Raise Giving Children: Be the Example, Start Small & Build

My small people know they are lucky. They know because I tell them and because my husband and I make a regular effort to help them to understand that a home they love and food in their bellies are staples many other children their age can’t count on every day.

I know it is hard for them to understand – at eight and ten years old – that there are children who can’t waltz in to the pantry or open the fridge, knowing there is a snack ready to be grabbed, that there are kids who don’t have lunch made for them daily for school and that dinner often isn’t a full meal. But it is happening right here in the United States. It happens every day and it is quite possible that it has happened to kids my children know or have met.

One in five kids right here at home do not know where their next meal is coming from. They have empty cupboards, bare refrigerators and often come to school with little or nothing. My family has chosen to support Unilever’s Project Sunlight and their committment to working to knock out this problem – to providing food for the nearly 16 million kids who experience hunger on a regular basis.

Project Sunlight - Teach kids to Give

There are so many ways to help, from volunteering at local food banks to organizing neighborhood food drives to adopting a family in need as often as you can. But I desperately want this to be a cause that resonates with my children – one where they feel they are making a difference. In order to do that, I knew I would need to do three things: 1) be the example, 2) start small and build, involving them in the process and 3) make our committment a regular one.

So, this is what we decided:

Project Sunlight - Teach Children to Give

We are hosting our own month-long food drive and including a monetary donation. Here’s how it works:

We’ve checked with our local food bank to understand their most pressing needs: meals in a can – soups and stews, boxed or bagged rice and pasta, canned fruits and vegetables, low sugar cereals, canned tuna and other meats, peanut butter, granola bars, boxed or bottled juice, baby food and formula and diapers.

Every time we head to the grocery store, the kids choose a few items from the list to put in our cart. This helps them to both understand the needs of others and to be a part of our giving.

Project Sunlight - Food Donation

When we head home, we add it to our every growing pile….knowing we will all head to the Food Bank together at the end of the month to donate our collection.

Also, we do understand the importance of monetary donations. In fact, the St. Louis Food Bank has a ‘pop-up’ on their website to drive home the need.

STL Food Bank Need

So, in addition to the food we collect, as a family, we will also be making a minimum of a $100 donation to ensure that we are helping with more than 400 meals.

And, in January, we will start all over again.

I want my children to understand that every small giving step they take can combine for a big impact. I fear them opting out of helping because they ‘can’t do enough’. Every dollar, every can of food, helps someone who isn’t getting the food they need. This is a good thing.

Have you thought about ways you can #ShareAMeal? Share your plan here. If you have a couple of dollars to spare, you can always make a donation directly to Feeding America – every dollar helps to provide 10 meals. That is extraordinary. And if you are looking for creative ways to get involved, to #ShareAMeal – head here….Project Sunlight has you covered.

Disclosure: I’m proud to have been working with Unilever’s Project Sunlight to help spread the work about the need to fight child hunger and how easy it is to help. As always, all thoughts and opinions shared here are mine and mine alone.

Cozy Holiday Looks: Dress Up, Don’t Freeze!

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Is it not such a cruel, cruel irony that the time of year that we are most likely to have a reason to get dressed up is also the coldest? Holiday parties, New Year’s Eve, end-of-the-year celebrations abound as the wind chill factor drops.

But just because the invitation says “cocktail attire” does not mean you are required to don a LBD (little black dress) and freeze AFN (all freaking night.) Here are three outfit ideas that will keep you warm and looking hot for that special event.

Jumpsuit with gold accents

Jumpsuit with Gold Accents

Gals, do not knock the jumpsuit until you have tried it. It is the most flattering piece of clothing on the planet! This three-quarter sleeve, flared leg number from Zara will make you look long and lean. The plunge front is just low enough to be chic, but not so low you will be squirming. Personalize your jump with classic gold-tone accessories like statement earrings, a clutch and pumps and you will be the hottest woman in the room, even on the coldest night.

