Friday, December 31, 2010

The Word Of The Year

If you have spent any time on Facebook this week, you may have seen reminders to choose your 'word' for 2011; the one word that you will embody in the coming year and that you will allow, in turn, to embody you.  Given that I am not one who goes for the unrealistically high bar that making resolutions* sets, choosing a word before the stroke of midnight tonight has become my goal this week (along with sorting, cleaning, purging, organizing, and digging out from under the holidays in general and counting down the minutes until Monday morning and the return to sanity and schedule.)

I have to admit that choosing my word has been much harder than I expected, and I may or may not have turned to a dictionary at one point to help my quest (and should you need to do the same, I would advise that you steer clear of the Children's Dictionary . . . lots of nouns and pictures, but not a lot of ideas.)  One word for 365 days . . .

And then it hit me.

For a good portion of my adult life I have felt overwhelmed.  While various jobs, marriage, children, home ownership and all of the things that come with being a grown-up have been rewarding and fantastic in their own way, they have also often been a lot to take in, and more often than not, I have felt like a passive observer rather than in control of the things going on around me.  In 2010 I worked hard to take back my life, making decisions and changes that I hoped would lead to personal growth and development.  While many of these decisions and changes did foster growth and change (in both expected and very unexpected ways), as I reflect on the year as a whole, I know that I still spent much of it overwhelmed by everything going on around me.  Therefore, my word for 2011 is EMBRACE.

I had initially settled on the word ACCEPT (which means to receive willingly or to give admittance to or approval to), but just couldn't get over the passivity that it implies - I wanted something that involves taking action.  To EMBRACE something means to take up especially readily or gladly (according to Merriam-Webster, anyway), and while I already know I won't always ACCEPT things readily or gladly in the new year, there is no reason that I can't EMBRACE them for what they war - challenges, blessings in disguise, eye openers, or gifts.  There is a physicality and intended acceptance in the word EMBRACE that I need and that I can apply with purpose.

In 2011, I will EMBRACE that which is placed before me - the things that I love, the things that I don't love, the things that I can change, and the things that I can't.  I will EMBRACE life.

Now you tell me . . . what will your 'word' for 2011 be?

*I have amended my no resolutions policy this year and am resolving that on January 1st, 2011 I will stop hijacking Michelle's blog and will write in my own little corner of the Internet - though I am sure I will still contribute at Mom's Sippy Cup . . . I've just got too much to say!  Check my profile tomorrow for a live link!

Monday, December 6, 2010

On The 6th Day Of Christmas . . .

My kiddos are very lucky for a vast number of reasons, but as it relates to the holidays, they are very lucky to have two sets of grandparents who like to shop.  While this takes the burden of trolling the aisles at Toys R Us off of me, it also means that I can either indulge them with more toys or go the more practical route.  So far I have managed to avoid wrapping up socks and underwear by instead getting the things that they can use almost everyday and will continue to use for at least the next few years.

Being in kindergarten and preschool, both of my older kids already have backpacks, but my toddler is still without, so the L.L. Bean Original Junior Backpack is at the top of her list.  I am not even remotely exaggerating when I tell you that backpacks from L.L. Bean live forever - if you were to go over to my parent's house right now you would find the backpack I used throughout middle school, high school, college, and my time on the ambulance . . . and it is still in awesome shape.  She is still a couple of years from starting preschool, but the bag is perfect for packing for overnight trips to grandma's house or for afternoon outings.

Knowing how well their backpacks hold up, I also looked to L.L. Bean for lunchboxes for the kids - my oldest will start the afternoon kindergarten enrichment program after his winter break, and will need to bring his lunch.  This arrived on my front step the other day, and it will be perfect for him (and the girls as well since we often take our own lunches and snacks when we go places.)  The best part about these lunchboxes?  They hold these Bento-style reusable containers from Ziploc.  The incomparable Danifred posted about these a few months ago, and knowing how my kids enjoy a little-of-this and a little-of-that when it comes to eating, I knew they would be perfect!  (If the aforementioned doesn't quite do it for you, be sure to peruse this site as well for a similar product!)

In addition to buying for my own children, I also purchase a small gift for their two bestest friends - the little girls nextdoor who are the exact same age (and the reason I know my son will one day marry a girl with red hair.)  These little girls also have birthdays immediately before and immediately after Christmas, and while I hate being the one that combines their Christmas gift with their birthday present, doing so justifies spending a little bit more for a single item.  This year, I got them (and my own kids as well because I know they will use the every-living-crap out of them) personalized pencil cases that I plan to fill with pencils, erasers, stickers, and a couple hair ties.

My need to be considered a fun parent will undoubtedly will undoubtedly show through before Christmas and I will most likely track down a few things that I know my kids will love, but I will do so knowing that I have also been pragmatic and that they will be using their gifts long after Barbie's head has been ripped off and the Legos have been sucked up by the vacuum.

