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Nature vs. Nurture: When Ordinary Happenings Become Full-Contact Sports (plus, a GIVEAWAY treat!)

Nature vs. Nurture: When Ordinary Happenings Become Full-Contact Sports (plus, a GIVEAWAY treat!)

Nature vs. nurture?  Not even a question in my mind.  I was enlightened when I became a Mother of Boys (M.O.B.).  For anyone out there still debating nature vs. nurture, I know the answer.  It’s nature, people!  Nine years into being a M.O.B., I am still mind-blown by the otherwise ordinary activities that play out like full-contact sports in my house.  Things that my sister and I calmly did together as kids lead to instantaneous brawls between my boys.  Is it like this in your M.O.B. house?  Here are 10 examples of full-contact sports my boys engage in.  (and to think I had once said they weren’t sporty!)

boys will be boys

PUZZLES:

OK, boys, sort the edge pieces vs. the inside pieces, and . . . WHY ARE YOU SITTING ON HIS HEAD?  JUST BECAUSE HE’S HOLDING THE PIECE YOU WANTED TO PUT IN?

BUILDING WITH TOY TRAIN TRACKS:

Guys, this looks awesome — it looks like a roller coaster . . . WHY DID YOU KNOCK HIS TRACK DOWN just because you think it looks more like a real roller coaster than yours does?  DO NOT hit him with that plastic track!

FAMILY MOVIE NIGHT:

Awww, they’re cuddling . . . wait, no, it’s wrestling . . . no, I think it’s cuddling.  Nope, definitely wrestling.  And when someone gets hurt, I’m turning the movie off.

WAITING IN LINE:

KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF,  get off that railing, and don’t think I don’t see you kicking your brother. (clobber clobber, punch punch, subtle kick)

PLAYING STORE:

Awww, you guys set up a store!  OK, I’m here to buy this toy and some snacks if you sell any.  WHY ARE YOU CRYING AND SCREAMING AND PUSHING THE CASH REGISTER ONTO HIS FOOT?  You guys have work it out and take turns being the bagger and the cashier.

Nature vs. nurture
Playing store. Boy-style.

EATING BREAKFAST:

YOU THREW THE HARD-BOILED EGG AT HIM BECAUSE IT WAS THE EGG YOU WANTED?  Do you see we have a bowl of a dozen hard-boiled eggs here? What was so special about that one?

BAKING:

We set up an assembly line. One kid adds the flour, one adds the sugar, one adds the baking soda.  You get the idea.  Have you ever seen a bowl full of powdery ingredients get passed forcefully from one kid to the next?  It’s messy!  But the last time we baked our traditional pumpkin bread, everyone had fun, everyone behaved, until I asked them to get close and pose with the finished product.  PUNCH.

Nature vs. Nurture
Baking, Boy-style

BATH-TIME:

Me: Why is E lying on the shower floor?  R: “I guess he got pushed down as we were rushing ahead to see who would shower first.”

BOARD GAMES:

The game is called “Sorry,” but I haven’t heard that word come out of your mouths because you’ve been too busy fighting over which card pile is neater.

GETTING OUT OF THE CAR:

This one may be my favorite.  Three boys, big backpacks, multiple car doors.  Plenty of room.  But this is how they get out of a car.

full-contact everything
Nature vs. Nurture: Getting out of the car

What full contact “sports” have your sons mastered in your family?  Can we put this nature vs. nurture discussion to rest now?

 

GIVEAWAY!  Are you exhausted from being referee to these full-contact activities at your house?  YOU DESERVE A TREAT FOR YOU!  M.O.B. Truths has partnered with Real Cookies Bakery to give away two dozen delicious cookies!  Interested?  FOLLOW @mobtruths on Instagram, comment on this post in Instagram with a cookie emoji, AND FOLLOW @realcookiesbakery on Instagram. A winner will be randomly selected on Sunday, November 24, 2017.  Don’t follow if you plan to unfollow – we’re hoping you’re with us for good!

 

Thoughtful Thank-you Notes

Thoughtful Thank-you Notes

We all love to express thanks around the Thanksgiving holiday, but in my house, we try — admittedly sometimes without success — to teach thankfulness as a way of life regardless of what time of year it is.  That includes writing thoughtful thank-you notes.

gratitude
thoughtful thank-you notes

I know a lot of people who actually don’t bother with these at all.  They receive a gift and don’t acknowledge it.  Don’t get me wrong, when I give gifts, I don’t do so for the sake of getting a thank-you.  I do so to spread kindness or show appreciation, to show someone I truly understand them, or, of course, in celebration of a holiday or event.  But I can’t really think of a time when I, myself, received something and didn’t write a thank you-note in return.  Or a time when I haven’t enjoyed doing so.

I “force” my kids to do the same.  Yes, it’s a mandatory activity.  It’s not second-nature to them yet to think of writing a note on their own, though luckily they do often voice “thank you” when they receive something.  But I think it’s important for them to do more. I want them to acknowledge that somebody thought of them, gave them something, did something for them, and would likely be happy to know that my kids appreciated it.

