Friday, December 21, 2012

One Week Later: Reflections

It's been one week since the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting. I've had countless conversations about the subject, with my husband, family and friends. My initial, emotional reaction was this blog post.

I cried a lot in the days after Sandy Hook, and the littlest things make me thing about that day's events. But since then I have been able to digest my feelings and organize my thoughts. Here's what I've come up with. It's a long post, yes. But, events like Sandy Hook need to provoke thoughtful ideas and open communication on how to make our country a better, safer place. What follows is just my opinion, and I look forward to hearing yours as well.

Four ways to prevent tragedies from occurring as often in today's society:

Part One: On Gun Laws

The polarizing effects of the shooting were amazing. How a shooting can reinforce an opinion one already has is incredible. My facebook and twitter feeds were full of those anti-gun posting things like:
And those pro-gun posting things like:

Me? I'm one of those in the middle. I strongly believe in the freedoms we have in this country, the right to bear arms being one of them. That being said, guns also scare me to death, probably because I have not been trained to handle one, nor did I grow up around them. But as much as they scare me, there are two in our house, which my military-trained husband would not hesitate to use in a second if our family was threatened. They are in very safe locations, and I want to stress again, they are for emergencies only.

So what's the answer to gun control? In my opinion? It's not MORE guns, or LESS guns, it's simply more control. To be able to own AND/OR operate a gun, one should need to be trained. A hands-on class that teaches you both how to use a weapon safely, and how to use it responsibly. To operate, own or buy a gun, one should also need a background check by a government agency, that includes a gun safety test and a few essays. What is the purpose for this weapon? Why this weapon? Etc.

I'm not saying it would solve all the gun-violence in the country. But, it would be a long process to even have the right to operate a gun. That would include shooting your friend's gun at a range. You'd need a special sort of permit to be allowed to shoot a weapon. Period. With such an in depth process... maybe someone with bad intentions would have the opportunity to think their decision through a little more. And would have all the right information to steer them in a moral direction.

Part Two: On Mental Illness

In my original blog post, I called the Sandy Hook shooter (purposely not naming him, see part four) a monster. I want to apologize for that. He did a very monstrous thing, yes. But he also may have had some serious mental/social problems that prevented him from making rational, human decisions. So until we know for sure, I want to apologize for calling him a monster.

What changed my mind?  I read this article, Thinking the Unthinkable, where a mother deals day-to-day with a son, who might as well have been the Sandy Hook shooter. It's a must read, and brings to light the struggle that is mental illness.

Part Three: On Accountability

My husband mentioned a Fox News radio bit he was listening to after the shootings that said things like this tragedy are more and more common as children are raised with different attitudes than they were twenty or more years ago. It mentioned the kind of thinking like everyone's a winner, everyone gets a trophy, everyone is the best, etc. and how these sort of thoughts have impacted the development of those that are the young adults of today. I don't know if I agree with these sort of statements or not, but it got me to thinking.

Everyone needs a chance to be accountable-- to feel worthwhile and useful in today's society. I think a year of paid, mandatory public service for those just exiting high school is a great idea. It wouldn't have to be military service, though that kind of commitment would surely count as public service. There could be options as to which sort of public service you'd want to do and where you would be located. But it wouldn't be optional. This would give young adults a feeling of responsibility and purpose, while also teaching them necessary life skills in a real world environment. I think it would also leave these people with a feeling of being a part of a whole, working towards a greater good and better able to hand real-world situations.

Just an idea.

Part Four: On The Media

I was absolutely glued to the TV last Friday for nearly three hours while my son napped. I was continuously checking Twitter and Facebook for news updates, opinions and information. One of the things I watched was this video:
I totally agree with it. However, that being said, the things that are suggested as what not to do in light of a tragedy like this, seem nearly impossible in today's society of up-to-the second information coming at us from all different medias. I think events like this need and should be reported, however I think those responsible should not be named. As in it would be illegal to speculate or report on who was responsible. We should never see their faces. If we don't know who the anti-hero is, maybe the next guy with similar intentions will think twice, knowing his name and face most definitely will not go down in history.

