The I-Have-To-Get-Them-Something Gift List

We all have those certain gifts that are required of us each year. You know, the ones we have to buy but really don’t want to spend a lot of time or money?  We all have a few of them whether it’s our I-Don’t-Really-Know-You-But-Live-By-You-Neighbors, teachers, church friends, co-workers, or mailman. We still want to to say “I’m thinking of you”… but are sick of buying the same candle and hand soap. Here is your must-buy gift list for all those presents you are obligated to give (but want it to be something nice!).

This post is not sponsored. These are items that myself and other TodaysMama editors really love and are giving out to our friends!

neighbor gift list

 

1. SUCCULENTS

These sweet, precious and unique collection of 20 can be the start to quite a few gifts. Buy an adorable pot (or don’t) and you’re all set!

Click HERE to buy!

 

 

2. TUMBLERS

Real cacti not their thing? Buy an adorable tumbler like these cactus double wall 24 oz tumbler. I know I can always use an extra lid/straw drink option in my house.

Click HERE to buy!

 

 

 

3. HOMEMADE GINGERBREAD CARAMELS

This fantastic recipe from Martha Stewart is a great option for all those neighbor gifts.  It makes a million caramels in just one batch and the gingerbread flavor makes it unique enough they won’t get bored from “just another holiday caramel”.

Click HERE for the recipe!

 

 

 

4. PERSONALIZED TEACHER BANGLE BRACELET

Teachers have come to expect gift cards for Christmas. I’m sure they don’t mind, but if you want to break out of the norm, try these bangled bracelets. You can personalize your appreciation. I love their simplicity and daintiness.

Click HERE to buy!

 

 

 

5. REDBOX NIGHT (PRE-PURCHASED PROMO CODES)

One of my favorite gifts given to me from a neighbor was a movie night on them. They provided a Redbox promo code and a microwave popcorn and/or 2-liter of soda for a fun family date night. I loved this idea because it was so simple and something I would have never thought of — and of COURSE it was getting used! Free movie and treats?! Yes, please!

Buy Promo Codes Online HERE!

(TIP: Email the purchased codes to yourself so you can hand them out using your own design and gift tag!)

 

 

6. MOVIE THEATER TICKETS

Know someone who would rather hit the movie theater?  You can buy gift cards to most movie theater companies at your local grocer (look for their gift card section) or even online.

Click HERE to buy!

 

 

 

7. WORDS OF INSPIRATION (PRINTABLES)

A sweet thought can go a long way. Share these beautiful words with your friends. And it is SO easy! Find a cute frame, download, print and you’re done!

Download Printables HERE!

 

 

8. TRADER JOE’S BODY BUTTER (Only $4.99!!)

We are IN LOVE with Trader Joe’s body butter. And we are even more in love with the price. You can’t beat $4.99 for a product that you actually buy and use for yourself. Don’t trick yourself in to buying this online because you will be paying WAY more than necessary. You have to hit up your local Trader Joe’s (or bribe a friend that lives close to one) to fetch these beauties for $4.99 each.

Find a local Trader Joe’s HERE!

 

Do you have a favorite obligatory gift? Please share your ideas below! 10 bonus friend points if you link to the product…because you know…I’m lazy.

 

See More on TodaysMama.com!

His and Her Stocking Stuffer Ideas

Raspberry Pretzel Jello Salad

Put THIS On Your List This Year (+ a Giveaway!)

 

 

 

4 Reasons Why You Need To Take A Girlfriend Getaway NOW

I celebrated my 36th birthday a week early by flying across the country and eating my way through the NYC on a girlfriend getaway with my loyal friend Mel serving as tour guide and part-time host.

We ate:

because, priorities

Caught a Broadway show I’d been dying to see for months, hopped the subway all over the city and basically just had ourselves a right good time.

Mel and me and some guy’s mouth on the subway.

The trip wasn’t planned up until about 48 hours before I hopped on a red-eye and buzzed on out of town and that almost made it better somehow. 

It was an epic food tour and a marathon walk-and-see fest for a couple days and when I left, I went home well rested and tired at the same time, but feeling more like myself and ready to go to battle with my every day normal once again. I realized that these girlfriend getaway trips are more important than we might give them credit for and because I care, I’ve broken it down into 4 reasons why: 

  1. COST FRIENDLY – It’s sure a lot cheaper and more convenient only buy one plane ticket and split all major expenses with friends. Paying for only your meal rather than the meals of you and your spouse and all your kids too, MUCH more friendly on the old pocketbook.  
  2. RELAX TO THE MAX – Let’s be real, it’s great to make memories with your kids and spouse and all, but those memories take work. Any family vacation is most certainly not a vacation for the mom. In fact, I challenge you to find me a woman who’s ever come back from a family vacation well rested and re-charged. Jokes on you, SUCH A THING DOES NOT EXIST! Vacationing with friends means you get to do all the things that you don’t get to do (like NAP, or sightsee, or shop at your leisure) when you’re busy making sure none of your children get abducted by strangers, or wander off into crowds, or walk out in front of a bus. You know, average mom stuff. Vacation with friends means you get to leave alllll your cares and worries behind! 
  3. STRENGTHEN THOSE BONDS –  Honestly, travel is a good way to really test out and strengthen those friendship bonds much the same way that it can test and strengthen any other relationship. Basically, if you can survive a trip with the people that you love and trust, you can continue to love and trust them. Besides, what better way to bond with your tribe than to brave airport traffic or hours on road trips all while eating and exploring new places together. It’s pretty much a make it or break it recipe for success. 
  4. FILL UP YOUR TANK – You know what I’m talking about. Whether it’s kids, or your job, your marriage, or just the everyday, mundane stresses of life we all need a little escape to rest and recharge. Nothing seems to fill that tank quite like a trip with your friends. It’s when you don’t have to worry about anything else, when you can say as many grownup 4 letter words as you want and laugh at as many inappropriate jokes as you want and basically just lay aside all of your cares for a day or two. 

