You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘parenting’ tag.

smart phone

I know what you’re thinking. How did you survive for FIVE long years without a cell phone? Surprisingly well.

This year I asked my husband for a cell phone for Christmas. I felt like I was finally ready to take on an additional expense now that my blog is growing. After my site was temporarily shut down for being over my monthly usage allowance on Christmas Eve, I knew I had to have a way to stay up to date on any changes. It was a wake up call, but ultimately a very good problem to have.

Still, some part of me will be sad to say goodbye to the old me, the one that didn’t have a smart phone permanently in my hand.

I can already feel myself being sucked in by smart phone addiction. The last time I had a cell phone it was a simple tracfone that I used mostly to keep in touch with my husband while I was at work. That was before I started working from home.

I still want to hold onto the pre-smart phone me. She learned some very important lessons that I want desperately to remember.

1. Pay Attention To Who You’re With – I am a people watcher. Whether at restaurants, kids’ play places, the mall, the playground or the library I’m always watching how people interact with each other. Over the last five years I’ve had plenty of time to see how people interact with their  friends and family in public and I’ve been a little disturbed.

Smart phones are awesome, but I noticed that nobody seemed to be paying much attention to the people they were with. Couples sat silently across from each other at restaurants. Parents sat silently on a park bench while their kids played almost exclusively by themselves without more than a quick passing glance. People spent a lot of time looking at their phones.

I get it. I feel my potential to be sucked in, especially by social media. It’s exciting to be able to connect with people on so many platforms ALL THE TIME, but I’m so glad for these five years during which I focused exclusively on my friends and family.

I was able to give them my undivided attention. I got up and played with my kids at the park. I chatted with my husband at dinner. I was able to be fully present and I think that’s something I want to be aware of now that I’ve got a new toy. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, I’m glad these five years were all about the people that love me and whom I love more than anyone in this world.

2. Privacy Is A Premium – Now that I’ve got a smart phone and I can be reached at any time, I’m a little sad. It was sort of liberating not worrying about my phone ringing or dinging to let me know someone needs me. I’m a mom, I already feel needed EVERY SINGLE SECOND of the day and it is exhausting.I can’t tell you how many times over the course of five years I’ve overheard someone on the phone in a public restroom and thought, “What on EARTH could be so important that it can’t wait till you’re out of the bathroom?” It’s bad enough I don’t get privacy in my bathroom at home.Plus the ick factor is really high for me. To me, nothing you press against your face should be out where it’s exposed to urine and fecal matter. But hey, that’s just me.

3. Remember To Have Actual Conversations – Being without a smart phone these past five years, has made me nostalgic for actual conversations. Now it’s all text messages, Facebook messenger and emoticons (most of which I’m still struggling to understand the circumstance that would actually warrant its use). Being able to connect all the time, has actually made the quality of conversation decline in my opinion.We’d rather send one liners to each other than really connect.

I get it, we’re a busy society. We’re always moving, always working, and always parenting on the fly.But I hope I don’t forget that what we say to each other will always be more important than how we choose to do it. During my phone free years, I may have chatted less with people, but I definitely feel like I gave them more of myself and the conversations actually strengthened relationships.

One day my kids will ask me for a cell phone. I know it’s going to be a LONG time before I say yes. I want them to make their words count. I want them to actually connect with people. I want my kids to see me when I’m talking to them, instead of a cell phone screen. I’m glad that I went such a long time without one, because I can always say that if I survived, they can too.

4. Learn Not To Panic Over Potential Emergencies – The question I was constantly asked when I didn’t have a cell phone was, “What happens if there is an emergency?” In five years, I can honestly say that I never had an emergency happen while I was out. I work from home so it definitely helps that I’m home a lot of the time.Maybe it’s just luck, or maybe we just tend to anticipate emergencies more than we used to.We envision our kids getting sick or hurt at school, the car breaking down or our spouse needing to reach us urgently.

I’m not saying emergencies don’t happen. I just happened to be able to live with the uncertainty better than most. The one time my tire got a flat was when we were driving to the local lake this summer and since my husband had his car packed with our inflatable boat and life jackets he was driving behind me at the time. I had the van packed with kids and snacks and it was absolutely the best case scenario. The kids and I found a grassy spot on the side of the road and ate some snacks while my husband changed my tire and then we were on our way.

There were plenty of times my husband wished I had a cell phone over the last five years. But honestly he did what we all did pre-cell phone era; he waited till I got home. Since I work at home, I’m here the majority of the time. I think some “emergencies” are really just small panic attacks that come from having to wait a little longer to talk to someone. By faith or by luck I survived without any permanent psychological scarring. Five years without a cell phone has taught me to be more aware of my surroundings, pay better attention to the condition of my car, and anticipate whether or not my child’s cold will land them in the nurse’s office.

