Jul 062015
 

The beach with kids? Can be a total nightmare. Forget blissful relaxation, but here's how you can snag a teensy bit of zen and relaxation amist the sandcastles and wave-jumping. Really, I promise!My version of beach bliss includes a good book, a comfy lawn chair, and lots of peaceful listening to the waves lap the sand by my toes. It does not include lots of overly-excited children who want me to pertpetually jump waves and build sand castles with them. (This is why I am Mom of the Year) The one sticky wicket with my fantasy vacation? I have children–children who really like wave-jumping and sand castle-building.

While I hover, mourning the suspension of my dream beach-going for the foreseeable future, I am here to tell you that we just got back from a week-long beach trip and survived. Every single day was gorgeous, so we spent hours upon hours on the sand, and you know what? True story: we not only survived, but I actually enjoyed it too.

I know, I know. How is this possible?

Listen, there are few tricks of the trade to acing out the beach–real mom style. You know, not the way moms who study Pinterest for months pre-beach trip do it. The way we moms who are just happy to remember swimsuits for the whole family do it.

1) Get a beach box. Dude, I blew this one off for years in the interest of saving money. Then we started renting a place that included one. I will never go back. Ever. My 35 yr. old arms and sanity will no longer allow me to haul a gajillion beach chairs while screaming at children to not run out in traffic and kill themselves as we make the daily trek to the beach. Get a beach box; just do it.

2) Lie. Profusely. My moral code discourages dishonesty; that being clear, LIE ANYWAY. The man that checks beach tags? Didn’t you know he’s actually the police searching for whiny children to take to jail? The fact that a shark just nabbed someone the next beach over a week prior? Tell your children that sharks have never existed in this area if you ever want to have any hope of getting them in the water. Lying? A parent’s saving grace.

3) Dark sunglasses. Two benefits: you can pretend snooze when you’re actually not so you shirk the next sand castle-building duty to your husband, and also, this allows you to conspicuously and vigorously people-watch to your heart’s content.

4) Pack the book. No, you probably won’t actually get the chance to pick it up and read it, but stashing it in the bottom of the beach bag may perpetuate the fantasy that you will actually get a chance to relax. This is a good thing.

5) Remind yourself that salt water has healing properties and that sand is the most perfect natural pedicure. Also, digging ginormous holes in the sand is fab exercise. For real–remembering these bonus plusses helps stifle the under-the-breath curses.

The beach with kids? Can be a total nightmare. Forget blissful relaxation, but here's how you can snag a teensy bit of zen and relaxation amist the sandcastles and wave-jumping. Really, I promise!

6) Don’t take your phone. I know, your modern-day self is roiling over the preposterous of this idea. But listen, it will only get wet, sand-covered and your aging eyes won’t allow you to properly view the screen anyway. Above all, it might actually increase the chance that you give your children some dedicated, quality attention. The texts will be there when you get back, really.

7) Be comfortable. Let’s be honest: there’s little to zero chance I’m going to rock the perfect body in this lifetime. I could squeeze into a trendy ill-fitting suit or I could comfortably hang out in duds that allow me to toss my kids in that endless stream of waves. I bought this adorable Columbia skirt to cover up the unsightly bits and felt uber-comfortable treking back-and-forth to the beach for the first time in years. Wear what works for you–not InStyle magazine.

8) Make a date for a post-beach break. Plan on pouring yourself a bev, snagging a teeny nap or extra-long shower as soon as you scrub the sand off your kiddos. Knowing you have a few minutes of sanity on the horizon can get you through the frenzy of many sun-kissed hysterics. I promise.

9) Pack all the things. I know, you’ll never read this in Parents magazine. But trust me, hell has no fury like a preschooler whose sandwich has been snatched by a band of aggressive seagullls when Mommy has no back-up snacks. Also, have you ever heard a parent sob over having too many wipes? Far better to pack up and slug out a heavy load than rue the day.

10) Go with it. I am the least zen creature on this earth, but when I allow myself to just be and accept all the imperfection that comes with the salt-water territory, I am far, far happier. Channel your inner “roll with it” and let it go–pitiful attempts at building sand-castles included. The kids will only remember that you tried, not that you aced it.

The beach? Totally yours for the taking, friends. And I’ll meet you on the flipside of this parenting gig–with a whole totebag full of chill novels ready to roll.