Jumpsuit – Zara $99
Earrings – BaubleBar $34
Clutch – C. Wonder $68
Pumps – Penny Loves Kenny at Zappos $69

tunic sweater leather leggings

Tunic Sweater + “Leather” Leggings

We know, we know: a sweater, leggings and boots is your go-to look for every day. But choosing luxe details such as faux leather pants (that are crazy slimming, by the way!) and a long chunky woven but close-to-the-bod sweater takes it up a notch. Add some sultry heeled booties and some modern jeweled ear cuffs and you will look smokin’, even when it is freezin’. (Check out these additional on-trend sweaters, too.)

Sweater – Nasty Gal $128
Pant –  American Apparel $148
Ear Cuff  – Forever 21 $4
Ankle Boot – H&M $40

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Long-Sleeved Dress with Cozy Touches

When nothing but a dress will do, skip the strappy short ones and go for a long-sleeved, mid-length frock. Pair it with chic pieces that will also keep you cozy. Over-the-knee boots, a faux fur vest and coordinating gloves will warm you up elegantly.

Dress – Soma $69
Vest – Guess $98
Necklace – Express $15 
Boot – Chinese Laundry at DSW $60
Glove – Ann Taylor $40

Which look is your favorite? Where would you wear it? Share in the comments! 

On the Hunt for the Perfect Holiday Card: Think Minted

There are so many things I love about this time of year – the holiday lights, the music (Little Drummer Boy is my favorite), the pure, beautiful giving spirit, the decorations, yes, even our Elf on the Shelf, but I have to confess, I have more than a mild obsession with something specific:

Holiday Cards.

I love sending them. I love receiving them. I love displaying them. In fact….I love keeping them. (I’m looking at you 2002.) Just look at a previous year’s mantle.

On the Hunt for the Perfect Holiday Card: Think Minted

I love picking them out, designing them….I don’t even mind addressing them (though this year? Even that is a breeze – I’ll explain in a moment).

Every year, we do family pictures. I plan what we will wear and the moment I receive even the briefest of sneak peeks – I sit my happy self down in front of the computer to begin the crafting and designing process. And this year, it is more glorious than ever as I’m working with Minted….and my friends – their cards are so unique, so simply stunning.

As a long time connoisseur of holiday cards, I’m familiar with spending hours on this process and I’m particular, but Minted not only makes it easy for you to find something that showcases your family beautifully, but they hold your hand through the entire process.

Here’s what I love:

The ‘Find It Fast Feature’ allows you to see one of your pictures in multiple cards at the same time. This gives you a feel for how your photograph may look in different styles, on a horizontal card vs a vertical one and helps you to narrow down your preferences: are you classic or whimsical? Do you love a fancy or simplistic look?

Minted 'Find It Fast' Holiday Cards

Glamorous New Designs. Of course, you can still count on Minted to offer the unique and beautiful they always have – from traditional flat cards to booklets, but this year, they have added a few new options. The first: Real Foil Pressed Holiday Cards.

On the Hunt for the Perfect Holiday Card: Think Minted

They shimmer. They shine. They just add that little something extra to your holiday card. And there are DOZENS of options.

Another fun option: Ornament Cards. They run 5.25 in. by 5.25 in. and each one includes a 10 inch luxe ribbon. Again there are dozens of of styles here too, and I love that you would be sending friends and family something they are most certainly guaranteed to keep. Note: these will require extra postage.

On the Hunt for the Perfect Holiday Card: Think Minted

For the visual like me, the opportunity to personalize and save each and every card you *might* want is a treasure. Never mind the fact that I fall down the Minted Holiday Card Rabbit Hole and resurface later….You can bet I come away knowing I’ve found the perfect card for my family.

Is it one with a single shot of my small people?

On the Hunt for the Perfect Holiday Card: Think Minted

One that grabs you with each of their sweet faces?

On the Hunt for the Perfect Holiday Card: Think Minted

One that is a collage of all of our favorites from our session?