That's all I've got. Just a few ideas, and ultimately no way to implement them, but to get my opinions out there. What do you think? How can we make our country a better place?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

DIY: Melted Snowman Ornament

But he waved goodbye, saying don't you cry
I'll be back again someday!

I've revived a tradition. Before she passed away, my great-grandmother would make handmade ornaments every year for us (all of her great-grandchildren!) They were different every year, and now they have a special place on my tree and in my heart.

So I'm starting the same tradition for my relatives! (I know Henry is only 1, but I can't wait until I'm making these for great grand babies.) Here's my first year's ornament... And I love how they turned out!

Melted Snowman Ingredients:
Clear Glass or Plastic Ornaments
Snow- salt
Eyes/Buttons- peppercorns
Scarf- ribbon
Carrot Nose- baked Sculpey
You could also add little twigs for arms!

So simple and so cute!

Which is your favorite ornament on your tree?


Rudolf the Red Nosed Reinbeer

I'm super excited about how adorable this project turned out. What a great gift for any hard to shop for men in your life! You can also make these for kids on soda bottles like root been or cream soda. Or a wine bottle for your favorite hostess. Maybe we will even leave some for Santa!

The possibilites are endless.
All you need are googly eyes, red poofs (is there a real name for those things?) and brown pipe cleaners-- I got all of these from Hobby Lobby for under $5 (enough supplies for more than three 6-packs!) I used elmer's to attach the eyes and noses, and just wrapped the pipe cleaners around the caps to the bottles. Tip-- lay the reindeers on their "backs" when while you let their eyes and nose dry!

What's your favorite holiday craft this season?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On why I don't need a parenting handbook

You're probably reading the title of this post and thinking, well yea parenting is hard, who told you it was going to be all sunshine and rainbows?

And the answer is no one. Everyone will tell you that being a parent is hard. For all the same reasons:

You'll never sleep again, like you did pre-children.

They get into everything.

You'll constantly worry.

It's not about you anymore.

And while these are all very, very valid points on parenthood, I was totally expecting them.

No, the hard part about parenting are a lot of little things that everyone fails to mention. So I'm mentioning them.

Like how you will give your child a Where's Baby's Dreidel hide and seek type board book on the first night of Hanukkah. And you read it three times that first night and think how adorable it is that he loves that book so much. And then suddenly Hannukah ended days ago and you're reading the book for the 12th time since breakfast. And it's not even lunchtime yet. Your original favorite line- Is it under grandma's apron? Just isn't funny anymore. You even hid it in a drawer under a hundred other books, but he found it and he pounds his little chest "me, me" and turns around and sits on your lap, ready to be read to.

I mean who can say no to that? So you read it again, maybe with your eyes closed, because you know it by heart- while you daydream of the next place you are going to hide it.

Being a parent is hard. Need another example?

We all know babies poop. There will be a day where you change three stinky diapers in row, all amazingly different consistencies. But thats expected.

No, the hard part is when you are changing his stinky diaper, holding your breath, when suddenly he reaches down with both hands and just clenches two handfuls of poop. His adorable tiny hands now seem huge as he reaches up in slow motion, giggling and smears one handful on the wall and the other on his chest. Suddenly you weren't born with enough hands and there is poop everywhere. You step back for a second, arms outstretched sort of spotting him because there is that chance he decides to roll off the changing table in that moment. You take a breath and sort of think to yourself, "Okay, but seriously what do I do?" The determined best course of action is to just pick him up, hold him as far away from you as possible and deposit him in the nearest bathtub. The poop smears in his room can wait until later.

And then, as you fill up the tub (for the second time that day) he is smiling because boy does he love bathtime. And he looks at you in a way that makes you think he's smarter than he's letting on, and maybe the kid just wanted to play in the bathtub again today.