Not an engagement pic, just me and my best girl on a whale watching excursion in Newport, CA.

 

I’ve been everywhere from New Orleans to NYC to the coast of Southern California and a few places in between with my squad of trusted pals.

The French Quarter, beignets ahoy!

Believe me when I say that a girlfriend getaway is just what the doctor ordered, in fact, you should consider it routine maintenance and required for optimal daily functioning.

I’m already looking ahead to my next trip, to where I’m not so sure quite yet. But I’m keeping my eyes on flights and ready to pounce when I see something good. Have you been anywhere fun with your lady squad? I want to know! 

 

See More on TodaysMama.com!

“Fitness” Made Me Infertile

5 Ways to STOP Stress!

Science Shows How A Trip To The Beach Actually Changes Your Brain

My 12 Year Old Was Blackmailed for Nude Photos

As a mom, and a communications professional in the technology space, I’ve heard some pretty scary stories about kids’ use of social media. Predators lurking on Facebook, bullying happening via Twitter and even suspicious activity occurring on Minecraft.

As parents, we try to stay on top of what our kids are doing, but the technology seems to be outpacing our ability to monitor. And there seems to be a new breed of apps out there that are wreaking havoc on our children. SnapChat and ask.FM seem to be particularly problematic. Well, at least that was before a friend — someone I have no doubt is an engaged mother — wrote the following words to me:

“I want to share my story to as many moms as possible, so it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

I thought she would share a bullying story gone wrong, but it was much, much worse. My heart ached for her — but even more for her 12-year-old daughter.

girl blackmailed for naked photos on snapchat

You see, we continue as parents to try to give our kids an inch of technology so they can feel accepted and part of their generation. We often complain that we see only the tops of our kids’ heads because their noses are always in their phones — but we don’t take them away or limit their use. We think we have explained the rules, controlled the mechanism, established boundaries — but then a new company comes along with a new “app” that is better, faster, easier in every way, and it probably is. Until it’s used for evil and not its original intent.

And we don’t even know it’s happening.

Enter Kik (and several other messengers that fly under the radar of parental controls because they are apps. And oh yeah, kids can delete the messages so they are no longer on their device –although they can remain on the recipients.)

Kik Messenger (launched in late 2010, but gained a lot of popularity in 2012) is an instant messaging app for mobile devices. The app is available on most iOS, Android, and Windows Phones operating systems free of charge. It uses a smartphone’s data plan or WiFi to transmit and receive messages, so kids that have limited texting or no cellular texting at all love it — particularly because we now live in a world where free wi-fi is everywhere.

But kids really love Kik because it is more than typing messages. They can add videos and pictures to their text. They can also send Kik cards, which let them include YouTube videos, GIFs, or their own drawings in their conversations (these also fly under the radar of most parental controls.) The problem is some kids share their private Kik username on public social networks, or can find other users, usually with “cute” photos as their profiles. Kids post their username on their Twitter, Instagram or Tumblr pages and once someone knows their username, anyone can send them a message — and sexual predators are using it to contact minors ALL THE TIME.

According to an article from The CyberSafety Lady: “There are no parental controls for this messaging app of course, this app is designed for adults. And the usual parental controls on your child’s device won’t work within the Kik Messenger app. So blocking YouTube for example on your child’s iPod, won’t disable the YouTube app within Kik Messenger. Some parents are sharing messaging apps with their children to supervise their interactions. This can be especially helpful for younger users. Kik Messenger doesn’t enable this ability. The moment you log into the same Kik account on another device previous messages and conversations are deleted from the account. Logging out (resetting) of Kik messenger also deletes all previous conversations and messages, which for many parents makes parent supervision quite unreliable.”

So, if you are like me, this is where you say: “This wouldn’t happen to me. I’d monitor my kids’ devices better. And they understand the dangers of talking to strangers.”

And then I read this from my friend, and realized that if placed in a situation like this, I’m just not sure my daughters wouldn’t act the same

The below is a first-hand account of the incident. It is abridged for privacy and publication:

I picked up my 12 year old from summer camp one day, and her counselor made a joke about my daughter with her “phone” during a fire drill. Oddly enough, she doesn’t have a phone, but she does have a Galaxy Player. It’s an android device like the phone, just without the phone components. She is strictly forbidden from taking this device to camp, so, I took it from her right then and there as a punishment.

When I got home, I started investigating what was on the device to see what was new and what she was so interested in. She started sobbing dramatically and announced through hysterics, “Mom, please don’t be mad… I got a Kik account.”

Because I try to keep up with the latest in social media for tweens/teens, I was furious with her. I knew that these sorts of apps were bad news. I pulled it up and sure enough she had deleted the conversations as she went so I had no idea what she had been doing on it. I sent her to her room, and started looking at other things on the device to see what else was on it.

I pulled up the photo gallery section of her device, and when I saw the Kik file, my heart just broke into a million pieces. Photos of my daughter in her underwear posed in sexy selfies in front of her mirror. I started sobbing and my knees gave out.

daughter blackmailed for naked photos on snapchat

I immediately thought she was sending these photos because she thought all her friends were doing it. But then — amongst the sexy scandalous selfies — were photos of her crying. Like she was trying to send the photos but mis-angled the camera and it showed her face instead. The million pieces of my heart broke into a million more. Something was really wrong.