It also taught me to be more patient and reminded me of the immense capacity people have to be kind to one another. There was the time my car’s battery died in the parking lot of the post office and a man cleaned my connectors and got it started back up. Nobody wants to rely on others anymore. I get it, I really do. We’re too busy. We’re too distrustful. We want assurances that we can’t always have in an unsure world.

I want my kids to be able to call for help should they need it when they get older. But I also want them to have the skills to assess situations, the mindfulness to anticipate potential problems, and the courage to wait if necessary without panicking because the worst thing you can do in an emergency is panic.

Your brain will always be your best asset. Perhaps the smart phone comes in second place.

I’m excited by the prospect of all the things my new smart phone can do for me, but I want to hold on for dear life to the lessons I’ve learned from my five years without one.

How long could you survive without your smart phone?

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.



I was not a confident child . As a matter of fact, when I was my oldest daughter’s age I was evaluated for speech therapy because I was very quiet in class. Turns out my speech was fine. It was my confidence that needed work.

Looking back, I can see that my mom wasn’t a very confident woman. I wish she had known just how awesome she was. Confidence was something I had to slowly build over the course of my life, but I knew I had to help my oldest daughter so that she wouldn’t have to work quite as hard as I did.

Hannah is my mini-me; quiet and thoughtful, smart, shy, and very hard on herself. I’ve learned so much about who I am and who I want to be by raising her. Naturally, I don’t want her to have the same hang-ups that held me back. I’ve kept a watchful eye over the years and I’ve done my best to help her build confidence.

Here are four things that have really helped.

1. Enlist Her Teacher’s Help – Sometimes no matter how much we reassure our children, they need to hear it from someone else. I walked into my daughter’s Kindergarten orientation and as soon as the presentation was over I made a bee-line for her teacher.

I told him that Hannah is extremely bright, but very sensitive and hard on herself. She could already read before the start of school and I knew she could be pushed to excel in school, but it would have to come in the form of many gentle nudges. I asked for his help in making her feel okay about making mistakes, and encouraging her to answer questions.

I didn’t raise my hand in class much as a kid, not because I didn’t know the answer, but because I was afraid of being wrong. To his credit, he is an amazing teacher. He pointed out his own mistakes (like the time he accidentally wrote on the smart board with a permanent marker) so the kids would see that even teachers make mistakes. If she cried because she didn’t know the answer on a test, he reassured her it was fine.

At each parent/teacher conference, I made it my mission to find out more than the academic picture of my daughter’s development. I wanted to know how she interacted with the other kids, how her confidence was developing, if she cried at all, how she was overcoming the challenges of new material, and if she asked for help.

By the end of the year, her confidence was really starting to grow and it has continued to grow.  Every year, I always ask the same types of questions at every single parent/teacher conference.

2. Encourage Her in Math and Science – I can’t tell you how many times growing up I heard my mother say she was bad at math. Most of the time she deferred to my step-dad to help me with any and all math homework.

To this day I still think I’m bad at math, but honestly I was always a B student in math. That’s not really bad, but perhaps somewhere along the lines I made the association that too many girls do – that we’re just not good at math and science.

At my last parent-teacher conference with Hannah’s fourth grade teacher, she told me that Hannah is gifted. That’s not news to me. She was always reading a few grade levels ahead in school. What took me by surprise was the subject. She said Hannah’s state test scores in math were well above the district average and that she wanted to put Hannah in a special math group, which meets before school once a week and competes in math competitions. The group is primarily for 5th and 6th graders.

When I asked Hannah if she was interested I told her that she would probably see math problems she never had before and she had to be okay with that. She asked if they would teach her how to solve those problems and when I said yes she jumped at the opportunity.

I’m so glad she’s going to be challenged to excel in an area that many girls aren’t. I just know that when she has children of her own someday she’s not going to utter the phrase, “I’m no good at math.” That brings me to number 3.

3. Mind Your Words About Yourself – Like I said, the words my mother spoke over herself had an effect on me. I’m totally guilty of still saying things like, “I’m not very good at math,” but I still try to help her with her math homework whenever she asks. I know I’ve gotta watch what I say. My kids are always listening even if I think I’m just muttering something to myself.

My mom often said disparaging things about her looks too. I was very self-conscious of my own looks especially as a tween and teen. I’m not blaming it all on my mom, but I unconsciously learned to give a voice to my insecurities. I try really hard not to say bad things about myself or my looks in front of my daughter.

Girls look to their moms to understand their own self-worth. Be kind to yourself and they’ll learn to be kind to themselves too.

4. Encourage Leadership Skills – One of the best things I did was put Hannah in Girl Scouts. She’s gotten to meet with local business owners, our town judge and even our Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther. It’s great for the girls to meet influential women.