First image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:52386597, copyright:shalamov

Second image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:2211387, copyright:worytko_pawel

 

May 112015
 

Finding a way and a time to take a break with your husband when you have young kids in the house is a beast. But not only can it be done, it NEEDS to be done. Here's the easiest, no-cost way to date your spouse tonight!Once upon a time, there was a Mommy and a Daddy. They were happy, but they were very, very tired. You see, their 3 yr. old and 5 yr. old were the adorable lights of their lives, but these children required a rather sizable expenditure of energy. To feed them. To make sure backpacks were properly packed for letter Q Show-n-Share day. To repeatedly holler during their soccer games for them to stop staring at the clouds. And to endlessly explain that there are no monsters hiding in closets. And to generally try to keep them alive–that too.

Mommy and Daddy loved each other very much, but their love had taken on a quiet, persevering character, the way love does when time and busy days full of wiping little bums press on. They had heard of and believed in fantastical things like date nights and trips, but that darn needing-a-sitter jazz kept edging its way in.

So they wintered down, in more ways than one. Cozying up at night and settling in on the victory of surviving another day in suburbia while delighting in the small things–like a child who didn’t patter down the stairs in search of water more than three times and the rare, shocking evenings when Mommy didn’t pass out from exhaustion before 8pm.

It was, despite the echoes of dull ordinariness, a sweet life, a very sweet life.

Except, Mommy missed Daddy. And she knew he missed her. And she was pretty sulky that three of their favorite television shows had taken leave of the airwaves around the same time. Life would not be the same without Parenthood, Parks and Rec, and Mad Men. The cold was making her grouchy too. The winter had been long, and some serious Vitamin D with a side of fresh air was very needed.

It was time for something to give.

And it did.

Spring came.

This means many, many things: sports, school ending, parties, flowers, lawn mowing and maintenance, digging summer clothes out of boxes, scowling at ginormous thighs in the mirror, etc. But for this Mommy and Daddy, it meant one thing more important than all the rest: the deck was open.

Finding a way and a time to take a break with your husband when you have young kids in the house is a beast. But not only can it be done, it NEEDS to be done. Here's the easiest, no-cost way to date your spouse tonight!

I’m not entirely sure what we do on the deck. There is usually crickets chirping and chill music in the background, margaritas on the weekends, a fired-up grill when we’re ambitious, sometimes games, sometimes friends, hopefully children asleep in their beds upstairs. Occasionally silence, but usually chatting.

Chatting about all the things–kids, work, house, friends, hobbies, hopes, prayers. It’s as if an edge comes off, an edge that corners in the rest of the time. It’s through our deck talks that we make plans and dream dreams. That I heal hurt about my mom. That we craft never-to-be-realized fantasies about bagging it all and moving off to some obscure corner of the world to keep bees.

The deck is our date. Our time. Our space. It’s when we shrug off our sluggish winter shackles and find ourselves again–find each other again.

Deck time matters. It matters so very much.

We might have kids who need a lot. We might not have a sitter or any elaborate plans. But we do have a deck, and we are most certainly rocking it this summer.

Here’s the same hope for you, readers: find some deck time. Whatever it looks like in your corner of the world, whether there is an actual deck or outdoors included or not. This life isn’t going to break for you, so take a break for yourself and what matters, however it works for you.

Taking a pause to breathe and connect? It’s pretty darn cool, trust me.

 

Second image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:9435286, copyright:iofoto

 

Apr 292015
 

Having 3 days off feels fabulous! Not to mention the chance to welcome in summer and the warm weather! But having the money to go somewhere special or take a vacation can be overwhelming, as well as the hassle of planning and packing for a trip. No sweat! Check out these 9 greats tips to plan the best staycation ever--I would never have thought of #3!Vacations are a lot of fun, but of course they can also be a lot of work. If you and your family can’t agree on a vacation destination, or you’ve been to all of your nearest vacation spots, or you’re just not in the mood to pack a suitcase and pile into the car, then consider making this year’s Memorial Day weekend a staycation.

Staycations are a great way to have lots of fun over your holiday without spending a lot of time or money. Of course, if you don’t plan ahead, there’s a good chance you’ll end up frittering away your vacation doing nothing much in particular. Instead, consider some of these ideas to be prepared in advance.

Play Tourist at Home

Chances are there are lots of things to do right in your own town, but you may not even know they’re there. Search online for things to do in your area or events for the Memorial Day weekend. If you still can’t find anything, ask neighbors for suggestions or go to the local library or tourist welcome center to grab flyers for local sites. Destinations might include:

  • Local museums and historic sites
  • National or state parks
  • Locations for camping, hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, boating, etc.
  • Amusement parks, mini golf, laser tag, etc.
  • Catch a baseball game
  • Take a local tour

Plan a Night In

Whether you are having a staycation with your family or on your own, you can plan ahead for a fun night in. Invite over friends and order personalized wine bottles as a fun way to memorialize the event. Pick a theme and choose movies or games related to that theme. For example, you could have a Vegas themed party and invite friends over to play Poker and watch Oceans 11.

