Browsing Category: motherhood

Free Printable: Halloween Treat Bag Tags

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Halloween is fast approaching, and if your child(ren)’s school is anything like my kids’, then you’ve been volun-told/tasked/guilt-tripped into preparing treat bags for your child’s class! A couple years ago, I made some “Ghostly Grub” for my boys’ class, which was a HUGE hit with the children. It’s super easy to make and these treat bag tags will top off your hard work perfectly!

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Recipe for Ghostly Grub:

Combine the following:

Chex cereal – Monster Scabs
Pretzel sticks – Skeleton Bones (*Optional – cover the pretzel sticks with melted white chocolate or candy melts)
Candy Corn – Jack-o-lantern Teeth
Chocolate chip morsels – Witch’s Warts
Marshmallows – Ghost Poop

I put the mixture into ziplock bags, then placed the plastic bags into a cut up paper lunch bag. I wish I had had time to send the children outside to look for sticks, but living in a city without a yard or trees of our own, I realized that it was a bigger task than I could handle. I did, however, have some wooden chopsticks, which worked in a pinch to create broomsticks!

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Both treat bag tags are available here for free: Just click on the image for the high-resolution jpeg and right click to download!

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Ghostly Grub Tags

 

 

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No Tricks, Just Treats! Tag

 

 

The tags measure approximately 2.5 inches in diameter, and I recommend using a 2.5 in circle punch to cut them out although scissors work just fine!

Happy Halloween! 👻🎃

Fairy Princess Photo Shoot

A couple months ago, my bestie flew in from Naples, Italy for a 2 week visit. We did a bit of exploring in Pittsburgh, which is still new to me, and we road tripped down to Baltimore for a weekend, visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, and we spent an inordinate amount of time watching TV, taking selfies, and giggling like teenagers.

The best part of her visit is that it was an absolute surprise. She and my husband took it upon themselves to plan this trip without my knowledge, so I had no time to prepare for her visit. I didn’t care that my house was a mess and that we hadn’t even finished unpacking all our crap, that the guest bedroom was still in shambles, or that I had no childcare plans for while she was in town. However, the big downside was that I had NO TIME to plan and style a photoshoot for my kids!!! The fabulous Zayda of Zayda Barros Photography and I had talked about so many different styled photo shoots we wanted to do with my children, and here she was… And I didn’t have a thing prepared.

Thankfully, we had 2 weeks to put something easy together–thanks to my beautiful, wooded backyard–and my daughter wanted nothing more than to become a fairy princess for a day so it was perfect. And Zayda made it happen!

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There was a mad dash to order things from Amazon and visits to Michaels and Joann Fabrics. Thanks to the genius of Pinterest, I was able to put together a very easy tulle dress very similar to this one. I just loop tied long strips of tulle to a crochet chain “thread” and belted it with another piece of tulle. Easy peasy! I spray painted a cheap black lantern with metallic gold spray paint, and we ordered a beautiful pair of wings, a flower crown, paper butterflies, and a bottle of glitter from Amazon. Then through the magic of photography, Zayda transformed my little girl into a fairy princess!

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And because sometimes, Mommy wants to be a fairy princess too… 😝

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To see more from Penny’s Fairy Princess Photo Shoot, visit Zayda’s website: Zayda Barros Photography

Pattern: Picture Perfect Ladybug Photo Prop

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Sometimes, you just want to dress up a newborn baby like a ladybug and take a photo of her all curled up, looking ADORABLE.

Back in 2012 when my daughter was born, the newborn photography craze was just starting to take off, so I took it upon myself to crochet ridiculous costumes for her while I was pregnant and miserable. And photos like these were my reward. 😆 Now that the newborn photography craze is in full effect, here’s the Picture Perfect Ladybug Photo Prop pattern for free!

To get the PDF, click here: Picture Perfect Ladybug

Enjoy and Happy Crocheting! 💞🐞💞

Free Printable: Thank You Card for Teachers

I’ve spent the past several weeks working diligently on things for my delightfuledesigns shop on Etsy. With my big boys headed off to school in just a few short days, my mind has definitely been on teachers and the classroom.