On the Hunt for the Perfect Holiday Card: Think Minted

Or should we go artistic?

On the Hunt for the Perfect Holiday Card: Think Minted

Decisions. Decision. Decisions. I won’t reveal what I decided just yet, but the good news….the great news is that Minted makes it easy for you, once you have decided on your basic design, you can opt to choose the coloring for that style (white, red gold? blue, green gold?) you can decide on the shape of your card, the stock of your paper and what you’d like to do on the BACK. You can leave it blank, add text or even an additional picture.

On the Hunt for the Perfect Holiday Card: Think Minted

And then….there is this: Minted will address your Holiday Cards for you. You can certainly opt to have your return address printed on every envelope – but get this: right now, Minted is offering to address your envelopes for you – to your family and friends – FOR FREE.

On the Hunt for the Perfect Holiday Card: Think Minted

Think of the time you will save. You can bake cookies, wrap gifts, spend time with your kids, dance to Frosty the Snowman, decorate with last year’s cards,or simply send me a present :) Naturally, you have to input them, and choose the style you prefer, but this is easily one of the greatest perks I’ve seen.

Whew…..did you get all of that? Are you in love as I am?

Good. Then you will LOVE what I’m about to tell you. I have a little giveaway to offer you.

I’m giving away 100 cards to Minted. Not $100, but 100 CARDS.

All I need from you: leave a comment below telling me one of two things – is there a style of card you’ve seen on the Minted site that you love? OR tell me which of my favorite perks above that I listed most resonates with you?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And, of course… if you get your cards from Minted…..come back and share a shot of it here with me.

The giveaway will run from December 5th through Thursday, December 11th at midnight. Good luck!

Rules: No purchase necessary to enter. ExtraordinaryMommy.com is not responsible for prizes that are shipped from outside vendors or sponsors. All entries will be pooled together and one (1) winner will be drawn. The winner will have two calendar days to reply via email. Unclaimed prizes will be placed for availability to newly chosen winners after that time. Giveaway is open to all U.S./Canadian residents only, must be at least 18 years old to enter. One entry per person, entries accepted through Thursday, December 11th, 2014 ending at exactly 11:59 CDT. 

Disclosure: I’m thrilled to be working with Minted for this holiday card post. As always, all thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone.

 

 

 

 

Reflection: Save the Children and Johnson and Johnson are Changing Lives

I’ve spent the past two weeks staring intently at my children, pondering, quite simply, what makes them so special. I gave birth to both, am raising both in the same home, with the same access to food, shelter, education and altogether too much stuff. I can admit it.

Danielle Kids 2014

For Delaney, it would be easy to say her freckles, her easy, infectious laugh or her athletic ability – a trait she most certainly did not earn from me, but it is so much more than that. She aims for perfection, but avoids the spotlight at all costs. She is incredibly observant, noticing when one classmate is feeling left out, but is only capable of reaching out quietly to help, is wickedly stubborn when you push her (like studying for the Spelling Bee), but lives with exuberance  – she’ll – even at ten years old yell, ‘I won! I won! and make a flying leap in to my arms when she comes out on top of said Spelling Bee.

Delaney Fall 2014

Cooper on the other hand is both a sensitive soul and a people pleaser. The louder you clap, the bigger he gets. He is motivated by praise – specifically the kind that comes from right here at home – mom and dad. He too, is blessed with that elusive athletic ability, a sweet spirit and contagious laugh. But, as with Delaney, it is his heart that has me. This child will re-read letters from me when he sees a child lose their mother in a movie. He carries his wallet with him whenever we go downtown so he can hand money to the homeless. And he, like his sister, will still bury me in hugs.

Cooper Fall2014

But for all of this, I know they are special to me. To my husband. To their grandparents and friends.

There are 1.9 billion other children in the world and someone else feels just the same about them. They deserve to be loved, cherished, fed, and educated as my kids are.

If they are in need, in danger…if they are hungry, hurt or alone, they deserve to be SAVED.

