Cookie Exchange!

If you remember when we first introduced ourselves on this blog, I took the moniker, La Vida Loca Mom.

Just the other day I was telling my pal, author Cindy Miles, that it just didn’t feel like Christmas to me this year. For one thing, I live in Texas and it was 80 degrees outside. I’m really hoping for at least the low 60s for Christmas Day! But mostly because I’ve just been so busy.

Because I work at the corporate office for a restaurant group, December is just…insane. I work long hours, and even weekends, which I don’t do any other time during the year. It’s 100 miles a minute, from the second I walk in the door, until the moment I leave. I do have fun because I work with a great group of people, and we’re making Christmas really special for others, in lots of different ways (on top of our usual work load), but at the end of the day, I’m drained and left with little time to make my own family’s Christmas special.

But I’m determined to get on track this weekend. Sunday is MINE. I’m going to get my Christmas cards written (better late than never!) and bake cookies with my daughter. That’s part of Christmas for me, having cookies and cranberry orange bread to eat and they make the house smell great the way Christmas should! I always try to make a few new kinds of cookies, but there are several I’ve made since I was little and baking cookies with my mom. Here’s my sentimental favorite, Berlinerkranser, that I’ll be making again this year—in its original Technicolor format, the treasured original being a gift from my mom several years back.
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If you double click the image, the picture will enlarge enough so you can read! Sorry, I was too inept to successfully resize it. And no, I’ve never tried to make that magnificent Yule Log. Yet.

Do you have a favorite Christmas cookie recipe? Tell us about it! If you have a link to the recipe, even better! Please share!

Why I Let My Daughter Have An Instagram Account

I’m pretty conservative when it comes to my kids. I’m the mom who says no. No to the hot new movie that all the kids are going to see. No to the obnoxious, snarky shows on the Disney channel, no to the more risqué shows geared toward older kids. No to walking up to the school alone. No to riding bikes outside of our neighborhood. No to ride-on motorized toys. No, even, to reading Young Adult books I, myself, authored. No. Not yet.

Given this, imagine my surprise—and my daughter’s—when I said yes to opening an Instagram account.

I still remember how startled I was when I discovered, about eighteen months ago, that many of my daughter’s (4th grade) friends had accounts. When I thought of Instagram, images of selfies instantly came to mind, of bikini clad girls and video clips of kids partying, hundreds, sometimes thousands of followers. No way, I thought. No way am I letting my daughter jump into this cesspool of social media. She’s too young. Too innocent. This isn’t something she needs to be doing.

And my daughter, bless her heart, didn’t even ask. She knew. She knew what the answer would be. No, no, no.

So, one short year later, why did I do it? Why’d I do a complete 180 and let my daughter dive into the world of social media? Basically, it boils down to this:

  1. She’s a good kid. She does what we ask of her. She applies herself at school. She does her homework. She works hard at soccer and softball and choir. She helps out around the house. (She reads her brother bedtime stories!) She’s demonstrated a level of maturity, responsibility, and trust that made us feel not only comfortable that she could manage her own behavior on Instagram, but that she deserved the opportunity to try.
  2. It’s the world she’s going to live in. As much as we may wring our hands about the evils of social media, it’s not going anywhere. It’s the world we live in, the world our kids are growing up in. We can bury our heads in the sand and pretend like it’s not happening, but that only serves to 1) isolate us and 2) leave us woefully ill-equipped for dealing with reality. And I don’t want my daughter ill-equipped. I want her prepared. I want her ready. I want her to know what she’s doing. I want her to understand how to communicate, about actions and consequences, intended or otherwise. And the only way she’s going to learn this is if we allow her to explore the world in which she’s living.
  3. She’s young enough and still likes me enough that we can do this together. Two of the conditions of my daughter’s Instagram account are that it’s open on my phone at all times and that I know the password. This means I’m able to see what’s going on—what she posts and what her friends post. I see the pictures, the comments. I see who sends her Follow Requests (she’s not allowed to accept without running it by me first). We discuss who she might want to Follow. We’ve talked about why it doesn’t make sense to have hundreds of Followers, just for the sake of having Followers. We’ve talked about what kinds of pictures to post, versus those that could hurt someone’s feelings or lead to some other consequence.
  4. It’s an opportunity for her to begin expressing her own individuality. And as much as I may wish my little girl could be my little girl forever, the fact is she’s growing up, and growing into her own person. And it’s really kind of fascinating and cool (and heartwarmingly wonderful) to see her creativity emerge, to see which pictures she chooses to post (lots of our dogs and cats, and, just this week, a pic of her reading 43 on 41 after she had the opportunity to meet former president Bush!). It’s also fun to see some of the pages she’s chosen to follow: CatsofInstagram, GreatPyreneesoftheHour, and Imagine Dragons.
  5. And finally, while we’re sure there’s some forbidden fruit in our future, we don’t want it to be Social Media. We don’t want to turn this into some huge, unattainable holy grail. We don’t want her venturing out there on her own. We don’t want her trying to figure everything out by herself. Far better to stand by her side and teach her, than to shut her down because we’re not ready.

