Category: Holiday Fun

Celebrate the Holidays Free of These Gift-Giving Problems

 

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Naturally, the holidays are high-stress and jam-packed with events and gatherings. As they approach, I think of the movie “Four Christmases” and how they juggled four events in one single day. With so many events, the couple agrees to using “mistletoe” as a signal that it is time to leave. At one point, Vince Vaughn’s character, Brad, silently cries in anguish, “Mistletoe!  Mistletoe!” as his overactive adult brothers wrestle him to the ground in a headlock.

Sometimes, thinking of the holidays puts us in a headlock with these biggest holiday gift-giving boundary issues.

Problem: Family Doesn’t Respect Your Rules

It takes a village to raise children, and when some of your village is undermining you with inappropriate gifts (like a mature video game or clothes that are too revealing) it can be frustrating. Most likely, they are not purposefully disrespecting you, however it still requires some parental maneuvering.

Solution: Communicate With Your Kids

Throughout the year, have discussions about gracious way to accept unwanted gifts or gifts that are not allowed. The best way to do this is to explain to your children your reasoning. You can say, “I know that Uncle Paul plays some intense games that we don’t allow you to have.  We really feel that those games aren’t good for you.  If Uncle Paul gives you a game at Christmas that’s rated as Mature, you need to know that we will have to exchange it for a more appropriate game.”

It’s also important your child knows how to accept these gifts without making a scene, lying, or making the gift-giver feel bad.  You can coach your child to say something like, “Wow!  I don’t have this one yet!” or “Thank you for taking the time to think of me.”

Problem: Value Inequality

It happens all the time at gatherings and it is easily one  of the quickest ways to alienate adults. Someone buys very extravagant gifts, making other family members feel inferior. What if Aunt Laura brings in a new American Girl doll with all of the accessories, but Aunt Britney can only afford a few Shopkins?  

I spoke to a dear friend who explained it like this:  “I know that giving nice gifts sometimes bothers others in my family, but I don’t actually do it to show off.  I do it because I remember how it felt as a kid to see my parents fail to plan for the holidays.  I was so embarrassed to exchange a last-minute bag of holiday cookies from Kroger with someone who had obviously put a lot of thought and care into a gift for me.”  

Solution: Be Empathetic

Consider that Aunt Laura may have reasons for her extravagance other than showing off:  desire to please, fear of rejection, insecurity, or even a heartfelt desire to show her thanks and love with the nicest gift she can afford.  Changing your mindset and understanding other reasoning helps you accept this other person’s gifts without tying in your own feelings of worth.

If you notice an offended gifter, talk with them privately and say something like, “I know Laura always seems to bring these huge gifts, but I want you to know that it says nothing about how much you love us or we love you.  Gifts are just a token, but the real treasure is having you in our lives.”

Problem: Present Inequality

There’s always the perfect gift giver – the one person who always has the right gift picked out for your child, leaving your child unimpressed by their other gifts.  If Granny gives your child a new Paw Patrol set, but Nana brings a bag of organic wooden blocks, there’s bound to be a wildly different response from your kids.  

Solution: Gratitude Coaching

Preparing your children ahead of time is key.  Explain to your children that they will most likely get some amazing gifts and some mediocre gifts. Talk about this scenario in reverse, emphasizing gratitude for the intent instead of the actual gift:  “What if you spent hours making Nana a beautiful painting and she merely responded, ‘Thanks’ but then she gushed over a new car that I bought her?  You’d feel pretty sad, right?”  This encourages your child to graciously accept every gift he or she receives.

Be sure to discuss duplicate gifts, as well. Often kids will receive the same gift and blurt out, “I already have this!” Encouraging gratitude for the intent will save your children from offending other family members.

The holidays are stressful enough without adding in the dilemmas that gift giving and receiving can cause. Communication will be your saving grace.

Celeste CoffmanCeleste Coffman is a Licensed Professional Counselor and owner of the Quiet Mind Collective. Read her blog for more tips on managing stress and anxiety, or become a registered member to access videos, resources, and more detailed articles. Sign up for her next course Parenting Anxious Kids.

