Making Memories Sponsored Content

Paperless Post Makes Celebrating Easier

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

This weekend was my 30th class reunion. I couldn’t attend, living across the country from where I graduated and having too many things going on to manage the 12 hours of driving and flying required to get there.

Also this weekend, my granddaughter went to a birthday party. There was face painting and cake and so much fun. She’s 3 and at the beginning of a long age of wonder and fun with birthdays.

Photos Keep Us Connected

In both instances, phones played a big role in making the events fun. In the case of my reunion, I was able to enjoy it vicariously thanks to all my friends who took pictures throughout the weekend and shared them in our Facebook group. It was almost like I was there – except that I could laugh at all the bald heads.

At the birthday party my grandaughter attended, they had a background set up for photo ops for the birthday girl and all her friends. There again, even though I was not there, I had the opportunity to experience the special moment through instant photos.

Embracing the Digital Age

Everyone complains about people being glued to their phones, but I love the opportunity it gives us to share. I have family and friends all over the world, and as much as I love to travel, I can’t be everywhere – but my photos can. I’m closer to my friends and family who are physically far away because we’re able to share this way.

More than Just Photos

When my child graduated from high school this year, I didn’t have to pay exorbitant postage costs or even buy the boring graduation announcements. I created the announcement online, customized with photos and information about their future. It gave me a lot more control and the ability to send it to people I knew would want it without paying international postage fees or having to track down mailing addresses I didn’t have.

Creating Invitations and Announcements Online

I recently discovered Paperless Post, and they invited me to try their service by giving me credits to use on their website. Paperless Post offers already-designed or custom-made invitations, announcements, and flyers as well as invitation and guest management. You just choose or upload a design, add your guest list, and click send.

Here’s how it works (from their website):

Find a free or premium invitation that’s perfect for your event.

Add your event’s details, make or import a guest list, and send with a click.

Track RSVPs and keep in touch with guests on the go.

You can personalize the designs with your own photos and backgrounds and edit the text, too.

Any event you can imagine – both personally and professionally – can be handled with Paperless Post: birthdays, baby showers, dinner parties, wedding invites, save the date reminders, conferences and events, anniversaries, and graduations.

And, because they’re digital, you can add exciting touches like animation.

Making Memories Travel

Sharing Quebec and History

14 years ago when I went with my Alfred University French class on a spring break trip to Quebec City and Montreal, arriving in Quebec City was a magical experience. It was like being transported to old world Europe. I’d been to Europe on my honeymoon, but Quebec was magical for me. My ancestors had helped to found the area; two of my ancestors were Filles du Roi (women from France selected by the king to help settle the province and grow the population), and my 5x-great- grandfather Nicolas Roussin, was one of the 20 founding colonists of L’Ange Gardien, a small village north of Quebec City that was settled in 1603.

So coming to Quebec was like coming home.

Today, I finally had the opportunity to share the experience with my kids and husband. We wandered the old port area, talked about how much snow was still there despite it being April, listened to the church bells ring out, and ate at a lovely bistro with a view of the Chateau de Frotenac and the statue of Champlain.

It was so much fun to share with my family. I realized that my ancestors were made of heartier stock than I am, to be able to live and survive in such a snowy, cold climate.

We spent the afternoon sharing a movie, cooked dinner in, and enjoyed the time together.

Tomorrow, we head to Montreal,  our home away from home.

Making Memories Travel

Perfect Imperfection

I am in Quebec City, a place I have not been for 14 years, since taking a trip with my French class. It was quite significant that I was able to go on that trip, as a non-traditional student with five kids at home. It remains one of the best memories of my time at Alfred University.

It was that same trip where I fell in love with Montreal, and I’ve taken my family back to that city a dozen times or more. But Quebec City is a longer drive from home – 9 hours – so we’ve never come up. The one time we came close, when I was off traipsing through graveyards buried in snow to find my ancestors, we couldn’t figure out how to get in.

So I’m here. In an AirBnB in a quiet neighborhood in Quebec City, the heart of Europe in North America.

And from yesterday’s tears comes today’s near-perfection. The drive was uneventful and quite lovely. We’d stayed in Watertown the night before so that today’s drive would be more manageable, so we were only 5-1/2 hours on the road.

We listened to great music. We talked. We dozed (not Dave, who was driving). We stopped for lunch and discovered a fun little place in Drummondville called Scores that has the best chicken sandwiches.  You could feel the tension draining from all of us.