So here’s a little peek at what I’ve stocked my shop with lately:

But I’ve also been teetering on the brink of insanity while my kids bounce off the walls and have become The. Neediest. Children. EVAR. as we get closer to the end of summer break. All I can say is WINE. Yep. Wine.

So as my children drive me to drink and the first day of school draws near… THANK YOU, TEACHERS!!! 😉 For all the moms out there who would also like to thank a teacher, or two, or ten… Here’s a free printable for thank you cards with a beautiful quote about teachers from Albert Einstein. Just click on the image to access a high resolution JPEG file with 2 thank you cards on an 8.5×11  inch/letter sized sheet of paper. Select “letter borderless” for printing, and make sure that the image is set at 100% scale. Print on card stock, cut, and fold! The cards fit perfectly in A2 envelopes.

Etsy Template for Greeting Cards

And if you’re looking for something to gift to the special teacher who will be caring for and shaping your darling child(ren)’s little heart(s), the delightfuledesigns Etsy shop has a 50% off coupon code–good until August 31st! Just enter ONEYEAR at checkout to get 50% off any purchase, including personalized items.

Enjoy the free printable, the coupon code, and THE FACT THAT KIDS ARE GOING BACK TO SCHOOL!!! I’m looking forward to it not being so ungodly hot and sticky that I can pull out my yarn and start knitting and crocheting again. Yay for cooler weather and hopefully, some new knit/crochet patterns in the coming months!

Why I Lie to my Kids

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With just one short week until Christmas, my Facebook Newsfeed is full of posts about decorating trees, baking cookies, visiting Santa, the oh-so-naughty Elf on a Shelf, videos of kids singing songs about Rudolph, and in contrast, I’m bombarded with numerous articles and blog posts about why some parents choose to not buy into the world of Christmas Make-Believe. Several friends have also posted about the fact that telling their young children about the mythical world of the North Pole and its crazy cast of characters is akin to lying. And they don’t want to lie to their children.

This got me thinking… I lie to my kids Every. Single. Day. Multiple times a day, in fact. I lie to them all kinds of things. When they ask me how I know they were doing something when I wasn’t even looking at them, I tell them that mommies have secret, hidden eyes on the back of their heads. When they ask me how I cleaned the whole house while they were napping, I tell them that I used my Mommy Magic or that some fairies flew into the house while they were asleep to help me. I tell them that restaurants and stores are closed—when they’re not. That the grocery store was all out of ice cream. That they had enough money in their piggy bank to buy their baby sister the stuffed animal she wanted. I lie to them on purpose. And I lie to them WITH purpose.

I do it because I want my children to believe in magic. I want their young lives—untainted by the nastiness and cruelty of the Real World—to BE MAGICAL. I want them to look upon this world we live in in absolute wonder. I want their imaginations to run wild. I want them to believe that the people, places and things they encounter are filled with amazing possibilities. I want them to grow up believing in miracles. I lie to my children not because I want to frighten them into submission or bribe them into behaving like model citizens, lest they end up on Santa’s Naughty List and receive coals for Christmas. I lie to them to make them laugh, to bring joy into their wonderful little worlds.

I lie to my kids because they are tiny little humans who believe. They believe that Mommy can make the hurt go away with her magical kisses. They believe that Daddy is the strongest person in the world who can fix anything and everything. They believe that our family is the happiest and the funnest family in the whole world. They believe that Mommy and Daddy’s bed is The Safest (and Snuggliest and Best) Place on Earth. They believe in amazing and fantastical things as only children can.

I lie to my children because their childhood is brief. Before long, their sweet voices will be tinged with sarcasm and disinterest as they grow older, experience the world, and become more independent. They’ll become jaded, and things like pushing their own kid-sized shopping cart at the grocery store will bore them. Squeezing our family of five onto one couch for movie night will no longer appeal to them. They’ll soon start to roll their eyes at me when I tell them I have eyes on the back of my head…

The magic and fantasy of childhood is limited, and their experiences in this world—the Real World—are unavoidable, inevitable. Soon, the magic of Christmas will fade. They won’t believe in the Tooth Fairy. They will realize that Mommy’s kisses are just plain kisses and don’t actually heal wounds. My children will stop looking up at me, hanging on every word, their eyes round in wonderment, as I weave tall tales for them. But their memories will be there—memories of being enchanted, of sharing their beautiful imaginations with Mommy and Daddy, and of the magic of childhood.