We called her to the living room and had a very serious discussion with her. She said she downloaded Kik at camp (free wifi) on Thursday. Then, on Friday she “kik’d” some cute guy (reportedly a teen boy) who posted a photo with the comment, “Kik me,” so, she said she did exactly that. He asked for a simple photo of her, and she complied. Once she gave him a harmless photo, he started demanding more scandalous photos, like the ones in her underwear.

She didn’t know how to make him go away, and he kept telling her he would “upload her picture” and “ruin her life” and her “friends and family would disown her if they found out” if she didn’t comply with his demands. This all happened in two short days of her having a Kik account.

She told us through tears that she had deleted all the conversations that would back up her story, so of course, I had my doubts. We told her if the story was true, we needed to call the sheriff, and she surprisingly agreed.

The officers came to our house and had no idea what Kik was. Initially, they told us because she wasn’t “nude” or in pornographic acts that the photos and such were harmless. We felt they were merely implying that we needed to get a better handle on our kid.

Frustrated, heartbroken, and confused, I downloaded Kik to MY phone and logged into her account. She showed me the name of the person who was blackmailing her, and told me who was who on her list of people she talked to. I just wanted some idea what she was exposed to.

 

SEE MORE: Bill Gates Reveals Minimum Age For Kids To Get A Cell Phone

 

That night, the app buzzed all night long from her “friends” at summer camp, all wondering why she wasn’t replying. Then the next morning, while I was at work, it happened.

Him: “(daughter’s name)” “Answer me” “What are you doing”

Me (as my daughter, trying to talk like she would): “Go away”

Him: “No sorry. You don’t get to tell me that.”

“I will upload this photo.” (One of her in her undergarments.)

“You want your friends and family to see these photos? “(then proceeds to post each and every photo she’d sent him)

Me: “Wat do you want?”

Him: “Let me see you. What are you wearing. You can take a photo.”

Me: “wat kind? wat kind of pic do u want?”

Him: “Show me what you are wearing.”

I thought it was now or never, so I went to the Sheriff’s office to show them the exchange.

I replied: “Busy”

Him: “Photos you have to take: (here he goes down a list of 5 photos – ranging from a fully dressed to “fully body naked in front of the mirror.” He also included some inappropriate graphics.) You do all that I want and I won’t ruin your life.”

Him: “Do you understand?”

Me: “U need to wait. can’t now. busy.”

Him: “I give you one week to do all those photos. If not next Wednesday I start to post your photos online. Do you understand?”

All this is happening while I am sitting with a Sheriff’s deputy from the Special Victim’s unit. The officers had a meeting while I waited. They discussed the points of the case, and what was being said in conversation while we were watching it happen.

They decided to pursue the case, because the demands of the 5 photos took the event from “a family scandal” to an assortment of felonies. The police seized my phone as evidence, then followed me home (without allowing me to call my husband and let him know we were coming), interviewed my daughter, took all the internet devices that accessed Kik and left.

A week went by and we finally heard from the detective. He said pursuing this guy was a long shot. Kik normally doesn’t cooperate with US Law Enforcement (it’s a Canadian-based company,) and he also said there are 10 cases just like this on his desk. He would keep the case active though.

Another long week in and the detective contacted us again about using our account for a Sting operation. We immediately agreed, and were anxious to hear what the police would tell us next. About three weeks later, the detective said in a surprise move Kik complied with his U.S. Warrant. They got all the information about the user, and surprisingly, he was a minor himself — a 16-year-old boy in London.

Because he’s a minor, the U.S. won’t prosecute him since the crime committed is no longer a felony when both people involved are minors. It’s more like a speeding ticket.

But you know why this was ALL good news to me? Because this month of hell is finally OVER. I don’t have to drag my daughter to depositions or a trial. We know who he is and know we won’t be seeing him. We have closure and know that it wasn’t a trafficking ring or an adult predator, although it is disturbing that there are young kids out there doing this and they most likely have disturbing futures ahead.

 

SEE MORE: Parents, Stop Teenage Privacy NOW

 

My daughter’s photo is now in the database for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. If the photos are to surface, ever, law enforcement agencies around the globe can use facial recognition software to identify victims of internet exploitation.

I keep telling her camp counselor that I owe her a lunch, for if she had she not joked about her “phone”, I wouldn’t have checked her Galaxy for another week. If she had gotten those messages (the 5 demands, sent 12 hours after we discovered the incident) she likely would have done it out of desperation. She truly felt like she had no options because this guy said so.

I am so thankful this story had what cannot be described as a happy ending, but at least a safe one. The fact that this young girl was so scared of getting caught that she engaged in even more desperate and unsafe behavior is so troubling, but yet so understanding. Who among us hasn’t tried to avoid getting caught by our parents when we knowingly go against the rules? But have the stakes ever been as high?

I did some research of my own, and found some extremely disturbing trends in the way kids are using this app, as well as a few others, and why Internet predators find these such an easy way to get in touch with potential victims.

It literally scared the crap out of me.

I am still searching for the appropriate way for tweens and teens to use the Internet and engage in social media, but I become increasingly convinced that the development of technology far outpaces the maturity of our children.

I encourage you to share this story with your friends and if appropriate, with your children. I encourage you to have meaningful discussions about Web-based behavior and treat it like drinking and driving — there is no instance about social media where they should be scared to tell you what they have done or contact you to help get them out of trouble. And I encourage you to hug your kids tight tonight.

