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What does debt have to do with parenting?

When you’re a parent you are always aware that your kids are watching, listening and learning from you how to be an adult. Even if you think your kids don’t know you’re up to your eyeballs in debt, chances are they know something is up. They have an uncanny ability to sense your stress and frustration like little bloodhounds.

Christmas Presents

Did the holidays leave you in debt? Give yourself the gift of getting out of debt and you’ll give your family a legacy of financial security.

When I was a little girl I remember bountiful Christmas mornings, but I also remember many occasions in which our lights or cable were shut off as a result of overdue bills. I remember the constant calls by debt collectors and being warned not to pick up the phone. All of it made an impression on me. Though I might not have made the connection clearly until years later, I got the point that while we weren’t in dire financial straits, we weren’t on a good path either. It’s one of the reasons it’s always been my goal to be able to pay all my bills on my own (laughs the Stay At Home Mom). That to me became a marker of success, not being chased after by bill collectors, but that was only one part of the picture. It took enough mistakes with credit to make me realize that we would NEVER be successful without first getting out of debt. The lesson I inadvertently took from my family’s financial missteps were that your stuff should never own you; you should own your stuff.

Nearly four years ago, I became a Stay-At-Home Mom and it became more important than ever to get out of debt. Here are 6 surprising strategies that have helped us. Once we get our tax refund in a few months, all our debt except our house debt will be paid off. WOOO HOOO!

1. Ditch the Denial – Sometimes we don’t even want to know how much debt we’re in. That denial keeps us comfy and cushioned from our mistakes and allows us to play the “I pay the minimum balance” game, which keeps us focused on making payments instead of paying off debt. The first thing you have to do is get real with yourself and your spouse. Lay it all out, every balance, every minimum payment and look at it. If that doesn’t get you fired up to see how much money you’re spending each month on stuff you already “own” I don’t know what will.

2. Find a Financial Guru – For me it was Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman that I looked to for advice when I was first staring down our mountain of debt. Dave Ramsey breaks down saving, debt repayment, retirement, college funds and even giving into baby steps. Get your butt to the library and check out what the experts have to say (sorry Dave and Suze, but I didn’t have the money to pay for your books). Follow them on social media. Follow their blogs. You’ll find helpful advice and inspiration to keep pushing you forward.

3. Get an Emergency Fund Stat – Why does Dave Ramsey tout this as Baby Step #1? Because life happens, cars need repair, hot water heaters go, or an unexpected trip to the ER are all bound to happen. We don’t know when or where they’re going to happen, but I guarantee you they are coming. In our second year into paying off debt we had both cars taken out of commission in the same week. Without savings, you’ll go running straight to credit to bail you out. That’s like walking the treadmill while eating Oreos. Sure you think it’ll all balance out, but the more debt you stack on top the harder it is to get out from underneath it. Dave recommends $1,000 to start and once debt is paid off to move onto saving 3-6 months of your income.

4. Start Small – This seems counter intuitive to start paying off the smallest balance first. Why not start with the highest payment or the highest APR? It’s because we’re creatures that need constant motivation. If we go years before we see our first debt erased most of us will quit before we get there. Get some quick wins by erasing small balances first and you’ll want to keep going.

Similarly, when you’re looking for ways to cut your budget start small. Start by giving up things that don’t hurt so much, like that extra night of eating out a month, the manicure, or the subscription you don’t use anymore. It can be SO tempting to cut all the fat right away, but when you start out small and give up one or two things at a time it doesn’t feel so hard. Just like dieting, cutting too much out at once makes us feel deprived and we eventually decide we can’t do it. Small changes are what add up over time. Start with the small changes in your lifestyle and then challenge yourself to do more. It’s how you build lasting lifestyle changes that’ll keep you financially fit even after the debt is gone.

5. Stop Thinking Saving Money is the Answer (By Itself) – There are thousands of articles floating on the net about how to save money. Heck, I’ve written a ton of them. The truth is that if you don’t apply those savings toward your debt, it’s going to fall through your budget cracks and get spent on other things.

When you don’t take those savings and unexpected financial windfalls (raises, bonuses, tax refunds) and apply them right away, chances are you won’t. Put together a debt repayment plan. The first thing I did when I became a SAHM was to track our prior month’s expenses and then set up a simple budget. The second thing I did was create a debt repayment plan. It’ll help you see at a glance what debt you have, what money you’ll use to pay it off and the time frame it’ll take you to do it. Here’s a sample of mine – Debt Repayment Plan Template. If you love charts, by all means do those too. Whatever motivates you, will keep you moving forward during setbacks.

6. Get Excited!!!! – Looking at debt repayment as a chore will get you nowhere. I know it can be hard because it seems daunting when you’re in a lot of debt. It’s probably going to take you years to get out. You didn’t get in debt overnight, so can you really expect to get out that quickly? You gotta find joy in it. I think of each debt gone as one less link in the chains that bind me and our family. I know some people can’t even imagine what it would be like to be out of debt, I URGE you not only to imagine it, but to know it’s going to happen. Let that thought take up residence. When you can’t picture it, you don’t usually move forward let alone start sprinting toward it with open arms.

I’m so excited for our tax refund I can hardly sit still. I don’t dream of new cars or expensive vacations. I dream of what it’ll be like to actually have the money we earn instead of just watching it come into our account and go right back out. Don’t be bummed by the sacrifices you are making. Be proud of each stride, even when something throws you temporarily off course. Don’t be upset every time you say “No” to your kids, your friends or your spouse. Think of how many more times you’ll be able to say “Yes” in the future. Think about how much less stress you’ll have.

Game of Life

If we want to teach our kids how to win with money, we have to show them by example. The Game of Life is a good game to show kids the importance of making good financial and life choices.

Real Lessons From the Game of Life

Most importantly, remember what you’re teaching your kids during the process of getting out of debt. You’re teaching them how to be responsible with money. You’re teaching them to be patient and work for things instead of just expecting to get them right away. I was playing the game of Life with my kids a few weeks ago and I thought, “Man, this game is spot on!” If you want to get a higher paying job you have to take the college path which is longer and delays your paydays. If you take out debt you have to pay more back to the bank than you borrowed. It was an awesome game to teach your children to make smart choices.

