4 days 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.

29 mins ago

This weekend’s comprehensive college football TV schedule

For a printable version, click here. Pro tip: Save the image below to your phone for quick and easy access all weekend.

(Note: All times are Central)

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38 mins ago

Rogers: Senators seeking the presidency should recuse themselves from impeachment trial

U.S. Rep Mike Rogers (AL-03) announced Friday that he was co-sponsoring Rep. Jason Smith’s (R-MO) legislation urging the Senate to alter its rules so sitting U.S. Senators would be forced to recuse themselves from the removal trials of impeached presidents.

Currently, four Democratic senators are vying for their party’s presidential nomination: Elizabeth Warren (MA), Cory Booker (NJ), Michael Bennett (CO) and Amy Klobuchar (MN), plus Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

“This is just common-sense and fair. Clearly, none of the Democrats running for president will be impartial during an impeachment trial and they will all use their involvement in the trial to ramp up their campaigns.  As unfair as the House witch hunt has been all along, I am hopeful the upper chamber will be just in their treatment of President Trump,” Rogers said.

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The bill comes in response to the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Trump. The inquiry will end with the U.S. House voting on the articles of impeachment that are currently being drafted. If a majority of the House, 216 members, vote to impeach, then a removal trial will be held in the U.S. Senate.

At present, there are 233 Democrats in the U.S. House.

Most observers expect the House vote in late December, followed by the Senate trial in January.

Smith’s legislation claims that a “United States Senator actively seeking to unseat the incumbent President of the United States cannot claim impartiality in his or her political opponent’s impeachment trial.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

2 hours ago

2019 Alabama Theatre holiday movie schedule

“White Christmas”
December 6, at 7:00 p.m.; December 15, at 2:00 p.m. (sing-along);
December 17, at 2:00 p.m.; December 22, at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”
December 7, at 7:00 p.m.; December 16, at 7:00 p.m.;
December 18, at 7:00 p.m.; December 21, at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

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“Miracle on 34th Street” 
December 8, at 2:00 p.m.; December 21, at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

“Elf”
December 8, at 7:00 p.m.; December 12, at 7:00 p.m.;
December 17 at 7:00 p.m.; December 22 at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

“It’s a Wonderful Life” 
December 9, at 7:00 p.m.; December 16, at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

“Home Alone”
December 10, at 7:00 p.m.; December 15, at 7:00 p.m.;
December 20, at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

“The Polar Express” 
December 10; 10:00 a.m.
Tickets start at $12; for tickets click here

“A Christmas Story” 
December 13, at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

Cartoon Triple Feature
The movies to be shown include: “A Charlie Brown Christmas;” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer;” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”
December 14, at 2:00 p.m.; December 19, at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

“Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” 
December 19, at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

“Die Hard” 
December 20, at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click 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

3 hours ago

Finding Baghdadi: Why protecting space assets is vital to national security

On Oct. 27, the world learned of a raid that culminated in the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. U.S. special forces and intelligence officials were able to succeed in their mission to take down a brutal murderer — one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists — through the use of sophisticated satellites that the U.S. currently has in orbit.

Control of space and protected assets in orbit are vital to American security here on Earth. Space was once thought to be a peaceful environment for scientific advancement, but as national security objectives have evolved, space has transformed into a potential battlefield. With countries increasingly concerned about deterrence and conflict strategies, the importance of assured and reliable access through mission-specific launch services has become clear, and the Pentagon’s new combatant command, SPACECOM, must move quickly to secure U.S. assets.

Years ago, space changed from a place of discovery into a necessity for American life — and for military operations. From the Air Force-managed GPS satellites that run mapping programs with the touch of a button to billion-dollar National Reconnaissance Office spy satellites that keep our intelligence community informed on what our adversaries plan to do next, it is clear that space is a potential war-fighting domain.

War fighting, when it comes to both established adversaries and emerging terrorist threats, has changed along with technology. Now it is time for America to fundamentally change its approach to space.

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In World War II, technology did not allow us to pinpoint the location of our enemy with the click of a button. In order to defeat the enemy, the U.S. knew that our imperative was to first locate the enemy in a vast region. For example, the Battle of Midway, which is considered a major turning point, occurred because U.S. Navy pilots were able to successfully locate the Japanese fleet before the American fleet was discovered. These types of naval engagements, where surprise and miscalculation dominated, are unimaginable today because of America’s assets in space. As technology has improved, so has situational awareness.

As our space assets play increasingly vital roles in keeping us safe, it is essential that we have the capability to launch these assets and protect them once they are in orbit. Our military’s access to space, with state-of-the-art rockets that are purpose-built for national security and have a legacy of precision, is a necessity as we work to protect ourselves. Since its creation, SPACECOM has both understood the threat of unprotected space assets and discussed this new war-fighting domain with industry partners.

Our assets in space have increasingly become a target for enemies and adversaries. Based on the history of space being an uncontested sphere, and due to the extreme difficulty operating there, our satellites and communications devices are relatively unprotected. Earlier this year, the U.S. intelligence community reported that Russia and China both have the capability to interfere with and destroy these critical assets.

China’s well-known aspirations in the Pacific Rim, as well as Russia’s objectives in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, are driving them to both innovate and expand their offensive capabilities in space. Their motivations to change the geopolitical status quo could be hastened by taking action against U.S. national security space assets. These actions could range from jamming a communications satellite to operations rendering assets inoperable.

The U.S. government currently has 78 satellites in orbit, which serve a variety of key functions. These assets give troops in the field the ability to communicate with each other, provide intelligence officials with information on North Korea’s missile launches, and even power the GPS on civilian devices. An interruption in these communications could have devastating consequences for the U.S.

As adversaries continue to more aggressively test these weapons, it is clear that U.S. national security space assets are necessary for our intelligence community to both see and understand the threat to U.S. military personnel and assets, civilians, and our allies. However, if an adversary has compromised our assets in space, the U.S. could be left in the dark when it comes to the threat and its impact.

What are now essential parts of our economy have been built around fragile national security space assets. It is well past time to assure that these assets, and the American operations behind them, are properly protected. As nations continue to invest in their national defense through war-fighting capabilities in space, it is imperative that the United States remain at the forefront of this new chapter in space.

Tory Bruno is the president and CEO of United Launch Alliance (ULA), which manufactures rockets at its world-class facility in Decatur, Alabama. He has a background in aerospace engineering and is a member of the U.S. president’s National Space Council.

3 hours ago

Alabama task force on veterans suicide holds ‘productive and encouraging’ inaugural meeting

Wednesday saw the first meeting of the Alabama Task Force on Veterans Suicide. The organizational meeting saw testimony from subject matter experts and was complimented as impactful by its chairperson.

The task force originates from a resolution sponsored by State Rep. Neil Rafferty (D-Birmingham). The goal of the task force is to investigate what is causing the elevated rate of suicide among Alabama’s veterans and figure out how to prevent more vets from taking their own lives.

According to the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs, “In 2016, the veteran suicide rate in Alabama was 60 percent higher than the rate for civilians and nine percent higher than other southern states.”

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The members of the task force were appointed by the governor, speaker of the Alabama House, minority leader of the Alabama House, president of the Senate, Alabama Senate minority leader, commissioner of the Department of Mental Health, state health officer and commissioner of the Department of Human Resources.

The task force has two years before it must present a report on its findings to the state legislature.

“This first workshop was productive and encouraging.” Paulette Risher, task force chair said. “Participants gained a better understanding of each member’s background and why they are willing to serve in this important work.”

Two experts on veterans’ mental health, Dr. Joe Currier and Dr. Karl Hammer, presented at the meeting to establish a gound level vocabulary and level of knowledge among the participants.

Currier, according to the ADVA, “discussed suicide fundamentals such as terms used for those contemplating suicide. He also highlighted the risk factors and red flags for suicide.”

Hammer “discussed Operation Deep Dive, a four-year research study that examines the potential causes involved in suicides among military veterans.”

“My sensing is that every person in attendance, many veterans themselves, are fully committed to helping Alabama demonstrate our genuine concern and commitment to our citizens who have worn, or are wearing the cloth of the nation,” Risher stated. “It is such an honor to help guide this effort. This is clearly work of the head and the heart.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.