I know I will.

 

About the Author

Whitney Fleming is the creator of the “Playdates on Fridays” (also known to adults as her wine plyagroup) blog and keeps all of us moms laughing on her Facebook page. She is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, and has additionally published work with Scary Mommy, In the Powder Room, Coffee + Crumbs , and Lies About Parenting among others. If you would like to connect with Whitney, or simply enjoy a good laugh and dose of reality, visit her Facebook page here.

 

See More on TodaysMama.com!

Why Social Media Is Not Smart For Middle School Kids

Best Way To Prevent Teen Drug Abuse: Iceland Has The Answer

Online Kids Games And What You Should Know

4 Things to Brave Cold and Flu Season with a Baby

My first baby accepted medicine like a CHAMP.

My second baby? Clamped his lips closed like it was his sole purpose in life.

Then, if I did manage to get him to take it, I had about a 50% chance that he was going to actually swallow it. He was a big fan of spitting. Try tracking that dose.

So that was stressful.

Then there was the vomit. Keeping a sick kiddo nourished, hydrated, and comfortable when they are vomiting is so important…but so hard. I’ve been up in the middle of the night, trying to do the mental gymnastics that require either coaxing a toddler to take something for their fever, or trying to calculate what the next dose should be…since they just emptied their stomach in their crib.

*insert cry face emoji*

I hate it when my kids are sick. I want to pause my whole life and hold them, rock them, and monitor that fever within an inch of its life.

But I’ve learned that you can give yourself an advantage when it comes to cold and flu season—PREPARATION is the name of the game when it comes to caring for sick infants and kiddos.

Pre-kid, I kept my house stocked with pain relievers and maybe a small box of band aids.

As a seasoned parent I can offer you a buffet of remedies for what ails you. In multiple flavors and drowsiness levels. Because, I’m really disappointed to admit that there is no magical bird that whispers in your ear at the grocery store, “Your kiddo is going to wake up miserable at 2:15 A.M. next Tuesday. Swing over to the medicine aisle and stock up.”

Moms of older kids and more kids will tell you that you’ll calm down about the sniffles, scrapes, and coughs—which is pretty much true. But a fever is a different ballgame for me.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, fever in babies begins at 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit—and while a fever is a sign that the body is doing its job and fighting off an infection—it felt more worrisome for me as a mother of young children because they can’t really tell you much about how they feel.

Here is something that can help bring relief — FeverAll Infants’ Acetaminophen Suppositories.

FeverAll is an acetaminophen suppository for kiddos 6 months to two years old, available in an infant strength, specifically for this tricky age group. (Remember my son, the refuser?) FeverAll is free of parabens, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial colors and preservatives—and it’s easy to find at your local Rite Aid, CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart stores.

Keeping acetaminophen on hand to reduce fever is a great habit to get into—in both liquid and suppository form—so you can be ready if your child becomes too ill or too fussy to take liquid medicine to manage their fever.

Here are a few other things I’ve learned to keep on hand, now that I’ve had more than a few cold and flu seasons under my belt…

Lanolin Cream
Caring for a runny nosed kid becomes additionally challenging as they interpret you pulling a tissue from the box as the signal to flee. Before too long, that poor kid is chapped from cheek-to-cheek from all that nose wiping. Lanolin cream (yes, the same stuff you used for nursing) does and outstanding job of healing a dry, cracked nose. Just slather it on before you put that kiddo to bed and they’ll wake up a lot less chapped.

Extra Mattress Protector and Sheets
The only thing worse than discovering that your child has been sick all over their bed (and self) is realizing that you have no way to remake the bed without going into full laundry mode in the middle of the night. (My kids only seem to come down with the pukes in the dead of night. Anyone else?) It makes life much easier to be able to remake the bed quickly because you’ve got another mattress protector and sheets for that little one.

A Beverage Stash
Keeping kids hydrated when they are sick is so important, but my sick kiddos want nothing to do with food and drink. So I stock their very favorite drink in the fridge or pantry during cold and flu season—juice, electrolyte drinks, or popsicles. That way when they come down with something I can usually entice them to drink because I’m willing to say yes to using the big cup if it means keeping them hydrated.

For more tips on caring for little ones during cold and flu season follow FeverAll on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Use FeverAll® only as directed. If you have specific questions about fever, acetaminophen or using FeverAll, speak with your child’s pediatrician. FeverAll Acetaminophen Suppositories are available at major retailers and drugstores across the U.S, such as CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens and Walmart. For more information and current offers, visit www.FeverAll.com.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of FeverAll® Acetaminophen Suppositories. The opinions and text are all mine.

 

Put THIS On Your List This Year! (+ a GIVEAWAY!)

I was so excited to buy my daughter her first Radio Flyer Tricycle.

It was one of several Radio Flyer purchases that have brought us hours and hours of fun and adventure.

Tricycle, wagons (plural…that’s how much we like them), and a scooter.

And now…my son has his very own Radio Flyer Adventure book…starring…HIM! 

“Joe’s Radio Flyer Adventure” arrived on our door as a wonderful surprise. I used the website to customize Joe’s book—picking his hair color, skin color, and favorite Radio Flyer toy (his scooter)—and didn’t tell him it was on its way.

He’s at that magical age when reading and recognizing HIS name on something unique is a huge thrill.

He was so excited and could not stop talking about it…it was the first thing he needed to show his Grandma when she came over.