I hope this year will be a better financial year for you and me. How much debt have you paid off and how did you do it?

Looking for ways to scrape up cash to pay down debt? Check out – 20 Ways To Make Ends Meet When You’re Scrapping By, Part 1 and 2.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found blogging at Hudson Valley Parent Magazine and thenodramamama.com when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her otherwise three adorable kiddos. This frugal, “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow me on Facebook or Twitter for my delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails.

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December is my favorite time of year and the month of sparkling lights. From Christmas decorations to the Hanukkah menorah candles the spirit of the season is evident no matter what you celebrate. The lights of the season become a symbol of hope and many families are gathering the next 8 days with songs, prayer, good food, games and candle lighting. Here is a round up of some of the best ways to celebrate Hanukkah with family and friends throughout the Hudson Valley.

Tell us in the comments: How are you celebrating?

1. Many communities are gathering this week with songs, latkes, games, lighting the menorah and more. Join neighbors and friends for the fun festivities, most events are open to everyone.There are many Hanukkah celebrations on thecalendar. If you don’t see one near you, you can also check your town or library websites: Click the town name for more information.

12/16- Goshen, Greenwood Lake & Millbrook

12/17- Wappingers Falls

12/18- New Windsor, Wappingers, Hyde Park

12/19- Poughkeepsie

12/20- Kingston

12/21- Poughkeepsie & Walkway over the Hudsonice menorah

2. Visit the 6′ ice menorah sculpture at the Galleria at Crystal Run on Sunday when the County Legislator and Mayor join the community to light the ice sculpture in a unique fire and ice celebration. The Fire & Ice Chanukkah Orange Celebration is open to everyone and fun for the entire family! Play games, make crafts, partake in activities for the kids. Satisfy your hunger at a potato latke bar with all the fixings, an ice slush stand and more!

GLOW CHANUKKAH GLOW3. Experience the tallest menorah in the Hudson Valley! Each night the candles are lit at the civic center plaza in Poughkeepsie. All are welcome to enjoy the celebration and enjoy songs, hot latkes, doughnuts, hot cider and chocolate gelt!

4. A unique Hanukkah festival for the entire family! Visit the Poughkeepsie Galleria on Sunday 12/21 for Glow Chanukkah Glow. Experience the menorah lights glowing in the dark with crafts, activities for the kids and performances. Enjoy an electric light up comedy and juggling show, live music and dancing, hot latkes, dreidel games andpaper plate menorah more!

5. Create with the kids! From homemade menorahs to dreidel spin art, the internet is filled with ideas the kids can make to celebrate. I love this easy paper plate menorah idea from pleasantestthing.com

6. Hanukkah is a wonderful time to celebrate the symbolic meaning of the victory of light over darkness. You might not find a house adorned with menorah lights but spending time together with family and twinkling colorful lights lighting up the dark, cold night is sure to bring a little light into your life too. If you want to read a little about some of the history of Christmas lights, this article has some very interesting information: Source. It doesn’t have to be all about Christmas with the lights, they light up the dark cold winter nights and remind us of the beauty, peace and hope of the season.

Top 5 Light Displays in the Hudson Valley

7. Give and support. Hanukkah is a celebration of religious freedom. The 8 days of Hanukkah remember a time when people stood up to “bullies” and fought for that they wanted and believed in, they fought for themselves. A great way to celebrate is to give back. You can support Israel and Israelis through The Good People Fund, an organization that provides resources on charities in Israel. But you don’t have to give money to support Israel, have your kids send cards and pictures to soldiers, start a pen pal with another child living in Israel or honor the history with 8 days of random acts of kindness!

8. Celebrate your own history and culture. Hanukkah is a holiday that Accordion-Bookshows the importance of history. You don’t need to celebrate Hanukkah or be Jewish to think about your own heritage this time of year. Talk to relatives, do a little digging and create a family tree, family history album or just talk to your kids about your heritage and culture. I love these interview questions for Grandparents found on The House of Hendrix Blog (perfect for family gatherings during the holidays) or these Family Timeline Accordion Books from Imagination Soup the kids can make. The holiday time no matter what you celebrate is a wonderful time for taking a little look back into history with our kids.

9. One of my favorite things about the Hanukkah celebrations is the food! For me a wonderful potato latke this time of the year truly hits the spot. Whip up a batch for dinner tonight! If cooking isn’t quite your thing you might have to do a little searching for a true Kosher Deli or good potato Latke in the area but it isn’t impossible. New City Kosher Deli & Restaurant  looks to be one of the few remaining in our area but with high ratings and great reviews it just might be worth the drive to Rockland County this week. If you are up for a cooking treat, here is a delicious Potato Latke recipe from FoodandWine.com.latkes

  1. 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
  2. Sea salt
  3. 2 pounds baking potatoes
  4. 1 large onion, finely diced
  5. 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  6. 1 cup matzo meal
  7. 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  8. Vegetable oil, for frying
  9. Applesauce, crème fraîche, smoked salmon, salmon roe and dill sprigs, for serving
  1. In a medium saucepan, cover the Yukon Gold potatoes with cool water, season generously with salt and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain well and immediately pass the potatoes through a ricer into a large bowl.
  2. Working quickly, peel and grate the baking potatoes on the large holes of a box grater into a medium bowl. Press with a clean kitchen towel to remove excess moisture. Add half of the grated potatoes to the riced potatoes.
  3. Transfer the remaining grated potatoes to the bowl of a food processor. Add the onion and pulse until the potatoes and onions are very finely chopped. Transfer to a fine-mesh sieve and press with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Add the potato-onion mixture to the large bowl. Stir in the eggs, matzo meal, white pepper and 2 teaspoons of salt.
  4. In a large, heavy skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil until shimmering. Working in 3 batches, spoon 1/4 cup of the potato mixture into the oil for each latke; press slightly to flatten. Fry over moderate heat, turning once, until the latkes are golden and crisp on both sides, about 7 minutes. Drain the latkes on a paper towel-lined baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with salt. Serve with applesauce, crème fraîche, smoked salmon, salmon roe and dill.

10. Spend time together. Whether you go out and celebrate, give gifts or cook, the true spirit of the season is about celebrating with your loved ones and making memories together. Don’t let the commercialization of the season let you lose sight of the the most important thing we can give our children this month, our time and love.