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Moms, This Christmas Season Take a Day Off

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You may have noticed I missed my usual Friday Favorites post. I’ll save that post for later. Right now I want to tell you about my weekend.

I didn’t get to post anything on Friday because I was so rushed trying to make too many things happen. I wanted to surprise my kids with some special elves, I was finishing up a power point presentation and delivering collection boxes for Christmas cards for my card charity. Plus, I had the usual list of household demands to finish up. I was completely overwhelmed by baking cookies for my kids birthday (twins in two different classrooms = double the birthday treats), piecing together costumes for dress up day, meal planning, blog planning and figuring out who needed clean socks. Life.

I decided to take a day off. I needed to breathe.

My husband can’t read my mind and recognize when I’m on overload and my thoughts are spinning over and and over, obsessing about how to make it all work. I have to say out loud, “I need a day off.” I declared Sunday as my day. No cooking, cleaning, planning or prepping. I enjoyed doing things I like. I am a Christmas fool. I love, love, love everything about this season. But, having to plan things with the kids who just (by nature) complain, or melt down, or cry because our activity didn’t meet their expectations really makes my holiday feel a less joyful.

Instead of shoving everyone into winter coats and mittens and loading into the car to go caroling at a local nursing home, I went by myself. I love to sing carols and be among the sea of voices bringing cheer to life. Last year it was a debacle with kids crying because it was too loud, it was too crowded. They were fighting over the instruments and every half hour one or both of them needed to use the bathroom. This year was fabulous. I got to hold cute babies who were excited to see me. I finished entire songs and most importantly I got to feel recharged by joy. It was wonderful!

After caroling I stopped by Starbucks to grab a peppermint hot chocolate and a Christmas cookie. Oh. My. Word. Do these things just taste so much better without a kid climbing on me, or screaming in my ear?!! YES! I love sharing cookies and cocoa with my kids, but it is hard to enjoy all of it when it is a chore to get through.

My day ended with an aerial yoga class and dinner with my dear friend (and now famous) Erica. Spending time doing something fun with a friend and talking about life, not just mom life, was exactly what I needed. Taking time to relax in a hectically paced season helps me appreciate the small moments that happen in a day. The sweetness of a cookie, the warmth of cocoa and the light of friendship. Not to mention all the laughter while trying to get myself into a hanging yoga position. All joy filled things to help me slow down and cherish life one moment at a time.

So if you are stressing out about how to get everything done right now, press the pause button. Take time to recharge. Take the day off and spend it the way you want to, or ask a friend to watch the kids while you grab a coffee and walk through the most expensive stores with the most fragile, beautiful things. I promise everything will be waiting for you when you get back! The earth will still be spinning if you don’t finish your to-do list. If you are a new mom, take time. If you are a seasoned mom, take time. You are worth it!

How do you find joy for yourself during the holiday (rush) season?

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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3 Simple Christmas Traditions for Young Families

Christmas can be such a stressful time of year for most folks. But add to that sleepless nights, colds, teething, temper tantrums and just trying to keep your kid from knocking over the Christmas tree you worked so hard to put up, and you’ve got the perfect storm for a holiday that isn’t any fun.  Well, since I started reading The Whatever Mom (Roxanne is my mama spirit animal), I’ve come to the conclusion that often less is more. My main goal with motherhood is to keep my sanity and have kids who are happy and healthy.  Here are 3 things we do at our house to simplify Christmas with our 17 month old, while still making it memorable and fun for our family, and something we can look back on fondly.

Holiday Traditions

For our family, the easiest way to guarantee fun each year and make the holiday special is to start a family tradition (or two). It doesn’t have to be anything complicated.  We use a fun little Christmas plate for meals starting the day after Thanksgiving and we break out the advent calendar.  Not a lot of work to grab these two out of our attic and they’re so cute in pictures each day.  Here’s one of our banana and pancake breakfast this morning!  

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You can find similar plates just about anywhere.  I believe we got this one from the dollar section at Target, but if you shop online you can have it shipped directly to you and you don’t even have to leave your house. (See shopping links below).

