2 months ago

Mondays for Moms: 7 tips for surviving the holiday season with sanity

‘Twas the month before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse.

The children are nestled all snug in their beds with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads.

Me in my nightgown and hubs with his nightcap have just settled in for a long winter’s nap …

Yeah, right.

Well, at least that is not the case at my house.

At my house, the kiddos will be out of school in a few weeks, meaning their beautiful little eyes will be peering into mine each morning with the same loaded question: “What are we doing today, mommy?!?!?!?!” As if mommy doesn’t already have 1.57 billion things to do with family coming into town, gifts to wrap, parties to attend … the list is so long I’m beginning to sympathize with Santa having to check his lists twice for goodness sakes!

After we scarf down some breakfast, it’s that super fun game of:

“Don’t touch that!”

“Get down from there!”

“Please don’t pull on the ornaments!”

And, what about the fact that then there will only be like two rooms they can even go into (you know, because a big guy in a red suit will have stopped by …)
So then, the game becomes:

“Nope! Can’t go in there!”

“Please come back!” “Don’t peek under there!!!!!”

Shout out to all the moms! The time is near, friends. And we are all teetering on the brink of Fa La La La Losing our minds.

That’s right. The day is coming when school is either half-day or out for weeks, toddlers are running amuck and we won’t give a care about the new Christmas tree flavored drink at Starbucks anymore because we will all be driving our Hot Mess Expresses all over town to the [insert anywhere in the world that will entertain children] and back 1,478 times a week.

And if you’re anything like me, you’re kinda, not so secretly freaking out about it. I mean, nobody loves Christmas more than a momma, but the struggle is real when it comes to keeping the kiddos pacified until the 25th.

So, I have decided (on behalf of all of us) that we will not take this invasion of toddler tyranny sitting down. We refuse to be unprepared. We will get up off the couch, shed our mermaid blankets, toss our coffee mugs in the sink and take back our homes. One. Momma. At. A. Time.

In my weekly love letter to you beautiful ladies, here are seven tips for surviving the holiday season with sanity:

(1) Set boundaries – I promise you right now that this will be the most important thing you ever do for your family. Regardless of the season, boundaries are key. Fourteen holiday parties? No way. Fifty-seven kid functions after school? Nope. Family Christmases dominating the entire month of December? Not up in here.

If no one has ever told you this, please allow me the pleasure of being the first to share it with you: you and your family’s sanity is priority over your schedule. All the party invites and family functions will start to stack up this week. And with each one will come a little higher level of anxiety and a little larger pit in your stomach. Let this be the year of “no” to the hustle and bustle, and the year of “yes” to family time at home. You will never regret staying in and soaking up time with your little ones, so making them a priority is your call and your right as momma. Prayers now for you to be bold. You’ve got this, momma!

(2) Team up! Find a fellow mom (preferably one that you get along with and/or that your children adore one another) and set up some standing playdates. Kids crave interaction. They need it socially and honestly, they’ve gotta have it to get the silly billies out. Heavens knows we want those dang silly billies out …
Get a head start. Draft your team. Heck, get four or five mommas together and agree to trade off hosting once a week or designate a kid-friendly location in town to meet up. (Side note: if this location also serves adult beverages, you’re the winner in my book… #JustSayin…)

(3) Be prepared –  Prep yourself with some creative activities – Girl, listen. I love Pinterest like the rest of you. But ain’t nobody got time to stalk the whole site and come up with umpteen activities for each day. Because let’s get real — we’re normal and runny noses don’t wipe themselves.

So, I came up with some ideas that we can do for free, without overworking our creativity and/or maxing out our credit cards at Hobby Lobby (Side note: All the feels for Hobby Lobby all day, every day)…enjoy:

* Put together a family time capsule – We are loving this idea at our house! Fill a shoebox with a few toys, photos and other memorabilia of whatever is going on currently with your family. We have decided to write little notes about what is going on with our family as we are making each capsule. Then, we hide it in our basement closet and will return to it years down the road, peek inside and relive the memories. This is such a great sentimental craft but it is also an awesome way to eat through four hours of a day without even realizing it! Cabin fever be gone!

