Monday, December 11, 2017

5 Christmas Catastrophes -- And How to Avoid Them

Christmas, as we all know, is the most wonderful time of the year. But despite all the holiday cheer, it can also be a minefield of potential stress over delicate family situations and gift-giving etiquette. Here are just some of the scenarios you may be dealing with – and how to handle them:

Sorting a Secret Santa

Many of us take part in a Secret Santa with co-workers or friends at this time of year, but knowing what to get can be a tricky. Making a standout Secret Santa gift needs some research. If you aren’t that close to the person, tap up people who are for clues on their interests and what they may like. If you’re connected on social media, look at their feed for clues as to how they spend their spare time and what they enjoy doing.

Dealing with Family Drama

We all want the perfect White Christmas we see in movies, but sometimes the reality is that there are difficult family situations to deal with, like illness, redundancy or divorce. If that is your reality, it’s important to openly acknowledge the situation. Make sure the legal basics are sorted with advice from a specialist like Austin Kemp Family Law Lawyers and then keep the kids occupied with lots of fun festive activities. Don’t pretend nothing out of the usual is happening, but keep the tone as light as you can.

Gifting a New Partner

If you’re in a brand new relationship, negotiating that first Christmas gift can be a challenge. Avoid items that are too high-value or intimate if its very early days. Instead, think about experiences you’ve shared together so far or plans you’ve made for the near future. Things you can do together, like concert tickets are also a great idea. If you do go for a gift item, keep it small and simple, but totally indulgent. For example, buy just a pair of gloves but make them the finest leather gloves you can find.

The Unexpected Present

No matter how planned you are, there’s always someone you haven’t bought anything for that springs a surprise gift on you. What can you do? Do you re-gift something that’s been given to you? Well, there’s no need to make up an unconvincing lie about something not arriving in the post. Think ahead and buy in a few generic gifts ‘just in case’ – stuff like a selection of nice cookies or any artisan foodstuff. If it doesn’t get given, you can always open it to enjoy with the family.

Dysfunctional Relatives

We all seem to have one relation who can make us feel bad, and Christmas can mean spending time in close proximity to them. SO how to handle those emotionally toxic people? If you can’t avoid them entirely, don’t get drawn into a silent resentment or a shouting match over their behaviour. Subtle but firmly reinforce your personal boundaries and show them that their manipulations don’t have the power to affect you. Make sure to give yourself space by going for a quick walk too if it all gets too much. You can do this!

Start Your New Year's Goals Now

It feels like New Year’s resolutions are impossible to keep at, and as we usually see in these kinds of cases, there’s some scientific research behind the prospect. So when it comes to keeping to self improvement goals we might be in need of a few tips. There’s usually no harm in not sticking to a goal you’ve set yourself to begin when the clock strikes midnight, but it doesn’t make us feel any good!

So Christmas is almost upon us, but that doesn’t mean we have no time for anything else! There’s plenty of ways we can get a jump start on our New Year’s resolutions a little early, because let’s face it, decisions that big deserve a some forward planning!. It means we’ll better stick to our goals, and be more prepared to put the time and effort in for the long term. Here’s some ideas for the more common, and harder, resolutions and how to keep at them.

Choosing a Resolution

You’re going to need to be honest with yourself. A resolution can only be stuck to when you genuinely want to keep at it, and if it’s doable. There’s no point penciling a new hobby or workout routine if you can’t keep up with the physical or mental strain. Instead, you could prepare for that and build up to it.

We feel bad when we can’t stick to our resolutions, maybe for the third, fourth, or fifth year in a row. Miss the disappointment; try not to immediately set yourself up for a fail, and take baby steps with what you want to do for yourself.

If You’re Up for Some Weight Loss

Now this can be done a variety of ways, but getting yourself into a routine is a key stage of it. If you want to make that easier to get into, and we all need to do that, you’ll need to take it up earlier than usual!

If you choose your meal plans now, you can get yourself into a better rotation with them. So you can start eating a little healthier, and reserve Christmas day as your cheat day, or start doing some heavy lifting for your arms and legs.

Always remember that help is out there! There’s a positive to every equation, so on the plus side, if you’re looking to see it go a little faster and smoother, you can use supplements from links such as, which could be a good investment if you’re not sure where to start. Using these kinds of products more in your diet could be a good place to launch off from.

