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Written by Mama Monday

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

Now that we’ve had our Halloween fun, our family is excited about November. We have so much to be thankful for this month, it’s awesome. Between expecting our second little one later next week and one of our favorite holidays shortly thereafter, we’re as pleased as punch!

While we love the fun of Halloween, the mayhem (and excessive candy consumption) aren’t our favorite thing ever. Thanksgiving, however, has so much going for it. It’s one of those holidays that everyone can get behind. It’s a chance to cook a great meal, catch up with family and, unless you work retail or are police/emergency workers (to you I say THANK YOU!), a day to relax and reflect. No need to fight crowds finding the right gift. It *generally* doesn’t start a religious argument on Facebook. But, the best part of Thanksgiving? The gratitude.

This year, I’m hoping to start having more of a dialogue with our three-year-old about exactly what this holiday means. Now is the perfect time to start thinking about how to put it into a little one’s perspective, so today I’m sharing some tips on how to do just that.

teaching_toddlers_gratitude

Choose a charity. Sure, you could choose several (we actually do), but discussing what your family’s priorities are and making the choice together to support one cause, it lets your child know that “others matter to us and we care enough to help.” It’s a huge lesson in a small package.

So, in our case, we’re huge animal lovers. Since we have three awesome rescue cats that have absolutely changed our lives, there’s a special place in our hearts for our local humane society. We’ll check out the list of items that the shelter needs and have Hadley do the shopping with us. While shopping, we’ll talk about why they need different items and simply explain what the shelter does for the little furry souls within. And, of course, he’ll be a part of the drop-off to see firsthand where our purchases go.

Whether it’s buying toys for a Toys for Tots campaign or volunteering to ring the bell at a Salvation Army kettle for a couple of hours or buying a meal for a family in need, small actions will not only help the lives of others, but will provide meaningful memories and lessons to your own family.

Gently discuss others’ hardships. While a toddler may be too young to view the truly harsh realities of, say, serving homeless people in a soup kitchen, I’ve made it a point to let our son know that others aren’t quite as lucky as we are. Especially on those moody “I don’t want THIS toy, I want THAT toy!!!” days, the idea of need vs. want is a big topic of interest.

Most kindergartners learn this lesson, but it truly needs to start at home (and is one that we adults can use a refresher lesson in, as well). You can actually do this in a fun way, after explaining the basic difference between needs and wants. Create some flashcards with cheesy clip art images and the word for each image, being sure to include types of healthy foods, a home for “shelter,” and other “needs”; place plenty of “wants” on other cards. Then, as your child turns over cards, they can sort them into its respective pile. Alternately, you can also have your child practice their safe scissor skills by cutting out needs/wants from old magazines and sort them on a piece of paper.

Rely on a book. Sometimes difficult subjects can leave us, as parents, at a loss for words. So, as a school librarian, my next step is usually to search for books that will help things go smoother. Oftentimes, beloved characters in sticky situations can teach our son far more than a conversation.

There are plenty of books to choose from, but my jumping-off point is The Giving Tree. I actually find this book to be a bit of a downer, but millions of people can’t be wrong, right? Plus, our son doesn’t often see the melancholy and takes lessons at face value — which this book is actually excellent for. Be sure to discuss the unconditional love shown by the tree and how the relationship changes between the boy and the tree by the end of the story.

Get crafty. Call them what you want — Thankful Tree, Grateful Tree, Tree of Thanks — the idea is to reflect and share what you’re grateful for. Isn’t it a great idea? You can grab some sticks and twigs to make a cool decorative version, a kid-centric handprint one, or just grab a free printable like the one here at Craftionary. Or, you can easily fall down the rabbit hole of Pinterest for even more ideas. Just make sure that whatever option you choose, you get the whole family involved!

These are so flexible, it’s up to you how you do it. Many people will add one “grateful leaf” per day during November, sharing things big and small that they’re grateful to have. Others will jot down several right before (or the day of) Thanksgiving. You can display it and ask guests to add their thoughts to your tree or just use it as a great conversation starter.

Share the meaning of Thanksgiving with your little one. Whether you’re a religious family or lean more secular, it’s a great tradition to say grace or start the Thanksgiving meal with some sort of “giving of thanks.” Why not have your little one take over with that task this year?

I remember what a big deal it was when I was a child to be asked to handle this responsibility. More important than the silver I had been asked to polish or the pies I had helped assemble, our “grace” was straight from the book. Today, my family is more of what we would call a spiritual-but-not-religious family, but the meaning still holds true.