This year, they held mock elections to learn more about the election process. It was optional if the girls wanted to run for President and I was so proud that Hannah wanted to. Being in the spotlight was something I would have avoided as a kid.


Hannah made campaign buttons for her Girl Scout Troop election.

She made campaign buttons and stood up in front of her peers and made a speech about why she would make a good President. My favorite part was when she said she wouldn’t be upset if they didn’t choose her.


I’m so proud of Hannah and all the girls who went up to the podium to give speeches during her Girl Scout Troop election. The more girls practice leadership skills like public speaking when they’re younger, the less intimidating it will be when they get older.

I didn’t put any pressure on her, heck I didn’t even hear her speech until she delivered it to her troop on Election Day. To my surprise she won. She then had to run one of her troop meetings and pick a project they would work on.

I told her about Operation Christmas Cheer, a card writing project started by my fellow Hudson Valley Parent blogger Roxanne (aka The Whatever Mom) that sends holiday cards to kids who are very ill. She was all for it and that’s what her troop did during the meeting she had to run. I’m so proud of the girls.

It doesn’t have to be Girl Scouts. It could be sports or any activity that encourages your daughter to take a leadership role.

Hannah has already far surpassed me when I was her age. She’s taught me that confidence comes from practice. It’s slow and steady for some girls, but as long as we keep them moving in the right direction, we can help them reach their full potential. We are their moms, and we have more power than we know.

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.

Pre-kids, I was fairly laid-back.  It was easy to be carefree and fun-loving when my job was pretty much to worry only about me, myself, and I.  Fast forward twelve years, and my responsibilities have broadened to include caring for my two girls, three pets, a husband, and sometimes extended family, all who have varied needs.  I’m now the serious one, and I suppose I’ve embraced that, because I keep things running smoothly with my lists, planning, and schedules.

Sometimes, though, being the grown-up is a drag, and kids learn to tune their parents out. There are times when I can’t repeat myself one.more.time.  No one is listening, or my kids are squabbling, or I find myself caught in “mommy mode.”  I can’t remember exactly how she came about, but one day, I invented a fun-loving alter-ego, Lady Leaf Lover.  She speaks in a British accent and offers only compliments and encouragement.  Lady Leaf Lover doesn’t appear too often, but when she does, my girls greet her with hugs and enthusiasm. Sometimes she invites her husband, Lord Leaf Lover, to make a cameo, and he’s an even bigger goofball. The whole process gets everyone in hysterics, and whatever scuffle the Leaf Lovers interrupted is long gone.  Should you introduce a Lady Leaf Lover to your parenting repertoire, and if so, how?

Pick a true alter-ego

If you’re the serious one, your alter-ego should be funny.  If you’re the goofy parent, let your new character be as serious as a General.  No matter who you choose, you want to both shock and crack-up your brood.


Go with a wacky name

Who IS Lady Leaf Lover, and where on Earth did she get her name?  I really don’t know, but my girls googled her and couldn’t find any evidence that she’d ever posed for a photograph.  Regardless, every time she surprises the girls by popping in, her trills of “Darlings!  I’ve missed you!” pause any conflicts, and their attention is immediately riveted.  Mrs. Smith might be funny if she tried hard enough, but an absurd name really lightens the mood.

Be positive

Parents are great at giving orders and doling out consequences, but what kid is excited for that?  Your alter-ego, however, offers nothing but love.  When the kids are overwhelmed by a task, Lady Leaf Lover swoops in with encouragement and fun ways to get the job done.  She’s patient, she’s willing to roll up her sleeves and help out a little, she doesn’t get cross, and no one gets mad at her.

Use a funny voice and/or accent

When Lady Leaf Lover first came to visit, she spoke with a British accent.  That fact is both comical and unfortunate.  Comical, because I am terrible at accents, and often waver into Scottish, Jamaican, even Western; unfortunate for the same reason.  Her voice is high, squeaky, and silly.  “Get ready for bed!” sounds much funnier when Lady Leaf Lover says it, and for some reason, my kids are more willing to listen.

Lighten the mood

Your alter-ego is your tool for when the daily parenting tricks are not working, and everyone needs a change of pace.  There are times when we’re all frustrated and I know the situation could go downhill fast.  At that moment, I’ll take a deep breath, quietly exit the room, and find some strength from deep within.  I return with a, “Helloooo!” and everyone brightens.  It’s a signal that we’ve shifted gears and turned a tense situation around.  It might sound silly, but there’s a lesson there.  When things are getting out of hand, it’s better to take a step back and find a positive way to deal with things rather than to let it escalate.  Humor isn’t always appropriate, and there are plenty of times when I’m not in the mood.  Alter-egos are like a secret weapon to be enacted only when the time is right.