The book is beautiful—with bright and whimsical illustrations—and packed with hidden pictures of Joe’s name throughout the book

It was such a hit that we’ll be getting one for my daughter to place under the Christmas tree, because she couldn’t get enough of the book either.

SPECIAL DISCOUNT: you can get 15% off your I See Me Radio Flyer Adventure book with coupon code TODAYSMAMA15 

Does all this talk of our favorite Radio Flyer toys have you feeling nostalgic and hankering to get your shop on?!

ME TOO!

You’re in luck! Radio Flyer’s 25 Days of Holiday Giveaways is HAPPENING NOW.

RIGHT NOW!

Each day for 25 days, you can visit the Radio Flyer website and enter the sweepstakes for a chance to win the toy of that day’s giveaway! 

Wagons, scooters, tricycles, build-a-horse, and even the Tesla Model S for Kids!

YOU SHOULD TOTALLY GO ENTER!

Radio Flyer has been such a treasured and trusted brand in our family and it’s no surprise that Radio Flyer’s founder Antonio Pasin started Radio Flyer in 1917 and his dream was to “bring joy to every boy and every girl.”

Mission accomplished, Antonio.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Radio Flyer. The opinions and text are all mine.

Complaining Is Actually Making Your Stressful Holiday WORSE

It is not unusual to be frazzled or stressed during the last months of the year and so many celebrations crammed into 2 months time. With family parties, school parties, gift buying, gift giving, delivery deadlines, finding time for traditions, decorating, baking, sending out cards and making everything absolutely PERFECT for your children so that they’ll always remember the magic of the season, it’s obviously a cause for elevated stress level. And then you check your Instagram only to see that everyone else seems to be doing it better than you with beautiful smiles and stylish holiday decor.

via GIPHY

But before I give you permission to complain about all that and more, here’s why complaining will actually make your holidays worse.

Complaining rewires your brain.

Complaining is totally normal and we’re all prone to do it. It feels as if it’s helping because for the moment, you’re blowing off steam. With all the pressures and the to-do’s during the holidays, it can breed negativity if you let it. The more frequently you complain, your brain will make it easier to complain in the future – basically, your brain will rewire itself. So, over time, that negativity will become second nature. If you’re turning to negative thoughts more frequently, it will be more difficult for you to break that habit. Do you know one of those people that is constantly negative? They likely didn’t get there overnight. Practice makes perfect.

Complaining is bad for your health. 

So what’s the harm in complaining, even if it does rewire your brain to make it second nature to complain more? Complaining can actually harm your health. We all know how stressful the holidays are already, you won’t want to compound that stress.  Dr. Travis Bradberry wrote, “When you complain, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol shifts you into fight-or-flight mode, directing oxygen, blood, and energy away from everything but the systems that are essential to immediate survival. One effect of cortisol, for example, is to raise your blood pressure and blood sugar so that you’ll be prepared to either escape or defend yourself.

All the extra cortisol released by frequent complaining impairs your immune system and makes you more susceptible to high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It even makes the brain more vulnerable to strokes.”

Joining the pity party.

You know that saying that misery loves company? Same goes for complainers. You seek validation for your complaints and then it just becomes a time for those who commiserate to join in the complaining. The negativity grows and you don’t want your most memorable party during the holidays to be a pity party. The holidays are a time for you to enjoy being with family and friends and being in a complaining cycle is not where you want to wallow.

 

Here are some ways to dial down the stress.

 

Make your complaint have a purpose.

Complaining in and of itself is not necessarily a problem. It’s the constant complaining that breeds negativity that can be a problem. If you have a complaint – something that you require a solution or a resolution to, take a step back and evaluate. What the problem is and how you can solve it? If you get angry every year because a member of your extended family forgets about your child’s very serious food allergy, address it before it becomes a problem when you are in a good place instead of testing them to see if they’ll remember and then complaining when they don’t. If you can identify the things you are most likely to complain about, you may be able to prevent it in the first place. And if you can’t, make sure that when you do have a complaint, you can use it constructively. Evaluate if it is worth addressing and if you can find a solution.

Stay positive and turn things around.

Just as complaining can become a problem, doing the opposite can bring more joy to the holidays. Yes, this means focusing on the good things, perhaps altering your attitude but the results will be worth it. If something about the holidays drives you crazy, do you really need to be doing it? If those neighbor gifts are becoming more of a burden than an expression of friendship, it’s time for you to ask what your goal is and if what you are doing is achieving that goal. Would a short, handwritten note suffice rather than an elaborate gift suffice?

Each year, a friend of mine would ask me if I was sending Christmas cards. For some reason this stressed me out and began to irritate me because it made me focus on my short-comings. I’m more of an every-other year lady in that department and having someone ask me about it was making me anxious. A few years ago, I got the e-mail again asking if I was sending cards and asking me for one and I realized that it was super important to her. It dawned on me that I could just send her one card without needing to send cards to everyone on our list. I turned something that was driving me crazy into something that I love doing now because I changed my perspective and realized something that required hardly anything from me was something very big for her.

via GIPHY

Let it go. 

When all else fails, let it go. A friend of mine years ago told me to pretend I was a sea otter and let it all just roll off of my back like water. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used that trick. Sometimes you can’t change a person or a situation but you can change yourself. You can choose to let it go. I don’t get hung up on the fact that I really wanted to make gingerbread houses and I just couldn’t find the time this year. Instead of venting about how I’m letting my family down by not finding that precious gingerbread house building time, I check myself and ask myself if it is worth giving that negativity a voice. No, I’m not perfect and neither are my holidays. But I’m going to do my very best to enjoy every bit and let go of all the rest.

