How Moms Do Christmas

Love is in the details.  At least, this is what most moms believe.  We are the ones who will stay up until 3 a.m. Christmas morning baking fresh buns just so that our family has something homemade for Christmas Day. No one asked us. And no one would likely miss it if we didn’t do it. But we love our families and want them to have the best so we forfeit sleep…often.

At Christmas, I often reminisce about my childhood Christmases in Grandma’s house or at home with my mom and sisters. We didn’t have a lot and the focus was never on the gifts. My mom and grandma and aunts were all good hostesses who believed in presentation and homemade happiness.

The trays of goodies were constantly being refilled with shortbread cookies, mincemeat tarts, fruit cake, fudge, butter tarts and bowls of nuts were everywhere.  Mom made homemade eggnog with a pinch of nutmeg on top and we would drink them out of the fancy glasses .  Grandma had the carols of Christmas loudly playing in the living room as she whistled along in the kitchen making Christmas pudding, pies by the dozens, stuffing that stuck to your ribs and tons of baked goods.  She always had an apron on and the laughter, chatter, togetherness was what we all came to expect upon entering her domain. tables.jpg

When I was in my teens, my mom had very little money and we didn’t ever expect to get a lot for gifts. Mom was always practical but sought to make each gift special and individual to each of us.  One year I got a fuzzy zip up house coat. Looking back, it wasn’t anything special or extravagant but it was something I wouldn’t have asked for, but needed and loved anyway.  There was a digital alarm clock another year and a new purse later on. Mom always stuffed our stockings with essentials like razors, new toothbrushes, Christmas socks, maybe  some cheap jewelry or hair clips and always a Christmas orange .

There have been years when we have over-given to our kids. Probably not the smartest thing. In the financially good years we have given snowboards, a violin ,guitar and electronics.  On the meager years everyone got a new toque or scarf and a $20 gift card to their favourite store. Sometimes it’s feast or famine around here and we just roll with it. But at the heart of every gift, I want my kids to know I think of them, love them and care about the things they care about. I want Christmas to be restful, fun, joyful and peaceful. We buy a puzzle or two every December to work on through the holidays. I bake everyone’s favourite cookies and the years I’ve missed doing that— well, let’s just say, they don’t let me forget it.

Most of us don’t remember every gift we’ve ever received from our parents. That usually means we’ve been blessed over the years with more than we have needed. But we always remember how Christmas makes us feel- loved, cared for and part of a bigger family unit. This is always my goal- I want my kids to look forward to Christmas as a reprieve from the stress of life and an oasis of joy.  So I choose gifts with meaning or thought and I listen to the requests of what they want to eat, the games they hope to play, the people they love to see, the gatherings they hope they’ll be able to attend- this is the heart of a family Christmas.

In 10 years or 20 years, I don’t care if my kids still have the guitar or the snowboard or the toque.  What I hope is that they have a memory of the time Mom made their favourite cookies and played Just Dance 4 with them.

 

The Fix is in

It finally arrived. My little surprise package of Stitch Fix goodies arrived on my doorstep last week. I was super excited to open it up and see what my stylist had selected for me. If you’re not familiar with Stitch Fix, click here to read my earlier blog about this nifty subscription wardrobe service.

I tried hard to keep my expectations low, since my stylist – Taryn – doesn’t really know me yet. I told myself to keep an open mind and be willing to try new things.

I received four pieces of clothing and one necklace. Here’s the lowdown on each piece:

  • Kut from the Kloth black shift dress – I asked my stylist for something a little dressy, that would be appropriate for an anniversary dinner and could transition into the holidays. This black dress with lace on the shoulders is loose fitting, which I’m not used to, but is really pretty, classic and totally versatile. It was $98, a little pricier than I was hoping, but after modelling it for the fam, I decided it was a keeper. (Wow…sorry about the messy closet!)

