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The Elf…

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Ok- raise your hand if you, too, thought this elf would be such a fun tradition for the holidays and now you are dreading pulling it out yet another time and coming up with 32+ “activities” or hiding places for your elf?  Seriously- kudos to the person that thought of this idea and was able to convince all of us naive parents that it would be a super great tradition.  Lies.

Or maybe you are one of the few that love the Elf and all the “fun” it has to offer.  Do you really exist?

At our house- we forget to move him.  (Buddy- our elf’s name is Buddy #creative).  We really just move him around and it’s a fun “where is Buddy” game every day.  But we haven’t had any reprieve.  We have had the elf since Aiden and Lu were little… and the way it’s worked out- it has rolled right into the Knox and the twins.  I seriously think we are on year 8 or 9 of this thing.  No joke. (It was created in 2005).  Let me tell you how fun it was on those sleepless nights with the twins realizing the damn elf didn’t move.  Enter Aiden.  That kid has saved us SO many times.  And yes- this year Lucy was on the mad hunt for Buddy when we realized we didn’t know what box he was in from the move. “Hey Lu- not sure if you know or not, but Buddy isn’t real and we need your help finding him.”  Her: “duh”.  After two days of hunting, Jeremy headed to Kohls and we now have a Buddy #3.

(Buddy #1 met his unfortunate death when we had him eating popcorn and watching the movie ELF when Lucy was little and Rockne ate his face off.  Seriously picture our faces… we left Buddy face down in the bowl of popcorn all day- went up to tuck them in for bed and come down and the elf has no face… the popcorn was also gone.  I can not even begin to tell you the middle of the night panic trying to replace the elf without a face… Jeremy going to every store was open and sending me pictures on our Razors (did they even take pictures??) and trying to find the one with exactly the right hair color.  Thankfully our secret was safe for many years… we finally just broke the news to her this year.  She was slightly devastated.)

But here we go again… another year of hiding the elf every night until the glorious morning of Christmas when most people are excited about presents and time together with family- we’re holding up our Christmas mimosas in the air to a break from having to scramble to hide the elf.

For total selfish reasons- I created a Virtual Elf Planning party on Facebook this year.  100% selfish.  I need all the ideas.  Although- one of my amazing neighbors ordered Reindeer from their elf last year!!  Seriously!! Real Reindeer!  In their front yard!  Amazing!  And another had their elf break their leg, and therefore be in a cast so they couldn’t move for a few weeks #genius.

Buddy is back though- and he will be back for at least a few years.  (or if the little ones are anything like Lucy- we have 8 more years of the Elf. *insert favorite cuss word*)

I have included my Elf on the Shelf Calendar for you all. #yourewelcome. Nothing fancy- but each day is split in half so the top half is for the idea and the second half is for supplies needed.  This way, if you are lucky enough to have helpers like me- you can all be on the same page and not have to guess what the elf does next.  Because it’s all about taking the stress out of the holidays, right? *insert spontaneous laughter*

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If you forget to move your elf, someone else (probably just like me) has created a list as to why the elf didn’t move.  Check it out HERE

And for those of you that were smart enough to have never introduced the elf into your house- I raise my mimosa to you.

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We now have Threenadoes- x2

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Man- if I had to pick one age I could bypass- it would be three.  I know, I know… it sounds horrible and heartless, but seriously, like overnight they have taken over my sweet (yet rambunctious two year olds) and replaced them with these beings that appear cute on the outside and full of sass and stubbornness on the inside (I blame Jeremy).  My babies are no longer babies!!

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No- they are no longer babies- we will probably always refer to Whitney as “Baby”, but the baby stage has packed up and left the Hillman household (or at this current point, my parent’s house because #moving).

As we approach the threenage years, I’m going to take a second and reminisce on moments… that I remember…

