Thursday, December 17, 2015

Celebrate Christmas with Cocktails, Cigars, and Experiences.

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Scandinavian Tobacco Group, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #masteryourblend” 

One of the biggest challenges of this {and every} holiday season, is finding the right gifts for those that we love.

When I think of gifts, I think of love language. It's a way for us to show someone how much we care. It's a way to give back a token of our appreciation to another person. It's a way for us to communicate and to give thanks. To help those in need. To shower those we love. And to indulge in giving back. And it doesn't necessarily have to cost a lot, or even cost anything at all. Gift giving is all about the meaning behind the gift. And gift giving doesn't necessarily have to be things. From cocktail and cigar parties, to tickets to a sports game, and a coupon book including a golf trip with the guys. It's the meaning behind the gifts.

For us, Andrew and I have always been big on gifts. We used to buy each other extravagant gifts around this time of year in celebration of the holidays, his birthday, and our anniversary. But after having children, owning a home, and needing money to go into more important places, we definitely took a step back when it came to presents. Instead, we chose presents that were more meaningful, that didn't necessarily have to be an actual item, and that often times consisted of us spending quality time together. Because let's face it, parents don't get enough of that when they are busy at home taking care of the little ones. And to be honest, I love those gifts even more.

I know that men tend to be the more difficult category for shopping, and it's a struggle in our family to find the right gifts for the men in our lives, but I am here to tell you that it is possible. Even for those that you think may already have it all. And the best part about it is that they aren't the typical gifts you may be used to seeing.

Here are a few of my favorite things to gift:

1. Gift Basket: These are always fun to open up, and I love to do these specifically for my dad and my husband. Things that can be included in this gift basket: Cubero Cigars, chocolate, shaving gel, cologne, bottle opener, a lighter, gift cards, and anything else that is small but useful.

2. Cocktail and Cigar Party:
A fun way to celebrate with friends is by throwing a party. Getting dressed up in the fanciest of clothes, having the most delicious of appetizers, Christmas music jamming in the back yard, and of course lots of cocktails and Cuberos to go around. I love that you can pair these flavored cigars with your favorite drinks. Instead of spending money on buying your husband an actual gift, give him instead the experience and laughter that he will enjoy the most with the best company.
To sign up for free coupons and to find a retailer near you visit Cubero Cigars website here.  


3. Tickets: I love the idea of gifting someone an experience. Whether that be to a comedy show, an opera, or movies and popcorn {one of my favorites}.

4. Sports: Another experience that you can share with the person. You can either gift them a night out with the guys, or you can join them and act like you completely love it! {I'm not a huge football fan, but for my husband, I can definitely turn into one!}.  

5. A vacation: Love this idea of completely ditching the effort of buying something to open, and instead using that money that you would have spent on each other to take a little vacation.

6. A night out: If you can't plan a vacation to getaway, then a night out away is something I know that my honey always appreciates. We usually do a dinner at our favorite restaurant, a comedy show afterwards, and then spend the night in a hotel. It sort of makes us feel young again!

7. Coupon book: I gifted my husband one of these one year, and he adored it! He loved to use the cute funny ones {don't take the trash out today}, as well as the fun ones {take the day to go golfing!}

No matter the gift, no matter the dollar amount spent, it's being together and enjoying ourselves that means the most to us. I could color my husband a picture, send him on a scavenger hunt to a surprise, or just steal him away and plan a night out, and I know that he would be just as please as if I booked an extravagant romantic vacation for just the two of us. The thought and meaning behind the gifts doesn't change based on how big or small they are.

It took me a long time to understand this concept. But I get it now. I really get it. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Learning to let go. Learning to let my kids

When Elliana was 4 months old, I remember sitting at night reading a blog post written by an experienced mom of 4. She talked about a woman who had let her child have a candy bar at the checkout and how this type of parenting was frowned upon. It was giving in. It was letting the child win. It was essentially lazy parenting.

I knew it was judgmental. The tone was harsh. The message seemed wrong. Yet, I took mental notes, reminded myself to never do such thing, and went along to the next post about motherhood.

I read a lot in those early days.

A lot of posts of what to do and what not to do. How to raise good children, and how to raise spoiled children. The way you teach children, and the way you neglect them. There was seriously a blog post for every parenting decision out there. And in a way, I thought this was actually... helpful to us new moms. I believed it was helpful. I thought that we, the new moms, were at an advantage. Advice at our fingertips. Resources just a click a way. Experiences witnessed, shared, and learned from.