    Kut from the Kloth Antonella dress, $98
    Kut from the Kloth Antonella dress, $98
  • Annetta metal lace necklace – I have to say I LOVE this piece. It really is a great accessory to the plain black dress. It is definitely something I would never have picked out on my own. I am excited to wear it with a number of different things. It is priced at $34.
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  • 41Hawthorne Potina Draped Cardigan – this sweater was really cute. The stripes on the inside were very unexpected and playful. It was great quality – you could tell just by the feel. It was priced at $68 and because it was a little too big, I decided to return it.IMG_0695
  • Mavi Skinny Jean – putting these jeans on, they felt like butter. Honestly, SO comfortable…they had just the right amount of stretch. However, after wearing them around the house for a bit, I could tell they were going to become that annoying pair of jeans that you’re forever pulling up. They were $98, and I just couldn’t justify spending that on a pair of jeans that just didn’t fit perfectly.IMG_0689
  • Alice Blue floral print blouse – pictured above – was super sweet. I hesitated on flowers for fall, but because it’s black and is a great layering piece, I decided to keep it. I am a sucker for florals!! I love the cute V-shaped neckline and it can be worn loosely tucked in or out. Great casual piece that can be dressed up or down. It is priced at $44.

So, in the end, I kept three out of five pieces, which means I didn’t qualify for the 25% off my entire order. But my $20 styling fee was deducted from my total purchase. With the discount, I paid $167.44.

I have to say that I was impressed with Fix #1. Taryn did a really great job at picking things out for me. I actually really liked everything she sent, and the returns were mostly for size. I think we’re on to something!

Something else I really like about Stitch Fix is the styling cards you receive with your clothes The cards give you ideas on how to style your new pieces, to dress them up or down. It is really helpful, especially for those who don’t know what goes with what.

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I will continue with Stitch Fix up until the holidays, and then maybe take a break after that. I like the idea of using the service 4 times a year when the season changes. All in all, I’d say I’m hooked!

P.S. I’m working on my closet!!

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Ok Moms, I’m ready for a fashion “fix”

I finally did it! After chatting with a friend about how much she enjoys the subscription wardrobe service Stitch Fix, I decided I needed to give it a try.

I think this may just be the thing many busy moms are looking for – the desire to ditch the yoga pants, look cute and stylish and never have to leave your own home! It’s been a while, but I do remember what it was like to shop with babies and toddlers. 😉

Stitch Fix is a San Fransisco-based company which has been gaining popularity in the U.S. but, sadly, is not available yet in Canada.

Courtesy: Stitch Fix
Courtesy: Stitch Fix

With cooler weather just around the corner (I hope), I am excited to pull out jeans, sweaters, boots and scarves. Fall seems like a great time to give my wardrobe a little “fixing” up.

All of my friends know I love to shop…I’ve even been known to lose a toenail in the process of hunting down some good deals. So, I’m not sure if Stitch Fix will be a hit or a miss for me.

Here’s how it works:

For $20 a month, an online stylist will hand select 5 pieces of clothing for you based on the Stitch Fix profile you fill out. (Take your time, this is very important – give yourself 20 minutes). You let them know your sizes, preferred colors, and your overall style whether it be casual chic, preppy, Bohemian chic, classic, romantic or edgy. (They provide pictures of each style, so it’s easy to figure this part out)

For each Fix you can specify the colors and type of clothing you are looking for and if you are planning to wear them to an upcoming party or special occasion. You can choose whether to receive just clothes, or also add in accessories, coats and purses. Stitch Fix encourages you to join Pinterest and create a board of all the looks you love and also make that part of your profile. The more your stylist gets to know what you like, the better your Fixes should be. And, you can schedule your shipment to arrive whenever you like – you may choose to do it monthly, quarterly, etc.

I really don’t think Stitch Fix is the place for deals, so if that is what you are looking for, you may be disappointed. The average price of items in a Stitch Fix box is $55-65. If you keep one item, the $20 styling fee is deducted from the price. If you keep all 5 items, you receive 25% off your entire order. And, if you don’t keep any of the items, you simply return them by dropping them in the mail, but you will lose your $20.

Courtesy: The Stitch Fix Blog
Courtesy: The Stitch Fix Blog

The concept really intrigues me and I’m curious to know if someone can actually pick out things that fit and that I will love based on an on-line profile and so called “algorithm”.  This whole idea of “fashion technology” and customization is fascinating to me – is it the way of the future? Does it beat endlessly searching on your own for the right size and color? Or,  trying to track down the elusive sales clerk to unlock the fitting room door?  Well, I am ready to find out.

