Inspiring Creativity in a Concrete Child

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Image by Wendy Speake

 

Yesterday, I was elbow deep in dirty dishes. Feeling a little exasperated at the frequency with which I am constantly cleaning my home, I sighed in annoyance. I glanced up momentarily and caught a glimpse of my six year old tearing through the house dressed in full Ninja garb. Moving in obvious stealth mode toward his brother’s room, I could not suppress a smile.

I absolutely adore it when my children play dress up.

I find few things cuter or more endearing than a child in costume, fully consumed in a make believe world. I was that child, constantly flitting through the stories inside my head as I faced great adventures. I get that child, and my heart swoons just a little whenever I see him lost in imagination.

Not every child is bent this way, though. My daughter is 100% concrete. She is not given to imaginative fancy, and her brand of child’s play will almost always be centered around real life situations. She is so concrete that a reading tutor told us that she would likely be much more drawn to non-fiction books than fiction books.

“She doesn’t see word pictures in her head,” were the tutor’s exact words.

It’s taken me some time to get used to this. I struggle to identify with her brand of play because it is so different from that which I conducted as a child. In fact, her idea of a good time is to go do pull ups in the garage, or back flips off the couch.

So weird…

She’s athletic and energetic, and she generally has better things to do with her time than to engage in child’s play. This is baffling to me, but I also deeply admire her for it. She possesses a discipline that most children her age don’t understand. 

That said, I do believe there is something magical about engaging a child creatively. Even my concrete child can be creative – she just needs someone to draw it out of her.

Art has been key in helping us inspire a little creativity. When she wonders what to draw, I ask her to imagine the craziest world she can think of and create that. At first, the best she could come up with was adding a few squiggly lines on her landscape photo and calling them “twisty flowers.” Eventually, though, I convinced her that it was okay to color the sky purple, the grass blue, and make a “chocolate” river with a brown crayon. It’s not her first inclination to change things up, but she’s more willing to give it a try now.

Another key to inspiring creativity in a concrete child is reading good books. Read books that invite your mind into a new world. One of our favorite books as a family (which was also my favorite book as a child) is The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards. (Yes, Mary Poppins herself). Never has a book quite awoken my imagination, or the imaginations of my children, as this one.

Really, any of the classics will work, but for the concrete child, a book that centers more on real children facing fanciful situations is preferable to tapping into creativity.

Finally, play with your concrete child. Some kids just need to be taught how to use their imaginations. They need to hear someone make up funny voices, create unrealistic and daring scenarios, and to give them the freedom to expand their minds beyond the here and now.

For those of you who, like me, are raising a child with a propensity to live in a concrete world – I encourage you to prod a little creativity into her imagination. Don’t try to change her natural bent, by any means. You simply want to enhance it with a little fun. This will give her the tools she needs as she moves forward in life to really expand and grow as an individual.

What about you? How do you help your concrete child expand and grow creatively?

Image Credit

How to Build a Better Breakfast AND Put YOUR Face on a Cereal Box

Last month I had a party at my house. And not just any party: a breakfast party. Right before school started, the kids and I invited dozens of families we know – from school, from sports, from our neighborhood – in to our home and decided to show them how to build a better breakfast by recharging their traditional bowl of cereal.

Back to School Cereal Recharge Bar

Cereal is such a quick, simple go-to meal. But what about spicing it up and adding extra flavor, extra nutrition with fruit, nuts, even spices? Or how about combining some of your favorite cereals and then adding something sweet?

Back To School Cereal Recharge Sides2

We offered a few menu options but then encouraged our friends to be creative…..even asking them to share their ‘recipes’. We were amazed by all of the combinations everyone tried – from experimenting with lemon zest and yogurt to pistachios, blueberries, mini chocolate chips and definitely marshmallows.

Back to School Cereal Recharge Rethink

To make it more fun, we chose winners from all of the recipes submitted- but didn’t tell them until this week what they had ‘won’.

Our favorite recipes are below (feel free to try these at home!)

Sydney’s Special Charms – Special K Red Berries, Rasberries, Blueberries, Marshmallows and Skim Milk

Christa’s Fruity Delight – Special K Chocolate and Strawberry with almond butter, strawberries, blueberries and skim milk

Megan’s Chocolate Chocolate Marshmallow – Special K Chocolate and Strawberry with bananas, apples, marshmallows, mini chocolate chips and 2% milk

Clearly Special K was a favorite. Now…on to what we decided to give them for coming up with these recipes:

How to Put Your Face on A Cereal Box: ExtraordinaryMommy.com

Their very own Kellogg’s cereal boxes!