  • Finding out there were two:  Seriously- will never forget that moment.  In the Dr. office, not expecting great news.  I had had an ultrasound the week before (at 5 weeks) but Dr. didn’t say too much and said let’s repeat it in a week.  For someone that had been through multiple early miscarriages… I wasn’t expecting great news.  I had symptoms, but I also had symptoms with Jeremiah, the baby we lost in the second trimester due to a Partial Molar Pregnancy (ugh- needles in the skin just typing that phrase out).  So I sent Jeremy to his bowling meet, had my mom meet me at the Dr. to watch 7 mo old Knox in the waiting room so I could find out maybe good news/probably bad.  It was a new tech… had an internal ultrasound because it was so early… and before she flipped the switch on, she goes “Well, it still might be too early to see both their heartbeats”.  Me: “Oh, you must have the wrong chart, we’re just checking for a viable pregnancy.”  Her: “Lisa Hillman?  Yeah, they didn’t tell you last week there are twins?”  Me: “Uh… no… you’re kidding right?  Oh my gosh, I can’t breathe… can you go get my mom?  I definitely need my mom?  She’s sitting out there… go get her please?”  Her: “Uhhhh… I just can’t leave this inside you…” Me: “Oh, right”.  I don’t really remember the rest of the appointment besides the moment of my just handing my mom a picture of “the babies” and watching the realization of what was happening wash over her face.  Let’s just say she was a little more excited than I was.
  • Telling Jeremy: Have you all seen it?  It’s on YouTube… I’ve never seen my husband speechless before.  Watch it HERE.
  • Team Green: Being Team Green was SO hard… especially with twins…and especially with a High Risk Doctor that had a hard time keeping secrets.  But we made it and it was SO worth it.  We had an idea that Baby “B” might be a girl… the nurses referred to “her” as a Diva because B was always the most difficult to get the readings on and never cooperated.  Fast forward to the delivery and “A” came out with “It’s a girl!”… we start crying and then go… oh man, two girls!!  Imagine our surprise when two minutes later “B” comes out with “And it’s a boy!”  Uh, what?!?!  Welcome to the world, Griffin  (who still has Diva-tendencies)
  • The Delivery:  First “Gentle C-Section Delivery” at Copley.  So great.  We had a clear curtain so I was able to see them immediately.  They put Whitney on my chest right away and had Jeremy wear a button down so he had Griffin right away for some skin to skin time.  Well, both of them wouldn’t settle down and kept crying, so the nurse did a quick switch and sure enough- we had a daddy’s girl and a mama’s boy from the first minutes of life.  Totally different from the C-Section I had had with Aiden 13 years prior that I didn’t get to hold him for over an hour and barely saw him before they whisked him away for all the tests and bath.
  • The feedings:  Dang- that sucked.  Neither twin would latch.  We. tried. everything.  Lactation consultants, nipple guards, different positions… nothing worked.  Which left me to pump.  And pump.  And pump.  I missed out on a lot of life in the first few months.  We would feed them, burp them, change them, get them settled, then I would pump for about 20-30 minutes (for a good feeding) and I would have about 30 minutes before the process started all over again.  Fed is best and my life became insanely less stressful when we introduced formula.  And the babies were so much more happy and content as well.  I repeat.  FED IS BEST!  for everyone!! including my 3 other children and my husband.
  • The support:  The meals, the help, the holding of babies.  It was all so great.  It takes a village and our village sure picked us up and helped carry us when we were too tired.  Showers were so glorious and it was so nice to have someone come and just sit there so the shower could happen uninterrupted.
  • The first year: Nope.  Don’t remember it.  I don’t remember who rolled over first, who talked first, who crawled or walked first.  Nada.  I got nothing.  I remember moments of success… like figuring out how to carry both of them up and down the stairs at the same time, when they could feed themselves a bottle, when I got them both to relax at the same time… even if it was for only 30 seconds.  I SWORE I would not take any moment for granted with them.  Sleep deprivation beats memory.  Hands down.  I do remember buying a Franchise when they were 3 months old.  Who doesn’t start a franchise when their twins are three months old?
  • The gear:  So much gear for twins.  Not necessarily two of everything, but two of a lot.  So many bottles and bottle parts (Thanks, Dr. Brown), the pack and plays, the diapers… so many diapers.  We used to order our diapers from Amazon- and it would look like we had a body delivered to our house every month.
  • The real world was not twin friendly: I gave up going places eventually.  I remember pushing one cart and pulling the other cart through a store.  I remember getting so mad when people would take the “big cart” at Target for their one child.  I had to remind myself they have no idea.  I actually pulled into Target once and left because I couldn’t find a big cart.  I would take the double stroller places, but that didn’t fit anywhere (which double strollers are the same width as wheel-chairs, which made me super sad).  Grocery stores put milk at the back of the store.  No quick trips.  This now made Jeremy the sole-grocery shopper.  And trying to get twins through a parking lot is like herding drunk cats.
  • The Chaos:  It’s never calm.  What’s calm?  There’s no calm.  There is always something going on.  Someone crying.  Someone yelling.  People fighting.  Something lost.  We’re late.  We forget things.  We haven’t forgot kids yet, though.  Yet.
  • Their bond:  They maybe aren’t as close as some twins, but they sure have a bond that none of the other siblings share.  They have a special sense that they can tell what is going on with the other when we can’t.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not butterflies and rainbows… they fight… but they love each other fiercely and don’t like to be apart from each other at all.  They watch out for each other.  I would take them to the church nursery to interact with other kids, and they would just play by themselves.  Now, they will tell you they are each other’s best friends.  Melt my heart.
  • Boy vs. Girl/ Nurture vs. Nature:  So with boy/girl twins… there’s not a whole lot of time to promote “girl” toys or “boy” toys.  Since they started playing toys- they gravitate toward the same gender toys.  Our biggest thing has been Griffin (and Knox) wanting to paint their nails or wear dresses.  Who cares though, right?  Why can’t boys of pretty nails?  Or wear pretty dresses?  Why is it so much more appropriate for girls to wear “boy” clothes, but not the opposite?

