Christmas Extravaganza: What’s on their lists?

This is my last post for the year in a series for Hallmark. I have absolutely loved working with such an amazing company for the last 18 months. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to share my stories and their product with you. All words, opinions and thoughts are my own.

When my children were younger, I loved sitting down with them to help them write their letters to Santa. We always wrote them in proper letter form because how could Santa reply if we didn’t? I encouraged them not just to ask for things, but to inquire of Santa how he is doing, how are the reindeer, etc. I wanted them to make it personal, and learn not to just ask ask ask for things.

This year it all went down the crapper. Without my knowledge all 3 of the big kids wrote their own “letters”. Libby’s is a series of scribbles on a page and she tells me it reads, Dear Santa, I want a Lalaloopsy doll, a Flynn Ryder, a baby Ariel, new crayons, new sketchbooks and something else Mom can’t remember now. Amelia and Seth’s letters aren’t even letters though. They are lists. It is their list of demands wants. Amelia’s number one want this year is a Pogo Stick. Seth wants Avatar abilities. Guess who is getting what is on their list?

I love seeing what is on my children’s lists. Typically I know most of what will appear there, but sometimes they will surprise me. For example, it was no surprise that Seth wanted more origami paper, tape and LOTS of sketchbooks. But I had no idea he wanted a DS 3 complete with some game about aliens. Amelia’s request for a pogo stick, paper, tape, markers and Ramona Forever didn’t surprise me – but the backpack with wheels totally threw me for a loop. It’s fun for me to see what they want, and what they write without my prompting or help.

I love this time of year. I love the magic of Christmas and buying things for my children they asked for, and things they didn’t. I love seeing the look of surprise, joy and excitement on Christmas morning when they see that Santa did indeed read their lists.

What is on your children’s Christmas lists this year?

For day 3 of my Christmas Extravaganza I have a Hallmark prize pack for you! We love the Hallmark recordable and interactive storybooks around here. It is so fun for my children to be read to and to interact with the books. This prize pack includes the recordable story book, All I Want for Christmas (complete with Mickey and friends!) and two interactive storybooks – A Visit to the North Pole and A Day at Fairy Grandmother’s.

Just like the other giveaways, this one is super easy to enter! Good luck and be sure to check out the other 2 giveaways going on right now!!
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e my own.

Sometimes You’ll Fail.

This is a sponsored post from Hallmark as part of the Life is a Special Occasion campaign. I am so thrilled to be working with this fabulous company this year and to have the opportunity to share ways to make everyday occasions  special.  Hallmark has an amazing line of encouragement cards for kids. They are perfect for school, rough times with friends, and all other trials little ones run into.
For the latest on Hallmark deals and ideas, be sure to sign up for their newsletter, you just might see me there from time to time.

Photo credit: Sarah Long Photography

My Mom has often said, “When you were born, I didn’t look at you and say, am I going to screw up this baby?”. It is funny because it is true. When I first held each of my children, I looked at them with such wonder and awe. I felt such a great responsibility to teach them, nurture them, and ensure they have the best life possible and learn to be wonderful, compassionate, adults. This is no easy task, and actually throws me for a loop quite often – this grave responsibility that I have.

One of the most difficult parts of being a parent, is letting my children fail.  It is no secret that Seth and I butt-heads, a lot.  We get so frustrated with each other and honestly, it rarely ends well. I have said to Jeremy (many times) that if he ends up a successful adult, I will breathe a sigh of relief. One of the main reasons we argue is because we are so much alike. I see so much of myself in him, and I try to protect him from the heartache and trials I have had in my life.

I remember in 3rd grade getting a 4 in math. With the grading system we used, that was equivalent to a D. I was so discouraged but despite my best efforts, I never could grasp the basic concepts. To this day, I still struggle with math. When we were first married, I joked with Jeremy telling him I only married him for his brains so our kids would stand a fighting chance.

Sadly, my husbands brilliant math brains did not make it into Seth’s DNA. While the boy looks just like his Dad, he acts just like his Mom. His struggle with math started when we moved to Texas in 1st grade. He had a teacher who was not loving and kind. She did not nurture him and made him feel very dumb. Despite my best efforts, he has struggled to get those basic concepts, and fights with every fiber of his being – anything related to mathematics. This breaks my heart for him.

I know the struggle he is going to have his entire life if he can’t learn to understand and appreciate numbers and how they work. I push him, encourage him, give him extra worksheets and games at home, anything I can think of to help him get the basic facts down.

At some point though, I have to let him try and fail. I have to let him have his own experiences – both good and bad. I have to let each of my children make their own ways in this world. It seems silly to say that when they are still so young, but when does it start? Whether it is school work, sports, friendships, their clothing choices, or even personality quirks I find annoying endearing but maybe others won’t. I have to let them try.

