Why You Need to Buy Future Presents for Your Kids

Why You Need to Buy Future Presents for Your Kids

We have totes for everything – storing holiday decorations, keeping the umpteen feral cats in our neighborhood warm during cold winter nights, planting small varieties of tomatoes, etc.

It’s not quite as bad as my mason jar habit, but it’s getting there…

Then one summer, we found an extremely value-priced Imaginext playset at a garage sale and my love of totes jumped to a whole new level.

We made the $2 plunge and bought the toy for our son, but as “luck” would have it, he was being extremely sh*tty contrary that day, so a new toy wasn’t in the cards for him. While we pondered where we could store this fairly sizeable and yet 99%-cheaper-than-new playset, my thoughts strayed to a large, grey tote we had in our attic.

So with the toy safely stashed in our 150-year-old attic, away from prying hands and nosey toddlers, we decided we’d simply give it to our son for his next birthday, which was in a few months. As per routine, we went out the next weekend to garage sales and found a really cool toy guitar for our daughter. Again, it was I think a dollar, but we don’t like the habit of giving our kids presents for no reason, so up to the attic it went.

Thus, through the magic of simulated time-travel and a knack for spotting good deals on gently used toys, the Future Present Tote was born.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you click through and make a purchase, I’ll earn a commission and be able to afford coffee tomorrow. And Mama needs her coffee…

But What About Buying New Toys?

When I was a kid, I’d always get a combination of hand-me-down toys and new toys for holidays/birthday. (I also got socks and stuff, but I try to block out the more sadistic traits of my family and focus on the good.)

Whether the present was a brand new doll or a tea set from Goodwill, I never knew the difference because it was always new to ME. I mean, it’s possible my toys were judging each other on being shiny and new like some Mean Girls/Toy Story crossover, but who was I to get involved?

As a parent, though, I totally understand why my mother or grandparents might have opted to give me second hand stuff – toys are expensive.

Not only is the cost an issue, but new toys are…well…sorta wasteful, don’t you think? When you buy a used toy or doll, you cut down on package waste, and you might save an item that was otherwise destined for the landfill. You put money directly into the hand of an actual person, rather than a huge corporation. And, if after their presents are opened, your child decides within a few months they no longer like Power Rangers, you are out like $10 instead of $100+.

The New Adventures of Old Toys

If you have older children, I can see why you might hesitate on giving them “used” toys, but you’d be surprised what you can find at garage sales and online resale sites that are actually in really great shape! For example, when I worked at PBS, I went on a huge Bob Ross kick and ended up buying a Bob Ross paint set.

brunette girl wearing a bob ross shirt

I was really cool in my early 20s…

Once I realized that maybe I wasn’t so great at painting happy trees, I decided to sell it — nearly new and at a third of the cost! Something like that would make for a great gift for older kids.

On the other end of things, if your children are young enough, you can also “retire” certain toys to the future presents box when they get new ones. This frees up space, reduces clutter, and allows you to keep them interested in a lesser amount of junk well-loved toys and stuffed animals. Then, after a while you can reintroduce the old toy and watch them regard it with renewed interest.

Fantastic Deals and Where to Find Them

Where to stock up on future presents is probably the most fun part of the whole experience, aside from the money you’ll save. We love spending a Saturday morning perusing garage sales during the summer – it’s a great way to score deals while also enjoying sunshine and exercise as a family! Typically, we find some decent things in the fall, but those first spring garage sales are where it’s at.

People are very eager to clear their house out after winter, and especially since Christmas’ excesses and new toys are somewhat still lingering, you can get some really cool stuff dirt cheap.

save money kids clothing article link

Another opportunity is Facebook’s Marketplace feature. As your kids’ birthdays approach, run a few casual searches on their favorite things and you’d be surprised at what you can find. We picked up a Doc McStuffins playset for my daughter for $1 that would normally go for $30 were it brand new. It’s in pristine condition, not missing anything, and the family was happy to get rid of it as their children had grown out of it.