You could also consider hosting a party, a potluck, or a BBQ for neighbors or friends. If you have a pool, make it a pool party. If you’ve got a big yard, rent a moon bounce and make it a family party.

Think About Your Hobby

If you have a hobby you like to do with friends, plan an event around it:

  • Organize a pick-up soccer game
  • Go to the park with friends for frisbee
  • Have crafty friends over to work on crafts and projects together
  • Have a wine tasting

Catch Up on Reading

Find a nice, relaxing place and bring a big pile of books. Vacation time is a great time to catch up on all that reading you’ve been meaning to do! Head to the beach or the pool for some sunning and reading, or just settle in on the front porch.

Visit with Friends and Neighbors

Everyone has those friends and neighbors that they don’t get to see that often. Make your vacation an excuse to call them up to get together. Invite them to dinner or to the movies or just to hang out and catch up!

Spoil Yourself

Indulge yourself (and maybe your kids too) on your vacation. Go shopping, get your nails done, get a make-over, take a spa day, make a purchase you’ve been saving up for, spend hours at the comic book store. You could even end your indulgent day with a movie marathon. You won’t feel guilty because you have an extra day off!

Spoil the Kids

Let the kids plan out a whole day of the vacation. Of course, they may try to cram in as many fun activities as humanly possible so have them prioritize! Help them think of one big activity they’d like to do like a trip to an amusement park, one smaller thing to do like stop at a toy store, and a place to go for dinner or lunch.

Plan a Date Night

Plan a just-because special date night with your spouse or partner. Go out to dinner or make it an excuse to learn a new recipe together using a service like Plated. If you have kids, hire a babysitter and go dancing or go see a movie without the kids. You could even get a room at a local bed and breakfast to make it feel a bit more like a vacation.

Make Your Staycation All About You

The secret to having a really enjoyable staycation is to make yourself feel really spoiled and fulfilled. Find a combination of activities that are fun, fulfilling, and relaxing to get the most out of your staycation vacation.

 

Image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:51577395, copyright:pressmaster

 

Apr 152015
 

Go ahead & run in the sunshine!  The Children's Gardens are the perfect solution to pass the day! Longwood Gardens has been a place my family has held near and dear for years. Our annual Christmas visit, summer strolls under the stars, meeting friends for morning play-dates, spring days out with Grandpa…it’s the perfect place for respite and beauty whatever the reason or season. And the most perfect part? All the gorgeousness is kid-friendly.

The first few times took my kids I was nervous: would this be okay or would this be another example of publicly showing off our travelling circus show? Much to my surprised delight, Longwood not only worked with kids, it was the ideal place to hang out with them.

It was brilliantly easy and fun. So much so that when my sister and I recently made our yearly visit to honor my mother’s love of flowers, we decided to skip sorting childcare and take the whole crew with us.

What makes Longwood Gardens such a fantastic place to visit with young ones?

1) Space to run…and run and run some more. Without the worry of cars or roads, it is safe to let them play and romp around, all while soaking in nature’s delights and getting some fresh air. Bonus for parents? They sleep like bricks when you get home. Total win.

Go ahead & run in the sunshine!  The Children's Gardens are the perfect solution to pass the day!

2) The Children’s Gardens. There are two, one outdoor and one indoor. Both have fountains for them to splash in and loads of things to explore. My children squee when we get to these gardens–every single time. Just make sure to bring some dry clothes and shoes to change them into when they’re done playing and you’re all for a less whiny ride home, Mom!

3) The Treehouses Does it get any more fun than having ginormous treehouses to climb around in? One of them is even stroller-friendly which makes managing a baby with older kids far less daunting. And checking out the bee hive in the one house (completely safe, I promise!) is a huge hit.

4) It’s the fanciest place you will ever potty-train in. I’m serious. Using the family-friendly, generously-sized (read: you can push your stroller easily into each private bathroom). And the Green Wall is gorgeous.

5) The special exhibits and activities. We’ve never done any of their summer camps, but I have heard nothing but rave reviews. And when the train exhibit goes on display in the cooler months, we are all wowed. The intricate villages and landscapes the gardeners create around the tracks leave your jaw dropping!

6) The music show at the Open Air Theater. Because it’s small, the kids are able to get so close to the action. Watching my kids beam and clap along with the music makes my heart swell in a way that makes me so proud that we got ourselves out of the house to enjoy something special.

Go ahead & run in the sunshine!  The Children's Gardens are the perfect solution to pass the day!