* Go on a scavenger hunt – Turns out you can set up a scavenger hunt in under 10 minutes. Simply select five to 10 items to hide, jot down quick clues and set out on the adventure to find them! Pro tip: Utilize your elf-on-the-shelf knowledge to help make your hunt even more fun!
* Put on a family talent show – Get the family together in the den, turn off the TV and let each family member have their own 15 minutes of fame!
* Build a fort and watch movies from inside – This is an all-time favorite for me. My brother and I used to build forts as kids and I still remember those times as some of my most favorite memories of childhood. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that will stick in your kids’ minds forever!
* Host a cookie/cake decorating party – Pro tip: Buy some premade sugar cookies, lay out some icing and sprinkles. Congratulations. You’ve just bought yourself at least an hour of sanity, friend.
* Recreational bath time – We can’t get in an actual pool due to cooler temps, so let the kids splash around in the tub. Since bathtime is focused on cleanliness, let this time be all about the fun! Consider pouring in just a bit of bubble bath to take the fun factor up even more notches! Plus, don’t forget to capture all those shampoo mohawk hair moments on the camera to laugh at for years to come!
* Storytelling session – Encourage your kiddos to explore their imagination! Consider giving them a character, a scene and a plot. Then, let them fill in the rest of the story.
* Make a homemade pizza – If you have time to plan ahead, make sure to stock your fridge with pizza ingredients for a super fun treat with your kids. Allow them to pick their toppings, assemble them and watch as you pop it in the oven! Fun fact: my kids are much more likely to eat all of their meal if they took part in the prep. Just like with adults, there is something “cool” about feeling like you cooked a great meal!
* Have a dance party – There is nothing that relieves stress faster and more effectively for me than turning up some music and just bustin’ a move ….
Let the kids pick the music and consider even throwing together a quick routine! P.S. Our family fave is “Some Nights” by Fun. (don’t forget the period.)
* Put on a fashion show – Encourage the kids to dig in their dress-up baskets and strut their stuff! Make it fun by giving out prizes for “best smile,” “best outfit,” “best walk,” etc.
* Host a family room camp out – Gather sleeping bags, pillows and lots of blankets to form a campsite in your den. Snuggle up and tell stories until time to go to sleep.
* Have a puzzle/game championship – Put out a bunch of puzzles and games for the children to select from. For extra fun, keep score as you compete as a family!

(4) Raid the Target dollar bins – Make this a sport that you attempt to win the gold medal in finding the greatest items. I am in a relationship with the Target dollar bins. It’s borderline unhealthy. Moving on … Heads up, you can walk in Target any day of the week and find a fun activity (or 10) for you and your little one(s) to do for under $10. Seriously. Locate your dollar bin section and have a ball. Heads up, they ramp it up even more during the holidays, but make sure to stock up early because once it’s gone, it’s gone, y’all!

(5) Plan some inexpensive day trips – No matter where you live, there is bound to be a park, museum, attraction, zoo, aquarium, etc. that would provide hours of enjoyment! Pack a picnic lunch and set out on a family adventure.

You don’t have to spend a bunch of money. If you live in a bigger city, you could even pack two attractions in for one day. Or, spread them out over the holiday season. The key to remember: the holidays are marathon, not a sprint! Don’t feel like you have to wear the hat of a professional cruise director day in and day out. Spread the activities out and give yourself a break!

(6) Look into classes and camps offered in your area – Did you know that churches, local colleges, zoos, museums and schools offer day camps/classes for children … even during the holidays?!? In fact, gyms, dance studios and theaters offer classes as well! You would be amazed at how many different organizations make an effort to give kids fun activities while school is out!
Here are some ideas of what’s available:

Dance/gymnastics classes/camps
Music classes/camps
Art classes/camps
Indoor swim lessons
Science camps (at children’s museums and schools)
Photography classes/camps for older kids
Theater classes/camps
Ice skating classes/camps (this is an interesting one that most people don’t think about …)

(7) Give yourself (and those sweet babies) grace –  When the goin’ gets tough, remind yourself of three things:
(1) You are enough. You are doing the best you can. And that’s enough. Heck, it’s better than enough. It’s awesome.
(2) You’re the one. God picked you to be the momma to your little ones. Out of the entire universe, God picked you. Wow. You are a star!
(3) You are so loved. God loves you. Those babies love you.

