Daily Life

New Year: New You (January 2014 Goals + An Update)

Happy Friday (It is Friday, right?!) Everyone!

I don’t even know what day it is (half kidding). I haven’t written anything since Christmas (hangs my head in shame) and have been asleep more than I’ve been awake since New Year’s Eve. I came down with something nasty (Sars? H1N1? Head Cold? Death?) pretty early on the night before New Year’s Eve and it’s been kicking my butt since. But I owe you guys a post, so here I am! Happy New Year!

I’ll play catch up later and bore you guys with all of the details about our Christmas, how we celebrated with Santa, and reflections on parenting a toddler around the holidays (better late than never, am I right?) but, for now, I want to chat about the new year. You might remember from last year that I’m not a resolution type of girl. This year, however, I want to try something a little bit different. No, I’m not going to suddenly make New Year’s Resolutions, but I want to try to form some new habits each month that are good for my health (emotional, physical, etc).

You can expect a lot of new ideas and posts from me in 2014 (get excited!) but I want to kick January off with a goal that I’ve made in the past but never followed through on. Water. There are so many reasons why drinking water is beneficial for your health (helps to keep you hydrated, maintains healthy skin, etc…) and I’ve never been good at follow through when it comes to hydrating my body. I’ll go into more details later on in the month about what I’m doing to drink more water and the progress that I’m making to be healthier this year but, in the meantime, I want to introduce you to some friends of mine.

If you’ve been following along for a while you’ve probably seen these first two ladies from time to time. Allow me to introduce my good friend Sarah over at The House of Boys & A Girl and my dear friend Heidi over at The Pajama Mama. Together with our friend Kate (who is an amazing Financial Wellness Coach), the four of us will be bringing you new ideas each month on how you can be better in our new series “New Year: New You”. Even though we’ll all be focusing on different things each month, the premise is still the same: One new, lasting change each month in 2014. Want to follow along?! Join us in making better choices this year and let me know how it’s going by connecting with me on Facebook and on Twitter!

Culture, Daily Life, Parenting

Mommy & Me Date Ideas

Mommy and Me Dates

When my daughter started her part time preschool program this Fall,  I knew I wanted to do something special each week that just the two of us could enjoy. Having been home together full time for the previous year, I found that I was really missing having her with me all day every day. To be entirely honest, I still miss her but I know that giving her this opportunity to explore and develop in a learning environment is an experience that’s unbeatable and I feel fortunate that we’re able to provide that for her. One of the things that I worried about when we made the decision to enroll her was the closeness we have together that I feared would start to fade. Even though I still get to spend two full days a week and every afternoon at home with her, it isn’t the same as it was before (sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse). So, once a week, we go on “Mommy & Me Dates”.  We take some time after school one day a week to do something for just us.

When the weather was nicer, we spent some time outdoors (thanks for the free entertainment, Mother Nature) going to the park or just taking a long walk together. As the weather has shifted and the cold, winter air has started to settle in across the Kansas City metro, we’ve had to find indoor activities to enjoy on our “Mommy and Me Dates”. Even if you’re not a mommy (Dads can do this, too) and even if you don’t work outside the home, I still advocate getting out of your normal ‘zone’ to enjoy some time away with your little one in an environment that’s special. I wanted to share some of the things we do with all of you in hopes that it might inspire you to do the same.

5 “Mommy And Me Date” Ideas (That Dads Can Use Too!) Winter Edition

KidsCoffee Starbucks

1. Quiet Time 

My husband and I are both coffee drinkers and some months ago, our daughter started to catch on. Every once in a while (okay, all the time) she would ask for a ‘sip’ of our coffee (which, for those of you without kids, always means the whole thing). I think that’s why our occasional visits to a local coffee shop are so special to her. Starbucks had child’s sized hot drinks available for about the same price you would pay for a milk at just about any of your local fast food chains making ‘coffee dates’ pretty affordable. Going to these coffee shops is also a great learning opportunity. The first time we went, I had to explain to my daughter that people go to coffee shops for a lot of reasons. Some people go to work, some people go to read, and some people go to enjoy quiet conversations with their friends. I was surprised at how well she understood that it’s okay to talk in coffee shops but we have to keep our voices low and stay in our nice, comfy seats (which wasn’t a problem at all).

books

2. Story-time

Nothing compares to the feeling of sitting down with your child and reading a story together. Books have the amazing ability to take us to kingdoms far, far away where we encounter dragons, knights, princesses, talking animals, and all sorts of fun journeys that only exist in fairy tales. Watching the look on my daughter’s face as we navigate our way through a captivating book is priceless. Also priceless (in the literal sense of the word) is enjoying story time together. Our local library provides lots of opportunity to enjoy books right there in the building. With seating available in the children’s area, it’s a great way to enjoy reading in a setting a little different than your own home. If sitting at the library isn’t your scene, most Barnes and Noble stores have seating in their children’s book sections as well that you can use to read to your little one.

