It’s that time of year. We are smack-dab in the middle of the holiday season. Christmas crap is out before Halloween, friends are posting pictures of Christmas trees up before Thanksgiving and local parks, stores and eateries are putting up all their decorations. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Scrooge, but come on people; I can only listen to “Jingle Bell Rock” so many times before I want to pull out my hair out!
In an era of commercials bombarding us with huge Christmas trees perfectly decorated and overflowing with presents, black Friday specials starting Thursday night, and gift sets galore, there’s no wonder our landfills are overflowing with trash and food.
With my daughters being raised in a tech-saturated society, with an emphasis on a “more is better” ideology, it’s more important than ever to teach my girls the importance of generosity. I learned generosity early.
Since I was in grade school I remember on Thanksgiving and Christmas morning, my little family (consisting of Mom, sister and myself), would deliver food to the needy and less fortunate through Meals on Wheels.
Growing up, my Mom didn’t sugarcoat much. We were diligently taught there are people in the world who don’t have the basic life necessities. Individuals who don’t have houses to live in, coats to keep them warm, food to fill their bellies, and fans to keep them cool.
While I run around town with my girls in tow, I honestly answer the questions they so often ask.
“Mommy, why is that man sleeping on the ground?”
“Because, Baby, not everyone has a house to sleep in.”
“Well, Baby, there are many different reasons why. Maybe they lost their job, or lost a loved one.”
It’s my personal opinion that you are doing your children a disservice by telling them a lie. Instead, take this opportunity to have open, honest dialog (age appropriate of course) about what we can actively do to take action. Make "goodie" bags filled with basic necessities for example. Include your children in each step of the process. Talk about what basic necessities are and make a list. Go shopping and prepare the bags together. When out and about, let your children pass out the bags to whomever they choose. When you are at a stoplight, share snacks with the person behind the sign. Or when you’re running through the park, wave and say 'Hi!' Better yet, stop and have a conversation.
Another way to teach your children the importance of giving, and a life of minimalism is to clean out those closets and toy boxes and donate to a local shelter. Our family happily does this a couple times a year. My older daughter will often accompany me, and we discuss the importance of giving to those that are less fortunate. I regularly drop our gently used clothes and toys at Austin’s Children Shelter.
Another family tradition that is near and dear to our hearts is adopting a family for Christmas. My girls want for nothing. However, there are thousands of children in the Austin area that might not have presents under the tree if they are not adopted for the holidays. http://www.givingcityaustin.com/takeaction
If helping/ talking about the homeless seems too much for your little one, start closer to home. Here are a few ways to teach your child(ren) a great gift--The Gift of Giving:
· Volunteer at a local food bank
· Visit a nursing home and sing carols
· Stand outside a store and ring the Salvation Army Bell
· Look at what volunteer opportunities are available through your church
· Take cookies to a neighbor’s house/your classroom/teacher
· Cook a meal for a friend that is sick/just had a baby/or just because
· Pay off a class mates lunch balance.
· Pay for the car behind you in the Starbucks drive through line
· Let your children pick out snacks for the classroom
· Teach your children to stand up to bullies/stand up for someone being bullied.
This year instead of indulging our children with toys they don’t need (and will likely toss aside within ten minutes of opening), why don’t we instead take them to a local food distribution center and help them to serve nourishment to those in need? Why not find a family to adopt for the holiday season? Take them to a Nursing Home to sing songs to the residents.
Let’s teach them compassion, generosity, selflessness. These are characteristics that will build their self-esteem, boost their self - confidence and go far in developing future responsible adults. More importantly, they will learn to feel accomplished when they have done something for others. You will be giving your children the gift of “service.”
Don’t we all need a little help in our lives, a bit of compassion, forgiveness, inspiration in a world filled with hate?
Hey hey hey, it’s that time of the month... time to meet another member of our mama tribe! Each month we feature one of our #motherrunners so we can find out more about her. How do we choose who to feature? With a random draw from a hat by the nearest kiddo, of course!
If you’re out running around Austin and see a huge smile peeking out from under a bright orange Broncos hat, you are probably seeing this month’s member of the month, Marley A. With her ever-present double braids, and infectious positivity, Marley has made a splash since joining Trotting with Tots earlier this year. Her 17-month-old son, Zahir, takes after his Mama in the smiles department, and can usually be seen happily munching on or throwing cheerios in the stroller (if he’s not asleep, at least).