We also like to use an advent calendar to count down until Christmas.  It makes for a fun little daily tradition and cute pictures too! Here’s one from Pottery Barn, which holds up great, but if that’s not in your budget this year, you can make a paper chain or coloring chart, or look for one that’s half off at the end of the season!

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No Fuss Decorations

When you have young kids, they want to touch and hold and play with e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. So put away the $100 crystal ornament you inherited from your great grandmother; and the sentimental (breakable) ornaments you got the first year you were married. Instead, fill in those spaces with some fun ornaments your kids help you make.  It will give them hours (or at least several minutes) of fun and they will have keepsakes they can take with them some day.  Most craft stores have little wooden ones for a dollar or two that can be colored-in with markers.  If you’re really brave, you can even get out the paint!

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Plan Ahead

Making a plan may sound like work, but it can actually give you peace and sanity this time of year.  Talk with your husband (or co-parent) and your kids (if they’re old enough) about what activities are most important to them.  Then, make a list of 3-4 activities that you know are doable, and make a plan to do just those activities.  You might be surprised what means the most to you and your family.   

Our list typically looks something like this:

  1. Set up Christmas Decoration
  2. Take Family Photos for Christmas Cards
  3. Visit the trains at the mall (They have an Amazing electric train display at our mall, that our little guy LOVE to go see).
  4. Make cookies
  5. Go look at Christmas lights

The great thing about planning ahead, is now we don’t have to think about what we want to do and no one is left feeling like they didn’t get to do what they wanted.  As an added bonus, if things don’t go exactly as planned, it’s OK!  Didn’t get a chance to make cookies? That’s OK! We’ll buy some festive ones from the store or local bakery.  Our little guy got sick last year during the week of Christmas and we opted not to take him out to look at Christmas lights, but we’re hoping to this year!

Spending time with each other is the most important thing this time of year so make sure to carve out a little time to relax, drink some cocoa, enjoy some wrestle snuggle time and watch a Christmas movie or two.  You’ll be glad you didn’t overwhelm yourself with a huge to-do list this year!

peter-and-rosieRosie Bynum is a boy mom and owner of The Dinosaur Clothing Boutique. Her son Luke and husband Peter help her run the family business. Check out all the adorable creations on her website, Facebook and Instagram.


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4 Low Budget Almost Handmade Holiday Gifts

Quasi Handmade Gifts

I have vivid memories of the closet in the extra bedroom of the house I grew up in. The best stuff was shoved way to the back corner on the floor, occupying the oldest stratigraphic layers of closet geologic time: my mom’s forgotten Christmas craft supplies. Two file boxes full of that weird crunchy florist ribbon, decaying foam wreath forms, stapled baggies filled with sequins… like manna from heaven.

Fast-forward to my own life as a mom: I’ve never given up on the dream of a handmade Christmas, though my standards have relaxed in the wake of having two children in 18 months. My life is nuts, the holidays sometimes give me an anxiety rash, and I’m not particularly good at juggling very many things at once. As such, I bring you:

Ideas for A (Quasi) Handmade Holiday

Fabric Napkins

I’m usually a booze-as-a-gift sort of person – but grad school yielded more friendships than I could afford to buy Frangelico gift sets for. So I sleuthed out everyone’s general decor palettes and got to work hemming quilting cotton into 12” x 18” rectangles. The shape required less fabric than a traditional 18” square napkin (cheap), and using highly patterned quilting cotton meant you could stain it up pretty badly before it looked too gnarly (easy care). And they don’t require ironing – just fold them up however you like directly out of the dryer and they look great. You don’t even need to hem them if that’s too much of a pain, just zig-zag stitch around the edges and allow them to fray as they wear. I still see those cloth napkins on occasion when I visit my friends. At least the smart ones who put them out when I come over.

Whipped Shea Butter

I went through a phase making handcrafted all-natural lotions and ablutions… before husband. Before children. Back when my thoughts and bathroom time were my own. The biggest hit with everyone was also the easiest to make: whipped shea butter. Throw a bunch of shea butter (I buy mine on Amazon), and whatever smelly stuff you like (maybe essential oils from your Young Living friend who won’t shut up about the soles of her family’s feet) into a stand mixer and beat it into oblivion. Seriously, cue up something captivating on YouTube, because you’re going to be there a while. Whip until fluffy like frosting and pipe into clean jars (go with small mason jars if you want to destroy your girlfriends’ dreams for the title of DIY Goddess). Slap on a label from some super cute shop on Etsy if you’re an overachiever, or with a Sharpie and a prayer if you’re me. Lob them at your friends on Christmas Eve and say, “You’re welcome.”

Flavored Spirits

As I mentioned earlier, I am a booze-gifter. Mostly because it’s a guaranteed crowd-pleaser in the circles I frequent (read: my family). But gift-grade alcohol can be pricey and it’s completely weird to buy it in bulk and present it in unmarked containers. Unless it’s a Handmade Gift™. Enter flavored spirits. Fill well-scrubbed decorative bottles a quarter to halfway with fruits, herbs, whole spices, even tea leaves or coffee beans. (Shop thrift stores or off-price retailers for bottles and sanitize with a powdered oxygen brewer’s wash like PBW). Buy decent but inexpensive liquor in the giant bottles (you don’t care what those other shoppers think) and decant into your prepared bottles. Try flavor combos like Earl Grey and gin, vanilla bean and bourbon, or peppercorn/dill/celery seed and vodka for Bloody Marys. Sharpie the contents onto the bottle with a shaky hand, then eyeball the recipient until they cave and share with you. Happy Hanukkah!  

Homemade Granola

I know. I don’t entirely understand why, but people LOVE this stuff. That’s a lie. I do understand. It tastes way better than store-bought. You can customize it however you want. It looks great in a cellophane bag tied with jute, or burlap, or gingham, or whatever rustic expression you feel really drives home that you slaved in a kitchen to express your love for the recipient (or slay your Pinterest posse and use swing top bale jars. Mic drop.). And it’s a breeze to make. Hit up Uncle Google for specific recipes, but granola is basically a bunch of shelf-stable fruits, nuts, seeds, and grains mixed to whatever proportions you like, bound together loosely with sweeteners and oils, flavored with herbs and spices for unexpected panache, and baked to a satisfying crunch that can withstand milk or stand alone.

And there you have it: ideas for a handmade holiday. I will be presenting store-bought pie for Christmas dinner, and there will be no cranberry-and-popcorn garland on my tree, nor evergreen bough wreath on my door – because who has time between hauling the 4-year-old from the top shelf of the linen closet for the hundredth time and yelling at the dog to stop eating her own poop? But one or two lazy little projects will scratch that DIY itch. Even better, amid the chaos that can sometimes overwhelm us at the holidays, I’ll be able to flex my creative muscles a bit and my kids will witness me making things with my hands that are beautiful or delicious (or inebriating), that make others happy. And that is pretty fabulous.

marenMaren is a dedicated coffee-drinker, sewist, survivor of the 2-Boys-Under-Two Club, and master Lego builder. She loves Netflix bingeing, beer, and talking about eating bacon all the time but not actually doing it. Because heart attacks. She writes in the key of sailor whenever the spirit strikes over at artslostandfound.com

 

 

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Holiday Shopping with Groupon Coupons

This is a sponsored post. All honest opinions and experiences are 100% my own. 

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A couple of weeks ago I shared my love for saving money by shopping for Groupon Goods. I don’t shop or travel without checking with Groupon first! Now I am ready to try out Groupon Coupons to save even more!

If you are like me, maybe you just started your holiday shopping. I’ll just share my gift giving plan this year. I am planning on buying gifts from local crafty moms because I’ve got zero talent, or time. Also, I am only buying maintenance free gifts because I am tired of picking things up off the floor. How many parents can relate to that?!

