handful of times and pushed aside, an experience gift is still there, promising something fun and exciting is still waiting for them.

One of my favorite gifts my mother gave me when I was in high school was tickets to see Les Miserables in New York City. I had been listening to the soundtrack CD for months and when I finally got to see the play, it was amazing! I didn’t mind that I had to wait a few weeks for the play. If anything it felt like it extended my birthday.

2. Less Clutter – As I mentioned before, I really don’t like too many toys hanging around, especially when they aren’t being played with very often. Experience gifts like a special trip, art, dance or gymnastics classes won’t contribute to the clutter in your house.

3. Give Something That You Normally Couldn’t Afford– So many extracurricular activities are expensive. They certainly don’t fit into our tight budget, so we’ve had to be very selective about which activities my kids do. Since I would normally spend money on birthday presents, I was able to use that money to give my daughter something I normally couldn’t afford.

4. More Memories – How many of your toys do you really remember from your childhood? Maybe a handful if you’re lucky. No matter how much our children beg us for toys, they typically don’t occupy our children for long. Giving an experience gift gives children memories that will last them a lifetime.

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5. Quality Time – Experience gifts usually give parents or other family members quality time with the children. Whether it’s a trip to the zoo, an art class you take together or just watching them twirl around the floor at their dance class, what the giver receives is time. Time to watch your child really enjoying something, seeing them light up with excitement. Sure, maybe it’s hard to run them to classes on a weekly basis or to and from their favorite sport, but it’s also time that you get to spend with them.

Years from now, they’ll remember that you were there with them. Even if you were just in the background watching from the bleachers or sitting silently in the corner of the room, you’ll become part of those happy memories.

I can’t for the life of me tell you what badges I earned when I was in Girl Scouts, but I’ll never forget that my mom volunteered to be my troop leader. While it wasn’t a birthday or Christmas gift, her willingness to give me and the other girls her time every week is something I still think about proudly.

I would love to ditch a lot of my kids’ physical presents in favor of experience gifts. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get my husband on board for Christmas, but at least for birthdays it’s become a great alternative.

What experience gifts have you given your kids that they loved?

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

 

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