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Written by Mama Monday

Blog posts written by mamas on cloth diapering, green living, natural parenting.

new year thirsties

Now that the fun and frantic Christmas holiday has come and gone, it’s time to turn our attention toward the coming of a fresh year. Some see it as an opportunity to set new goals, others consider it to be just like any other time of the year — I have always fallen somewhere in the middle. Some years I make a resolution (or two) while other years I just try to pull myself out of the post-Christmas funk with some purging and organizing, both of my home and my soul. I’m not against resolutions, though. A new year is a great opportunity to remind oneself to reflect and make changes.

But, ever since starting a family, I find myself thinking not of what my own goals are, but more of what we, as a family, can do to improve or embrace life. Sure, my husband can feel free to make his own resolution and, if my three-year-old son (or, for that matter, 6-week-old daughter) understood the idea of self-reflection more, he’d be welcome to, as well. But, much like a family mission statement, family New Year’s resolutions can help us to focus a bit.

So, what’s 2016 going to be about? POSITIVITY. That’s the word of the year for us. We definitely need to embrace the positive in the coming year. :-) Here’s how, in some actual, tangible ways:

– Kinder words and thoughts with our son. I won’t lie: 2015 has brought with it some ugliness. The threenager phase isn’t a myth, and his words have been biting and downright horrific at times. But, our response hasn’t been much better. The tail end of the year, however, we’ve found more of a comfortable balance in our response – finding a way to let the rude words or behavior roll off our backs (training for the teen years, I’m sure) and redirecting him to find the right behavior. We’re also cutting him more slack since we’ve realized that our expectations, at times, are way too lofty for a kid of his age.

Let’s just say that I’m super happy that Santa brought me The Danish Way of Parenting. I’m excited to dive in and see what methods will help with our situation.

– Find small joys by being more present. Don’t get me wrong; part of my husband and my jobs involve lots of social media use and a practical necessity of smartphones. But, we’re far too attached. It’s time for us to admit it to ourselves and give ourselves some limitations, for our kids’ sake. The same goes for our son’s TV viewing — we always hoped to limit it from the beginning, but he watches so much daily between his grandmother’s (I’m not blaming her in the slightest) and our reliance upon it when he gets home at night.

We’ve already put this into effect. (Who says you have to wait until Jan. 1st?) With the abundance of new toys and games from Christmas, there’s lots of opportunity to turn off the TV, put down our phones, and reconnect over Candyland or some pretend grocery shopping. Plus, since we’re not cutting out our use of electronics completely, but cutting back on their use, it will feel more like a treat when we do indulge ourselves in a movie or some Instagram time.

Presence is a wonderful gift, isn’t it? (Corny pun alert!)

– Surround ourselves with the happiest of things. This actually coincides with another book that Santa brought me – The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. No, the house will not be impeccable; part of happiness is accepting what is. But, I know that one of the points in this book is to keep that which sparks joy in your life. While we continue with our ongoing purge and embracing simplicity, this will be a huge help.

This also gives us a focus in our house hunting. We’re determined to find a new home in 2016 since we’ve outgrown our sweet little bungalow. Since we were just two adults moving in and are now two adults, two small kids, and three cats, our priorities have changed (making it more challenging to find something). So, we’re making a list of the things that would make us happiest in a house, plus a list of “wouldn’t it be nice to have?” items that can be overlooked if we find a home that fulfills most of our “happy” list. Our biggest thing would be more space; we think our son would benefit greatly from both outdoor and indoor space since he’s a naturally energetic individual. We’re choosing not to compromise the one item that would give him such joy and, ultimately, give us less stress (since he sleeps better, has better behavior choices, and is generally more at peace when he’s had some freedom to roam and run).

– Letting go of the small things. It’s true: don’t sweat the small stuff. Picking a fight when your husband put the dishes back in the wrong place or folded the clothes wrong is a surefire way to live a miserable life, and I’ll admit that there are times that I get frustrated about this stuff. But, I’ve recently learned to look at the positive behind the action: at least he DID the laundry and dishes (without being asked)!

This can easily apply to out little guy, too. Sure, he put his toys back in the wrong place (and it needed to be completely re-done), but at least he’s learning to put things away without an argument. The gingerbread cookies he made with me looked pretty rough, but the joy with which he stood beside me using those cookie cutters and dripping frosting was infectious; it would break my heart to stamp that spark out.