After you’ve had plenty of conversation this month about gratefulness, feel free to let your little one pick what they’re most thankful for to share. They can do a traditional grace or start the ball rolling with a go-around-the-table share session. And you know that, no matter what comes out of their mouth, it will make for a memorable holiday.

What are some ways that your family expresses its gratitude, whether during November or all year long? Do you include your little ones in the conversation?

Can you guys believe Halloween’s less than a week away?! The fact that it’s on a Saturday this year makes it super fun, but also offers a chance for boredom to creep in. I mean, how does one actually celebrate Halloween when it’s not on a school/work day? (Maybe, as an educator, I’m just used to seeing what we do during the holiday with the kiddos at school.)

Here’s how we plan to do it up. I foresee a creepy breakfast of some sort (pancakes with strawberry “blood” or made purple with crushed blueberries, maybe?), a trip to our favorite farmers’ market, a spooky-but-healthy lunch (to make up for the inevitable junk food), fingers crossed for a long nap and early dinner, fun craft, then getting dressed up for trick or treating! Since our guy’s only 3, we’ll head back early for some popcorn and our traditional Charlie Brown viewing. Bam. Bedtime.

Sure, if one or two of those things goes by the wayside, it’s no big deal. But, I’ve found tons of SUPER simple, can-be-done-very-last-minute craft projects that I’m hoping to choose from. Maybe your family will like trying out one or two, as well!
Okay, I’ve heard of apple stamping before, but to make PUMPKINS…out of APPLES…is genius.
ghost

Cotton Ball Ghosts
Cotton balls + a ghost cut-out & face + glue = super simple ghost buddy.
Add some string to make it into decor.
Considering Hadley’s being a ghost, this one’s all sorts of awesome.

Hanging_Ghosts


Spooky Hanging Ghosts

Got white coffee filters? You’re all set for this one!
In our house, toilet paper tubes are called “doot-dee-doos” and these ones are beautifully imperfect!
I love when you can tell that little hands had a part in making the craft, don’t you? There are some on the interwebs with perfectly placed wrappings, but this one’s awesome.
Got an early scissors user? (We do!)
This is a cute, simple way to “sharpen” those skills AND make a fun little project.
Paint Chip Halloween
Paint chips are just darn awesome…and FREE!
Plus, all you need to do is cut out shapes and let your little one glue them on.
Super cute and super simple.
See anything you’d like to do with your family?
Or do you have something else you’re planning on doing to celebrate this Halloween? We can’t wait to hear!

babywearing or stroller

There are so many ways to travel with your newborn, it’s crazy town! Strollers and baby carriers of all shapes, sizes and styles. Researching it all can almost get as in-depth as researching cloth diapers. Almost. ­čśë

With our first son, we went the traditional route: a collapsible stroller. I tried a structured carrier a few times early on but it never quite stuck; kind of like┬áour first attempts at cloth diapering. I just wasn’t as committed as I’d have liked. So, over the years we’ve used the same kind-of-clunky single stroller. It has served us well, but has seen its day.

Now, with a second on the way and a still-doesn’t-quite-listen 3-year-old, I’ve looked into all the options. I still have a wrap and a structured carrier, so especially having an older kiddo to chase around, I’m actually quite motivated and excited to give these a solid try this time.

However, knowing that we’re in need of a new stroller, I also decided to research the option of a double stroller. I was going to ask everyone here in this community what their thoughts are with regards to these (particularly, the non-side-by-side style, which seems way too wide), but since we haven’t really “allowed” anyone to buy anything new for this little one, we took some family members up on their offer to get a new stroller (and other relatives who offered to get a new coordinating car seat – talk about generous!).

We went with a 13-position sit-and-stand model which will hopefully help with those times that we need to contain both munchkins – I mean you, farmers’ market trips – and motivate me to get out for walks with the littles more often when the weather warms up again! One can dream, right?

I like to think there are pluses to both methods of baby-wrangling, or else I wouldn’t have gone with them both. My biggest positives for babywearing are the bonding and the hands-free awesomeness. The stroller eases my mind that our older son isn’t running off while my husband or I are tending to the baby and will hopefully help with┬ábigger trips – I still remember being stroller-less at an amusement park on a super hot day last┬ásummer kicking myself at how exhausted the little guy looked. (He’s literally a very tall, big-for-his-age boy, so he’s never been much into being held and snuggled. Insert bummed mama face here.)

I’d love to hear what you guys think, though.

What’s your favorite method? A stroller? Jogging stroller? Umbrella? Double? What about babywearing?

What’s your favorite way to get out-and-about with your little one? I know every mama’s experience is super personal, so there’s no judging either way here – as always!