I signed an oath upon entering motherhood that makes me obligated to put socks and underwear under the tree. There’s no getting around it! Every mom MUST buy these staple gifts at Christmas! So, I checked out what Groupon Coupons has to offer and of course they have some codes from Hanes! I clicked on the Black Friday deals first to find the most savings. Am I the only mom that gets excited to see mix and match sweats starting at $5.00?

Groupon Coupons

Last year we gave our kids a ridiculous amount of art supplies. We have an entire art cart that is cleaned out by yours truly. So I’m thinking a once a month subscription box from Kiwi Crate will be more manageable! All the art supplies I need for one project!? No storage needed? Easy! Plus, living in the North East we get some crazy cold weather, so having a fun indoor project on hand is a must! Otherwise I have to listen to arguing, or worse…. the theme song to Peg & Cat on continuous loop! Agh!! Thankfully there are 15 coupons for Kiwi Crate alone!

Groupon Coupons

All coupons are verified and you can use them online, or in-store where specified.

Thank you Groupon Coupons for helping me check off two easy (low maintenance) holiday gifts for my kids. You helped me save money and saved me from shopping in stores during the holiday rush! That’s what I like to call more time for wine!!

Have you used Groupon Coupons yet?

 

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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How To Embrace Your Sensory Friendly Halloween

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If you have never heard of sensory processing disorder you are not the only one. Most parents do not know what this is until their child is diagnosed with the disorder. The difficulty is that even with a diagnosis, you as a parent may have no clear and final definition of what makes your kid tick. Every kid is different and it can take time to identify your child’s sensory triggers.

According to the website Understood.org, children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) “may be oversensitive or undersensitive to the world around them. When the brain receives information, it gives meaning to even the smallest bits of information. Keeping all that information organized and responding appropriately is challenging for them.”

As unique as your child is, so is the way their brain processes things like smell, taste and touch. Some kids never notice the feeling of a tag on their shirt, or the seam in their socks. But there are kids who are so distracted by this sensation that they can cry or scream, or even become aggressive. If you have a kid with sensory issues you are not alone! One in twenty children live with some varying degree of sensory processing disorder. Navigating daily life can be a struggle, let alone having to wear an itchy costume in a crowded, loud setting.

Both of my children have mild sensory issues which mostly involves volume levels and large crowds. When they were little I didn’t take them very far on Halloween. The year we let them choose on their own which houses to stop at was the year they decided they liked trick or treating. Now we let them take us as far as they want to go, we carry extra snacks and we call it quits when they get overwhelmed. We begin our evening slow and head home in time to hand out treats.

I polled some of my mom friends who are in the know about sensory processing and the sensory demands of Halloween. The best piece of advice: is to not force your child beyond their limits. Halloween activities are for their enjoyment and it is OK to let them enjoy activities in their own way. If your child can only handle wearing a small piece of their costume, or no costume at all, let that be enough. My friend Erin shares that one year she let her son go as himself at his request. “Thankfully the people around us accepted that. And he had a great Halloween because he could do his own thing.”

MOM TIPS

Select a costume that is mask free, or does not require face paint. Let your kids use their own familiar clothing as part of their costume to help them enjoy dressing up. For kids with auditory sensory issues, using noise cancelling headphones works great. For kids who are sensitive to bright lights, start your trick or treat night as early as possible and take advantage of the day light. If your child tires easily map out a short route, or bring along a wagon to let them take a break. And again, it’s OK if you cut your time short and head back home early.

PRO TIPS

Being a parent of a child with sensory issues can feel overwhelming, but imagine being the child who is struggling to process so much sensory information at once. It can provoke a lot of anxiety not knowing what is happening next. Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant Gina Bergdall suggests allowing your child to carry a fidget toy. This will allow them a constructive “place to focus their anxiety on.” Bergdall also shares these tips provided by the American Occupational Therapy Association. 

It may also be helpful to pick only a few places to trick or treat and review that plan with your child before hand. If they know they are only going to 5 or 6 houses nearby, they can feel a sense of control ticking the number of houses off the list. Seeing familiar faces can also make them feel more at ease.