So… how’s it gone?

I’m happy to say it’s gone great. Her introduction to Instagram has been a positive experience for her, and for us as mother/daughter. It’s provided opportunities to talk about real-life situations and scenarios, such as inappropriate behavior or pictures, bullying, foul language, premature sexuality, etc. And as much as I dislike some of the content I’ve seen, I’d rather see and know about it, than to not know what was going on. Because of this, we’re able to talk about things we need to talk about. And they’re not just esoteric conversations anymore. They’re concrete, based upon concrete incidents involving people she knows. She comes to me when she gets new Follow requests, and explains why she thinks she should accept—or not accept. She tells me who she wants to send Follow requests to. She’s shown me several pictures/comments on pictures that bothered her, and she’s complained about a few of her friends who are a little selfie happy. One of them she wanted to unfollow, but before she did so, we talked about possible ramifications.

I still say no. A lot. She still can’t watch Hunger Games or Twilight. She still doesn’t have her own phone number. She still can’t read my Midnight Dragonfly books. She still can’t walk to school by herself. And she still can’t sign up for some of the more dangerous apps, such as Kik and Whisper and SnapChat. But because she’s happy with Instagram, she’s not in any hurry to branch out to other venues.

Now, six months into this new world, this No Mom is glad she said Yes.

Holiday giving

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The Professor & I at our recent family photo session

I was raised in a family with big Christmases. I mean really big. My mother loves to give gifts, it’s her primary love language and so she’d save up and spoil us rotten on Christmas morning. It wasn’t all expensive stuff, just thoughtful and a lot. It was wonderful, I’m not gonna lie. But the other thing my mom did was she always gave to families who didn’t have as much as we did, and she included us in this so that we were aware of not only how blessed we were, but also that there were other kids out there who had next to nothing.

Flash forward to my own adulthood and I’ve done the same. Whether it’s an angel from a tree at a local store, Operation Christmas Child or just from word of mouth, I always try to give something to a family or at least a child who doesn’t have anything. I’m trying to instill this in my girls as well so they are aware that there are others around them that won’t wake up on Christmas morning with a house full of new toys and clothes.

I can’t help but think of my own girls and how their lives could have been so very different had we not at the opportunity to adopt them. My girls could have been angels on a tree in the grocery store, or on a list that someone at your church handed out to ensure they’d receive presents. It’s hard not to think about that sort of thing. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that instead they’re here in our house, in our family and I can spoil them rotten. But that doesn’t change the fact that there are families out there who have nothing and this time of year that nothing has got to seem even bigger.

So how about y’all? Do you try to do a little extra this time of year to help those in need? 

The Holiday Spirit

It’s that time of year again! The stores are decked out in every kind of sparkle, and playing Christmas songs on their speakers. Everywhere we look, we’re being encouraged to buy buy buy (i.e., Spend! Spend! Spend!)

Many of us look for more meaningful ways to celebrate the true spirit of the holiday. I know I want my kids to be able to look beyond all the marketing mania and materialism, and know there’s much more to this very special season than “stuff”. Opportunities to make a difference abound, in big ways and small. Here are a couple of things we’re doing this year:

My daughter and I “adopted” a toddler age child and young mom who currently live at a place called Covenant House. Ever heard of Covenant House? They have “houses” in 27 cities throughout the US, Canada and Latin America, and provide support services and opportunities to homeless kids. Teens in crisis is an issue that’s become very important to me, maybe because my kids are teenagers now and I’ve become more and more aware that many (many) kids don’t have stable homes to go home to each night. They are passed around between family members that may or may not want to care for them, or fending for themselves. For Christmas, we bought our adopted mom-and-child clothes, other necessities and of course–some toys. We hope our gifts make their Christmas a little brighter.

And here’s something I saw in the news this morning—an opportunity for young kids, teenagers or adults that would take five minutes of your time, and mean a great deal to a very special someone. This may be 6-year-old Addie Fausett’s last Christmas, for reasons you can read about in the article if you wish. One thing that raises her spirits, is receiving Christmas cards. If you or your child want to send Addie a Christmas card, her address is: P.O Box 162, Fountain Green, Utah, 84632

What are some special things you’ve done, this year, or previous years, to keep your holiday season “real”?

Thanksgiving week

clip-art-thanksgiving-turkey-free1It’s Thanksgiving week here in the United States which means that most of us are either getting ready to cook, travel or host visitors. We’ll be having turkey day at my brother’s house so it will be my big ol’ family all together in one house – that’s my parents; my brother, his wife & their 2 girls; my sister, her husband & their 2 kids and then The Professor, myself, Busybee & Babybee. Not to mention two cats and a Great Pyrenees. Thankfully my brother’s house is sizable and can handle the crowd.

