Advent Calendar Ideas

Monday, December 22, 2014

When you're an adult, most of the magic of Christmas is just a memory. Santa is a nostalgic part of your youth and it's easy to become disgruntled about the commercialism of the season. But sometimes, you just want to reach back and grasp some of that sparkly Christmas dust and bring it back. I still love looking in windows at Christmas displays, peering at Christmas lights in passing, and I still love to hear the story of Jesus' birth no matter how many times I've heard it before. Every year for the past 20-something years of my life, my grandpa would read the Bible story to us and relate it in some way to our lives in the current day. He took a fresh approach every year, so we always got something different out of it. When we were younger, we had to sit on our hands in anticipation of gift opening, but those memories are now the sweetest treasure. We lost grandma and grandpa pretty close together in the past couple of years. Last year was the final time we gathered as a big full family around grandma's table. This year, that house where all the magic happened is completely renovated and up for sale and it hurts the heart of all their progeny. (Give your family extra long hugs this year, would you?)

It is time now, as parents, to create that magic for our own little family and begin traditions that will be carried on down the line. Perhaps one day the way we choose to celebrate will become one of our own unforgettable legacies. One of those traditions I hope to pass down is our version of the Advent calendar and some of the traditions that are created within that calendar (i.e. giving back, watching all the classic movies together) and celebrating Christmas for the whole month of December, building a climax to the actual holiday itself.

Here are the activities in our Advent calendar and a peek into our Christmas preparations:

Take a ride around town looking at Christmas lights
Rent Christmas books from the library and read together
Make Ninja Turtle ornaments (Inspired by these)
Festival of Lights
Send a letter to Santa
Make Christmas sugar cookies
Go buy a new Christmas CD/album
Eat dinner by candlelight
Have hot cocoa or cider together
Read the Christmas story in the Bible
Make a Gingerbread house
Make and hang coffee filter snowflakes
Bring hot cocoa (and money) to a bell ringer
Make reindeer food
Start embroidery project for grandmas (inspired by this)
Snowball Fight!!!!
Nighttime Christmas walk
Donut date
Think of a special gift for Jesus like the 3 kings
Make an angel tree topper (from here)
Play with Christmas cookie cutter and Play Doh

Here are some more ideas from two years ago when we did it!

Angel tree topper

Instead of a wishlist, my boy writes a love letter:)

Special North Pole mailbox

Kayne and Rayna with Santa

Cookies! We're not fancy. Just gimme some frosting!

BLT's by candlelight

Cutting down our own tree is a big tradition

Hot cocoa and Christmas movies

I used the printable paper from here and filled in our activities. Then wrapped them up, tied them with string, and put them in a simple Christmas box. Kayne just loves picking one out every day and looks forward to the simple ways that we're building up to Christmas. Notice that these activities aren't extravagant or extra time-consuming (I do have an infant at home!), but they are very meaningful and highly anticipated nonetheless. I hope you are inspired by this simple way of creating new traditions, gather together as a family, and create memories and perhaps even a legacy for your own children.

How are you celebrating this month?

How to Survive the First Days Home with Baby

Sunday, December 14, 2014

I cried on the way home from the hospital when we brought both Kayne and Rayna home. I wasn't sure I was qualified to be taking care of this completely reliant human and dress them and change them and feed them...every single day. I cried because I wanted to take all the L&D nurses home with me. Everything was taken care of at the hospital and they were so sweet to me. And it's hard to imagine that you may not see your doctor, the person who has seen you almost every single week and held your hand every step of the way, ever again. It's a strange feeling, but I know other moms understand what I'm talking about.

It's been six years since I took home a baby and all the emotions and familiar thoughts came back to me full force. Bringing home a baby is the most emotional time in a woman's life, and it can be extremely isolating and emotional. Not only that, but your hormones go from an all-time high level down to zero fairly quickly, sucking moms into a roller coaster of emotions. When your child is figuring out how not to sleep, it can compound the problem tenfold.

Those first few weeks home are such a raw, tender time in a mother's life and need to be navigated delicately, but with every shred of strength that a mother can muster. That being said, here I'll share my best advice from my experience for surviving the first few weeks:

1. Attend a mommy group right away. My hospital held a weekly group for new moms, and those ladies all had the same look on their faces as I did. We could ugly cry in each other's company and show up unshaven and puked on in with our babies and feel like we'd been pulled into a warm hug. As a bonus, my group was run by a lactation consultant who freely gave breastfeeding advice, empathy, and even free goodies like milk storage bags. This group was a lifesaver, especially after my first child, when I felt more clueless and isolated than I'd ever felt in my life. You may not feel like you want to go, that the effort to get the baby ready is profound, but trust me, you'll be glad you went!

2. Take people up on their offers to help. Make a short list of things that you can tell family the next time they ask to help. Ask them to do the dishes, cooking, cleaning or grocery shopping. Prepping snacks or freezer meals, picking your older children up from school, or mowing your lawn are excellent tasks for those who reach out when you and your partner are feeling like zombies. Offering to hold the the baby while you do those tasks just isn't quite the same, so be ready with your list of orders.

3. Carve out adult time. This could be 5 minutes on the phone with your best friend or a quick coffee with your mom. Getting out and having just a few moments of "normal" time can be quite anchoring, even when you have to bring baby along. Stay in contact with your friends rather than go into hiding. It may feel extremely forced, but it gives you a sense of autonomy that can help keep you sane. It will be so worth it and it will give you the courage to do more and more with baby in tow.

I met a friend for lunch. Rayna slept right through. Since
she was still asleep, I stayed and read some personal
training material while I was there.

Date night with Hubster!