Granted, it’s a bit bigger than the tote, but the concept still holds true – she got it for Christmas and ADORES it.

Give Totes a Chance

This isn’t the first nor last time I’ll wax poetically about the usefulness of totes, so you might as well get on board. Pick up a tote and pick a hiding spot, because this method of money saving is a keeper.

The only downside is of course that if you don’t hide it well, and I mean really well, it’s like a time capsule treasure chest for sneaky little hands. Aside from that, though, get yourself a future presents tote and start saving money for your future in the present.

Oh and also you could use it to…

Totes My Goats!

brunette girl hugging goats happily

Sorry, I had to…

Do you buy your kids presents way ahead of time and then hide them?

Do they ever find them or do you consider yourself a parenting ninja? Share your secrets in the comments below!

Why I’m Not a Multitasking Momma

Why I’m Not a Multitasking Momma

Is it possible to stop multitasking and get more done? Well, as a work-at-home mom with two preschoolers, this may come as a shock to you but —

I don’t believe in multitasking!

Insanity, right? But as a mom and as an efficiency strategist, I want to share with you why I think we need to stop seeing “ability to multitask” as a strength, because frankly…

Multitasking is impossible.

When you think of multitasking as more than just “chewing gum and walking at the same time”, you’ll quickly realize it’s not actually multitasking at all, but task-switching. And when you’re asking your brain to CONSTANTLY switch gears, it’s no wonder you’re exhausted all the time and feel like you’re getting nothing accomplished.

There are certainly times in which you can do two tasks at one time – checking e-mail while jogging on the treadmill, for example – but even that only goes so far. If you had an important e-mail to write out, you’d almost certainly wait until you were done exercising. It’s the same reason you turn down your radio when you’re driving and think you may be lost; your brain can only stretch so far when attempting to do more than one thing at a time.

Multitasking is not efficient.

It’s also important to note that multitasking is also incredibly inefficient; the more you try to “multitask”, the more apt you are to make mistakes.

How many times have you accidentally used baking powder instead of baking soda because you were trying to make muffins while checking your child’s homework and also writing out a grocery list? Or how many times have you misplaced your keys because as you come into the house you’ve suddenly got three people wanting ten different things? It’s not just the stress that makes you feel frazzled, but it’s your inability to break the multitasking habit.

Speaking of stress, though…

Multitasking is stressful!

Multitasking stresses you out, not just from the mistakes you made, but also going back to one of my original points: you’re exhausting yourself and your brain.

When you try to multitask, you use up what’s called your “working memory”, your auditory and visual-spatial memory. Because of this, you’re basically bottlenecking your thought processes, but rather than filtering them through one at a time, you’re trying to jam them through all at once – hence the stress.

Along those same lines, just as you’re more apt to make mistakes, you’re more apt to inadvertently ignore other things going around you when you try to multitask.

For example, I originally fleshed out this idea of banning multitasking while on a walk with my son. Do you remember the viral video a few years ago about counting basketballs and in the middle of it, a gorilla walked by and almost all of us missed it? It’s because our brains were so focused on the basketballs that we missed the “beauty” of the gorilla.

So likewise, when you’re looking down at your phone while waiting for a bus, you may miss the love of your life walk by. Or maybe you’re watching TV while reading this post, and you’re losing out not only on some productivity tips, but you’re wasting your time by even trying to process what it is I’ve written.

Should we stop multitasking altogether?

Despite everything I’ve said, I don’t mean that you should stop multitasking all together, because let’s face it – there are times when multitasking is a MUST (whether we like or not!)

Take this morning, for example:

Kids woke up when I did at 7am and I offered them 30 minutes of “tablet time” in exchange for the freedom to knock out a few e-mails to my clients.

They agreed to it…until 7:10am when I heard “MOMMMMM! I’m STARRRRRVING!” (This comes from my oh-so-dramatic 4 year old son.)

“Okay, bud,” I responded, “Do you want some cereal?”

“Hmmmmmm….how about french toast?” he said with his signature charming smile.

“No,” the 3 year old piped in, “Pancakes!”

Oy…

So now instead of writing that email, I had to settle a debate between the children regarding which kind of breakfast bread they wished to consume.

(Spoiler: We settled on french toast with the promise of pancakes tomorrow.)

brown hair toddler reading a book

My daughter doesn’t take my multitasking advice; she prefers a bit of light reading with her breakfast…

And of course as I started to make french toast, I realized I should also feed the dog and the cat. Oh and finish up some dishes. Oh and see if dinner requires any early prep work today. Oh and….

My e-mails!!

So rather than trying to juggle it all at once, I took a breath, grabbed my headphones, and used voice-to-text to map them out while the smell of butter and cinnamon filled the early morning air.

And as I was talking out my e-mails over the sound of egg-battered bread hitting the skillet, I found myself smiling. Because even though life is often a bit chaotic, it’s exactly what I’ve always wanted.

I’m my own boss (if we don’t count those two little ones who call me “mom”) and I get to spend my days not only living out my own dreams, but helping others do the same. All at my own pace, by my own choosing.

So do we multitask…or no?

If you’re like I was a few months ago, maybe the thought of not multitasking has never even crossed your mind. Or maybe you read this post and thought “DON’T multitask? HA! Yeah right…” But why not give it a shot?

I challenge you to try going just ONE day — it’s only 24 hours! — without multitasking. Meaning no podcast playing while you drive to work. No Facebook scrolling in the bathroom (gross). No folding laundry while watching TV. Only single-tasking allowed!

I guarantee you’ll be surprised at how difficult it is. Our brains have been trained to want to multitask, no matter how harmful it may be to do so. It’s like when you try to quit sugar – you don’t realize just how addicted you are to it until you try to stop.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a toddler eager to serve me some play-doh cupcakes. 😉

blonde toddler holding playdoh

Oh but before I go – what do you think…

Will you try to quit multitasking for a day? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Affirmations 101: Your Guide to Happier Thoughts

Affirmations 101: Your Guide to Happier Thoughts

Do you consider yourself a smooth talker? Or do you stumble over your words, your brain moving faster than your mouth?

Either way – what if I told you that you could talk your way into a healthier, wealthier, overall happier life? Sounds like crazy voodoo or maybe just hippy hullabaloo right? Fortunately I have science on my side as I tell you – affirmations DO work.

What is an affirmation?

An affirmation is simply a statement or declaration that something is valid and true.

Let’s say that when you pass by the hallway mirror on your way to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, you notice out loud, “My hair is a mess!”

Or perhaps when you are loading up the family car with groceries, you might mutter, “I spend a small fortune every week feeding these kids!”

You may not know it, but those are affirmations, albeit negative ones. An example of a positive affirmation is something like “I deserve to be happy!”

How do affirmations work?

It starts by becoming more mindful of your words, thoughts, and actions. When you catch yourself thinking or saying something negative, stop yourself. Find a way to put a positive spin on it, even when you don’t want to.

As you train your brain to be positive through your affirmations, it will become natural, and it will influence your life in all areas, including your thoughts. You will begin to manifest in your life what you envision to be true in your life, and you give affirmation to what you believe to be true.

Developing your own affirmations may feel uncomfortable at first, but as soon as you get used to the idea of speaking out positive truth, it will be a natural part of your daily routine.

When you catch a glimpse of that unruly hair, quickly exclaim, “I have such beautiful, healthy hair.”

And as you stock your kitchen, “I am so blessed to be able to provide so well for my family!”

Depending on what you hope to accomplish through positive affirmations, you will be able to tailor the phrases to benefit you individually. Identifying where you have weakness in thought patterns is a great place to start. If you are hard on yourself in a particular area, or if you are struggling with something specific, combat the tendency to be critical of yourself by immediately telling yourself what you would like to see, as though it has already happened that way.

You are amazing!

A big part of using positive affirmations is choosing to believe you are significant and you are valuable. You will be amazed at how dramatically this alone will change your life. If you are reminding yourself all day how valuable you are, your decisions will be made through a different lens, your reactions to negative circumstance will not be made out of fear, and you will develop a deeper sense of security in your emotional and physical well-being.

