Why We Decided NO More TOYS!

It is customary for most families to do a little bit of clearing out the old stuff to make room for all the new toys, clothing and other holiday gifts headed our way. I try to do this more than once a year but the holiday season is always a great time and reminder to get this done.

Our kids have so much these days! To be honest, this topic has weighed heavy on my heart lately. Kids (with means) have SO MUCH! Parents of my generation are so concerned with giving gifts to their kids that they no longer “earn” that new Game Boy or LOL Surprise Doll. We just buy it for them when we find a great deal or we are browsing through Target and they ask for it over and over.

Okay, not all parents of my generation are like this but more and more I am seeing this happen and I, myself, am guilty of this of parenting behavior. I love my daughters and want them to have it all and want for nothing.

I think my answer to this question has changed over time, and now I want my kids to have it all BUT to appreciate what they have and work for what they want. It was after my daughters 4thbirthday that I made the choice of no more toys for the foreseeable future (yup, no more toys). She was playing with friends and the playroom was a mess! New toys and old were all over the floor, and some of the new ones in pieces just one day into having them. When I asked her to clean up we encountered an “issue.” She told me that I could just toss her brand-new Chelsea Barbie house! We had just gotten this for her the day before as a birthday present and she couldn’t care less. It wasn’t her fault she had never really wanted anything. It was in that moment I made myself a promise to change her attitude toward things like toys and other privileges that being an middle to upper-income class family allows her to enjoy.

Learning new behaviors must start somewhere, so we decided to start with toys and other “things” she thinks she “needs” and wants so badly. Going cold turkey is never easy but here are some tips on how to manage the toy clutter and start to shift their appreciation for all the wonderful “things” they have in this life.

  1. Provide your kids with more experiences: Try gifting your children more than just toys! Santa will be bringing a family trip this year and a few small toys for in-flight entertainment. We even convinced our oldest daughter to ask Santa for this and now she has no toys on her Christmas list this year! Read more here: Gift Ideas For Your Kids that are NOT Toys.
  2. Clean out the playroom: Make sure while you are doing the holiday purge you are discussing with them why we should appreciate and respect everything we have.
  3. Donate their toys and clothes: Once we no longer appreciate things we should find someone to give them to who will love and appreciate them. This is a great lesson for kids and an easy way to teach them selflessness and giving back.
  4. Toss Don’t Donate: If there are things broken, toss them and talk to your children about treating toys and belongings with respect. Don’t donate them because if your kids don’t want to play with them why would another kid? Only donate gently used or easily repaired toys and clothes, or better yet take your children shopping to buy new toys for other children in need. Let them take a name off the many “giving” trees around this time of year and help them pick out something for a child they don’t know.
  5. Clean out with them: Discuss why we are doing this and how there are others in need. Most importantly be present in the process. Make it fun and remind them how special they are for being responsible and helping others with their kindness and generosity. Preschool-aged children have a hard time with these concepts but with affirmation and repetition this will catch on quicker than you might expect. Making sure we are always talking about respecting what we have is super important.
  6. Set Boundaries and start saving: No more toys … okay, not everyone has to go this extreme, but make sure they know that things cost money and that you can’t just have anything and everything when you ask for it. If there is a toy that is a big-ticket item talk to them about saving up money for it. My daughter wanted a Cinderella car that was $398! Yikes! We talked about saving up her money so she could buy it herself and she soon stopped talking about it and moved on. This happened all on her own, she could have saved up for it. She easily will have $400 after her birthday and Christmas.
  7. Make them earn rewards: This can be done a few ways. One way is with chores and allowance. Another great way could be through a reward system for their efforts on school work.

Overall, being a parent is not easy and there is no wrong or right way to do things. ALL children learn by example so don’t forget to exercise gratefulness in your own life.