Reviews of Stitch Fix are mixed.  Many women enjoy the personalized service and the ability to try things on in the comfort of their own home. After using it for a while, they seem to develop a real rapport with their stylist. Other users complain the on-line stylists don’t listen to the feedback they provide and they can find the same stuff elsewhere for less money.

So, I have signed up and am currently awaiting my Fix. I will let you know when the box arrives at my door. Gotta say, I’m kind of excited!

In the meantime, let me know what you think about the idea of a subscription wardrobe service. Have you used Stitch Fix or another online styling tool? Do you think it’s a waste of money or a brilliant idea?

Every Mom Has Back To School Memories

A few days ago I was in our local Dollarama and noticed two pretty girls and their mom in the school supplies aisle. The girls were giggling and excited as they picked out colourful notebooks and pretty pencils. The mom had a look of peace and joy.  Probably because summer is nearly over and the kids will be back into a routine! But I suspect she’s also enjoying her children’s delight at the small things.

Even if you hated school or detested homework, you likely are a mom who has some fond memories of the first days of school.  Did you sharpen all your pencils the night before the first day and place them in your new pencil case? Maybe your mom was like mine and she would painstakingly whittle a spot at the end of each pencil and pencil crayon to reveal bare wood and then carefully print your name. What year was it when Laurentian finally got the hint and put a white blank space for names on their pencils? I think it was the 90s~ this generation of kids probably doesn’t understand the special-ness of having your mom’s printing on every pencil…carved in by her own hand.

The smell of fresh sharpened pencils.

The feel of a new scribbler~that’s what we called our notebooks. And who doesn’t still love the 4-pack of colourful Hilroy notebooks? Every year I wonder what I could use them for….I just can’t resist buying a set.

And glue. Oh how I loved the smell of paste glue. Long before glue sticks were a thing and white school glue was only what teachers had, we had paste glue with its own unique odour.  I can almost smell it now.

And then there was LePage’s Brown Liquid glue with the rubber tipped applicator…what a mess! But oh how fun….I loved gluing everything.

The first day of school is magical, isn’t it? New clothes, new shoes, new books, new pencils and erasers. You don’t have any baggage from the year before; it got left behind in the summer heat, pool parties and backyard fires.

The first day is full of new faces, familiar friends, happy teachers(if you were lucky, they stayed that way till June) and the promise of learning something new.

For me, the first day was scary and stressful as a shy, introverted child. But my love of books, especially math pages and spelling tests , was enough to get me over that hurdle and push me out the door.

Bus rides and singalongs, playground games and swinging high, construction paper and creative collages~ school was a special, expressive, and growing time.

So every year, the week before school starts, I still get butterflies, I still walk the back to school supply aisles of the local department stores even though we rarely have to buy most of what is there( 2 of my 4 kids are graduated and the other 2 are in high school).  I love to see the sheer delight on the faces of 6 and 7 year olds as they walk proudly down the street with their new backpacks and lunch bags……

ooooo! Lunch kit! My most special one was a red plaid metal box!

*sigh*  Good memories.  Now tell me yours. What do you remember? What were the special moments , sights and smells that made you love this magical time of year? Do you live vicariously through your own kids when picking out new notebooks and running shoes? I want to hear from you and then I will post some of my favourite stories for the first week of school in September!

Surviving a move with teens and tweens

Have you noticed the for sale signs going up in your neighborhood? It’s spring, and that means moving season.

In fact, it was exactly three years ago this week that we packed up and moved from Canada to The Woodlands, Texas. All of us, especially the kids, had mixed emotions about our big move. But, I really had no idea how difficult the transition was going to be.

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It all hit home the day my middle daughter had a complete meltdown walking home from school. We’d been here just a few weeks and the weather was already a sweltering 95 degrees (35 C). She dropped her backpack on the sidewalk, tore at the neck of her sweat-soaked shirt and shouted through tears, “I want to move back to Canada…where the weather is perfect!” Hahahaha…tell that to most Canadians!!

I hadn’t realized just how lonely she was feeling at school. She was missing her friends back home and didn’t feel like part of her new class. When all the kids were exchanging yearbooks, she didn’t have one. And, she wasn’t pictured in any of the year end slideshows. To a kid, that stuff matters.