I will be honest – It was so much fun preparing this as a surprise and then gifting it.

How to Put Your Face on A Cereal Box: ExtraordinaryMommy.com

And even more? Now telling you how you can do it as well. Did you know that YOU can put your face on a Kellogg’s cereal box? Or even on a Pop Tart box? (the Pop Tart boxes can be personalized too!)

How to Put Your Face on a Cereal Box: ExtraordinaryMommy.com

It is such a fun and unique gift – and SO EASY.  You start on their website, follow the instructions, upload a picture, wait less than two weeks and carefully fold the box together – ta-da! You can choose Frosted Flakes, Corn Flakes Team USA or Honey Smacks.

Seriously. Building a better breakfast with inspired cereal recipes AND putting your face on your cereal box? THIS IS FUN.

Disclosure: I am proud to have a long-time working relationship and partnership with Kellogg’s. As always, all thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone.

Trend Alert: Silver Cowboy Boots

It is hard to describe the pure chaos my small girl witnessed as she entered my closet the other day… I don’t want to scar you with the visuals, but I was knee deep in clothing I no longer wear . Shoes and accessories littered the floor from my closet to the door of my bedroom. I have been in the mood to purge, and I *think* I’m doing a fairly good job – as my floor is my witness, but like anyone (you included, I’m sure) there are just some things I won’t part with.

The earrings I wore the day I met my first country crush, Clay Walker? Those are K-E-E-P-E-R-S.

Danielle and Clay Walker

And the dress I have on in this picture with Rascal Flatts? I’m pretty sure I should box it and hang it like you would a signed football jersey..

Danielle and Rascal Flatts

Too bad I wasn’t wearing the right pair of cowgirl boots at the time.

It is safe to say the ‘perfect’ pair has alluded me for quite some time. I like to think cowgirl (or cowboy) boots are similar to that perfect pair of jeans – there is one that is RIGHT for you, but you have to look….and when you find them, you’ll just know. I’ve had ‘cowboy boots’ on my Holiday list for the last three years in a row, but no one has fulfilled that wish. I can only guess it is because they fear not getting it right.

Enter Country Outfitter. When they reached out to me, I was positive they had been eavesdropping on my recent conversations with store clerks. And because they know country, I believe them when they tell me all about the latest styles and trends: specifically silver cowboy boots.

Trend Alert: Silver Cowboy Boots

 

Want more proof Country Outfitter knows what they are talking about? Look no further than the queen of country, Miranda Lambert - or better yet, find yourself adding the very same style  silver Miranda wears on stage to YOUR wish list.

Miranda's Cowboy Bling Boot - Silver: Country Outfitter

I’m thinking silver cowboy boots will be my second pair, as I just knew I’d know the right pair for me when I saw them. And I was right. I chose Eight Second Angel’s Addie Butterfly Boot. Aren’t they gorgeous?

Country Outfitter: Eight Second Angel's Addie Butterfly Boot - ExtraordinaryMommy.com

Not only does the hue of the boot appeal to me – there is something both strong and soft about the brown leather and the scuffing, but the detail solidified my decision. A butterfly lightly decorates the front – a symbol that is both intensely significant for me and, I believe, so representative of the beauty and tenacity that combine to describe the country music and style I adore.

Country Outfitter: Eight Second Angel's Addie Butterfly Boot - ExtraordinaryMommy.com

Do you have a pair of boots you love? What is it about them that made you decide they were the ones?

Disclosure: I’m excited to be working with Country Outfitter to share this post and latest Trend Alert with you. As always, all thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone.

Text4Baby and Rite Aid Offer Free Flu Shots For Moms

I cannot tell you how many hours of sleep I have lost since I became a mom – plagued with some kind of worry that I was doing it all wrong - or more pointedly, how many of those hours were lost specifically in my early days – before my sweet girl was born or right after.

I worried about my health while I carried her.

I worried about HER HEALTH while I carried her – was she safe? Moving Enough? For the love of all things did she really have enough room?

Would I hold her correctly? Put her in her car seat safely? Would she eat? Sleep?

Delaney 5+ Months

WOULD I KEEP HER SAFE?

Isn’t this question at the core of most mother’s hearts? Our sweet babies have us to rely on. We have friends, family, often times our own mothers and something else….this amazing FREE program: Text4Baby.