HOW TO EMBRACE

If your child is overly sensitive to crowds or noises there is no rule that mandates they go trick or treating. You can make some really amazing traditions right at home. Bake some great treats, make a fun meal together, or if they want to, let them help with handing out candy. Invite the grandparents or family over for pizza and a movie. There is no wrong way to participate in Halloween! Staying at home where it is familiar may be just what your child needs to celebrate comfortably.

I get it moms! Having to make these kinds of accommodations often feels like our children are missing out on experiences other kids get to have, or the experiences we had as kids. But really, the holiday is about our kid’s enjoyment. If that looks different than the way other families celebrate, that’s OK. Embrace your unique traditions! If your child is comfortable at home watching Halloween specials and eating popcorn, join them! Deciding to follow their lead helps them feel capable! Plus, sharing a special night in together as your Halloween tradition is way more relaxing than walking around in the cold wearing a cookie cutter costume.

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia 

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Friday Favorites – Basic Invite

Friday Favorites Basic Invite

If you are like me you spend a lot of time designing just the right holiday card, birth announcement, or thank you card in your head only to find most sites don’t have what you are looking for. When the folks at Basic Invite offered me a select number of custom cards it was hard to choose exactly which card to design. I no longer need baby shower invites, or to send out personalized birth announcements. Those years are behind me now, but I know there are so many of you who need a great design site to find just the perfect stationary for those exact occasions. That’s why I am so excited to share this find with you!

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I thought about what I should create since I am not getting married and we aren’t having a birthday party for the girls this year. (Don’t worry we are doing something special, just not a party). I wasn’t sure what kind of stationary I really need. I thought about designing my Christmas cards, but I’m not ready to unveil those to anyone just yet. Those are top secret until they show up in mail boxes! So I designed some thank you cards to match The Whatever Mom web site. These will be great to include when shipping prizes, or thanking partners.

I have not yet found, or used, a site with so many options to personalize my design. After I select my card design I perused the gallery of over 160 different color options. I also have the option to change up the textures and patterns. For example, I start with a a polka dot background and a peacock in front. I have fun changing up the colors of the feathers, the polka dots and the background. Having the ability to change all of these essential elements makes it easy to match a party theme, baby nursery or wedding colors. Basic Invite offers truly customizable cards for every life event, from weddings to birth announcements to bah mitzvahs and graduations.

basic_invite_bannounce3

It is so hard to choose a final design because I love every thing. I love the instant preview option so I can see my changes within seconds. I am so excited that Basic Invite is one of the few companies that offers free samples of actual invite/card choices. Having a physical sample in hand before ordering hundreds of wedding invites saves so much worry! This way you can see the texture and the colors before placing your final order.

Even the envelop is customizable. You can choose from 40 different color options and include an address. The envelops come free with most orders and include a peal and seal closure. There’s no licking! This will be a huge time saver when sending out Holiday cards!

The most difficult part of the design process is selecting just one option. I narrow down my final choice from over 22 pages of card designs. I enjoy the list of recommended matching items and related items. This way I won’t forget to include special inserts and I can see what other stationary will look like with my design.

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Once I select the card I like best and change the colors from what is pictured to what I want the rest is easy. I see my design choices in the instant preview, and once I select the envelop color it is available for side by side preview.

The check out process is very simple. I was a little distracted by the fun of creating my design that I did not realize I forgot to create an account. I confess I have done this on other sites too. I typically lose my fun little design and have to start over again. This time my choices are saved and waiting for me after I create my account. It may sound like a small thing, but as a busy mom doing a few too many things at once, it is such a convenience to not have to start a project all over again.

During the check out, I agree to the final edits and that all the information is correct. I can do this for free or assign the task to the design team at Basic Invite for just $10. You probably won’t select this option on just a handful of thank you cards, or announcements. But if you are ordering over 100 wedding invites this is an important service to have available.

Basic Invite Thank You Card

Overall I am really impressed by Basic Invite’s services. The website is user friendly, the design process is easy and fun, the paper quality is excellent and the customer service post order is spectacular. I received prompt emails asking if I am satisfied with my products. I highly recommend Basic Invite to design your next round of one of a kind cards!