Writing thoughtful thank-you notes doesn’t have to be a frustrating ordeal.  Though I force the activity, I do try to make it fun for the kids, and try to add a personal touch.  Here are 6 quick and easy, creative thank-you note ideas:

  1. Trace your child’s hand with magic marker on paper.  Have them either color it in or write their message within the handprint.  It is quick and fun, and shows the child was actually involved in the thank-you process.
  2. Do your kids like Spin Art?  Mine do!  And after a few minutes of Spin Art, I find zillions of those little colorful splattered cards drying on my counter.  I save them and repurpose them as thank-you notes.
  3. If you have a lot of notes to send, for example after a birthday party, create a template/image related to the theme of the party, for example in Powerpoint, and print out several copies to use as thank-you notes.  You can type and print the message and have your child sign the note, or you can hand-write the note.
  4. Fingerpaint! Preferably washable.  We love making keepsakes with fingerpaint, including handprints on paper cards to use as thank-you notes.
  5. Stickers.  Simply fold a piece of paper into a card form, and have your child cover it with fun stickers before writing the note.
  6. Make a puzzle!  Write your thank-you note on it and then break it up to add some fun for the recipient.  We love these pre-made blank puzzles, but it’s just as easy to simply color a picture or write your note on paper, then cut it up into puzzle piece shapes.
Spin Art, Stickers, Puzzle Thank-You Notes

 

Not in the mood for any of these?  Simply write a note.  It’s the thought that counts.  🙂

thank you
Simple thank-you note

Wondering what to say in the thank-you note?  If my child has trouble thinking of it on his own, or is too young to write, we go through a simple series of questions to get the words out:

  • Who gave you the gift?  (Dear _________,)
  • What did they give you?  (Thank you for the _____________)
  • How did it make you feel? (I love it! OR It made me so happy! OR I’ve always wanted that! OR It fits perfectly! ETC.)
  • Anything else you want to tell them? (I’m so glad you could celebrate with me.  I hope you had fun. OR That was so thoughtful of you).
  • Who are you?  (Love, __________)

What are you thankful for these days?  I hope you can use some of these ideas shown here to express it.  I’ll be quite thankful if you do.  🙂

 

 

Things Parents Say: 15 (More) Things I Never Knew I’d Say While Raising Boys

Things Parents Say: 15 (More) Things I Never Knew I’d Say While Raising Boys

Things parents say.  We rolled our eyes at our parents while we were growing up, and now we say some of the same things they said to us.    But we also say things we never could have predicted, never expected.  Especially if you’re a M.O.B., like me.  Here are 15 more* things I never knew I’d say as a parent (I still can’t believe I had to say some of these!):  *See 15 others from last year!

  1. THIS is how you wash your butt
  2. Take your foot out of your cereal bowl
  3. Please stop licking your knee
  4. Get that cracker out of your butt.  (Kids: “Ewwww, I almost ate the buttcracker..  Get it?  Buttcrack . ..er”)
  5. Why am I the only one in this house who prefers to wear underwear at all times?
  6. We don’t cook naked
  7. I swear to you that you will have a much more successful life with more friends and less sickness if you stop eating your snot.
  8. No, we will not eat dinner in the bathtub
  9. We don’t answer the front door naked
  10. Let’s go see if your brother needs help getting off the toilet
  11. Put your penis away and go brush your teeth
  12. Just because you didn’t feel any farts or hear any farts doesn’t mean you didn’t fart
  13. Popsicles were not invented for you to draw with them on the wall!
  14. Take the Cheerios out of your nose
  15. Stop playing penis tag.  Penis tag is NOT a thing.

What unexpected thing have you said as a parent?  I’d love to know I’m not alone in this!

 

“Things Raising Boys: 15 Things Parents Say That I Never Knew I’d Say

 

Liebster Award 2017

Liebster Award 2017

Liebster Award?  You’re probably wondering what that is.  We’ll get to that.

Liebster for bloggers
The Liebster Award Seal: Discover New Blogs!

But first, a huge thank you to Ashley B, who blogs at  Live Whilst You’re Alive, for nominating me for this award that helps discover new bloggers. The Liebster Award is given to bloggers from bloggers.  It originated in Germany, and the word “liebster” translates to sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome.  I thought this was fitting for Ashley, who nominated me, as her blog even has the tag line “If you love life, life will love you back.”  What a beautiful sentiment — and perfectly in line with the translation of Liebster.

The Liebster Award is an online award, and I’m excited to be putting its symbol on my own blog.  Starting a blog, trying to find a niche in the daunting cyber universe, and trying to connect with readers and other bloggers can be quite a difficult journey.  This award is a great way for new bloggers to recognize and — maybe more importantly, to encourage — other new bloggers.