It was a long, hot summer. Where was everybody?? No bikes, no soccer balls, no laughing children in the cul-de-sac. I finally figured out they were all seeking refuge in their air-conditioned homes!!

As my youngest happily cooled off in our backyard pool, my oldest started having mysterious stomach pains. Initially, I thought she’d come down with a stomach bug from the water park, but when it persisted for weeks, I finally took her to the doctor. There was no “official” diagnosis, but the doctor suggested she might be having anxiety related to the move, the loss of her social network and fear of starting a new school in the fall. Everything that was familiar to her…was gone.

She spent hours texting, Facetiming and Skyping friends back home, and I worried that maybe it was too much. Wasn’t it time to move on? For a while, it seemed like she was focusing on her old friends at the expense of making new ones. Was it a good idea for her to go back and visit, or bring her friends here? We tried everything, but only with time…and patience, did she find her new normal. I’m happy to say she still has close connections with her old friends thanks to social media.

It took a full year for The Woodlands to begin to feel like home and now we love it here. But seeing the for sale signs reminds me of all the change – good and bad – a family must go through when relocating. I’ve compiled a list of what I hope are helpful tips to ease the transition:

  • Talk to your children, stressing the positives of the move and the new location. It’s important to be honest with them, and acknowledge their fears, but always try to remain upbeat about the new experience. Your kids will feed off of your emotions.
  • Pre-move visit – it helps for kids to see where they are moving. Let them check out the neighborhood, local parks, etc. so they can visualize themselves in their new surroundings. Involve them in the house-hunting process, just be careful they don’t get their heart set on a house in case the real estate deal falls through.
  • Phone a friend – if possible, try to connect with other moms who are already living there. For me, the advice I received from the wife of my husband’s co-worker was invaluable. I find you will always get the “real deal” from other moms.
  • The internet is your friend – use it to research schools, doctors, dentists, dance studios, swim clubs, or hockey teams. It can sometimes be hard to find a doctor or pediatrician accepting new patients, so get on those lists early. Same goes for pre-schools and private schools. Once there, go for a visit and talk to the staff to make sure what you read on the internet is true.
  • Get documents in order – most schools require birth certificates (now you need the long-form version), vaccination records, transcripts and report cards. You may also need your marriage certificate and marriage license. It’s so much easier to gather this stuff ahead of time, rather than trying to track it down during the middle of packing and un-packing.
  • Be prepared for tutoring – moving to a different province, state or even school district may come with different standards and curriculum expectations. And that’s ok. Be open to any extra support or tutoring the school may recommend. It doesn’t mean your child is “behind”, it just means they are behind where this particular school district wants them to be.
  • Talk to your kids’ teachers ahead of time. Let them know a little about your child’s personality, and what he/she may need during those first few weeks. Also, ask if there is a “buddy” who could be paired with your child to show them around the school. My daughter is still good friends with the class ambassador who be-friended her on the first day.
  • Sign up for kids’ activities sooner, rather than later – getting kids involved early on can minimize their feelings of loss and loneliness. It’s a great place for them to meet new friends and gets them back to doing what they love
  • Be the host – it’s likely that for the first few months, you may have to be the host of play dates, outings and eventually sleepovers. You might even offer to host a neighbourhood or class party. No one knows your child, so what better way to break the ice?
  • Join something fun – give yourself permission to join a gym, book club, take dance lessons or volunteer. Try to get out and mingle. Not everyone handles change well and moving can be a trigger for depression; it’s important to stay active and engaged with others. After all, you need friends too!
  • Don’t feel guilty — expect that your kids will complain, but don’t let them make you feel guilty for “ruining their life.” They are kids, they will adjust, and it will be harder for teens than young ones. I honestly believe that moving teaches kids some great life skills – how to make friends, be easy-going and adapt to all of the curve balls life is going to throw at them.
  • Relationship TLC – moving is busy and stressful. The extent of conversation with your spouse may be limited to “Did the cable guy come yet?” and the ever so innocent…”Wow, those boxes aren’t unpacked yet??” Make time to just set all the moving stuff aside, pour yourselves a glass of wine and talk. If you can sneak a night out, then go for it, especially once you find a great babysitter.

