Archive for the ‘Parenting & Marriage’ Category

One Easy Way to Encourage Your Child’s Imagination

Monday, August 11th, 2014

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

One Easy Way to Encourage Your Child's Imagination via MomAdvice.com

A couple months ago I posted this on Facebook:

“Annalyn gets so into character when she plays make believe that when she says, in a panic, “Mom! Where’d you put our helium tank?” I actually think, “Hmmm…where DID I put that helium tank?” (Guys, WE DON’T HAVE A HELIUM TANK.)”

Now, believe me when I tell you that I do not take credit for all the amazing characteristics my daughter has. Just like her strong will and curly hair, some things just came with her. And her vivid imagination and flair for the dramatic are two of those things.

[I suppose I could take credit and/or blame for those things, since they certainly came from my gene pool. But it's not like I intentionally passed on those traits anymore than I did my green eyes or seasonal allergies.]

However, I did recognize early on the benefit of encouraging my daughter’s imagination – and one simple trick has helped me more than any other. Ironically, it’s something I can’t do well in any other area of my life, but when it comes to pretend play with my kiddo, I’m all over it.

Like I’ve mentioned before, I’m not always the most FUN person. I’m practical and grounded and realistic. I think fast and I’m able to see what will work and what won’t, and I have a low threshold for the ridiculous. This is exactly what led to a lecture from my manager at the advertising agency I worked at following a brainstorming lunch. That’s another story for another time, but let’s just say I wasn’t exactly the best team player during that meeting. (In my defense, though? Their ideas were insane.)

ANYWAY.

My first reaction to silliness is to squash it, but that’s not the kind of mom I want to be to my girls. So as I’ve noticed my oldest daughter’s love of acting and pretend play grow stronger, I’ve worked hard to encourage her (and to be a little more fun). Though I mostly just reminisce about my role as Glinda the Good Witch when remembering my days in high school theater, I also learned a little about improvisational acting back then.

Encourage Imagination: Playing Dress Up via MomAdvice.com

When participating in an improv exercise, you should never deny your fellow actor. This rule is the cornerstone of improv and, while never denying your child wouldn’t exactly be a wise strategy for parenting, going along with my daughter’s pretend play every chance I can has become nearly second nature.

The first rule of improvisational theater (improv) is to say, “Yes, and…” Accepting the premise one actor offers (the “yes”) and then building on it (the “and”) is the best way a scene develops. This Mad Lib-ish strategy can lead to hilarious results – and a lot of fun for your children. For example:

Child:  We’re going to the circus today.
Mom: Great! Do you think we’ll see some elephants there?
Child: Of course we will. I’m the elephant trainer.
Mom: That’s right. That’s why we have elephants living in our back yard.
Child: Yes, and when it rains they sleep in my bed.
Mom: Sure they do – and they always leave peanut shells on your pillow!

See how much fun that is? And, at least at my house, a pretty drastic break from the norm! So even though fun and silly and pretend don’t come to me naturally, I’m learning to take that old theater lesson and put it into practice at home.

That means that these days, when my daughter runs into the house, jabbering about the fairies she found in the big tree in the back yard? I “yes, and” her. I ask her how many fairies she found and what they’re named and what color their dresses are. And, of course, I ask her if they can fly. And when we’re driving in the car, and she leans up toward the front seat and says, “Mom! Hand me the tools, please,” well, it usually only takes me a couple seconds to switch [mental] gears, realize she’s pretending, and pass the wrench and hammer to the back seat.

I’m pretty sure she’s not actually building a roller coaster back there.

How do you encourage your child’s imagination and creativity?

 

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Make the Most of Your Marriage by Making Memories

Monday, July 14th, 2014

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Improve Your Marriage by Making Memories via MomAdvice.com

My husband and I have friends who have known each other their entire lives. I’m not even exaggerating. They have a photo of themselves as toddlers, playing together. And sometime in their early childhood, they reportedly were married in someone’s backyard or living room.

{Of course, the photo above is not the famous one of my friends. But it IS their son with my daughter, and I figure I better keep it in a safe place just in case they end up marrying in 20 years or so!}

Though I joke about being a child bride anytime someone asks how long I’ve been married, I didn’t actually meet my husband until my sophomore year of high school. Still, that was obviously a LONG time ago – and means this year marks 15 years of marriage and 20 years of being a couple. We’ve known each other for longer than we didn’t.

All that time together means a lot of things. It means baggage and patterns and finish-your-sentence arguments. But it also means inside jokes and stories and finish-your-sentence-in-a-good-way. We’re working on those bad habits and same old arguments, but I’m also convinced that focusing on the memories we’ve made together can do just as much good for our marriage.

—————

Earlier this year our pastor spoke about improving relationships. He cited a study where new couples and established couples were observed eating dinner. Younger couples talked for the majority of an hour spent together, while couples married for several decades only spoke to each other for a few minutes out of an hour.

A few minutes?! Yikes! I think that goes well beyond “comfortable silence” that can seem like paradise after a day with noisy kids or chatty co-workers.

As I’ve thought about these two things (knowing my husband for 20 years and older couples not having anything to say to each other), I’ve wondered if one will affect the other – and how we can avoid becoming silent senior citizens who are more interested in their meatloaf than their marriage.

Improve Your Marriage by Making Memories via MomAdvice.com

Since my marriage hit a low point a couple years ago, I’ve learned so much – about marriage, about my husband, about myself. I’ve read countless articles and books; we’ve spent hours (and dollars, SIGH) on counseling. I now have a much better grasp on our love languages, on love and respect, on the importance of date nights and being on the same team.