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12 Milwaukee Events to Kick Off The Holiday Season

Deck the Streets of Old Milwaukee Nov. 17th  – Jan 22ndMilwaukee Public Museum

Now through Christmas, join the staff at the Milwaukee Public Museum to see how European Immigrants and turn-of-the-century Milwaukeeans rang in the Holiday season. The unique exhibits on the museum’s first floor are turned into a winter wonderland, with special tours offered for just $4 extra on Saturdays featuring actors that bring the scenes to life. Learn more at http://www.mpm.org/holidays

Milwaukee Christkindlmarket – Daily through Dec. 31st, Vel Phillips Drive Milwaukee

Old World Germany meets modern Milwaukee as dozens of artisan vendors fill the Live Block outside of Milwaukee’s brand new Fiserv Forum. Browse unique holiday decorations and gifts, sip some cocoa (or spiced wine for the grown-ups), and take in a new Christmas tradition in Cream City. The market is open now through December 31st. Read more about it at http://www.christkindlmarket.com/milwaukee/

Candy Cane Lane West Allis – Nov 23rd– Dec. 27th92ndto 95thStreets, West Allis

One of the Milwaukee area’s best-loved holiday traditions, Candy Cane Lane lights up West Allis the day after Thanksgiving until the day after Christmas. This year, more than 300 homes across ten blocks will put on their best light displays for people to drive by or walk through. The lights begin at 6 PM on Weekdays and 5 PM on Weekends, and a donation to the MACC Fund to fight Childhood Cancer is encouraged. Find a map and more information at http://candycanelanewi.com/

125thPfister Hotel Tree lighting – Nov. 25thPfister Hotel, Downtown Milwaukee

Milwaukee’s official tree lighting happened in early November, but the historic hotel’s tree lighting is an event unto itself. The lobby’s 18-foot tree lights up at 5:30, and the event will also include photo-ops with Santa and a festive fire truck from the Milwaukee Fire Department. Find out more about this free event at http://www.thepfisterhotel.com/pfister-holidays/milwaukee-christmas

MillerCoors Holiday Lites Tour – Fridays and Saturdays Nov. 30 – Dec. 22

 For nearly 70 years, the Miller Brewery in Milwaukee has wowed people young and old with an over-the-top taste for Christmas decorating. In 2018, the tradition continues as the Holiday Lites provide a unique, all-ages experience in the historic brewery. The indoor-outdoor tour teaches about the legendary brewing giant, and gives a music-synched Christmas light show like nothing in the country. Dress warm and leave the wallet at home (except your ID if you’re over 21), as the Holiday Lites are free for anyone willing to brave the cold. Read more about the tour at https://www.millercoors.com/breweries/miller-brewing-company/tours/tour-information

Canadian Pacific Holiday Train – Dec. 6th, Downtown Tosa Village, Wauwatosa

Take a trip to the charming downtown Tosa Village in Wauwatosa on December 6th to welcome the Holiday Train. Canadian Pacific railroad takes this special locomotive across the country to entertain kids and kids at heart with a fun and festive holiday experience. The train is covered in Christmas lights, features a stop from Santa, and a few rock-n-roll versions of your favorite carols. Local businesses will be on hand to offer up hot cocoa and Christmas cocktails for people waiting to see the train. Read more about it at https://www.cpr.ca/holiday-train/schedule-united-states

Breakfast and Lunch with Santa – Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 23rd, Milwaukee County Zoo

 Even the animals at the Milwaukee County Zoo are on Santa’s list, and he and Mrs. Claus stop by to check on them every weekend in December leading up to Christmas. You can bring the kids to see them for either breakfast at 9 AM or lunch at noon Saturday or Sunday. Read more about it at http://www.milwaukeezoo.org/events/blsanta.php

Ice Skating at Red Arrow Park Dec 1st– Feb. 28thDowntown Milwaukee  

Starting in December, take a skate around Milwaukee’s iconic downtown ice rink. The rink opens at 11 AM every day, and rentals are $9 for adults, $7 for children 17 and under. Milwaukee County Parks also offer extra equipment for little ones learning to skate or people with mobility issues who still want to enjoy the Slice of Ice. Read all about it at https://county.milwaukee.gov/EN/Parks/Explore/Slice-of-Ice

Kooky Cooky House at the Domes – Through Jan 18th, Mitchell Park Domes Milwaukee

Generations of Milwaukeeans have visited the wonderfully weird Kooky Cooky house back at the long-closed Capitol Court Mall. But the tradition lives on today at the Mitchell Park Domes – a must-see for anyone coming to Milwaukee. The Cooky house features the same fun animatronic cookie factory, with cookies given away free to every guest on weekends. Milwaukee County Residents can always visit The Domes for free from 9AM-noon on Mondays. Learn more at https://milwaukeedomes.org/

Send a Letter to Santa – Through December 9th, Cathedral Square Downtown Milwaukee

Now through December 9th, you can give your kiddos a chance to send their wish list off to Santa himself. Head to Cathedral Square downtown and drop your letter into the special mailbox. Include a return address, and Santa will send a personalized letter back in time for the holidays!