Before I can officially include the seal on my site and say I’ve earned the Liebster Award, I need to complete a few tasks that Ashley assigned to me.  The tasks:

10 facts about me:

  1. My middle name is Leigh.  When I was learning how to spell it, my mom told me “It’s the fancy spelling” since it clearly made no phonetic sense.
  2. I am colorblind, which is incredibly rare for a female.  The way the genetics work, this means my three sons are also colorblind.
  3. Because of Fact #2, we actually need to rely on my husband for decor advice in the house.  Gulp.
  4. I won my hometown’s town-wide Spanish spelling bee in 5th grade.  I came in 3rd place in the English spelling bee!  Maybe because English has strange spellings like “Leigh” pronounced as “Lee.”
  5. I cannot say no to milk chocolate.  It can’t be done.
  6. I co-founded my university’s first-ever tap dance troupe during my freshman year, and it’s still going strong today (24 years later!).
  7. I studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain, during college and learned firsthand that the saying is true:  “Sevilla es pura maravilla.”
  8. I always thought I’d be a mom to girls, but I’m a mom to THREE BOYS.  It’s quite an adventure — it’s why the blog was born! — and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
  9. I once met Robert Plant in an elevator.
  10. I run into people I know almost everywhere, and I LOVE it.  (this includes finding an old friend in Grand Central Station, running into someone from high school who arrived in London the very day that I traveled there from Spain to see my college roommate, and sitting at a table next to two long lost friends from college — who were on their honeymoon — just hours after I arrived for a 2-week vacation in Greece.  It also means running into my ex-fiance at a car dealership.  But that’s a story for another blog post.  😉

Answer these 6 short interview questions:

1.  What is one place you haven’t been that is on the top of your bucket list?

Italy!!!  During my semester in Spain, I took the opportunity to travel around Spain, visit London, Paris, The Rock of Gibraltar . . . but I ran out of time to visit Italy!  I would love to go see the beautiful countrysides, the quaint cities, and of course to enjoy the food and wine!  Someday . . .

2. What is the most daring experience you’ve ever had? (For example: sky diving)

Well, let’s see . . . I am the mother of three boysTHREE BOYS!!!  That’s pretty daring!!!  Or how about riding Space Mountain at Disney World for the first time when I was 23 years old, and screaming the entire way?    (I’m not big on roller coasters).  But, seriously, my answer is actually similar to Ashley’s:  zip-lining over trees in Costa Rica.  It was so invigorating, but scary!  Definitely very daring for me, especially since I don’t like heights!

3. What is your biggest accomplishment?

Did I mention I’m raising three boys?  I’m doing my best to be a strong, loving, joyful role model for them, and so far, I think I’m doing pretty well with it!  I try my best to make sure each of my sons knows how much he is loved, and how special he is to this world, all while balancing being a wife, having a full-time corporate job, and basically being pulled in a zillion directions every day.  I know, that’s the same story for most moms.  We all should be proud of it.  We all should celebrate it.

4. What’s your biggest fear?

Being forgotten.  It’s that simple.  I have fear of people not remembering me now (like when someone says “Nice to meet you,” even though I’ve met them before!) and fear of being forgotten when I’m gone from this world.  Kind of sad to think about.  And another great reason to try to be such a good role model for the kids, so they carry me in their heart and pass along who I am to the generations beyond me.

5. What’s a hidden talent you have?

I’m a tap dancer!  One of my favorite quotes from the movie tap is “Sometimes, no matter what, you just can’t escape the rhythm.”  It’s true!

6. What’s an activity, craft or sport that you want to learn how to do?

Photography.  I got my first camera when I was 6 years old — it was the old kind with a rotating flash cube and film.  It was my dad‘s, and he gave it to me when he got a new camera.  I was known for always having a camera with me from that day onward, through college, always capturing moments from events, candids to catch memories in the making, and simple pictures that document the course of my life.  I think I often have a good eye for cool angles or subjects for the pictures, but I’ve never actually taken a photography class, and I’d LOVE to!  I have a DSLR camera that I love with multiple lenses, but I’ve gotten lazy in the last year or so and typically just take pics on my iphone instead.  If I could find time for a photography class, I’d be so excited!

Nominate 5 Bloggers:

I nominate the following bloggers for the Liebster Award:

Tasks for the Nominees:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you, and link back to her blog in your post.
  • Upload the award seal to your blog (in your post or on your blog page or both)
  • Share 10 facts about yourself
  • Answer these questions:
    • Why did you start a blog?
    • If you could swap places with one celebrity for a day, who would it be, and why?
    • If you could shadow one of your friends in his/her occupation for a day, who would it be, and why?
    • Beer or wine?  Coffee or tea?  Milk chocolate or dark chocolate?  Morning person or night owl?
    • What is your biggest fear?
    • If readers could sum up your blog in one word, what would you want that word to be?
  • Nominate 5 other bloggers for the Liebster Award.
  • Notify the nominees so they can write their post and accept the award.