You’ve got this. Chin up, momma! Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t get down about the things you can’t control and focus on the ones you can. Junior is not gonna go on and on about his mother’s perfectly ironed duvet covers one day. But, he will brag about all those super fun, late night dance parties before bedtime.
Let’s love those babies like it’s goin’ out of style. And, most importantly, let’s give ourselves (and each other) grace.

Whew. This was a long one. Ha! What are your tips for surviving the holidays with sanity? Please share in the comments!

To receive encouragement and read more about thriving rather than simply surviving in motherhood, check out Erin’s book, Cheers the Diaper Years: 10 Truths for Thriving While Barely Surviving here.

Erin Brown Hollis is Yellowhammer’s lifestyle contributor and host of Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Cheers to That” podcast. An author, speaker, lawyer, wife and mother of two, she invites you to grab a cup as she toasts the good in life, love and motherhood. Follow Erin on Instagram ErinBrownHollis or Twitter @ErinBrownHollis.

13 mins ago

7 Things: Trump loves Alabama, impeachment limps along, driver in Rod Bramblett’s death indicted for manslaughter and more …

7. Some seem to want paroles sped up

  • After it was found that the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles was not following its own rules, pardons were stopped and then slowed. Now, some lawmakers seem to want that process to speed up, but the current leader doesn’t seem so keen on that idea, even though it isn’t his role.
  • When Director Charlie Graddick spoke to lawmakers Thursday, Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) and Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) questioned the policy changes and the slowdown in paroles.

6. Alabama teen kills three family members and then goes to school

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  • Landon Hudson Durham, a 16-year-old high school student, has been charged with capital murder in the stabbing deaths of his mother and his own two 13-year-old twin brothers before going to school as if nothing happened.
  • The bodies were found on Tuesday by a family member, but Durham wasn’t found until Wednesday morning after a member of law enforcement saw him walking on a state road. He was taken into custody without incident.

5. Free stuff for everyone doesn’t appeal to everyone

  • U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has made headlines multiple times for her plan to cancel student debt up to $50,000 for those making less than $100,000 per year if she’s elected president, but she was recently confronted by a voter for her plan that would cause a lot of students to get “screwed.”
  • The voter described how his daughter is currently in college, and that she doesn’t have student loans because he saved up to pay for her college and he asked if he’d get a refund, but Warren replied, “Of course not.” The father then said, “So you’re going to pay for people who didn’t save any money and those of us who did the right thing get screwed?”

4. Trump’s pro-life coalition

  • Friday, President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign is planning to reveal a pro-life coalition. The “Pro-Life Voices for Trump” will be led by Marjorie Dannenfelser, who stated, “From appointing pro-life judges to defunding Planned Parenthood, President Trump’s track record demonstrates he’s the most pro-life President in history.”
  • Trump is aiming to make the pro-life movement a huge issue in his campaign as another way to rally voters and encourage people to vote in the 2020 election, focusing on his changes to the courts that could clear the way to overturn Roe v. Wade.

3. Teen in Bramblett case has been indicted

  • Johnston Edward Taylor, 16, has been indicted for manslaughter by a Lee County judge for the wreck that killed the Voice of the Auburn Tigers Rod Bramblett and his wife, Paula.
  • Taylor’s bond in the case was previously revoked after two additional speeding tickets and one for reckless driving. His arraignment is scheduled for January 31; his trial is set to start on May 4.

2. No one is watching impeachment — everyone is already decided

  • As the boring and unwatched impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate continues, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) has brought even more absurd comments to the spotlight by claiming that President Donald Trump’s conduct “puts even President Nixon to shame.”
  • Even as the theatrical histrionics continue on the floor of the Senate, it is becoming increasingly clear that there will be no witness or documents added to the trial and that it will probably be over some time next week.

1. Trump vague about Alabama’s U.S. Senate race

  • President Donald Trump tweeted out polling stats from the Alabama Farmers Federation, which showed former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions leading at 35%, former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville at 31%, U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) at 12%, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore at 8% and State Representative Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) at 1%.
  • While the polling data is about two months old, Trump added in the tweet, “I LOVE ALABAMA!” Sessions’ campaign manager Jon Jones said that this shows “Republican voters in Alabama solidly back Jeff Sessions in the U.S. Senate race.”