In short, I’ve learned how much WORK marriage is.

And it is. But it’s also a lot of fun!

Or . . . it’s supposed to be.

As a mom, a type A personality, a [recovering] perfectionist, an oldest child, I’m not always very FUN. I’m responsible and organized (sometimes), I get things done, and I take care of people and business. But fun? Not so much.

After 20 years I forget too often how much fun I can have with my husband. But taking time to reminisce every now and then reminds me that one of the most fun parts of my marriage IS the fact that we’ve known each other so long. We’ve grown up together, and our lives are enmeshed in a thousand ways. Our families, our jobs, our homes, our friends – all of it is connected in one way or another.

Every time we visit our hometown or old friends, I remember how it felt back in the day, how much we laughed, how amusing (and not annoying) I found his teasing, how my shoulders didn’t hunch and my jaw didn’t clench with the stress of the everyday. And I remember being in love – young love, early love, no-real-responsibilities love.

As we walk down memory lane – whether literally at his dad’s farm or figuratively with a yearbook, scrapbook or long-forgotten mix CD – something special happens. We smile a bit more, we laugh out loud a lot more, and my heart just feels warmer toward him in general. Reminiscing is good for my relationship.

I don’t think this is restricted to couples who grew up together. No matter how long you’ve been married, you’ve created memories with your husband.

  • That place you met – or had your first date
  • That song you danced to
  • Those photos of your funniest faces or fanciest prom outfits
  • Your favorite movies – and movie quotes
  • The inside joke you can share with just a wink or raised eyebrow
  • Those friends you double dated with back then

Remembering those things together will help you recall the sweetness of young love and also remind you of your heart connection. And it might just help you remember how to be a little more fun!

Of course, as I think about those older couples with nothing to say during dinner, I’m even more determined to keep making those fun memories. I ask him if he’s heard a new song that I think he might enjoy as much as I do, we binge-watch a TV show together, we plan vacations and take last-minute road trips. We pass notes in church (shhh! don’t tell!), and we take those obnoxious-to-everyone-else selfies when we manage to get a date night.

We make memories – so we have something to look back on, no matter how old we get or how many dinners we share.

Reminisce with us today. What’s one of your favorite memories of your husband?

Photo source

 

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Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

As my children grow older, I strive to find more meaningful ways to celebrate holidays. The 4th of July has always been a burst of red, white, & blue through our home, but I can’t say that we have ever spent time together discussing the importance of this day and getting to know the heroes behind what makes the 4th of July so special. Today I want to share with you a fun way you can share about the 4th of July Heroes in your home and a fun way to incorporate their images in your home to make the day more meaningful and festive.

I partnered with Walmart on this project and all the materials you need for this can be found at their store.

To begin, you can select your 4th of July Heroes that you want to talk about. I found this great list for kids that I used to select our heroes to focus upon. I then headed to Wikipedia and found images of each of our heroes and converted them to black & white and saved them on my computer. If you would like to use the same heroes as us, here are the heroes we selected for our project.

George Washington

George Washington

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

John Hancock

John Hancock

Crispus Attucks

Crispus Attucks

John Adams

John Adams

Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Once you have your heroes selected, head to the Walmart Photo Site and upload the images there. In addition to having 1 of each image printed in 4×6, also add 1 set of wallets for each person.  If you send these to the one-hour lab, it will be less than $6 for all of them. While you are there, you can also pick up a package of mini-clothespins, a set of notecards for your kids to write on, supplies for this easy flag bunting, and this burlap wreath to decorate with. Since I already had these things in our home, it helps cut down on cost and storage for us this year.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Once you have your images, have kids select which person they are interested in discovering and have them find information about their 4th of July heroes. I challenged my kids to find one or two facts about each hero.  We also read about the first 4th of July and how different is from how we celebrate today.

I am embarrassed to say that I was learning right along with my children and soaking it all in as much as they were. Abigail Adams, for example, was one of our favorite people we learned about. Did you know that she had five kids that she cared for and homeschooled while her husband was away serving his country?  Not only was she passionate about women’s rights, but she was also passionate about equality for all people, whether they were black or white. She helped care for the soldiers in her home (feeding them and treating their injuries), and she even learned how to make her own gunpowder. Emily and I are big fans of Abigail Adams now and all she did for our country.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Likewise, my son loved John Adams and his fun fact was that he thought his teachers, “held him back.” Despite being held back from his true potential in grade school, he passed his entrance exams to Harvard and his parents, who were farmers, gave up several acres of their own farm land to pay for John’s schooling. And, boy, did that pay off! John Adams strongly supported independence from Britain, signed the Declaration of Independence, and negotiated the treaty ending the Revolutionary War. He later became the nation’s first vice president and second president.  This led to a great discussion about recognizing our true potential when sometimes others do not.

Did you know that Dr. Martin Luther King referenced Crispus Attucks in one of his speeches? He held him up as an example of black patriotism at the beginning of our nation’s history. Yet, we never knew anything about what he did for our country. I’m so glad we know now.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids
Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

If you have smaller kids, you can share simple facts and have them draw pictures. Clearly, the fact that Abigail Adams rocked it as a mom and had five kids was worthy of a picture. Make this time fun for your kids while acknowledging the sacrifices that so many gave up for our freedom.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

Once we were done discussing our heroes, I incorporated these pictures into our holiday decor. I pulled some of the flags off of our bunting and switched them with pictures of our heroes.  I took the items off of my burlap wreath and clipped the wallet images with mini clothespins on the wreath. I hung this in the center of our mirror and added the flag & hero bunting around the frame of the mirror.