7) The logistics are NOT a beast. Pack a backpack with what you need–water, snacks, diapers, bottles, etc. and cruise around at a pace that suits you. Don’t have time to pack a lunch? There is a cafe with loads of kid-friendly options. If you have older children, they will fight to be the one to hit the button to open the doors for your stroller at every entrance/exit. If not, some sweet copatron or one of the friendly volunteers will get your back; people there are nice, really. There are bathrooms scattered frequently throughout and there are plenty of places to grab a seat for a rest when the kids wear you down.

When I say that it’s kid-friendly, it is. I am not a brave soul when it comes to taking my children out and about by myself, but I take them to Longwood Gardens. I am also pretty stingy with my money, but I fully believe that a membership or day out at Longwood is worth every penny. It’s the perfect place to just let kids be kids while soaking in all the glory that nature has to offer.

Plan a visit now and thank yourself later!

****A thank-you to Longwood Gardens for providing the tickets for the particular visit on which this post is referrenced. Our love of Longwood is long-cultivated and 100% genuine!****

Apr 132015
 

Just a little over two weeks ago, I Still Just Want to Pee Alone hit the shelves and my fellow co-authors and I have delightedly been watching the rave reviews roll in. This, on top of the recent news that the first book in the series, I Just Want to Pee Alone hit the New York Times Bestseller list, has left us all feeling very boss about our work and more delighted that ever to share these funny books with you!

Ladies Night Out just got sweet! Complete with shopping, sales, wine, cupcakes, and bestselling books, grab a girlfriend and mark your calendar!

Christine Burke of Keeper of the Fruit Loops and I are so excited to team up with Sprouts Consignment in Malvern to host another Ladies’ Night Out/Book Signing Event on 4/23/15 to promote this new book. If you’ve never met Christine, she is adorable and her personality is bigger than the room; our last signing was too much fun! Together we are thrilled to sell and sign books (we’ll have copies of the second book in the Pee Alone series, I Just Want to Be Alone too) and chat it up with you!

But this event is about so much more than our books! Grab a girlfriend or two (or 10!) and come out for an evening of treats and shopping.

When:  Thursday, 4/23/15, 6-9pm

Where: Sprouts Consignment Boutique, 288 Lancaster Ave., Frazer, PA 19355

What: Shopping, sales, wine, snacks, & bestselling books!

Wine and snacks are available while you shop, including some of the fantastic Wildtree goodies I just raved about and delectable cupcakes from Cupcakes Gourmet.

Sprouts Consignment will be offering an extra 10% off of their consigned children’s clothing and goods, so this is the time to stock up your kids’ closets for summer!

And cross off all of the Mother’s Day and teacher gifts on your list in one night! Come May, you’ll be patting yourself on the back for getting it done so early. Maybe make a few fun purchases for yourself too while you are shopping the goods of these small-business ladies:

Clean Slate Designs–beautiful one-of-a-kind repurposed wood items for your home

Chesapeake Ribbons–handmade ribbon belts and accessories

Chloe & Isabel–fashion jewelry

Jamberry Nails–trendy nail wraps

Beauty Counter–safe and effective skincare products

Mark your calendars now and get ready to hang out with us in next week! We can’t wait to see you there and are so looking forward to a fun night out!

The perfect Mother's Day gift is HERE! Come get it signed and chat it up with the funny authors who would love to meet YOU!

 

Mar 232015
 

This life is so crazy and so very full. Paring it down to the basics, the things that TRULY matter is the key to making your day-to-day not only manageable, but full and blessed. Check the pure truth I found through our crisis and get real--it's actually kind of fun, I promise!Recently, things got rather basic around here. And by basic, I mean that remembering to brush teeth was a solid victory.

Chaos left us scrambling to make sense of necessities while sleep was relegated to a fanciful indulgence.

One sweet result of the fun was some precious family time. Another gift was a brilliant revelation that came to me while shoving underwear in the washing machine and praying that I could find something edible to serve for dinner: this is enough.

You see, for days, dishes went unwashed, toppling against each other in a threat to crash to the floor. Kids were permitted excess hours with the iPad and Mommy decidedly set up shop in a pair of unflattering leggings. It was not Martha Stewart-esque, Pinterest would have cringed, and the Mom of the Year award was never more honestly earned.

I looked at my neglected to-do list and sobbed a little in my heart. It cursed me by only getting longer and infinitely more demanding.

And then I looked at my family. I looked at the kids laughing and happy. And at the fact that somehow we managed to get everyone fed and safely in bed for the night.

And I knew that, despite all, God was still good, and we would get up in the morning and it would happen again.