I know that Santa Claus and reindeers and a giant, magical toy factory in the North Pole aren’t what Christmas is all about, but this moment of childhood wonder and belief is brief. They have the rest of their lives to appreciate the meaning and the spirit of Christmas sans jolly, old man in a red suit. But for now, Santa is magical. And magical is good.

Free Printable: Love Coupon Book

My husband has always been impossible to shop for. Several years ago, I forced him to put together an Amazon Wish List, so whenever a birthday or holiday rolls around, I go to his wish list and buy him a few things from the list. Not terribly fun or romantic. This year, his wish list is sparse. Only 2 items! One of which is a really expensive computer/network/high-tech item (I don’t even know what it does) that he specifically told me not to buy because he’s not ready to set it all up yet. :-/ Gee… Thanks! So in a sad attempt to make sure that he has SOMETHING under the tree to unwrap Christmas morning, I bought him some socks and underwear.

After some thought though… I decided to make him something fun. Something that I know he’ll get a kick out of. Something unexpected! And since so many of my friends have been talking about how hard it is to shop for their husbands, I’m sharing! 🙂

Presenting The Naughty and Nice Coupon Book! It’s pretty self-explanatory. 😉

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The free printable is a 2-page PDF that includes the two pages pictured above. Just print it out, write in things you’re willing to do for the special person in your life, cut them out, punch holes, tie with a ribbon and VOILA! You’ve got a fun-for-the-both-of-you gift!

Click here to download the FREE Naughty and Nice Coupon Book!

A For Purchase version is available in the delightful. Etsy shop. For $4, download a version that’s got 29 naughty and nice things already written out, plus a full sheet of fill-in-the-blank coupons.

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A Month’s Worth of Fun School Lunches!

The month of September was a difficult one for my kids and me. Don’t get me wrong–my boys have been having a WONDERFUL time at kindergarten, and they’re thriving, but it was definitely a month of transitions and of mommy being stretched reeeeeeeally thin, at times. My husband was traveling for work for half the month, so I had to do everything alone. This wasn’t the first time he’s traveled for work, but it was the first time I was home with SCHOOL-AGED children. Getting kids ready for school, dropping them off, picking them up–all on a strict schedule–is exhausting. Really, really exhausting. And to top it all off, all 3 of my kids have been sick at some point during my husband’s 2 weeks out of town. Figures… :-p

Anyway, one way I’ve been able to squeeze in some creative crafting time during the past month while barely managing to keep my head above water is with my boys’ school lunches. Something productive (that has to be done) and something pretty in one!

So here’s my month’s worth of fun (and easy) school lunches with brief descriptions of how I made them:

Some helpful tips about making school lunches:

  • Make a weekly schedule. It takes a bit of time to put a weekly meal schedule together, but it ends up saving time in the long run. Plus, it alleviates the stress of “WHAT AM I GOING TO PACK FOR LUNCH!!!” the night before. Here’s a free printable for planning a week’s worth of meals.
  • There are many, many tools to make your life easier such as cookie cutters, cute bento-box animal picks, rice molds, and nori cutters. Living in Korea, I have easy and inexpensive access to many of these items, but they’re also available on Amazon. For “specialty” bento box tools such as the animal picks and nori cutters, just do a quick search.
  • Prep as much as you can the night before. I usually prep fruits and vegetables the night before and stick the containers in the fridge. That just leaves rice balls and/or sandwiches for the morning. Keep in mind that some foods don’t reheat very well (such as the rice balls) so those must be prepped the morning off. Nori must also be used immediately after cutting. The humidity in the room will cause it to curl (or dry out too much) if you wait too long after cutting it to use it. This is why nori-cutters are so useful!
  • Leftovers are your friend! During the week, I specifically make a couple of dinners with leftovers for lunch in mind. Also, serve breakfast for lunch. Kids won’t mind! One of the biggest challenges for me is thinking about lunch-appropriate meals, but who says they have to eat “lunch” at lunch time? Egg mari is a popular side dish in Korean cuisine, so I make it fairly regularly for my kids. It’s basically just a sliced up omelet. I also make bacon, egg, cheese and toast muffins, which are technically a breakfast food, but the kids love it. They’ll eat it for breakfast before they go to school, then eat it again for lunch the same day. 😉