Marley (aka Marley Crue, aka Marley Mayhem, aka Leenie, aka Marlo, aka Goon, aka Changa, aka Winnie - ok, she will pretty much respond to any name you throw at her) is a former Derby Girl, who rolled with the Sun City Roller Girls before having Z-man. She is also a Licensed Professional Counselor-Intern, who sees children, adolescents, adults, and couples. Her husband, Jesus, has also been known to put in a few miles, though Marley is the primary stroller pusher.
Marley says she runs to keep her sanity and stay active, which she is certainly accomplishing, one race at a time. She has already completed 3 races this year, including her first ever half marathon. She credits her running partner, Debbie S., with helping her blow past her goal time by a full ten minutes at the Hill Country Halloween Half. She has also decided to join 5 other Trotting with Tots mamas on a Ragnar Ultra team in March, where she will run 30ish miles in less than 48 hours.
You’ll probably be able to catch Marley having a celebratory meal at Gloria’s Cafe in Cedar Park after all those miles, as that is her favorite place to dine after a long run. She has also been known to treat herself to a bag of hot Cheetos with cheese if she has a craving. Spice is in her blood, as she was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. As Marley puts it, they have “the best Mexican food on the North side of the border,” though these days she likes to put in a heavy hill workout before indulging!
When she has free time, Marley enjoys learning as much as she can about WWII. She even has a textbook on the subject at her house. She also loves collecting anything and everything Star Wars related (episodes IV-VI only, obviously), Walking Dead, or Totoro goodies. You can find her relaxing with a beer in one of her favorite Austin spots, Rainey Street, too. She says the atmosphere is relaxing and not too “crazy drinkathon” -like, which is perfect for daydreaming of opening her own ranch for dogs. Marley says she would love to own a ranch where someone could visit and receive therapy from LPCs/LMFTs with dogs thrown in the mix to help as well. She would also like it to be a haven for older dogs who could be adopted and then live our their lives in peace. Hopefully she will make sure there is a nice running path there for strollers, too.
Although her dream job would be a peaceful retreat, her go-to running music is far from it. Marley likes to jam out to heavy metal both on the trails (especially her favorite, Zilker Park), and at home. Although her musical choices tend to get her some strange looks when she is running with Zahir. However, he is a fan, too, and often falls asleep to Metallica. On her current playlist you can find System of a Down, Iron Maiden, and Iced Earth, and her favorite warm-up song is Beautiful Loser from William Control. She might change her tune, however, if Adrien Brody decided to tickle the ivories for her and offer her a serenade a la his Pianist days.
You can find Marley at most meetup locations, though the Quarry in the summer is a favorite of both hers and Zahir’s. A definite non-favorite in their house, however, is Dora the Explorer, since in almost every episode the poor girl has to cross a bridge and those subliminal messages are not ones that Marley wants Zahir to have to endure.
So the next time you hear the distinct sound of B.O.B. Stroller wheels crunching on gravel and the sounds of heavy metal screeching along, make sure you say “hi” to Marley!
When my son was younger, we participated in swimming classes. It required me to be in the water with him, so that meant getting into a swimsuit with other parents and hopping in the shallow water to sing and splash along to the same songs over and over every week. Now, this class wouldn't have been equivalent to hell, rather just below that feeling, if it weren't for the MILF that was also in his class with us--you know that one with the six pack that chose to wear a bikini to Mommy and Me classes every week. So now I was not only hoping my son would somehow develop a Phelps gene just so I wouldn't have to subject myself to body dysmorphia and salt water to the eyeballs, causing a Marilyn Manson effect, but also because I really do not enjoy participating in my children's activities. That 'walk of shame' from the moment you unwrap your towel to when you quickly plunge yourself waist-deep into the water... oh yeah, that is so fun. And who the heck can maintain a fresh bikini line all year long? If it's cold and snowing outside, the high maintenance stuff should be allowed to go into hibernation too.