So simple. So genius. Such a help wrapped up in a place we access daily – our phones.

Text4Baby, sponsored by Johnson and Johnson works like this: You sign up when you are expecting and you receive health and safety tips for you and your baby every week straight to your phone (three of them) for the entire time you are pregnant and up until your sweet one is a year old. Your messages will cover topics like prenatal care, sleeping, nutrition, immunizations, mental health, safety, family violence, developmental milestones and labor and delivery.

Amazing. And yet there is more:

Rite Aid Text4Baby Flu Ad

As of today, Text4Baby is teaming up with Rite-Aid and Johnson and Johnson to give moms access to flu shots. Moms enrolled in Text4Baby will receive a text offering them a free flu shot. When you reply ‘yes’, you will receive a coupon code that you can redeem from any Rite-Aid Pharmacist. The flu shots will be available while supplies last through February 28, 2014 – and this is the standard flu vaccine.

This is the second year Text4Baby has made the flu vaccine available  – last year more than 2,000 Text4Baby moms participated.

It is so easy to sign up for Text4Baby online or Text: BABY (BEBE for Spanish) to 511411. Seconds is all it takes. Take care of you AND your baby.

This is so good.

And? Congratulations on your new little one.

Disclosure: I’m incredibly proud to be a Social Good Ambassador for Johnson & Johnson so I will periodically be sharing amazing programs with you – just like this one. The goal: to help, to make the world a little better, or maybe to tell you something you didn’t know that may be worth sharing. As always, all thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone. 

Why French Women Don’t Get Fat

The French culture, to Americans, is often something that is looked upon in awe and admiration. There have been books – Bringing up Bébé, Why French Women Don’t Get Fat, French Kids Eat Everything, to name a few. We’ve already talked about French kids and food here on Extraordinary Mommy and today I thought I’d talk about French women and food….because for some reason (in fact, lots of reasons) French women rarely seem to get fat.

They don’t go to the gym. In fact, the gym in France isn’t a very popular thing, let alone gyms of the 24 hour variety. And even from my own personal experience, every time I move back to France I drop a good 5 to 10 pounds. On the other hand, every time I move back to the States, I inevitably gain about 5 to 10 pounds! Is it in the air? What the heck? Let’s take a look!

Here are 7 reasons French Women Don’t Get Fat

why French women don't get fat

1.) They walk

French women – French people for that matter – walk a lot. It’s quite common in the bigger cities to not even own a car. Even in cities like ours where public transportation isn’t as common, people ride their bikes. Overall, they are a more active culture and therefore the gym becomes less necessary.

2.) They don’t snack all day

The French are very specific about their food times. Initially, this was foreign to me as I’m a snacker. When I’m bored, tired, or watching a movie, I like to have something to snack on. The French have very specific food times. They eat a small breakfast, rather large lunch and a decent size dinner. When the kids get home from school they have a set snack time and then they don’t eat until dinner. My kids want snacks all day. Hmmm… I wonder where they get that?

3.) Their desserts aren’t really… desserts.

There have been multiple times where we’ve eaten a dinner and they bring out the dessert platter and it’s yogurt or cheese or maybe pudding if you’re lucky. I think my fellow Americans are thinking “That’s not dessert!” This could be part of the reason I gain my 5-10 pounds when I’m in America. We do dessert right! … or wrong?

4.) Fast food isn’t as common

In my city we have to drive 10 minutes to the nearest McDonalds and that is the only fast food place in our city. We live in a smaller city but it’s not as thought it is in the middle of the country. I couldn’t even tell you where the closest Starbucks is located. Whereas in the city I live in the States we have a whole “fast food row” complete with Wendy’s, Jack in the Box, McDonald’s, and Carl’s Jr. just to name a few. And although I don’t eat at those places often, the sheer ease and availability of it all makes me do it more than here. Living here,  if I’m tired and don’t want to cook, I also don’t want to drive 10 minutes for McDo (what they call it), so I end up throwing something together with what I have.

5.) They cook. A lot.

See #2? Yes, they have their set times for eating and when they eat – they do it right! While breakfast might be small, both lunch and dinner are a more complete meal. I talked about this a little in my post about things we can learn from the French, but even at my kids’ school, which is a regular French public school, they have a full blown lunch with foods like fish, steak, lamb, soups, even ratatouille! So when the school isn’t cooking it, guess who is? The French women. I stayed with a French family last year and I swear she was in the kitchen all day. They used left overs (le reste) quite a bit but it was always a complete, healthy meal. Even living in France I could work on this one a bit!