Happy blogging, y’all!  🙂

Liebster
LIebster Award: Discover new bloggers. Make bloggers happy.

 

 

 

Last-minute Halloween costumes: (easy, low-cost, DIY, fun)

Last-minute Halloween costumes: (easy, low-cost, DIY, fun)

Last-minute Halloween costumes are a reality sometimes even though Halloween rolls around the same date every year.  I remember when I was in grad school, I was supposed to be out of town the day my friend was hosting a Halloween party.  But I ended up being in town, costumeless, just hours before the party.  So, what did I do?  I wrapped myself in aluminum foil (it’s actually great for keeping you warm!) and turned myself into a fork, proving that last-minute Halloween costumes are doable and can be super-creative, fun, clever, and best of all — easy and low-cost.

easy Halloween costume
Last-minute Halloween Costume: Fork!

10 Last-Minute Halloween Costumes (for kids . . . or adults!):

Using Stuff You Probably Have:

  1. THE FORK.  What you need:  tin foil, cardboard, scissors, a head band, transparent tape.  Cut the cardboard into the shape of the fork tines, and cover the cardboard with tinfoil.  Adhere the cardboard tines to the headband and place on your head.  Wrap your body in aluminum foil (after one final potty break!), and fasten pieces together as needed with clear tape.  I think I used packing tape.  Scrunch the foil around joints to help it keep its shape and stay in place, even through movement.
  2. FRIED EGG.  That same day when I transformed myself into a fork, my sister gave me another idea:  a fried egg.  What you need:  White clothes, yellow construction paper, scissors, tape, and a friend willing to dress up as bacon (that’s optional, of course).  Simply put on the white clothes, cut out a big yellow circle and tape it onto your belly.  Voila.  I suppose you could be fried or sunny side up.  What a good conversation starter.

Using Boxes as the Base:

  1. RUBIK’S CUBE:  I was so excited at how this one came out, and at how simple it was to create.  What you need:  a box that fits around your body, lots of construction paper, black electrical tape, scissors or a box cutter.  Cut out the bottom of the box — that’s where your body/legs will be.  Cover the rest of the box with all different colors of construction paper, overlaying them in the configuration of the colored boxes on a Rubik’s cube.  Separate the colors with black electrical tape.  It’s your choice whether to create a Rubik’s cube that is solved (you show-off!!!) or jumbled (up for the challenge).
  2. FISH TANK:  This one is similar to the Rubik’s cube idea.  What you need:  a box that fits around your body, scissors, markers, clear packing tape, blue construction paper to cover the box, other colored paper for fish, coral, underwater plants.  Cut out the bottom of the box.  Cover the rest with the blue paper (it’s the water).  Cut out a variety of fish, plants, coral, bubbles, etc. and tape or glue them onto the box.  Cut out arm holes and a hole for your head.  Add some flair with a treasure chest if you want!
easy Halloween costumes
Rubik’s Cube and Fish Tank

Super-easy Poster Board Costumes: (maybe the easiest things on Earth for last-minute Halloween costumes)

There is almost no limit to what you can do with this costume-making convention.  What you need: Two full-size pieces of poster board (or oak tag, as we called it when I was a little kid!), whichever color suits your costume theme.  You’ll also need scissors, some extra poster board to use for shoulder straps, or some ribbon, tape, possibly a stapler, and colored paper for if you need to add detail to your piece of poster board.  For each of the below costumes, you decorate one poster board, which will serve as your front panel.  Decorate the second poster board if needed, as that will be on your back.  Connect the two together with ribbon or with strips of extra poster board, creating shoulder straps.  Just be sure to leave space for your head so you can easily slip this on/off.

As I mentioned, the ideas here are endless.  But here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

  1. A CANDY BAR: When I spent a semester in Spain during college, I dressed as a Kit Kat (the way they look in Europe) for a carnival.
  2. PLAYING CARDS:  See picture below of my husband, the Ace.
  3. REMOTE CONTROL:  I started making this one tonight at 6:11pm and finished at 6:57pm.  That’s pretty quick, especially considering that during that time, I cut out shapes in the dark while my kids played with flashlights, I broke up a wrestling match, and I poured at least 16 drinks for my kids.
  4. SMART PHONE:  I haven’t made this one, but you’d do it the same way as the remote control.
  5. MARTIAN:  I had fun creating that costume with my mom in 1984.  Yes, I’m that old.  I remember thinking the aluminum foil was so cool.  I’m starting to see a trend in costumes and foil and me.  Hmmmm.
easy Halloween costumes
Poster Board Costumes

Using Streamers:

  1. RAINBOW: This is even more simple than the poster board ideas!  What you need:  Streamers in the colors of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet), and tape.  Start wrapping red streamers around your ankles and continue up your body with each color so that you end up looking like a walking rainbow.

A variation on this could be to dress like a PIXIE STICK:  What you need:  a roll of streamers, white clothes, tape.  Wear all white, wrap your chosen color of streamer into diagonal stripes on your body.  You’ll end up looking like a walking Pixie Stick, or maybe like a candy stick.