We navigated into the city with no trouble and found our place and parking with no trouble. After getting settled in we discovered that the IGA was just 490 meters away, so we walked over, bought some ice, cheese, croissants, chocolatines, and of course, some Quebon (the best chocolate milk in the world). As we were walking back to the place, we decided it would be more fun to eat in, so Dave and Anika walked back, grabbed the sausages we’d been salivating over, some salad, and a still-warm baguette.

We sat together at the table, talking about anything and everything. It was a perfect moment, one I will cherish.

After dinner, we listened to music and played SkipBo. And we talked more.

This is one of those rare days where everything felt right. I went to bed happy, hoping this is sign of things to come on this adventure.

Making Memories Parenting Raising Healthy Kids Toddlers

Turn Off the TV and Spend Time with Your Toddler

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

When our daughter, Anika, was three, we took her out of daycare so that I could have some time with her and her brother over the summer before going back to work (I was headed back to the corporate world that fall). They spent the summer home with me.  I’ve never been so challenged to come up with creative activities to keep children busy.  Anika had been going to daycare for two years while I was in school, so she was all about “centers” and “jungle bus” and did NOT like to be bored (at 16, she still doesn’t). Parker had just finished first grade and was used to his days being filled with learning and recess (he still can’t stand days when there’s nothing going on). Their brother Kyle was going to a dayhab program, but their sister, Kira (who was going into her junior year in high school), was often around when she wasn’t working or at cheer practice.

Since it was nice weather, we did try to spend a lot of time outside, but in Boise, where we were living at the time, has a high number of days where the temperature is above 90 degrees and the ultra violet rays are at their highest risk.  Indoor activities become a necessity! I was extremely grateful for Nickelodeon –Dora, Diego, Lazy Town—they certainly made my kids happy.  But since this was to be my last summer off with the kids before taking the long-hour corporate job (who knew how things would work out), I made extra efforts not to rely on the TV.

We baked cookies every Friday.  The kids did all the measuring and mixing, and Parker was able to use his math skills when we doubled the recipes. We used water paints and practiced mixing colors to see what new colors we could make.  The brushes were quickly abandoned in favor of fingers and I ended up with some wonderful artwork on my fridge from my little ones’ fingers.  The summer went too fast, really, but we came up with some great ideas for spending time creating memories together:

  • Making tents out of sheets and having a picnic
  • Popcorn and movie days
  • Dress-up. Parker and Anika acted out scenes from favorite shows and movies, and then made up some of their own stories.
  • Art time.
  • Blocks. All of the kids have loved playing with blocks, either the wooden kind or the extra large not-legos.
  • Mommy’s helper. Yes, this is how the housework got done and the laundry got folded.

Now, Kira is the one home with young children. Her daughter, Hallie, is two-and-a-half, and until her baby brother was born, got to leave the house every day to go to a play center here in town. Now, she’s stuck at home and often has to find ways to entertain herself a bit when mom is working. This means getting to watch her favorite movie, Frozen, every morning…but Kira tries to spend quality time with her kids, just like I did with Parker and Anika.

Hallie has access to a lot of things her aunt and uncle did not, like electronic educational games (there are a ton on my Kindle that she knows how to use). Hallie also likes to take photos with her mother’s phone and spends quite a bit of time on FaceTime with her grandparents in England.

There are so many delightful ways to spend time with your little ones when they are little. I’m envious of Kira in a way that she is in this stage – it ends far too quickly. I hope she enjoys every moment of it, and when she’s not, this nana is more than happy to relive some memories by spending time with her granddaughter.

Family Making Memories

Elf on the Shelf is Stupid and I’m Tired of His Shit

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

I have the biggest issue with Elf on the Shelf. Haven’t any of you ever watched Fred Claus?! Every kid deserves a present on Christmas, naughty or nice. It’s a holiday of giving and unconditional love and Elf on the Shelf is anything but unconditional. It’s a shit-ton of work for the parents and it’s super creepy towards children. It also teaches all the wrong lessons to kids. Maybe I’m being extra, but Elf on the Shelf will never appear in my house.

First of all, I’m busy.

Between everything else I need to get done in a day, I’m not going to spend my time hiding an elf in a new spot every day. I’m not creative, I’m very lazy, and I have so many things on my to-do list that a creepy stuffed elf is not a priority. I’d rather spend my time doing other special things for my children, such as creating a holiday scavenger hunt in the house, baking Christmas cookies, or watching Rudolph and Frosty. This is all aside from the regular activities that must continue despite the holidays. I have work to do, people.

I want my kids to behave when no one is looking.

Why should my children only behave because a creepy doll is watching them? It creates this weird mentality that the Elf on the Shelf will “tattle” if they’ve been bad and reinforces that you are only going to get a present if you’re good. As a child who always struggled with “being good” despite being pretty well-behaved, this would have crushed my self-esteem and hiked my anxiety. I want my kids to learn the spirit of kindness and giving, and that we do the right thing simply because it is the right thing; not because someone is watching.

The last thing I need is a prankster.

The Elf on the Shelf is also known to be mischievous. It’s not some polite doll that sits quietly in your home. Nope. It creates messes. It “pranks” those in your household. You know what? I have enough messes. I have kids and a husband that need zero help making messes. And unless they make a Hobbit in the Closet that cleans up after the little shit, I’m not interested.

My toddler is really looking forward to the holiday season, which is a huge improvement from last year’s distaste for Santa. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited too. I love this time of year. But my household is going to pass on Elf on the Shelf.

Family Making Memories


Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

October is always an emotionally charged month for me on a very personal level. October is the sign that the seasons are changing. The leaves begin to change and fall and the days and nights get cooler. Although I do look forward to the change in the seasons, I dread the onset of winter and snow. Fall was one of my mom’s favorite seasons with the bright vibrant colors and the preparations for the coming holidays.

There is so much to look forward to in October and the following months. Halloween is such a fun holiday that the kids – even grown – always get excited about. Just around the corner from that are Thanksgiving and of course Christmas and the New Year. The holidays are filled with such excitement and anticipation and fun times with friends and family.

With all of the excitement, however, comes a tinge of sadness. October 30th was my mother’s birthday. Mom made the holidays such a special time for everyone in our family. It has never been the same without her. It doesn’t matter what else is going on in any given year; my thoughts and feelings are marked by the grief of realizing another year has passed. All I can do is try to infuse the same enthusiasm and create the same fond memories for my kids and grandkids as a way to honor her memory.


Love Making Memories

No More Crying Over Broken Glass

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Today while I was sitting here working, there was a loud crash directly behind me and the sound of breaking glass. It was the shelf in my hutch that held all my pretty glass stuff. One of the shelf holders just fell out and the whole shelf crashed down.

Through the glass doors, I could see that nearly everything was broken. I started bawling hysterically. My heart was broken right along with the glass.

It wasn’t about the stuff. Really, it wasn’t. At the end of the day, it’s all just stuff.

It’s just that this particular stuff was teacups and saucers passed down to me by my great-grandmother. Angels that had been my mothers until she died. Glass bunnies I’d received as gifts from my kids.

I’ve been on a minimalism journey for several years and have rid myself of most of my collectibles and precious items. This was the distilled, best-of-the-best, most precious, most infused with memories things. These were the items I’d carefully packed every time we moved in layers of bubble wrap. The reason I have an $8,000 dining room set (no, I didn’t pay that much, but it did not come cheap).

This was the stuff I would have split between my daughters.

And now, most of it is in the trash.

I’m done crying. The glass is all cleaned up. The shelf is re-seated. The remaining few things that didn’t break are back on the shelf.

But I’m sad. Not because of the stuff that broke…but because it brought up so many memories of the women in my life – my great-grandmother, my grandmother, my mother – who are no longer with me. The few things I kept each held a memory of a moment in time or an experience I had with them.

Today I was already a little bit emotional. It’s my youngest child’s 16th birthday. And I realized this morning that it’s the last birthday she’ll actually spend here at home with us. She’s skipped two grades and graduates in June. She will be away at college for her 17th and 18th birthdays (they’ll be school days, I checked).

So maybe the broken shelf was a gift from my great-grandmother, my grandmother, and my mother to let me have a good cry session before my daughter gets home from school…because she wants to celebrate this milestone – and I want to celebrate it with her. Without tears, without worrying about how I will celebrate with her next year.

Glass breaks, but memories don’t.


Crafts with Kids Family Making Memories

How to Carve your Halloween Pumpkin without the Mess

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

They’re already at the farmer’s markets and in the grocery stores, and if you have kids, it’s probably soon to be on your agenda to carve your Halloween pumpkin. Carving pumpkins is a favorite Halloween activity for all ages, but it’s not always the activity we’re ready for. It may not occur to you until you are elbow-deep in pumpkin innards what a mess this tradition is. How to carve your Halloween pumpkin without the mess can happen, but these tips will help:

Plan before you carve.

Take a moment to plan before you carve your Halloween pumpkin. Before you reach for the carving knife, think about what kind of design you want to achieve. What you plan to carve can make a considerable difference in the time you should set aside for this activity. If you are going for a traditional jack-o-lantern, you won’t need nearly as much time as a complicated design that involves a printed template. Draw or trace your design onto your pumpkin.


Prepare the carving station.

Where are you going to carve your Halloween pumpkin masterpiece? Outdoors is ideal, because pumpkin carving can get messy. If you don’t have access to a porch or driveway, and especially if it’s cold outside, carving your pumpkin indoors is perfectly fine. You’ll just want to aim for an area of the home that is easy to clean, like the kitchen. A kiddie pool is a great way to contain the mess, but you can always use a tarp, garbage bags, or newspapers to line the surface of your carving space.

Gather your tools.

Pumpkin innards cling to your hands, so don’t wait until you’re elbow deep in pumpkin seeds to start searching for your pumpkin carving knife. Make sure you have everything you need before you start so you can contain the mess to the carving station. What you might want to have handy before you carve your Halloween pumpkin:

  • A wash cloth or bowl of soapy water for cleaning your hands
  • A towel for drying your hands
  • A colander for the pumpkin seeds if you plan to save and roast them
  • A large spoon for each person for scooping innards and scraping the inside of the pumpkin clean
  • Templates, if you’re using them for creating your design
  • Sharpies for drawing a design onto the pumpkin
  • Carving tools

Time it right.

Your carving should be timely in more ways than one. Set aside enough of your day that you’re not carving pumpkins into late hours of the evening with small children. Plan for at least an hour, and account for longer if you have intricate designs or more than one pumpkin to carve. Also, consider how and when you want to display your pumpkins. If you’d like your pumpkins lit on Halloween, don’t plan on carving the first week of October. You’ll have rotting pumpkins on your porch before they can be enjoyed by trick-or-treaters.

Even the messiest activities can be organized. Once you’re done carving, you can toss the garbage bags or rinse the tarp outside. Pumpkins can be placed on the porch and tools can be rinsed in soapy water before they hit the sink. Clean up should only take a few minutes, which will be a relief after your labor of carving. Halloween can be terrifying, but pumpkin carving doesn’t have to be a fright.

MomsGetReal Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients: pumpkin seeds, olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder

Preheat oven to 325° F
Rinse the pumpkin seeds thoroughly in a colander until all the pumpkin flesh is washed off
Coat the seeds lightly in olive oil and spread onto a cookie sheet
Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic
Bake 40-50 minutes until golden brown, stirring twice

Making Memories On Motherhood

Be in Front of the Camera, Not Just Behind It

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

I really like to capture pictures of my daughter and all the precious moments with her dad. I also like to take a few family selfies when we are out and about, to try and seal those memories into something that my daughter can look back on later. What wouldn’t happen, if it weren’t for my own diligent mother, are pics of me and my daughter. For those that don’t have a camera person at the ready, you need to go out of your way to ask someone else to take some pictures.

I did not realize how precious the pictures I took of my daughter, even just one year ago, would be to me now. I had no idea how grateful I would be to scan through pictures of my pregnancy with her and have them to compare to my second pregnancy now. The problem is, I’m so focused on pictures of her that I fail to realize the importance of pictures of me.

If all goes as it should in the process of linear time, my daughter Hallie, will know a world without me in it. Not fun to think about, but it is what it is. What I hadn’t considered until recently is how she would remember me. I am filling her little life full of amazing memories, but she will never be able to recall every one of them. Unless, of course, she has pictures. Pictures are a keepsake of amazing memories, and I don’t need to document everything, but I want to be a part of what is there.

I want my children to have a million pictures of me, and I want them to be real. I don’t want the posed family portraits that we paid too much money for. I don’t want the matching outfits at Christmas holidays, because aren’t those fresh in our minds for the most part? I want the lazy days with pajamas and paint everywhere from a home project. I want the unbrushed hair and my diaper-clad toddler. I want the swim suit at the beach showing off my stretch marks. I want the reality of my daily life with my kids for them to remember me by.

Am I at my best? Absolutely not. The picture you see above is not flattering at all. I make a scrunched-up face when I’m laughing that I’m not excited about but look at the joy on both our faces. There is no make-up, there’s no posing, and no prep. Just my reality with my baby girl. That is what I want Hallie to remember when there is nothing but pictures to remember me by. So, please, be in the pictures. Forget if you have a bra on or if it’s a flattering angle.

I know that when my own parents are no longer with me, I will treasure every picture. I don’t care what they look like. I just want to remember. And I want the same for my kids, to be remembered exactly as I am. If that happens to be a hot mess, then so be it. Because at the end of the day, my kids are loved and that’s what those pictures will show.

Yes, take all the pictures. But don’t forget to be in them, because you don’t realize now the weight those pictures will someday hold.

Family Making Memories

The Magic of Music

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

I love music. I’m sitting here listening to “If You Believe” by Jim Brickman on my new Echo Dot. Yes, I’ve converted to a “go ahead and listen to my every conversation because I love the power I have to make you do things without stopping what I’m already doing” kind of person. But this song – every time I hear it, I get emotional. I love it. It moves me. Dave introduced Jim Brickman to me, along with most of the other music I enjoy. Our first date was to an REO Speedwagon concert at the Western Idaho Fair. Since then we’ve seen more concerts than I can count.

Music plays a big role in our lives and in the lives of our kids and always has. To me, it’s a form of communication, not to mention art. And you already know about all the studies that say kids who listen to music and play instruments are smarter and better at math. [No? Download this two-page list of research briefs on the benefits of music].

When Derek (now in his 30s) was a baby, he didn’t meet communication milestones. Back then, they weren’t readily diagnosing Autism spectrum kids, and it was largely ignored. Dave was worried when Derek still wasn’t speaking at age 3, but just before the concern became alarm, Derek started speaking. Well, singing – to “Kickstart My Heart” from Motley Crue. Yes, Derek’s first words were, “Woah, yeah! Baby yeah!”

Kyle, who has Down syndrome, was born hearing impaired. During his first year of life, no one knew if he could hear at all. Once again, it was music that came to the rescue and let Dave know that Kyle could, in fact hear, at least to some degree. He started dancing and bouncing to “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. When Kyle was 7 years old, they were able to do surgery to repair his hearing. He continues to love Metallica, but his real favorites are Journey and Styx.

We’ve always said that Parker could drum before he could walk – and it’s not much of an exaggeration. Before he was a year old, he had his first drum – one of those little cardboard drums they sell in gift shops at state parks. He would sit in front of the CD shelf clad in a diaper and drum to every song on each CD, which he recognized by their pictures before he could read. He moved up to bongos, then at age 6 got his first full drum set. He has since switched to guitar, but to this day music is where he finds joy. He and Dave have bonded over many concerts; he has seen 79 acts so far, with tickets to two more shows this year (Anthrax and Stone Sour, with meet & greets – best Christmas ever).

Anika took a different approach in her response to music; she danced almost before she walked, it seems. From her dedication to daily Bella Dancerella as a toddler to six years of formal ballet instruction, music moved her feet. Tap, jazz, and even teaching little kids dance filled her life. Then she discovered musical theatre. She realized she could use her dance skills without having to do permanent damage to her toes by going on pointe. She plans to major in musical theatre at college and perform on or off Broadway. Her obsessions over music, unlike the rock and roll of her brothers, is definitely in that vein. First it was Rent and Les Mis, now it’s Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen.


It is no surprise, then, that Hallie loves music. Every night before bedtime, we do “songs.” When she was a baby and her parents couldn’t get her to settle, Papa would play “Winds of Change” from the Scorpions and she would drift right off, but then she started wanting more songs and her interests kept expanding. She has even already gone to her first rock concert – U2. Now she just loves standing in front of me on the recliner (yes, it’s now broken and won’t close without a good shove, but oh well) and she holds my hands and rocks out to whatever songs we’re listening to and watching on YouTube. She doesn’t like kid songs so much, although she’ll occasionally tolerate “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” She wants the real deal. She has her own names for the songs – “Who Do You Love” by Mariana’s Trench is “Baby” – because there’s a baby in the video that she loves; their “Pop 101” song is “Shots,” which might be my fault; “Here’s to the Zeroes” is “Shoes” because in the beginning of the video Josh changes shoes like Mister Rogers. Kelly Clarkson’s “The Heartbeat Song” is “Up.” Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance” is “Shup.” When nothing else will get Hallie to settle or smile or stop thinking about titties, music makes her happy.

You don’t have to go to concerts or obsess over Hamilton to find the magic in music – but for our family, music is magic. It’s how we connect, where we choose to spend our money (experiences, not stuff), and how we find new ways to engage with each other.