Enter my obsession with Save the Children – an organization dedicated to doing just that. The organization helps children in 120 countries worldwide…aiding with education, health, disaster relief, food, protection and so much more.

In a recent trip to New York, I sat in a large, gloriously decorated room at The Plaza and held my breath. I was attending the 2nd Annual Save the Children Illumination Gala and was fully aware of my surroundings… from shaking hands with the Right Honorable Tony Blair to having host Jennifer Garner and her husband, Ben Affleck seated two tables away.

Save the Children Gala

As a guest of event sponsor Johnson & Johnson, I found the most impressive thing in this room wasn’t the celebrity. It wasn’t Trisha Yearwood belting out, ‘How Do I Live’ thirty feet away from me, it wasn’t Dakota Fanning at the next table, it wasn’t even listening to Jennifer Garner refer to her husband as ‘Benjamin’ all evening as though we were old friends.

It was, quite truthfully, the heart in the room.

Save the Children2

It was the audible gasp when it was announced that Johnson and Johnson was extending their partnership with Save the Children and committing $10 million dollars to support the survival and healthy development of children – especially newborns. Forging the first of it’s kind ‘Enterprise Wide’ Global Partnership, Save the Children and Johnson & Johnson will continue to work together after doing so for the past twenty years – creating healthier communities and saving the lives of children. Both Johnson and Johnson’s CEO, Alex Gorsky and Save the Children’s President and CEO, Carolyn Miles spoke of the life-changing potential of the partnership.

It was the conviction of each honoree as they accepted their awards for the work they do, on a regular basis, on behalf of children.

  • Global Child Advocate Award was given to Ben Affleck for his work in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Through his foundation, Eastern Congo Initiative, more than 23,000 women and 18,000 children have received health services and preventative care.
  • The Right Honorable Tony Blair, the Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, accepted the Global Legacy Award for his committment to Africa and for guiding the G8 nations to agree to relieve $40 billion in debt that was owed by poverty stricken countries.
  • The National Humanitarian Award was given to Austin Heart for his committment to early learning and education in some of the poorest parts of the world – including rural America.
  • T.J. Maxx was the recipient of the National Responsibility Award for having supported Save the Children’s work for more than 30 years and for having dedicated more than $25 million to help American children receive access to early education programs. The award was accepted by the CEO of TJX, Ernie Herrman.
  • The Global Child Service Award was given to Aziza Begum, a paramedic from Bangladesh for her incredible efforts to rally the community and health workers  in the remote Ajmiriganj community to maximize early care for pregnant women.
  • And, for their 40 year effort to make a difference around the world, Save the Children’s Long Island and Greenwich Leadership Councils received the National Voices for Children Award.

It was the quiet and attention when anyone took the stage and the applause when they were done.

It was the thousands of additional dollars raised spontaneously at the end of the night, one hand after another raised, auction-style, solidifying the room’s belief in the power of Save the Children’s work and the hope for the children themselves.

In many ways, I feel as though I’m still processing the night. But each day, I know I can help in at least a small way.

Keep Donate-a-Photo in mind. The app allows you to donate a picture to the cause of your choice each day… with that cause receiving a dollar from Johnson & Johnson each time you do. At the moment there are TWO Save the Children related causes listed: Boost a Young Child’s Development and Help a Newborn Breathe.

Save the Children Holiday Gift Guide

Additionally, if you are looking for ‘gifts that give’, you can shop Save the Children’s Holiday Gift Catalog – gifting everything from soccer balls to farm animals to clean water. And every donation you make will be matched by Johnson and Johnson, up to $200,000.

The work they do is so good. Being even a small part of it makes me a better mother, a better person.

Disclosure: I’m proud to be a Social Good Ambassador for Johnson & Johnson and grateful to them for bringing me to New York for this event. It was extraordinary. As always, all thoughts and opinions shared are mine and mine alone.