In the midst of the frenzy, I went dark on my blog and social media. In my foolhearty arrogance regarding the importance of my craft thus far, I’ve never done this before. But days without posting simply was the only option that made sense because we were too busy living life.

Stats were suddenly of the least importance, as things like miraculously getting everyone in the bath at night became of the utmost importance.

And so we went on. And so I realized that the things in this life that continue us, that make this life real, aren’t the things like pretty countertops, checkmarks on lists, or even coolly managing the events raging around us. No, it’s the things like wiping potty-training bums and filling juice cups.

This life is so crazy and so very full. Paring it down to the basics, the things that TRULY matter is the key to making your day-to-day not only manageable, but full and blessed. Check the pure truth I found through our crisis and get real--it's actually kind of fun, I promise!

I did not live in the era of the pioneers; I just read all of the Little House on the Prairie books and watched Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman ad nauseam. So I don’t really know what I’m talking about. But I imagine that in those days, the day’s goal was more about survival and provision than having the cutest Facebook status update.

Than having a perfectly formulated daily calendar. Than making sure your child read the optimal number of popcorn words each day. Than DIY-ing the most gorgeously rustic bathroom storage shelves.

No, I think it was about the basics. About keeping people safe and feeding them. About making sure they were clothed and generally cared for.

I think what was real, was very real. So real that focus was clear and true.

And you know what? I think they nailed it. Nailed it beyond all shadow of a doubt. I think those pioneers had their crap together.

With this awareness, I surrender my piles of unwashed laundry and stale leftovers. I surrender my sad abandoned blog posts and I surrender them in the interest of what is most real: that which is necessary to carry us from day to day.

Life just went and got real. And in the interest of our fab pioneer ancestors, I’m totally cool with that.

First image credit: photography ID:55254163, copyright:alexsvirid

Second image ID:2602245, copyright:EyeMark

 

Mar 182015
 

No sitter but still needing a date night with your husband? Here's a few simple (really!) steps to bringing a coffeehouse into your own home. Trust me, with 2 of these tricks, even the kids will be happy! Date night is on!!One month ago, my husband and I had a coffeehouse date. To be more accurate, 16 years and one month ago, we had a coffeehouse date.

On February 18, 1999, my husband called me on my college dorm room landline (because those things existed) and asked if I’d like to go hang out at the coffeehouse with him. Channeling all my quintessential nerdy-ness, I was confused by this random dude I’d seen in the computer lab (because those things also existed) making such a ludicrous request on a Thursday night, “But…I’m studying,” I sputtered.

I know, I had such a way with the men, it was stymieing.

Not to be deterred, he suggested I bring my books along. I did. And I never opened them the entire night.

Fast-forward a year into the future, same coffeehouse, same day, and once again, no studying happened. But a marriage proposal did, followed a bit later by a wedding.

And ever since all those initial visits to our coffeehouse, we’ve made a commitment to go back. Every February 18.

Except…kids happened. Admire our ambition, because at first, we weren’t slowed down; we took them with us. But then, they got older. And things like getting to bed on time for school the next morning on a Wednesday night made the 1.5 hr. trek for a cup of tea, however beautifully sentimental, increasingly impractical.

We debated all the sides of the coin–hire a sitter, dump on a friend, go on the weekend, find a closer coffeehouse…we went round and round and round the options. Logistics and circumstances continued to lead us solidly back to the conclusion: going this year was going to be really, really tough.

I was feeling rather grouchy and pouty about the whole thing, to be honest. And then, inspiration struck. If I couldn’t get us to the coffeehouse, maybe I could get it to us?

I am not a crafty person. I am not a creative DIY-er by any stretch. But, the coffeehouse matters, you see. So I told my husband, “I’ll take care of it” and refused to answer any more questions.

No sitter but still needing a date night with your husband? Here's a few simple (really!) steps to bringing a coffeehouse into your own home. Trust me, with 2 of these tricks, even the kids will be happy! Date night is on!!

How do you create a coffeehouse in your own home?

1) I found some very cool copper wire LED lights. I ventured into our mess of a garage to secure a hammer and a few nails. I strung them around our dining room and dimmed the lights. Of course I waited to the last minute to do this and then panickedly tried to untwist the last wire as my husband pulled in the driveway.

2) I got the kids on board and braved the glitter. The coffeehouse always features a series by a local artist. I figured my most talented local artists were right in my own home, so together made “A Life in Glitter” and I hung their work around the dining room.

3) I made my husband teach me how to use Pandora radio on my phone a week prior. Yes, I’m this dumb. I queued up some sweet jazz tunes and let the vibes roll.