Everyone's always saying there should be a handbook for this stuff. But seriously, even if there was, would you go grab it with poopy hands and turn to the chapter on When your Child Grabs a Handful of Poop? I didn't think so. Because, let's face it even if you did, your toddler would end up loving that chapter, and you'd have to re-read it again and again until the end of time.

Life Lesson: Wear your seatbelt

Sometimes life lessons are really serious. Sometimes they will take long conversations and time to learn. But sometimes really serious lessons are simple. This is one of those.

Wear your seatbelt.

If you're going to be driving for five seconds, or five hours. Always, always wear your seatbelt. There are just too many great things to miss out on in the world for something as silly as not wearing your seatbelt.

So always wear your seatbelt. Promise?


Wordless Wednesday: Smoochie

Photo Credit: Kayla Westfall, Full Bloom Photo


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Giving Tuesday: Polar Plunge

So my cousin decided to put her crazy pants on and participate in a Polar Plunge... in the middle of winter... in Illinois. Like I said, crazy pants. I'm already imagining her girls' giggles as she runs into that freezing water!

What's the point of that, you ask? She's collecting donations to support the more than 21,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities and more than 11,000 young athletes ages 2-7 of Special Olympics Illinois. Donations help provide athletes with intellectual disabilities the chance to participate in year-round sports training and competition.

The Special Olympics are near and dear to my heart because sports (ahem, swimming!) played such an important role in my life, especially as a youth. Everyone deserves the chance to compete!

You can check out more details and donate on Cari's Firstgiving page.  I've already made my donation, now its your turn! Even ONE DOLLAR can go a long way if you can spare it!

How are you giving this month?

Giving Tuesday has become a monthly series here on Laurealism, inspired by #GivingTuesday. If you have a fundraising event or cause that you'd like to see featured please contact me at laurealism at gmail dot com.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Life is Precious

I cried a lot today. Life is so precious.

A few weeks ago my husband and I were at a mall in Merrillville, Indiana with Henry. As we were walking through JC Penney a group of people came barreling around a corner. Holding hands and running they were screaming "Someone is shooting, he has a gun."

We froze for a moment. I was looking around for a place to hide. Mark was thinking of running back into the mall to see if he could help. I kept thinking to myself "Please don't let me see blood, please don't let me see blood." Because blood would mean something bad. Really bad.

We joined the masses in a panicked exit. Fortunately the situation turned out alright. A man fired a single gunshot into the air. Who knows why, but no one was hurt.

But in that moment, with someone screaming about a man with a gun, in a crowded mall, with my son in a stroller in front of me, I didn't know if it would be okay. Suddenly everything seemed unreal. It wasn't until we were safely in our car that I realized how terrified I was, and how much adrenaline was pumping through me.

Back in February of this year we were living in Chardon, Ohio when a 17-year old boy open-fired in the local high school's cafeteria killing three students and injuring two. We were part of a community in shock, in mourning. For days after the shooting there were helicopters, media vans, press conference and people crying. Everywhere, for weeks. I remember going to the grocery store and seeing people in tears. And hugging. Everyone was hugging.

These are my experiences.

And then I read on my Facebook news feed this morning about a developing story about a shooting at a school in Connecticut. There was another one last week at a mall. A month ago at a movie theatre. We've heard all the stories.

And as you know, this developing story turned into 28 people dead. 18 CHILDREN. They are saying kindergartners. Kindergartners. What kind of monster can point a gun at a child and pull the trigger? And then do it again 19 more times?

What is happening?

So many parents tonight don't get to hug their children. There are presents under trees that will go unopened. And so many surviving children witnessed something that no child should ever be exposed to.

It's hard to think about this tragedy. It makes my heart hurt and my stomach churn. I usually don't blog about things like this. And I don't even know where I'm going with this post, but I just needed to say something.

Brittany Gibbons posted this quote today on Facebook. I think it's fitting.