 

5 Money Saving Tips for Online Shoppers

Now that the holidays are upon us, shopping for the perfect gift is in the forefront of everyone’s mind. But who wants to brave all of the crowds (and the cold!)? Not this girl. I’m way more comfortable getting my shopping done from the comfort of my own couch. If you’re like me, then you need these five tips for shopping online!

save money online shopping

1. Avoid the impulse buy!

Perhaps the simplest tip on the list, but arguably the most important. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and click “buy” before really giving your purchases thought; however, making a list of your wants and needs and then sticking to it will save you money (and perhaps the inconvenience of returns).

2. Always search for coupon codes!

Speaking of returns, I rarely, if ever, pay for shipping. How do I manage that? Before placing an order, I always, always, always search for discount codes. Websites that have free shipping and other discounts are plentiful, but not all of them stay current with the latest and greatest sales. I tend to rely on Retail Me Not and Brad’s Deals!

3. Sign up for retailer emails!

For the retailers that I frequent, subscribing to their email list is always a good idea. Sure, your mailbox might get a bit more clogged, but it’s worth it to be right on top of the latest sales. You’ll know as soon as discounts go live, which means you’ll be able to shop the largest selection of items. Bonus: signing up almost always yields you a one-time use coupon code. So if you find that you simply cannot abide by rule #1, subscribe to the retailer’s email blasts, and then unsubscribe after your order is placed!

4. Don’t forget member discounts!

Are you a member of a Costco or Sam’s Club? Do you work at a large company that offers group discounts? Don’t forget about them!! Everything from restaurant gift cards and spa discounts to computer purchases to vacation packages can be bought for less.

5. Use deal-tracking websites!

Are there very specific brands or clothing items that you have your eye on? Then deal-tracking sites will be your best friend. Shop it to Me will send you an email round up of sales for brands or stores in your selected sizes. Shopstyle offers deal alerts when designers, brands or styles go on sale. Shoptagr uses a bookmark-type app, allowing you to watch items down to your specified color, style, size. When items are discounted, you receive an email alert!

BONUS TIP: EBATES!

If you’re not using EBATES, sign up immediately. You’ll earn a percentage of your purchase back on everything you buy through their site. Simply search for your retailer on EBATES and click through. Shop away, and earn back some cash! They’ll mail you a check or deposit your earnings straight into your Paypal account. Sound too good to be true? It’s not!

How do you save when shopping online?

You Are Too Smart To Stand In Your Own Way

(Update: You have 2 and a half days to take advantage of this…. my friends at Blogging Concentrated have put together a good thing…. Read on.)

It is the beginning of December.

One Month until the ‘New Year’ officially begins, but GOOD NEWS – you can do a little something for YOU right now.

What does the entrepreneur in you need? And right now?

Do you need to be better organized?

Understand affiliate marketing?

Grow your community? Your platform? Increase engagement?

Monetizing your site?

Tackle podcasting? Video? Photography?

Create a product?

Harness the power of the media?

It is all right here for you. And I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

This amazing collection of more than 50+ ebooks, videos, courses and products is going to be on sale for only 4 days. FOUR DAYS. Starting Cyber Monday. (Simply click on the graphic to see IT ALL.)

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Who are the experts you will find in this collection?

Learn how to podcast from John Lee Dumas, the man behind behind EntrepreneurOnFire.com with more than 5 million downloads to his credit

Hear from Holly Homer – how did she grow her QuirkyMomma Facebook page from 50,000 to 1,000,000 this year without paying for advertising?

Missy Ward, the owner of Affiliate Summit – the largest affiliate marketing conference in the world shares her secrets to this profitable trade.

New York Times Best Selling Author of ‘The Adsense Code’, Joel Comm teaches, what else? Adsense.

Adrienne Graham, Forbes.com contributor and author of ‘No, You Can’t Pick My Brain For Free’ helps you to make what you are worth.

And so much more….

Simply click the graphic above and hop on over to grab the collection while you can from my friends at Blogging Concentrated – Rachel and Dan.