 

See More at TodaysMama.com!

Our 10 Favorite Holiday Card Designs

Easy Christmas Chocolate Dipped Treats

Hallmark Holiday Movie Schedule 2017

 

Cultivating Gratitude For Your Body

We live in a weight- and body-shape-obsessed society, and it’s easy (and normal) to develop body dissatisfaction.

I recently heard the term “normative discontent,” coined in the 1980s by researchers who found widespread negative body image, particularly among women, in the United States. I really love it, I think it describes the issue perfectly, and also makes it so obvious how easily we fall prey to cultural norms, even if they make us miserable.

Essentially, it’s become really normal and socially acceptable to hate your body to the point that if you don’t, you are the minority. Isn’t that sad? While this may be more common among women, men come under the same pressure to look a certain way.

It starts young, too. A staggering 42 percent of girls in first through third grades want to be thinner, while 81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat. Further, eating disorders affect 10 million females and 1 million males.

body positive girls happy

While there are many causes for developing eating disorders, we see exponential increases in body dissatisfaction, internalization of the thin ideal (or muscular ideal) and disordered eating with increases in exposure to media and popular fitness culture. Feeling inferior or flawed can make us desperate, as evidenced by the $60 billion diet industry.

Why cultivating gratitude can help

As a nutrition professional who regularly counsels individuals with disordered eating and body hatred, I have found real benefit in helping clients cultivate a sense of gratitude for their bodies.

With such extreme societal pressures, it may not feel realistic to love — or even like — your body, at least right now. It may be easier to practice body respect, weight neutrality and less emphasis on appearance in general. Shifting focus from appearance to how your body feels or functions can help cultivate gratitude for what it can do, or what it allows you to do.

This quote from Robert Holden perfectly summarizes why I feel cultivating gratitude for your body is so effective, “The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become.”

As you cultivate gratitude for your body, you embrace where you are, allowing you to connect with what your body needs. This leads you to take care of yourself in a way that can bring about improvements in overall health and well-being. It has nothing to do with changing or manipulating your body and everything to do with supporting, respecting and caring for it. If your body changes as a result, then there’s that.

If it doesn’t, it’s no less deserving of support, respect and self-care.

 

SEE MORE: 5 Ways to Raise Kind Kids

 

How do you do that?

So how can you cultivate gratitude? When I think of November I think of cooler weather, crisp and juicy apples and Thanksgiving. Most notably, I love the reminder November brings to practice gratitude.

This November I am about 6 months pregnant.  I’ve had really positive body image throughout my pregnancy and obviously that has nothing to do with getting smaller.  My belly is growing and some of the rest of me is too.  But because this pregnancy was such a huge surprise and I really didn’t ever imagine I would be pregnant again, I’ve had such a profound sense of gratitude for my body and for all it’s doing to grow a baby.  I have no idea how to do that, but it does, and I’ve trusted it to let me know what it needs.  That may be extra food or rest or physical activity or something else entirely.  I’ve had gratitude and trust for my body which I know is the reason for my positive body image.

That’s important because we typically think of positive body image happening after we change or manipulate our body to be smaller or stronger or fit any other societal expectation.  In reality, you can cultivate body trust and gratitude right now.

love yourself body positive

I asked some of my favorite body image gurus to comment ideas for how to cultivate gratitude.  I hope you find their insight helpful.

“Feeling thankful for one’s body often doesn’t come easily, but everyone can develop a practice of body gratitude. No matter what your size, fitness level or health status, your body is doing its best by you. Begin by choosing one part of your body and saying something positive about it. If this feels too scary, start with an easier, less triggering body part. It could be as simple as, ‘My ears keep me connected to the people I love by letting me hear their voices. I love to listen to my children’s stories.'” — Barbara Spanjers, therapist and wellness coach

“Learning to cultivate gratitude for your body can feel really difficult when you are struggling with negative body image. One way to combat that is to allow yourself to let in a mix of feelings — both positive and negative. Giving yourself permission to feel grateful for a healthy set of lungs won’t eliminate the judgment you feel about your thighs. But it will open the door for you to have a more nuanced experience of your body rather than one that is dominated by negativity. This will help open the door to a more peaceful relationship to your body.” — Marci Evans, registered dietitian and food and body image healer

“YOGA! Yoga was the beginning of my well-being journey, and it continues to prove itself valuable. No matter the pose, I feel as though it’s the best way to express gratitude for my body. I accept my body exactly how it is, which creates a space to stretch a little further if it feels right. If not, I’m still breathing, and that alone is something to be grateful for.” — Maggie Danforth, registered dietitian

gratitude body image healthy yoga

“Body-hatred takes time to learn and thus, it makes sense that body neutrality (or even body love) is a process that takes time as well.” — Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LGSW, psychotherapist and eating disorder specialist

I hope this has given you an idea of how to practice body gratitude. While it’s tempting to think you can hate yourself into feeling motivated to change your body, it’s never effective, it keeps you stuck and only causes emotional distress. I know food and body peace is possible and cultivating gratitude is the path to get there.

Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD

 

See More on TodaysMama.com!

5 Ways Parents Can Raise a Body-Positive Kid

Here’s What Your Food Cravings Are REALLY Trying To Tell You

Moms, Get The Big Stuff Right

 

How to Spot Fake News and Raise Media-Savvy Kids

This just in! Breaking news! You don’t want to miss THIS!