Parenting is hard work.  There are tantrums, disagreements, homework, and bedtime. There are times when being a parent feels easy and can be done with grace, and other times when every morsel of energy doesn’t feel like enough.  There’s a time and a place for all kinds of parenting, and it helps to turn to humor when it’d be just as easy to turn to anger.  Channel your inner Lady Leaf Lover, and share your experiences with our readers, below.  Tootles, Darlings!


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.

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.


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.


  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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


When I began this parenting journey I was a completely different mother than I am today. Nine years and two more kids later I’ve learned what things to just let go and what things to cling too like your life depends on it. Yesterday we changed my youngest daughter’s convertible crib to a toddler bed and it didn’t hit me at first, but then I realized it’s the end of the baby years for good. It also made me reflect on the mother I was when I lay my first child in it, to now my third and last child and how different I am now.

Here are five ways your parenting is different with your last child.

1. No More Nervous Nelly – I was terrified to bring my first daughter home from the hospital. I had only changed a handful of diapers prior to becoming a mom and I was completely clueless about swaddling. My first daughter got the majority of my parental trial and errors. She did and always will set the bar for my other kids. All my expectations of milestones, capabilities and behavior are established with her as the baseline. It’s not fair, but she has all the burdens and privileges that come with being born first.

By the time you have your last baby you already know “what to expect when you’re expecting.” You’ve logged countless sleepless nights and can change dirty diapers with one eye open. You’ve survived potty training nightmares too gross to retell and struggled through teaching a child to read. Your last baby usually goes with the flow and learns so much from his or her siblings. My youngest reaps the benefits of all my experience.

2. Birthdays and Milestones Are Sad – You’re happy to celebrate the birth of your last baby, but every time you sing the birthday song you know it’s the last time you’ll have a one-year-old, two-year-old, etc. I’m definitely a more nostalgic mom with my last child than I was with my first.

Moving my first child into a big girl bed wasn’t as big of a deal because I was pregnant with my second child and the crib wasn’t going away, just being handed down. Now when the crib is turned into the toddler bed, I know we’re one step closer to saying goodbye forever.

3. Five Second Rule Rules– When Hannah was a baby I was cleaning the carpet, left the bottle of cleaner for one second and the next thing I knew she had the nozzle in her mouth. She didn’t actually spray it thank God! But within seconds I was on the phone with poison control who assured me she’d be fine.

When my son was two he bit into a slug, yup you read that right. My first thought no joke was, “at least it’s organic. I don’t need to call poison control.”

A few weeks ago I gave Sydney a package of fruit snacks in the store to keep her happy and before I knew it she dropped one, picked it up and ate it. I didn’t even have time to worry about it. The mentality with your last is like, “Well, all the other kids survived the five second rule.”

You know it’s gross, but you don’t freak out. At least for me, I knew there were far worse things they could put in their mouths than a fruit snack dropped on the floor for five seconds.


4. Beginning To Completion – When I had my first daughter everything felt like a new beginning. I had the whole of my parenting years stretched out in front of me. Hannah made me fall in love with motherhood. I had no idea just how large my capacity for love was until she showed me.

I credit Jayden with showing me that a mother’s love is multiplied, not divided with each child you have. Sydney brings an entirely different feeling to my parenting – one of completion.

For years I said that Jayden was my last child, but yet I didn’t have the feeling of completion like I have now. When Jayden was three I caught baby fever. After a year-and-a-half it became clear that another baby was the only cure and I’m still astounded by the complete 180 my husband did after over a year of shutting down the idea. One day, he said, “Okay let’s go for a third” and a month later Sydney was on the way.

She brings a balance to our family which is weird because she actually made us an odd number. But she’s the great equalizer between my two older kids. They are only two years apart, but Sydney is seven years younger than my oldest child Hannah and five years younger than Jayden. She gets all of the attention of being the baby and even though my oldest fight with each other…a…LOT, she’s the one thing they agree on. They both love to love that little girl. She creates a much needed buffer between Hannah and Jayden.

She came bounding into my bed this morning, escaping easily from her new toddler bed, and wedged her little body along with her three favorite baby dolls between me and my husband. I was tired and I thought, “Why was I so eager to transition her to the toddler bed? She slept a lot longer in the crib.” Then I thought:

“For you Sydney, I’ll let go of my warm and comfy bed and get up because yours are the last little fingers that will interlock in mine in the morning and pull me excitedly to start the day. Yours is the last little baby voice that will both sweetly and urgently bid me to come with you. And this moment is worth holding onto more than five more minutes of sleep, because your my last child and I’ve learned just what to hold onto and what to let go of by now.”

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.


About Me!

This blog is where we comment on the issues and topics Hudson Valley parents deal with every day. We invite you to join us! Please leave us your comments.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 59 other followers