– Planning joyful activities, big and small. Being pregnant, I didn’t have a ton of energy for lots of family trips this past year. Our one “big” family vacation was 100% for our son to “Sesame Place,” celebrating our last summer with him as an only child. This year, I’m hoping to take at least one of our “there’s something for everyone” trips. Plus, he’s still of the age where a random side trip to a new playground is enough to make his week.

But, I’m also hoping to turn our sights on the fun that can be found in our own backyard. We have one of the largest national park areas in the country that we simply don’t utilize enough. From family-friendly hikes to beaches to campsites, I’m looking forward to getting out there to have fun and recharge this summer. Toss in some classes (probably kindermusik and maybe swim or dance classes), utilizing some local walking trails, and hopefully play dates…the possibilities for joy are endless.

What are your plans for 2016? Are you making any resolutions (whether personal or family-related)?   

You remember the excited energy of Christmastime that you experienced as a child, right? Maybe you still even feel it – the buzz of activity, the anticipation of Santa, the burst of sheer joy enjoying the time with family and friends. It’s no wonder little ones can hardly contain their energy! And we all know what happens when children overflow with energy, don’t we? It’s a breeding ground for outbursts and poor behavior choices, which can definitely put a damper on your attempts at celebrating. (Or is that just at our house? *wink, wink*)

I find that the act of creating – whether it be crafts, cooking, music, art – can be a great calming effect on kids as well as adults.

Whether you have a young toddler or older kiddo at home, between the excitement and time off from school, try out one of these ideas for celebrating the holiday season with creativity. Even if it doesn’t temper the high energy levels, it will create fun memories and give your child a positive outlet for that energy.

christmas_tree_art

– A festive art project. This one’s super simple and fun. Just cut out strips of construction paper in several colors and various sizes, a star and a “stump” and have your child use a glue stick to make a Christmas tree. As you can see, ours didn’t come out perfectly (not even close), but our 3-year-old was so engaged by picking out the colored strips and independently using the glue stick to create his picture, it doesn’t matter.

We talked about “horizontal” lines, and he actually seemed to catch on to that part of the project. I figure we’ll try again next year and see how he does. You can also use this as a bit of a math project for older kids, creating a pattern with the rows of colors. Or, just let them be creative and go nuts – like our kiddo!

– Have kids personalize the gifts. You can do this a couple of ways. Grab a roll of plain brown or white paper for wrap gifts. Your child can use this as their canvas to share the Christmas spirit with friends and family. They can stamp, finger paint, write messages, or use any number of art supplies. Have your youngin’ personalize further with ribbon, twine, string, greenery, stickers, or whatever they come up with.

You can also do the same project with super inexpensive paper bags!

– “Here we come a-caroling…” You can only get away with singing Christmas songs one time each year – so, embrace it! Practice some songs (especially calm ones like “Silent Night”) at home, and if anyone in your family plays an instrument, have them work on the same carol(s) that you can perform as a family. Use them at your family get-together or start a good old-fashioned caroling session around the neighborhood. You may even get a treat out of your travels!

My family was musical. I still fondly remember practicing our Christmas songs on our respective instruments; we all played piano, but my oboe and my sister’s french horn were perfectly paired for the festive time of year. While I’m out of practice now, my sister and I always try to find a piano to do two-part Christmas songs while everyone else sings or socializes (or, more often than not, laughs at my rusty playing; I don’t mind, it’s fun!).

– Bake some cookies – and decorate them! For a lot of people, baking can be therapeutic. The focus of precisely measuring and going through the steps can take your mind off the hustle and bustle of the season, and you’ll have treats to share with Santa!

But, the really fun part? The decorating. Even if your child doesn’t feel like baking, it’s almost guaranteed that they’ll enjoy smearing frosting and messy decorations all over them. Or, go ahead and try a gingerbread house. Neatness doesn’t matter – creativity does!

– Make a simple craft and deliver it to someone. Take a jar and paint or decoupage it with pictures or little holiday-colored pieces of paper; pop in a tealight. Or make a cheery card. Or create a simple ornament. Or fill a clean, recycled jar with cocoa mix. Or take some of the aforementioned cookies and a hand-decorated paper bag.