A very Happy Hanukkah to those celebrating tonight. May the festival of lights bring you much joy, compassion, hope and love.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Boys will be boys,” but moms of boys have this knowing look and head nod that goes along with it. That’s because we know what that really means. Boys are a unique breed and trying to raise one or more presents unique challenges to moms because we often can’t understand the boy brain. We’re often stumped and on more than one occasion I’ve asked my husband, “What on Earth makes him act that way?” My son Jayden turns 5 on Sunday and so I dedicate this post to the boy who changed my life. He forced me to see parenting through the boy lens. Since I had a daughter first, I can say that there were many things that caught me off guard about raising a boy and it started in utero.

I met my son on November 9, 2009 and he's kept me on my toes ever since.

Jayden was born on November 9, 2009 and he’s kept me on my toes ever since.

When I first learned I was having a boy, I was terrified. Since I had a girl first I didn’t know just how different it would be to raise a son. Now I’ll be the first to admit that I NEVER had a gender preference. Chalk it up to losing my first pregnancy, but I had only one thought – please let me carry to term and let him or her be healthy. I was unprepared for my husband’s reaction to the news. When we found out Hannah was a girl he shed a single tear and said he was “going to jail one day.” When we found out we were having a boy, he didn’t react at all. This from the man who has been dreaming of having a boy since he was in high school  (I have the 9th grade essay to prove it). I didn’t understand and was mad by his lack of enthusiasm, but this is the very example of the way boy brains work that I can never understand.

Will was so elated he was afraid to even put it into words. Maybe he thought he’d jinx it and my son’s penis would magically transform into a vagina in the womb. Boys just process emotions so differently from girls and this will be the very thing women will read hundreds of articles on later in life because we want to understand how their minds work. I can say with 90 percent certainty that the only way we ever come close to understanding men is to raise one and even then there are plenty of head scratching moments to endure. So here are the top eight ways boys are so very different from girls and why that is totally awesome.

Jay crawled at 4 months and walked at 8. Nothing can stop Jay from moving when he gets going.

Jay crawled at 4 months and walked at 8 months. Nothing can stop Jay from moving when he gets going.

1. Boys Are Injury Magnets – From the time my son started walking which was early at 8 months he was constantly bonking into counter corners or any hard surface really. He taught himself to scoot down the stairs backwards, which terrified onlookers. I can safely say that my son has no fear. Women sometimes see this as a reckless trait in grown men and sometimes it is, but boys see the world through the lens of challenges that they are desperate to overcome. There is no playpen that can hold a boy who is ready to explore the world. My son had stitches before he was two after trying to climb the bathtub wall like Spider Man. He split his chin and never made a peep as the doctor stitched him up. Nobody told him he couldn’t cry, but this brings me to..

2. Boys Guard Their Emotions – My daughter is my mini-me. She will cry when she’s upset, but I have watched my son since toddlerhood blink rapidly and pretend the tears welling up in his eyes are caused by any other reason than he got his feelings hurt. There seems to be something in their brain chemistry that tells boys to keep their feelings under wraps. This may be the reason that moms are the keepers of their sons’ hearts. We can tell by a look on their little faces that they need to expel some trapped emotion. When my father died my brother was 19 and my mother looked into his anguished face and said “it’s ok Matt, just cry.” A mom gives her son the permission to be vulnerable that he desperately needs sometimes.

3. Boys Don’t Get Hung Up On Mistakes – The other night I told my daughter she got something wrong on her homework and she cried hysterically. My son looks at her and says, “It’s ok. Sometimes I make a mistake, but I just try again.” I think this is in large part why men tend to excel in certain areas because they aren’t afraid to be wrong, though they may never admit to actually being wrong (can I get a woot woot ladies?).

Boys like Jay love castles and fortes to protect, mostly from their older siblings.

Boys like Jay love castles and fortes to protect, mostly from their siblings.

4. Boys Feel The Need To Fight ALL The Time – Boys can and will turn any object into a weapon. I’ve watched a group of toddler girls play with a toy ketchup bottle and use it to cook with and I’ve seen boys take the same bottle and pretend to spray hot sauce in each others eyes. I chalk it up to evolution. Boys seem to come equipped with a protector gene. My son constantly reassures me he will protect me from monsters and bears. See number 2 for the other reason they fight all the time. My son has less ability to verbalize his emotions and will often exact his own brand of violent justice on his big sister.

He can be rough at times, but his cuddles are like no other.

He can be rough at times, but he cuddles like no other.

5. Boys LOVE Hard – If you’re the mom of a boy, you may have found yourself saying something like, “hugs shouldn’t hurt.” My son’s hugs are often bone crushing. His capacity for love is just immense. I often have to watch so he doesn’t accidentally hurt his baby sister in his effort to love on her. I am mentally preparing myself for his first breakup. While my daughters will probably cry over their first heartbreaks and move on, I know I need to be vigilant that it doesn’t permanently alter the way my son views love and relationships.

6. Boys Are Preoccupied With The Body – All bodily functions are a source for endless amusement from farts to poop. Just saying the words butt or booty spark laughter. My son was amazed when he learned boobs actually served the purpose of feeding a baby. Maybe it has something to do with their genitals being on the outside. They are constantly readjusting it. Jay often complains, “my pee pee came out of my underwear.” It’s a problem I just can’t relate to. So I simply resign myself to think that maybe I would be preoccupied with my body and it’s functions if I had to worry about my ovaries swinging every which way.

Boys will often put gross things in their mouths. For Jay that means tasting slugs and worms.

Boys will often put gross things in their mouths. For Jay that means tasting slugs and worms.

7. Boys Turn Gross Into An Art Form – If you have a boy, you’ve probably heard some strange things come out of your mouth. Things like, “You CAN’T eat slugs!” or “Poop is NOT for finger-painting.” I have no idea why, but boys think that all things gross are fun. If it grosses someone else out in the process that’s just a bonus. Cleaning up or looking after a boy certainly never gets boring and sharpens your parenting skills, but at least you’ll have a good laugh about it, later like much later after you’ve cleaned the poop off the wall.

Daddy and Jay are two peas in a pod. Having my son made me appreciate my husbands finer qualities all the more because my son shares them.