6.) They shop more often

In France open air markets, or what we would call Farmer’s Markets, are very common. In fact, in our little town there are 3 each week! French women or families generally shop at these markets for fresh fruit often. Unlike the Americans (ehem… me) who like to shop as little as possible. But by shopping more often, even as annoying as that can be, they get fresher foods and that’s generally healthier for you.

7.) They take breaks

This will seem so foreign to Americans, but French people know how to relax. I think this definitely relates to the weight issue. In America, we take a 30 minute lunch break – if we’re lucky. In France, they have a 2 hour lunch break! Enough time to let the food sit & digest before they get back to work. They also often take walks after meals to work off what they just ate.

There you have it! Here’s the thing…these life adjustments aren’t mind blowing. They are actually quite simple, but it would require a few adjustments and a willingness to do so. I think a few simple changes can go a long way!

What do you think? Have you experienced French culture at all? What’s your take on all of this?

**Disclaimer – I have seen fat French women, so this isn’t universal. And with the arrival of more fast food chains here (slowly but surely) their culture is changing a bit so all of this is changing with it. However, we can still benefit from these tips!**

10 Tips for What to Wear in Family Photos

Family photographs are almost as exciting as the holidays for me. They mark a passage of another year, they document the amazing growth of my small people and I must admit, there is something so extraordinary about seeing the joy and love of my family captured in time. For us, family photos are an annual Fall tradition, which means every year I need to tackle the ever important question:

What will we wear?

Since I know for many people this can be nearly as much of a challenge as finding the right photographer (a very important issue I will tackle in a later post), I wanted to offer my favorite 10 tips.

Tips What to Wear Family Photos - ExtraordinaryMommy.com

1) Coordinate, don’t match.

I know. It used to be a thing – everyone would wear the exact same outfit: think jeans and a white t-shirt. A million years ago, we even did it. Don’t do it now. I clearly remember a photographer I love in San Diego fretting to me about ALL OF THE FAMILIES DOING IT. (I was one of those families – see below) And while I wouldn’t change those captured memories, we have all moved on and learned to be more stylish. Choose a color scheme – mix and match colors so that everyone flows and coordinates.

What to wear in Family Photos - ExtraordinaryMommy.com

Amazing Photographer Credit: Carey Schumacher

2) Start with one piece and build

When I don’t know what colors I want to choose for a photo shoot, I choose one piece and build around it. For this shoot below, I found this green dress that I loved and then built the rest of my family’s attire around it – adding blue for my daughter and husband, and orange for my son. (Also – I chose that vest for my son so it could be versatile – it is on in some pictures and off in others.)

What to wear in Family Photos - ExtraordinaryMommy.com

 What to wear family photos: ExtraordinaryMommy.com
Amazing Photographer Credit: Joanna Kleine

3) Plan in advance

The more time you allow yourself to decide what you would like everyone to wear, the more calm you will feel. Waiting until two nights before your shoot is bound to make you feel panicked. What if something you choose doesn’t fit, you can’t find the right shoes or your five year old refuses your chosen outfit? Just give yourself time. Additionally: options never hurt.

4) Keep your location in mind

Are you going to be on the beach? Surrounded by beautiful foliage? Sometimes you can choose what you are wearing to accent the locale. Fall colors – deep reds, oranges and greens look lovely this time of year, while a softer palette accents the coast.

What to Wear in Family Photos - ExtraordinaryMommy.com

What to wear family photos: ExtraordinaryMommy.com
Amazing Photographer Credit: Joanna Kleine

5) Avoid being too seasonal

Since you ultimately want your pictures to be up all year long, you likely want to avoid being too seasonal, so you may want to skip Santa hats, reindeer ears or Halloween costumes – even if you are taking specific holiday pictures.

6) Consider your home decor

Matching your clothing to your home decor? I know it may sound silly, but this is more about matching your personal style. As you will likely want your pictures to be on display for a very long time, consider if you are normally drawn to bold colors or neutral ones. This will allow your photographs to blend seamlessly with your home permanently.

7) Comfort matters

We have all seen – kids especially – styled in hats, boots, tutus, and jackets. And they look ADORABLE. But if those kids aren’t comfortable, you are in for one miserable photo shoot. Make sure to keep everyone’s comfort level in mind. A tutu may SOUND like a great idea, but if you choose a blustery November day, your girl may be freezing, so have a backup plan in mind.