Now, here’s the best part: Think of someone who could use a little cheer. A neighbor who lives alone. The residents at a nearby elderly facility. A relative you don’t visit nearly enough. Have your child deliver it and chat for a few minutes (or longer). Make sure you discuss the meaning behind what you’re doing, too.

So, this year, put an emphasis on the “peace” as much as you do the “joy” with some fun, creative, calming activities.

Do you have any activities that help your little ones calm down around this crazy time of year? Or do you embrace the excitement (or is your family naturally chill)? Be sure to share with us in the comments!

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It’s an interesting challenge when you have a new baby around the holiday season. Aside from the physical issues of healing, exhaustion, and so forth, you also have to attend to…y’know…the holidays! If the baby is your firstborn, it may be totally acceptable to forego the fun for one year. But, if you have one (or two or three…) other children, it’s nearly impossible to skip.

In our case, we’re lucky that our little lady came about a week and a half before Thanksgiving. Because of this, we could enjoy a small day of thanks with just our small family of four. Now, with Christmas (very!) quickly approaching, we’ll be heading to see family galore, all while doing our own special celebration at home. In order to maintain the “Christmas magic,” it’s important to us that Santa include Baby Harper along with Big Brother Hadley in his stop at our house. We wouldn’t want inquisitive minds to start questioning, now, would we? 😉

But, what on earth does Santa bring a brand new baby? What do you buy your little one when you’re still getting to know each other?

Today, I thought I’d share just a handful of last-minute gift ideas for a newborn. Whether it’s for your own bundle of joy or a friend or relative’s new baby, maybe these ideas will help with any last-minute baby shopping.

newborn_christmas

A keepsake. Considering that a baby can’t “do” much with ANY gift you offer her, offer an item that will make her feel special for years to come. A baby book to fill with memories, a cool framed wall print featuring the baby’s name, a modern quilt, an heirloom blanket, or even a handkerchief-turned-bonnet for the baby’s christening (to be used again as a handkerchief at their wedding or other important occasion). The ideas are plentiful; just consider the family’s style and traditions as to whether a particular gift is appropriate.

Cloth diaper paraphernalia. Of course Santa knows whether your little one has fluff on the bum – he sees all! If your stash is all set, a cute stocking stuffer might be a jar of ointment like Booty Love. Or, if the gift is for someone else’s child, give the family a gift certificate for your favorite diaper seller so that they can select their own style of diaper to try. If you know their favorite diaper, go ahead and pick a super cute print or two to round out their stash.

Eco-friendly toys. While I don’t expect every person who gives us gifts to go out of their way to find BPA-free, sustainably-made toys, I can’t say how much I appreciate it when we DO receive them. So, when I know that I’m giving to a like-minded family, I try to find a toy like a Sophie the Giraffe, soft book with crinkle noises and a mirror, or colorful woven rattle that the baby will grow into. It may sound silly to buy toys for a baby who can’t even hold onto them, but remember that the baby will be making use of such stimuli in the upcoming months and years, and can already be interested by bright colors and cool sounds.

Investments in her future. By opening a Roth IRA and/or 529 Plan, you’ll literally be giving your child a chance for a successful future. Make it a habit to add to it for special occasions, like Christmas and birthdays, in addition to regular small deposits. Plus, did you know that non-parents can invest in the same way? We requested that our parents open similar accounts and, instead of massive amounts of gifts, suggest that they put a percentage into investments instead of overflowing our closets and toy boxes. It may sound greedy, but we all agree that it’s actually a wiser option for us.

Books, books, and more books! I cannot reiterate enough: it’s NEVER too early to start reading (or to build a child’s library). As a school librarian, I may be biased, but our husband started reading with our son when the little guy was 2 weeks old, and it has become a nightly requirement. Not only has it created for a special family bonding experience but it has created an incredibly verbose 3-year-old. So, sure, our daughter is already being held to observe the colors, text, and ensuing conversation of our nightly reading sessions.