Daddy and Jay are two peas in a pod. Having my son made me appreciate my husband’s finer qualities all the more because my son shares them.

8. Boys Make You Appreciate Your Husband – I look at my son and I can easily see the boy my husband must have been. They are peas in a pod; easy going, class clowns, brave, funny, and loving. Jayden’s excitement is contagious and when my son and husband get together it’s sure to be a good time. You also appreciate it when you can defer to your husband when it comes time for certain male rites of passage, like learning to pee standing up.

So while I’m a mom of two amazing little girls, having a son has forced me to rethink parenting. Strategies that work for my daughter don’t work for my son. It was harder to teach him as he never wants to sit still and he is a light switch just like my husband, either off or on, but never in between. He’s ready in his own time and nothing can make him budge.

So happy 5th birthday to my amazing son Jayden. Even though I may never fully understand why you do some of the things you do, I will love you forever and a day. And if you happen to see my son doing something crazy, you’ll just have to understand when I smile in a slightly embarrassed but loving way and say, “it’s a boy thing.”

As October begins to wind down with everyone’s focus on Halloween festivities, my mind drifts toward the child that won’t be celebrating with us this year. I miscarried our first child on October 27, 2007. Coincidentally October is also Infant Loss and Miscarriage Awareness Month. One in four women will miscarry a baby. It is often difficult to talk about or share our experiences, but I have found 3 brave friends willing to do that here in their own words.

I often wonder how my life might look today with a 7-year old and a set of 4-year-old twins. Would I be different? Would my family be different? After I returned home and to work I didn’t find it hard to share my story with friends and family right away. I think it was more uncomfortable for other people because they didn’t always know what to say. Sometimes words just don’t seem adequate enough to express how we feel for someone else’s loss. After a while I didn’t want to talk about it because I didn’t want others to think I was seeking sympathy. But, I would share if another mom shared with me. Although after 7 years the emotions surrounding my miscarriage are far lighter than when I first experienced the loss, there is still an emptiness in my family circle.

When sharing my story, other moms have expressed difficulty in opening up about their loss, or have felt the subject “taboo.” Some are afraid of being judged, or dismissed. I am grateful for the women sharing their stories today.

Erin’s Story In Her Own Words:

On November 29th 2013, at 14 weeks pregnant, I gave birth to a sleeping little boy named River Eleusis. I have learned so much about life, death, myself, and those around me because of this journey. 

First, I learned that loss looks and feels different for everyone. And that’s ok. We are all different and we experience life differently. So of course we will experience hardship and loss differently. Some people cry for days, months, years. Some don’t cry at all. Some feel lost and confused. Some feel peace and comfort.

My journey through River’s birth was very different from what most people would expect for a mother who has just lost her child. I was filled with so much peace, comfort, and thankfulness for what I was given. There were moments in which I felt that I should be crying for days and days, because that’s what you’re supposed to do. But what I’ve learned is that I need to be true to what I am feeling and what I am experiencing. So if I was happy, I felt happy and completely embraced that emotion. If I was sad, I felt sad. If I was lost, I felt lost. I allowed each thought and emotion to run it’s course, in it’s own time. And I will continue to do so. 

Second, loss is a process and journey. It has been almost a year since River was born and I think of him daily. There are days that he brings me so much joy. There are nights that he fills my dreams while I sleep. There are days that I miss him and just want to hold him one more time. As my journey continues, different emotions come up. I’ve shared with others before that I didn’t just lose River. I lost my pregnancy. I lost feeling him kick. I lost giving birth to him. I lost feeding him. I lost having three children. There have been many losses through this process,and they will continue. I have learned to take each one as it comes and to fully feel the emotions that come with it.

The last lesson I want to share with you is that community is so important. My family and I were surrounded by people who truly care for us. We had a couple weeks of dinners prepared for us. We had people who watched our older children so we could freely feel and think. We had tons of messages filled with love, support, and hope; and we had people who we could share River with openly. The hardship about having such an amazing community was that there were quite a few close friends and family members that also had to move through the grieving process of losing River. It was hard for me to see their hurt and pain, but I knew that they were on a journey just like mine. They too needed to embrace the feelings and thoughts that came. I have learned so much from the people in my life and I am forever thankful for them.

Kelly’s story In Her Own Words:

I was pregnant with identical twin girls called Mono Mono or MoMo for short.  The odds were against us from the very beginning, but my girls defied the odds and we made it to the point of viability where medical intervention was possible.  I spent a month in the hospital on rest and monitoring.  Tragically despite our best efforts my girls passed away 2 days before their scheduled delivery.  My rare story took on quite a following with friends and family and my community and I started a blog to keep everyone up to date.  I continue it today to honor my girls and to share my healing process with others in the hopes it can help someone.   We were lucky that our story was so captivating for people.  We had a large community of people who followed our journey. I think since so many people knew all that we had been through made it easier for people to be there for us.

I also miscarried a child in the beginning of that same year at 11 weeks.  It was harder to find support then.  We had only announced the pregnancy a week or two before.  I really had no idea a miscarriage was possible for someone who had a healthy normal pregnancy with no issues before.  I felt foolish for announcing the pregnancy “too early.”  I was devastated and felt foolish for being devastated about a baby I never felt kick.  I felt like there was a much stronger sense of urgency to “move on” and “get over it.”  I don’t feel like either of our losses were taboo to talk about but I do feel like talking about miscarriage is at the top of the list of things people just don’t want to hear about.

My best advice for those who want to help: don’t offer advice or cliches to help fix us.  Saying things like, “everything happens for a reason,”  “you can always try again,”  and “thankfully it was early,” are more hurtful than helpful.  Stick to things that you truly mean:  “I’m sorry,”  “I love you,”  and “I am here for you to talk to, cry with, or whatever you need.” Offer specific ways to help.  Generic offers like, “Can I do anything for you?”  “Do you need anything?” can seem routine and not genuine.  So be more specific, “I’d like to come by this week to check on you.  Would you like me to bring you macaroni and cheese or that soup I made last time you came over?”  “I’m running some errands tomorrow.  Do you need anything from these stores I’m going to?”  When I was grieving it was incredibly hard to think about the normal day-to-day tasks, let alone be able to express to my friends what I needed help with.