If you get your news online or from social media, this type of headline sounds very familiar. What’s real? What’s fake? What’s satire? Now that anyone with access to a phone or computer can publish information online, it’s getting harder to tell. But as more people go to Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and other online sources for their news and information, it’s even more crucial that all of us — especially kids — learn to decode what we read online. (Learn more about how kids get their news and how they feel about it in Common Sense Media’s report, News and America’s Kids: How Young People Perceive and Are Impacted by the News.)

There’s so much fake news online that Google and Facebook are starting to actively crack down on publishers of false or misleading news. But ad-supported networks are in somewhat of a bind, since they get money when users click on these stories — so the crazier the headline, the more money they make. Most kids and teens get their news from their feeds, so they need to learn how to view stories critically (and they should learn that skill anyway!). Even little kids can start to think about some key media-literacy questions. And as kids get older, parents can help kids become more sophisticated critical thinkers. (If your kid’s school is tackling media-literacy issues, consider sharing this with their teachers.)

Here are a few basic questions to consider whenever you and your kids encounter a piece of media:

  • Who made this?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • Who paid for this? Or, who gets paid if you click on this?
  • Who might benefit or be harmed by this message?
  • What is left out of this message that might be important?
  • Is this credible (and what makes you think that)?

(Thanks to Project Look Sharp for these questions.)

Older kids especially might enjoy learning tricks to spot fake news. Here are a few things to watch for:

  • Look for unusual URLs or site names, including those that end with “.co” — these are often trying to appear like legitimate news sites, but they aren’t.
  • Look for signs of low quality, such as words in all caps, headlines with glaring grammatical errors, bold claims with no sources, and sensationalist images (women in bikinis are popular clickbait on fake news sites). These are clues that you should be skeptical of the source.
  • Check a site’s “About Us” section. Find out who supports the site or who is associated with it. If this information doesn’t exist — and if the site requires that you register before you can learn anything about its backers — you have to wonder why they aren’t being transparent.
  • Check Snopes, Wikipedia, and Google before trusting or sharing news that seems too good (or bad) to be true.
  • Consider whether other credible, mainstream news outlets are reporting the same news. If they’re not, it doesn’t mean it’s not true, but it does mean you should dig deeper.
  • Check your emotions. Clickbait and fake news strive for extreme reactions. If the news you’re reading makes you really angry or super smug, it could be a sign that you’re being played. Check multiple sources before trusting.

By Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media Executive Editor of Parenting Content and Distribution

(Thanks to Professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College for some of these tips.)

Watch “5 Ways to Spot Fake News”

 

Dear Anxiety, You Are Paralyzing.

Dear Anxiety,

 

I see you.

 

In the last two years I have gotten to know on a pretty close level. You have come in and out of my life. We are not friends. To be honest, I kind of loathe you, actually. More recently, you have become a daily battle for me. You can take any moment, any situation, and use it to bring some of the greatest panic and fear I have ever experienced. It’s been a tough season for me as a Mother. I am trying hard to be strong, to be brave; to find my value in who I am as Mom. There are times I feel lost in raising tiny humans, but I know I am doing a good job. I know that Motherhood is not having the right answers. It is sometimes simply winging it and not having a clue what you are doing.

However, if I am being entirely honest, the days you sneak up on me I have a pretty hard time seeing just how good of a job I am actually doing, especially when I feel like I should have the right answers. I should know how to handle tantrums. I should have a well behaved children. You are a master at speaking lies to me. You are crippling. You instill fear. You cause me to worry about things that may never even happen. There have been days when I can’t even take my kids to the park because I am afraid they will be kidnapped.

You are paralyzing.

dear anxiety hate you

I first encountered you after the triplets were born. You used sleep deprivation to suffocate me. I had no amount of energy and could never catch up on my sleep. The panic attacks kicked in and swallowed me whole. At the time, it was hard for me to even recognize and admit how difficult things were for me as a new Mom. I wasn’t enjoying the season. I waited for so long to become a Mother and you hijacked my heart with guilt and told me lies about who I was as a Mom. You stole moments I could have shared with my babies. I felt so lonely, so misunderstood.

I hated you then like I hate you know.

Eventually, I saw what was happening to me. My husband, friends and family-they saw it too. And I got the help I needed to learn how to manage you.

And yet, here we are, two years later, and I see you trying to poor the physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion over me once again. You are using the terrible twos to make me question myself as a Mom and if I can even handle this tiring and often thankless job. You use tantrums to suck every piece of patience right out of me. You constantly steal the grace I should have for myself as a Mother and exchange it with panic and guilt. You use Mom-shamers to steal my confidence. You know all the tricks to make me believe untruths about who I am as a Mom.

However, the difference between two years ago and now is, now, I know how to face you a little better than I did before. I know the importance of being vulnerable even when it is hard, even when I don’t want to. I know that I have to talk about the fact that right now, I am having a hard time enjoying this season of Motherhood; and that it is okay. I have to cling to the people I trust most in my life; the ones who don’t judge me when my kids are throwing yogurt across the room during breakfast and enjoying a lollipop before 9am. The ones who still love me even when I lose my temper. The ones who know I am just as mortified when my kid bites theirs. The ones I can share my secrets with and know they are safe there.

dear anxiety

I know when my husband says, “Go to target. Buy a new dress. I will get the kids to bed tonight,” I need to let him because he means it. I see you and so does he. I have been incredibly impressed by the actions he took to ensure we could walk through this season together and find solutions to help me through some pretty tough days. He made the big moves. He was willing to be there for me however I needed, to help me through this strangling season.