I have always let my children face the natural consequences of their actions. You don’t eat dinner and you’re hungry at bedtime? I’m so sorry – you can still finish your dinner if you want, but I won’t make you anything else. You want to go outside in the 40 degree weather without a jacket? Well, you are going to get cold and will wish you had that jacket won’t you. These are learning experiences and are very important for growth.

Now we are entering a whole new territory of natural consequences though. School is more difficult for Seth this year. He is in 3rd grade, so he has tests – a lot of them. I can access his grades online and see how he is doing in any subject at any time. It frustrates me when I see that he didn’t get a good grade on something because (I know) he rushed through it. It breaks my heart when I see that he didn’t score as high as he wanted to on a test he studied for. But, this is part of growing up. The natural consequences are increasing, and he is learning (I hope) from each one.

Just like he had to learn if Mama told him to wear a jacket and he later got cold, he will learn that studying well and taking his time on his school work will help him tremendously.

For me, the hard part is teaching him, then sitting back and letting him try on his own. I know that often he will succeed and do fabulous. But for those times when he does fail, he will have a soft place to land. There will be no “I told you so’s” or “Oh you should have done xyz…”. There will be only love and understanding, because I know the pain of failure and know these are lessons he will learn whether I want him to or not.

-just write


When I was young I had great dreams and plans for my future. Deep in my heart, I wanted to be famous. I wanted to be on Broadway or in Nashville. I wanted to go to New York and pay my dues. I wanted to see my name in lights and touch people with my talent. I wanted people to know my name and to have the adoration of millions. Knowing this was no more than a pipe dream (you know, the tremendous amount of talent needed was a bit of a stumbling block), I stuck those dreams in a closet and went for the next great love of my life – teaching.

Never did I see myself working in a big city, having power lunches and jet setting around the world. That was the life my best friend wanted. She wanted to be a powerful business woman. She wanted to drive a Jaguar, fly first class and run a Fortune 500 Company.  Not me though, I envisioned myself working a job that was a little more grounded – a teacher or a mother. Those were my two dream jobs.

In 5th grade I got to help my teacher take down and put up bulletin boards in the classroom. Right then and there I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I wanted to have my own classroom! I wanted to design bulletin boards, have book shelves, and a grade book. I wanted to teach and have an impact on children the way that my (good) teachers had.

Life, being what it is, threw me some curve balls and that degree was never attained. While I was disappointed, I quickly found a job working in education still.  I spent 3 awesome years as a Sign Language interpreter in an elementary school. While working, I realized that more than ever I really wanted to go back to school and finish my degree in Deaf Education. I wanted my own classroom and the camaraderie that comes with working in a school. I wanted to influence the lives of children for good. I wanted to make a difference.

Then I became a Mother. In the first moments I held Emma I realized I held everything I had ever wanted. I was given the opportunity to not only touch a life, but help shape a future. I was given the chance to take this little person, this perfect little soul, and help her become whatever she wanted to be. I could not only make a difference in her life, but in the lives of everyone she ever meets.

Being the 4th of 5 children, I became a very young Aunt. My sister had her first baby when I was just 13 and when I got married, I had 11 nieces and nephews. I had the wonderful influences of my siblings to show me things I wanted (and didn’t want) to do when I became a Mama. I watched their struggles and triumphs. I knew that no matter what else I achieved in life, if I could Mother well, I would be fulfilled.

With every child we have added to our family, I have felt the great responsibility and privilege that comes with being a Mother. Every morning I pray I will have patience, love and peace in my heart for each of my children. I pray that I can see past their faults and straight to their tender pure hearts. I pray that I can be the Mother they deserve.

While my dreams have changed and shifted since I was in 5th grade, one thing remains the same. I want to make a difference. I want to help shape the lives of those around me for the better. I want to be what my children need without losing sight of what I need.

Life is a great balancing act and never has it been more evident to me than when I became a Mother.


This is a sponsored post from Hallmark as part of the Life is a Special Occasion campaign. I am so thrilled to be working with this fabulous company this year and to have the opportunity to share ways to make everyday occasions  special. 
For the latest on Hallmark deals and ideas, be sure to sign up for their newsletter, you just might see me there from time to time.


Finding Her Way

The day the lists went up, phones rang off the hook. Children planning where they would meet to go check. We rode our bikes and sped down the hill to the school. We arrived along with the other throngs of students, looking with great anticipation. What teacher did we have? Were our friends in our classes?