My best advice to those who are grieving:  There is no end to grief.  It is a continuous and lifelong process.  There will forever be things that stir up emotions you thought you had long ago dealt with.  You will forever be healing and growing on this journey.  Don’t ever feel like there is this end platform you will stand on and say I’m 100% over it.  I’m done.  I’ve moved on.  I’m fine now.  Also, don’t feel guilty for having bad days.  Bad days just mean you loved your baby and the life you had imagined for them. It is OK to miss your child and it is normal.  Grieving is a journey and different for everyone.  So be kind to yourself and know that grief is an act out of love.

You can read more about Kelly’s journey through loss on her blog: www.momomommyme.blogspot.com

Anonymous In Her Own Words:

Having been told that I would not conceive without medical intervention, I never expected to return to the United States after a whirlwind tour of Europe and find myself carrying a 10-week-old baby.  I also never expected to be informed at the same time that I was in the process of miscarrying her twin.

I was under the care of a fertility team.  I tracked my cycle with scientific precision.  I bought and used pregnancy tests by the dozen.  I had been bleeding and spotting for weeks, phenomena I attributed to high-altitude air travel and a hectic schedule.  Scientifically, medically, and according to all other ‘ally’ words, this should not have happened to me.  Yet it did. For the first time in my life, I was unsure of myself – uncertain as to how I should feel and act in this situation. On the one hand, I was going to be a mom and receive the most beautiful gift of my life.  On the other hand, I was mourning a baby who would never know what life would be like.

Initially, all I felt was guilt and shame because I immediately thought that I could have and should have done something to protect both of my babies.  The fact that I did not know I was pregnant did nothing to minimize the feeling of loss I experienced.  Even though one of my babies never made it through pregnancy, he or she left a permanent mark on our family; his or her death was not the last word.

The next day, my husband and I went in for what would be the first of my weekly ultrasounds.  I heard it before I saw my sweet little gummy bear up on the screen.  A heartbeat!  A strong, glorious, melodious heartbeat.  And do you know what else?  I saw life.  Life is amazing, sad, and powerful all at the same time; it is a journey that sometimes ends far too soon, and in unpredictable and seemingly unfair ways.  I have come to view my loss as something that is woven into the fabric of our family, as it has shaped how I engage the world.

I once shared my story with a “friend,” who responded with disbelief because I failed to tell her about the miscarriage sooner.  After all, she suffered a loss, which was a seemingly positive home pregnancy test very early on that was not confirmed with further home or blood testing, and shared this with me as it was happening.  This “sanctimommy” (read the blog – it’s hysterical) taught me a very valuable lesson, and one that I want to share with you.  Your grieving process is yours and yours alone; only you can define whether sharing this aspect of your life helps you heal.  If reaching out to others and speaking about your loss doesn’t provide you with what you might need to begin living again, there is no rule saying you have to talk about it with others.  My husband and I are very comfortable in our decision to keep this information to ourselves.  And do you know what?  That’s ok.

Just remember that the day will come when you will all meet again for the first time.

 

Loss is such a personal journey, but not an experience you need to do alone. There is no formula to grieving. Whether you choose to share it with the world, or just your partner there is no right or wrong way to embark on that journey. With 1 in 4 women experiencing a loss, there are many of us who understand.

Have you survived the loss of a child or miscarriage? What was something that helped you in the healing process?

 

So thanks to an insanely packed and hot Open House night on Thursday, Sydney now has a stuffy nose and my husband has a full blown cold. Welcome back to school indeed. I was just commenting the other day how pleasant it’s been to have a sickness free household all summer and how it was all about to end. Guess it was a self-fulfilling prophesy or else just pretty good odds that an elementary school would be a perfect breeding ground for germs. Since the baby is co-sleeping in our room I know that being sandwhiched between the two of them, this cold is coming for me soon. I feel like sick mom walking.

sick mom

Image credit www.someecards.com

Moms Should Be Immune To Germs

You’d think that the sheer volume of bodily fluids moms come into contact with on a daily basis would make moms immune to all manner of illnesses, but alas that’s not the case. I swear I couldn’t tell if it was me or Sydney that reeked of baby vomit yesterday. It was probably both of us. Since I’m breastfeeding that means that when this cold does hit, my options for medicine  are pretty limited. Guess I’ll be drinking lots of OJ and tea and suffering through. It’s what moms do; we put our misery aside, get up (even when our body screams at us to lie down) and take care of the family. Life doesn’t stop just cause mom gets sick.

Moms – The Circus Act

Moms are born multi-taskers, juggling the needs of all our family members at once. I’m not saying we get everything done with equal proficiency, but if we didn’t at least try it seems the world would fall apart (at least mine would). Right now I just got off the phone with my husband who’s volunteering today despite feeling yucky, I’m talking to my neighbor on Facebook, watching my kids out in the backyard, writing this post and rocking a fussy baby in her chair with my foot. Sometimes I truly don’t know what I’d do if I had the ability to focus on one task at a time.

Who Is Mom’s Understudy?

So I have an important question – who takes care of mom when she’s sick? So far I’ve found that in my household the answer is no one. My husband (if I ask/complain enough) will help lighten the load by taking care of the older kids and maybe the cooking. Right now I’m still in survival mode with a newborn. I don’t know if that’s good or not. It just means that I’m used to feeling tired and a bit underwater. It’s amazing how you ALMOST get used to it. The other day my husband had off from work so he got the kids ready for school so I could catch a little more sleep. I actually noticed one layer of fog seemed to have lifted from my brain, BUT with a sick baby who needs her nose sucked out every few hours the feeling didn’t last very long.

The Comfort of MOM

There are days I knew it was going to be harder with three kids, but I think that it’s harder not having my mother around to help me anymore. I have pulled myself from the couch during a nasty stomach bug to take care of two kids, so I know I can deal with three kids and a head cold. I’m just missing the comfort of mom. A shoulder to lean on, someone to baby me and make a fuss as if I’m still the child. There is a physical comfort of a mother that I know all too well when it comes to my own sick kiddos. My husband tries to do the same things, but sometimes they just want mom. I too miss that physical comfort. If your mom is still alive you are indeed blessed.