What to Wear in Family Photos - ExtraordinaryMommy.com

Amazing photographer Credit: Gina Kelly

8) Skip the extra patterns

That favorite sweater or scarf or yours? You know the really loud one with the stripes AND dots? It might be best to skip it. A little bit of texture or patterning can be a good thing in one place, but if there are multiple patterns in a photo, it can be distracting.

9) Just say no to characters

I know your sweet girl loves her Frozen Dress and crown, but as this is a more formal photo and one you want to put on display, it is best to keep characters out of the picture. If this might be a fight, you can always bring the crown and much like my family ALWAYS does at least one crazy/silly/funny face photo, make the Princess photo one of the last ones you do.

What to wear in Family Photos - ExtraordinaryMommy.com

Amazing photographer credit: Stephanie Zettl 

What to wear family photos: ExtraordinaryMommy.com

Amazing Photographer Credit: Joanna Kleine

10) Think Timeless

Fashions and styles come and go. You want your family photos to be timeless, so it is best to aim for more of a classic look, not one that instantly dates you. Just as we can easily point to wedding photos from the 70’s and 80’s, noting the hairstyles, the frills and lace, your goal is to have this year’s photographs blend right in.

Good luck and HAVE FUN!

Fall Capsule Wardrobe – The Only 7 Pieces You Need

fall-capsule-wardrobe

You do not need to shop for a lot to be full of style

No matter what the magazines, style blogs or that tantalizing shopaholic voice inside your head tell you, you do not need to purchase a bunch of items to be fashionable this fall. Just a few updated pieces will bring you to the forefront of chic for 2014.

We suggest you shop your closet first!  Classic, ladylike accessories, fitted pieces for your bottom half, slouchy tops for your upper body, oversized outerwear and luxurious leather (or manmade leather) shoes are huge this season.

Additionally, we think that the following affordable basics will give you lots of mileage this season and look absolutely fabulous on you.

jeans

J. Crew Factory Midrise Skinny Jean $30

Fitted jeans in a classic wash

Denim is always a necessity, but an updated slim cut with tapered ankles in a basic blue is the most on-trend and slick look for the season. Wear ‘em with ballet flats or sneaks for casual, boots or heels for work or evening. If you have previously only worn boot cut jeans, block off some time for yourself to explore whether straight-leg, stovepipe, skinny jeans or jeggings with stretch work best for your bod. Fitted jeans are fabulously flattering on all figures, it is just about finding the style that works best for you.

hmprod (2)

H&M Cable-Knit Sweater $30

Cozy oversized sweater

Big, voluminous sweaters give balance to fall’s fitted bottoms, and what could be cozier than a cable-knit sweater? Colors in the grey family are very fashionable this season. This style can be dressed up or down depending on your other outfit components.

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Zara Mini Citybag $80

Ladylike structured handbag

Store your slouchy hobo for another season, it is bound to come back, and choose a structured, glamorous yet understated purse in your favorite neutral.

red coat

ASOS Oasis Tokyo Cowl Coat $145

Big belted coat

Blanket coats were all over the runways, with collars that serve as your neck scarf and lots of fabric to warm you up. You can also grab a wool coat from your closet and add your own belt on top for serious sartorial chic.

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Madden Girl Klaudia Boots $60

Sleek black booties

Do a scruff and rip check on the boots in your closet. If they do not pass the test, spring for a streamlined pair with a walkable heel. Do not be afraid to wear these with skirts and dresses! Simply look for styles that fit close to the leg area above the ankle for a flattering line.
silky-tee

Stylemint Stevie Silk Blend Tee $40

Silky tee you can dress up or down

There is something about a tee shirt that strays from the 100 percent cotton standard that screams luxury and a little bit of sultriness. It will take you from volunteering at the school to a meeting and then on to a wine bar and always look on-point.

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Nordstrom Jolt Midi Pencil Skirt $38

Midi pencil skirt

The coolest, most wearable skirt length right now hits you somewhere around your knees — the midi. Whether your choose one that hits at the top, middle or below the knee depends on your height. The shorter the gal, the shorter the skirt. A somewhat fitted or even body conscious pencil cut in a thick fabric will lengthen and slenderize your lower half (Spanx or another foundation garmet instead of flimsy underwear will also assist with this sleek look.)

