Cookie Exchange!

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

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

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

But I’m determined to get on track this weekend. Sunday is MINE. I’m going to get my Christmas cards written (better late than never!) and bake cookies with my daughter. That’s part of Christmas for me, having cookies and cranberry orange bread to eat and they make the house smell great the way Christmas should! I always try to make a few new kinds of cookies, but there are several I’ve made since I was little and baking cookies with my mom. Here’s my sentimental favorite, Berlinerkranser, that I’ll be making again this year—in its original Technicolor format, the treasured original being a gift from my mom several years back.
Cookie 1

If you double click the image, the picture will enlarge enough so you can read! Sorry, I was too inept to successfully resize it. And no, I’ve never tried to make that magnificent Yule Log. Yet.

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

Why I Let My Daughter Have An Instagram Account

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

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

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

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

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

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

So… how’s it gone?

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

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

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

Holiday giving


The Professor & I at our recent family photo session

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

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

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

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

The Holiday Spirit

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

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

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

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

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