Cat Room SPCA

3. Cuddle Time  

I know there will inevitably be some readers who will cringe at my next suggestion but your local animal shelter is a GREAT way to enjoy some time with your little one. Spending time with animals is wonderful not only for children (who learn about being gentle, being compassionate, and responding to an animal’s cues) but it’s also beneficial for the animals who don’t often have enough human interaction. We’re fortunate in that our local SPCA animal shelter has rooms where the well behaved cats are free to roam around. Even better, our local animal shelter welcomes visitors and allows people to explore the cat rooms freely for as long as you’d like.

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4. Play Time 

We are lucky to have several fun spots that offer open gym time around Kansas City and, as my daughter gets older, I’m finding that she enjoys that kind of activity more and more. While attending open gym isn’t always the most conducive for spending quality time together, it does grant me the rare opportunity to watch my child test out her abilities. It also offers me the chance to teach her that I’m always there for her whether that’s through encouraging her to jump into the foam pit or lending a hand as she works on the balance beam, she knows that I’ve got her back. No matter what. Many places offer open gym time for reasonable rates (ranging from $2 to $8) and kids get to expend all of that excess energy that’s been building up indoors during the colder months.

Be All There

5. My Time

Maybe it seems ridiculous that an hour of completely undivided attention is something to consider ‘special’ but the fact of the matter is that we live in a society where we’re constantly faced with distractions. Many of us take the world with us wherever we go in our pocket or purse. We’re so constantly connected to everything around us that it’s hard to step away and just be connected with the little person who matters most. My favorite “Mommy and Me Dates” are the ones where I’m giving my child my full attention. Even better is that she gets to pick the activity. Sometimes we paint nails together, sometimes I do her ‘makeup’, and sometimes we just play puzzles or have a dance party. I know that whatever we end up doing on these dates is going to leave a lasting impact on her memories of me from childhood and those are moments I hope we can still share together whens she’s an adult.

What’s your favorite thing to do with your child? 

Culture, Daily Life, DIY, Food, Parenting, Pictures

The Graham Cracker Death Trap (A Gingerbread House FAIL)

Gingerbread House Fail

I’ve been dreaming about this day for years.  

The day we would sit together as a family, creating beautiful gingerbread houses that would make any Pinterest goer green with envy.  Oh, yeah. I got this.  Except not.

Gingerbread House

I was so excited to be able to share this special time with my toddler, making gingerbread houses for the first time.  Something I hoped we would be able to turn into an annual tradition. But now, my hopes and dreams have been forever ruined because I realize that I suck at making gingerbread houses.  I mean, I’m terrible at it.  I mean, it’s pretty bad. Like really bad.

Gingerbread House decorating

Let’s backtrack to earlier in the weekend when I  braved the crowds in hell at our local Walmart for some wine and gingerbread house making materials.  Somewhere in the store, nowhere near the candy and graham cracker aisles (because, you know, it’s Walmart and nothing makes sense), I saw actual gingerbread house decorating kits. “Pffft! PAH-LEESE,” I said to myself, “That’s for idiots who don’t know how to decorate their own houses. Not me!” And so I spent more than I care to admit on candy, frosting, graham crackers (which I used, instead of making gingerbread, to save time), and various other little treats that we could adorn our lovely homes with.

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As we sat down at the table to start decorating our homes, I was thrilled.  Mostly at the idea of documenting our awesome journey in gingerbread house making to gloat about on Facebook (yeah, I’m awesome) but also because it’s our first year doing this.  I actually cannot remember the last time I decorated a gingerbread house.  It may have been never.  I consider myself to be a relatively crafty person so I had no doubt in my mind that I was going to rock that shit.

Gingerbread House Decorating

My toddler lovingly placed rainbow sprinkles across her rooftop.

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She was so careful and meticulous about placing the decorations on her house.  I was so proud.

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My husband’s craftsmanship.  He is, perhaps, one of the least artistic people that I know and in this particular case, it worked to his advantage.  He was extremely proud that he created something that looked somewhat like a house and actually remained intact as he completed the project.  HOORAY lowered expectations.