I hope you find these last-minute Halloween costume ideas helpful!  I’ve made a lot of them, had fun doing it, and got some great comments on the results!  Now here’s what I need YOUR help on!  After my boys spooked themselves out the other day, they’re rethinking whether or not to wear their scary zombie costumes (I hope no!).  So, R was brainstorming alternatives, and he jokingly said he wanted to dress up as a toothbrush.  I assumed it would be easy — wear the same color shirt and pants, tape on a piece of paper with a brand name on it, and make a toothbrush head out of a shoe box.  Easy, right?  Well, I have a hilarious and horrible attempt at the toothbrush head.  We laughed HARD.  And he won’t be using this alternate costume.  Do you know how to make a cool toothbrush costume?  If yes, please let me know.

easy Halloween costumes
Toothbrush Head Attempt. At least he’s laughing!

Happy Halloween! In need of a last-minute Halloween costume?  Now you know, it’s no problem!

easy Halloween costumes
Last-Minute, Easy, Low-Cost, DIY, FUN!

 

 

Family Photo: 10 Tips for a Great Family Photo Shoot, plus a GIVEAWAY!

Family Photo: 10 Tips for a Great Family Photo Shoot, plus a GIVEAWAY!

Family photo:  It’s the time of year when when we practice our perfect smiles and get the kids new perfect outfits for a family photo, right?  Well, not in our case.  We try to do a professional family photo shoot every few years (for holiday cards, or to frame in the house, or to simply capture some moments of all of us together, without seeing me with a triple chin since most of our shots are family selfies taken by me and my long arms from that awkward angle where I for some reason pull my head back and end up with multiple chins.  Does that happen to you, too?), but we have been most successful in not taking these too seriously.  Here are my top 5 tips for a stellar session with a photographer, followed by another 5 tips from professional photographer, Cara, at BabySky Photography, and then the GIVEAWAY details.

family picture
Family Photo Shoot
  1. Coordinate, but don’t force matchy-matchy.  Don’t overdo it with matchy-matchy clothes!  Yes, I know those matchy-matchy pictures can be adorable, but for our style, we try to be somehow coordinated but not the same.  For example, “everyone wear something blue” or, in the case of this year’s shoot, we were all tied together with some neutral-ish color.
  2. Forget the fake smile.  Most of our favorite pictures capture a moment in time when there was actual emotion, and if there are no smiles in those pictures, that’s ok!  Capturing real moments helps to bring back those feelings every time I see the picture, whether it shows laughter or frowns or sleeping babies.
  3. Relax your bodies.  I remember having a family picture taken with my grandparents when I was 8 years old.  I had to stand nice and straight, interlace my fingers as the photographer told me to, and place them gently on my grandma’s shoulder as she and my grandpa sat in the middle of a sea of their grandchildren . . . because that’s how I stand . . . never.  Again, there is a time and a place for this type of more formal picture, but — especially with my three silly sons — that time is not now.  I love it when the photographer captures genuine hugs, real silliness, giggles, and kids in motion.
  4. Respect your photographer.  I assume that if you’ve hired this person, you know the quality of their work or they have been referred to you by satisfied customers.  Respect that.  Let them change lenses or dictate what background to use when, because while you’re working on keeping your kids from wrestling in a mud-pile in the beautiful park you’re shooting in, the photographer is going through a mental checklist of shots he/she is hoping to capture, gauging the personalities of the family members, all while accessing a universe of photographic knowledge on lighting and angles and time of day and shutter speeds.  Let them work their magic!  That said, I think it’s fair game to also ask for a specific shot if there’s one you want, but I have more often loved the pictures I didn’t ask for than the ones I dictated myself.
  5. Bribery is OK.  No, not bribing the photographer in any way!  Bribing your kids.  Nothing major, but I will say we all enjoyed some yummilicious ice cream after our recent family photo shoot with Cara from BabySky Photography, not because it was a hot summer day (it wasn’t!), but because we promised the kids that they could have ice cream (after dinner, or with dinner, or for dinner . . . whatever was going to work!) if they’d just cooperate and have some fun getting the pictures done.
family photo tips
This is us. For real. Photo by BabySky Photography.