If you can ask for help from anyone while your sick, do it. Send up an SOS, a bat signal or whatever it takes because even as I say to myself there is no time for me to be sick, the  reality is that it’s going to happen whether I’m ready or not. So I’ll say cheers with my OJ, and send up another prayer that I don’t get this cold, not because I’m so worried about me, but because I worry about who will take care of Will, Sydney, Hannah and Jayden if I’m down for the count. Nobody knows better than a mom how horrible it feels to watch your kids when they feel sick. It’s even worse to watch them feeling miserable from your own tissue filled corner of the couch.

I wish you all a germ free week. Feel free to share you secrets to staying sickness free during the school year.

If you’re one of those women who have husbands who rub your pregnant belly and talk to your unborn child, and generally treat you like you’re in a “delicate state,” then consider yourself lucky.

Pregnant Doesn’t Mean Delicate (for me anyhow)

At seven months pregnant with my second child my husband had me help him move not one but two heavy mattresses down the stairs. He doesn’t rub my now very pregnant belly, BUT I know the look he’ll have on his face the second his child arrives. I know that he’ll listen to her breathing every night. In short, I know from experience that he’ll be just as great a dad to baby number three as my other two.

When it comes to parenthood, we’re all about Mom, right? Moms know best when it comes to their kids, right? They read the most articles on parenting, tend to spend the most time with their kids, and tend to take on the role of primary care giver. I’m not going to lie, I remember telling my husband:

“When it comes to our kids, you are the CFO, but I’m the CEO and you need to check with me.”

Not my finest snarky moment I’ll grant you that, but in my defense he had just taken the kids to the store to pick out a dessert five minutes before dinner time causing my son to tailspin into a full on meltdown. Despite the frustration that comes from our different parenting styles, I can safely say that “He’s No MOM” and here are the reasons why that is the BEST thing for our kids and why we should celebrate the fathers out there.

Hannah & Daddy

1. Dads Create A Balance  – Sometimes moms tend to freak out at every bump and scrape (sure I never do that LOL) and there needs to be a calm person even when the situation does warrant a trip to the Emergency Room. Both parents can’t freak out or else who would take charge of a situation and keep the kids calm? Sometimes it’s dad’s turn to freak, but that’s why it’s great to have a tag team partner in times of crisis.

2. Someone Has To Be Good Cop – In my house my kids know that I’m the one to lay down the law and daddy is the one to “get one over on.” But the truth is, if we examine our own lives, we really needed that as kids. Sometimes the rules are meant to be broken and occasionally dessert SHOULD come before dinner. Moms may keep us grounded, but dads inject some much needed magic into childhood. As long as he backs me up on the important things, I guess I can learn to appreciate my husband’s breaking of the “mom rules” once in awhile.

3. Someone Call For Security? – Ok so maybe it’s just in my household because my husband works in law enforcement and carries a gun, a taser and handcuffs, but my husband brings a sense of physical security that I just don’t. I think we all feel more secure when he’s home. Perhaps it’s the same in your household. I think just the nature of daddies being bigger and more imposing than mommies, makes kids feel a sense of security, like they are protected from the bad guys out there. I don’t know if the need to protect is something innate in men or learned, but my son is always telling me that he will protect me if a bear ever tries to attack me (guess the bear threat comes with the territory of living up here in the mountains).

When I think of physical comforting of our children, mommy’s hugs are for healing and daddy’s hugs are for reassurance that everything is right with their world.

The Dad Jungle Gym

Plus who else could be the human jungle gym that dads are. Sure they may have made my uterus a training camp for future Olympic gymnastics for 9 months, but I’m not the one my kids want to catch them as they do crazy stunts like jump down the stairs while running at full speed.

Snow tubing

4. They Bring A Different Skill Set – Men bring different interests and skills to the parenting table. I for one would rather die than watch sports with my kids and I’m not the one who will teach my kids how to fish or build things with their hands. Dads will bring not only a different perspective, but different skills than moms, even if those aren’t the typical sports and outdoor survival skills. We need to appreciate them for things they do well that we don’t because it makes our kids’ lives that much richer and well-rounded to be exposed to new things.

Fishing

Hannah Fishing

Are Stay-At-Home Dads The New Moms?

Men are becoming more and more responsible for childcare these days, but I’ve noticed a trend to idolize these men (especially Stay-At-Home Dads) for taking on a role that’s not typical for them – the “Mom role” if you will. We tend to look at these men like a new species in a zoo. We might think, “Wow he changes diapers, hosts play dates, AND volunteers on the PTA, how amazing!” Nobody ever says, “Oh she works full-time and still finds time to cook, clean and drive the kids to karate and ballet, how incredible!” Just because our roles may overlap sometimes doesn’t mean that we can or will tackle parenting the same way.

The truth is Dads will never be Moms and vice versa and that’s more than ok; that’s GREAT! We bring different and special gifts to our children’s lives that can’t be measured on the same scale.

So Happy Father’s day to all the great Dads out there! You really are just as important to your kids as Moms are so keep doing what you’re doing. Happy Father’s Day to my husband Willie! Enjoy the last one before we officially become outnumbered.

 

Last Thursday as I’m urging my kids to eat breakfast so we can get Hannah dropped off to school early for her field trip, the complaining started. “I’m not hungry.” “I don’t like the smoothie you made me.” “How much do I have to eat?” So just as my frustration level was rising I said to my children, “Look I’m hearing a lot of complaining. Let’s show some gratitude. Tell me what you’re thankful for.” So then Hannah and Jay started saying that they are thankful for their loving family, mommy, daddy, sister and brother and baby sister on the way.” I was honestly shocked that something so simple completely turned the morning around.

I’ve often blogged about the benefits of changing your thinking both for your wallet and your well-being so I don’t know why it shocked me how easily this tactic worked for my kids, but I’ve decided to continue to cultivate an attitude of gratitude in my house for both my children and myself. Here are four things I vow to teach my kids so that they can appreciate their many blessings instead of chasing after material things.

1. Avoid Negative People – At the beginning of my pregnancy I joined Babycenter.com to talk to other women with due dates in July like me and instead of camaraderie what I found was a forum where women could be mean and say nasty things to one another in the safety of internet anonymity. Though I didn’t exchange nasty words myself, I felt myself being drawn in by it and when I realized that negativity is contagious and I was catching it from this site I vowed to stay off of it entirely. As a result, my mood is better and I no longer feel like I’m participating in something that leads other moms to feel bad about themselves. I think the same is true for kids. How many times have you heard someone say, “Oh my son or daughter fell in with the wrong crowd.” Negativity and destructive behavior catches and spreads like wildfire, especially for kids. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, but that’s why I hope that by teaching my kids how to combat negativity with gratitude they’ll be better prepared to handle it throughout their lives.