For me, packing my kids’ lunches is something I enjoy doing. If you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it and don’t stress about not doing enough for your children! When I started posting photos of my kids’ lunches on Instagram, my friends began responding with things like “You’re making me feel like a crappy mom.” 🙁 First of all, my kids would be just as happy with a plain ham and cheese sandwich, a bag of chips and an apple EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. They don’t need or ask for variety. Secondly, by the time they open their lunch boxes at school, my cute little bento creations are a COMPLETE MESS. Their lunch box goes into their backpacks every morning. And every morning, they run down the stairs of our apartment building. They run from the car to their classroom. They may even fall down, roll down a hill, jump over puddles, do a few jumping jacks, or run an obstacle course on their way. I’ve joined them for lunch from time to time, and their bento boxes are utterly unrecognizable. So basically, their lunches are for photographic purposes only. 😉 I do, however, show the boys their lunches before I put their lunch boxes into their backpacks so it’s not a complete waste. Haha!

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed!

Happy Lunch-Making!

My Blissfully Happy, Unprepared Kindergarteners!

My baby boys start kindergarten in just 2 short weeks… Time has flown by, and I can’t believe that we’re already here. Although I have trouble remembering what my life was like before kids, I can remember being overwhelmed with feedings and diaper changes like it was just yesterday. It all happens so quickly.

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A year ago, my husband and I made the decision to not send the boys to preschool. We struggled with the decision, weighing the pros and cons, making lists, reading everything I could find on the real benefits of putting them in school at age 4 rather than at age 5. Plus, the cost of sending two kids to preschool at the same time is nothing to scoff at. When we finally decided to keep them home, the plan was for me to “teach” them the things they would have learned in preschool. At first, the kids and I did a pretty good job. We worked on our numbers and our ABCs… I planned lessons and printed out worksheets, put together craft activities and thought of creative ways for them to learn all the basics.

But after a while, I got frustrated with trying to keep my then 19 month old occupied long enough for us to make it through just one letter. A couple days would go by without me “teaching” them anything (it seemed), and I would feel guilty about it, and we’d try again to get through the letters and numbers we missed so we’d be back on track. It was a vicious cycle of frustration and guilt. Our daily lessons became more of a chore than anything else, but my friends whose kids were in preschool were already learning how to read, and my Facebook Newsfeed was full of posts about friends’ preschoolers who were academically doing so much more than my kids. Mom guilt can be unbearable.

Then I read this amazing blog post about what a 4 year old should know:

So here, I offer my list of what a 4 year old should know.

* She should know that she is loved wholly and unconditionally, all of the time.
* He should know that he is safe and he should know how to keep himself safe in public, with others, and in varied situations. He should know that he can trust his instincts about people and that he never has to do something that doesn’t feel right, no matter who is asking. He should know his personal rights and that his family will back them up.
* She should know how to laugh, act silly, be goofy and use her imagination. She should know that it is always okay to paint the sky orange and give cats 6 legs.
* He should know his own interests and be encouraged to follow them. If he couldn’t care less about learning his numbers, his parents should realize he’ll learn them accidentally soon enough and let him immerse himself instead in rocket ships, drawing, dinosaurs or playing in the mud.
* She should know that the world is magical and that so is she. She should know that she’s wonderful, brilliant, creative, compassionate and marvelous. She should know that it’s just as worthy to spend the day outside making daisy chains, mud pies and fairy houses as it is to practice phonics. Scratch that– way more worthy.

I remember feeling the guilt and stress and pressure of parenting lifting off my shoulders. All of the things I wanted for my children–right here–put into words and published by another mom. I wasn’t alone in all this!