Celebrating 4th of July Heroes With Kids

I love these touches to our 4th of July decorating, but I love even more that my kids know about these patriotic heroes.  I hope this idea inspires you to learn more about this holiday and the heroes who made this day possible for all of us.

Happy 4th of July, friends!

walmart_mom_disclaimer

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Planning One-on-One Time with Kids

Monday, June 9th, 2014

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Spending One-on-One Time with Kids at MomAdvice.com

“I just . . . feel like you don’t pay any ATTENTION to me!” she wailed.

My six-year-old daughter, folks – the drama queen. Just half a dozen years under her belt, and already she’s a master manipulator, saying the words that cut deepest in my mama’s heart. I often ask my husband where on earth she could possibly get these traits – and then pretend not to notice when he stares at me pointedly.

Yes, it’s true we are a melodramatic bunch in my house, but despite the crocodile tears and bedtime delay strategies, I know there’s truth in my daughter’s complaint. We had a baby in January, and after being an only child for six years, my oldest daughter is having a rough time with the adjustment.

Don’t get me wrong! She LOVES her baby sister. Like, crazy over-the-top adores her. But she still has felt overlooked and underfed, at least in the attention department, and has found lots of ways to let me know. Even though her methods (and method acting!) irritate me, I’m thankful she’s spoken up so my husband and I know she needs a little extra assurance that we love her just as much as the tiny baby everyone keeps fussing over.

I know that so much of good parenting is being intentional, setting specific ideals and goals for our families and then following through. But man, oh man, is that ever difficult when you’re tired! And if there’s ever a time for being tired, it’s when a new child enters our homes and throws everything – sleep, meals, family dynamics – into chaos. Still, this is important.

So what’s a tired mom to do when one of her kids feels left out? Make a plan, of course! Okay, maybe a plan isn’t the obvious go-to solution for all of your problems, but if there’s one thing that makes me feel better about life, it’s a solid to-do list or outline. Or chocolate. So maybe there’s more than one thing…

ANYWAY.

Though I love plans and lists, I didn’t foresee this issue the way I did meal planning and grocery shopping. So while I spent my last trimester shopping, cooking and freezing in bulk, I neglected to plan ways to make sure my older daughter felt loved after we brought home her baby sister.

That’s okay, though! It’s never to late to make a parenting plan, and besides, your kiddos might be feeling overlooked for any number of reasons (not simply as a result of a new baby in the family). So let’s make a new plan together.

Planning One-on-One Time with Kids

My approach to planning one-on-one time with kids is three-fold:

First, I make sure we connect every day. Whether that’s an extra bedtime story or snuggling in the morning before anyone else wakes up, adding to our gratitude journal during dinner or discussing the latest kindergarten “gossip” in the car on the way home from school, I make sure to look her in the eye, hold her hand and listen to her heart. That seems like the bare minimum, I know, but slowing down enough to really connect with the people we love most can fall by the wayside easily on busy days if we’re not intentional.

Secondly, I ask my daughter for her opinion and input about family activities. When it’s appropriate, of course! I certainly don’t check with her before paying the bills or planning a date night with my husband. But occasionally, she gets to choose what we have for dinner (and then, ideally, help me fix it) or what movie we watch on a Friday night.

And on the day after school ended in May, we went to lunch for a “summer planning meeting.” I told her when she’d be attending summer school and theater camp, and what days she would spend with a babysitter or grandparents. But then I asked her who she’d like to invite over for playdates and what special summer activities she wanted to add to our list. (Sidewalk chalk paint, s’mores and a family game night, in case you’re wondering!) She loved feeling like her opinion mattered as we made our summer plans (and bringing her notebook to Chick-Fil-A for our “lunch meeting” pretty much made her day).

Finally, we plan dates. Sometimes it’s an actual outing:

- going to a movie
- getting ice cream cones
- shopping for a new outfit

But other times, it’s simply taking time to be together:

- reading an extra story at bedtime when the baby happens to fall asleep early
- walking home from school so we have more time to talk about her day
- letting her paint my nails
- having her tell me all about her make-believe superpowers and fairy princess friends

One-on-one time together doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. It doesn’t have to be fancy or formal, and you don’t have to spend hours on your city’s calendar of events or Pinterest to find the perfect activity.  Playing a round of Go Fish, making his favorite dessert together or playing catch in the backyard after dinner could be all it takes to make sure your kids remember that you think they’re special, all by themselves.

The point isn’t spending money or spoiling a kid who’s feeling underappreciated or overlooked. And sometimes, it isn’t even about spending hours and hours together, gazing into each other’s eyes or – even worse – wielding glue sticks and glitter to make the Pinterest-perfect craft that will prove your devotion and Mom of the Year status. It’s simply about showing your kids a little extra love when they feel unloved.

We all feel unloved at times, and our kids are no different. So whether it’s because of a new baby or a new house, overtime keeping you or your husband at work more than usual, or any stage when they need a bit more attention, making a plan to keep your relationship with them on track will go a long way.

And now I have to get busy typing up my daughter’s “Summer Plan,” because that was my action item after our lunch meeting and summer is already underway!

How do you spend one-on-one time with your kids? Have you ever made a plan to prevent one child from feeling neglected or overlooked?