Holiday Lights Festival – Through Dec. 27thPere Marquette Park, Cathedral Square Park, Zeidler Union Square, Milwaukee

Milwaukee is known as the City of Festivals, and that name doesn’t stick just in the winter. Tour some of Milwaukee’s crown jewels – the downtown city parks – as they fill up with festive lights for the entire holiday season. Your family will see brilliant light shows set up by local organizations just steps from family-friendly restaurants and excellent shopping. Milwaukee Downtown also offers cheap bus tours of the lights that include coffee and cocoa for the family. Read more about it at https://www.milwaukeedowntown.com/bid-events/milwaukee-holiday-lights-festival

Milwaukee Ballet Sensory-Friendly Nutcracker Performance – Dec. 19th, 6 PM Marcus Center for the Performing Arts

Families with children with Autism and other sensory sensitive conditions can face unique challenges during the holidays, but for the third year in a row Milwaukee Ballet is offering those families a chance to experience their own Holiday tradition. For one night, Milwaukee Ballet is taking their storied production of The Nutcracker and re-vamping it to be sensory-friendly – meaning lights will remain on, break rooms will be provided, and sound and lighting effects are controlled for a more relaxed experience. The performance is put on with help from Autism Speaks Wisconsin and tickets are only $20. Find more info at https://www.milwaukeeballet.org/community-engagement/ballet-without-boundaries/sensory-friendly/

Contributing writer: Colin Bennett, father of two boys and writer over at Holy Sh*T I’m A Dad. Follow along with his journey in fatherhood here: Blog Link


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5 Tips for Photographing Holiday Moments

With Thanksgiving tomorrow and the winter holidays around the corner we wanted to share some tips for capturing your holiday moments in order to preserve the memories for years to come.

1. Hire a professional:

If you are lucky enough to have the entire extended family under one roof why not hire a professional photographer to come take some family photos! This can be a simple group session or give each individual family the opportunity to have the entire group and then do separate photos of their household clan. This is a great time and money saving alternative for your yearly family photos.

2. Upload to the Cloud:

Almost everyone in the family these days has an iPhone or smartphone. While you are all together AirDrop your images, or save them to a share cloud so you can all access each other’s photos. This is fun for us Mom’s and photographers because we are offer the one behind the camera but having access to everyone’s photos you might end up with some special images of yourself interacting with family.

3. Don’t forget to take a Group shot:

This one is hard because children and adults alike can be hard to wrangle, but having a group shot at the Thanksgiving Table or around the Christmas tree is something you will admire for years to come.  Weather you set a timer and all cram on a couch or use a trip pod, make it happen!

4. Document throughout the day:

Make sure you are snapping photos all day long so you can tell the story of the day with your images. Cousins embracing upon arrival, mom or dad cooking in the kitchen and the waves goodbye at the end of Grandma and Grandpa’s stay.

5. Don’t forget the details:

Make sure to grab some close ups of the turkey and pie or the gifts piled up around the tree before the kids come down stairs to ravish them! It can be fun to use these as before and after comparison as the day progresses.

Hopefully these tips will help preserve the great memories you make with your family this year! I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and Happy holidays in the weeks and months to come.

More Photography Related Posts:

6 Tips for Making the Most of Your Holiday Family Photos in 2018

7 Ways to Ruin Your Family Photos in 2018

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6 Tips for Making the Most of Your Holiday Family Photos in 2018

When I was a full-time photographer, this time of year was always my busiest season. All the family “mini” and full sessions filled my nights and weekends from November through early December. Since I have the perspective of mother and photographer, sharing some of my holiday family photography wisdom with you all may enhance your experiences and encourage you to document this 2018 holiday season.