So I stopped spending my evenings after putting the kids to bed planning out lessons and scouring the internet for teaching resources, and we stopped trying to force ABC and counting lessons while trying to prevent my daughter from eating paper and crayons and scribbling on the walls. Instead, we visited parks and playgrounds, went to museums and play parks with friends, took swim lessons and started martial arts classes. Over the past year, the boys have gone fishing and digging for clams. They’ve fed animals at petting zoos and ran around like lunatics at playgrounds. They’ve practiced riding their big boy bicycles and created masterpieces with play-dough. Their vocabulary (both Korean and English) has improved dramatically. They’ve spent time with friends and relatives and had regular lunch dates with Daddy. We attended story time at our local library and became involved in a weekly playgroup. The boys both hosted and attended their very first sleepovers. We caught tadpoles and found newly hatched baby birds inside an old mailbox. We baked cupcakes for our neighbors, took homemade cookies to Daddy’s office. They learned how to wash dishes and make their own beds (sort of), and we built forts and dressed up in full costume for epic lightsaber battles in the living room. It’s been a year of making memories with my too-quickly-growing children.

When we registered the boys for kindergarten, we were given a list of things kindergarteners SHOULD know before starting school. I scanned the list and realized that my boys are apparently completely unprepared for kindergarten because The List didn’t care that my boys learned about gravity at the Rolling Ball Museum or that they visited a working farm on the Korean countryside and saw how vegetables are harvested and prepared for sale. The List didn’t ask whether or not they understood how coal was made and used to heat homes in Korea or how clay is glazed and fired before it can be used. The List didn’t mention anything about how much they know about the lives of people like Abraham Lincoln and Amelia Earhart and Henri Matisse from books read to them before bedtime. The List didn’t know my children at all.

Our children’s experiences and memories and all the things they’ve learned along the way don’t fit on any single list. And amazingly–somehow–over the past year as we adventured through Seoul, this Type-A, always over-prepared, plan-ahead-obsessed mama has learned to let go. I tossed The List in the trash can. My boys are HAPPY. And that’s enough for now.

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Motherhood and the Importance of Friendship

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My 2 year old daughter recently started a mommy and me ballet class, and in many ways, it’s more of a 40 minute test of mommy’s patience than it is a learning experience for toddlers. Our first class consisted of my daughter crying, asking to be held, burying her face in my lap, and begging to go home. When she wasn’t doing that, she laid herself out on the floor and basically cleaned the dance floor with her brand new, pale pink leotard and tutu. I’ll just say that it’s not pink anymore. :-/ For 40 long minutes, it’s pretty much chaos as these beautiful little babies in their adorable outfits run amuck, pick their noses, scream, twirl around in circles until they fall down, and randomly burst into tears while moms sweat, urge, beg and plead for their daughters to listen to the instructor, all the while flailing our arms and kicking our legs in the air in a desperate attempt to get our daughters to do the same thing.

The second class was better. Penny only asked to go home about 7 times. And as we danced and twirled and pointed our toes, I noticed that a friend of mine was having a difficult time with her daughter. All dressed up and as pretty as a picture, she stood in the corner and screamed, her cute little face all scrunched up and red from the exertion, while I’m sure her mom (if she’s anything like me!) tried reasoning, begging, pleading and bribing her daughter to stop crying and get back out on the dance floor. Eventually, my friend gave up and left class with her crying daughter in tow. She flashed a quick smile, and before I could say or do anything, she was out the door.

I’ve seen that smile so many times as friends rush out of playdates or parties or meals with unhappy toddlers tucked under their arms. A smile mixed with an apology, masking embarrassment, hoping that no one can tell that mommy just wants to sit on the floor and cry herself. I’ve been there too–more times than I’d like to remember. Mothers empathize. Yet, so often, when life with young children gets difficult, we’re quick to run, to hide the temper tantrums behind closed doors and brush our own frustrations under the rug–at least in public. We isolate ourselves so that we can deal with our lives and our children on our own, and aside from the occasional rants on Facebook, which often elicit an onslaught of varied and often unrealistic suggestions on what to do, we remain quiet about the challenges we face as mothers. Collectively, we praise the idea that “it takes a village to raise a child,” but when times get tough, we build walls around ourselves and deal with our children’s bad days and temper tantrums on our own.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why can’t we ask for “help” from friends and fellow moms? For me and my Type-A personality, it’s a constant struggle. Despite wanting to jump up and help when my friends need a hand, I have so much trouble ASKING for help from others. And more often than not, I stop myself from helping friends because I wonder if they’ll think I’m overstepping boundaries. But really… What’s wrong with a friend jumping in and helping to calm down an angry/sad/frustrated child when mom’s ready to pull her hair out? Is it wrong of moms to take a breather? Isn’t it better to deal with difficult situations when we’ve had a moment to catch our breath rather than when we’re feeling so frazzled that you can’t believe “this is me”? Sometimes, I see friends’ kids doing things that I’ve been through with my own children, and from my experience, I think I can help diffuse a situation. But is it okay for me to step in? Would my friends disapprove of how I handle a situation? Would she be upset that I stepped into her territory? We’ve gotten so caught up with the “right” and “wrong” ways to parent that we forget that there are a million different ways to do so. As mothers, we worry about everything, including whether or not other people think that we’re doing “it” right as if there’s a “right” way to be a mother. There isn’t. And if we mistakenly show people our children on a bad day, throwing a tantrum and all, we worry that people will think we’re bad mothers. We’re not.