But I was wrong. It led me to be a parent I never wanted to be. It led me to focus on the things I never wanted for my children. It painted an image for me of motherhood that was far from rewarding. But in the eyes of others, it was perfection.

I didn't want perfect out of my child. I didn't want to be perfect myself. I wanted more than anything to see happiness in our family. And I couldn't help but ask myself a very important question... since when did our society forget the most important part about childhood: letting kids be, well kids.

No candy. No bribery. No toys. No presents. No jumping. No running. No touching. Please share. Please clean. Please listen. Please be quiet.  Play nice, be gentle, and wait your turn.

I've said all those things, and I've regretted just about most of it all. And slowly I began to change. 

And if you were to walk into our home... this is what you would see:

They jump on furniture. They jump off it too. But they know that's not allowed in other people's homes, and they know that there is a potential to going to the hospital, and that if they make a mess with the pillows as their cushion when they jump.. that they better put it right back when they're done.

They  get treats at the checkout, or while walking through the store. Not every time, but definitely sometimes. But guess what? They also walk in the store with no problem. They stay next to me, they know to say excuse me, and they listen well. They even push their own carts around at Trader Joes, empty their stuff at the checkout, and then go to put the carts back.

They can touch stuff. I used to be so against this. And then I realized how crazy it was. They are so curious and so why not? They know they have to put things back where they found it, and they know that if we break something we buy it. But they touch, and they know, and so all is ok in the world.

They get rewarded with bribery. And we threaten {things will get thrown away}, and we tell fibs like: you drink that water, bugs will grow in your belly {the lake water}. And you know what, it's not going to kill them. How else do you think I convince my children to take family photos and to actually... smile? Treats!

They don't have to share all the time. At our house, the rule is that you wait your turn. If someone is playing with something, then you shouldn't expect them to give it to you to play with. Once you are done, then you can pass it to the next person. However, they also know that nothing in our home is "mine". All the things belong to all our family members.

They have ice cream almost every day. After dinner, pretty much if there is ice cream in the freezer, then they get it. They also know that they need to eat their fruit and vegetables, or no ice cream it is. And don't even get me started on chocolate and cheesecake for breakfast. Look, if I'm eating it, how fair is it for me to tell them no.

They watch TV almost every day. They get anywhere from 20-40 minutes of screen time on the TV, and a little on the ipad. They double that time in reading books and playing outside. And then there are days when we spend watching movie marathons. Those are fair game for any kind of "sick day."

Speaking of sick day, if they need a "day off" school {when they start going to school}, then they get a day off. There will never be such thing as a perfect attendance. My mom let us stay home about 6-7 times a year. And if your birthday fell on a school day, then a day off you got! Everyone needs a break from work, including our children. Needless to say, you can probably understand my stance on taking a "vacation" even in the middle of a school year.

They don't have a limit on presents under the tree. Because we put no limit on giving. We donate anywhere that is needed, and our trunk is always full during the holiday season. And so, I try to teach my children the power of giving to not only those in need, but also to those we love dearly. But you know what my daughter squealed with excitement about when she opened up her birthday present? UNDERWEAR!

They climb up the slide. When we are only with our friends at the park, or by themselves. But they know that when other kids are around, they need to be courteous and go up the stairs instead. I let them be monkeys at the park, and I watch from afar. I cringe every time that Graham climbs those large gap stairs up, but I've seen him do it many times, and I encourage him every time.

They have toys. I know this may sound like a strange one, but I read so many posts last year of this trend about taking all toys away from children and letting them depend only on their imagination. I mean... what. Yes, my kids have toys, and they can spend hours playing with them... but even with all the toys in the house, nothing compares to the hours spent playing Jake and the Never land Pirates.

They don't have to finish everything on their plate. In fact, they don't have to it at all. I simply ask that they try. I won't make a new meal for them, they may eat their fruit and vegetables, however, I do not force them to eat anything. They have to take a bite... and trust me when I say this... after "hating" it 20 times, after that 20th bite... they learn to one day love it. Look I don't love everything out there, so why should I expect my kids to? Everyone has different interests, likes, and desires. That includes children.