You may have read it, but a couple years ago I wrote a post on how I lived to blog, but I was scared it wouldn’t amount to anything. Regardless of that fear, I kept telling myself I was going to make it happen – I would find my freedom, quit my job, and be the work-at-home mom I’d always wanted to be.

And guess what?

It happened. In fact, just two months after writing that post, I was making more than enough money to quit my job and now work from home as a professional blogger and efficiency strategist, helping other bloggers master the art of bringing in profits without pressure.

So when doing your own affirmations, think of it as a narrator in your life, reading the script as you live it out. If the script says that you are successful and happy, you act out the narrative believing that it is true, before it happens. You tell yourself what to believe, so that it will happen.

If you still need more convincing, take eight minutes to watch this video (I PROMISE you, it’s worth it):

Tips on positivity

There are a few helpful things to keep in mind as you start on your journey towards a positive, healthy lifestyle full of new words, phrases and initially awkward declarations.

First, be grateful for who you are and what you can accomplish.

Second, don’t ever compare yourself to others.

Finally, don’t judge yourself or others.

As you implement these simple guidelines, you will be successfully affirming yourself with positivity in no time. You can begin using your positive affirmations to influence outcomes in all kinds of situations.

You listen to yourself more than you think! (And so do your kids!)

Usually what comes out of your mouth is a good indicator of what you believe. And guess what? If you’re saying it, your kids are hearing it. So even if you’re only directing negative self-talk at yourself, you’re still teaching your children that it’s okay to disrespect yourself and your surroundings in such a way.

If you believe you are not good enough, you will voice that in a number of ways, and in turn, you’ll produce less than stellar results. You can use positive affirmation to turn the tables, change your mind about what you believe and get positive results. After practicing positive affirmations regularly, your thought patterns will change and you will discover that your beliefs now have changed. The affirmations that are released from your mouth will now appropriately indicate your beliefs, and will be manifested in your life.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Usually what comes out of your mouth is a good indicator of what you believe. #affirmations #positivethinking” quote=”Usually what comes out of your mouth is a good indicator of what you believe.”]

Remember that positive affirmations are a tool to re-train your mind into believing what you are telling it to believe. When you are speaking, pay attention to the words. Convince yourself that what you are saying is true. Believe that you are who you say you are through your affirmations.

Don’t have time for affirmations?

That was always my excuse – “ugh! It’s just so hard to remember!” or “There’s no time in the mornings!”

Sound familiar?

Yeah, thought so. That’s why I made it a habit to do affirmations WITH my children. If you struggle to believe in the power of affirmations, make it a point to include your children and watch as positive thinking becomes a family habit. There’s little better you can teach your children than to think positive.

[clickToTweet tweet=”There’s little better you can teach your children than to think positive.” quote=”There’s little better you can teach your children than to think positive.”]

Here are a few examples of positive affirmations to influence your day:

  • I trust myself to make great choices
  • I am unique and significant
  • I am totally capable of providing well for my family
  • I was made to experience life abundantly
  • I was created to be healthy and whole
  • I am a source of great comfort, peace and joy for my family
  • I am creative and resourceful
  • I attract interesting people and amazing opportunities, because I am interesting and amazing
  • I am calm and relaxed when I interact with others
  • I study and comprehend what I read easily
  • I am surrounded by love
  • I have the means to experience life as I choose
  • My body is healthy and functioning as it should

As you habitually remind yourself of all that you are through positive affirmations, you will achieve far greater success in your life — physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and financially.

You will thrive in your abundantly blessed life, and everyone around you will want to know your secret.

Do you have any experience with positive affirmations? I’d love to hear about your successes!

Apocalyptic Brain: My Response to Hawaii’s False Alarm

Apocalyptic Brain: My Response to Hawaii’s False Alarm

I have what I call an “apocalyptic brain.”

The first time I realized that’s what it was when I was on my way to pick my babies up from daycare.

At the time, my daughter was eight months old and my son had just turned two. And because he had just turned two, he was moved to the “twos room” all the way on the other side of the daycare building.

So there I was, waiting at the red light to turn toward the daycare, and suddenly I was lost…

Tumbling down into this pit of chaos and confusion. Darkness all around and when I opened my eyes, there was pandemonium.

In my mind, a bomb had just went off, reducing half the city to ashes, and I had mere moments to get to the daycare. But once there, which direction do I choose? With both babies at either end of the building, how do I pick which child to go after first? What if something happens to one while I’m rescuing the other? Where will we go from there? Stay put or run?? How do I save my husband? Or do I trust he’ll find us? What if we never see each other again and something happens to me?? Who will make sure my babies are safe???

It wasn’t until a horn blared behind me that I realized the light had turned green. My knuckles screamed in protest as I pried my fingers from the steering wheel and turned into the daycare. Everyone safe. Everyone sound…well, almost everyone…

I consider myself (more-or-less) a logical person but even now, writing this piece, I can feel my chest tightening. Yes, I know the scene that played out wasn’t real, but in that moment? In that moment, it was everything and my inability to quickly find a safe solution has stayed with me ever since.

While I have since implemented various strategies and coping mechanisms to help me work through this anxiety, I awoke on Saturday January 13th to find myself once again being threatened by the chaos.

In case you’ve been living under a rock – which, uh, can I join you?? – Hawaii inadvertently sent a message out via its emergency alert system that a ballistic missile threat was inbound and residents were told to seek immediate shelter. Luckily it was a false alarm, but the fallout from it is far from over…

In the 24 hours that have followed, my newsfeed has been overtaken by stories of Hawaiian mothers and the panic they felt and articles on what people went through as they prepared to try and survive. I can already hear some of you telling me, “Well just stay off social media, Amber!” but that’s far easier said than done when it’s my job. When was the last time you tried going with social media for a day?

I know I shouldn’t read the stories, but my apocalyptic brain needs to know what happened, to absorb the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” of it all.

Then my primal brain jumps in and tries to allay my fears, to pretend that this isn’t an actual threat. That we’re not at risk for nuclear war. That we’re not lead by a man-child who uses Twitter to threaten other supposed leaders.

But honestly it’s my logical brain that continues to win out. I recognize that while an apocalypse probably isn’t looming (despite what my mother says), the chance of a war has become a very real possibility. All we can do is prepare and live our best lives possible, because frankly we can’t know how we’ll react in a situation such as this one. Sure, we could let our brains run away, send us into an anxious world of chaos, or we could choose to keep moving forward.

“Prepare for the worst, but expect the best”, right?

Yes, we have supplies in our basement should the worst happen. And yes, I’ll continue to plead “joke” with my Canadian friends about adopting me. But in the meantime, we’ll continue to live our lives and strive to do better. To volunteer more with our children. To be civically engaged. And to trust that this country will eventually be the brilliant land of freedom its so often thought to be.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Don’t let the anxiety, fear, or anger win out. Choose to be better.” quote=”Don’t let the anxiety, fear, or anger win out. Continue to be the best, most kind person YOU can be and teach your children to do the same.”]

Believe it’ll get better from here and maybe together we’ll make it so.

Mother Daughter Date Ideas for the Winter

Mother Daughter Date Ideas for the Winter

Looking for free mommy/daughter date ideas? You’ve come to the right place! And fortunately many of these ideas will also work for Father/Daughter dates, Mommy/Son dates, or for whole family fun!

As another year draws to close and winter fully sets in, it can be hard to want to get up and go. Trust me, I get that — it’s due to be -16 °F as I write this!! Rather than setting your kids in front of the TV while you hide under blankets and cry over your holiday budget gone awry, though, why not make use of this quieter time of year and plan out a few Mommy/Daughter dates?

When it comes to planning out Mommy/Daughter dates, the best ones are both free and easy. While it can be tough to find things to do during the winter, these are a few experiences I’ve used to ensure we don’t go stir-crazy during the cold months. They’re not always completely free, but they are done with frugality in mind. Also, please note that this post is sponsored by C’est Ça New York, a company that makes absolutely gorgeous tulle and lace garments (the Mommy & Me skirts being a favorite of mine!)

Along those lines, links below may be affiliate links, which means I receive compensation should you click through to purchase (this comes at no additional cost to you).

Mommy/Daughter Picnic

Just because it’s cold outside, doesn’t mean you can’t picnic! My husband and I received an absolutely AMAZING picnic set for our wedding and while it’s certainly a lot of fun to use during the summer months, I occasionally allow for it to be used for a fun indoor picnic. My daughter and I will pack it up from our snack cart and fruit drawer then we’ll march around the house, singing “Teddy Bear Picnic” while searching for the perfect spot to lay out our blanket. It seems silly, but it always ends it full tummies and giggles (*psst* don’t tell her, but it’s also a way I “trick” her into eating more fruit!)

Read a Book at the Library

I’m sure library visits are probably already on your list of rainy day ideas, but how often do you actually sit and read at the library? Find a cozy spot in the children’s section and take half an hour to read whatever books your child brings your way. With few distractions, it’s a great way to spend some quality time together while also enjoying a bit of peace and quiet.

brown hair toddler reading book stuffed animals

Hot Cocoa Party

Tea parties are so old hat, a hot cocoa party is where it’s at! Serve up a mini-buffet of candy canes, whipped cream, chocolate chips, and anything else your little one might like to top her cocoa with and then let her at it. Just don’t forget to set a place for the teddy bears and dollies, too!

Salon

When was the last time you let your child pick out your clothes or do your hair? Probably never, right? But I bet they’d love it! Let your child be a “salon owner” and give you a full head-to-toe makeover – clothes, makeup, you can even let them brush your hair! Little makes my daughter happier than when I hand her a brush to brush my hair…and honestly, she’s gotten pretty good at it, so it’s actually a nice relaxing time for me, too!

Fun Photo Shoot

And after the makeover, why not do a fun photo shoot?? Better yet, why not dress in matching outfits and set it up so you can both be in front of the camera.

I’ll admit, before I had kids, I thought Mommy/Daughter outfits were a bit weird, but then I had my daughter and oh.my.goodness – she’s a mini-me and I love it!! When we got our matching tulle skirts from C’est Ça New York I couldn’t believe how gorgeous they were. We opted for the champagne color so we had more options in terms of leggings worn underneath and it is most definitely true to the pictures shown.

Little makes me happier in terms of fashion than a tulle skirt and these are phenomenally made (while also making ME look and feel great!) And of course my daughter was in heaven, running about the room squealing about being a princess. In fact, she was running around so fast, it was hard to grab a picture, but we’ll be posting some soon on my Instagram so don’t forget to follow us!

Wiggles Workout

Okay so now that we’ve had some food, hot chocolate, and a makeover, why not burn off any remaining energy with a little workout fun? Maybe you’re not quite as big of a fan as I am when it comes to The Wiggles, but there are many other kids shows that have dancing about in them – pick one and get up and dance! I opt for The Wiggles because they’re always so high energy, but still easy to follow along. Seriously, this is a great way to not only get your child burning off some excess sillies, but if you struggle to get a workout in during the day, this is a great way to bond with your child AND live a healthier life.

Mommy/Daughter Date Time

Regardless of how you spend time with your child (volunteering with your child is also a great way to go!), the fact that you’re taking time out to just spend some 1:1 time with your kid will do wonders for the both of you. Your children don’t care about how much money you’re making and they certainly can’t wrap their little minds around the every day stress we battle as parents, but giving them an hour or two of JUST you and your attention? That’s truly priceless to them.

So why not make it a goal in 2018 to schedule out at least a couple hours each month to do nothing but enjoy the light you brought into this world? Goodness knows they won’t stay little forever…

What sort of activities do you plan when you’re having 1:1 time with one of your kids?

Comment below, I’d love to hear about it!