Maybe You Want to Take Up a New Skill

Everyone has skills no matter where they come from, and even if you feel like you’re not proficient in anything, you have talents to you! However, that doesn’t mean we can’t invest our time and effort into playing a guitar, or learning a new language, or brushing up on our drawing and painting skills. Having a skill in something more traditional always looks good for resumes and if we’re looking to spend a snitch more time creating.

Look into advice from places like Then you can ask for the necessary materials for Christmas, or you can buy them yourself now, there’s no harm in getting yourself a good present that no one else would think of!

Looking to Spend More Time Around Loved Ones?

This is where cutting out your schedule and pasting new parts in and rearranging the old comes in. If you want to be able to spend more time with your family, or see your friends more, or have a few more date nights with your significant other, look to you diary now and start preparing.

Ask your friends and family weeks in advance what they’d want to see from you, and the kind of experiences they want to have with you. If you have a good idea of activities, instead of working off of nothing, it’s more likely you’ll get quality time with your loved ones rather than just a simple quantity measure.

Remember that New Year is a time of celebration, so make sure you remind yourself of everything you’ve done well in the past year prior to now. Spend it with people you love and those who make you feel good about yourself, and then get stuck into your goals. Take it slowly, and have fun with it!

Don't Lose Your Mind Over Weight Loss

Lots of people start to worry about their weight about this time of the year, and that’s normal when you consider that most of us overeat during the festive season. However, you might think about implementing a new routine in the new year that will help you to shed the pounds and reach your ideal weight. This article offers some tips and tricks you can use to get rid of that flab without working too hard or losing your mind. Just take a read through these suggestions and then use them to create a plan. With a bit of luck, you’ll manage to get down to your ideal weight and gain some confidence in the process.

Consume lots of fruits and vegetables

Firstly, you’ll need to alter your diet to ensure you get your five-a-day. The best way of doing that is to plan your meals and make shopping lists. That way, you will ensure you come back from the supermarket with only the right healthy ingredients. There are hundreds of recipe websites online that could provide some inspiration if you aren’t a fantastic chef. Just search online and then look for meals you want to try that contain lots of different fruits and vegetables. Some of the best ones to include in your meals and snacks are:

  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Beans
  • Bananas
  • Apples

So, what’s holding you back? Bookmark some of the best recipe pages today, and you should never struggle to work out which healthy meals to consume.

Purchase a gym membership

If you don’t mind the idea of working out in front of other people, perhaps a gym membership would suffice? In most instances, you don’t have to spend a lot of cash, and there are lots of options when it comes to fitness centres in your hometown. So, again, you just need to search online or ask friends for recommendations. When you locate a suitable gym; give them a call or visit the establishment to learn more. In almost all situations, you will get a free tour of the facility before you decide whether or not to sign on the dotted line. Of course, one of the best things about working out at the gym is that you can hire the services of a personal trainer. People in that profession can advise on the best ways to reach your weight loss goals.

Try working out at home

Some people hate the idea of getting all sweaty and working out in front of other people. That’s fine, and it just means you have to think outside of the box when developing your new routine. You could head out and purchase some equipment to aid your exercise. For instance, there are lots of cheap and affordable treadmills on the market today. You could get one of those and keep it at home. However, there are also hundreds of fitness DVDs you could watch if you plan to get fit without assistance. You also might like to think about jogging around the streets in your hometown at night.

Drink some diet shakes

If you’ve never tried a shake diet in the past, perhaps 2018 is the time to give that a try? There are lots of different ones available, and some seem to work better than others according to reviews. With that in mind, don’t make the mistake of investing in the first weight loss drinks you encounter. Instead, you should conduct some online research and read as much as possible. That way, you should manage to sort the wheat from the chaff without wasting any of your hard-earned cash. In most situations, you just have to replace two of your three meals each day with the milkshakes. You should then notice you lose a lot of weight if you stick to the routine.