58 mins ago

State Rep. Terri Collins: Why I am endorsing Bradley Byrne for Senate

After considering all the candidates, I am endorsing Bradley Byrne in the Republican Primary for Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat.

Over the years, I’ve worked with Bradley on a number of issues important to our state. I’ve also been able to get to know him on a more personal level, and he is exactly the type of person we need to represent us in the Senate.

Bradley is the Christian, conservative fighter that we need in Washington to protect our Alabama values. There are a number of very troubling issues right now that really strike at the core about what it means to be an American, and we need a strong senator like Bradley Byrne who will have our back and not back down from the fight.

Bradley has been under attack recently by the Democrats for speaking out and standing up for his faith and what he knows is right. I commend Bradley for not backing down when the going gets tough.

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This past legislative session, Alabama was in the national spotlight for standing up for what a majority of Alabamians know to be true: life starts at conception. I was proud to sponsor the Human Life Protection Act, which sets up a Supreme Court challenge to Roe v. Wade and recognizes the sanctity of life. I appreciated Bradley’s support and encouragement as we went through the fight to pass the bill.

It was a fight, but Alabamians don’t back down from a challenge when the going gets tough. We fight for what we know is right. As a sixth-generation Alabamian, I know Bradley has that fighting spirit in his blood. We need Bradley in the Senate to fight for our rights, fight for the sanctity of life and to get us back to the foundational values that have made America so great.

Bradley has also been standing up for life in Congress. He is a pro-life champion who has consistently voted to protect the unborn, defund Planned Parenthood and make sure that all human life is protected. Bradley has a 100% record with National Right to Life and an A rating from Susan B. Anthony List, a leading pro-life organization.

Bradley and I want the same things for this state. We want Alabama to be a prosperous place to live, work and raise a family. Bradley understands and knows how to get the job done. On day one, he will be ready to go to work for Alabama, and I know he will serve our state well for many years.

I’ve seen Bradley go through fights before – just as we were in a fight over the pro-life bill last year – and I can say that no one is better prepared for the fight in the Senate than Bradley.

So, I encourage everyone to join me in voting for pro-life champion Byrne for U.S. Senate. He is the Christian, conservative fighter that will make Alabama proud.

Terri Collins is a state representative from Decatur

2 hours ago

NASA’s Space Launch System positioned for key testing phase

The rocket which will return Americans to the Moon is now in place for a key testing phase. Known as “Green Run,” this series of tests will examine many of the rocket’s systems together for the first time in preparation for launch.

Now secured to a test stand at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, the full Green Run for Space Launch System (SLS) will last about two months.

“This critical test series will demonstrate the rocket’s core stage propulsion system is ready for launch on missions to deep space,” Stennis director Rick Gilbrech said. “The countdown to this nation’s next great era of space exploration is moving ahead.”

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Developed by Boeing in Huntsville, and powered by four Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engines, SLS is the most powerful rocket ever built. It stands 212 feet high and 27.6 feet in diameter.

“Delivering the Space Launch System rocket core stage to Stennis for testing is an epic historical milestone,” said SLS stages manager Julie Bassler. “My team looks forward to bringing this flight hardware to life and conducting this vital test that will demonstrate the ability to provide 2 million pounds of thrust to send the Artemis I mission to space.”

The Green Run culminates with an eight-minute, full-duration hot fire of the stage’s four RS-25 engines to replicate the 2 million pounds of thrust required at launch.

Once the Green Run is complete, the next time the RS-25 engines fire up will be at launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Before the rocket arrived in Mississippi, Boeing SLS vice president and program manager John Shannon noted that the engine tests at Stennis will reveal even more information about the vehicle’s systems.

“The next big unknown for the program is when we put together the cryogenic liquids and oxygen tank and hydrogen tank and we look at the plumbing and all the systems and make sure they remain tight and perform as expected,” Shannon outlined. “We have high confidence that they will.”

Once the next round of tests concludes, the rockets are refurbished before the 10-12 day trip to Florida.

Shannon estimated that refurbishment will primarily involve inspections. He stated that in “a high vibration, high acoustic environment,” the question for team members becomes “did we break anything?” He cited thermal protection fixes as something that will need to be done because the fuel tank contracts when cold cryogenics are loaded in it, then expands again as it warms back up.