Photo by Dave Parker

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Less Summer Selfies, More Self

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Less Summer Selfies, More Self

 

The thing I was most excited about when I got my first iPhone was the reverse camera. Finally, not only could I take pictures of my family, but I could be in them. And in them, I was. For the first time, the kids and I were in a photo together…a grainy photo with long arms and distorted faces, but I was in there. I loved getting to share these moments through social media and basked in the compliments. I no longer had to wait for my husband to come home to take a picture or lug out a tripod to capture a moment. We were there and we were in it together.

The thing is, sometimes in those moments, we get away from those moments. It is less about our kids, more about us.  The trend isn’t to post pictures of our kids at the park. It is mom at the park, the top of mom’s head at a historical monument on vacation, mom at the movies eating popcorn,  mom with her stressed face with the kids behind her.

A lot of mom.

A lot less moments.

A lot less kids.

This summer, I am challenging myself to less summer selfies, more self.  

Less Summer Selfies, More Self

Return to Being An Observer

You don’t need to be in the picture of a moment to know that you are there. If you want to capture the moment, turn the sound off on your phone and take a photo of your surroundings and your beautiful kids you made. Revel in the beauty of those moments and capture them as they are. Not posed. Not forced. Not necessarily you.

Ditching the phone altogether and actually lugging around that expensive camera you just had to have is also a great way to get back to being an observer in your life without the temptation to be in the shot. Although I love food photography, I struggle photographing my people sometimes. I am hoping that this commitment to getting back to being the observer will help me do a better job capturing those moments in better quality.

 

Less Summer Selfies, More Self

 

Get Back to Journaling Moments

I have gotten away from journaling, but I happened upon some of my old journals and scrapbooks from when I was a kid and it was a treasure box of memories. I reveled in capturing moments then and I always wrote everything down. I have let my blog be my journal, but I have those private moments that don’t need to be shared with the world that I want to remember forever. One journal that I got as a holiday gift is this One Line a Day Journal (affiliate link). In this journal, you can jot down one line a day, but on one page, you can look at a five year glance. It is a fantastic way to look at how you spent that one day out of the month over the course of five years. I want to start getting back to that and having these moments on paper for my kids. My worst fear is that they will never see or recognize my handwriting, as terrible as it may be.

I want to capture these moments, but not share them with the world.

Just them.

Less Summer Selfies, More Self

You Are Beautiful- You Don’t Need a Selfie To Hear That

You don’t need feedback from others to know that you are a beautiful mom and that you are doing a great job with your kids.  As I age, I find that we crave that feedback even more, as though our beauty is slipping. Perhaps, this is that midlife crisis business told through a daily selfie. We all work through these moments in different ways- I took up a dance class that makes me feel like I am five again as I stand at the barre. That’s my way of working through the aging process right now.

You know how you know you are beautiful? It isn’t by a million Instagram followers telling you that you are adorable, it is the work and the love you are giving to others and the reflection of that love in the eyes of your people. Giving to others is the biggest self-esteem boost ever. It is a natural high.

This blogging, it’s a tricky business. People want to see you, they want to know you are real. Brands want you to show off their stuff. They want YOU,  not a mannequin. And that is fine, for those business moments. I love showing off the wares of small business owners and helping support locally owned businesses. I share my haircut to hopefully get new clientele for a mom that is incredible at her job, I buy and wear a dress for another local mom who started her first small business, and yes, sometimes it feels good to be told that you are pretty. Who would not want to hear that?

The most touching thing I saw this week though was a Facebook feed full of beautiful words written and spoken by Maya Angelou. Not a negative word was said because this woman…she touched hearts, she shaped minds with her words, and she lived a life that I wish I could achieve a mere fraction of. She is beauty to me.

When I die, I hope that they won’t show a million selfies of me at my funeral. I hope that they will show a reel of all the people’s lives I impacted, including my amazing kids.

Because I want to give more self.

Less selfies.

selfie

 

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One Surefire Way to Improve Your Marriage

Monday, May 12th, 2014

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Improve Your Marriage - Mom Advice

Later this month I’ll celebrate my 15th wedding anniversary. As a matter of fact, come this October my husband and I will have officially been a couple for 20 years. Obviously that means a) we met at a VERY young age and b) I am a total expert when it comes to relationships.

Well, yes and no.

(Side note: I learned today that crystal is the traditional anniversary gift item of Year 15. And while I don’t anticipate receiving anything made of crystal this year, I also am happy to point out that crystal beats the traditional gift for the seventh wedding anniversaries: wool. Huh. Wool is the gift of choice for the year of the infamous seven-year itch? Surely THAT can’t be a coincidence! But I digress…)

Anyway.

While I’ve made it to my crystal anniversary and am happy to say my marriage is stronger than ever, I would never claim the title of relationship expert. I have much to learn and am thankful for the opportunity to keep doing just that. But even while I’m in the process of learning to be a better wife – to create lasting memories, healthy boundaries and open communication – I know there’s one surefire way to improve my marriage in an instant.

Are you ready? Here goes:

Say thank you.

Now, quit it! Don’t roll your eyes at me! Give me just one minute to explain this seemingly simple piece of advice.

I know – OH I KNOW – there are times when it’s easier to say thank you than others. Some days gratitude just spills out of us – whether it’s to the husband who gets the trash to the curb seconds before the garbage truck rolls around the corner or the one who holds our hand as we await results from that terrifying medical test. Little things to big ones force our thankful hearts to bubble over into our words, our faces, our touch – into everything.

But – and please believe me, I’m talking to myself here, too – isn’t the same true when we are LESS than thankful? When that husband we love so much insists it’s your turn (AGAIN.) to get up with the baby or forgets your anniversary or birthday or big-presentation-at-work day? When he doesn’t ask how your day went or isn’t thrilled to eat tacos (AGAIN.) for dinner? How thankful are we then? What overflows into our eyes and our conversations then?

For the first MANY years of my marriage, I offered my husband conditional love. In fact, I was convinced that he needed to earn my love, my appreciation, my gratitude.

You’re right. This was NOT the recipe for a happy marriage.

Once I realized that gratitude was the answer – and not just some irritating platitude of all the marriage conference speakers and cheesy plaque makers – my marriage began to change.

I’m not saying that expressing gratitude changed my husband. No, it changed me. It changed my heart and my perspective. When I focused on the things – something, anything! – that I appreciated about him, all of a sudden my Spidey Sense went alert for the good parts of the man I married instead of the mistakes and failings I’d been lasered in on before.

This isn’t easy. I mean, yes, sometimes it’s easy to look back on the day and recount all the wonderful ways my husband blessed me. But other days? Not so much. That’s what making this gratitude a habit is so vital.

In an era of “conscious uncoupling” (what the what??), why not make a stand for conscious coupling? Why not choose to be mindful of the things that still draw us to our husbands? Why not be intentional about choosing gratitude and choosing him?

Sure, fine, yes – but what does that even mean? Well, I think it looks different for every couple, but here’s what it looks like in my house:

Use your manners. Say thank you.

I know. I already mentioned this. But I know for me the first people to suffer my bad moods or exhaustion or stress or WHATEVER are my family. The people who I love most and deserve my best often get my leftovers – and when that happens, it certainly doesn’t include using my manners.

He passed you the bread? Say thank you. He helped your daughter with her homework? Say thank you. He brought in the mail? Say thank you. He rented the movie you suggested? Say thank you. For all the little things – the things you would thank a stranger for, perhaps – say thank you.

Keep a gratitude journal.

When we began doing this I really only meant to teach THE OTHER PEOPLE who live in my house to be more thankful. Obviously, I didn’t have a problem with it. Except – and I’m sure you saw this coming – it teaches me something, too. Every time. Taking time to be thankful, expressing gratitude on purpose somehow transforms us into more gracious, more appreciative people. Not just in the three minutes it takes to go around the table and share. No, when you know that you’re going to be asked to tell your family what you’re thankful for each day (or, in the more practical case of my family, each day that you remember to do it…which might be closer to once a week), YOU LOOK FOR THINGS TO BE THANKFUL FOR.

And so it goes with marriage. Before we even celebrate our 15th anniversary, I’ve decided what I’m giving my husband for our 16th. I’m committing to writing down something I’m thankful to him for EVERY DAY (or, again, every day I remember – but I’m really shooting for every single day!). Then after a year and more than 300 thanks recorded, I’ll have an amazing gift to give him (which certainly beats hollow silver items, apparently the traditional gift for everyone’s 16th anniversary – YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP!).

End your day with thankfulness.

Whether you climb into bed together or not, why not make your last words of the day to your husband ones of thankfulness? My husband works nights, so I often text him a good night message before I hit the hay. Though he’s never mentioned the days I make sure to thank him for getting up early to play with the kids or grilling chicken for dinner or attacking the weeds around the front porch, I can’t imagine it hurts. (Plus, he’s a man of few words…unless the topic involves sports or cars or work…) And now that I think of it, I need to do this more often.

Our schedule is crazy; yours might be, too. Some days are so busy we barely see each other and my thank you might be for something more big-picture, like Thank you for loving our girls. or Thank you for working so hard at your job.

I realize that not every marriage presents opportunities for gratitude easily. And I definitely know from experience that every marriage goes through challenging seasons where you might have to look REAL hard for something to thank him for. But I sincerely believe – and I have seen it in my own life – that looking for the good (and then appreciating it) can go a long way toward improving your marriage, your outlook, your life.

What’s one thing about your husband that you’re thankful for today?

Photo by John Hope

 

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3 Rainbow Science Experiments for the Legends of Oz: Dorothy Returns Movie

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

*This post is sponsored by Clarius Entertainment. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

In honor of the upcoming animated film release, Legends of Oz: Dorothy Returns, I am sharing three fun rainbow experiments you can try with your kids. These rainbow experiments are not only fun, but also educational. Before we begin these rainbow crafts though, I have to share with you that I have two major obsessions that you might not know about.

The first is anything to do with Oz and the characters. If you don’t believe me, here is the only year I asked my kids to do my dream costumes… and the only year I ever got away with it.

Wizard of Oz Halloween Costumes

This was my dream Halloween year as a mom and my mother-in-law even helped make the costume for me. Basically, all perfect Halloween dreams come true.

I miss those days.

The other thing you should know is that I am an enormous fan of Lea Michele and anything and all things related to Glee. I run to a Glee playlist, I pretty much cry about every emotional thing on that show, I sleep in a Glee shirt (yes, I do!), and Lea is my favorite actress in it. When I heard that not only was a Legends of Oz movie coming out, but that Lea Michele was doing the voice of Dorothy for it, I was beside myself with excitement.

I will be first in line to buy my tickets. And I will probably pre-order my tickets at my theater. That’s how excited I truly am!

Legends of Oz: Dorothy Returns

In the animated film, Legends of Oz: Dorothy Returns, Dorothy is called back for another adventure in Oz.  After waking to post-tornado Kansas, Dorothy (Lea Michele) and Toto are whisked to Oz on a magical rainbow mover sent by their old friends the Scarecrow (Dan Aykroyd), the Lion (Jim Belushi) and the Tin Man (Kelsey Grammer). Time in Oz has passed much faster than back in Kansas, and Dorothy discovers that the Jester (Martin Short) – the devious brother of the Wicked Witch of the West – is taking Oz over one region at a time, holding their leaders captive and casting a pall of darkness over the beloved land. Even Glinda (Bernadette Peters) is unable to combat the Jester’s evil powers, making Dorothy their only hope.

When she arrives in Oz, Dorothy’s plan is to travel to the Emerald City to reunite with her old friends and join forces with them to stop the Jester. However, the yellow brick road isn’t quite as easy to follow this time around, especially with the Jester planting tricky detours to lead her astray, so she enlists the help of Wiser the owl (Oliver Platt), Marshal Mallow (Hugh Dancy), China Princess (Megan Hilty) and Tugg the tugboat (Patrick Stewart) to help find her way.

Since Dorothy is sent to Oz on a magical rainbow mover, we decided to try three rainbow experiments that you can do together in honor of the film!

 

Make a Liquid Rainbow

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

Supplies Needed

Olive Oil

Rubbing Alcohol

Dawn Blue Dish Detergent

Corn Syrup

Food Coloring (red & green)

Large Jar

 

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

Experiment

Let’s make a liquid rainbow in a jar.

1. To make our blue slowly pour 1 cup of blue dish soap down the side of your jar.  You want to make sure to do this slowly too so you don’t create any bubbles.

2. Next mix  1 cup of water with four drops of green food coloring. Mix well.  Tip your jar and slowly pour the water down the side of the jar.

3. Next pour one cup of oil carefully down the side of the jar to create your yellow.

4. Finally mix 1 cup of rubbing alcohol with four drops of red food coloring.  Tip your jar and slowly pour the alcohol down the side of the jar.

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

Results from our Liquid Rainbow

Out of all of our experiments that we performed, this was our favorite. Our yellow got a little bubbly, but everything else stayed true with separate colors. This is a great lesson for teaching your kids about density. The different liquids all have different densities. Density means how much “stuff” there is in something. Not the thing’s weight nor its size, but how many atoms it has in it.  In our liquid rainbow, the dish soap is the densest layer and sits at the bottom of the glass, then the water is next, then the oil (which happens to be thick and can’t mix with water), and then the alcohol is the lightest in density. We are impressed with this one!

Make a Milk Rainbow

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

Supplies Needed

1 cup of half & half or whole milk

Food coloring (in any rainbow of colors)

Dish soap

Experiment

Let’s make a milk rainbow!

1. Pour 1 cup of milk into the bowl

2. Add 3 drops of one color to the edge of the bowl. Repeat with two other colors, placed in the other edges of the bowl. Be careful not to mix or jiggle.

3. Squeeze a drop of dish soap in the center of the bowl.

4. Watch what happens to the colors when the soap is added.

Results from our Soap Rainbow

Does anyone sell real liquid food coloring anymore? We just had the gels so we found that the liquid fell to the bottom in our first experiment The second time around, the dish soap was already added so I made a little mixture of gel food coloring with the water and then we poured it into our bowl. It was amazing to see how the colors stayed separate with this dot of soap in the middle. We learned that the dish soap does not mix with the milk. The dish soap floats on top and spreads over the surface. As it spreads, it grabs the food color we dropped into it. Where the colors meet, they combine to form new colors. We also learned, don’t do this with just gel food coloring. It produces a muddy river when mixed.

Make Rainbow Roses

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

Supplies Needed

Roses

Knife & cutting board (this part is for the grown-ups!)

Food coloring (any color of the rainbow)

Water

Cups

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

Experiment

1. Trim  the ends of your roses under cool running water.

2. Have a grown-up cut the rose in half.

3. Fill glasses with water and lots of food coloring.

4. Stand roses up and take the two sections of the rose and place them in two different colors of water. Allow them to stand in this water for 24 hours.

Results From Our Rainbow Roses

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

Did you think it would look like this? These Rainbow Roses have been promised on Pinterest dozens of times when I am on there. No, our roses did not look like this at all. They, were just slightly tinted with color on the edges, and two of them died during the rainbow color attempt. It might be better to try this one with carnations or to not split the stems at all.

3 Rainbow Science Experiments

Nailed it!

Well, maybe not.

We still saw how the color traveled through the flower although it wasn’t as rainbow awesome as we had hoped.

Legends of Oz

We know we are guaranteed spectacular rainbows though when Legends of Oz: Dorothy Returns hits theaters, so we plan to catch a rainbow there with the whole gang! I am so excited to see it and can’t wait to hear what you think of the movie when it releases on May 9!

*This post is sponsored by Clarius Entertainment. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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When Mom Needs a Timeout

Monday, April 14th, 2014

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

When Mom Needs a Timeout | MomAdvice.com

“Mom? What’s for lunch? Mom? MOM! Hey! MOMMMMMMMMMMM! What. Are. WE. Doing. FOR. Lunch?!”

Before she could ask – or say my name – One. More. Time, I said, carefully and through gritted teeth, “I can’t talk to you right now. I do not have anything nice to say.”

We were driving home after church, after a week full of fighting and talking back and directly disobeying every big and little thing. We were headed home (by way of Taco Bell), after a morning full of arguing and interrupting the grown-up talk and smarting off in front of the pastor.