Those are my tips as a Mother of Boys who loves to capture moments.  But let’s hear from a professional photographer!  Here are 5 more tips (some similar, some not!) for a great family photo shoot from Cara at BabySky Photography:

  1. Dress for the elements.  If it’s cold, add sweaters, vests and even hats and mittens look adorable.  If it’s hot, don’t wear flannel shirts, lose the tights and cardigans, switch out boots for sandals.  If it’s windy, tie your hair back.  If it’s muddy, wear rain boots instead of suede shoes.  We can’t control the weather and outside photography is always going to be unpredictable (especially here in New England!) so the more prepared you are for the weather, the more cooperative everyone will be.
  2. Make sure your clothes fit properly and anything you’re wearing is okay to see in the photo.  If your bra strap keeps showing, pin it to your shirt.   If your pants are lose, belt them.  If you don’t want to see your husband’s hot pink socks in your photos, make him change them.  If you don’t like the Nike logo on your son’s shirt, don’t wear that shirt.  You will be running around and chasing your kids and chances are you will not remember to keep adjusting or hiding the things you don’t like.
  3. Make sure your kids eat BEFORE your session.  It’s okay to promise ice cream and treats after your session but I promise you the kids will do so much better if they have a full belly.  I think kids are always happier when they’re not hangry.  Plus all they will be thinking about is getting the session over with so they can eat instead of relaxing and having a good time.  Doesn’t have to be a full meal, pretzels and a cheese stick will go far.
  4. Don’t ask your kids to say “Cheese.”  It does work for some kids but most kids will think that as long as they are saying the word then they are doing all they need to do.  Then you end up with forced smiles and roaming eyes while saying “Cheeeeeeeeeese.”  Give them a tickle instead or my favorite…say a potty word, works every time 😉
  5. And most important, do family photos for you and your family, not the Christmas card.  Try to make your session about your relationships with your children and magical things will happen.   Don’t feel the need to only do photos in the fall since that is closest to Christmas.  Try a different season.  Remember that one day these photos are going to be your memories and memories of laughing and fun will mean more than the perfectly posed photo with everyone looking at the camera and fall foliage in the background.

With all those tips, you’re ready for a family photo shoot now, right?  You’re in luck!  For M.O.B. Truths’ first GIVEAWAY ever, we have a $50 discount off of a family photo session with Cara from BabySky PhotographySubscribe to my email list, and you’ll be automatically entered to win.  Winner will be randomly selected on October 29, 2017 and notified by email.

family picture tips
All smiles in black and white. Photo by BabySky Photography.
Easy Pumpkin Bread Recipe: Baking with Boys (a fall tradition)

Easy Pumpkin Bread Recipe: Baking with Boys (a fall tradition)

Making this easy pumpkin bread has become a fall tradition for my boys and me.   The weather is starting to get cooler,  leaves are changing color, and pumpkin spice everything is everywhere.  Every year, we make this together — which usually involves fighting over who sifts vs. who pours, licking the batter before I say it’s OK, and a lot of flour on the floor.  Oh yeah, we devour the delicious treat, too (I even somehow justify that this is OK for breakfast!), and the house smells amazing for hours after we bake it.  I hope making this easy pumpkin bread becomes a fall tradition for your family like it has for mine, and that you can get through baking without it becoming a full contact sport.

pumpkin bread recipe
Easy pumpkin bread. So easy! So yummy!

If you’re like me, you love baking with your kids, but you cringe a little every time you deal with a fight over who will crack the egg (because it inevitably leads to shell in the batter or an actual battle between the kids) or dealing with savages begging to eat more of the batter laden with raw egg (note:  I begged my mom as a kid, too).  Here’s an easy pumpkin bread recipe that has NO EGGS, is fun to make, and is even more delicious to eat!

This recipe has a special place in my heart.  After my second son was born, I baked this for the first time with my 2 1/2 year old son on the first day my husband went back to work.  It seemed like a huge undertaking because it involves sifting (so advanced when you’re sleep deprived and suddenly have twice as many kids as you did the week before!) and what seemed at the time like lots of ingredients (I remember having to borrow a cup of flour from a neighbor the night before, to make sure I had enough!).  I measured all the ingredients in advance and put them in sealed containers so it would be quicker and easier for my toddler and me to just dump them into the bowl when we were making the recipe.  We’ve got it down to a science now, and the kids are 9, 7 and 4.  We measure together and then take turns pouring in the ingredients and mixing.  This year, the whole process went surprisingly well . . . until the very end, when I said, “Guys!  Smile with our freshly-baked pumpkin bread!” and I caught this full-on, spontaneous punch in a pic instead.

easy pumpkin bread recipe

Here’s what you need:

  • 3 1/3 cups sifted flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup oil (I use canola)
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin (I buy two 15-oz cans or one 16-oz can and have some left over) (I usually use this kind of pumpkin)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (I use Nestle semi-sweet, but I’m sure any would be fine)

pumpkin bread recipe ingredients

And here’s what to do:

Grease THREE 9×5 loaf pans (I use butter).  Preheat oven to 350.  Mix dry ingredients together.  Add remaining ingredients.  Mix with spatula until smooth.  Fill each loaf pan approximately 1/3 full.  The recipe says to bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean — in my oven, they are done in just 35 minutes, so I recommend checking frequently after 35 minutes or so, since every oven is a bit different.  Cool on a drying rack, and then ENJOY!!!  (these are also great as mini breads or mini-muffins)

Don’t forget to grab a spoon and finish off every last drop of the batter — no raw eggs = gobble it up!