The only year my best friend was in my same class was the year we met, 2nd grade. After that we were never in the same class. While we were always very disappointed, it never stopped us from playing together at recess or sneaking to the adjoining wall to talk sharpen our pencils.

While the methods of my children finding out their teachers has changed, the anticipation remains. On the day the teachers call to let their class know who they have, children wait and hope and pray.

On the day the phone calls went out this year we all waited. The texts started rolling in from Amelia’s friends Moms. They were all saying the same thing, their kids had Mrs. H. Amelia had Mrs. A. Every single one of her friends was in one class and she was in another. She was heartbroken. I took my sad girl in my arms and reassured her, “It’s okay sweetie, this just means you get to make even more friends!”. With that perspective she was just fine and was excited once again for school to start.

The day we went to drop off supplies, we walked into her classroom and realized she had two friends in there, and they were sitting right by her! I wonder if the relief in my face was as evident as in hers.

Everyday I ask who she played with and it is always the same answer. Her best friends from Kindergarten. Just like her Mama, even if they aren’t in the same class, they still can play at recess. I encourage her to include other friends she is meeting in her class, and she assures me she asks them if they want to play too. She is good at including everyone and making sure everyone feels wanted.

I love watching her make new friends. Of all my children, she is the most shy. She takes the longest to warm up to people and new situations, so I really worried about her this year. But, as children tend to do, she is proving me wrong in my original assessment. She is having fun, meeting new friends, and coming out of her shell.

While I was originally very disappointed her best friends weren’t in her class this year, I am now glad they aren’t. I am glad that she is forced to make new friends. I am glad that she is having to go outside herself and meet new kids. This is such an essential skill that will do her well the rest of her life.

How do you encourage your kids and their friendships during the school year?


This is a sponsored post from Hallmark as part of the Life is a Special Occasion campaign. I am so thrilled to be working with this fabulous company this year and to have the opportunity to share ways to make everyday occasions  special. 
For the latest on Hallmark deals and ideas, be sure to sign up for their newsletter, you just might see me there from time to time.


Tell Them…they need to hear it

I always want you to do your best, no matter what you do.  This is what I tell my children all the time. Whether it is cleaning their rooms, doing their chores, playing sports or school work. I just want them to do their best.

Seth and I argue a lot. We are a lot alike and because of that I see so many traits in him that have caused me grief. In trying to spare him the grief, pain and awkwardness I have felt in my life, I have inadvertently let him believe I don’t think he is good enough. This absolutely breaks my heart. As a parent the last thing you want to do is cause your child to feel less than. He is such a sensitive kid though, and any criticism from me tends to lead him down a nasty trail of negative self talk.

Today I was talking to a good friend who has similar issues with her daughter. They are so much alike and really struggle sometimes with their relationship. She told me that for the next two weeks she is going to really concentrate on only praising her daughter. She is going to cut out all critical comments and really watch for the positive qualities of her daughter. As she was telling me this I knew this was what I needed to do with Seth. Right before she came over, Seth and I had been fighting. I was flustered and irritated with him. With a sigh I prayed that I would know what to do to help him.  No sooner did I end my prayer than my doorbell rang and she came over.

Everyone needs encouragement. We all need to know we are doing okay, we are doing enough, we are good enough. I have started telling my children “secrets” every night. The last thing they hear from me at the end of the day is something positive I noticed them doing that day. They love their secrets and won’t let me forget to tell them.

At some point in our lives we stopped asking for the positive reinforcement, the praise, the encouragement. We stopped asking, but never stopped needing. In a marriage, if one person is constantly nagging at the other, and never offers any positive feedback, how great will that marriage be? We know it won’t be. It goes the same for our children. They need to have more than hearing us say “I love you”. We need to show it in our actions, our looks, our service to them.

For the next two weeks I am going to show my children how much I love them by pointing out the positive all the time. I am going to try really hard to not criticize, and leave them little notes and cards of encouragement. I intend on filling their Bug ’ems with goodies and special treats. I want them to know I am noticing how hard they try to make good choices and be good kids.

I am going to encourage them to be the children I know they are. And hopefully thorough this, my sweet boy will be able to stop the negative self talk, and we will break the awful fighting cycle we have entered.

My hope is that by showing and telling my children how wonderful they are they will always believe it.

This is a sponsored post from Hallmark as part of the Life is a Special Occasion campaign. I am so thrilled to be working with this fabulous company this year and to have the opportunity to share ways to make everyday occasions  special.  Hallmark has a wonderful selection of cards for children of all ages. They are great for lifting up and giving encouragement in those everyday moments. Also be sure to check out the Bug ‘Ems
For the latest on Hallmark deals and ideas, be sure to sign up for their newsletter, you just might see me there from time to time.

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