Tell me this:  what is your gift giving style when it comes to your children?  One-more-toy-can't-hurt or they-are-going-to-need-a-new-pair-of-shoes-to-get-through-winter?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

On The 5th Day Of Christmas . . .

Michelle hit the nail on the head yesterday when she wrote about the joy that is shopping on Etsy.  The Etsy site features some of the most talented and creative vendors out there, all of whom hand make their goods.  Having spent way more time than I care to admit to perusing their site, I think I can safely say that there is something for everyone!  Despite the fact that I am not a big jewelry wearer, some of my favorite vendors to check-out are those who custom make various types of jewelry, including rings, bracelets, and necklaces.  A few worth checking out:

Birth Designs:  After my last child was born my husband gifted me with this store's Branches Of My Family necklace.  Finding custom jewelry that accommodates the names of each of my children is sometimes hard, and I love the fact that this piece not only held their 4 names, but my husband's name and my name as well.

Lavender Cottage:  I adore dragonflies, and if you have a similar love, this shop is for you, carrying beautiful earrings, rings, and cuff bracelets featuring the bug.

Birdz and Beez:  I love the ties to nature and the beautiful and intricate work on these pieces, which also carry a bit of whimsy and the feel that they belong in a fairytale.

Alaiyna B. Designs:  Despite the fact that I rarely even wear my wedding ring, I can't help but drool over the rings in this shop!  Do you think if I make it the homepage on our computer my husband will take note?!  (Don't answer that.  I will keep it bookmarked for me and a rainy day.)

Say Anything Jewelry:  Stephanie has a great selection of pieces ranging from dog tags to guitar picks, and uses copper in addition to the common silver.  My bestest friend in the world gifted me with this beautiful necklace last spring, and I love it so much that I got my sister a necklace for her "something blue" when she got married this past summer.

I know there are lots of other stores that deserve to be mentioned and I am betting that it is only a matter of time before I add them to my list of bookmarked sites!  While some of these vendors are able to accommodate orders placed now in time for Christmas, some are looking at delivery dates in January - if you don't want to put an I.O.U. under the tree, why not get a jump on shopping for Valentine's Day?!

**Please note that this is an unsponsored post and that none of the vendors listed above have provided any compensation for being featured here today - I just like their products, and I hope you do to!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

On the 4th day of Christmas...

Gift giving the Etsy edition!  If you remember from this post, you already know that I love trying to find unique and original gifts that the receiver will cherish and love and what better place to find unique AND handmade gifts for your loved ones than Etsy (holy run on sentence!)!.  If you've never been to Etsy, then you must head over there right now.  No joke, NOW!  Etsy is THE place to find amazing handmade and vintage goods to cater to just about any of the wonderful people in your life.  In fact, I've already purchased some amazing gifts for the ladies in my life (I'd share but I don't want to spoil it!).  The shop owners are kind and quick and always willing to please and that's what I love about this group of craftspeople.  So here you go, great ideas for all the people in your life.

For the mama's in your life.  This could be your mom, or could be a great girlfriend who just had a baby, or your amazing wife, hint... hint...

So this first gift is best given to a young mom and while it's a bit pricey, it is amazingly beautiful and will carry a tremendous amount of meaning to a mama with little kiddos.  Be prepared, she will probably weep like a child when she opens this.

And any grandma would truly enjoy these with your kiddos faces on them!  What a unique way to display your photos.
For the papa's in your life.

Ok, so when I found this one I just about fell off the couch as I absolutely fell in love.  Seriously, could this gift get anymore perfect for your babies daddy?

A keychain with your child's artwork on it?!?!  I love it.  I would take this gift in a heartbeat too! 

For the reader in your life!  
This gift would go over well with a father in law who loves to read, or a friend that has a great sense of humor, or just anyone who loves bacon! 

For the photographer in your life.

My favorites are these:

And I totally would love one of these:

And we can't forget those special little kiddos in your life.  They are the reason Christmas is fun, right?

What little girl wouldn't love this gift?  They can be just like mommy!  I know my girls would adore it!

And I just know that my son would love this gift.

And lastly, but certainly not least, for the amazing Teachers in your life.  We all know how much work and effort it takes to teach the young ones in the world.  They have a great responsibility on their hands and they certainly deal with a lot on a day to day basis, so please don't leave this group of amazing people out on your gift giving this year.  They deserve something special, even if it's small.  

This gift is so unique and interesting and you better believe that the teacher you hand this over to will be thinking about your child every day she/he opens one of the wonderful stars.

And these adorable notepads could accompany a gift certificate to Target or to Starbucks.
There are some manly ones too that would work great for that male teacher!
And these candles would make an awesome gift for that special teacher too!