Financial compensation was given in exchange for honest review of Basic Invite online design service. All opinions belong solely to The Whatever Mom. No affiliate links are included in this post. I only review products and services that readers can truly use and feel good about using.

 

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia and The Novice Mommy.

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Secret Sister Gift Exchange, Scam or Solidarity

In October a friend of mine posted about a Secret Sister Gift Exchange. Maybe you have already heard of this? You post on Facebook asking for 6 friends to participate and when they reply you send them the details. To participate you only have to send one gift, and you will get 36 in return. Well, after mapping out the number of passes my name makes, it only works out to 12 gifts, IF everyone participates. I had already sent out the info to my six gal pals and purchased my $10 worth of gifts when I started getting emails and texts from friends saying this was a scam and an illegal chain letter. So, I did a little research.

According to Snopes.com this is considered a chain letter type of post and it validated my math query. (I am notoriously horrible at math so I was glad to see I was right this time). It also shared the United States Postal Inspector’s definition of chain letters:

“A typical chain letter includes names and addresses of several individuals whom you may or may not know. You are instructed to send a certain amount of money–usually $5–to the person at the top of the list, and then eliminate that name and add yours to the bottom. You are then instructed to mail copies of the letter to a few more individuals who will hopefully repeat the entire process. The letter promises that if they follow the same procedure, your name will gradually move to the top of the list and you’ll receive money — lots of it.”

Here is how the Facebook Post reads:

Secret Sister Gift Exchange

I felt really skeptical and a little embarrassed that I sent this out to friends. How could I have not known this was a scam? So, I sent a group message and cancelled the entire thing. I still sent a gift to the woman on my list because I knew she was probably just as excited as me to participate. I didn’t want her to feel gypped. I thought no harm in bringing a smile to someone’s face. Who doesn’t love to get a fun gift in the mail?

Just a day or two after I cancelled, a package arrived for me and I thought, “Did I order something online and forget about it?” Nope. It was a gift just for ME- two beautiful scarves! Both sent from a mom I already know who did not reply as one of my original six sisters.

secret sister scarf

A week later another package arrived on my door step addressed to ME. I did not recognize the return address and I could not figure out who it could be from. It was another secret sister gift! This time a fabulous candle and a beautiful dish towel to hang in my kitchen. This gift came from someone I have never met. So, I sent her a thank you card and in return she sent me a Christmas card.

secret sister candle

Despite everyone’s skepticism (including my own) I have no regrets in participating. I think if you are sharing with friends you know personally, and the original poster isn’t the only one benefiting and getting all the goods, then this is just a fun way to brighten someone’s day. As a mom it is rare I get gifts just for me. As much as I would like to I wouldn’t spend money on these things for myself (which are all things I love). Having someone take the time to purchase a thoughtful gift for me to enjoy is truly uplifting. I am grateful for the two optimistic and caring individuals who threw caution to the wind and made me their secret sister. I hope someone else did the same for them!

If you have the same concerns, or only want to exchange gifts among friends you can use this Secret Santa Generator at Drawnames.com (I have never used this site personally, nor do I endorse it. Just offering as a suggested alternative).

The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

Find more from Roxanne at Hudson Valley Parent and at Masshole Mommy

 

 

 

 

Sharing is Caring:

On the Tenth Day of Service Give the Gift of Your Best Self

10

Our nine days of service have included some great experiences to share with the kids. I hope you enjoy the simplicity and are inspired to find creative ways to include your kids in service to others. Now, I am going to suggest you give back in a way only YOU can. Give a friend, a neighbor, or a stranger your best self.

How can you help?