4) I stocked up on my favorite chocolate mint tea ahead of time, and I got over my life-long fear of making scones. And you know what? They were pretty darn amazing.

5) I laid out our Scrabble game. We always play Scrabble when we visit the coffeehouse; remember, I said I was a nerd…

6) I bathed and fed the kids early. Way early so I would have time to prep. Who says chicken nuggets at 4pm doesn’t count as a solid dinner? They still came and ate with us, for the record.

7) I swung by Redbox for a “new” movie that would captivate them to minimize interruptions while my husband and I were dating it up. Our daughter still peed all over the bathroom floor 5 minutes into our date. It added to the mood.

8) I dug our chalkboard sign out of the basement and wrote “Welcome to MJs” (name of our beloved coffeehouse) on it and propped it in the corner. Not quite the same thing, but helped me pretend.

9) I got out the pretty plates and set the table with a cute sugar bowl.

10) I enlisted the support of a sweet friend–mostly just to cheer me on and to talk me down at the last-minute when I couldn’t get the lights untangled. It helped tremendously.

And then, when my husband walked in the door, I had the kids greet him, yelling, “Welcome to the coffeehouse, Daddy!”. This part isn’t exactly like what would happen at a real coffeehouse, but it is what happens at our coffeehouse. Because this 16 yr. old coffeehouse may not be many things, but it is full of a lot of love and some very cute kids who make staying home worth it.

Someday we’ll go back to the real deal; for now, we’re busy cleaning up the pee.

No sitter but still needing a date night with your husband? Here's a few simple (really!) steps to bringing a coffeehouse into your own home. Trust me, with 2 of these tricks, even the kids will be happy! Date night is on!!

 

First image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:24048985, copyright:eugenesergeev

Mar 162015
 

Bad case of the grumpies? You are not alone with grouchy moods! When I found this perspective to help boost my mood and make me feel better, it was a Godsend--AND a reason to smile!A couple weeks ago, I shared about a rather low spot I found myself in, one which included vehemently slamming my minivan into the garage door. I won’t lie, it was a neat time. And delightfully, for my husband and kids the fun hasn’t quit.  It’s been two straight weeks of “Mommy’s in a mood” around these parts.

Somehow that timely crunch of metal while I was actively mourning my mom broke something in me. It’s as if all the tempered grouchiness within suddenly gave way. It gave way to a torrent of snappy frustration with my daughter’s endless very-three, three year-oldness, irritation with parents in the drop-off line who take too long for my impatient bent, curses on too-tight budgets, and disproportionate tears over broken trash cans. Like I said, it’s been fun around here.

As I sit, wondering if March of 2015 is simply beyond repair for my hopelessness, I am reminded of a flipside that I am carefully ignoring. You see, if I acknowledge it, it might just do wonders for re-setting my mood, and I have so cozily settled into being a grumpy defeatist…

The flipside was last Tuesday morning. One week and one day after I attacked our garage.

On this Tuesday, I was up, out of bed, and at work on my computer by 5:30am. As I breezed through e-mails, I thought, “Awesome! I’ll be done by 7, so I can exercise and grab a shower before the school run!”. Tired, fussy and very needy kids woke up early and had other plans.

I modified my brilliant game plan, “No worries! I’ll drop my son at school and we’ll run to the grocery store quickly before it gets crowded. Then I can get home and exercise.”

Good news! The nearby retirement home decided to shift their weekly visit to the grocery store to Tuesday morning…at the same time my daughter and I arrived.  I’ll just let you imagine what a wonderful match this was for that impatient bent I mentioned above.

Also, my daughter needed to pee–right in the middle of the soup aisle. As I tore across the store to the lone bathroom and got this sorted, I still clung to hope of an ordered morning. We somehow found our way to the check out, where I unloaded a very full cart. While I was bagging and preparing to pay, my daughter had another bathroom emergency that could not wait. The clerk was thrilled. I love potty-training. 

Take #2 on the mad dash to the bathroom; I regrouped further. “Well, no time to exercise this morning, but I’ll still have time for a nice shower after unloading the groceries.”

Now very completely toileted, we got ourselves and the groceries home. Just as I put one foot on the stairs to run up for my shower, the phone rang. It was the school nurse. My son was ill and would need picked up.

“Okay, I will grab him, settle them on the couch with a show and shower before the garage guy shows up.” We had another garage repair estimate scheduled, praying against hope to beat the original $1500 quote we were given.

Right as I returned from getting my son, the service truck pulled in the driveway behind me. The repairman showed up–45 minutes early.

Friends, it was time to call it–there would be no shower.