Culturally, we’re taught to be independent. We praise the idea of making our own way and solving our own problems (often for good reason). And the old adage–that which does not kill us only makes us stronger (also a great life lesson)–supports the idea that it’s necessary for us to struggle, to fight our way through life, through motherhood. But along the way, we lose sight of the fact that everything doesn’t need to be a struggle. We don’t have to fight our way to the top of this great mountain known as Being a Mom. There’s no trophy if you “win.”

When my twin boys were 18 months old, my husband went to Afghanistan for 4 months. when daddys awayA VERY LONG 4 months, and during that time, I realized that there was–at least for me–a big difference between ASKING FOR help and ACCEPTING help. Maybe because I looked so desperate and because my friends and neighbors felt pity on me (haha!), people just stepped up to help. I didn’t have to ask them. When I took my boys over to a friend’s house for a BBQ, people swooped in and took them off my hands, played with them, fed them, stopped them from burning themselves on the hot grill, and even scolded them when they did things they shouldn’t do. And despite missing my husband and wanting him home with us, I actually cherished this time that the boys had where truly, the community was invested in their well-being and growth as little human beings. They were loved and cared for and taught by all the adults around them.

Not long after my husband returned from Afghanistan, we–very reluctantly–had to say goodbye to our friends and neighbors and move to another state. And not too long after, we moved again to Korea. We’ve lived here now for over a year and a half, and we’ve made some amazing friends, many of them other moms with children my kids’ ages. We have playdates together, share meals together, explore Seoul together. And every now and again, the moms get together without our masses of children to enjoy a meal without having to tend to a crying child or in my case–wipe a child’s butt because my kids always seem to have to go poo during mealtimes… :-/ As we’ve grown closer, we’ve learned more about each other’s parenting styles, come to adore each other’s children, vacationed together and even scheduled playdates for our husbands with the hopes that they’ll like each other as much as we like each other. I can honestly say that the friendships I’ve made here are some of the biggest reasons why my family’s time here in Korea–away from all the things familiar to us–has been worth it. Yet, so many of us, despite how close we’ve become, maintain our iron grip on our independence from each other when it comes to raising our children.

Maybe it’s time to let go? Maybe, we can allow our friends to enrich the lives of our children the way they have enriched our own. The friends who I hold near and dear to my heart make me laugh, give me insight and advice, are people I can count on. And I know that if I let them in, they would bring all those wonderful qualities I love about them into my children’s lives. So next time my arms are full and I’m trying to wrangle my 2-year old while one of my 5 year olds has a meltdown over a broken toy or being told he can’t eat a donut for lunch, I will welcome my friends to talk him off the ledge, to share their compassion, their insights as mothers, and their friendship with my child. If your friend stops your toddler from running out into a parking lot, it says nothing about any motherly shortcomings. It simply says that more sets of eyes are better than one when small children are around. That your friends care for the safety and well-being of your child. And if you’re struggling with your kids and your friend reaches out and offers to help, breathe a sigh of relief, welcome the chance to step away, and accept it. She offers, not out of judgement, but out of love and compassion for you and your children. And in the process, your children will see with their own eyes and experience with their own hearts the importance of friendship.

Photo credit: Marisa Johnson Art and Photography