Though my newborn has started sleeping for a few more hours in a row overnight, I still feel like a stiff wind could knock me over – or at least lull me into a nap – most days. So fighting against a strong-willed six-year-old had worn me down.

This mama needed a time-out!

Wouldn’t it be nice if, every time we feel overwhelmed, we could escape to a place like that beach up there? {You know, like maybe the week after spring break? Or on snow day #472?}

Unfortunately, a beach vacay isn’t really in the cards every time I feel like pulling out my hair.

When Mom Needs a Timeout | MomAdvice.com

Last summer I wrote about wanting to run away. Just for a bit, just long enough to refill my emotional tank so I could face whatever chaos or challenge waited for me at home. On that particular day, I had dropped off my daughter at the babysitter’s house and driven straight to a diner, where I sat – alone – eating pancakes and avoiding a small-but-maddening kitchen renovation at home.

But even that feels luxurious – and impossible – some days. Sometimes you can get away, but sometimes you’re stuck in the house or without extra money or a babysitter or a couple hours to spend on yourself. That doesn’t mean you can’t take a break.

When you need a timeout and want to run away, here are a few things – some more luxurious than others! – you might try:

  • Light a candle. The one that smells so pretty and makes you breathe deeply and your shoulders relax, just a bit? Yep, put it way up high and out of reach of little hands if you must, but light that candle.
  • Schedule a manicure. Or a pedicure. Or a haircut. And then go to the appointment. Turn off your phone if you can stand it and just enjoy being pampered. Even if I’m using a coupon to get my hair trimmed at a discount salon, those two minutes of having someone else wash my hair seem awfully close to that beach paradise I long for!
  • Go to lunch. Call a friend – maybe one you haven’t seen in a while – and make plans for lunch. A little grown-up conversation can do wonders for the soul. (Or, if you’d rather, go eat that lunch on your own. Take a good book or your iPod, and enjoy the alone time!)
  • Go to the bathroom. Yes, I said it. I’m not telling you what you need to do in there! But if you can escape the kids for five minutes, walk into the bathroom and shut the door. Yeah, all the way closed.
  • Take a shower. What? You’re offended that I assume you didn’t already do this? Well, fine, you are a better woman than me! Seriously, I know that mom showers often get shorter and less regular during some phases of life. These days – living with a newborn – I feel good if I manage one every other day. But when I finally do step under the hot water, even if it only lasts for four minutes and 27 seconds? It. Is. Wonderful.
  • Take time for a quick workout. Or a chapter in that book you’ve been dying to read. Or the latest episode of your favorite show. And do it in the middle of the day. GASP! I know! Can you BELIEVE I said that? But seriously – despite our collective understanding that we should sleep when the baby sleeps and work our tails off when the toddlers nap, sometimes a mom just needs a break. Take yours.
  • Go shopping. Swing into Target and peruse the dollar spot. Or the clearance racks. You don’t have to buy anything. Sometimes just wandering around and looking at the pretty, clean, new things is enough to clear my mind. Likewise, much as grocery shopping can be a chore, doing it alone? Can feel like a two-week vacation.
  • Take the long way home. Sometimes after I drop off one daughter at school and the other at the babysitter, I don’t rush right home to begin working. Deadlines are pressing and emails are waiting for replies, but driving the long way home – while blaring something that is not children’s music – is what I need to decompress from a rough morning. On the flip side, I’ve been known to scoop up my daughter on non-work days, drive through Sonic for a cherry limeade during happy hour and sit in the kindergarten carpool line for an extra 15 minutes as my car-sleepy baby gives me a break.

What do YOU do when you need a timeout?

{Photo sources: johnmichaelmayer and miamism}

 

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Cheering for the Same {Marriage} Team

Monday, March 10th, 2014

From our marriage/parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Mary Carver, from Giving Up on Perfect, is truly the perfect voice for our marriage & family section of our site. I never had the right words to say on these topics, but what I love about Mary is that she has the *real* words to say on family & marriage. It isn’t easy and we all know that. I know you will want to share her posts with others as soon as you read them. I am thrilled she is sharing her heart here!
Cheering for the Same Marriage Team - MomAdvice.com

I have a newborn who doesn’t believe in sleeping through the night yet – or sleeping more at night than during the day, actually. And while I’ve heard of moms who can feed their babies while vacuuming or fixing lunch or knitting, I’m not nearly that coordinated.

All I can manage during those late-night feedings is to hold my phone and scroll through Facebook. Which means, of course, that I’ve taken every “What [Disney princess/Friends character/Muppet/arbitrary object {WHAT?!}] Are You?” quiz that exists.

{In case you’re wondering – and of course you are – I’m Lady Sybil from Downton Abbey, Leslie Knope from Parks & Recreation, Jessie from Saved by the Bell, Jerry from Seinfeld, Leonard from Big Bang Theory, Princess Leia, Hermione and Rumpelstilstkin. Don’t even ask me what that last one means. I don’t want to talk about it.}

Most recently I took the quiz asking which celebrity couple my significant other and I are. According to this highly scientific test, my husband and I “are” Barack and Michelle Obama, the powerhouse couple.

Ummm, okay?

Politics and pretend psychology aside, the definition of our spirit celeb couple had one good point:

Despite being two individual powerhouses, you make a perfect team.

I still don’t know about the powerhouse thing, but I do know that we’re at our very best as a couple when we function as a team.