Bad case of the grumpies? You are not alone with grouchy moods! When I found this perspective to help boost my mood and make me feel better, it was a Godsend!

As he tinkered around outside, I managed to sneak in for a quick change into some fresh jeans and an overdue date with my toothbrush. It wasn’t brilliant, but allowed me to feel slightly more human, slightly less like a sweatpanted poster ad for halitosis awareness.

It also allowed me to be slightly more centered when a few minutes later the garage guy knocked on the door, and simply said, “I fixed it.”

What?! We were told it couldn’t be fixed!”

“No, it wasn’t that bad; I just had to use the lag…(words that I don’t understand but made me further think this man was both an angel and a genius)…and it is only $106.”

$106. $106! For those of you still following this long, detailed tale, you get that this is quite a bit cheaper than $1500. Quite a bit cheaper.

The kind of cheaper that challenges your commitment to doom and gloom. The kind of cheaper shakes you awake to hope even when things have been feeling very grim. Even when you’ve had the most frustrating morning in the world and will never again shower in your life.

The kind of cheaper that reminds you that after every Monday there is a Tuesday.

The Tuesday may not come right after Monday, but it is there. It is coming. There is always another side to the Monday.

 

First image credit: image ID:1323317, copyright:cookelma

Second image credit: image ID:1831863, copyright:ponytail1414

 

Feb 252015
 

Visiting the Crayola Experience was the perfect way to encourage my kids creative efforts and explore the delights of crayons, markers and other art-supplies! I loved the DIY fun and this was the perfect diversion for my active kids--read on to find out the can't-miss highlights!Every once in a while, I decide to be That Mom. You know, the mom who does something really cool with her kids.

It all started with an episode of our beloved Daniel Tiger. When the crew took a trek to “the crayon factory”, my children began a vivid love affair with the notion of making a visit to The Crayola Experience and have never looked back. That was two years ago.

We first visited over a year ago, and my kids were so enamored they’ve been begging to go back since. It wasn’t a hard sell, as I have very fond memories of going myself as a child with my grandparents. And while the design of the crayon box may have changed, the fact that it is an awesome thing to do with kids has not.

Throw in the fact that I might totally lose my crap if I hear the tinny tune of an electronic toy one more time while hibernating down in these arctic temps, and a chance to get out and let my kids loose on some creative play sounded beyond sweet. My husband was in for taking off so we could make a day of it, and The Crayola Experience was on!

There are crayons and markers to make, Model Magic to shape, molds to melt crayons in, colorful wax to draw with, and an entire floor dedicated to craft-making. With the live factory demonstration (we saw it twice and my kids would have happily sat through the interactive show a zillion times more) and the two-story high gynasium for kids to run wild in (a separate smaller structure for toddlers is available too), we had found the perfect cure for winter blehs.

Visiting the Crayola Experience was the perfect way to encourage my kids creative efforts and explore the delights of crayons, markers and other art-supplies! I loved the DIY fun and this was the perfect diversion for my active kids--read on to find out the can't-miss highlights!

They had so much fun. The Art Alive! section left their mouths gaping; kids create digital works to be displayed on an interactive big screen–their work was being broadcast! And Doodle in the Dark lead to endless giggles. As they interacted with animated crayons and played with an interactive floor screen, I did the unthinkable: I sat down on a bench in contented relaxation and said to my husband “They will sleep so well tonight.” Bliss.

And since I’m sucker and we only do adventurous things as a family once in forever, the kids were each allowed to pick one special treat from the gift shop. Truth told, I love the gift shop: it is chock full of nifty gift ideas for creative play with lots of products you can’t find in stores. Also true? I am thrilled with my kids’ picks. The umbrella my daughter chose was perfect (I’ve wanted one for her for forever for rainy preschool drop-offs and pick-ups), and I can’t tell you how many fascinated minutes my son’s marker-maker has filled. And we’ve only made half of the markers in the kit, so lots more fun to come!

Visiting the Crayola Experience was the perfect way to encourage my kids creative efforts and explore the delights of crayons, markers and other art-supplies! I loved the DIY fun and this was the perfect diversion for my active kids--read on to find out the can't-miss highlights!

Our visit to The Crayola Experience was fantastic. We made, we created, we got tons of artwork to bring home, and a boatload of fun memories were made. And then we got in the car, and my son’s first words were, “Mommy, can we go back to the crayon factory?” I think they had a good time?

Good news for you, friends? The Crayola Experience is offering an exclusive discount to my readers. To get this sweet discount, go HERE and enter code “Mom of the Year”.