4. Remind yourself over and over again that the first two weeks are the hardest. It gets sooooo much easier from there. During the first two weeks (and maybe a little longer), the baby doesn't know day from night and you're just getting used to this astronomical life adjustment. It does get easier, it does get easier, it does get easier. I wish I could wrap my arms around every new mom and tell her that it will all be ok when it feels like you're not strong enough. But the third week, at least for me, seems to be the golden number when some of the early struggles begin to fade.

5. Get outside. If the weather outside is decent during your maternity leave, make an effort to get outside, even if it's just in the backyard or on the porch. Taking stroller walks was one of the most rejuvenating things I ever did with Kayne. As an added bonus, the outdoors were magic for my son. He'd be inconsolable for hours inside and then be completely fine the instant we walked outside. Not only that, I always felt so good after moving and getting out of the house.

Here we bundled up the baby in a stroller and took a short 
hike through beautiful marshes.

6. Make time for some yoga or other mind/body practice. As soon as the doctor gave me the ok to exercise after having Kayne, I hid away every Saturday morning for an hour-long yoga session that made me feel so different before and after. Like magic, I felt grounded and peaceful and much more capable of tending to my son. I would encourage new moms to take this gentle, revitalizing approach to your recovery routine. I was pretty hardcore before I had him, so it was nice to slow down and get a little "me time" that made me feel like a better mom.

7. Join an online mommy group. Facebook groups with your birth month are golden. People will answer your questions within minutes and offer support and kind words (usually) and reassure you that they're going through exactly the same things. You can even throw the wackiest question out there and probably get some great feedback. Nothing is off limits, believe me! You may even find a new mommy in your area to meet up with. I actually did!

8. Create little rituals with your baby: I adored Kayne's bedtime ritual when he was just days old. We'd head upstairs to bed around 7:30, nurse, watch a little TV, turn out all the lights and just rest. With Rayna we usually do a bath (every other day) followed by a lavender oil massage. Then, I wrap her up in a swaddle blanket, turn on the white noise machine and we very quietly transition into bedtime. In the mornings, I always pull the bassinet or bouncy seat into the bathroom for a shower. Babies love the shower sound and momma doesn't have to face the world feeling like a greaser:) With both my babies, we had some specific routines that made me feel better and eventually helped get us into a good groove and helped them adjust to life in the non-womb world.

9. Let go of your to-do list Right now, you need to make space for the unexpected, because everything is unexpected. And don't worry about work and chores. Let them go for awhile. Your sole job right now is taking care of that beautiful little human. Don't allow other pressures to deter you from that. I'm crazy type-A who always has a list of goals and dreams and can't stand a dirty house, but in the big picture, my family IS my hopes and dreams and home. And the newborn stage goes by so fast, you have to fully immerse yourself in that and nothing else before you miss it. This is the time to step back from the outside pressures and focus on the ones inside your arms. You can still build your dream home business someday, but for today, just live for that precious little baby. It will take a huge weight off your shoulders.

10. Figure out the magic touch for your baby: Arm yourself with all the baby arsenal that typically soothes them: a rocking chair, rock and play, bouncy seat, swing, white noise machine (or app), and swaddling blanket. Find what works for your bambino right away (and try again later because it could change) and it will save you so many tears!!! By trial and error, we found that both of our babies slept better in the crib in their own room. You might find a pack and play or your own bed is where your baby sleeps best. Rayna loves to be swaddled and sleeps by the sound of crickets every night. One of our nurses told us that the white noise machine and swaddle blanket were the two things she always recommends to new moms, and they happened to be the two things that worked best for Rayna.

11. Give babywearing a try: Wearing your baby in a wrap might just offer you some shred of normalcy, not to mention the bonding opportunity the wrap affords you. Wraps sometimes allow you to get a load of laundry folded, since they leave your arms free. They're really great for taking the baby out places. We took Kayne to the children's museum and I "wore" Rayna around. She loved it and there was no way we would've navigated that place with a stroller. In their first days, babies often love sleeping in that warm little nest. I guess babywearing is a huge thing. Like a mommy movement. And there are heaps of babywearing groups on Facebook for support. I've seen lots of wrap DIYs on the likes of Pinterest. There are even babywearing workouts if you want to be crazy like that:)

12. Read this beautiful article that speaks all the perfect words for this space in time.

Fresh Start Fitness Challenge

Friday, December 12, 2014

It's never too early to get a jump-start on your New Year's resolutions. Here's a call for participants for a challenge group that I'm starting up on January 1. If you're interested, leave a comment or email me and I will get in touch!

I’m looking for 5 people who are tired of looking back year after year, wishing their bodies would change and riding the weight loss roller coaster. Or maybe you’re like me and tend to hit plateaus that last…years! This year, we do it differently. This year, we lock arms on Jan 1 and forge into the New Year with renewed dedication, as a team!

The New Year is the PERFECT time to make healthy changes. It takes just 21 days to form a new habit, so we’ll spend those crucial first 3 weeks of 2015 together to set you up for a fit, successful new year. It’s only 21 days!

I myself need to lose some baby weight and I’d like to support you through whatever challenges you! From meal planning to motivation to workout support, let me give you my complete attention, guidance and support. The added bonus is that I’m a certified personal trainer and sports nutrition specialist in training, and I will be coaching you through the whole thing. I’m ready to change my life and I can’t wait to help you too!

You’ll be able to pick your challenge of choice from several rewarding options. And you can do any one of them at home! And make sure to get back to me quickly, because there are only 5 slots available and the clock to join is ticking.

If this interests you, Comment below and I’ll get in touch with you.

Together, let’s make 2015 your BEST year ever!