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Pretty quickly after I started constructing my gingerbread mansion, I realized that I’m not cut out to be a contractor.  I have no idea what it means to create vaulted ceilings and it’s safe to say that no gingerbread men will be hiring me to play a part in the construction of their homes.  I opted for a flat roof with Kit Kat solar panels on the roof (because, you know, being environmentally conscious is important to me and it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I was incapable of making a structurally sound roof).  It looks more or less like a safe house that would harbor a wanted terrorist for interrogation rather than a comfortable environment for any loving gingerbread family.

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At some point, through no fault of her own, my daughter’s house came crashing to the ground. Presumably crushing all of its gummy bear residents under mounds of sweet, sweet rubble.

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Here they stand…our condemned gingerbread neighborhood.

Next year we’re buying a kit.

Daily Life, Parenting

More On Parenting The Strong Willed Child (Plus a Few Tips)

It's An Ordinary Blog

Several months ago, I wrote about electing to view parenting a strong willed child as a gift rather than a challenge.  I would encourage you all to go back and read my post here, if you haven’t already.  While every word that I wrote back then still holds true today, I’m learning (as a parent) how I can help alleviate some of the day to day stresses associated with raising a highly independent individual.

I have the luxury of holding a job that I love and am able to do out of the comfort of my own home and so I spend a couple of days each week and every afternoon at home with C.  It’s a great balance between being a ‘working mom’ and a ‘stay at home parent’ and it works for me.  But it’s not always sunshine and roses.  My daughter, who will be three years old in February, attends a Montessori preschool part time.  If you’re unfamiliar with how the Montessori philosophy works, it’s geared towards allowing children the individual freedom to learn at their own pace in ways that are best suited towards their style.  It’s such a wonderful program and I’m happy that my child has this experience.  The only problem is that we don’t have a Montessori home.

I try to be somewhat organized in my parenting style…making sure to pick out clothes for the next day before bed each night, ensuring that toys are put up before new ones are taken out, and other things of that nature (read: mommy might be slightly OCD).  My parenting style doesn’t always jive with my child’s personality.  She wants to be independent, to pick out her own clothes, to have the freedom to do the things she wants to do when she wants to do them and it’s hard finding the right way to make both of us happy.  I want her to learn boundaries but I also want her to feel free to be the person that she is.  Most days, I fluctuate from feeling like I might be a contender for the “Mother Of The Year” awards in my household to feeling like a complete menace when things aren’t as perfect as I’d hoped they might be.  But I’m learning.  I’m learning to let go of the things that don’t matter and to focus on the things that do…like teaching my child responsibility,  compassion,  respect and love for others and the world around her, and how to try new things and explore all while allowing her, in the best way that I can, to be herself (a sweet, energy filled, independent toddler) in her most natural state.

I wanted to share some of the things that we’re doing in our home to encourage our child’s independence.  I’m finding that, more often than not, when I’m more organized (for her) many of the stresses we were experiencing before are no longer issues.  I’ll keep you updated, as I try new things with my toddler, as to what works for us and what doesn’t.  In the meantime, I hope that you find these ideas useful in your own life.  Enjoy.

1. Give Her Options

One of the biggest struggles I face in parenting an independent child is balancing her strong desire to decide for herself with my own will for her. I’ve discovered that if I pick a few options that I would be okay with before presenting something to her (like clothing options, food at a restaurant, etc), it makes situations that might otherwise be stressful feel like a breeze. It’s a win-win. She has the freedom to pick something for herself and I’m happy with any of the choices she has to make.

2. Stay Organized 

You might think that being organized for your own sanity is a no brainer but it took me a long time to figure this out on my own. Living with a child that is picky, changes her mind about things, and won’t let it go when she decides she needs something can be a struggle. Having a space for everything (extra blankets, stuffed animals, certain towels that she loves, etc.) has been a tremendous help in avoiding some of the issues we used to face.

3. Remain Calm

Even when I give my child options and I stay organized, we still have frustrating moments with our daughter (who doesn’t, am I right?!). The best advice I can give when your strong willed child throws a fit is to stay calm. Stay calm. Stay.Calm. Take a deep breath, count to three, do whatever you need to do to prevent yourself from getting worked up because, believe me, it does absolutely nothing to help the situation. When C is being a monster having a moment, I have to take a step back and realize that the best thing I can do for both of us is to help calm her down. How? Breathe, stay focused, give her a hug and tell her it’s going to be okay…in a moment or two, she’ll start to calm down, too and all will be right with the World.

4. Drink Wine

Okay, maybe this last part is sort of a joke (but not really). After a long day or a hard, stressful battle with your child, take some time out for you to relax. Spend an extra few minutes in the shower before bed, drink a glass of wine, read a book, do whatever it is that you do to rejuvenate yourself. Above all, let it go. Let all the stresses from the day go. What’s the point in carrying them with you anyway, right?! 

Always remember that you’re raising a child. You’re raising an independent person who will one day grow to be an adult. You’re helping to shape the future of this planet. I’m pretty sure that makes you a superhero. 

 

Daily Life, Parenting

International Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day: This Is Our Story

I vividly remember the day I found out that I was pregnant.  I had this strange urge to grab a home pregnancy test on my way back from work. It hadn’t missed my period and, other than feeling tired that week, I wasn’t exhibiting any of those “tell tale” symptoms associated with pregnancy (I would later come to discover that most of those symptoms don’t even surface until around week 6-8). The next morning, I quietly took the test in the comfort our our master bathroom and was shocked to see a positive result. It was a happy surprise. Joyful tears flowed down my face as I realized that life was stirring inside me. In the weeks that followed before our first prenatal appointment, we shared our happy news only with close friends and family. It wasn’t until after our first ultrasound that we shared the news of our impending arrival with our extended network of friends and co-workers. Like many new expectant parents, we were under the impression that our baby would be one that we would take home from the hospital and love as he or she grew into an independent person. We were mistaken.

In early November, my husband and I headed to a routine prenatal visit where we were excited to hear our sweet baby’s heartbeat via doppler. Elation soon turned into worry as my OB doctor referred us to a prenatal imaging center for an ultrasound. It was there that we would discover that the child we thought we would take home would never be an outside baby. For parents who have never experienced a loss, it’s hard to fathom how heartbreaking that news can be. For several weeks I had developed this relationship with the child I thought would be mine and it was stripped from me. It hurt and I didn’t understand. It was the worst moment of my life. My doctor recommended a D&C in the days that followed after we received the news and I was told that we were clear to start trying again at the end of December 2009 or early January 2010. The prospect of “trying” was scary. There are so many uncertainties associated with getting pregnant after a loss and the thought of losing another baby can be overwhelming but our loss made me realize how much I wanted a healthy baby and I knew we would have to eventually move on and try in order for that to happen.

By April 2010, after months of charting, ovulation tests, and negative home pregnancies, I was losing faith. If I could get pregnant without even trying the first time, why wasn’t it happening this time?! Everywhere I looked, it seemed, other women were getting pregnant, having babies, and enjoying the life that I thought would be mine and I wasn’t. By the first week of June 2010, the realization that our due date was upon me. My husband and I decided to take a couple days off of work to spend together, doing something fun, in memory of the child that never made it home. Later that month, on the 22nd, I found out that I was pregnant with my daughter.

I had just arrived at a good place, emotionally, after mourning the loss of our baby, and I was scared that it might happen again. I feared every cramp and ache fearful that it might mean the worst. I took home pregnancy tests periodically (pretty much throughout my first trimester) just to make sure that they were still showing up positive. Thankfully, Charlotte Grace came into this world in February 2011 after a healthy and relatively text book pregnancy. Not a day goes by that I’m not thankful for her presence in my life. The takeaway that I gained from my experience in loss is that it’s hard and it’s okay to be angry, heartbroken, and sad. It’s okay to mourn the loss of something that should have been yours.

I was certain that our first baby was a boy. So we named him Elijah Steven. I keep a box with his first ultrasound picture, a few congratulatory cards we received from friends and family, and a little teddy bear we had purchased as a gift for our baby shortly after we found out we were expecting. These keepsakes are likely things that I will share with my own daughter one day down the road as we talk about life, loss, and family. If you’re mourning a loss of your own, know that you’re not alone and that it’s okay to be sad. Sometimes sharing your story is a good way to let other women know that they always have support.

In honor of International Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day, I wanted to share with you some information about “Count The Kicks“, a campaign that aims at saving the lives of unborn children in late pregnancy.  Although stillbirth is vastly different from what I experienced (which was a miscarriage), I think the Count The Kicks mission is important and I encourage you all to take a look at this video: 

To join the movement, start by visiting and liking the Count the Kicks Facebook page. 

 

 

Daily Life, Kansas City, Travel

Staycation All I Ever Wanted: Kansas City’s GRAMMY Music Experience

If you’re like me, as Kansas City begins its descent into cooler weather, you’ll be looking indoors for activities to escape the Winter cold. GRAMMY Museum Experience, located inside Sprint Center in Kansas City, offers a musical adventure for kids and adults of all ages. I recently had the opportunity to spend some time touring the GRAMMY Museum and found it to be a unique and wonderful early afternoon spent downtown.

Upon entering the facility, guests are invited to become part of the band. No auditions necessary. Each station is set up with its own individual headset so that the musician can hear his or her own talent (or lack thereof) while at play. This stage, which features various instruments and a vocal station, is the perfect opportunity for people to explore. I imagine that it’s especially useful for students who think they might be interested in playing in an actual band later on down the road. One thing I learned during band practice? I probably shouldn’t quit my day job…unless, of course, someone wants to offer me a job singing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” for a room full of toddlers.

As visitors continue to navigate through the experience, they’ll find themselves feeling rather groovy as they’re encouraged to take part in dance lessons from one of the two major music legends of the 20th century. This interactive area comes complete with bright lights in alternating colors that create a fun, playful atmosphere within the GRAMMY Museum Experience. Even though I was the only person in the room at the time (thanks for the special tour, GME!) I still didn’t muster up the courage to dance on the floor.

Also available within the experience is an abundance of information detailing Kansas City’s rich history with music, a timeline of the Grammy’s in America, and an incredible opportunity to witness how modern day hip hop has been influenced by performers in decades past. Guests will be blown away by the connections between modern music and musicians who paved the way in America. Additionally, visitors have the opportunity to listen to tracks of by artists who put meaning behind their lyrics. I personally appreciated being witness to the meaning behind the words, it’s something I enjoy most in music.

After dropping a beat at one of the mix stations available within the GRAMMY Museum Experience, guests will have the opportunity to take a peek at some amazing artifacts from their favorite musicians. Including costumes worn on stage, instruments, and awards. All in all, the GRAMMY Museum Experience offers a mix of education and fun right in the heart of Kansas City.

One of the best ways I recommend enjoying this experience is to grab a ticket to Rock The Line, offered at select Sprint Center events, which includes access to the GRAMMY Museum Experience, red carpet fun, and a spot at the front of the line during your favorite concert or event. For more information or to purchase tickets, head on over to the GRAMMY Museum Experience website. Be sure to check them out Sprint Center on Facebook and let them know that It’s An Ordinary Blog sent you.

Current Events, Daily Life, Uncategorized

Happy Birthday, It’s An Ordinary Blog! (Come In, Come In!)

Unless you’ve been following my blog from the start, you may not realize that It’s An Ordinary Blog turns 1 TODAY!

It's An Ordinary Blog Turns One

On October 4, 2012, I published my first ever post on It’s An Ordinary Blog. In case you missed it (which I assume applies to 99.99% of you), you can re-visit the post here: A Weighty Issue, What Makes a Role Model? Looking back on my year, I feel incredibly humbled. With just a few readers (mostly family…okay, pretty much just my husband and mother) and a whole lot of ideas, I started on this journey. Even though I’m still working to develop who I am as both a blogger and an individual, I feel that I’ve come into my own as a writer. I love having a place to share my adventures in parenting and in life with all of you. Even more than that, I feel blessed beyond measure that there are people out there who are even remotely interested in reading what I have to say. This day is so meaningful to me in so many ways but mostly because I’m grateful for my readers.  Let’s take a look at this past year:

It's An Ordinary Blog Goes On Vacation

We took an incredible trip back East and stayed in Jekyll Island, Georgia.

Downtown Disney

We spent some time in Downtown Disney.

Door Jammer Giveaway

I hosted my first giveaway from Bumblefly~N~Butterbees!

personalized birthday gift

I shared about meaningful gift giving.

Toddler Visits Santa

My daughter hated Santa.

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I hosted a baby shower…

Classic Pooh Diaper Cake

Or two.

It's An Ordinary Blog - Copyright

We played in the snow.

Minnie Mouse Theme Birthday Party Table

We celebrated C’s 2nd birthday!

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We celebrated Spring.

Stuffed Pepper Recipe In The Oven

We ate some food…

Johnson Family Farms

And spent some time on a farm.

Guest Room

We re-did our guestroom for less than $15.

Corydon Indiana

We traveled to Corydon, Indiana

Succulent Sundays

And enjoyed some comforts of home.

It's An Ordinary Blog

Most importantly, we had the wonderful opportunity to share all of our experiences with you. Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a part of my journey. Words cannot express how immeasurably thankful I am for this blog and can’t wait to continue sharing with you in the coming years. To you, to me, to It’s An Ordinary Blog…Happy Birthday!

Warmly yours,

Holli Ann