  1. See another mom at school drop off who looks overwhelmed? Ask her out for coffee. As moms we don’t take the time for ourselves, we so easily give it way. But, if we schedule time with someone else we are more apt to follow through. Connecting over coffee will give both of you time to recharge.
  2. See a neighbor who lives alone? Don’t just drop off a note, knock on the door. Invite them over for tea and chat for a while. If they aren’t able to make it out of the house take them a meal and stay a while to talk. Giving someone your full attention even for fifteen minutes of small talk could mean the world to them.
  3. See someone who needs a shopping cart? Offer them yours. Give them a big smile and wish them a great day. The thoughtfulness of strangers can be very uplifting.
  4. Is there someone you miss talking to? Put away the to-do list and pick up the phone. Give them a call and check in. Ask how they are doing and find out what’s new. You’ll be glad you took the time to catch up.
  5. Look at people’s faces while standing in line at the grocery store. Talk to them about the weather. Notice something about them you like: a scarf, a pin, their shoes and give them a compliment. Talk to the cashier about how busy the store looks today and thank them for their service. It can be rare that someone tells us something nice about ourselves that even the smallest compliment can give us a boost.

I know all of my service posts have featured small acts with big impact. I’ve showed you how to package up gifts and cards and send them out to people in need. But, not all of us need material things. Some of us just need to be recognized. Some of us just need a little kindness in our day. Like a pebble dropped into the water the ripples travel outward until they join the current and create a big wave. Together we can start a tidal wave just by being our best selves this holiday.

 

Related posts:

On The First Day Of Service Host A Food Drive

On The Second Day of Service Host A Coat Drive

On The Third Day of Service Make A Special Delivery

On The Fourth Day of Service Send Some Cheer

On The Fifth Day of Service Give Some Swag

On The Sixth Day of Service Rise Together

On The Seventh Day of Service Make A Furry Friend

On The Eighth Day of Service Express Your Gratitude

On The Ninth Day of Service Share Your Spirit

 

The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

Find more from Roxanne at Hudson Valley Parent and at Masshole Mommy

Sharing is Caring:

On The Eighth Day of Service Express Your Gratitude

12 Days of Service

I’ll never forget the Christmas my brother in-law Joe was serving in Iraq. The entire holiday season felt off because we were all so worried about his safety on the other side of the world. We built care packages for him and included items for him to share with the members of his unit. We wanted to be sure if anyone was missing letters and packages from home there was enough for Joe to share. Thankfully, he was only gone for the one Christmas and returned home safely shortly after.

During his time on active duty I helped host a collection drive and assembled shoe boxes of supplies to send to our soldiers. Since then I have remembered to send letters and cards at Christmas. This year, I have found a great organization that makes it really easy for parents and kids to give back to members of the military: Operation Gratitude.

OPGA_poster_army

There are several ways you can share your support through Operation Gratitude. One of the easiest and least expensive ways is to assemble a care kit. This small kit of personal care items is included in care packages shipped to 150,000+ deployed Troops, Recruits, Veterans and Wounded Warriors. These kits are a valued contribution to the packages. Most requested items include: Lip Balm, Toothpaste, Toothbrush, Roll-on Deodorant, Razors, Individual packets of moist towelettes, Hand/Foot Warmers, Foot powder (travel size).

You and your kids can shop for and fill one bag, or invite friends to donate items and have a stuffing party. Fill a gallon sized Zip Lock bag, or a clear toiletry travel kit with your care items. (All of which can be found at your local dollar store). Be sure to include a personal letter, or card for the recipient.

write a letter

If you are unable to assemble kits because of the cost, or maybe you just have really little ones and it’s hard to get everyone out of the house, write a letter! Your words of encouragement and gratitude will go a long way. Yes, even the scribbles and stickers from a small child will help brighten someone’s day!

Sharing in this simple activity is a great reminder for children how important it is to lend our support and say thank you to our military. It helps instill gratitude for those who are serving to keep us safe.

Related posts:

One The First Day of Service Host a Food Drive

On The Second Day of Service Host a Coat Drive

On The Third Day of Service Make a Special Delivery

On The Fourth Day of Service Send Some Cheer

On The Fifth Day of Service Give Some Swag

On The Sixth Day of Service Rise Together

On the Seventh Day of Service Make a Furry Friend

 

The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

Find more from Roxanne at Hudson Valley Parent and at Masshole Mommy

 

 

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