I know, I know…. how much, Right? Valued at over $2000 (yes, seriously!) – it is simply $27.

Not $97. Not $47.

$27.

That’s right. So much incredible knowledge. For less than you or I pay for gas.

Amazing, right?

Go. Do. Flood yourself with knowledge. Be Extraordinary.

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How to Eliminate Dark Circles

Having dark circles under your eyes may be largely hereditary, but as a new mother to an infant, I can attest that lack of sleep certainly does me no favors. But who wants to walk around looking perpetually sleep deprived? Not me, especially when looking bright eyed can sometimes be the trick to at least making me feel a little more rested. So here’s how I fake 8 hours of sleep in three easy steps!

Eliminate Dark Circles - ExtraordinaryMommy.com

1. Balance out the blue

My circles have a deep blue undertone to them. Anyone else with the same problem knows that your average concealers do nothing to hide them. The key to combatting blue or black-like circles is to first apply a corrector in a peach or pink shade. The corrector will neutralize the blue and prep your skin for brightening! My favorite corrector? Bobbi Brown in Light Bisque or Light Peach. It’s a bit pricey, but it lasts forever. (Mine has lasted well over six months so far!)

2. Brighten

Now that the undertone has been balanced, it’s time to brighten. Yellow concealers a bit lighter than your natural skin color are perfect for brighting up the area and hiding any darkness. I swear by Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer. (Looking for a drug store version? Try Maybelline’s Fit Me Concealer!) Remember to go a bit lighter than your natural skin color. This concealer is not the same shade you’d use to cover blemishes!

3. Highlight

Now that your under eye circles are completely concealed, adding just a bit of highlight is the icing on the cake. Apply to the inner corners (around your tear ducts), under your brow bones, and on your upper cheek bones to reflect light. This step doesn’t do anything to conceal (that should already be taken care of!), but it really adds an extra brightness to help fake a few additional hours of rest and the look of radiant skin! My current favorite is Maybelline’s Dream Lumi Touch Highlighting Concealer, which is a great inexpensive alternative to cult favorite Touche Eclat!

‘Tis the Season for Giving

ExMomxmas2

“Mom, is Santa real?”

It’s the question most parents dread, because really how do we answer it? We don’t want to straight up lie, but we do want to preserve a bit of that magical innocence that makes Christmas so exciting.

Years ago, when my children were all very young, I purchased a book titled “The Legend of Saint Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving” in an effort to cover my tracks when the time came to finally reveal Santa’s true identity. The book tells of the real Saint Nicholas and his heart for the plight of the needy and poor. He gave in secret on Christmas Eve, and his efforts became legendary, birthing the Santa Clause we know today.

We read this book at the beginning of the Christmas season, and we discuss ways that we as a family can carry on the tradition of Saint Nicholas, giving in a way that blesses others during a season that can often be difficult for so many.

Kids are natural givers. If we place the opportunity in front of them to serve someone else, we as parents will almost certainly learn a lesson or two about giving. Here are a few ways that our family has given back during the Christmas season in the past:

1.) Throw a party.

Our annual neighborhood party has become one of our favorite family traditions, and it is the perfect way to kick off the holiday season. This is an opportunity for not only our children to serve those in need, but for them to bring along their friends as well.

Every December, we pick a weekend early in the month and we host a party in our home. The kids invite their friends, and everyone is asked to bring with them a new, unwrapped toy, which we donate to The Ronald McDonald House. We play Christmas music, eat Christmasy desserts, and before the party is over, my husband gathers everyone around the couch and reads them the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke.

After the party is over, we pile our kids into the van and head to our local Ronald McDonald House where they get to play Santa Clause and carry in the gifts. This is an easy and fun way to give back to your local community and let your kids be involved in the giving.

2.) Volunteer at a Food Pantry

Place your kids behind a table full of steaming hot food and let them scoop it onto waiting plates. The recipients of this blessing will more than likely thank them profusely, and your children will beam with pride. Look for a Food Pantry that allows young children to help serve, and go together as a family. You’ll be blessed as you bless others.

