Staying Sane: Celebrate the keepsakes of who you are

Sometimes with work the years go by and you don’t realize how many have passed. The same thing with being a mom… so busy, so little time, giving so much and feeling “selfless” you lose yourself. At least I know I did.

I think it’s important to think back of the experiences you’ve had prior to being a mother. It’s all of these experiences that have brought you to who you are today. I’m a visual person. I am like this with work, with home… I think that’s why I love lists. Anyway, I digress….

Being a visual person has also lead to a small collection of items from my travels over the years. I don’t mean rooms of stuff. I mean certain pieces of things that make memories flood back and make me feel like me. Like a photograph (which I also take a lot of, as you know), just looking at these things bring me back in time – and having the chance to pick them up and hold them and display them for all to see – what liberation.

I’m in the process of divorce and recently moved into my own space. So, the memories are flooding back as I unpack my life that has been boxed up for so many years (different story, for another time… let’s just say that I’ve boxed up pieces of my life in storage and in a garage for the past 8+ years). It feels good to have these things in my hands again. It feels good to have these things on display again. It feels good to look around and see ME. It feels good to have parts of me out in the open again – not closed away, not shoved aside, out for all to see.

  • A mask from South Africa
  • A carving of a sun from Mexico
  • A steel bottle opener from Prague
  • A pottery vase from Portugal
  • A rug from Morocco which is now being used in my living room for the very first time! It is amazing! The colors all blend with what I have and it is PERFECT for this room!!!!
  • A small, small oil painting (2 inch by 3 inch) that I’ve had since a child – probably one of my oldest artifacts from my life
  • A teapot from London
  • A little toy from Switzerland that sounds like a cow’s moo when you turn it upside-down
  • Lots of prints/reproductions that I have yet to get back – I’m looking forward to their return
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    I’m feeling more myself. It is a terrible feeling to feel like your life has been swept away. I believe many working moms probably feel swept away many times. Like you’ve lost yourself. So maybe it’s the simple things you can do to remind yourself of who you are and what you’ve done to bring you to this point today. Hopefully you have small mementos from your past out in the open… not stuffed away in boxes somewhere. Celebrate who you are!!!

    What kinds of things represent parts of your life, parts of your past? Are they visible for you to see and enjoy?

    Have a great week everyone –
    – Mama K

    Staying Sane: Easy things to do with your kids during the Holidays

    OK, it’s Sunday. I usually post a “Staying Sane” piece but this week I’m going to cheat and “borrow” someone else’s terrific idea and add to it. I came across this blog entry and shared it on the Mama In Motion Facebook page. But I think it’s worthy of posting here as well – since we have 2 weeks to go until Christmas, and tensions at this point may be running high for you as a working mother. We all can use any ideas to help stay sane.

    Try to take it easy on yourself. Outsource the shopping to your computer and/or Amazon. Do your cards through USPS and they can put them in envelops and stamp and send them for you. If you are like me, we try too hard to do everything for everybody; BUT, I don’t think we need to put pressures on ourselves to be super-women when it comes to providing a good, memorable experience for our children.

    I saw the below list (Source:; and so much resonated with me — there a lots of fun things to do with the kids that aren’t huge projects but could create memorable traditions. Take a look and maybe you’ll see something new; I’ve added my thoughts at the bottom. Add yours too!

    Thanks for listening –

    – Mama K


    50 Things To Do With Kids in December:

    1. Go out and look at Christmas lights
    2. Bake cookies
    3. Pick out and put up the Christmas Tree
    4. Decorate the Christmas Tree
    5. Make an Ice Wreath
    6. Make Cinnamon Applesauce and/or Salt Dough ornaments
    7. Make and decorate gingerbread houses
    8. Sing Christmas Songs
    9. Visit Santa
    10. Buy and donate toys for Toys For Tots
    11. Help to wrap presents for friends and family
    12. Act out the Christmas story
    13. Make Reindeer Food
    14. Make homemade Christmas color/glitter play dough (and scent it with peppermint) to give to friends
    15. Make and decorate gingerbread people
    16. Make popcorn and cranberry garland
    17. Go on a sleigh ride
    18. Make paper chains for the Christmas tree
    19. Write a letter to Santa
    20. Watch a holiday movie
    21. Check out holiday books at the library
    22. Leave out shoes for St. Nicholas
    23. Eat Candy Canes
    24. Hang stockings on the mantle or banister
    25. Put out the Nativity Scene
    26. Address and Mail holiday cards
    27. Pick a special family ornament for the year
    28. Make a special plate for Santa’s cookies and the reindeer’s carrots
    29. Go to see The Nutcracker
    30. Go to a holiday parade
    31. Go to a candy store for a holiday treat
    32. Tie bells with ribbons and hang them around the house
    33. Make cards and gifts for teachers
    34. Go to the dollar store and pick gifts for family
    35. Make special cards to send to cousins
    36. Have a Random Acts of Kindness Day(s)
    37. Make cards to send to troops or to bring to a nursing home
    38. Grocery shop just to take to a food bank or donation boxes
    39. Learn a Christmas song on the guitar or piano
    40. Make a present for Santa
    41. Celebrate the Winter Solstice
    42. Make Winter Tea
    43. Make/Put out food for birds and squirrels
    44. Make orange and clove pomanders
    45. Look through favorite Christmas Cards from friends and family from years past
    46. Start a garland or photo album with your own family holiday cards from years past
    47. Prep and freeze a special breakfast for Christmas morning
    48. Make hot chocolate balls
    49. Make snow globes
    50. Do research on holiday traditions around the world and choose one to add to family traditions