Look, I'm not here to compare my kids to your kids or his kids or her kids. What I'm trying to say is that I've started to let go, and I'm not longer ashamed of it. I've gone from the mom that said no so many times, that tried to be perfect in every way possible, that tried never to scream or say the wrong thing, give too much TV, or to have kids that actually made messes. I followed everything by the book. I followed those blog posts that I read, and I took those notes into action. And slowly, I became that mom that wanted my kids to look perfect in public, to get that stamp of approval from others, and to be a picture perfect family on the cover of a magazine. I've been that mom. I'm still that mom at times---the one so worried about what others think. But I find myself stopping in my tracks before I react, before I set high expectations, and before I make a mistake I regret.

The reason I write all this is because I am far from being that free-spirited parent that I so badly want to be. I'm getting there, I'm learning as we go, I'm trying my best to be open-minded, but I still admit that I struggle and that I am constantly learning. And I want you to know that you're doing okay. Whatever you are doing. That no matter what you read, what you see, or what others tell you... trust your instinct first. There is no "too much" or "too little" in the book of parenting. And when I'm still unsure of which direction to go... I go with my gut.

Trust your gut.

If it seems wrong, then it's wrong. If it seems right... then keep doing and never look back.

And so far... that's led me to the happiness that I was searching in motherhood for so long. No longer am I reading blog posts about how "time-out" is detrimental to children, and questioned whether we should or shouldn't do it. No longer am I reading posts about only doing 4 Christmas presents under the tree, and thinking that perhaps we need to change our ways. No longer am I wondering if we are harming our children in some sort of way by the way that we choose to say "yes" or how often we say "no." We just... PARENT. We go with it, day by day, moment by moment, child by child. We've made mistakes. We still make mistakes. We don't know what we are always doing, and we are always seeking to be better. But we just do.

And for us? It's working out.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Happy 5 baby girl.

***Forgot to post November 8th


I am sitting here with less than 48 hours until your birthday, thinking what do I write. more importantly, where do I write it. It only made sense to write it here. Where I will go to when you're heading off to school. The place I will seek when you tell me about your first crush. And the letters that I will read over and over the night before your wedding.

I know that this is a space that I have kept since the beginning of my pregnancy with you. Though much slowed down, it is still a journal of all our milestones that we have achieved. Together. My milestone of becoming a mother, and your milestones from smiling, to walking, to reading for the very first time.

We have had so many moments, and I just wish that I was better at this. Documenting our every day lives, videotaping our every day, and holding on to every little bit of who you are now. I know it won't accomplish anything. It won't slow down the time, or make you stop growing. In fact, I want you to keep growing. With you growing, it means that you are thriving, that you are living, that you are growing up. I can't wish for something for selfish reasons. I want to know the 5 year old Elliana, just as much as I want to know her at 10, 15, 20, and 30. Even if that means that I have to also let go of the 4 year old Elli.

So here we are. The big five. FIVE FINGERS. You hold up your entire hand now when people ask you how old you are. How do I have a 5 year old I ask myself?

The same way I wonder how it's possible I have three of you little ones. How lucky I am.

So let's talk about age 5.

At 5, you love gymnastics. You have been going since you were 26 months old {with a little break in between}, and you absolutely love it. You constantly talk about wanting to continue, and we are happy that you have found something you truly enjoy. We aren't looking for a trophy at the end of the day, or for you to be the best. We simply want you to have fun, to engage with others, and to try your ultimate best. That's all we care about. It's funny though because when your mom was little {hey, that's me}, she loved to do back hand springs, flips on the balance beam, and more. And I never took a single lesson either.

At 5, you love your brother and sister. A lot. From day one, you have always been an amazing sister. I mean you love your brother really hard. A lot. And even though we had a stretch of about 5 months there this past year where you two fought more than we would like you to, you guys are past that. You can play together for hours on end, pretend play, and are so sweet together. He calls you sissy, and I feel like that will be a forever thing. And then we have your sister, who is going to grow up absolutely adoring you and looking up to you. You kiss her twenty times a day, and if she is upset you get your "mommy voice" out and talk her down. You sing songs to her. You hold her hand. You're so gentle, kind, and tell her to "be brave Polina" every day!

At 5, you are a very big reader. You have been reading now for almost 2 years, and we are constantly amazed on your love for reading. We go weekly to the library to exchange books, and never leave without 30+ books. You read in the car, at the table, on the couch, and anywhere else you could possibly imagine. On average, you probably read 10-20 books a day just on your own, not counting what we read to you. You love the Step into Reading books the most.