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world." -- Mister Rogers

I believe we do see great people in the face of tragedy: heroes, helpers and huggers. But I wish we saw these sides of people every single day. Maybe if we were helpers every moment of every day, things like this wouldn't happen. I'm not saying a smile at this monster would have changed things. But maybe a smile, and someone to talk to, over the course of his life would have made a difference.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Life Lessons: Be a hugger

I hope you are a lot of things in life. One of those things? A hugger.

"He was one of those guys who'd pronouce I'm a hugger as he came at you neglecting to ask if the feeling was mutual." -Gillian Flynn

Yep, I want you to be one of those.

P.S. I originally found the picture of the hugging sock monkeys here, and edited it!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gift Guide for the Kiddos

Okay, we've covered the ladies and the gentlemen, but now it's time for the fun part. The kids! And let's be honest parents... holidays and birthdays are fun because you get to play with all the new stuff, too!

Here's a list of things that you won't find on all your "hottest toy" lists out there... enjoy!

1. The Little Prince Deluxe Pop-Up Book $23 
I can't tell you how much I LOVE The Little Prince. If you haven't read it... you must. And if you haven't read it to your child... well then, you must. Basically it's about the infinite wisdom that children have. And it's full of life lessons. And this is the pop-up version. Because pop-up of anything is better.

2. Kiwi Crate $59 (3-month gift subscription)
Kids love getting mail-- so they'll love when Kiwi crate arrives every month! Filled with materials and inspiration, Kiwi Crate will definitely cure a case of the "I'm bored"s. Pictured is a sample box-- this particular month was about color with materials to create tops, stained glass artwork and a tye-dyed bag. Gift 3, 6 or 12 month subscriptions.

3. Fish Bath Plug $12

This adorable stocking stuffer will definitely come in handy at bath time. Who wouldn't want to take a bath with this "stuck" little cutie!

4. Skip Hop Backpack and Lunchie $35

Every kid needs a way to carry all their very, very important toys, and these Skip Hop backpacks are the cutest way to go. Available in all kinds of animals like giraffe, elephant, puppy, ladybug, dinosaur, penguin, frog, zebra and more. The link above includes a matching lunch bag, but backpacks can be purchased alone for around $18. Also available are coordinating Melamine Plate and Bowl Sets!

5. Spoka LED Night Light $15

If you're anything like me, you LOVE IKEA. And that's where you'll find this adorable little night light that slowly changes color, or has a setting to stay one solid color. It's made of a softer silicone, so it can even be unplugged and tucked in with your little one-- it holds a five-hour charge. Available in two different color options (blue spectrum and pink spectrum.)

6. Easel $15
Ikea's easel also makes the list, because $15? You can't beat that! This easel has a whiteboard on one side and a chalkboard on the other-- it will also hold a roll of doodle paper (sold for $4.99) Also folds flat for storage.

7. Deglingos Plush Originals $20 and up
These are still my favorite stuffed animals. I think they are adorably goofy looking and they are each made out of a variety of different fabrics, making them that much more interesting. Find your favorite animal! Fox, hedgehog, pig, dog, cow...

8. Furby $54

Remember at the beginning of this post when I told you that I was going outside the normal "season's hottest toys" list? Well this is the only exception I'm making, because I LOVED my Furby when I was younger. So I want your kid to have one, too. And I totally won't tell if you play with it when your kids are at school. Just like I totally wouldn't judge you if you bought one for your 18 month old. What? He's totally old enough to love the Furbs.

9. Twas the Mouse Who Saved Christmas $30
We love the personalized book Following Featherbottom from Marblespark, so I have no doubt that Twas the Mouse Who Save Christmas is a must for every kid's library. You can even check out what the book would look like with your child's name before purchase!

10. Sock Monkey Jack in the Box $23
So it's true. I LOVE sock monkeys. And this jack-in-the-box just makes my day. Henry loves his. I've even had to hide it on occasion, a girl can only take so much of that song...