Before you know it, that creepy, spooky, super fun day will be upon us again! I’m not the biggest Halloween fan, but I do totally get it as far as the fun factor for kiddos is concerned. A day to play dress-up, socialize with neighbors (our super social 3-year-old LOVES talking to our neighbors…”stranger danger” is a work in progress), AND get treats? Why the heck not? Plus, the fact that my husband and I are involved in community theatre, the idea of creating a costume and putting on fun personas gets us excited.

We go the route of “use whatchya got” and “repurpose as much as possible” in our household. Since we try to live a pretty eco-friendly life, buying a one-time use costume seems like a waste of money and resources. (If you know your little one will get a lot of use out of that costume in their dress-up box, though, go for it!) Today, I’m sharing some of my tips for putting together a great DIY costume for little money, time, and waste!

halloween tips

Tip #1: Ask for your child’s input first. This isn’t possible with the wee ones (yay, Mommy and Daddy get cart blanche!), but it’s best to get their opinion. We’ve actually asked our three-year-old for months what he’d like to be. Not too surprisingly, it hasn’t really changed: he wants to be an old-school ghost. Not too creative, but he’s excited about shouting “BOO!” and thinking that he’s actually scaring people.

If you know they’ve repeatedly said the same costume idea over and over, that’s what you’re aiming for. If they’ve changed their mind a million times, ask them for a final say, once and for all. And, don’t be afraid to combine ideas that they can’t seem to decide between. Who doesn’t love a cool, creative idea like a princess clown? This is their time to be heard.


Tip #2: Find some inspiration.
Just because you’re putting together a DIY costume doesn’t mean it needs to look shoddy. (Although, there’s nothing wrong with looking “homemade”!) I like to take a quick spin around Pinterest to see what ideas they have that may make the process easier. Seriously, knowing that a traditional “sheet” ghost costume will equate to lots of tripping up and down stairs and possible lack of vision, I was hoping they’d have some better ideas for me. And, guess what! My son’s costume DOESN’T have to be a safety hazard. Whodathunk?

Layer white tulle over a long white shirt - smart! And a plain black mask to still get the ghost look without having a sheet over your kids' head. Craft, Interrupted: BOO! A Homemade Ghost Costume.:
babyboyhalloweencostumes.com

Plus, this gives you a chance to show your little ghoul an image of what their costume may look like. It definitely takes the “I didn’t WANT it to look like THAT!!!” bickering to a minimum when the big day rolls around.

Tip #3: Break it down. Analyze the costume. Sometimes it’s just a simple, one-piece affair. Other times, there are several components to put together. Figure out whether or not you already have the items on-hand (whether in your child’s wardrobe, your OWN wardrobe, or your dress-up box, if you have one). In our ghostly case, I’d like a black mask, a white cap (isn’t that stinkin’ adorable?!), some white layers, and black pants (or striped tights) and shoes. I try to take into account the fact that our weather can range from darn-near-snowing to just-need-a-light-jacket, so the more layers, the better.

As far as what we have on-hand, we really only have the black sweatpants that would work fine (although I’ve also found the striped tights on sale, so it’ll probably be a down-to-the-wire weather decision), but the rest of the stuff I’ll need to figure out. No big! We’ve got this.

Tip #4: What can serve double-duty? Anytime we buy anything, especially kid-related, we ask ourselves if it’s a one- or multi-purpose item. In this case, I’d rather not use Thomas the Train sneakers to go with a ghost costume (we’re nothing if not thorough in our theatre-loving family). So, since I like to have two comfy pairs of sneakers around, anyway, I’ll use the excuse to find some cheap black sneakers on sale.

I also know that a homemade felt black mask will get TONS of use in our dress-up box beyond its ghostly purpose, so I’m excited to put that together. The white hat will also find its way into the box, so the only thing that might not be multi-purpose will be the layers of white. But, then again, you never know what the little guy’s imagination may come up with!


Tip #5: Keep it thrifty!
Next, it’s time to hit up our local thrift shop! For us, that means Salvation Army and Goodwill. You could also put out a sweetly-worded request for the items out for your friends on Facebook; you never know what another family already has sitting around and can loan your way. Some of my favorite costumes as a child came from a family friend whose kids had gorgeous hand-sewn costumes in their dress-up box! (Hello, Laura Ingalls Wilder!)

When I hit up a thrift store for this costume, I’m looking for WHITE and, hopefully, over-sized. So, of course this means checking out the adult sections for a white shirt or sweatshirt to cut down to size. I also check out the rest of the store just in case I find something in, say, the bedding area (a sheet, curtain, or pillowcase, perhaps) that might help the costume out.