  1. Consider a full session: Mini sessions are great and affordable, BUT they are limited and sometimes can be a little too “holiday themed.”So consider spending the extra time and money for a full session. This way you can have a variety of images to choose from and end up with canvas-worthy photos to decorate your home and others to choose for a fabulous Christmas 2018 card. You will not regret the decision, I promise. The other thing to consider is mini sessions with kids are sometimes not long enough to get a photo of your family with everyone happy and looking in the direction of the camera.
  2. Take your family photos while you’re traveling: If your family plans on taking a holiday trip or visiting family in a new city or town this November or December, consider hiring a local photographer and taking your family photos during your trip. This will be different from your typical family photos and at the same time help preserve the good memories you make on the trip. Read more about taking photos when you travel here: Take Your Family Photos When You Travel
  3. Book ASAP: This is kind of a no brainer but if you want to use the photos for Christmas cards, book a sitting as soon as you can so you are not waiting on pins and needles for your photos to be edited and returned to you. Photographers are busy this time of year and while we understand you need these photos, we also have 20+ other shoots we are trying to edit and get out the door in time for Christmas cards. Also, on a side note, just asking for one is never as easy as it seems, so book in advance, and wait for your photos to be finished and delivered to you in the time frame you and your photographer decide on.
  4. Be Prepared with bribes: Before you arrive tell your children what they will get for doing a good job at the photo shoot. This can be anything you want — big, small  — but be prepared! Even if you think it will go, well plan on rewarding them for their good behavior. Photo shoots are not easy and if they know good behavior once a year gets them a new toy or a meal at their favorite restaurant, why not do it? Make sure to tell the photographer what the reward will be so the photographer can play along with the game.
  5. Try to enjoy yourself: I know this can be hard believe me, but try to have fun with the process. The best images I ever capture are the fun moments in between. Same goes for my own family photos, I always love the candid moments versus the posed images. Not many people are comfortable in front of the camera but know that if you just relax and be yourself it will show in the images.
  6. Make sure to take holiday photos every year: If you can swing a mini and full session of family members, make sure to take photos every year. You will be able to look back at how your family changes from year to year, and have those precious memories documented for a lifetime.





So get out there are schedule your 2018 sessions, and if you are in the Atlanta area consider contacting me LHM Photography via email.


How to Survive Hosting the Holidays- Eight Tips

Hosting for any holiday can be stressful, but we all must do it every now and then, especially if you have small children. My husband and I prefer to host so we don’t have to worry about travel plans for a family of four with two under five years old. Holiday travel is hard enough and adding little ones to the mix doesn’t make it any easier! Since we have hosted our fair share of holidays at our home, I figured I would share some of my wisdom and tips for surviving as a host for the 2018 holiday season. So here we go:

Tip One: Ask someone to help document the day for you. As a photographer, this one was hard at first because I always assumed I would take pictures, but the reality of hosting always gets in the way so make sure you have one or two designated documenters to help take pictures of everyone throughout the day. Don’t forget to tell them to snap a few photos of the details and the host, too! 

Tip Two: Get disposable everything! There is nothing worse than a full house and no clean dishes. Make sure to have disposable options so there is less clean up at the end of the day. For you environmentally friendly people, there are lots of great earth-friendly disposable options.

Tip Three: Popup garbage cans are a godsend! I got one for my baby’s first birthday party and will never host a party or holiday in my home without one again. They are so easy to use and dispose of at the end of the day. We have all been there when you have 10-plus people in your home and you can’t seem to keep the garbage can empty, or you have to tell someone every five minutes where to find a garbage can. This will help with all that!

Tip Four: Take deep breaths and have lots of wine on hand! This seems like a no brainer but it is hard to breathe and relax in the moment, so take a few deep breaths throughout the holiday, and take a sip of wine or whatever type of beverage that helps put you in your happy place. Better yet get a Winc subscription! Use the promo code ihustleforher to get $22 off your first box of wine!

Tip Five: Excuse yourself for some personal space. This helps if tip four is not enough. If you need a break or are starting to feel anxious, sneak up to your room or onto the back porch for some fresh air. This will help center you and calm you back down if you are starting to feel overwhelmed with a full house.

Tip Six: Eat as you go! This one is easy, sometimes as the host there is not much time to eat so snack and test as you are putting it all out. That way you are fed and you get to try everything while it is still hot — a novelty for most mothers!

Tip Seven: When people ask if they can bring anything, be prepared with an answer. This seems kind of silly but how many times do family members ask what they can bring and you say “nothing” or “yourself”? When the reality is you are forking the bill for dinner and drinks so why not let them bring something! Make sure it is something you need and something that will save you some time and money in the end, like wine and dessert or a side dish.

Tip eight: Try to enjoy yourself. This is an obvious one but make sure to have fun and enjoy the time with your family. You don’t get to see them all together very often, so have fun and make memories with your family and help your kids make memories and start new traditions!

I hope these tips help add some sanity into your holiday hosting. Hopefully, everyone reading this has a wonderful 2018 holiday season. Happy Hosting, everyone!