I know that I have to be willing to face you even when I am ashamed of the events of the day and how I responded to the whining, biting, fighting, crying, and hitting (And yes, sometimes all of that happens within minutes of each other). Those are the days when my Mom anger kicks in, guilt takes over, and I am entirely ashamed of who I have become and how I have responded. Any kind of grace I could have had for myself is gone. Those are the hardest days. I have learned how important grace is. I don’t know what I am doing. I don’t have all the right answers. I fail every day. And that is okay. That is grace. I have to pray. I have to pray hard and know that God chose me to a be a Mom to my babies because He knew I could handle it.

dear anxiety parenting

I know when it is time to make a Doctor’s appointment and talk about medication to help. To be honest, this step was probably the hardest for me. It is hard to walk into the Doctor’s office and admit that you don’t have it all together. However, I know that sometimes going on medication is just the best way to manage you. There is no shame in that. And this time around, I knew I needed to take those steps to get the help that I needed in order to get through my days a little better.

I am in the trenches of Motherhood trying to hold onto every bit of patience I could possibly have for my kids. My days spent with three pretty active testing your limits two year olds are filled with all kinds of challenges. The days are getting better and you and I aren’t as close as we used to be, but it is still hard. However, the beautiful thing is, is that God always makes beauty out of our ashes. It is seasons like this that change you. They allow to grow and become a stronger, wiser version of yourself. They give you hope and remind you just how great of a Mother you actually are. And that is what I will choose to take away from this incredibly exhausting, yet entirely empowering season of Motherhood.

Sincerely,

The I still don’t always have it together Mom

 

Desiree Fortin is a Mom to almost 2 year old triplets. Her journey to become a Mom was not easy, but it is one of hope and beauty. Desiree is a blogger and photographer.  You can read Desiree’s blog, visit her on Instagram, or visit her Facebook page to learn more.

 

See More on TodaysMama.com!

This Is What My Postpartum Depression Looked Like

To My 12 Remaining Embryos

6 Things Depressed Parents Need To Know

SEVEN Things You Should Know About a De Facto Relationship

Nowadays, you do not necessarily have to be married to enjoy the same benefits as a married couple. However, there are some things that mums must know, especially if they decide not to tie the knot with their partner, and continue to live together. Here are seven things you should know about a de facto relationship.

1. De Facto Relationships Can Lead to Property Settlements When Couples Separate

When you are in a de facto relationship, it does give rights comparable to those of a married couple. If you have been together for at least two years, have a child together, or have made substantial contributions to the relationship, such as acquiring an asset, you may be entitled to a property settlement in the event the relationship breaks down. So, stay-at-home mums could be entitled to a property settlement or maintenance in the case of a separation.

2. The De Facto Law Applies to Relationships That Ended After the 1st of March 2009!

If you were in a de facto relationship and it ended on or after 1 March 2009, then you may be entitled to apply for a property settlement under the Family Law Act 1975 (the same law that applies to married couples). If you were in a de facto relationship that ended before 1 March 2009, you may need to apply under different legislation, depending on the state you live in.

3. The Family Law Act Can Be Avoided with a Financial Agreement

Some mums do not want the law to interfere in their relationship, even in the event of a separation. For example, if you are financially successful in your life pre-or during your de facto relationship, and want to be covered in the event of a separation, a financial agreement enables you to ‘contract out’ of the Family Law Act and may be to your benefit, so there is certainty afforded to you concerning your property settlement without needing it to go before a judge.

4. Disputes Regarding Children Can Be Handled in the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court of Australia

One very important rule you should know is that disputes regarding children, when they cannot be resolved amicably, are handled in the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court for couples previously in a de facto relationship in the same way as disputes for married couples. The best interests of the children are still the paramount consideration, regardless of whether the parents were married or in a de facto relationship.

5. A Two-Year Application Limitation Period Applies to Financial Orders

Applications for financial settlements under the de facto provisions in the Family Law Act 1975 must be made within two years after separation. An application can be made outside this time limit; however, it is subject to permission of the court and is not guaranteed to be approved. It is important for mums to make sure they pursue their entitlements within the time frame to ensure they get the best deal for themselves and their children.

6. Properly Settlement Should be Formalised With The Assistance of Specialist Family Lawyers

Some couples separate on good terms, only for things to go wrong somewhere down the line. If you and your partner come up with an agreement, it is always better to formalise it rather than have a handshake agreement and hope nothing goes wrong. A property settlement can be formalised with little fuss and without the need to go to court. Doing so through ‘Consent Orders’ (or a Financial Agreement) has a number of advantages incl. closing the door off on your former partner coming back for more of the assets allocated to you as part of the property settlement, as well as a stamp duty exemption that could possibly save you tens of thousands of dollars where a property is being transferred to you. Such settlement documents need to be carefully drafted by experienced Family Lawyers to ensure important safeguards are put in place for your benefit.

7. Representation Is Key

Even if mums are well-informed about the law and their rights in case of a separation, the right representation is always essential. With a specialised lawyer, mums can make sure they make the right financial arrangements, not only for themselves, but also for their children in case a separation does occur. Before you enter into any property settlement, your lawyer should tell you what the law says, take detailed instructions as to your relationship history and what you want to achieve in your matter, tell you what your entitlements are and strategize with you about your different options and how best to achieve them. They should also be frank with you from the start regarding your legal costs.

There are some minor differences between the law relating to property settlement between de facto couples and married couples, but that does not mean you have fewer rights or entitlements. For more info about de facto relationships and seeking legal advice, go to Taylor & Scott.