I know this post doesn’t make it seem all great.  It is.  I swear.  I was never a person that wanted twins.  I was actually shocked when I found out there are people in the world that wish for spontaneous twins!  I wouldn’t change it for the world.  They were the perfect finale.  The perfect caboose to our train.  Quatro and Cinco.  I can’t imagine life any other way.  I enjoy the questions.  I enjoy watching their bond grow.  I enjoy the chaos.  I embrace the chaos (somedays).  I love that we have a huge triple stroller named “The Beast” and I love Black Betty.  I love that we have this large family and that I have 5 kids that are all so uniquely different.  But I don’t love 3’s.  3’s are rough.  I’m sure I will be celebrating in a year when we reach the 4’s.  Until then- que sera.

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The Drop-Off/Pick-Up Line

I feel like I should add “Dun-dun-duuuuuuuun!”

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Ugh- the drop-off/pick-up line… is there anything with back-to-school more terrible and wonderful at the same time?

So great to be able to drive your kiddo to school (or pick them up) and not have to get out of your car, right?  The rainy days, the busy days, the running-late days… I mean really, it saves the day sometimes.

But it also is going to FILL the Facebook Mom-Pages soon with posts and comments and opinions.  Even the quiet, go-with-the-flow mom has opinions about the drop-off/pick-up line.  And yes, even Kale-blending Cynthia, in her pilates pants will let you know how she feels.

For the newbie moms- it can be the utmost terrifying part of her OWN back-to-school time.  Everyone knows the “new parent” when it comes to the line, amiright?

After 8 years of experience at multiple schools- I think I’ve seen it all.  (every year surprises me though).  I’d like to think I have some expertise to share.

So how do you navigate it?  How do you keep it upheld in all its intended glory?  Don’t worry- I’ve compiled a list.

  1. DON’T BE A JERK.  I said it.  I’m not kidding.  I’m really not sure if there is any other advice that needs to be given.  You don’t know what that mom in the mini-van with the messy bun and glasses on went through 20 minutes before getting in that line.  Have patience.  Have grace.  (I also tell you this for your own good because she may truly be at her tipping point and I would hate for you to be on the receiving end of a tired mama-bear in a mini-van… and two tired mama-bears in mini-vans is probably one of the most terrifying things ever when they come in contact with each other).
  2. Follow the rules.  This can go with #1.  I’ll make it separate.  Someone has taken time to go through the safest and most efficient ways to get our kids into a building from giant moving pieces of steel and metal.  If they tell you don’t pull a u-turn, don’t do it.  If they tell you that you shouldn’t travel a certain direction down a street, or you should only turn one way when leaving the lot… then do that.  So driving the long way around takes a whole extra 2 minutes.  Great.  2 more minutes to talk to your kid OR enjoy the quiet.  DON’T be the parent that thinks the rules don’t apply to them.  They do.  They were actually written JUST for the parents that think rules don’t apply to them.
  3. Go with the flow.  Seriously- just watch and take it in and note what the other cars are doing.  You’ll see the veterans right away.  You could probably time them like a pitstop at the NASCAR races.  Pull up-unload- and green light, go!!  If the other cars aren’t parking and getting out of their cars… don’t do it!  If people aren’t getting out of their car to have a quick smoke break before their kid gets in… don’t do it!! (I wish I was lying when I said I haven’t seen this before… and I’m pretty sure it’s illegal on school grounds).  Observe, and follow.  And go with the flow.
  4. Don’t take anything out on the teachers or crossing guards.  Are you out there doing what they’re doing?  Are you going to plan on doing it?  No?  Ok- so don’t complain.  Unless you want to get out and do what they’re doing- then you have every right to complain.  If you’re sitting in the comfort of your car- keep opinions to yourself and maybe give them a smile and a wave.
  5. Make sure your kid is ready to get out.  But if they’re not, it’s ok.  They’re kids.  Not machines.  And if the person behinds you honks… smile, wave, and then send them this blog and ask them to refer to #1.

Seriously- back to school is crazy enough.  Let’s not make it more difficult on each other by making the parent drop-off/pick-up line something more than it is.  No power battles,  no races, no creating new rules… just take a deep breath, take a sip of that (probably now cold) coffee, smile, and go with the flow.  And then be thankful that something as crazy as the parent drop-off/pick-up line does exist.