Avoid chocolate and other junk food

Chocolate and other junk food might taste excellent, but it’s guaranteed to cause weight gain if you consume too much. Considering that, you need to get in the habit of leaving all that fatty and sugary food on the shelves at the supermarket. Psychologists design the layout of those places, and they are intended to make you buy junk food impulsively. That is why they always place chocolate near the checkout where you stand queuing. Don’t fall for their psychological techniques! You need to keep a sharp mind to ensure none of those items ever fall into your trolley! Also, never go shopping when you feel hungry because that’s sure to cause problems.

Visit your doctor for advice

If all else fails, and you can’t seem to lose weight after using some of the suggestions from this page, it’s sensible to give your doctor a call and arrange an appointment. Sometimes there are physical issues that stop you from shedding the pounds, and so your doctor will want to run some tests. If there aren’t any problems, the doctor should then offer advice based on their medical expertise. That might include:

  • Information about weight loss groups
  • Nutritional and dietary suggestions
  • Advice for workout routines

Some people have a low metabolism, and that can cause them to gain weight. If that applies to you, the doctor will show you how to get the best results from your fitness and dieting efforts. You just have to explain the situation and then listen to the advice.

Now you have some fantastic tips and tricks for losing weight; you just need to change your routine with that advice in mind. Make sure you exercise for at least half an hour every day for the best outcomes, and avoid snacking between meals as much as possible. If you get hungry, just grab some fruit from the fridge. Either that or you can purchase carrot sticks in small convenient snack bags these days. Just keep working towards your goal, and you will get there eventually. Also, make sure you take a look around before you leave this blog today as there are lots of other health-related articles you might enjoy. See you back here soon!

How to Find Margin in Your Life

Have you heard of this concept of MARGIN?

Look at your life like a piece of ruled notebook paper. Then each day you start writing down all the SCHEDULED things first. Take kid here, must buy dog food because we are 100% out, homeschool each kid, proofread this book, dentist appointment, sports practice there.

I should probably just stop here and remain sane but I don't. That's a full day.

Instead, I fill in everything else that I WANT to get done, like:
try to get in a shower
give that kid a haircut
go for a walk because it's 70 degrees in February in Kansas
do dishes (the kids can certainly help with that)
do laundry (teach kids how to do that)
take the kids on this cool outing
co-op planning
have some alone time with my husband
have a Nerf war with my kid
play Shopkins with my other kid
check into this and that
call this person
email this person
fill out this permission slip
try to send this article
TRY to figure out when I could possibly ever go see my grandmothers
make a meal for a sick friend
finish update on book
volunteer at the food bank with the kids

And my list goes on and on with important things and not-so-important things. Any of this sound familiar?

My page is soon full. Like full on the lines and in the margins. I have tried to book my entire 24 hours by planning about 73 hours of stuff. And we all know time does not work that way. But it causes us stress anyway.

The idea is that you should just write down what you really need to get done and leave the margins empty, thus leaving margin in your life. Some days it works and some days it doesn't but you have to keep trying or, no, you won't end up in the looney bin (I've tried), but you will end up a frazzled, overwhelmed, stressed-out, mean, quite likely physically ill human being.

Do you think God wants you to live that way? I know I didn't have all these children so I could be too busy all the time to even give them a hug in passing and too full in my mind with details to remember their names. Trying to make a good life for our kids should not mean filling every second of our own time while the kids are out happily making mud pies WITHOUT US.

I love life. I am curious and want to suck up as much life as I can before I die. But in that big-picture view, I am missing a lot of little things that are VERY important. In needing to get this TASK done, I am missing out on CONNECTIONS.

While I don't have as much margin as I'd like to these days, I'm trying to figure it out. Here are some of my tricks.

Meal plan and make sure you have all the items you need. Look at your calendar and make sure what you're planning is doable. Don't plan coq au vin on a day where you will literally have 10 minutes to make it and eat it. Instead, have one of those go-tos like Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Soft Tacos or Crockpot Chili. I'm working on this (see below) but, interestingly enough, have not had time yet to finish it ;-)

Make sure you are stocked on dog food and Band-Aids and allergy meds and inhalers and toilet paper so you aren't running out at the most inconvenient time ever.

Teach your older kids how to do laundry so clean clothes are not an issue. At my house, I have not started this yet and need to! They bring clothes up from the dryer and they put away their own clothes, so that's something! (Update, since I wrote this we have moved and we have a super simple washer/dryer system on the main level. The kids do laundry now.)