Which is YOUR favorite style pick of this capsule wardrobe?

Why I’m Hooked on Younique 3D Fiber Mascara

Let’s just go right ahead and admit it….I have an eyelash-mascara obsession.

I outright stare at women who have great lashes. I’m constantly trying to figure out: amazing mascara? Extensions? Latisse? Fake lashes?

Whatever it is – I WANT IT. I love lashes. Love them, love them, LOVE THEM.

I think there is simply something so beautiful, so sexy about them – assuming of course, they are done correctly, aren’t lifting at the edges, aren’t clumped together or so obviously scream FAKE! FALSE! FALLING OFF!

If it’s appropriate, you can bet I ask…. I love when women are willing to share their best beauty secrets. The most amazing are of course, those women who have naturally long, dark lashes. Color me jealous. The rest of us have to work at it. In the past, I have tried eyelash extensions – and when they worked, they were glorious…but after a while, they stopped working for me and were no longer worth the time and financial investment.

This left me back to searching for the holy grail of mascaras: longer, thicker, darker.

Well, friends, I can happily say I have found it. And my girlfriend Jennifer gets all of the credit: Younique 3D Fiber Mascara.

Here is the before and after on me.

Younique 3D Fiber Mascara Before and After

And here is the video (a short one) that walks you through the demo of me putting it on so you and SEE me without mascara and then the difference when I have only one eye done – amazing. I’m officially hooked.

What makes Younique so special?

  • It lengthens, thickens and has staying power.
  • The fibers they use are black so you are not trying to cover ‘white’ fibers, but instead matching your lashes.
  • The price: at only $29, I feel GOOD about the product and how long it lasts.

Ok – clearly, I’m a fan. Have you tried Younique? I see it popping up everywhere and I’m starting to recognize it on friends – it makes such a difference. Let me know your thoughts or if you have any questions. Naturally, you can always reach out to Jennifer too as she is definitely the expert, but I’m happy to point you in the right direction or let you know what I think. I’m just excited I have friends who say YOU MUST TRY THIS as she did.

 

What Diaper Banks Really Need #ThisIsGood

diaper-bank-picture

An unfathomable scenario: Choosing between feeding your child or changing her diaper.

In the United States, one in three mothers have had to make that choice.

This is why the work diaper banks are doing for their local communities is crucial. When diaper banks facilitate diaper donations, babies in need have access to clean diapers. However, diaper banks also ensure that a large expense is lessened for struggling families, which ensures those babies are fed, clothed and that their parents can get to work. (Sometimes parents have to miss work due to diaper need, as most day care facilities require a day’s worth of diapers – thereby perpetuating the diaper need cycle.)

Here is how you  — and your children! — can support the important work being done by diaper banks across the country.

Donate Diapers…or Cash

The most basic way you help a diaper bank is by throwing a big box of diapers in your cart during your next grocery or wholesale store run. Go to the National Diaper Bank Network website, search for your nearest diaper bank and see if that diaper bank has a specific diaper size need. (If they do not, I always grab Size 4. My kids wore Size 4 diapers forever!) Then bring your diapers to your closest diaper bank drop-off location.

If you have unused diapers hanging out at home, check with your individual diaper bank if they accept opened packs (some allow this, others do not.)

If your schedule is crazed, consider a cash donation to your nearby diaper bank. Your contribution will go even further as the diaper banks have access to wholesale diaper prices and may have contributions matched by larger corporate sponsors. The DC Diaper bank states that a mere $12 enables them to buy almost 100 diapers through discount suppliers and keep a baby freshly pampered for two weeks.

Host a Diaper Drive

A diaper drive is one of the easiest social good goods-raisers that you will ever coordinate. You can host a diaper drive at your workplace, school or parent organization. You can even choose a diaper drive in lieu of or in addition to a baby shower! The National Diaper Bank Network has a toolkit to make your diaper drive a breeze. Simply put, you communicate to your group to bring in diapers at a specific date (or date range) and then the coordinator brings them to the diaper bank or organizes a pick-up.

A group event multiplies the diapers generated for children in need, sure. But just as importantly, a diaper drive greatly increases the awareness of this silent crisis.

Volunteer at a Diaper Bank

Diaper banks welcome — and depend on — volunteers to assist in counting, bundling, packaging and distributing the diapers delivered to their operations. Many hands are needed to get those diapers out the door and into the hands of families.