Some years passed, a new baby was born and I had time to 'heal' from the constant visions of the 6-pack postpartem alien. So recently I had this gran-genius idea to put my daughter into dance class at the fresh, vibrant, bouncy young age of 2.5. I thought, 'Oh! She'll be so cute in her little tutu and it'll be fun to watch her INDEPENDENTLY dance around the studio while I catch up with my super old, super moved-on Kindergartner <still sappy over here>.'
Well, that is not at all how things have panned out. Several weeks in, I am the only parent that has to go into the class shuffling my feet (as my child is strongly attached around the ankles and physically walking into the classroom is not an option), drag my macho 5 year old in with me (repeatedly explaining how sorry Mommy is and how she owes him a large scoop of ice cream---you know, bribery at it's peak), take off my shoes and place them into a large pile of other stranger's shoes (and I forgot my socks AGAIN which means for 30 min I'll be collecting goodness knows what on my already disgusting runners feet), hang my much too heavy bag on the tiny ballerina hooks, and continue to force a semi-smile all while swaying side to side with my 'magic scarf.'
'If you do the steps, she will follow suit. Lead by example, Mommy,' says the teacher. So for weeks, I try. I lead by uncoordinated example. I do all the moves, shake the golden egg to the beat, swing the scarf high in the air, spread my peanut butter with the tips of my feet, leap around in circles, sit on my butt and spin in circles (which, by the way, how this is related to dance, I'm not sure)... and each week my sweet dance moves become harder and harder as my daughter gets more and more attached, physically.
Perhaps that sounds exceptionally harsh that I do not like participating in my children's activities. But I really do not enjoy faking fun. And maybe it's selfish of me to put my sanity above their learning, but in the long run, it really is what's best for the teachers and ultimately my children's survival. This mama is tapping out.
In the years to come I know that my children will not have the desire to be around me nearly as much as they do now (if at all). But I am certain I will have ZERO guilt about my decision to refrain from public humiliation on multiple levels. I'm much better at cheering on my kiddos on their big wheels, for free, while effortlessly sipping on my wine. That, I can do.
Dear mom traveling with two toddlers and an infant,
Just go ahead and give yourself a high-five for packing all the clothes in individual gallon sized Ziploc bags. You’re welcome, suitcase.
After you’ve done all that high-fiving, go ahead and pat yourself on the back for remembering to give each toddler their own electronic device and toddler specific earphones in their favorite colors. All done patting yourself on the back? Good.
Now, give yourself a giant hug for making sure your toddlers didn’t forget their random assortment of stuffed animals and that your pacifier-addicted 2 year old has several to pick from within arms reach (some with dad, some in her own toddler sized backpack) when the craving strikes.
You didn’t forget the 5,194 snacks and 23 infant food pouches. Also, individually wrapped in snack sized Ziploc baggies. Because, why not?
Water. The toddlers and formula-fed infant are also in fact allowed to have their own water going through security and that will be your saving grace when the infant inevitably decides to become hungry in the security line.
Smile and nod at yourself proudly as you tell your two toddlers that their stuffed animals have to be checked (like when you go to the doctor and get checked!) and go on an adventure which involves a ride on the black belt, poking and prodding by a stranger and finally being swiped with a magic wand…and they are completely and utterly fascinated and enthralled by your elaborate story.
You are winning so hard right now, momma.
Fist bump your random fellow passenger who is super lucky to be sitting next to a 9 month old, teething baby. Tell them how proud you are that none of your 3 offspring decided to have a bowel movement during the entire 2 hour flight.
Until, you realize that your oldest toddler is getting that look in their eyes and then they proclaim loudly to their father who is sitting in a row directly in front of you, “I have to go poo-poo, Poppa. I can’t wait, Poppa. I have to go.”
Finally, make sure to tell your husband thank you a million times over for pitching in and helping when he could, even if it was only for the final two minutes of the 2 hour flight for that urgent bathroom situation.*
Congratulations. You arrived at your destination, intact and maybe with a slightly more shriveled soul. But as they say, the odds were ever in your favor.
30 ounces of caffeine, an airplane sized cup of cheap wine, and a good sense of humor
*He actually helped the entire time and made things go 66% more smoothly (because 2/3 kids = 66%) for which I am entirely beyond grateful.
wife to 1 fine redhead. momma to 3, avid runner + health enthusiast.