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What a huge learning curve we all went through during that first year. Of course, there were so many great memories too – seeing my first magnolia tree, having our first Blue Bell ice cream (before the listeria outbreak, of course!) and meeting great neighbours who’ve become dear friends.

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Getting used to “y’all” took a little time. I’m still having trouble with “all y’all’s” as a plural possessive?! We drank a lot of “sweet tea” that summer and I quickly got up to speed on Tex Mex lingo. Now if I go to a potluck, I know what pico and queso are!

When moving, it’s so easy to focus on what you don’t have anymore, but in the end, you have all you need ~ each other!

Please comment below if you’d like to share your moving experience, or if you have any other advice for moms who are getting ready for this big transition.

I’d like to thank my friend and real estate agent Wendy Kelman for contributing to this post.

How to Help Families with Little Kids and a Newborn or Multiples

Yesterday morning I awoke to one of my favourite pieces of good news: new babies.  Yes, more than one. My friend Lise had twins on the weekend and somehow she managed to keep it a secret from most of the free world.  Twins is sort of a big deal. I’ve been privileged to watch family members embark on this crazy adventure more than once. This week, I wrote a little bit about my time last summer with a family who welcomed twins in addition to their three other children, six and under.

Over the past several months, I’ve talked to a lot of moms and dads about the complete exhaustion, exhilaration and chaos that happens when a baby is brought into a home where there are already a few small kids. But there is a level of crazy that you can’t quite quantify when you add twins(or more) to a household where diapers, tantrums, preschoolers, playtime, naptimes and playdates are already in full swing.

This post is about helping the parents of newborns who already have little kids at home. I’ve been the mom with 3 preschoolers at home bringing home a baby. This is about my experiences. This is also in reaction to things I’ve seen and heard with other parents. There are ways to help and there are ways NOT to help.

1. NEVER assume that parents of newborns have everything figured out. They don’t. Even if they have other kids, every newborn situation is different. And as much as parents want to be prepared, most of the time, they’re not. So be available.

2. Do not offer what you cannot give. I can’t begin to tell you how many people told me “just call- whatever you need, I’m available”  and then when I called, they actually couldn’t help. Maybe about 10% of the time I had people follow through on their promise to “call whenever you need anything.” So don’t do that. Instead, be specific.  If you can bring a meal over, say that. If you can bring a meal over on Tuesday of next week- say EXACTLY that. Leaving it up to new parents to figure out what you mean and when you mean it is too much work for them- honestly. They’re barely coherent and functioning- they need you to be specific.

3. DO NOT CALL or text or message continuously.  I’m so glad there were no cell phones or Facebook or Twitter or even much for email when I had my kids. I could barely keep up with contacting immediate family when my babies were born let alone manage everyone else. Especially when a mom to be goes into the hospital, be very conscious of the fact that she has much more important things to do than message you back. The day that the twins were being born last September, I was awakened at 5 a.m.  I saw Mommy and Daddy off to the hospital and dealt with morning routine, school, playtime and lunch before I heard a peep. People were messaging me non-stop. They wanted to know news. They wanted updates. I had none. Did I want to send a quick text to Daddy? Yes. Did I? Nope.  He was well aware where I was and what was going on. I didn’t hear from him until early afternoon and the babies were already a couple hours old at that point. As much as you may want to know what the latest news is, be respectful and be patient. It’s hard! But do it anyway. Same goes for after the parents come home. If you have been clear about your availability to help, leave it at that for a few days. Sleep is scarce the first couple weeks and visitors, constant calls and texts only add to the exhaustion.

4. Do not just drop in. The excitement of new babies is contagious. It is so hard to stay away when your friends or family have had a baby (or babies!) but you need to give them time to adjust to home. If you MUST drop off a gift or a meal or even groceries, then you need to let them know you’re on your way and that you will not be staying. Drop off the items, give a hug and leave. Do not presume to stay. Do not take off your shoes or coat. Do not expect to be served or entertained. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen people drop in, decide to stay indefinitely, have no regard for how tired the parents are, stay through feedings(which are cumbersome, awkward and often lengthy the first while) and stay through naptime. Hint: if the baby(babies) are sleeping, then mommy and daddy should be sleeping too. 