“By the time we take this vehicle to Kennedy Space Center it will be an extremely well-understood vehicle and we’ll have really high confidence in flying it,” Shannon concluded.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

14 hours ago

Hurts on Saban: ‘He’s been nothing but supportive’ — ‘It was great to see him’

MOBILE — Following the Hallmark-like reunion of University of Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban and his former star quarterback Jalen Hurts on Wednesday at a Senior Bowl Week practice, Hurts spoke about how much the moment meant to him.

In an interview with Yahoo Sports, Hurts recounted what was said between himself and the legendary coach.

Asked by one of the interviewers about Saban visibly laughing during the reunion, Hurts explained, “Well, I was walking over there, talking to Ellis [Ponder], he’s the [football] operations guy at Alabama. And I was saying, ‘Coach is going to smile when I walk over to him.'”

Indeed, Saban was all smiles.

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“And he smiled,” Hurts continued. “And I go, ‘Coach, I haven’t seen that smile in a long time.'”

“So, it was good to see him,” he concluded. “You know, Coach Saban and I have a really great relationship. We’ve been in touch throughout the season, and he’s been nothing but supportive for me. It was great to see him.”

You can watch the Yahoo interview here.

Saban told reporters on Wednesday before the reunion that he still considers Hurts as one of his players and a member of the Crimson Tide family.

Hurts is playing for the South Team during the Senior Bowl, along with outgoing Bama players Jared Mayden, Terrell Lewis and Afernee Jennings. Those four players and Saban took a group picture together on Wednesday.

Hurts on Monday was presented with a two-sided helmet ahead of Saturday’s Senior Bowl game; one side is a replica of his iconic No. 2 Bama helmet, and the other has the Oklahoma Sooners logo on it. That special helmet, however, will be preserved by Hurts rather than worn during the game.

Get tickets to Saturday’s Senior Bowl game here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

Trump: ‘I LOVE ALABAMA!’

President Donald Trump on Thursday afternoon exuberantly tweeted his affection for the state of Alabama, however the image he sent out along with the tweet has political observers in the Yellowhammer State collectively scratching their heads.

Along with his caption of “I LOVE ALABAMA!” Trump tweeted out a graph depicting the topline results of an Alabama Farmers Federation poll that was conducted in early December on the Republican U.S. Senate primary.

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To be clear, this polling data is at least somewhat outdated. Almost two full months have passed since the survey was conducted, and Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) has since started advertising on television.

You can read about that poll from Yellowhammer News’ original reporting here.

While people not-named Donald Trump may speculate as to why the president tweeted out the poll now — and exactly what he likes about it — only Trump really knows at this point.

Ultimately, all of the top GOP Senate campaigns right now are just as confused as the general public about the tweet.

However, it is noteworthy in and of itself that Trump tweeted anything at all about the primary. He has remained silent on the race since initially answering questions after his former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions entered the primary in early November.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News on Thursday, Sessions campaign manager Jon Jones reacted to the tweet by saying, “President Trump loves Alabama — and Alabama loves our president. Alabama gave President Trump one of his biggest margins of victory in 2016, and as this and other polls have shown, Republican voters in Alabama solidly back Jeff Sessions in the U.S. Senate race.”

“It’s easy for politicians to talk big now, but when the chips were down in 2016, Senator Jeff Sessions was President Trump’s strongest ally. Jeff Sessions is the conservative fighter Alabama needs in Washington, helping to advance the Trump agenda in the U.S. Senate,” he concluded.

Lenze Morris, press secretary for Byrne’s campaign, also reacted in a statement.

“We’re excited the president is watching this race. That polling is over two months old, and we know this is a close race. Bradley Byrne is going to win,” she said.

Former State Rep. Perry O. Hooper, Jr. (R-Montgomery) on Thursday afternoon told Yellowhammer News that the one thing above speculation is that Trump is looking forward to Alabama sending a second Republican senator to support his agenda in Washington, D.C. All of the top three Republican Senate contenders, Hooper said, would handily defeat Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) in November, which is the ultimate goal.

Trump’s Alabama approval rating has consistently been among the nation’s highest — if not the highest.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn