Parenting Stress Management

Thoughts on the Holiday Season

Getting Real with Dynisha Smith

Guess what’s coming up? The best and worst part of the year – the holiday season. For ANY parent this can be a time of mixed emotions. I won’t speak on yours, but mine include joy, warmth, envy, guilt, embarrassment, and alcohol. Yes I am aware that alcohol is not an emotion but it could be if we had time for semantics. 

Navigating Family

There are so many different family systems out there. Pre-Kayree, I always wondered and worried about what it would be like to merge two families together for the holidays. Each family unit has their own traditions, their own way of doing things, and their own expectations on the holidays. Fortunately I got lucky(ish) about that – I still only have to worry about one family. The catch is, Kayree and I are our own family unit as well. So as much as I love spending time with my parents and siblings and cousins etc., I also want to start some traditions of our own. Cue guilt. It’s okay to decide that some of the specialness that happens over the holidays is JUST for your family unit, however that is configured. 

Navigating Envy  – I Mean, Gifts

So this might just be me, but I don’t think I knew what other parents were talking about when they talked about present envy during the holiday season. I thought they meant like that next week when all the kids when back to school and were comparing notes, but they really mean this unspoken competition between parents on what kids get. Yo, I know this isn’t the case for everyone, but I bet there are some of you reading right now that can think ‘have I ever felt even a little envious when my friend told me they were getting XYZ for their child?’. I have. There are so many things that I want my daughter to experience that honestly, I just can’t afford, or we don’t have space for, or that don’t make sense for her developmentally. I would love for her to have the full Barbie Dreamhouse complete with pool, water slide, and closet. I mean who wouldn’t? Add in the Easy Bake Oven, a full library of books, and a sweet play structure in the backyard. Sometimes our own hopes and dreams can lead to just a little bit of – you guessed it, envy. That’s fine and normal to feel. I feel it every year. But I also feel joy and love, and happy to see everyone’s positive experiences over the holidays; those feelings far outweigh a little envy.

Navigating Self Care

Alright, so sometimes the holiday season brings its own flavor of stress. We can all think of different ways that this happens, from tense family relationships, to expensive family outings, to pure exhaustion from the last couple of months. Self-care is important. I have three pieces of advice for ya that I live by:

  1. Boundaries. Set some financial and emotional boundaries on your time and interactions for the holidays. Maybe that means suggesting the first couple of days are sleep days. Don’t leave your house and don’t put on pants. And stick to that. For me I always tell people you are welcome to hang out but I’m not hosting. We can watch TV and eat snacks on my couch.
  2. Stick to your budget. I learned this the hard way last year. I always want to do the most, and provide the most, and make a big fuss out of the holidays. But the emotions are there regardless of what we are doing! I don’t have to drop $100 on an activity when we could go on a free adventure and have just as much fun.
  3. Be intentional. You know what recharges your batteries, so set an intention that you get some of that recharging time and juice. Maybe you need a couple hours of time outside. Or alone. Or a trip to the bookstore. Whatever it is – intend to do it, and intend to be refreshed.

We are gonna make it out alive people, and we are gonna make it out renewed! 

Sponsored Content

Delight Your Child with a Package from Santa


Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

The work we do at MomsGetReal is really about helping moms, parents, and women have better lives. We do not make any money doing this – it is truly a work of passion.  But occasionally, we have the opportunity to review products or services that we think would benefit our readers, and while some of the requests we get are eyebrow-raising, bringing the magic of Santa to a child is something we can get behind 100%.

As a US Family Guide partner, we had the opportunity to work with PackagefromSanta. With a two-year old granddaughter in the house, I couldn’t resist giving it a try. I am absolutely delighted. It truly is a magical experience.

The packages include:

-Personalized Letter from Santa
-Santa’s Special North Pole Return Address Label
-Genuine North Pole Stamp
– 90-day money-back guarantee
-FREE Personalized video
– FREE Personalized phone call from Santa
– FREE Personalized printable nice list guide

Creating the magic requires a little input from mom, dad, or in this case Nana. You have to tell Santa about your child – their name and age, their location, what they’ve been good for, etc. There are several letter templates to choose from to get you started, or you can write your own. Even if you do choose a template, though, you get the opportunity to edit it before finalizing it.

It also comes with a personalized flight plan, so have some images available as you’re ordering your package (you’ll need some for the video, too).

You can use an Android or iPhone app to schedule the phone call from Santa so that it’s at the time and place of your choosing.

And it comes with a downloadable “nice list” – which I think is probably a better incentive for older kids. Hallie just likes that her picture is on it.


Hallie’s favorite part of the whole experience was the video from Santa (and by favorite, I mean she watched the video 5 times in a row and now watches it every day).

She loves that Santa knows her name (during the setup of the video, you get to specify the pronunciation) and loves seeing her own picture in Santa’s book and on the nice wall.

I was really thrilled with the quality of the package and the delight it created for my granddaughter. It really added to the magic of Christmas!

MomsGetReal readers, order this holiday must-have for your child at Packages for Santa!

Get 25% off using code FAM2060



Gossip Virus Immunity

Getting Real with Tammy Torres

Why do we entertain gossip? Gossip is a virus.

I used to volunteer for Family Readiness for the Army and we taught hundreds of wives and families how to receive and believe information about their soldier. Being an ex-military wife for over 17 years, I knew not to watch the news because “if it bleeds it leads” and to only believe the Army Chaplin at my door. We would disperse information in an emergency using phone trees. When done correctly, it worked great. But we’ve all played the telephone game, so we know what a disaster it can be. The game is played with a group of people. One person starts by whispering a sentence “My mom wears purple polka dots on her pants.” Second person repeat to third person and so on…By the time the sentence is relayed to the last person it is “My monster something about purple and dances.” It’s fun when it’s a game.

Loose lips sink ships and technology has given us the loosest lips ever with hardly any accountability. Are we so bored we have to be a virus infecting others to be happy? Gossip is like a game of telephone run amok. It turns into a human virus, intent on causing damage, fueled by sensationalism and wanting to hear itself come back, knowing what was started as a rumor will be amplified. It’s passive aggressive and attention-seeking.

There’s one great way to kill gossip like the virus it is: Keep no secrets, teach our children not to gossip, and stop playing host!

Adult Children

Your Funk Sucks

Getting Real with Tammy Torres

Do you realize your kids probably don’t even know you as a person? When I was helping my son Scott with a school project when he was 16, he asked me why I was good as drawing. I said I have a bachelor’s degree in art. He said, “No you don’t, dad does….” I chuckled, raising my mom brow, and said “Yes I do.” I had to show him the plaque on my wall. He thought since his dad was in the military, he had the degree. Wow…It must have been all the etch-a-sketch drawings and finger paintings I did with them.

Being an only child, I found it difficult to raise children. I didn’t know how to be a mom as there is no manual. A lot of self help books but no right or wrong way for raising kids – and back then, no mom blogs, either. It’s a blank slate. You Make, Bake and Grow children based on your experiences… I laugh as I didn’t have experiences with brothers and sisters. I didn’t want kids till I was a grown up at 30. I graduated college – career-minded, not kids-minded!  I never thought I was a good mom, but I did everything in my power to keep my kids safe, healthy and happy knowing that didn’t always happen. Momma, mother, mom, momma as my kids called me based on their moods…My Mitchell, Scotty and Shanola aka Snuggle Bug became strong unique individuals as Mitch, Scott and Shannon.

Moms easily get pulled into their children’s lives with millions of emotions. Caring, empathy, and love for our sweet angels fulfills us. As our angels grow and mature, a state of funk starts to settle in like a dark mysterious alien, showing up in their pre-teens, sucking and dragging moms from around the world into a deep hole of hopelessness that they fear they may never come out of. I clawed my way out from the depths of teenage drama hell into adult child dysfunction about nine months ago.

I told them when they were 18, they were in the real world – my world, not theirs. They were missing the coddling, give-me-everything mom. They didn’t seem to understand the difference between privilege vs entitlement. They were missing the blindly empathetic mom that would say everything is going to be okay and put a Bandaid on it.

I created the term called “Mom Bomb” as I didn’t like my feelings towards my children or how I communicated with them. They left the nest and my mom role felt very alone, sad, and empty. Selfish, I know, but I raised these little monsters and I still wanted to be part of their lives.

After my first divorce, Mitch moved to his dads in Washington at the age of 14 and would come to visit on holidays. He joined me for a few years after from high school in Idaho as he was going through a rough patch. Scott lived with my parents while attending online school, as he felt safe and my stepdad was able to help by being a great male role model for him growing up. Shannon and I lived in an apartment about a block away. Shannon and my mom had very similar personalities, which brought a lot of conflict into the family. Shannon had dropped out in ninth grade to deal with some horrendous physical and emotional abuse by my real father and an abusive boyfriend I was unaware of. I stayed close to all and accepted the living conditions to ease situations and provide stability of my family. It helped in some ways but caused personal disconnect with my children in another.

I starting to send them text messages with the header “Mom Bombs” in the subject, explaining wanting to get to know them outside of being my children but as grown adults and vice versa. Asking them random questions about life, hope, dreams, goals, anything. Some like it and some didn’t. I also used it to make statements, teach lessons and solicit reactions. Sometimes my Mom Bomb just said I love you and have a good day!

They knew when I sent out a “Mom Bomb” I was serious. Tired of being blown off because I had the title “mom,” I wanted to be acknowledged as a human being. Tammy mattered also.

In the process I admit, one or two times I’ve lost my mom card, was told to fuck off and had heated discussions. I was okay though as I could deal with the truth they spoke, wanting to hear it, good, bad or indifferent. We were communicating. “Mom Bombs” actually helped me become a better person and Mom. This process not only helped me grow but because it was in a group text. It helped them get to know each other better.

Now the aliens – kids – each own a bottle of “Mom Bomb Frebreeze” for their funkiness.

Sponsored Content

A Little Wine, Winc Winc

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Winc is not like other wine-of-the-month clubs. It starts out with an online questionnaire, where they ask about your taste in coffee and dessert to help match you to the right wines. They use the six questions to help assess your unique taste, then send wine specifically customized to your taste. As you rate the wines you receive, they use those ratings to further refine the selections that come in future shipments so that your wines only get better with time (which, of course, is how it is supposed to be with wine).

The wines arrived in a sturdy box.

Winc delivers four wines per month. Each bottle is customized to your taste preferences and bottles start at $13.

The four bottles I received were exceptional. What I like best, though, are the emails they send with suggested wine pairings and new insights about wine that make me feel like I’m learning more.

How Winc Wine Works

Winc is not your traditional wine club, instead, they are a direct-distribution global wine company that personalizes the entire wine experience to ensure that you have that great glass of wine you are after.

Not only that, but they are perfecting how wine is made, distributed, perceived. and purchased via their Palate Profile quiz that recommends wine based on your unique tastes.

It takes the hassle and guesswork out of picking a bottle from your local liquor store and delivers the perfect bottle directly to your doorstep.

Winc offers 4 personalized wines each month. Bottles start at $13 each. However, new members can enjoy $22 off of their first month of Winc’s monthly wine subscription.

MomsGetReal Readers Save $22 Off Your First Month of Winc

MomsGetReal was provided with the first month of wines for review purposes as a US Family Guide partner. View our review guidelines and disclosures here.

You must be 21 or older to participate. Always drink responsibly. 

Kid Safety

The Importance of Year-Round Sun Safety

It’s snowing in parts of New York this week, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be thinking about sun safety. That’s why we’re bringing you this important message from our guest blogger, Jennifer Landis, editor at Mindfulness Mama, about the importance of year-round sun safety.

Getting Real with Jennifer Landis

You probably haven’t thought much about the sun lately. Spring is coming, but it is still so cold and snowy in many parts of the country. However, spring break is on the way for many, and you may have noticed sunscreen, tanning oil and beachwear on display in the stores.

It seems the only time you think about using sunscreen is when you go to the beach or know you are spending the day outdoors. But you have likely come home red-faced in March or burnt in October, surprised by the power of the sun’s rays. The truth is the sun damages your skin year round. It’s important that you practice sun safety for you and your family twelve months per year.

The Sun’s Always Shining

You probably laughed at your mother or grandparent who warned about getting sunburned on cloudy days. Ridiculous, right? If you were sunburned this way, you don’t need an explanation.

But almost 80 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet rays get through the clouds and can damage your skin. That’s why you always want to treat each day as if the sun is shining — because it is, even when you can’t see it.

Winter is no escape either. Snow reflects the sun’s rays which can multiply the amount of exposure. If you are on a ski trip, you are at a higher altitude and closer to the damaging ultraviolet rays. Cover up, wear sunglasses and use sunscreen on bare skin whenever you are engaged in winter activities like snowshoeing, sledding or ice fishing.

Set an Example for Your Children

Get in the habit of lathering your kids up with sunscreen before they run off to play. Make sure sunscreen is in your bag along with the diapers, snacks and water bottles. Children are often so eager to play that it’s easy to forget the important step of protecting them from the sun.

Yes, kids need vitamin D, which comes from the sun. But the amount they need is acquired long before they would get tanned or burned skin. Putting on sunscreen may prevent some absorption of vitamin D, but not enough to forgo the use of sunscreen.

Playgrounds, although havens for endless fun, can be dangerous places for sun exposure. Playgrounds are open areas with few trees and lots of playground equipment. Some structures are elevated and put your child even closer to the sun.

Another concern is that play structures can get quite hot from the sun’s rays. Dark metal absorbs and retains heat and can burn your child’s skin. Fiberglass and plastic aren’t as bad, but they can get hot too.

After putting sunscreen on your child, do a quick feel test on the slides, merry-go-rounds and play structures to make sure they won’t get burned. Teach your child to do the same.

Make sure to set a good example by taking the same precautions for yourself. Your children should see you using sunscreen and announce you are putting it on. That will silence future complaints.

Don’t forget the most vulnerable areas when applying sunscreen to yourself or your children. Ears, noses and cheeks always get burned. Avoid the eyes but get as much of the face as you can. Use sunscreen sticks when spraying is impractical. It’s a good idea to have several types of sunscreen at your disposal. Check and refresh often.

Take regular breaks to drink water, refresh sunscreen and have healthy snacks. Pack orange slices, grapes and granola bars for a quick energy boost. Children aren’t always aware of how dehydrated and tired they are.

Prevent Damage Before It Happens

Getting a nasty sunburn is an effective way to teach you to use sunscreen. But don’t wait until this happens to you or your children before you take precautions. There are many sunburn remedies such as aloe lotion or zinc oxide, but the damage is already done if you need to use these.

Get in the habit of putting on sunscreen whenever you will be exposed to the sun, no matter the time of year. Don’t wait for a sunburn to get the sunscreen out of the cupboard. Purchase whatever brand of sunscreen you prefer, just make sure the rating is a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Children’s brands can offer even greater protection, often 70 SPF or more.

Enjoy the outdoors but keep your skin covered when you are able to. Find a wide-brimmed hat you like and keep your head covered, especially if you are balding or if you work outdoors. The more you’re in the sun, the greater the risk we will get burned. The sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 am and 2 pm, so be especially careful during these hours.

Older people have been exposed to the sun more often. Sunburns put you at a greater risk of developing skin cancer. Older people develop moles and other skin abnormalities as they age. These should be checked regularly by their primary care physician or dermatologist, especially if the moles change shape or color.

Protect Yourself
Sunburns aren’t just summer concerns. You need to protect your family from the sun’s harmful rays year-round. A burn in January isn’t any better for you than a burn in July. Keep covered and protected so that you can enjoy the outdoors year-round without worrying about damage from the sun. It’s a small price to pay to prevent skin cancer in the future. A little sunscreen goes a long way.

Jennifer Landis is a mother, wife, and the editor of Mindfulness Mama. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferELandis.

Sponsored Content

Tech Gadgets We Can’t Live Without

MomsGetReal Team

Every year brings new technological advances, and 2018 will see tech become even more predominate with these newest gadgets. When it comes to innovation, there is something for everyone, whether you are a nature enthusiast or a movie buff. We reached out to moms to get their recommendations for their favorite tech, and this list offers some great ideas that we love.

(The links below are affiliate links; when you purchase using these links, you help MomsGetReal bring you more great content!)

Apple Watch Series 3

The smartwatch itself isn’t new, but the latest version of the Apple watch is perfect for any business professional. Anything your phone can do, this watch can do better. Manage work calls and emails, track your steps, and ask Siri anything with a simple flick of your wrist. Now you don’t have to worry about juggling your briefcase, coffee, and phone.

LifeStraw Water Filter

This portable filter is a must-have for the adventurer. It can filter up to 1,000 liters of water for bacteria and chemicals, and the EPA has given its stamp of approval. Who knew that technology could improve on your outdoor activities?

Garmin Speak Plus

If you’re already a fan of Amazon’s Alexa in the home, you’ll love that you can now take Alexa on the road with Garmin Speak. It’s a hands-free tool for the car that allows you to control smart devices at home, listen to your favorite music, or ask for directions. It’s a safer option for those always on the road, with little time on their hands.

Sphero R2-D2

Although this may look like a children’s toy based off the popular Star Wars franchise, it is hailed as the most realistic R2-D2 to this date. It can be controlled using an app on your smart phone, and makes all the right sounds and movements that adult fans will appreciate.

Shark ION Robot Vacuum

Schedule or start cleaning from anywhere with the ‘Shark ION ROBOT’ app on your iPhone or Android. Search ‘Shark ION ROBOT’ & download from the app or play store. The robot also works with Amazon Alexa & Google Home.

Bellabeat Leaf Urban

Wearable technology is no longer restricted to watches and earbuds. Smart jewelry is becoming more popular every day, and the attractive designs can be worn as necklaces, bracelets, or clips. This technology specializes in tracking your activity level, sleep patterns, and can also be programmed to help you meditate.


These gadgets will make your 2018 run more smoothly, and even encourage you to have a little fun. Are there any top gadgets you love that we missed? Let us know.

Sponsored Content

The Perfect Solution for Colorful Hair

My daughter has always been fashion forward. At age three, she started wearing two different socks because that was “her style.” By the time she started kindergarten, she was putting together complicated, multi-layered outfits that were as outlandish as they were clever. But I believe in letting my kids be individuals, so we never stopped her from expressing her personality.

She first asked if we could dye her hair when she was in first grade. That year, it was pink. The next year, she went for purple and blue. In fourth grade, we bleached out streaks of her brunette and made pink stripes. While I’m ok with letting her experiment with color, the permanency of a dye job can be frustrating for someone who likes change.

Enter Ellore Femme Hair Chalk. As a US Family Blogger, I was provided a sample of Ellore Femme Hair Chalk to try. It’s awesome. Simply dampen your hair, run the chalk across the damp hair, set the color with a blow dryer, and voila! You have colorful hair that lasts only until your next shower. You can use one color or several. It’s taken my daughter’s style to a whole new level, and since we moved and she now attends a school where “unnatural hair colors” are not allowed, it gives her the ability to still enjoy having different colors in her hair that wash out before school the next morning.

If you’re interested in trying Ellore Femme Hair Chalk, they’re offering an amazing discount: Save $30 Off Ellore Femme 24 piece Hair Chalk set with promo code BL15

I’d love to hear what you think!

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Protect Possessions when Moving Cross Country with GalleryPouch

Update, 2017: It’s been four years since I first wrote this review and used these GalleryPouch bags. I still have them – and since the writing of this, I’ve used them for two cross-country moves and protective storage (computer monitor, framed art) since. They haven’t even started to show signs of wear, and they have proven to be more versatile than I’d imagined. – Shadra, 11/28/2017

One of the toughest parts about moving cross-country is protecting your most precious – and often most expensive – possessions. These are the items that don’t easily fit in boxes but are also not easy to replace. Frame Desination solves that problem with an amazing product developed by my friend Andrew Darlow: the GalleryPouch. The GalleryPouch is a custom-made, heavyweght, bubble bag available with our without Velcro closure.