5. If you visit, plan to help.  So let’s say you’ve been invited, you’ve made plans, it’s all good and you’re dropping in on the family.  Do not come to be entertained. Your job is to help. Do the dishes, do some laundry, play with the other kids, help with bathtime/bedtime, make a meal, clean up a meal, take out the trash, take out the recycling, clean out the fridge, sweep, vacuum, wash counters, …..these are ALL things that new parents are often too tired to do, won’t have done for a while or just don’t have time for.

6. Do NOT drop off your used clothing.  This is a big no-no. Once upon a time, we lived in a time when clothes were not as accessible or economical as they are now. Most parents have an abundance of clothes from their previous children. It is rare for parents of newborns to need or even want your leftovers. You may have adorable, well cared for clothes, but if they’re not needed then they become work. Imagine bringing home your two precious babes to a house where you have 2 or 3 other children and someone drops off 2 or 3 or 4 GARBAGE BAGS full of clothes. You would cry. Yes you would. Well, I did. I cried a lot. Not in front of the givers, but afterwards. Bags full of clothes are great if needed and asked for. They are just painfully unwanted when you’re exhausted and have no time or space to deal with them. Ask first and don’t feel offended if the answer is “thanks, but no thanks”. Most parents simply cannot deal with sorting through more clothes than they need.

7. There’s such a thing as a bad gift. If you are going to donate clothes, make sure they’re clean, in good repair and sorted into sizes. There was a time, when we were poor, and we had our first baby where we had maybe 4 sleepers total. And someone in our family gave us a bag of baby clothes and receiving blankets which should have been a blessing. But it was a curse. You can say a lot in what you give. If it really is ‘the thought that counts’ then make sure you’re thinking about how your gift will be received. The bag of clothes we were given was 95% formula stained, ripped,  stretched, too old to be anything but rags. I cried. I needed clothes. But I didn’t need that. It was horrible. And I will tell you that *gifts* like this will actually put a wall up between the giver and the recipient. I was gracious but the relationship was awkward and distant. Make sure you give in such a way to bless and be of help. In the same vein, giving food gifts that require a lot of preparation or fussy care are not helpful. If you make a meal, make it simple, tasty, able to be frozen, placed into disposable containers(or containers that can be kept.). Anytime a family has to chase down the owners of dishes, it makes the gift of food more work.  One more note about food gifts: they are THE BEST but be careful not to put your dietary likes above the recipients’. If you are a vegetarian but the new family is not, consider their tastes.  If you like quinoa and lentils but the new family never eats them, that could make for a bad food gift. Consideration is key.

Someone dropped these off the day before the twins came home from the hospital. Talk about a practical THOUGHTFUL gift!
Someone dropped these off the day before the twins came home from the hospital. Talk about a practical THOUGHTFUL gift!

8. Baby holders aren’t as needed as you might think.  I know a lot of people get excited(me included) when a new baby comes into the world because we all just want to hold it. I’m one of those people who will take the baby and not return it. I will not share. I’m a baby hoarder. I love their smell and their soft little squishy bodies perched in my arms. Give me babies!!   Okay, wait. What was I saying? Right….ummmm…..I was the mom who wanted to hold her own baby. All the time. I loved my babies and they grew too fast. Yes, I was proud to show them off..for like 5 minutes. But really, I wanted to hold my babies more than anyone else. Moms get exhausted. And sometimes they need a break…but just little breaks. If a mom has other kids and she wants to spend time with them, maybe a baby holder is necessary. With twins or multiples, there may be more times needed in soothing one while the other is fed but early on, that is not as likely to happen. Be very aware that some moms like their babies in a crib during naptime to get them into a routine. Holding a baby for an hour or two between feedings is rarely helpful to a new mom. Sorry baby huggers! I feel your pain! Just short holding sessions, mmm ‘k? 🙂

9. Do NOT bring your sick or wild or hyper or needy children for a visit.  This is a tough one. If you’re a mom and a friend of the new mom, it is very natural to want to bring your kids over to see the new baby(ies). But sometimes more kids is just too much. Germs, tantrums, unexpected attitudes can all make for a louder, frustrating visit.  Usually, siblings of a new baby are wanting more attention and will be struggling without the addition of extra kids wanting to play with their toys. Be sensitive to the situation. And under no circumstance should sick, snotty, feverish, kids or adults come into a home where there is a new baby. Ever.

10. Helping with older kids should be done as needed in their own home. The upheaval of having mommy gone for a few days or weeks and seeing people come and go can be very difficult on little kids. If you want to help care for the siblings of newborns, as much as possible do it in their own home. Consistency is so important for little kids. Do not offer to take the kids to your home if you cannot pick them up and drop them off. Asking new parents to arrange to drop off their kids at your house is not very convenient. Of course there are exceptions but anytime you can make life easier on the new exhausted, overwhelmed parents is the preferred method.

11. Twins(multiples) and Bedrest: Sometimes moving in is the best way to help. I have fibromyalgia, I’m in my forties and I am NOT a morning person. I told all these things to our family members before coming to live with them for 5 weeks. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t help. I promised the kids would be fed and cared for. I didn’t promise a spotless house or gourmet meals. We managed and everyone survived! I will say that it helped that my family was not in the same city. I could dedicate all of my time to the little ones and the care of the home without distraction. It ended up being MORE relaxing than being home with my four teenagers. Go figure!  The key is this: stuff happens and if mama or daddy need help NOW, you’re there. Also, this definitely works best when you have a good relationship with both parents. Their rules, their house, their routine…be flexible and roll with it.

12. Do not place an expiry on your availability.  It’s often easy to assume that parents of newborns only need help the first month. But in reality, it gets harder over the course of the first couple years. When newborns sleep mostly and only wake for feedings, new parents need help watching their other kids so they can sleep. As soon as the baby(ies) are waking more, the need for help falls over into managing and watching all of the kids. If babies are born prematurely, their newborn phase lasts longer. This can be cute to those of us on the outside looking in, but for a new mom who’s nursing or waking multiple times in the night, this is just prolonging her exhausted phase. By the time babies reach 3 or 4 months, there may be even more need for help to come in daily to do routine household chores and care for older children as well as the babies. Rotating with friends and neighbours is a great way to cover a family over the course of a week. Once babies are nearing a year……walking, talking, solid foods plus school and schedules for older siblings can render a mom almost zombie-like. Swoop in and give her a break whenever you can. It may be only a short season of life but for her in that moment it feels never ending.

13. Be the friend who knows just what Mom needs.  Sometimes we have to be creative and spontaneous. We also need to put ourselves into the shoes of an overwhelmed, overtired mom of multiple small children. If you are out and buying coffee for yourself, grab a 2nd cup…drive to her house, knock(gently), hand her the java, give her a  hug and drive away. You don’t need to stay long or do a lot to let her know that you’re thinking of her and have her back. Remember what I said about not overstaying your welcome? Ya well, don’t, but dropping in with a saving cup of caffeine, lunch for the kiddos or a 30 minute stop so she can shower is worth its weight in gold. Trust me.

14. Ask. When all else fails, ask what is needed. Do they need someone to pick up kids from the bus stop? Do they need a sitter for an evening? Do they need someone to drive to and from the hospital while babies are in the NICU? Do they need gas cards or money for hospital parking passes? It’s amazing how all of these things add up. If the new parents are too overwhelmed to know what is needed in that moment, tell them to text or call if they think of something and then let them know you’ll check back in a couple of days. And then do.

The point in all of this is to be thoughtful, empathetic and available.  It’s very easy to go buy cutsie little outfits when a baby is born but what parents of newborns really need is physical, tangible, practical help. 

What are some of your good and bad experiences when you had your babies? Were there some gifts/givers who nailed it? Were there some people who tried to help but maybe made things worse? I’m guilty of calling too often, holding the babies too long, and dropping off bag fulls of unwanted clothes. I’m preaching to myself in all of this too!

Upcycling ~ Vince Camuto style

Hey Mamas! I am here to dish about some great deals I’ve found lately at some of my new favorite places to “upcycle”. I like to think of myself as thrifty, though I’m sure my husband would laugh out loud at that one!

Ok, so I’m not a coupon-cutter, and I won’t drive all the way across town just to buy cheaper gas, but I do like to re-use stuff that is in perfectly good shape, but just needs a new home. Gosh, don’t we all like to find a great deal? I’m not saying you won’t see me at the mall browsing through my favorite stores, but I also love to check out consignment stores, used furniture places, antique barns and the like.