Two years ago my marriage faced some major challenges. When crying and yelling about everything didn’t work, we spent our 13th wedding anniversary with a marriage counselor. I won’t tell you that we have a perfect relationship now, but we’ll celebrate our 15th anniversary in a few months in a much better, healthier, more loving place than we could have imagined two years ago.

And what changed us most was a lousy counselor and cheering for the same team.

Cheering for the Same Marriage Team - MomAdvice.com

At first our counselor seemed nice. But eventually we came to the conclusion that, as a counselor, she was actually kind of terrible. She asked bizarre questions, focused on the least important part of our discussions, and assigned us ridiculous homework. And each time we met with her, we had to remind her about our background, our problems and our progress.

So the counselor we saw wasn’t great. Coming to that conclusion with my husband, though? Kind of great.

See, throughout our relationship what has glued us together is the mindset that we’re in this thing together, that we’re on the same team. And we’d forgotten that.

Being on the same team means we fight together, not each other.

After years of unmet expectations and disappointments, we’d unknowingly worked ourselves into a combative relationship. It was me against him, and neither of us was winning.

But when we took time to reflect on our relationship – the good parts, too, not just the bad ones – we remembered that the times we’ve felt the closest are when we worked together on a project, when we faced a common “enemy,” when we cheered for the same team.

And nothing changed our attitudes about each other and our relationship faster than realizing THE TEAM WE NEEDED TO CHEER FOR WAS US.

At first simply attending counseling appointments and doing our homework together was enough to nudge us into the mindset of us-versus-the-world (and our problems), instead of me-versus-him.

Then, as we realized that neither of us liked our specific counselor (but we were determined to stick it out and glean what we could from our sessions), we remembered we were on the same team, facing down a weird therapist and a whole host of marital mountains we needed to climb together.

We started talking more, problem solving and coming up with ways we could fix this mess together. TOGETHER – that was the key word. The moment we abandoned our posts in the war between us and starting fighting FOR us instead, life changed. WE changed.

I’m not telling you that everything was roses and sunset walks after that. No, it was certainly a process – one that we’re still working through – and a strategy that even now, we have to remind ourselves to use instead of falling back into old habits and turning on each other at the slightest provocation.

We have to remind ourselves which team we’re cheering for.

I’m thankful for that counselor, even though she was far from what we initially hoped for. I’m grateful our sessions with her reminded us that we are in this together – and that we are fighting for this, for us, together.

What helps you remember that you and your spouse are on the same team?

{Photos by istockphoto and chase_elliott}

 

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How to Find & Write Pen Pals

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

How to Find & Write Pen Pals

Pen Pals are a beautiful thing in a digital age where pen, paper, the process of writing, and waiting are so hard in our fast moving culture. Today I wanted to share about our experience with finding and writing pen pals that I hope will inspire you to find a pen pal of your own for your child after hearing about our experience.

How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals

Walmart challenged me to come up with a fun Spring Break activity for kids and finding a pen pal for my children is something that I have thought a lot about doing. We found items in their office supplies section like writing tablets (for big and small children), pretty note cards, and freshly sharpened pencils. With these arsenal of tools, we are now ready to begin a new adventure for our kids.

How Do You Find a Pen Pal?

Finding a pen pal is oh-so-easy thanks to social networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I posted on my Facebook page that we were looking for children in our child’s age range that did not live in the United States to be pen pals with. Within minutes, we had many people replying about friends and family that lived in other countries with kids just around our age.

Of course, if finding someone living out of the states is harder to come by in your inner circle, consider just finding families that live in other parts of the United States. A child shivering in the polar vortex of Indiana, for example, might find a child’s life in Florida or California quite inspiring!

How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals

Encourage Your Child to Craft a Great Letter

Writing letters not only improves our vocabulary and spelling, but it also helps teach children about the give and take of conversation.

Talk with your child about crafting a great introduction about themselves and how to weave in questions to find out more about their new pen pal. When my daughter asked me if her pen pal had glasses, I told her that this would be a great question to ask her so she could look forward to her response.

How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals

Have Your Child Explore Their Pen Pal’s Town

It is easier than ever to learn more about where someone else lives thanks to Google’s Street View and Wikipedia. Although there was no street view for our pen pal, who resides in Greece, we were able to take a peek at pictures of landmark items in her country and read facts about where she lived.

Knowing information like this helps to build those initial letters as you get to know more about each other.

How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals How to Find & Write Pen Pals

Send Your Letters Off

Once we were done writing our letter, we got to practice addressing an envelope and then added a few decorative touches to the back of our envelope for our new friend.

Although we ran our letter out to our mailbox at home, a great Spring Break activity might be to take that letter to the post office and make it feel even more, “official,” when sending it.

Now we must wait patiently for our response from our new friend and when she writes back, it will be a happy day, indeed!

How to Find & Write Pen Pals

I hope this inspires you to find a few pen pals of your own. And as double inspiration, here is my childhood pen pal. We met at church camp and became best friends through our letters back and forth. I remember that sweet anticipation of the mail dropping through the mail slot of our home and ripping them open to read, then reread, then reread again the precious words from my friend. 25 whopping years later, she is still my best friend for life.

I already told Emily to save her money and hopefully she will have a friend like that in her pen pal who she can visit someday! You just never know- we certainly never did! I shall be very jealous of her trips to Greece, should that happen!

Here’s a little video we put together of Emily’s first pen pal letter! I hope you enjoy it and I would love to hear if you had a pen pal and what they meant to you?

 

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