pumpkin bread yumminess
mixing pumpkin bread
pumpkin bread batter in pans
pumpkin bread batter in pans
8 Simple Ways to Ease Morning Chaos

8 Simple Ways to Ease Morning Chaos

Morning chaos:  In my house, it’s three sons, a husband, and a wife scrambling to get ready for work and school and out the door by 7:15am.  And then 7:16am arrives.  Most days, that’s when I breathe a sigh of relief.  I turn up the music like a triumphant victory song as I start my drive to work.  We did it . . .again.  We got all five of us out the door on time, with backpacks, lunches or snacks, laptops, folders, jackets . . . whatever we need for the day.  You’d think it would be easy by now, or that it would be completely routine.  But somehow, it’s like a crowded obstacle course every day.  Does morning chaos cause stress in your house, too?  Here are 8 simple ways to make mornings easier and help you manage through the chaos to get ready and out the door on time.

Prep lunches the night before

Obvious, right?  It’s easier said than done.  After a long day at work, then home with the three boys for dinner, chill time, bath time, homework time, bedtime, and then often some additional work to get done after the kids go to sleep, sometimes I just don’t have the energy to pack lunches.  But if I push myself hard enough, even laying out the simple things at night can help make mornings go more smoothly.  So here’s how we roll:  my husband (most of the time) cuts fresh fruit and puts it in little containers for the kids’ lunchboxes.  I lay out, with their lunchboxes in descending order of the kids’ ages, a few other things:  juicebox, spoon for yogurt, a salty snack, a granola bar — all the things that are easy enough to drop into a lunchbox the night before, rather than scrambling in a pantry to get it all in the morning.  It takes less than 5 minutes at night, compared to 15 minutes in the morning when kids are hanging on me or fighting or calling my name.  Then all we have to do in the morning is make a sandwich and put everything onto ice packs in the lunchboxes.

easy mornings
Ease morning chaos by pre-prepping lunches

Lay out clothes the night before

If your kids are at an age where you still pick out their clothes, lay out outfits for the week on Sunday night.  And if they’re old enough to choose their own clothes, then make sure there are clothes available in their drawers.  In my house, I do a lot of laundry (don’t we all?), then I fold it (yes, I’m Superwoman), and it seems to live in laundry baskets for days (ugh).  When the kids go to get dressed, if there are no shorts, shirts, whatever in their drawers, they come looking for me, asking for specific shirts or socks, and taking me out of my own get-ready routine. If I can find time on Sunday to actually put away clothes (again, this seems easy, but somehow is not always so!) or to have the kids help me with it, it is a lifesaver for during the week.  (Note:  I rarely lay out my own clothes the night before, and at least a few times a week, a morning outfit crisis (where are my favorite black pants?  Did I remember to wash that sweater?  I guess I’ll turn on the iron . . .) delays me at least 10-15 minutes, which is an eternity when my three sons are yelling for me to help them with something.) (Additional note: If you let your kids pick out their own clothes, you have to be OK with it.  My head says blue shorts with a blue t-shirt make you look like a Smurf, but my heart says “You’re clothed and ready.  Let’s go.”)

easy morning
Ease morning chaos by laying out clothes

Create a checklist

My kids got into the habit of not doing anything in the morning until my husband or I asked them — told them six times in a row — to get dressed, brush teeth, etc.  It was exhausting for me and annoying for them.  So I sat down with them one day and asked them to list for me all the things they need to get done in the morning.  Then I turned it into a daily checklist for them, where they get to cross off each thing as they complete it.  A sense of satisfaction!  It helps keep them from getting distracted by each other, or a game, or a half-constructed Lego scene begging to be finished.

morning routine
Ease morning chaos with checklists

Start the show!

Letting the kids watch TV in the morning?  I remember when I thought I’d never do it.  But now, with three sons who wake up around 5am, and with juggling a fulltime job and life in general, sometimes a little TV in the morning is just what we need to actually help us get out the door on time.   When the boys complete their checklists, they can watch a show.  And since we typically have about two hours between their wakeup time and when we leave, there is usually time for one whole 30-minute show without our mornings ending up rushed.  I know, there are plenty of parents out there who will judge me for this.  But it works for us.

Organize paperwork the night before

Yes, I know.  Another no-brainer.  So, I guess just think of this paragraph as a public reminder for me to do this.  Sift through the PTO notices, the youth sports flyers, the homework, the field trip slips, the notices about how you can help the community, the letters from the room parents, and the schedule of activities for the week the night before.  Put (or have your kids put) the necessary papers back in their folder and then in their backpacks the night before.  Much like laying out stuff for lunches, this exercise saves us many minutes if we do it at night, but can derail us if we look through the papers in the morning.  What do you mean you need to bring food for a food drive today?  And you have to bring stickers to share with the whole class today?  (scramble, scramble, looking for appropriate canned goods and stickers that are gender-neutral, appealing and appropriate).