When I first received the GalleryPouch bags that sent me to evaluate, I thought they were just bubble wrap in the form of bags, but they are much sturdier. They come in a number of different sizes, and the bubbles are study enough that you cannot easily pop them, so they can be reused many, many times. Given that this is our fourth crosss country move, having reusable packing materials is handy.

There are so many things I like about GalleryPouch that it’s difficult to know where to begin:

  • You can see through them, so you know what you have inside.
  • They are super sturdy – I rolled the empty bags and kept them in a drawer in my filing cabinet until I was ready to use them, and they came out looking untouched.
  • They give me confidence that the studd I load on the truck will actually be protected.
  • The bags are very versatile. In addition to protecting artwork and other awkwardly shaped items, they are great for laptops, tablets, video games, and digital frames.
  • The GallyPouch bags are waterproof.
  • They store very well when not in use, either flat or rolled.

They are plastic bags, and like any other plastic bags, care needs to be taken not to leave them around very small children. Child safety warnings come on the instructions that come with each bag.

When you order more than one bag, the price per bag decreases, and when you order 10 or more, you generally get a 15-20% discount. Even if you’re not moving, GalleryPouch bags are awesome for camping and other outdoor activities. We even used one to protect our mantle clock.

Consider using them for:

  • Binoculars
  • Tripods
  • Cameras and camera lenses
  • Golf Clubs (you can keep one or two int he back of the car, as they are almost completely flat when not in use)
  • A mat to help keep things clean and dry
  • Kneeling in the garden – cushion, protect, and keep your knees dry when weeding and gardening

I am so glad to have discovered Frame Desination and Gallery Bags – I am much more confident that my possessions will make the 2,400 mile journey safely.

FrameDestination provided the GalleryPouches to MomsGetReal for an honest review.

Disclosure policy.


When In Doubt, Bite Your Tongue

My daughter Kira is 20. By the time I was her age, I had been married for over a year, after walking away from my full-ride scholarship to Washington State University in order to move home and play house with a man no more mature than I was. We were doomed from the start, particularly given our different family backgrounds (he was studying to be a priest when I met him) and our lack of maturity.

Often, I’ve been amazed at how different Kira’s life has been from mine. While I know the reason it is different is because of the experiences Dave and I had as teens and young adults and our determination to ensure that our children’s lives were different, the fear of history repeating itself always hangs there making me worry.

Kira has been dating the same young man for two years. He is a sweetheart and we welcomed him into our lives. However, as their relationship got serious, Dave and I worried that Kira would ditch all of her hard work and future plans to do what a lot of the young women in our small town do: get married, have kids, and never leave.

Even though I could see that Kira’s boyfriend, much like my first husband, was too young to know what he wanted out of life, and even though I knew that Kira had so much more time ahead of her to do all that serious stuff, I tried to keep from pushing her in any direction.

I remember so clearly the night my parents forbade my marriage – the night my mom so angrily told me everything she thought was wrong with him and what a mistake I was making. And I remember feeling so defensive and thinking that no matter what, I had to go through with it now. So I bit my tongue, and bit it, and bit it, instead of trying to control the direction Kira should head. At 20, she is an adult, and even though she lives at home and we continue to support her to some degree while she goes to college, she is her own person.

You can imagine, then, the relief I am feeling at knowing that somehow, some way, I’ve managed to raise a daughter who is smarter and more put together at age 20 than I ever was. Kira has broken up with her boyfriend because she wants to focus on school and cheerleading. She did not feel she was ready to be in a relationship that was only destined to grow more serious.

He, of course, is not very happy. She, having made the decision that this was the right path for her, has found it easier to move on, soothing her pain by staying busy. She may someday marry him. More than likely, though, she’ll look back and realize breaking up, while difficult, was the best thing she could have done for herself. At 20, we don’t know very much about who we are as individuals. Marriage, relationships, motherhood…it will all still be there when she’s ready for it.