At 5, your favorite shows to watch are Jake and the Neverland Pirates. You and your brother will then act out this show for hours at a type, and you are always Jake. He on the other hand is normally Cubby. And mama will take turns being the mean Captain Hook.

At 5, you are very vocal as to what you like to wear and how you like to do your hair. Which means you are normally to be found in leggings, a shirt {no frills, no bows, no tutu stuff}, a hair clip {no hair ties except on gymnastics days}, and nikes. You are definitely not a princess type girl, and I don't mind that one bit. In fact, I was the exact same way growing up.

You love cereal, waffles, pancakes, syrniki, spaghetti and meatballs, carrots, salami, chicken tenders, peppers, apples, pomegranate, yogurt, anything sweet {anything and everything}, and snacks.

You don't like: broccoli, meat {that isn't already in food}, and onions.

When you grow up, you tell me that you want to be a nurse like mommy!

You have a bunch of "Stuff" in your closet that no one is allowed to touch or move. This stuff consists of buckets, boxes, stuffed animals, pillows, pictures, and more. You say that it is magical. I always tease you that it's disorganized more than anything else. You are exemplifying signs of hoarding :)

You love to talk to people on the phone. You will talk to your grandparents for 30 minutes at a time, and never let them hang up unless absolutely necessary.

You learned how to email your loved ones. We even made you your own email. It's your nickname.

You haven't lost a tooth yet.

You are very protective over your brother. If he is doing something dangerous, you instantly begin to cry and beg for him to come down or to stop. It makes my mommy heart so happy to see you keep such a good eye on your brother and sister.

You love to snuggle. You love to be "held like a baby" after bath time by your papa, and to get tucked in to bed by him. You are slowly becoming more and more of a daddy's girl.

You love to give. You love to wrap up presents for your friends and cousins. These presents are typically toys you no longer play with, ha.

You are SO into "big eyed creatures" right now. In other words, the TY bears with big eyes. That is all you want for Christmas from Santa.

We are so excited to watch you grow and to become the wonderful young lady that you will be one day. Until then, we will savor every bit off "little" girl that you are. Your sweet voice, your loud singing vocals, your love for pretend play, and your smart imaginative personality. You will do GREAT things in life, and we are so proud to be the parents to support you every step of the way.

Happy FIVE!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Battle Cold & Flu Season

I was not paid for this review, however, I was provided products and all opinions stated are that of my own. 

It's that time of year.

The holidays are here; the Christmas music is ringing in our ears, the lights are flashing in our homes, and there is a sort of bliss that surrounds us all. Not to mention the desirable food that leads us to unbutton our jeans and let out a big sigh of relief.

But one thing that also comes along with this time of year is the sniffles, the runny noses, the coughs, and late nights. Never fails, from December through March, my kids have a chronic cold that will inevitably lead to fussy kids and a whiny mama.

With 3 kids under my belt, and many many cold winter months behind us, we have a sort of routine with the kids. A normalcy if you will with these sort of things. I hear a cough, I hear the sniffle, or those watery eyes come around, then we change gears and quickly start he natural healing process.

1. First I ask myself, what is causing the symptoms and is this something serious. Thankfully for us, the answer has always been no. Looking at the child, assessing whether they are just down with a virus, or actually caught something serious is important. When one isn't sure, the answer is to go to the doctor. I fully believe in mama intuition, and thus far, we have been able to avoid the doctor {except for well visits, and 1 case of pink eye and double ear infection}. As long as the kids have still been able to take some fluids {and a little food} down, are able to wake up, converse {and even play sometimes}, and based on their breathing, color, and overall complaints, I am usually able to help them feel better just by staying home, resting, and relieving the symptoms.

2. Humidifier.  Has been a good friend to us since the kids were little. Whenever they are stuffed up, congested, and just not able to sleep well at night due to their illness, I turn our humidifier on and it makes a world of a difference. 

3. Newborn Nasal Aspirator. Wonderful for the little ones that are hard to suction out those yucky little monsters! I'm pretty sure this is a "must" on the baby registry, because all three of my children have put this sucker to good use.

4. Rest, fluids, and plenty of cartoons! My kids know that if they are sick, they get treated like a prince/princess by mommy. They are allowed to be on the couch, everything is brought to them, and they get to pick whatever they want to watch on TV. They deserve it for feeling crummy and being a champ about it.

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