3.) Give Internationally

EXMomxmasAt our Annual Christmas Party, we have also in the past looked for ways that we as a community can give back on an international level. Last year, not only did guests bring toys for the Ronald McDonald House, but they also brought old jeans and fabric, which we then cut out in pre-made patterns for Sole Hope, an organization that takes the cut blue jeans and makes them into shoes for children in Uganda.

The idea was simple, and the guests, both young and old, loved this hands on way to make a big impact for children in desperate need.

4.) Fill a Shoebox

Each year, Samaritan’s Purse sends hundreds of thousands of shoeboxes to children throughout the world. Willing and gracious families fill the shoeboxes with such items as toothbrushes, hair bows, candy, small toys, socks, and other necessities. Take your children shopping and make it a game to find as many items as possible that will fit inside one regular sized shoebox.

5.) Give Together as a Family

Every year, we sit down with our children and take them through Compassion International’s Holiday Gift Guide. We decide as a family if we are going to buy one large item (like a goat or water filtration system), or if we will each pick out a smaller item (like mosquito nets, soccer balls, Bibles or textbooks) to purchase for a family living in desperate poverty. The kids love choosing what to donate, and I love watching their eyes light up when they realize they just made a difference.

Every year as I watch my children grow in their love for serving and giving, I realize that Santa Clause is very real. He’s inside each one of us who is ready and willing to give generously to a world that is filled with need.

Joy to the World.

Do you and your family have traditions of giving at Christmas? Share them in the comments so we can all learn more ways that we can give back during the Christmas season.

Blending Families during the Holidays

If you’ve been following my posts about blending intercultural families and even raising kids with two cultures ,  I thought it was only appropriate to chat about how we can do both over the holidays. It can be a tough thing to do, blending the two cultures, but there is such a beautiful result, and I promise it is worth the effort!

In my family, as I’ve shared with you, we have two cultures already present. On top of that, we live in a third culture that neither of us own. By default, that culture is a big part of our lives now which makes it even harder to have the other two equally represented. However, as with most things, what isn’t easy is often worth the effort when you work for it. Having kids who are open to different cultures and traditions in addition to  accepting of the way others live is a beautiful thing. As parents, I’ve found that we can often learn from our children.

Here are my tips for blending cultures during the holidays.

blending families during the holidays

1.) Slow down

This applies to all of us. The holidays can get out of control if you let them. I think it’s good practice to slow down. How does this apply to intercultural families? Well, if you are busy trying to celebrate one holiday, imagine what it’s like adding another to the mix! Slow down and enjoy the love and laughter that the holidays bring, appreciate one tradition at a time and make sure your kids understand the significance of each.

2.) Pick and choose

I am a firm believer that no one can do it all. And honestly, that’s okay. This is true for families celebrating one culture and those of us honoring multiple cultures. You might not get to celebrate every tradition within each culture. You might have to either let some slip through the cracks or at least celebrate them in a lesser way. Acknowledge them, but don’t make a huge deal out of them. I think it would be important for the couple to sit down and talk about which ones are the ones that they want to do big and which ones will they do minimally. And you know what ladies and gentlemen? It is OKAY. I give you permission to not do it all.

3.) Be adventurous

Even though I always talk about how blending cultures is so beautiful and so worth it (which it is), it is still tough! It is hard to let go of what you know to be ‘normal’ for someone else’s normal. It can be hard to let those new things into your life and make them yours as well. In a intercultural marriage/relationship I think it is important to let go of what you know to be normal. Let go of what you’re parents did or what your family did and create a new normal for your own family. Be willing to explore, incorporate new traditions and create traditions that solely belong to you and your family.

4.) Mix and match

I know I just said you have to choose. Now what happens if you can’t choose? What happens with something like Christmas which most cultures celebrate in some way and a lot of cultures do it quite differently? Well, mix and match! Create your own version of Christmas! A version where the two worlds combine to create this wonderful blend all on it’s own. You will end up creating amazing memories that are so special and unique to your family.

My husband comes from The Bahamas. They have a huge parade the day after Christmas called Junkanoo. It’s what they do at Christmastime. Now, we can’t really celebrate Junkanoo at Christmas because we’re never in The Bahamas that time of year, but you better believe my husband brings that home! You can find my boys jammin’ to Junkanoo music the day after Christmas ever year.

5.) Take a trip

Most of the time there is a culture in the relationship that is less represented. In our house it’s the Bahamian culture. Not because I don’t want it in our lives but because I am the one that does most of the planning and things for holidays and my husband is more relaxed. He often doesn’t chime in with his own family’s experiences. What we want to do (when it’s feasible for us) is take a trip to The Bahamas during Christmastime so the boys and I can really experience a true Bahamian Christmas.

Now you might not have to travel to another country, or it simply might not be possible, but try to put it on your list. Alternatively, maybe you live close to an area that has a “little ___ town” and you can get a sample of what it would be like. It’s of course always good to get to experience things first hand, but hey, sometimes you need to be creative!

6.) Be willing to give

Your holiday doesn’t always have to win. Your tradition might be the one that has to change a bit. And that’s okay. Even though it’s hard at first, the result will be worth it.

This was especially hard for me. I grew up in a great family with amazing parents. I am a Daddy’s girl, so when I married my husband I had a lot of expectations for him. Not only was he not my dad, he was from an entirely different world. Once I started learning to embrace him and everything he brings with him, things became so much easier & a whole lot better. I gave up the things I thought an ‘American dad/husband’ should look like and embraced the dad & husband that he was/is. Give a little on your idea of what things should look like for what your world will look like when you blend your holidays together!

There you go! I would love to hear how you blend your families together for the holidays. Even if you don’t have two cultures in your life, you still most likely have two families and even that can be hard sometimes! What do you do to make sure everyone is represented during the holidays?

Most importantly, enjoy & love each other!

Honey Baked Apples With Cereal and Cinnamon Yogurt

Sometimes breakfast calls for slowing down, savoring the moment, the flavors, the company.

This meal is just the thing for one of those mornings. It is perfect when you aren’t rushing out the door, when you have time to sit and enjoy the warmth of the meal and the combination of the textures this dish brings. It doesn’t take long to prepare, but the time you can enjoy sitting around the table – especially on a chilly morning, is worth any time you put in to it.

Honey Baked Apples with Cereal and Yogurt

I love to whip this up over the holidays – when family is visiting. It is light enough that it won’t spoil a big meal later in the day, but savory enough that your guests (and even the people who live with you all year long) will feel loved and spoiled.

What You’ll Need

  • 3 apples, peeled and sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons Honey
  • 2 Tablespoons Pure Maple Syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter, melted
  • ½ Cup Vanilla Yogurt
  • ¼ Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • ½ Cup Kellogg’s Vanilla Almond Special K  

Honey Baked Apples with Cereal and Yogurt

Directions:

Cut and slice apples.
Place them in a bowl with honey, maple syrup, and melted butter.
Stir until coated.
Place apples in a pan and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees until soft.
Stir together vanilla yogurt and cinnamon.
When apples are done baking, place them in a bowl, spoon yogurt mixture on top and sprinkle with Vanilla Almond Special K and a dash of extra cinnamon.

Honey Baked Apples With Cereal and Cinnamon Yogurt

Now….you tell me…how easy was that?

If you have left overs? Both the baked apples and the yogurt will keep in the fridge and can be used for snacks the next day. You have the option to warm them both again or keep them cool. I’ve found that my family enjoys them both ways.

 Disclosure: I am proud to have a long-standing partnership with Kellogg’s and love finding new ways to incorporate cereal in to our meals – breakfast and otherwise. As always, all thoughts and opinions shared on this site are mine and mine alone.