And that concludes today's edition of the 12 Days of Christmas!  I hope that you enjoyed reading and it got your gears a-turnin'.  Now go shopping!

P.S. All the vendors featured here today have no idea who we are here at Mom's Sippy Cup.  I selected these items because I loved them and thought they would truly make great gifts.  In no way has anyone sponsored this post :)

Friday, December 3, 2010

On The 3rd Day Of Christmas . . .

Welcome to the fitness fanatic edition of our gift giving countdown!  Last spring, after taking a very long hiatus from exercising, I finally decided it was time to get rid of the last of the baby weight and to really work on my physical well being.  Clearly high on chocolate, I decided that I was going to accomplish this by doing the P90X program.  Someday I will write a post which I have already titled "P90-What-The-H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks-Was-I-Thinking?!" to tell you how much I seriously LOVE the program, how well it has worked for me, and how worth the cost it is (though truth-be-told, I bought it off of Craigslist for a fraction of the retail price, thank-you-overweight-man-who-lacked-the-motivation-to-open-the-package), but for today let's just focus on the 'tools' that go with exercising.

The Clothes:  Even the smallest chested woman needs a good sports bra before she hits the ground (or the treadmill or the aerobics floor or her living room floor), and while I have a few and a few different brands, my hands-down favorite is the one made by UnderArmour.  I sweat a ridiculous amount when I am working out, and I love the fact that this bra absorbs and then wicks away the moisture, keeping me from feeling like I am wearing a wet bathing suit top.  I also have a couple of their tanks and a couple months ago scored a sweet deal on a fleece jacket at their outlet store.  (This is one product where it pays to shop around . . . the prices on the website are steep, but most sporting goods stores carry their products for far less.)  I am also a big fan of Champion, which is carried by Target (among others.)  I love their shorts and their short-sleeved shirts, and they are very reasonably priced.

The Gear:  Cardiovascular training is important for losing weight, but did you know that there is just as much benefit in weight and resistance training?  Simply put, muscle cells burn more calories than fat cells do.  (And I mean VERY simply put . . . I tried to find a good link to explain all of it but ran out of time.  It seems there are small people in my house who MUST.HAVE.DINNER.NOW.)  Anyway . . . I always figured that hand weights were the way to go until my chiropractor mentioned using resistance bands instead.  At his recommendation, I ordered a set from Bodylastics.  Worth EVERY PENNY.  I can do all the same exercises that I would do with the hand weights, and I have every combination of weight possible - individual bands starting at 3 pounds and going up to 30 pounds that can be combined to provide even greater resistance.

Something For Safety:  My parents are both exercise fanatics - my Dad is a huge runner and my Mom is one of those crazy women who is out walking at 6:30 every morning.  I love that they are so active, but the daughter and former-paramedic in me worries about their safety and about what would happen if they got injured and were unable to tell the police or fire department who they were or who they should notify.  Enter RoadID!  Each of my parents is getting a RoadID for Christmas - a bracelet for my Mom and a shoe band for my Dad.  (Be sure to enter pcFB152 as a promotional code when you check-out to get 10% off your purchase!)

It may seem a bit, ummm . . . suggestive to give the ones you love things that they could use when they workout, so these gifts may be best for people who already have an exercise routine or who need a little push to get off the couch.  Unless, of course, you want to spend the next year being chastised for indirectly calling your sister-in-law fat.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

On the 2nd day of Christmas...

For as long as I can remember my family has celebrated St. Nick's Day.  St. Nick was a saint who was thought to have brought gifts and money to people in the night who needed his help.  He would leave these gifts in the shoes or boots that were left out at night. 

The tradition is not extremely wide-spread in the US like it is in European Countries but many German and Scandinavian families in the US will continue to celebrate St. Nick.  

Here is a snippet from Wikipedia, it's a brief sample of how it is celebrated.

Celebration in the United States (from Wikipedia)

While feasts of Saint Nicholas are not observed nationally, cities
with strong German influences like Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and St. Louis
celebrate St. Nick’s Day on a scale similar to the German custom.[5] On the previous night, children put one empty shoe (or sock) outside, and, on the following morning of December 6,
the children awake to find that St. Nick has filled their previously
empty footwear with candy and small presents (if the children have been
"good") or ostensibly, coal (if not). For these children, the
relationship between St. Nick and Santa Claus is not clearly defined,
although St. Nick is usually explained to be a helper of Santa. The
tradition of St. Nick’s Day is firmly established in the Milwaukee and
St. Louis communities, with parents often continuing to observe the day
with even their adult children.