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5 Mom Must-Dos for Back-To-School

School starts here in about a week.

I have 5 kids entering 3 different schools- (note: next year I will have 5 in 4 different schools- eek!).  This is the twins first year in preschool and this is a whole new ball game.  Making sure all 5 kids have their health forms, and we have all the appointments scheduled we need to schedule, and I’m making sure I’m not missing a back-to-school meeting at any of their schools.  I seriously could use a personal assistant just to keep me on top of it all, and they would be busy all.the.time.  Which got me to thinking- we do some much for them during this time of year… what are we doing for us?

While it’s important to make sure your kiddos are set for their “best year ever”, it’s also just as important that you are taking care of YOU.  Back-to-school can be just as stressful (if not more!) for moms than it is for the kids!  Let’s be real- have you felt totally lost and overwhelmed in the Target back-to-school section finding the exact color of folders, highlighters, the right number of markers, and telling your kids “no” to all the “extras” they want!? Or keeping track of all the paperwork and emails from the schools, only to find out you still don’t have it right?  Plus, we’re at the end of summer- and while we all started out with great intentions about “the best summer yet”, most of us are probably secretly… or not so secretly… counting down the days.

The overwhelm is real.

So what does a mom do?  No worries- I’ve compiled a list of some Mom Must-Do’s to fight the back to school overwhelm.

  1. It’s ok to say no.  Seriously.  To your kid… to friends… to the HSO committee (sorry!).  A wise person once told me that every time you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else.  What are you gaining or sacrificing by saying yes to something?  Analyze what you are saying yes to!  It’s ok to say no.  (you can tell this to your kids too, they don’t have to sign up for everything under the sun)
  2. Move.  Whether it’s walking, running, working out, yoga, horse back riding, dancing, Zumba, whatever… just move.  There’s this whole science behind movement.  It can make you happier, relieve stress, help you sleep better… the list continues.  It doesn’t have to be long or intense- anything is better than nothing.  (and I mean, I may know a place that offers great classes with other moms… just saying)
  3. Take advantage of Sundays- they are a great way to reset for the week with your family.  Take the time to go over what is happening in the week ahead.  Practices, games, meetings, projects, big assignments… put it all out there and make sure everyone is on the same page.  This will help you prepare for events and not be caught off guard.  This can also help with meal planning!  Have games and meetings all afternoon Tuesday?  Sounds like a great night for a crockpot meal that can cook all day and people can eat as they come and go.
  4. Create a happy space… and go there.  Maybe it’s your kitchen, room, office.  Spend time there alone each day.  Maybe it’s waking up 30 minutes before your kids do and enjoying a cup of coffee or your favorite book or journal and spending time just being able to focus on you.  Maybe you’re more of a night person… spend time then focusing on you and setting your intentions for the next day.  Give your mind time to breathe.
  5. Drink water.  You think I’m kidding and I’m not.  It’s easy and it’s simple and the health benefits are abundant.  Half your body weight in ounces of water.  You’ll thank me.  Maybe not the first few days (or nights!), but eventually you will.  You’re future self will thank you as well.

The most important thing is to not forget about you.  Take care of yourself so that you can be the best version of you for your kiddos as they are about to start the next school year.  Don’t get lost in the overwhelm.  You got this, mama.

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A New Chapter

So I’m starting a thing.  Mama-Bear is taking over the page.

I definitely don’t consider myself the expert of all experts, but I think I’ve had a little “life-experience”.

As a wife, mom of 5, and entrepreneur… I always get asked how I do it all.

Sometimes I do it all… and sometimes I fail miserably.  So why not learn from my mistakes? Or my successes?  I have 5 kids- all in different stages of life (except, of course, for the twins.  But even they are so different).

I’d like to think I’ve been through a lot that other moms can relate to.  Easy pregnancies, high-risk pregnancies, twin pregnancies, early miscarriages, second trimester loss, breastfeeding, formula fed, first and second marriages, blended families, leaving a career to start a business, potty training, driver’s ed, tween girls, and a child that we are going to have an “alive at 5” party for when he turns 5.  I wish I was kidding.  (It’s a Hard Knox Life).

You can receive all the life-hacks and goodness in four different ways

  1. Follow this Blog
  2. Like (and follow) my Facebook Page HERE
  3. Like (and follow) my Instagram Page HERE
  4. Sign up for one of our bi-monthly Workshops in Oswego (found on Eventbrite and Facebook)

Can’t wait to connect with you more.  If you have a mom-hack you are looking for- shoot me a message.  If I don’t have the answer- I will find someone that does!!

-Lisa PBL_1273hs