Tip #6: Sew simple. In my case, I lucked out and found a ladies’ long-sleeved white t-shirt that I’ll hem the arms. It’s not long enough to go past his knees, but I’m thinking a white pillowcase (with arm and head holes cut in) will work great. If I feel like grabbing gauze, I will, but it’s not a “must”. So, all the sewing I’ll be doing is the arms (unless I cut them at a zig-zag and call it a day), and the rest is just cutting. Don’t worry if you’ve never sewn before; Halloween costumes are GREAT practice, and often you can even get away with using a fabric glue or iron-on fabric tape to adhere things.

halloween

Tip #7: It’s not about perfection. Actually, that felt-and-glue route is exactly what I did last year. See the little guy’s not-puffy-enough apple costume (which he had requested for months)? He didn’t care a bit that it hardly resembled an apple; he loved it. I used markers on felt to draw a cute worm and “organic apple” sticker (we’re cheeky like that), threw on a gifted knitted apple hat, his green corduroys, and used a 50-cent bushel basket (which I now use for decorating around the house) for candy collecting, and he was happy as a clam.

And, in the final analysis, isn’t that what matters? A fun time with a fun, doesn’t-have-to-be-perfect costume? We think so.

What are your kiddos going as for Halloween this year? Are you going the store-bought route (no shame in it!) or handmade? I can’t wait to hear those ideas!

names

The name you choose for your little bundle of joy is kind of a big deal, right? There are so many factors to consider when trying to make the right choice. What’s it mean? Does it go with your last name? Does it hold sentimental significance? Is it too weird? Is it too common? Will it suit them for the REST OF THEIR LIFE?! How many syllables? (Seriously, some people find this terribly important.) Does it go with their sibling’s names?

Some of these factors, people don’t find to be very important. Others hold more clout. Then, there are those times when you and your significant other don’t necessarily agree — not just on the names, but the “why”s behind the names.

Our first son’s name is “Hadley Allston” (Allston is my deceased father’s middle name that goes way back). We pretty much adore his name as much as we adore him. Since we didn’t find out his gender beforehand, we went into the hospital with a handful of names for both a female and male, plus a couple of possible middle names. It may have driven our families nuts (and, in this case, definitely caused an eyebrow raise or two), but we kept them all pretty much locked up tight in advance. When the little (big, 10+ pounder) guy was born, all the other names flew out of our brains. His face just emanated “Hadley.” We feel we nailed it, head-on, with his name.

Even those who were doubtful upon hearing his name on Day #1 have come to say, “No, he’s a Hadley. He just is. No other name suits him.” It’s a general consensus. Thank God and whew. Not that it matters that family and friends deem it an acceptable name; it just helps. We still get strangers who respond, “Uuuummm…okay.” But, who cares? ­čśë

The fact that we feel “Hadley” hit it out of the ballpark puts the pressure on for Baby #2. We haven’t pored over the baby name book quite as thoroughly (we actually did the activities in the book our first time; this time, we’re just perusing the name dictionary part), and while I’m not feeling a huge sense of urgency about tightening up our current list, my husband totally is.

Our challenges? I look at everything. If the name has a meaning that’s really cool (or, at the very least, doesn’t mean “steaming pile of feces in the yard”…you get the gist), I’m more apt to be on board for it. Same goes for origin: since I have an ancestry with Welsh/Irish/English roots, I gravitate in that direction. If it’s got too many syllables or doesn’t sound good with our kind of unusual last name, I’m out. Add to that the fact that I’m an educator, and it cuts our list down tremendously.

My husband, on the other hand, doesn’t think any of those things is really important. He doesn’t care as far as ancestry is concerned (he likes to say he just feels “American”). He seems to have more of an organic way of picking ones that just sound good to him. And I can respect that. I just feel awful when he mentions one and I immediately shoot it down: “I have three of those in kindergarten as we speak.”

So, our criteria, at present?

– Not too common, but not too “out there.”

– Not a name I’ve taught before. (Or, at the very least, only once and they have to have been a good kid. I’m weird.)

– Should have at least a good flow with our last name. (There’s one my husband LOVES, but I just don’t think it sounds good with our surname. Just doesn’t.)

– If it could be slightly Anglo, that’d be great. (My husband has even taken to saying, “Hey, nudge nudge, this one’s even Irish!” He knows my soft spot, what can I say?)

– Compliment “Hadley.” (Not rhyme, or necessarily start with the same letter, but be in a similar “family”, if that makes any sense at all.)

So, the list-making continues. Our fingers are crossed that, come November, this baby’s face will do exactly what his/her big brother’s did: sneak us the answer.

Did you guys have much trouble naming any of your children? What criteria was super important to you? Did you use any cool books or tools to help you figure it out?