I really became interested in consigning clothing when I worked in the television industry. We were lucky enough back then to receive an allowance to help purchase on-air clothing, but it was never really enough. Plus, I always thought it was in bad taste to wear the same outfits over and over again every week. So…I would sell my “gently used” clothes, mainly blazers, and use the money to buy new ones. Often, I would find great stuff at the consignment store in Calgary’s Willow Park, and I always thought it would be funny if the previous owner called up the station one day to say that they saw their jacket on-air! Thankfully, that never happened.

The other day I checked out a new store that opened just across from the Woodlands; it’s called Style Encore – love the name! It’s not a traditional consignment store, since they buy your stuff right there while you wait. It’s huge!! Rows and rows of clothing, all of it color-blocked so it makes it easier to find that little black dress or red blouse for the Christmas party. There are also tons of shoes; I don’t like to wear other people’s shoes, but that’s just a personal preference.

I hit it big in the handbag section. I have been wanting a quality and classic-looking brown leather bag for fall. I checked some out at Nordstrom’s the other day and just can’t bring myself to pay $500 for a purse. At Style Encore, I found a Vince Camuto brown leather bag for $45!!

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It’s in great condition, has a beautiful clean interior, lots of pockets and is the shape I wanted. I did have to take it home and wipe down the leather to make it sparkle 😉 Seriously, this bag brand new would have cost between $250-$300! I am still giddy about it. The “teen” version of Style Encore is called Plato’s Closet,  located just next door.

Children’s clothing is another huge consignment or re-sell market. Once Upon A Child and Kid to Kid are two well known stores around here. As the kids grow older, and their sense of style changes, I often find myself taking loads of clothes to sell at the consignment store. I made $17 on the last go around; not a lot, but it all goes into “Mommy’s secret stash” envelope. It adds up after a while.

These stores allow you to earn more money for your stuff if you choose to take it as store credit, and Style Encore even had a return policy.

I think furniture and home accessories may be one of the very BEST things to upcycle because there’s no weirdness about wearing other people’s stuff. Somehow, someone else’s table or picture on the wall seems a little less personal, you know what I mean? There was a great little used furniture place not far from my home that I checked out regularly.

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I found some great stuff there like this two-tone wood side table and one of the mirrors above.

Looking at the wall, can you tell which one came from the used furniture store and cost a third of the price of the one from Pottery Barn?? It’s the white rectangular one (the brown circular one underneath is from PB). Woodlands Online is a great site for buying and selling used furniture and accessories, among other things. Other stores to check out are Still Goode Consignments in Spring and just down the road is Estate Buyouts, Resale and More.

If you are a DIY type of person, you can really work some magic on some older furniture pieces, that may have a few nicks and scratches. My friend Juanita over at Prairie Vintage Revival is amazing at this!! I also love to check out the Thrifty Decor Chick blog, to read about Sarah’s latest cool project – she is super handy with a can of spray paint!

What’s really great is that my girlfriends also enjoy the thrill of the hunt. We had such fun a few weeks ago on a girls’ trip where we went “antiquing” up in Round Top, TX. We didn’t really end up buying that much (antiques can be pricey!) but we did come home with a few very unique pieces. 

A few things to remember about consigning or re-selling clothing, toys and furniture:

  • you won’t get rich selling your stuff, but it’s better at their store, than cluttering up your closet
  • if you are selling, your stuff should be in good condition, clean with all zippers and buttons (dry-cleaned if necessary)
  • don’t try to sell toys with lead or recalled items; that’s just not cool.
  • be clear about how you will get paid – cash on the spot, or by check in the mail. As I have learned from experience, if you receive checks as payment cash them right away. Sometimes these stores may close on a whim, and you’re hooped!
  • be sure to tell them if you want to pick up or donate your items that didn’t sell.
  • shop often because merchandise turns over quickly and watch for markdowns
  • second-hand stores in nicer, more affluent areas (hello Woodlands and surrounding area!) tend to have better stuff

Have fun shopping! Please comment below about some of your great “finds” and let us know where some of the best deals are in your city or town.