Have ideas for other quick tasks to keep kids focused

Remember I said I let my kids watch TV in the morning, and it actually helps us get out on time?  I should have said sometimes.  Other times, my kids melt into the couch cushions like marshmallows over a campfire, and the chance of getting them off the couch and out the door seems quite low.  So, even though the boys use and enjoy the new checklist I created for them, if they melt into the couch afterwards, I find that subtly assigning them new tasks can help.  Have a mental list ready!  Things like helping to put on a younger sibling’s socks, opening blinds in the playroom, carrying something upstairs . . . anything to keep forward motion going!

(Look in the mirror)

That’s a reminder for you.  Or maybe for me.  Look in the mirror, even if only for one second.  I realize often when I arrive at work that I have no recollection of having looked in the mirror to make sure I’m presentable.  Yes, I once presented to our CEO with a price tag hanging from my new blazer, and once I showed up at work looking like I had warpaint on my face because I had forgotten to rub in my blush.  I’d like to think that spending one extra second on myself in the morning might have prevented those things from happening.  But, you never know.

Lastly, remember you’re a family

Even with these tips and tricks, moods and obstacles can get in the way of a smooth morning.  Sometimes, we end up yelling.  Yep.  It’s true.  But no matter what, I try to get us out the door — frazzled or formal or flinging things — with a solid, comfortable, confident feeling so everyone is ready for the day.  I always make sure to tell the kids I love them.  Then we open the door.  And we go.

How do you get through your morning chaos?  Share with a comment here, or join our mailing list and let me know your thoughts!

easy morning
Make crazy mornings easy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stroller for Sale

Stroller for Sale

Stroller for Sale

Best Baby Stroller for sale. Maybe someday.
Stroller for sale . . . but not really

It’s so hard to believe my baby — my littlest love, my last baby — is turning 4.  Take a look back at this post from last year.  Here’s a not-so-well-kept secret — I still have that stroller, and he still likes to ride in it sometimes!  WIN for me!  Enjoy this blast from the past:

The stroller.  A necessity for moms of young kids.  But one that lingers just a few years and then moves on, like the crib and the exersaucer.  A month before my youngest turned 3, I realized I soon may be done with strollers.  “Freedom!” I thought at first.  But I quickly reconsidered.  Aside from the amazing convenience the stroller provides for carrying extra bags or snacks or jackets, I realized that when I walk anywhere without it, I feel naked in a way.  I guess it carries my heart — it defines me as a mom of young boys — and the day I need to get rid of it will be a hard one because I’ll be parting with more than what it seems at face value.

Stroller for sale
a little tattered and torn
from carrying my three sons
after each one was born

From newborn to infant
to toddler to boy
this stroller has given me
so much joy

Stroller for sale
more like a time machine
Strolling through memories
of the places we’ve seen

Cold, early mornings
hot afternoons
Looking at clouds
making up tunes

Stroller for sale
Kids getting too big to ride
I still keep them with me
They walk by my side

Stroller for sale
No, forget it, it’s mine
It carries my heart
And there’s no price for time.

Best Baby Stroller for sale. Maybe someday.
Stroller for sale . . . but not really

Vacation with Boys: What I (re-)learned . . . again

Vacation with Boys: What I (re-)learned . . . again

boys vacation
So much for a #boymom to learn while vacationing with boys!

You may have read my post-vacation summary last summer, Vacation with Boys: What I (re-)learned.  Here we are again, after another family vacation . . . where I re-learned again things that I should have known to expect as a M.O.B. (Mother of Boys).    For Part 4 of 4 in my Disney Family Vacation series, I’ve captured the learnings for you.  Can you relate?

  • Time spent waiting in line is perfect for hitting siblings and for climbing on the dividers keeping the line organized.
boys climg
Vacation with Boys: Climbing
  • At least once, you will be certain you are the loudest people at the hotel. You likely ARE the loudest people at the hotel.
  • Somebody’s swimsuit will fall down, and someone’s little bare tushy will make other guests laugh.
  • You will learn to appreciate the 2’x2’ square space between the toilet, the bathroom door and the shower as your serenity space.  Your M.O.B. spa.  Your only sanctuary away from the chaos just a door away.
  • You are the only female in a hotel room full of males. You cannot possibly change clothes (or tampons, for that matter) fast enough to not be caught.
  • Sand will be thrown (even if you’re not at the beach).
  • Farts.  They’re still funny.
  • Noses will be picked.
pick nose
Noses will be picked
  • Hammocks are for swinging wildly.
  • Again, you will be the only one who seems to care about wearing a shirt.
  • Walking to a restaurant can be a full contact sport.
  • Wrestling.  Then more wrestling.  Enough said.
boys wrestle
Wrestling. Then more wrestling.
  • But at the end of a busy and fun day, laden with tantrums and yelling and laughter and rides and family time and fights, boys still like to snuggle their mommies.

I hope you’ve laughed and learned with my 4-part Disney Family Vacation Series!  Family vacations are fun . . . and funny.

#mobtruths #boymom #parenting #familyvacation