11. Melissa and Doug Puzzles $10
I was going to stop at number ten, so consider this a bonus. Melissa and Dough Puzzles are the best! I especially love the chunky puzzles for little hands. But they also have huge floor puzzles which are a lot of fun if your kids are a little older.

What are your kids getting this year that doesn't appear on the "hottest toys" lists? Did he/she surprise you by asking for something way out of the box?


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Giving Tuesday

Black Friday. Small Business Saturday. Cyber Monday. Do you even have anything left in your bank account after all that craziness? Well, if you do I'd like to introduce you to the most important day of all...
Giving Tuesday is a campaign to create a national day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season. It celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support nonprofit organizations. You can find more information here. I'm always thinking that I need to donate a little here and there, and this day every year will serve as an easy way to remember to do it.

So why not donate $5 or $10, or whatever you can swing to your favorite charity?

Need some ideas? Donate to these charities that are near and dear to my heart!

The Special Olympics A place to play is vital for all children-- special needs or not. What started in the 1960's has since grown, and today the Special Olympics transforms athletes' lives through the joy of sport. Growing up sports was a huge part of my life, and taught me so many valuable life skills, which is why you should donate to the Special Olympics!

First Book When you think of children without books, you may think of villagers in places like Afganistan. But 42% of American children (more than 31 million!) grow up in families that lack the income to cover basic needs like rent, food and transportation-- and these families definitely aren't spending their money on books. With a $10 donation to First Book, you can provide 4 books for children in need. I think reading is a great outlet for children-- it can take them on so many adventures if a love for reading is developed at an early age!

Comment below with your favorite charity. I will choose one randomly to donate $10 to tomorrow!

Can't afford to spend another dollar? Check out the Giving Tuesday website for more ideas on how to give!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Gift Guide for the Guys

You've already seen my gift recommendations for the women in your life, and now I'm here to help you out with the really hard part-- the guys. Because seriously, boys are hard to shop for.

Here we go...

1.Green Soldier Bookends $18
For the book lover and kid at heart. These guys are the best bookends ever.

2. Man Candles $15
Fresh cut grass. Sawdust. Pizza. What man-cave doesn't deserve a man candle? Great stocking stuffer, too!

3. Wooden 6-pack Beer Tote $32
You know how sometimes you bring a bottle of wine to a friends get-together? Well, now your man can bring his favorite brews, too. All the other fellas will be jealous for sure. Bonus if you pack this with an assortment of his favorite beers.

4. Craft Beer Brewing Kit $28

For the do-it-yourselfer. Maybe he can bottle it and carry it around in his beer tote? (See #3!)

5.  The Walking Dead, Vol. 1 $10 each
If he's a fan of the Walking Dead on AMC then he'll appreciate this comic-- and the AMC series doesn't follow the comic exactly, so there'll still be some surprises. I think there's something like 100 volumes, too. Gifts for years!

6. Tervis Tumbler $10 and up

These tumblers are awesome-- great for hot or cold drinks. You can buy them with lids or without. And they come with a variety of images-- everything from his favorite sports teams to his alma mater. No bar is complete without Tervis.

7. HYPERtheticals: 50 Questions for Insane Conversations

These crazy questions make for great conversations. Perfect for a college student or your next road trip. Need an example? You have won a prize. The prize has two options, and you can choose either (but not both.) The first option is a year in Europe with a monthly stipend of $2000. The second is ten minutes on the moon. Which do you choose?

8. Sharper Image Robo-Bank $25
This fun little robot doubles as a piggy bank. He counts your deposits, and can keep you focused towards a goal. Also features a built in alarm clock displaying time, day, date and month.

9. Printstagram Calendar $40
Use your instagram photos to create a 2013 desk calendar. Choose from 3 styles. (This is an awesome websites, for all kinds of fun creations!)

10. Syma Helicopter $27
Because even grown men still love to play with remote control toys.

What's on your wish list this year? What's your go-to man gift?