My local diaper bank, the DC Diaper Bank, welcomes playgroups, moms’ clubs, scouting troops and other organizations to come in to lend a hand. Individual families can drop in to assist, too. One incredibly fun volunteer option they offer are evenings in which parents can bring in bottles of wine for a social good-focused moms’ night out. What a fabulous way to connect with your friends and make new ones!

Serve as a Diaper Drop Off Location

Active on your neighborhood list serv? Have an office space in your city center? Then contact your local diaper bank about serving as a community drop-off location for others’ diaper donations. Often diaper banks are located in warehouses a little off the beaten path, so you can increase diaper donations by offering your address as a drop site. You can coordinate with your diaper bank about regular pickups of the donations you receive.

Get the Kids Involved

My children love assisting with diaper drives or the simple, beautiful act of adding an extra box of diapers to our errands. They have a great time counting diapers for donation and making signs for diaper drives. Other charitable efforts may be tough to convey to children (matching funds? advisory boards? huh?) But putting their hands on brightly-decorated booty covers that someday soon help a sweet child like themselves stay comfy and dry? That is such a concrete way to communicate the concept of helping others.

After all these years of changing diapers (How long have you been at it? I just finished 9 years!), it feels really good to keep on diapering babies in our community.

It is also a whole lot neater.

Make ‘Em Laugh – The Key to a Happy Home

laugh

School has started back full swing in our home, and I’m not going to lie – It’s blissfully glorious to have a few solid hours of uninterrupted quiet time around here. No one begging for a snack, tattling about all the wrongs done by a wayward sibling, or shooting Nerf darts above my head (or at my head) 452 times a day.

Blissful.

There’s always a small part of me that misses the children when they head back to school. Life is much more hectic when they’re here, yes. But it’s also more fun. And so, for a few brief moments each day, I miss the bustle and the hustle, and even the Nerf darts.

Then I laugh, grab an iced tea and open a good book.

The arguing and bickering are the one thing I do not miss for a single second. Toward the end of summertime, when the beauty of all that togetherness has worn off, it seems that my children cannot walk through the same room without finding some way to tear each other apart. They’re like little chickens pecking one another to death, and I am the mother hen in the corner ready to fly off the handle at any given moment.

There are a few tried and true methods that I’ve found to combat the arguments that leave me feeling weary with annoyance and exasperation…and sometimes curled up in a fetal position in the corner of my closet.

First, separation. Sometimes everyone just needs to return to their corners to regroup. Ten minutes in a bedroom with closed doors does wonders for bickering children…and exasperated mothers. Some days, ten minutes is all it will take. Other days, ten minutes could turn into an hour.

The second method I’ve found to help curb bickering is actually heading it off altogether. We’ve all been there, sitting at the kitchen table with our coffee when a child stumbles out of the room all scowled and grumbly. From that very first curt greeting, you can tell that you’re in for a long day. These are the times when I’ve found it’s best to make them laugh.

My children are still young enough that they find me more funny than annoying. This method will probably have to be tweaked in a few years when teenage attitude incites eye rolls over giggles. Even still, my eleven year old is in that interesting phase between grown up and little kid. He’s the boy-man who has already mastered the art of the eye roll – he just forgets to utilize it. 

You want to make a grumbly preteen boy laugh? Walk past him and very quietly whisper “poop,” or any other potty word you can think of. Even the hardest of boy hearts cannot resist a good potty word.

A little well-placed sarcasm (the funny kind, not the mean kind) can go a long way to breaking a mood. As the children sit stewing at the table, turn on the blender and fill the kitchen with the most awful, loud, grinding sound imaginable. And when it goes off, turn to them with wide eyes and ask, “Did you guys hear that?”

Sounds ridiculous, right? Not to an eight year old. She will snicker every. single. time.

A little tickle under the chin, or a silly dance as you walk by the table can do a lot to soften a mood, and a laughing kid is less likely to stick her tongue out at her brother. It’s not fool-proof, but it works more than it doesn’t, and those are odds I can live with.

My husband and I love to laugh, and we work hard to keep laughter central in our family. From silly practical jokes to lip synching KidzBop songs, we are willing to make fools of ourselves if it means we get to hear that delightful sound bubbling over from happy hearts.

And when they become teenagers, we will continue to work hard to keep laughter in the house. If anything, they will be laughing at us then, which is fine, too. I can take it. It beats arguing and eye rolls any day of the week.

What about you? How do you keep laughter in your home?