Growing up, I assumed everyone celebrated St. Nick's Day.  I would wake up on December 6th to small goodies in my stocking.  I always looked forward to this precursor to Christmas and while the gifts were small, they were often more meaningful than the rest.  My mom put a lot of thought into the small gift and we were very thankful.  My husband's family got stockings filled with candy and while I'm sure it was fabulous, no way am I giving my kids a stocking filled with candy just a month after Halloween.  

So the tradition continues with my kiddos.  This year they are receiving a classic Christmas story from Little Golden Books, some comfy jammies and slippers.  I started this trend last year of jammies, slippers and a book.  They are things that aren't too frivolous, yet they really excite my children.  I have fond memories of them putting on their new jammies and slippers early in the morning and sitting by the fire reading their new stories.  Plus, it gives me a chance to tell the story of St. Nick and his incredibly giving nature.  It helps reiterate that while it's fun to get gifts, it's more important to be thoughtful and give as well.  If you don't follow this tradition, I highly recommend it.  It's never too late to start either! 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

On The 1st Day Of Christmas . . .

My true love gave to me . . . a whole lot of ideas for stocking stuffers!  (I won't even tell you how long I sat here trying to come up with a witty rhyme to start this off . . . I may or may not have had to go get the power cord to the laptop.  Ahem.)

Growing up, digging into my stocking on Christmas morning was my most favorite part of the day.  I know my mom spent a lot of time and put a lot of thought into everything that she and my dad put under the tree for my sister and I, but it always felt like she spent a little more time and put a little more thought into what went in our stockings - special little trinkets and gifts that would have been lost beneath the shadow of the tree and the mounds of wrapping paper that littered the floor.  As my children get older and I start to establish the traditions that I hope we carry on each year, I find myself devoting a little more time to their stockings, hoping to give them the same memories that I now have.

Among my most favorite stocking tradition is the Hallmark ornament that my mom gave to us each year.  She has always had a knack for finding the perfect ornament - the one that represents what we were interested in that year or what character we enjoyed the most.  The best part about having gotten a new ornament each year?  When I moved out of my parent's house, my mom boxed up all of the ornaments that I had amassed over the years and gifted them to me to use on my very first grown-up Christmas tree.  This past weekend we decorated our tree and I was filled with smiles and memories looking at each one of those ornaments as they went on the branches.

Other stocking staples at our house?  Lottery scratch tickets, gift cards, a bag of our favorite candy (Peanut Butter M & Ms, just in case you were wondering), mixed nuts, inexpensive earrings, hair ties and barrettes for my girls, and a Matchbox car or two for my son.

My husband's family has an entirely different take on stockings, opting instead to do what they call Socks.  Contrary to the name, Socks are actually a pair of pantyhose that have an orange in each toe and that are STUFFED with just about everything under the sun - literally.

Shortly after the start of each year, my mother-in-law sets up a grocery sack for each member of the family, and as the year goes on, she adds little things that she finds as she goes about her day-to-day business, as well as all of the toiletries that we each use on a daily basis.  To put it simple:  opening you Sock is like going to the drug store on Christmas morning.  Soap, deodorant, razor blades, shaving cream, toothpaste, nail files, magnetic tablets of paper for the refrigerator, sunscreen, small kitchen gadgets . . . you name it, it has a very good chance of being in there!

I have to admit that I initially thought that Socks were ridiculous, but over time they have grown on me, and my own family has now added elements of the Socks to our traditional stockings.  Topping this list of my Sock hopefuls this year?  Nivea Skin Firming Moisturizer, Bath and Body Works foot cream (which seems pricey, but is usually paired in a buy 2, get 1 free deal and is TOTALLY work it), Dove Winter Care Beauty Bar (because holy H-E-double-hockey-sticks is it dry in Colorado in December), John Frieda Frizz-Ease Hair Serum (which I just started using but which I LOVE and which has eliminated my fear that I am one day going to have to cut the hairbrush out of my hair because I have gotten it lodge in there), a bottle of my favorite nail polish in some flaming shade of red, and socks.  Actual socks.  No one should have to do laundry because they are out of socks.  Underwear?  Yes.  Socks?  No.

Now you tell me!  Are stockings a big deal at your house?  What would you like to see in your stocking this year?  What sort of stocking or other Christmas-gift-related traditions do you have?

(P.S.  I suppose I should take a minute to introduce myself since Michelle has been so gracious as to let me post on Mom's Sippy Cup . . . my name is Nicole, and I am a blog-a-holic - without a blog.  I am currently on hiatus from my own blogging adventures, and am hoping that contributing a little to this space will help me get back into to the swing of things.  I am a married stay-at-home-mom to a 5-year-old, 3-year-old, and 1-year-old.  Michelle and I 'met' via the Internet when we were both members of an online pregnancy and parenting forum 3+ years ago, and MET in real-life 2+ years ago when she and her husband came out to Denver for a wedding.)