Trust me, a trip to Easton is worth it. The kids will have a blast, creative genius will be sparked, and really, they will sleep like angels all night after you get home. Perfect fun for kids and parents 😉

Go get your Crayola on!

****Thank you to The Crayola Experience for providing my family with tickets to their attraction; our delight in our visit is 100% genuine!****

Feb 162015
 

Taking young kids out for dinner always felt so very daunting to me. But...I did! Here was the trick I used and why it ended up being not only survivable, but FUN! You can do it too!Last Wednesday night should have been an average weekday night in February.  You know, the kind of night where you feel like a rockstar for schooling Kindergarten homework and braving the 19 degree windchill for a venture out to the mailbox.

Nothing notable was planned or expected. My husband was working late. My only hope was to land the kids and me in bed by 8:30pm without totally losing my crap. Except the night ended up being a bit different. It ended up being a night I grew up a little.

You see, I had never taken my children out for dinner by myself. After a traumatic early experience taking our colicky baby boy to a restaurant, my husband and I were scarred. I could probably count the number of times we’ve eaten out with them together, and I’ve certainly never chanced it solo.

But I had heard rumors, reports of fun restaurant experiences from my far-more-normal-than-me friends. And for some reason, I just wasn’t into the vision of slugging out another night of chicken nuggets around our kitchen table. So when the spark of inspiration to pop in on a local diner hit, I didn’t quash it. Perhaps delusion from the endless house-arrest of winter chill and illnesses had finally set in??

In any case, I allowed the teensy “I can do this” thought to take root and grow strength. I even told a friend about my plans for accountability’s sake. And when dinner time rolled around, I did it–I threw the kids in the van and we went to a diner.

And it was so, so fun. Really. Now, don’t get me wrong–there were many panicked screams to not squeeze ketchup all over the table, a flurry of reminders to use our “pleases and thank-yous”, and an intense family trip to the bathroom I’d love to forget, but…it went well. The waitress was super-cute, the kids had so much fun ordering their own food, and they thought the ice cream treats at the end for meals well-eaten were the coolest thing since sliced bread.

I was floored. We had not only survived a trip to a public eating establishment, it ended up being kind of, very, cool. My daughter said, “This was the best night ever, Mommy!”, and my son is already asking to go back for his birthday–in June.

Fed by the confidence of an outing-gone-well, another crazy idea took shape. Maybe, just maybe, I could tackle the mess of my daughter’s hair too? Three and a half years old without ever having her hair cut, a trip to a hairdresser had been past-due for ages. But my mother’s heart ached at the though of chopping off her sweet curls, however horridly uneven they were. So I put it off…and off, and then off some more.

But not this Wednesday night. No, this Wednesday night I was powerful. I was a mom who did bold things–like feeding her children outside the home. I was mom who was on it. I was a mom who could do this.

I was so, so nervous for my daughter's first haircut! It was an emotional growing-up rite of passage for me, but here is the trick to how I managed--and so can you! And my daughter? She was fine!

So I did. Asking my new waitress friend for a recommendation, I slickly drove us over to a salon and asked if they accepted walk-ins. They did.

We ended up waiting forever. There were no toys. I was terrified. I thought surely my kids would get whiny and fussy and we would all burst out into outrageous tears in some point? In an effort to distract and amuse them, I desperately began making up games and tried to turn leafing through the hair style books into a fun adventure. They got cagey and ragey anyway.

But you know what? We survived. And then they called my daughter’s name. And the hairdresser was amazing. She was kind and patient and did not act like I was the worst mother of all time for allowing my daughter’s hair to become such a nightmare.

The real kicker? My daughter sat still and behaved herself. I know, I’m still not sure this night was totally real.

Yet real or not, I was on a roll. I got us home and patiently delighted with the kids as we looked through their class Valentines. I calmly did night-night snacks, bathed them, read to them and didn’t lose my crap even once.

It was miraculous. It was empowering. For one night, I truly was Mom of the Year.

In one single night, I had grown up as a parent in spades. I had done things that scared me, and I not only managed them, I enjoyed them. It was okay. We had been okay. I could do them again.

The secret trick for me? The same that has proven true for me time and again with so many scary things in this life–simply do it. My fear wasn’t going anywhere; I just had to pack it up and take it along as I forced myself to take the leap. I had to refuse to let it be the biggest thing in the room–especially if I wanted to make space for ice cream sundaes and cute new hairdos.

This growing up business is pretty crazy stuff. I’m not counting on a repeat any time soon, but last week I made some big strides.

Also, perhaps most importantly, I kept my original 8:30 bed goal, sliding under the covers at 8:29. God knows what would have happened if Mommy was forced to stay up past her bedtime…

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