2. Tell Me What Your Grateful For – I’ve often read about people keeping gratitude journals or just jotting things down that they are grateful for to improve their mood and focus on the important things in their lives. I think this is a great thing for kids to do as well. Even if you don’t write it down, just asking the question around the breakfast table or perhaps before heading out to the mall might be able to focus your children on what they already have and limit the complaining and the “I wants.”

3. Give To Others – Nothing focuses you on what you have more than giving to someone else. I want my kids to see me volunteering or helping my neighbors. I want them to see that no matter how much or how little you have, there is always something of yourself that you can give to others. By giving to others you take the emphasis off of your own wants. My family went to Long Island last year with Convoy of Hope, which primarily helps with disaster relief but does other community outreaches as well. We set up games for kids in an impoverished part of Long Island, gave away shoes and food, and in general just let them know that someone cares about them. While my kids had a great time as well, all the volunteers’ children were told to give our special guests the first turns with the games and bouncy houses. They didn’t seem to mind. I think it’s important to teach my children, that not everyone has the things that we so easily take for granted.

Convoy of Hope Photo 2
Taking a break while volunteering with Convoy of Hope
to say hi to my son Jayden.

4. Get In Touch With Nature – The other day my son said to me, “I’m thankful it’s a nice day out and we can hang the clothes outside to dry.” These moments are when you think, “YES, parenting win!” He found appreciation for what nature does for us and that to me is so beneficial. Though I admittedly have a brown thumb, my kids spent the weekend helping their Poppy weed and water his garden and picking fresh strawberries at a local farm. Not only does this give them an appreciation for nature, but it teaches them how much work really goes into growing our food and whenever we teach our children to work for what they want they truly appreciate it more. Technology is great, but it doesn’t spark their imagination like playing outside does. When I was a kid the only reason you were inside before sunset on a beautiful day was if you were on punishment. Today it saddens me that all the ways we have tried to replicate reality through technology have eroded real life experience for our kids. Not that technology doesn’t have its place, but if want our kids to truly tune in and connect with other people and the world around them we have to unplug and get them outside.

Apple Picking
Apple picking in the fall with our neighbors. I forgot
to bring my camera to our strawberry picking trip
yesterday. (L to R) My daughter Hannah, her best friend
Jordyn and my son Jayden.

How do you cultivate an attitude of gratitude for your children or yourself? Share your thoughts here.

Now that I’m a mom, blaming my problems on my own mother is not cool. I don’t want my kids to do that to me. Still, I know, inevitably, my kids will one day be relaying all my parenting mistakes to their friends, spouses, kids or shrinks. There is absolutely NO such thing as a perfect parent.

My mother was the most giving person I know. She’d let me bring friends on family vacations and showered me with tons of stuff for which I probably was never truly grateful. She helped my brother and me whenever we needed money, whether she had it to spare or not. She was a great mom, but by not saying “no” very often, she inadvertently taught me things that I spent years unlearning.

Here are the three financial lessons my mom taught me that I had to unlearn:

1. Stuff equals love. My mother loved to shop. Spending money was how she relaxed, spent “quality” time with her kids and showed her love. Unfortunately, at a young age, I took that to mean stuff equals love. The more she bought me, the more she loved me, right? WRONG!

My “ah-ha” moment came during Christmas with my Dad when I was 7 or 8 (my parents divorced when I was 5). Opening presents with my Dad and his side of the family, I felt a stab of jealousy when my cousin got this cool singing bear from my grandmother. I thought, “Boy does my grandmother love him to give him such a cool toy.” Then I opened a Rainbow Bright doll from my Dad and I immediately ran, crying, to the basement. “He must not love me very much,” I thought “because I don’t even like Rainbow Bright.”

My poor Dad—he probably just didn’t know what toys I liked because he didn’t live with me. He took my tantrum in stride and with his love, patience and understanding I was reassured that he loved me and that stuff was inconsequential. The two things have remained divorced in my mind ever since. That’s why I’ll tell my kids “no” without the slightest flinch of guilt.

2. You don’t have to wait for what you want. My mother didn’t often make me wait for something I wanted. If she didn’t have the money that day, she charged it. I cringe when I think of the $100 dress coat she bought me once. We saw the same exact coat on sale a week or so later for $50. When I showed her the reduced price, I felt bad that she had paid double. She wasn’t upset in the slightest—”Well, you needed it, so what does it matter?” My budding frugal mind understood that waiting meant the difference of $50.

I don’t mind telling my kids “No” when they ask for something. I know one of two things are guaranteed to happen with time: 1) they’ll forget entirely about the toy that absolutely had to be purchased right then or 2) I can get it for a much better price when it goes on sale later. I want my kids to really think about they want and not be tempted by marketing or peer pressure.

For example, my daughter kept bringing book-sale flyers home from school last year and would ask me to buy books because her classmates were buying some. After the second flyer came home, I drove her to the library. “Here you go Hannah,” I said. “Pick however many you books you want.” She asked me why I’d brought her there—I told her that she could read as many books as she wanted, get new ones when she’s done, and it doesn’t cost any money. She looked at me with big eyes, “You mean they’re free books?” When I said yes, she looked at me like I was a superhero. I knew she understood why I had said “no.” Money is about choices and if you make smarter choices you have more of it for other things.

3. Spending what you don’t have is ok, if it means making others happy. We all want to make our kids happy and I think that’s what my mother tried to do. She would help anyone, even if it cost her dearly to do it. Unfortunately, in my adolescent mind, I associated giving money or paying for things as why people like you.

In high school, I’d give my lunch money to kids I barely knew, without registering why. Well, all I ended up with was a hungry belly. I don’t want my kids to think that people like you for the things you give them. I want them to be confident that their friends like them for who they are as a person.

I’ve taken my kids to an outreach on Long Island that provides food, clothing, and entertainment to people in need. I want my kids to see that there are so many ways they can be of service to their community. I want them to be monetarily generous, but without sacrificing their own financial health. I want them to love others and be loved in return for no other reason than because that’s what they deserve in life.