    Mama K’s additions:

    51. Have the kids draw a picture for Santa to leave out on Christmas Eve

    52. Have the kids dress in red and/or green on several days leading up to Christmas

    53. Make Christmas socks (simpler than shirts) — white socks with red and green dye; who cares what they’ll look like, the kids will probably love them anyway

    54. Have your kids draw the present they would like Santa to bring to them

    55. Have your kids make cards for their teachers

    56. Make home-made hot chocolate and put a candy-cane on the top for them

    57. Get red and green ice-cream — strawberry or vanilla (and add food colooring) and mint or vanilla with food coloring)

    58. Go to a downtown area where you live and visit office building lobbies and look at their decorations

    59. Go ice-skating

    60. Get Santa hats and wear yours after work until they go to bed…. while cooking, eating dinner, helping them get ready for bed, etc

    61. Get clown “red ball” noses and put them on so you all can be Rudolph; buy headband “antlers” and do the same…

    62. Find a picture of you as a child sitting on Santa’s lap and see what kind of reaction you get

    63. Get some string and some clips and have the kids help you string up the holiday cards you receive from others

    64. Buy some jingle bells and have your kids wear them in their jean pocket

    65. Dress up your pet

    66. Use those big Amazon boxes and let your kids decorate them as Santa’s sleigh


    And what else can you think of to add to the list????

    Staying Sane: Developing Traditions

    I’ve been writing about Chocolate Tuesdays in my daily journals and I also recently wrote about a rainy weekend when I took the kids out for ice-cream. I received a request from a fellow Mama to spend some time writing on this subject and also getting feedback from our Mama In Motion community on traditions that they do with their families, no matter how big or how small. This really does help keep sanity. It helps to promote stability and respect and positions the family as a unit, versus individuals “at odds” with one another. And this is perfect timing….

    Some of our day-to-day traditions:

  • I do “hugs and kisses in the morning” each and every morning with each of the kids. When Big Bro and Red were little babies, I used to make a song of it; but now at least its a round of hugs and kisses for each child and a big “good morning” for each of them.
  • I also play a “love” game with the kids – I try to do daily with Big Bro and REd, and would like to start it with the Twins now too since their old enough to get it. It goes like this: Me: “Did I tell you yet today how much I love you?!?!?”. Kid: “No” (or sometimes they say yes mommy…”. Me: “I love you so much that I am going to [kiss your ear], [pull your toe], [squeeze your nose], [mess up your hair], [tickle your belly] etc. etc. etc. And then as I do these things I say “THAT’s how much I love you, I love you, I love you so much…..”. It really is fun, because they know the game but don’t know how I’m going to express my love, whether its picking them up and spinning around, or chasing them, etc. They also do it back to me from time to time.
  • Each day and in relation to school/pre-school, I ask each kid to make sure that they 1) learn something new today; 2) exercise their bodies; and 3) laugh really hard about something. Then at the end of the day I ask them questions about what they did today to learn something new, exercise, and tell me a funny thing that made them laugh.
  • Chocolate Tuesdays – I found Nutella as another breakfast option that is really easy to put on bagels, toast, tortillas, etc. A good source of protein since it is made of hazelnut – and the kids love it because it really does taste like chocolately goodness. The problem was that they wanted it all the time. So we asked them to pick only ONE morning to have it – that day was a Tuesday so of course Big Bro suggested Tuesdays. So the tradition was borne.
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  • Movie Fridays – as a family we are a bit restrictive on the kids watching TV. Big Bro is the kind of kid that if he watches something in the day he will waste the day away (like me). So we have one night devoted to movies and popcorn: Friday nights. We love it as a family. Even the Twins now are getting into the popcorn even if they don’t have the attention span for the whole movie. I have lots of pictures of the four of them lined up on the couch eating popcorn and mesmerized by the movie – although this is fleeting and Red and the Twins tend to get bored and move on to other activities.
  • Saturday AM pancakes
  • Sunday AM waffles
  • Bathtime/ showertime is big in our house. We may not be able to do it as frequently as we would like, but all of the kids together is too much fun. The four kids used to bathe together in the one big HUGE tub in our room; now Big Bro takes a shower while the other 3 take a bath together. They LOVE it.
  • If the kids eat “two colors” at dinner, they get chocolate milk afterwards. I tell them that they have to listen to their body to know if they are full or not. I don’t force them to eat. But they must at least try two colors of food to get the milk at the other end.
  • Bigger traditions:

  • Christmas Eve: We make home-made pasta together. This is something my grandmother used to do whenever we would visit her, but I wanted to make it a tradition on Christmas eve. The thought is that we can make homemade linquinine or other shapes, and then diversify year by year with different sauces. It is hard work and takes time (even with a Kitchenaide mixer), but my thought is that as the kids get older, they will take over and with four of them they will be able to work together to get the job done faster, or at least switch off when they get tired.
  • Christmas eve: we also bake Chocolate Chip cookies during the day for Santa. We leave these out at night along with a cup of milk and carrots for the reindeer. We take baths and get into our chistmas pajamas, take pictures by the tree, and I have each of the kids draw a picture for Santa. It is the cutest thing to see each of them in their PJs busy at work, creating a special picture for Santa. In years past we’ve had pictures of airplanes, choo-choo trains, circles, and scribbles. I think it will be wonderful for them to have when they get older… so they get to see what meant so much to them when they were little and how they gifted their creativity to Santa each and every year while they believed.
  • Each year right before 9/11, we go to the store and buy gifts for the firefighters. We wrap them up and then on the day of 9/11 we visit the firestation and give them their gifts. Last year we got a crazy tour of the truck, they got to go inside the truck, and we all got a tour of the fire-house.
  • For Easter, the easter bunny not only gives them candy, but also TOOTHBRUSHES. The kids absolutely love getting them in their baskets.
  • We also do TOOTHBRUSHES in stocking stuffers at christmas time.
  • Things I’m thinking of:

  • With four kids, I’m thinking of having a poliana at Christmastime that the kids can do with each other.
  • Also with so many kids, I’m thinking of toning down Christmas (to one gift each) and spending the real celebration on their birthdays – which are more meaningful to me. The thought of celebrating a person’s life…. the fact that they are who they are…. and celebrating their uniqueness and what they mean to you, seems so much more worthy in my mind than the pile of presents at Christmastime for EACH child….
  • What are some of YOUR traditions? Big or small — share them all!!!!

    Random Thought: When is it appropriate to talk to your child about death?

    Our family recently received some very bad news.  My step-father, who has been in our lives for 20+ years, was just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Realizing that this is a very aggressive cancer, as a family we are coming to grips with this and trying to help him get the care he needs.   We are confident he is in good hands with his doctors (there is a team of them working on his case) but his long-term chances of survival are not good.  We know his time is limited and we are focusing now on his treatments and medical care.

    My kids love him.  They call him Joe-Joe Pop.   I don’t know how he does it but every single year he is able to pick out the one simple gift that winds up to be my kids’ favorites.   He is a big fan of “Hess” trucks, airplanes, cars, you name it and he’s quick to buy the year’s featured Hess toy at the beginning of the holiday season for Big Bro.   I do not know how he manages it for Red, but maybe Red just loves her toy from Joe-Joe Pop the best because Big Bro loves HIS toy from Joe-Joe Pop the best.  Anyway, he is loved by my older kids.   And they ask for him.

    I remember my first discussion with my mother on the topic of death.   I was five.  Her brother (my favorite, crazy uncle) had died, unexpectantly (he was only 31).   I remember where we were at the time (at the top of the stairs at home) and I remember the words she used.   I think it is etched in my memory because she was upset.  I remember consoling her.   I do remember that notion did not sink in right away.   I remember that I asked for him on several occasions later and that just threw my mom into another crying spell.

    I know that I am going to get these kids to see him and talk with him so they have the opportunity to remember him.   And I would like to do this quickly, before his condition deteriorates.  However,  the logistics of where I live complicates things.   I am on the West Coast and my family is on the East Coast (painful, painful, painful to me these days).    So there will be some planning involved.   I’m not sure when this trip should happen — obviously when its best for him — depending on how he feels and where he is with treatments.    But my question is, what do I tell these kids?   What do I say when we leave?   My 5-year-old knows that animals and plants can be “dead”, but we have not talked about loved ones.    When is it OK?   I think it may be OK with my 5-year-old, but with my own history I know that I did not fully “get it”.  So is even 5 too young?

    Comments and thoughts appreciated –

    – Mama K

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