Take a look at your schedule for the week on Sunday and picture how it's going to feel. If you start feeling stressed just looking at it, you need to make some changes. Your body doesn't like to feel like you're going to whoop it with adrenaline every day until you die.

Do something small every day toward a big goal
When I start on a writing project, I get FOCUSED. I am a work horse. I am in the zone. That doesn't work when you have 5 kids and you're with them all day and homeschooling. While I long to go on a weekend writing retreat (I'd go here and I daydream about it), I just am not that kind of mom. I've tried to be that kind of mom but I am a stick-close mom. I feel badly if I am gone for 5 hours after taking my son soccer refereeing then I go work at a Panera Bread. I've left my kids for exactly ONE overnight in almost 16 years. I don't see that changing soon.

That said, while I'd love to knock out so many different things (writing, organizing, etc.), I have to realize slow and steady does win the race. It's how I got my first couple of books finished. It's how I do a lot of things.

Plan one NOTHING day
I'm finding that since I gave myself permission to not pack our lives to the brim, we have started trying to take off Thursdays. So on those days, after lunch, after school is done, we can go to gymnastics for an hour up the road or not. We can go on a field trip or not. Go to the park or just laze around reading.

Combine homeschooling
If you homeschool, here's one small trick I use for homeschooling all 5 of my kids at once for History and English and sometimes even Science/English or Art/English.

Say "no" or "not right now"
This can be hard for those of us with little concept of boundaries (we need to read this book) and it can also eventually be your guilty pleasure and it can give you margin. I feel horrible saying "no" because I picture myself someday in a deep ditch wanting help out and everyone around me says "no" because I told them "no." Dumb, right? Sometimes "not right now" works as well and is less final so you have time to decide on something.


When my kid FaceTimes, it's like having an extra kid in the house (her friend she is FaceTiming). It's okay to say "no" if it's not a good time for the family.

Take a look at how much your kids have friends over ... taking on an extra kid for hours or days at a time is a big deal. I'm cooking for an extra person when I already cook for 7. I'm mentally making sure I have that extra person with us when we go places. I'm paying for that person when we go places. I'm picking up after that person when they leave their things at my house. I'm endlessly texting the kid and the parent about pick-ups and drop-offs and details. "What's one more?" could turn into a margin-suck without you even realizing it. I am a HUGE FAN of playdates and teen hangouts, but they don't need to happen daily, is all I'm saying!

My kid doesn't have to make every single sports practice, religious ed meeting, Scout meeting, etc. My husband and I teach our kids it's okay to skip stuff every now and then and we are doing it by example :-) You are not a crappy community member and slacker: you are keeping your family sane. And, boy, do we savor those gorgeous spring evenings outside when we have skipped an event and stayed home to just PLAY.

Do you have any margin in your day? Time to just chill out? Visit with a neighbor who is lonely? Get yourself some empty brain space and empty to do list paper space and see what cool things come from that.

3DLightFX Deco Lights Night Light #MyLittlePony #RainbowDash

You may remember I posted a couple of weeks ago here about the 3DLightFX  Deco Lights and was so excited to try out the product. When it came, Eva was SO EXCITED and had her dad put it on her wall by her bed immediately!

Eva loves Rainbow Dash!

We enjoy so many things about this product and think it'll make a great gift for anyone we know, especially since they have so many different characters!

We love that it's Rainbow Dash.

We love that it's 3D and comes out of the wall like it's alive!

We love the bright colors.

We love the decals that come with it to jazz it up!

We love that it's the perfect brightness for falling asleep.

We love that it shuts off automatically in the night so it doesn't waste the batteries, but it's next to her bed so if she wakes in the middle of the night and wants it back on she can easily take care of that!

Her 3DLightFX next to her Funko Pop Rainbow Dash

This could not be any cooler and I wish they had these when I was a kid!
Here's how to purchase or head to your local Target to check it out!

Update one year later: this product holds up very well, even through being dragged all over the house to different locations where my daughter likes to sleep. It survived a move across states. It survived being taken from Kansas to Florida by car and back and survived two weeks on vacation. It survived being dropped multiple times. I highly recommend this product a year later!

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