Outfits. Okay, so some folks will be outfitted-out (especially if they had a baby shower before the baby’s arrival), but hear me out. I can’t count how many outfits our son never ended up wearing because a) he had outgrown them the minute he was born (he was 10+ pounds, so newborn was out of the question), b) the outfit wasn’t the correct season or c) the style of the outfit just wasn’t practical (who wants buttons and appliques and just general gaudiness on a newborn?). So, I always try to consider the upcoming season (heavy outfits or short-sleeved), the family’s general sense of style (traditional or modern, basic neutrals or super colorful), and the baby’s next stage (I always like to get comfy stuff for crawling/standing/walking stage and size up whenever necessary). Also, classic pieces like white onesies for under outfits and white socks are always nice. I always know that these things will get plenty of use.

What gift ideas do you have for a newborn’s Christmas? Do you feel that a new baby should “celebrate”?

Last week, I talked about the fact that we’re paring down our holiday festivities this year, and a few weeks back I shared how we planned to simplify Thanksgiving this year. So, today I though I’d chat about what we ARE doing to celebrate our holiday. After all, what’s Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Winter Solstice…) without SOME form of tradition?

simplified_christmas

There’s a lot that we simply aren’t doing this year, with a newborn and super active toddler in tow. Given that our little peanut, Harper, is just around 3 weeks and this is a super germ-filled time of year, we’re being those paranoid parents and sticking close to home with her, for the most part. So, most of our shopping was done well before she came along or online, and we’re skipping some of our admittedly favorite activities: namely, our annual schlep to a living history holiday celebration called Candlelight Evening, featuring THE St. Nicholas. (Yes. The REAL one! ;-)) The baby and I are even skipping my husband’s annual reading of “The Polar Express” at our local Barnes and Noble. We’re lucky that my in-laws were willing to take our son, Hadley, along, but I was sad to miss it. I try to remind myself that we’ll have a blast next year with a 4-year-old and 1-year-old along and able to enjoy things on a whole different level.

But, there’s a lot that we ARE able to do, and I’m downright giddy about the simple things. Here’s what we’re still excited about:

Getting a Christmas tree. We’re not going to the same place that we usually do since it’s much further away and would take TONS more work to pick up, but we’re still getting a real one! They’re actually more eco-friendly and it was silly to plop down a chunk of change for a new fake tree if we’d only use it for one year. So, we’re trying out a place that’s about 15 minutes from home (rather than 45+ minutes) and will be far quicker to get home. And, this year, I know our son will be FAR more interested in helping to hang the ornaments and Harper’s going to love the lights. Win-win!

Baking cookies. Hadley’s been craving one-on-one time with me lately, so I try to find something to do with him regularly – even a quick play session. I can’t wait to whip up some cookies and let him cut out whatever shapes his little heart desires. Plus, I’ve got a sweet tooth, so he and I will eat our weight in cookies. Can you tell I’m excited? I am.

Movies + snacks. We’re movie people. Literally. My husband actually wrote, directed, and performed in numerous indie movies in his younger days, and I’ve got one of those “old souls” (I’m a borderline expert on many classic films and even have a Katharine Hepburn autograph), so we’ve got a list of “it’s not Christmas without watching…” movies. Add to that the fact that I make some killer wassail (inspiration from the aforementioned Candlelight Evening) and homemade hot chocolate and the hubs is the popcorn maestro, and you’ve got a fun, stay-up-too-late night! So, here we come, It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, and the slew of TV specials on our flash drive!

Basic decorations. We’ve already got some simple white lights strung outside, but on the inside I like to do a little more than just the tree. So, I’ll scroll a Christmas-y saying on our chalkboard, hang our stockings early (along with a banner for all the cards that arrive), and use some of the extra greenery our tree always seems to give us with an orange or two to deck the halls a bit more. If it’s away from our son, I may fill a vase with some bulb ornaments and call it a day.

Family! Christmas is all about family for us. I know it’ll be tiring, especially when straying from the routine, but we’re going to make an effort to celebrate as we normally would with our families. This means a lovely dinner and gifts on Christmas Eve with my in-laws (a small get-together but always a wonderful time), Christmas morning to our own devices, and the rest of the day with my larger, more boisterous clan. The most exciting part is that my husband’s brother and his wife welcomed their first child and my sister’s family welcomed their second child this year. So, there are THREE babies less than one! Of course, Harper’s the newest, most floppy-headed of them all (and the only baby girl), but it’s definitely a year we’ll all remember!

Are you guys planning a simple holiday season this year, or are you doing it up big-time?

I’d love to hear how you celebrate!