The women in my family all divide up the dishes so that not one person is in charge of cooking everything. It makes it nice to share in the duties and we all get to visit & look at Black Friday ads while we’re cooking. The men generally watch football during this time. You know, typical American family activities.

I always make the sweet potato casserole because it’s everyone’s favorite. I’m not even gonna lie, it’s ridiculously good and frankly should just be in a crust because it might as well be a dessert. But my favorite is my mom’s cornbread dressing and I can’t wait to get my first bite of it. So what’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish? 

Here’s my sweet potato casserole recipe…

4 cups sweet potatoes, peeled & cubed (2 large cans)
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
¾ cup melted butter
1 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp. Nutmeg
1 tsp. Cinnamon
2 cups marshmallow
1 cup coconut

~Praline Topping~
1 ½ cup crushed corn flakes
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
¾ cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 400°. In large bowl, mash potatoes. Mix in sugar, eggs, butter, evaporated milk, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Fold in marshmallows. Add coconut. Bake 20 minutes.

Mix the topping ingredients in a small bowl then crumble onto the casserole and bake an additional 10 minutes.

The micro story

This commerical is the best thing I’ve seen on TV all week.

First off, let’s face it. It’s hysterical. We’ve all been there, right? We’ve all had those days when the narrative in our heads does not match the day we’re having. In fact, sometimes, it feels like that’s every day. (Particularly any day that involves vacuuming.)

But the other thing I love about this commericisl is it’s such a perfect micro-story. It’s reminder to me–as a writer–that stories are everywhere. That telling a story is not enjoyable, it’s a window into someone else’s life. It’s a way to instantly create a connection between two people.

That commericial is also a reminder for me about the power of vulernability. We see this woman on an off day. We see her at her most vulnerable. We love her for her human frailty, not her perfection. Sometimes I feel like social media forces us to perform ever more daring feats of perfection. We are constantly trying to present the best, most perfect version of ourselves for the world. We’re showing off the cutest pirate outfit we made for our child’s Talk Like a Pirate Day or the darlingest Penguin Cupcakes we made for the school bake sale. (As if it’s not enough that we made cupcakes, they have to be tiny works of art as well.) Sometimes, it starts to feel like everything is a competition and we forget that the easiest way to create a bond with someone is not through perfection, but through humanity.

And it’s also just a really funny commerical.

 

When It’s Cold Out, Special Memories Can Warm You

It’s a BRRRRRRRRRR kind of day here in typically sunny Florida.

Okay, so I know there are people snowed in up north. Kids are off from school. Some offices and businesses are closed. Folks are already skiing or sledding or building snowmen.
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But down here in the Sunshine State—land of sandy beaches, waves lapping the shore, seagulls drifting on the wind—winter jackets don’t make it out of the closet too often.
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So, when I say it’s a “bitter 41 degrees” outside this morning, that bitterness is relative. I’ve got friends in the northeast corner of the US who’d love it to be 41 where they live as they bundle up and head out the door. Another friend lives in New Mexico and she’s posting pics of her snow-covered house doing a darn fine impression of a scene on the front of a Christmas card. I got shivers just looking at her post.
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But while this Florida girl isn’t too keen on living in a snowy, icy, bone-chilling place, I do think it’s fun to play in the snow. And I wouldn’t mind spending a day on the ski slopes, then heading back to a warm cozy lodge for hot chocolate and a blazing fire in the fireplace. I’ve been known to plop down on the snow and make a snow angel or two. And my family has risen to the challenge when our neighbors pounded our door with snowballs—a definite call to arms initiating an intense, laughter-filled snowball fight in our front yards.
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With Thanksgiving around the corner and December holidays not far behind, my nesting instinct starts kicking into high gear. Baking, gift buying, gift wrapping, family get-togethers, gingerbread house building, carol singing, mugs of hot chocolate, old memories shared, new memories made.

Can you tell I’m a big fan of the holiday season? Not because of the shopping and present buying, though I do love to gift giving and bringing a smile to someone’s face. But because it’s a time for families and friends to spend quality time together. A time for fun, frolic and smiles.
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I won’t ask about December holiday traditions—that’s an entire blog for later—but instead, I’d like to know what’s the one thing you’re looking forward to the most during the Thanksgiving holiday?

In this high tech world of social media and tweets and Snapchats and Instagrams and all the other apps I’m not cool enough to have heard about yet, there’s still nothing that can beat the feel of two hands held together in greeting. Or two arms wrapped around you in a welcoming hug. Or two lips pressing an I-missed-you kiss on your cheek.

For me, I’m most looking forward to when my family and I’ll gather around the table, clasp hands, and give thanks we’re all together. That’s when I’ll close my eyes, take a deep breath and give the hands I’m holding an I-love-you squeeze.
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And even if it’s just for that briefest of moments, all will be right in my world.

So what’s your special moment, memory or tradition this time of year? I’d love to hear what you’re excited about!

Wishing you and yours many many many blessings! And a warm place to snuggle with your loved ones. ☺
couples holding hands.