I miss my mother every day—the way she would say, “Oh Erin, that’s so great!” or “I’m so proud of you!” I miss her voice, her hugs and seeing the way she was with my kids. I wish she knew her incredible value in my life was priceless. Nothing she could buy me would make me love her more and there’s no amount of money I wouldn’t pay for just the chance to tell her so.

So march on you awesome parents! Keep telling your kids “no” with your wallet and “yes” with your heart. Tell them often because the world we send them out into will tell them “no” plenty of times. I figure maybe, just maybe, they will be more confident in their own abilities to navigate their finances and lives when that day comes.

My family and I just returned from a two-day camping trip at Little Pond, a campground just outside my husband’s hometown of Livingston Manor. It was two days of sleeping in the cold and rain. There were bugs and dirt, but you know what? We all had a great time! So, this makes me wonder why we spend so much time and money trying to entertain our kids, when a tent, flashlight and campfire will suffice. Being a frugal person, I think about what life lessons our kids can take away from the simplicity of camping. Here are the four life lessons I hope my kids learn from our family camping trips.

1. Fun is possible without any electronic devices.
Sometimes I worry about my kids growing up in a world that constantly has them tuned into some electronic device. Camping was a great way to show my kids that you don’t need much more than some friends and family to have a good time. My kids had a blast swimming in the lake and making castles and moats on the beach. We read stories by flashlight and roasted marshmallows. This reminded me that we don’t need to spend a fortune entertaining our kids. My favorite part about camping was not being a slave to a clock, computer, phone or any other device. Time was strictly to be enjoyed, not worried about or accounted for and I think that is an awesome life lesson for my little campers to learn. Even this frugal lady knows that time is a thousand times more valuable than money. When you use up money you can make more, but once time is spent, it’s gone forever.

2. Friends can be forever as long as you keep growing together.
Our camping trip was made more fun because we went with several of my husband’s childhood friends. These awesome people are known by my children as uncles and aunts. These honorary titles teach my children that while there is the family you are born into, there is also the family that you create for yourself. Though I admit to listening to stories of “Manor” as an outsider who didn’t grow up there, there are also plenty of stories told around the fire that encompass the life my husband and I have created over the past 14 years. I have been tucked inside this tight-knit cocoon of friendship formed in childhood and I get a front row seat for stories about my husband (the boy he was long before the man he is now), which is awesome and pretty funny too. I can only hope my children will create their own “family” like this one day.

3. You don’t have to have it all to have it all.
This sounds crazy I know, but camping is a great financial equalizer. Ok, so if you’re “glamping” (glamorous camping) in a fabulous RV with all the amenities of a 5-star resort you might miss this life lesson, but if you camp like we do in a tent on the hard rocky ground you learn quickly that financial status is totally a moot point in the wilderness. Nobody is trying to impress anyone with flashy things because you don’t bring fancy things when you camp unless you want them covered in dirt. We all have the same opportunity to take our small patch of earth and carve out a “home,” if only for a few days. Like I always say, the people make the home, not the house and certainly not the stuff inside it.

4. Stuff is only great if it has a purpose.
Let’s face it, packing and unpacking a car for a camping trip is a huge pain in the neck. You have to carefully weigh the value of each item before you load it up, otherwise you could easily find yourself without room for the family. I hope my kids remember this life lesson when they grow up and set up their homes. My childhood home had no shortage of stuff. At times it felt like the stuff was multiplying and pushing the people out. I want my kids to evaluate the usefulness of their stuff. I don’t want them to hold tight to objects. I want them to remember that you can’t always take it with you.

Most of my favorite childhood memories revolve around my grandmother’s house and I remember the cardboard box she had filled with random toys. I suspect most grandparents have this same hodgepodge collection of toys in a box in their homes for when the grandkids come over to play. The toys never changed in all the years of my childhood visits to her house; I was the one who changed. I used my imagination and creativity to reinvent these toys to keep myself a happy camper at her house. Just as a single bowl or pan while camping becomes so vitally important that you use it in a variety of ways, I want my kids to view their stuff the same way. Not much good comes from boarding the “more” train. You can’t be a happy camper thinking about what you don’t have or forgot to pack in this world. You just get busy making do with something else. When you do that, you find a kind of satisfaction with yourself and your life that is truly priceless.

Hello readers, as boring as it may be, I’m going to start out by introducing myself to you all…

I’m Brittany and I’m the newest addition to the Hudson Valley Parent family. About 4 months ago, I was hired as the Editorial Assistant. I must say, I really love working here at HVParent.  Our entire staff is great and so much fun to be around.

Since I came on board, I’ve worked a lot with our social media sites. If you’re not already our friend on facebook, I hope you’ll take a moment to join us (shameless plug… I know).

Now for some boring background about me… I’m originally from North Carolina. I moved to New York 6 months ago to be with my boyfriend, Bill.  Bill and I met through my baseball-focused, radio show I used to host called “A Show of Their Own.”  The show is now archived online, but I’ll spare you the shameless plug.

Prior to HVP, I worked as a high school basketball, softball and volleyball coach… which transitioned me to sports-talk radio and now logically to working for a parenting publication! Working for HV Parent is a combination of everything I love: writing, editing, interviewing, videos, photography, social media, even some graphic design! Not to mention, I get to think up crazy ideas for new things to offer our readers!

Now, I’ll admit, I’ve been putting off blogging for a while. I have several blogs of my own, but couldn’t decided on an angle for this new HVParent blog of mine. BUT I finally figured it out.

Since, I made you read this long blog all about me, I guess it’s time for me to unveil my new blog and what exactly it will be about (drum roll please….)

Gym Class Hero will focus on living a healthy lifestyle. I’ll discuss everything from sports, weight loss, activities for the kids, nutrition… anything. I recently lost 120 pounds… yep 120! I’m still 30 pounds away from my goal weight and cannot wait to share my journey with all of you.  I’m a sports nut and have had some great experiences I want to share with (y’all) you all. My goal for this blog is to have something for everyone… mom, dad, kids, grandparents, etc.  I hope you’ll continue reading my musings and comment away!

Thanks for reading,

Brit

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